Nesting


Nesting
Pastel, 9" x 12"
30 May 2010

"The Gulf of Mexico is a globally unique ecosystem, with a diversity of habitats, fish and wildlife that make it one of the nation’s great natural treasures. Gulf habitats are essential to the annual cycles of many species of breeding, wintering and migrating waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds and songbirds. 
The U.S. Gulf Coast is of particular significance to beach-nesting birds, species that breed on beaches, flats, dunes, bars, barrier islands and similar near-shore habitats. The northern Gulf Coast, from the Mississippi Delta of Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle which represents 18 percent of the southeastern U.S. coastline, supports a disproportionately high number of beach nesting bird species." —U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Yes, another pastel. I'm getting hooked. In conversation with an old friend from art school, I learned something very instructive.

Eleanor had spent a full week on a pastel portrait in one of Daniel Greene's workshops. At the end of the week, she could not see where or how to make one more stroke and thought the piece was complete. Greene took a look at her work, said she'd done well and that she now had a very good beginning.

Her little story helped me get a grip on how long it might take me to develop a pastel. Suddenly I found that I was much more relaxed about the process. I spent days on this piece and used some Sennellier soft pastels which gave me an idea of what it will be like to work with the best materials. I found myself looking through catalogues at box sets of Sennellier pastels. Uh-oh.
____________________________________________
Enjoy this post?  Please subscribe right now!
 

Subscribe by RSS     Subscribe by Email!    Add to iGoogle
| More


Visit the source at Suzanne McDermott

Take some Basic Drawing Lessons.
Learn How To Throw A Big Draw In Your Neighborhood!
Visit Drawing America

Anhinga


Pen and ink, watercolor pencil, wash
25 May 2010


There is nothing quite like watching an Anhinga fishing and afterwards drying its wings. It took me a while to learn what sort of bird it was that would sit so long with its wings spread out as if they were strung on a clothesline.

Also known as a "Snakebird" because it often swims under water so only its snake-like neck head is visible, the Anhinga nests mostly in Cypress swamps, rivers and wooded ponds. Most of these birds fish and feed in the Gulf along the Texas, Louisiana and Florida coasts.

The actual Anhinga beak and head are more narrow than in this drawing.
____________________________________________
Enjoy this post?  Please subscribe right now!
 

Subscribe by RSS     Subscribe by Email!    Add to iGoogle
| More


Visit the source at Suzanne McDermott

Take some Basic Drawing Lessons.
Learn How To Throw A Big Draw In Your Neighborhood!
Visit Drawing America

Crowning


Crowning
Watercolor, 7 x 10 inches
23 May 2010
$75 (to purchase email me)


I dove into this watercolor immediately after finishing the last pastel with the first paper to hand. Stinky hot pressed Arches.

If you followed My Great Day blog with any regularity, you'll know that I've felt akin to traditional Chinese Painting style in my work since 2006.

The other day, I was reading Jerome Silbergeld's introduction to Chinese Painting Style: Media, Methods, and Principles of Form.

Silbergeld describes so elegantly some of the notions that I was reaching for in last week's watercolor post (and other posts on my painting process) that I'll share an excerpt from that introduction.
"Painting is a language. Emerging from the partly conscious, partly unconscious interior of the artist, it reaches us through the somewhat controlled, somewhat chance manipulaiton of brush, pigments, and ground. The visually delivered message plays on our experience and imagination with all the power of a verbal language, arousing feelings and thoughts, memories and imagination, and releasing stores of mental energy. In our personal encounter with painting, there may be no need to translate this language into any other, no need to transform visual images into words. The visual image is a self-sufficient reality which verbal translation can do no better than very crudely approximate. ...

When writing, poets need not have their thoughts fixed on parts of speech and punctuation, yet they cannot do without them. When painting, artists need not have foremost in mind concepts like tone and texture, plasticity and perspective, yet they apply them all of the time, and have probably learned to look at the world with a heightened appreciation of nature's own colors, textures, and patterns. Both the skilled poet and the master painter apply their grammar intuitively, but only because they have mastered it through repeated study and practice." — Jerome Silbergeld, Chinese Painting Style
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Chinese Painting. Silbergeld infuses his study with compassionate understanding of the creative process.

____________________________________________
Enjoy this post?  Please subscribe right now!
 

Subscribe by RSS     Subscribe by Email!    Add to iGoogle
| More


Visit the source at Suzanne McDermott

Take some Basic Drawing Lessons.
Learn How To Throw A Big Draw In Your Neighborhood!
Visit Drawing America

In the Shade


In the Shade
Pastel, 9" x 12"
23 May 2010


This is my last stab at pastels for now. I picked them up because I wanted to draw in color. Alas, I find myself stabbing, fumbling, blowing and swearing.

I started in on this thinking - it's a weekend discipline. Do it even if you don't want to. So I did. It's possible that my frustration is with scale. If I use pastels again, I may have to work on a larger scale. Or grind them up and use them with another tool. I love the richness of color but not my clumsy process. Onward!

Old drawings of same Oakleaf Hydrangeas.

____________________________________________

Enjoy this post?  Please subscribe right now!
 

Subscribe by RSS     Subscribe by Email!    Add to iGoogle

| More


Visit the source at Suzanne McDermott

Take some Basic Drawing Lessons.
Learn How To Throw A Big Draw In Your Neighborhood!
Visit Drawing America

Dolphins



I've been thinking of this Fred Neil song as the oil has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico these last weeks. This crooked little video is charming in that it captures what any of us might have spotted along any shoreline of the Gulf. In this case, the scene is shot from a beach on Dauphin Island. Here is the scene along the same beach last week on May 13th.

There are an estimated 75,000 Dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico. Think about it. I know that it's horribly difficult especially because there is nothing that any of us can do about the unfolding devastation.

Generally, I think that it's a good practice to ignoring the news media to keep in high spirits and free of fear. But this untapped oil is creating a situation out of all imaginable proportion. I started crying as I read some of the reports. Then I remembered a group of Buddhist monks performing a purifying blessing on the Charles River eighteen or so years ago. Then I thought of hospice care — of caring for a dying person with love and attention.

How about spending a minute a day envisioning the Gulf of Mexico in pristine health, with all her creatures — the dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, rays, fish, sea birds, migratory birds (including many song birds), and the marvelous beings down under the water. The humans who interact with the water, too. Thoughts and Love have power.

Spend a minute a day quietly sending thoughts of love to the Gulf of Mexico. It couldn't hurt.



When I lived in Sarasota and St. Petersburg, Florida, I had the daily privilege of enjoying the magnificent life along the coast and was always delighted to spot the dolphins at play or at meal time.


When I found injured or stranded birds, I would scoop them up and drive them to the Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores. Zoos and aquariums around the country are standing ready to help including the Newport Aquarium in Kentucky.

Petfinder.com has made a specific list with links of How you can help coastal animals in danger.

If you pray, send your prayers.
____________________________________________
Enjoy this post? Please subscribe right now!

Subscribe by RSS Subscribe by Email! Add to iGoogle
| More


Visit the source at Suzanne McDermott

Take some Basic Drawing Lessons.
Learn How To Throw A Big Draw In Your Neighborhood!
Visit Drawing America

Junior


One of last week's Robins ventures forth. Measure junior against the clover in upper right for size.

The sun is in and out but mostly It's been soggy and mouldy in Nashville. Spotted a mighty double rainbow last night. Always a good sign!

See postings on Robins in previous years.

____________________________________________

Enjoy this post?  Please subscribe right now!
 

Subscribe by RSS     Subscribe by Email!    Add to iGoogle

| More


Visit the source at Suzanne McDermott

Take some Basic Drawing Lessons.
Learn How To Throw A Big Draw In Your Neighborhood!
Visit Drawing America

Bardo


Go with the flow.
“It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear . . . . It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to.” Marilyn Ferguson
I am very uncomfortable being in-between. I like to know what I am doing and feel like I have my hooks in that thing. I like to plan, take action and accomplish. In fact, this is not how life works. Life and creation unfold in their own time, at their own pace. In the years since I learned about Bardo, I remember it when I find myself in-between. I've learned to consider my in-between moments little bardos.

The Tibetan word Bardo describes the state between death and rebirth.  The "in-between state." The Bardo Thodol, known in English as the Tibetan Book of the Dead, defines six kinds of Bardo. Three are associated with life: The bardo of birth, the bardo of dreams and the bardo of meditation.

In simplest terms, birth signals the in-between state of life, dreams the state in-between waking and sleeping, and meditation the state in-between the incessant stream of thoughts.

The Bardo Thodol translates as "Liberation through Hearing in the Intermediate State."
“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” Aldous Huxley
Fear blocks the doors of perception.  Fear of the unknown, of not knowing exactly where we are at any given moment.  Fear sets up all sorts of whacky behavior including addictions — anything to mask the discomfort of not knowing exactly what is going on.  Busyness, talking, watching TV, eating, drinking, smoking, anything that serves to help us go unconscious.  Better unconscious than uncomfortable!

We have to be conscious to listen so that we can hear in the intermediate state.  What is so scary after all?  What is there to be afraid of?  What is the worst that could happen?  For me, the essence of the fear is forever losing sight of shore. Impermanence is key. There is no forever for any experience.

In-between, the trick may not be to take action but to surrender to the not knowing.  This is the art of going with the flow. It is a trick (at least for a personality like mine) and it's worth practicing.

On the other hand, being in the in-between is the perfect state to create. Pick up a pencil and draw.  Cut up some paper and shape it up into something with tape. Start writing and see what comes to you.

Or meditate. What a concept. I am long wary of using the word should but meditation might best be at the top of my list. Fortunately, I'm the creative type and have an array of tools and experience to work with. Even if you're not currently aware of it, you do, too.  Drawing, painting, and messing around in the studio is a good way for me to engage in a form of meditation.
“What is an artist? A provincial who finds himself somewhere between a physical reality and a metaphysical one.... It’s this in-between that I’m calling a province, this frontier country between the tangible world and the intangible one—which is really the realm of the artist.” — Federico Fellini 
I've been thinking about this post for months and kept remembering a story about two Tibetan prisoners of war from book I read in the mid-80's —Cambodia: A Book For People Who Find Television Too Slowby Brian Fawcett.  I highly recommend this book of short stories that play out over a full-length essay.  All these years, I have carried the impression of Fawcett's stunning and complex little story of cultural interaction and perception called Lamps. When I checked the book out of the library recently, I was surprised but not too surprised to read that the Tibetan prisoners of war survived their litany of ordeals because they thought they were dead and in the state of bardo.
“Even God cannot make two mountains without a valley in between” —Gaelic Proverb
When I think of being the best that I can be, I imagine remaining completely conscious through all my in-betweens.  Now, to turn that imagining into intention...
____________________________________________
Enjoy this post?  Please subscribe right now!
 

Subscribe by RSS     Subscribe by Email!    Add to iGoogle
| More


Visit the source at Suzanne McDermott

Take some Basic Drawing Lessons.

Ardea herodias


Pen and ink
8 May 2010


The Great Blue Heron is fortunate that it nests high up in trees and not along the shoreline.  There are Great Blue Herons at Radnor Lake near my house and sometimes we have visitors who perch in the walnut trees across the alley.

Still, these Herons hunt for aquatic creatures all along the Gulf of Mexico shores and will inevitably be affected by the oil gushing into the Gulf.  Read today's statement on Gulf Coast birds by Frank Gill, interim president of Audubon.

Not the most pleasant sound, you can hear their calls by clicking here and here.

I just learned that Liz Pearson is making beautiful paintings of birds these days.  Visit her blog to see.

____________________________________________
Enjoy this post?  Please subscribe right now!
 

Subscribe by RSS     Subscribe by Email!    Add to iGoogle
| More


Visit the source at Suzanne McDermott

Take some Basic Drawing Lessons.
Learn How To Throw A Big Draw In Your Neighborhood!
Visit Drawing America

Entering Unknown


Entering Unknown
Watercolor, 7 x 10 inches
14 May 2010


When I first moved into my studio, I hadn't painted in over 14 months. I'd moved to a new state, into my first house and almost immediately started to design, plan and build a studio in the back yard.

Before moving, I'd finished a series of large watercolors of flowers. So I picked up again with flowers though I could not make anything to my satisfaction. I began to put brush to paper without any planning and that's how the series Landscape into Art began. About that same time, I read Jeanne Carbonetti's The Tao of Watercolor.

In the section The Spirit of Effortless Effort she tells of having moved from New Jersey to Vermont where she and her husband built a home with their own bare hands. She then goes on to describe how, in her exhaustion, she made watercolors in a haphazard way and felt that everything looked awful. But she let herself off the hook and allowed herself to "just play, no matter what."

This time, I've moved and rearranged my website, am involved in an exhausting effort to launch a huge endeavor, have just completed two eBooks and am temporarily working in a separate job full time. I'm very pleased that I've managed to carve out a little time to draw and paint. If nothing else, it's very good for my mental health!

I brought the Landscape into Art series to an end for several reasons, one of which is that I found the format too confining. Upon leaving that behind, I've discovered that the process of that series freed up, expanded and deepened my personal relationship with watercolor. Over the past few years I seem to have developed a basic palette and sort of stylistic language that I rather like (a good thing!) Now there are other matters to develop. Rather than delineate those publicly, in advance, I'm going to let the process lead.

All that is just to say that I'll be playing for a while and that my point of departure —apparently — continues to be landscape. What did not write along with my watercolor posts at the Landscape into Art blog (at least to my recollection) is the emotion, spirit and archetypal memory embedded in both the process of making (most of) those paintings and the paintings themselves. Like a good poem, I feel that the maker can point to certain experience but, ultimately — in the case of paintings — it is the viewer who has (or does not have) a visceral or transformative encounter. Spoon feeding extensive explanations has always felt to me like overkill and I've never been wild about over intellectualizing.

Still, as our magnificently beautiful mother earth continues to be defiled and destroyed before our very eyes, my gratitude for the conscious experience of her grace (and all of our fellow creatures), and grief of what's transpiring, is always with me when I make these landscapes.

More than any other part of Kenneth Clark's Landscape into Art lectures, the final passage in his Epilogue has stuck with me while developing my landscapes.
"I said that the best hope for a continuation of landscape painting consisted in an extension of the pathetic fallacy, and the use of landscape as a focus for our own emotions. ... Expressionism is the art of the individual and is his protest against the restraints of society: and whether such an art can exist in the future is a question for economists, sociologists, physicists and crystal-gazers. As an old-fashioned individualist I believe that all the science and bureaucracy in the world, all the atom bombs and concentration camps, will not entirely destroy the human spirit; and the spirit will always succeed in giving itself a visible shape. But what form that will take we cannot foretell."
____________________________________________
Enjoy this post?  Please subscribe right now!
 

Subscribe by RSS     Subscribe by Email!    Add to iGoogle
| More


Visit the source at Suzanne McDermott

Take some Basic Drawing Lessons.
Learn How To Throw A Big Draw In Your Neighborhood!
Visit Drawing America

Front Door Panel


Front Studio Door, Panel 1
Pastel, 6 x 11.5 inches
16 May 2010


I'm enjoying this new Sunday habit of fumbling with pastel sticks and washing my hands many, many times. As soon as I finish writing this, I'm going for some Udderly Smooth — THE best skin cream in the world.

It rained most of the day so I scouted for the best window view. This is the current scene out one panel of my front studio door. At bottom right corner is the backside of a New York City Public Library Lion (sculpted by Edward Clark Potter). A pair of (chipped) bookends scored for ten bucks in the clearance section of the Met in the early 90's serve as my studio Fu Dogs.

As I was chunking away trying to make delicate lines with hunks of pastel sticks I realized that there is probably more than one book on a shelf around here with clear instructions on how to properly use pastels. One day, I'll poke around and see what I can find. I'm sure I will be enlightened. The first order of business will be how to sharpen stick edges although I'm afraid I'll learn that that is the point of pastel pencils. No pun intended.

Either I can spend time reading and researching or I can spend time doing. I do not currently have time to do both so I'm doing.

I am happy to report that on Saturday night, I laid out a watercolor palette for the first time in I don't know how long. Have been playing with some small pieces and am working on a very large piece. We'll see how it turns out.
____________________________________________
Enjoy this post?  Please subscribe right now!
 

Subscribe by RSS     Subscribe by Email!    Add to iGoogle
| More


Visit the source at Suzanne McDermott

Take some Basic Drawing Lessons.
Learn How To Throw A Big Draw In Your Neighborhood!
Visit Drawing America

Tallulah Wray


William Wegman had Man Ray and Fay Ray. I have Tallulah.

I try to avoid posting photos and drawings of Tallulah too often but the fact is that she is a very good model, remarkably beautiful and, when the light in the studio is just right, a stunning subject.

I will not dress her up (she would never allow such a thing), and she determines her poses but she could take on Wegman's dogs any day.

See more photos of here. A few Drawings here. If you're new, learn how she came to join us... Meet Tallulah.

____________________________________________

Enjoy this post?  Please subscribe right now!
 

Subscribe by RSS     Subscribe by Email!    Add to iGoogle

| More


Visit the source at Suzanne McDermott

Take some Basic Drawing Lessons.
Learn How To Throw A Big Draw In Your Neighborhood!