Sunday, October 23, 2011

All the world's a stage!

Three views of the stage at the Festival Theatre.
At the top, the stage for Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.
The play started with a rowboat (on wheels) moving through the fog delivering Viola from a violent storm at sea to the fantasical land of Illyria. Lots of props came and went, and great use of the trap door in this production always makes for theatrical magic!

Ah, the set for Moliere's The Misenthrope.
Except for a few upholstered stools, not much changed on stage in terms of props and scenery. The costumes were magnificent, as was the acting, and the translation from the original French into English verse was superb! If only we all had the ability to throw insults with such wit and rhyme.
Widely hailed as Moliere's masterpiece, the play opened in Paris in 1666, with the author playing the lead role of Alceste. His wife played Celimene, the female lead.

And finally, the set for Lerner and Loewe's Camelot.
The tree sat on a rotating piece of the stage. Other props came and went, usually as actors came and went, but the tree was onstage for throughout most of the play. Near the beginning, a live hawk swooped down and across the audience to sit on Merlin's hand who stood at the middle of the stage. The audience loved it!
In 1967, my parents took myself and my best friend to see Camelot, the movie, starring Richard Harris as King Arthur. In the mid-80's, I had the pleasure to see the play, starring Harris, live in Washington D.C. I sat in the front row, Harris appeared out of a tent, in tights, walked to the front of the stage and sat on the edge, right in front of me. A strong memory!
Yesterday, we returned to Columbus after 7 hours in the car. We drove straight to the Drexel Theatre to see The First Grader. A must see movie, based on a true story of a man in Kenya who goes to school at the age of 84. He died in 2009 at the age of 89.

Today, the gym crept back into our lives, and errands, before attending the final performance of Follies at The Garden Theatre in the Short North of Columbus. What a magnificent job the actors did! And a super ending to Martin's vacation.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Balzac's Paintings

Many hours have been spend in this coffee shop.
Martin works on his crosswords, and I work on my sketchbook,
and finally on this trip, I have completed two small oil paintings.

My 8" x 6" oil from Wednesday.
I worked on it a little more today, and and it's not finished,
but I figured I'd post it.

Me yesterday, trying to speed up the drying time of my watercolor.
I loved the look of the gals servicing coffee in Balzac's. They dress in black, and make great shapes. I got out the watercolors and just painted their shapes in my sketchbook, in preparation for going back today to paint them from an angle looking down the length of the coffee bar.

I was lucky that the same two girls were there today and wearing the same outfits!
 I did another watercolor painting today before starting the oil below. I wish I lived closer to this Coffee Shop, not only for the great coffee, but for the wonderful opportunities to paint these scenes.

Another 8" x 6" oil.
I will post the watercolor sketch tomorrow.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Painting Day

Wednesday morning in the Shakespeare Gardens.
It was cold, very windy, and rainy.
Yesterday after breakfast, we hit the road with my backpack, pochade box and some small panels. We weren't going to see any plays on that day, so there was all day to paint. The weather was blustery and cold; and, who knew when the predicted rain would start?

I had on a couple of shirts, and a warm headband, but the wind went right through my shirts, and the top of my head felt cool. I donned a winter hat and a rain slicker that I'd bought in the Peak District of England some 10 years before. The slicker doesn't breath, making it great protection from the wind, but it is waterproof for only about 15 minutes if it's raining hard. Luckily, I found a glove in each pocket.

Even with gloves, my fingers were numbed by the cold. I took off a glove
in an attempt to try and feel the palette knife I was holding.
Not long after I got set up, we felt the first rain drop. It didn't rain hard, but it did build up to a steady slow misty drizzle. Between the cold, the wind and the soft rain it was getting hard to paint, so I packed it all away saying I'd clean up the edges when I could feel my fingers again.

We went for a hot drink which turned into lunch.
For me a hot bowl of lentil vegetable soup
at the York Street Cafe.

I made a quick sketch of my dessert,
a butter tart in the shape of a swan. Yummy stuff.

Next, back to Balzac's Coffee, where I finally realized my desire to paint inside the cafe. I wasn't sure that I would get a decent painting in there. The lights are dim and yellow. I decided to do some sketches and familiarize myself with the girl and the objects that were in front of me before attempting to paint. Once into the painting, it was hard to tell what colors I was truly mixing. I worked on an 8" x 6" panel, featuring one of the barristas behind the counter. I still have not seen the painting in good light, but I got several compliments from customers that were sitting near me, and Martin gave it a thumbs up.

We walked back to Looking Glass House in the rain. I enjoyed a hot shower, dressed and did some reading and writing in my book before we drove to the Raja Indian Restaurant where we enjoyed a fabulous dinner.

Van Gogh in the news again

Always newsworthy Van Gogh continues to intrigue and be a moneymaker for some.
This short article in the October 18, 2011 Toronto Star, concerns a book written by two Pulitzer Prize winning authors and their new book, Van Gogh, The Life.

I did some research after reading this article and found these links to the 60 minutes interviews and a third video with paintings and readings from Van Gogh's letters. If you like Van Gogh, these 60 Minutes videos are worth watching!
Life and Death of Van Gogh Part 1
Life and Death of Van Gogh Part 2
60 Minutes Overtime - with commentary, paintings and letters of Van Gogh

Here's a quote from Google Books concerning the new book:  "Though countless books have been written about Van Gogh, and though the broad outlines of his tragedy have long inhabited popular culture, no serious, ambitious examination of his life has been attempted in more than seventy years. Naifeh and Smith have re-created Van Gogh's life with an astounding vividness and psychological acuity that bring a completely new and sympathetic understanding to this unique artistic genius whose signature images of sunflowers and starry nights have won a permanent place in the human imagination."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Audio/Visual & Gastronomique Overload

Drinking a bowl of Cafe au Lait in Balzac's Coffee in Stratford, Ontario

Apple pancakes and Canadian bacon lovingly cooked by Jean
at the Looking Glass House B&B.

The latest version of the Yarka watercolor set, now marketed by Jack Richeson Company.
 I am not sure, but the colors themselves seem to be the same as
those in my older Yarka set. But you can see that the half pans
don't stay put in this new packaging. Frustrating.

Balzac's Cafe Latte (large size) and my sketchbook
always a work in progress!
A forbidden photo of the inside of the Festival Theatre.
I snuck this photo not long after we were seated for the performance of Twelfth Night. There were 1400 high school students at this sold out performance. They were a well behaved audience, and the applause at the end was thunderous. I am always amused by the sounds the kids make when there is an onstage kiss, or when at the end of this performance, Count Orsino tells Cesario (after it's revealed that Cesario is really Viola, a girl pretending to be a boy) that she will be his mistress. Elizabethan audiences would have known that Orsino meant she would be his wife, but the kids thought something different.

A glass case in the hallway held an exhibition on wig making.
It's always fun to walk through the halls of the theatre. On display there will routinely be designer sketches of the current season's costumes and sets. Mannequins will be wearing past costumes with photos of actors wearing that costume in a past performance. This year, I was happy to see a display case featuring wig making. I cannot imagine the patience and dedication it takes to be a wig maker. All those knots to tie!!!

A wig in progress.
A view of the net that the wig maker attaches the hair to.

My humble sketch, just a memory for my book.
We were a bit early for the performance, so while we waited I did a ball point pen contour drawing of the long wig, my favorite, since it looked so French, and later I added the watercolor later from memory.

I won't even go into dinner.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Back in Stratford, Ontario

We are comfortably installed in Looking Glass House, our favorite B&B in Stratford, Ontario. The link is the the Canadian B&B site, but Looking Glass House has it's own website. I just can't find it quickly enough here. I like to book directly from Jean, to save her paying extra fees to booking agencies.

So why are we here again?
(Wow, the colors here remind me of the T-shirt
I bought at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, TN last year.)
Martin, who has been working non-stop this past year, except for 5 days off in June to go to the Publisher's Invitational 'Paint the Adirondacks' event, needed a vacation. I encouraged him to ask for time off or the year would end, and he'd never get it. He chose to come back to Stratford and the Shakespeare Festival, which we both enjoy tremendously.

We drove up yesterday, but our day started with a 7:30am trip to our trainer, Charlie. What a great guy he is. Charlie is our second trainer, the first being the infamous Brad, who kicked our bodies for at least six months before moving on to become a fireman. Brad had some great sayings, like "Pain is our friend. When no one else around, pain is still with us." And one day when he was five minutes late, he said, "I am late, so you will be punished!" Brad was quiet, but effective, and we loved him. It was hard to think how we would adjust to another trainer, but Charlie has won our hearts.

Charlie has an Masters in Nutrition and Fitness from Ohio University, and for his young years, he has had some major health issues involving surgery and several reconstructive surgeries. He is more outgoing than Brad, just aquired a cat (named Bentley), and at times I come away from the workout feeling that he wasn't too hard on us. Then later our friend, Pain, shows up; but, not as often as before. So Charlie is either easier on us, or we are in better condition.

Header image for homepage
The Topiary Park, Columbus OH.
The creation of sculptor James Mason
fashionged after Georges Seurat's painting.
After the workout, we drove into Columbus, OH, where I have been teaching a 7-week class in plein air painting. The class met in the Deaf School Park. I copied the above photo from the website. After painting for 4 weeks (3 of them in the rain with students sequestered under the new Main Street Bridge), the promise of a sunny day had me wanting to get the students out to a location where they could work with green and strong light and shadow. Everyone was thrilled to get into this park and work with amorphic shapes rather than the hard-edged city.

Once class was over, Martin and I stopped at the two large art supply houses in the area. The first was Utrecht, not far from the park. I bought one panel for painting, just 4 x 4". I need to paint some miniatures for two different shows. For one of the shows, the painting and frame can't be larger than 40 sq. in. This is even small for me! I needed more panels, so we stopped at Blick Art Supply on the way out of the city, and two of my students were there shopping.

They were looking for palette knives and asked which was the closest to what I use, the Lowe-Cornell J-2. Blick doesn't sell that brand, but we found the Blick #57 to be about the same. I was happy to learn that as well. And after lunch next door, we hit the road for the 6 hour drive to Stratford.

As the crow flies, Stratford is straight north of Columbus, but we drove to Toledo, Detroit, crossed the border at Port Huron, and then over dark, dark, roads of southern Ontario, to arrive in Stratford around 9:00 PM. We went straight to Bentley's. Martin had a Steak and Mushroom Pie, just to get in touch with his roots. He'd have liked a Steak and Kidney, but . . .

I went straight to bed, and we were both awakened at 7:00 AM by an alarm in another room. He got up to turn it off, but said the door was locked. He just hadn't turned the handle far enough.

Breakfast was a wonderful plate of apple pancakes and Canadian bacon with real maple syrup. Fresh fruit, carrot and nut muffins, butter, yogurt, orange juice, and coffe and tea. Been a while since I'd eaten some of this stuff, but it is always great. Jean delights her clients each morning with a delicious breakfast, and that why Martin loves this place. Jean also always has the written versions of all the plays that the Festival is presenting that season. Although there is a TV and CD player, we don't bother to turn them on. We read, and now, she has this wireless connection, so I don't have to drag my laptop to Balzac's Coffee.

Now, I'll just take a leisurely stroll to Balzac's for a large cafe au lait!

Today at 2:00 PM we see Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. It was written between 1599 and 1608, for Queen Elizabeth I. Quoting from Norrie Epsteins's Friendly Shakespeare, "Twelth Night is named for a holiday, about love and grief, their pains and their pleasures, and how the two emotions are often indistinguishable. Twelfth Night is festive, but it also skirts madness, dispair, sexual ambiguity and cruelty."

It also has one of my favorite characters, Malvolio!!! Quoting David Jones, "Malvolio's final cry of 'I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you!' casts an even longer shadow over the play as it is going to have its answer 40 years down the line when the Puritans come to power in England and every theatre in London is shut down."

Here is a link to quotes from the play. During this same period he wrote Troilus and Cressida, Hamlet, Othello, Measure for Measure, King Lear, Macbeth, Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra. WOW!!!!!

I'm sure that Olive Oil would say,
"Shakespeare, what a man, what a man."

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Shabby Side of the Short North Lights Up!

The newly restored 'Garden' sign, minutes before it was lit for the first time in 32 years.
October 1st was the date for Ohio Plein Air Society members to come to the northern most block of the Short North, in Columbus, and create paintings of the facade of the old Garden Theatre, now The Short North Stage.

It was drizzly, and breezy, and chilly.

Edie Dean painting. I really wanted the LOTTERY sign lit up in this photo.
That combination makes for a sometimes miserable artist. But it was perfect weather for the seedier side of the Short North. Edie Dean was at work when I arrived, but we had already 'phone commed' a few times before I hit town.

As I reported for duty, Edie said, "This guy says we can set up under his awning." It was a liquor store, and at 9:30 AM there were a legion of thirsty customers passing through the door. It took me some time to settle in and get things going. I'd been out the night before at a Greek restaurant. Wine, belly dancing and song made for a fun-filled evening. But now, the reality of the task at hand was before me.

I slowly got my equipment gathered and to the sidewalk. I made two quick sketches to help me decide the size and shape of the canvas I'd work on. I'd toured this theatre two weeks prior to Saturday, and to make a long story short, fell in love with it, as did the two gentlemen that are making it's restoration and rebirth a reality.
The "GARDEN" sign was being re-lit on Saturday evening at 9:00 PM, an historic moment, not only for the theatre, but also for this shabby neighborhood.

But my job on that day was to depict it on canvas.

It seemed to take me a long time to get started. Was it fear, or thinking and planning? I'd like to say say it was the latter, but I believe it was a bit of both. I was spoiled for choice on the selection of canvas size for my painting. What I settled on was a 20" x 10" stretched canvas that had been hiding in my studio for the longest time. I'd forgotten that my easel only accommodates the height of a 16" canvas. So now, I had to take even more time, scooping up and moving down the large globs of oil paint that I'd just squeezed out into their usual spots at the top of my palette. In their place, I rested the bottom my the canvas.
Near the end of the painting a steady drizzle forced me
to move my easel forward under the awning.

It felt good to be painting. There was a sort of buzz in the air. The promise of the day, and the evenings event, but there was something more. Many were anticipating that afternoon's OSU game with their greatest rival, Michigan, and I knew that I was attending the opening of the Short North Stage and the re-lighting of The Garden Theatre sign!

What I didn't know was that a real life drama would come to me outside the walls of the theatre, in the form of a man named Jack, not his real name.
Jack crossed the street on the way to the store, and saw two artists. He stopped by Edie's easel first, and she kindly sent him to me. He liked what I was doing, and we started to banter back for what I thought would be a few minutes at most. I guess he was having a good a time jive talking with me, cause he wound up standing at either side of me for at least two hours!

Somehow, he got to telling me that his mother lived in New York, and that he had been a singer there. Right down my alley, since I had been a singer for a long time.
Jack sang "Superstar" and customized it for Edie and I.
We stood on the street, me painting, him singing,
sometimes singing together.

 How I painted anything, I am not sure. 

Jack was no stranger to bars, in any of their forms; he'd kicked life, and been kicked around by it; but, he still had his talent. And on this day, we connected on a human level, through our mutual love of music. Here I had a seasoned yet rusty singer right there on the street entertaining me while I painted! We started to talk about our favorite songs. He said he'd been a jazz singer, and had all the right lingo, and a voice that isn't as apparent in the video posted here. I believed every word that this nightingale told me.

I offered him $20.00 in exchange for the entertainment. I can still hear the warm tone in his voice when he later said, "Deb, why did you give me that money? You didn't have to do that." I replied, "I gave it to you for the songs that you gave to me. You can give it back if you want to." "No," he said thoughtfully, "I need it." I had to laugh to myself. We had connected pretty deeply. He was very open with me about his life. Some of what he told me resonated on a personal level; some of what he said I'd seen first hand in my own family. My time with him enriched me, made me feel less judgemental. Jack had a story, and good one, but I can't tell it properly without his permission.

All the while, people walking north to the OSU tailgate parties sometimes stopped to talk, or admire my painting, and one of them happened to be a photographer from the Columbus Dispatch. He asked if he could take some photos of me painting. But first he took photos of me and Jack, and Jack by himself. Then he wanted Jack to move to the side so he could photograph the painting. Jackie wasn't too happy about that, and by the time the photographer had finished, the songbird had vanished into thin air! No goodbyes.

Here's a link to Ty Wright's photo that appeared
in the October 4th Dispatch.