Friday, July 27, 2012

Students Are Friends

Margaret, Jen, Linda and me in the gallery at Belmont

My students have always taught me more than I have been able to impart to them. They have also become friends over the years. For both reasons, I am very grateful.

Last week, as a result of my friend Linda's coordination, I went to Belmont with our friends Jen and Margaret. We all met one another during my pastel classes. Margaret took the photographs that I have included in this post, for which I am thankful! Belmont is the former home and studio of Gari Melchers, an artist who was living between the years of 1860 and 1932. At the age of seventeen, his parents sent him to Düsseldorf, Germany, to study art. He then studied in Paris, lived in Holland, and also painted in Brittany, France.

Some of Melchers' paintings
He was named an Officer in the French Legion of Honor in 1904, and in 1909 was appointed Professor of Art at the Grand Ducal Saxony School of Art in Weimar, Germany. He returned to the United States in 1915. At this time, he rented a studio in New York City. This studio was in the Bryant Park Studios, which was commissioned to be built by fellow artist Abraham Archibald Anderson. The building was immediately popular and designed with artist’s needs in mind. Other tenants included John LaFarge, Frederick Stuart Church, Winslow Homer, Augustus Saint-Gaudens and William Merritt Chase. Through study in art history, I was aware of all of these artists, but not Melchers. I am always fascinated with artists that are new to me, and would not have gone to Melchers’ home and studio without the prompting of my friends. Speaking of friends, while at Belmont, I discovered that Melchers was a friend of the artists Childe Hassam and John Singer Sargent.

Melchers' studio—Fabulous!!!
Melchers was very successful financially during his lifetime, which refutes the commonly held view that artists have to suffer for their art. His work hangs in many, many well-known museums, such as the Musee d'Orsay in Paris and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Despite the heat, the day was practically perfect. It is always a pleasure to be with fellow artists since we tend to speak the same mother tongue. We get excited about things that others rarely notice because we are always on the lookout for inspiration. The gardens at Belmont were lovely. A painting of the area may be in my future.

Monday, July 23, 2012

An Artist's Retreat

"Turbulent Connection," one of my recent paintings


"When walking back to my room last night, I looked to the left. The dark green of the leaves was barely visible in the growing darkness. Little lanterns seemed to blink on and off. Beautiful fireflies were flickering, helping to light my way in the gathering nightfall. This is part of the magic of Orkney Springs."

I recently returned from teaching a 10-day workshop in Orkney Springs, Virginia, where I rushed to my room to write the above sentence.  Orkney Springs is near Bryce Mountain and not too far from the West Virginia state line. I went not knowing what to expect and was pleasantly surprised in every way. This, despite record-breaking heat and no air-conditioning in the bedrooms!

I was teaching with fellow artist, Gwen Bragg, who has been teaching there for approximately thirteen years. When Gwen first asked if I would be interested in taking part in this endeavor, I was skeptical. After all, no air-conditioning in July didn't sound like a prudent choice for anyone. That said, I was swayed by Gwen's description of the place, and the ability that I would have to work and think only of art for ten days. That sounded a bit like my experience in France and I couldn't pass it up. It was just terrific to be with others who are as invested in art as I am. I completed five small paintings and started a sixth. I have included an image of one of the pieces that I painted as a demonstration for my students.