Saturday, August 8, 2015

Your Brain On ART / Staying Young



Plein Air Painting on her 91st birthday!
Everyone at the table was teary-eyed as Vada explained how she is  feeling that it might be time for her to stop joining us on our weekly paint-outings.
My dear friend Vada Hammen setting up to paint azaleas, in the Spring of 2014 - at only 90! Though her energy level is waning, not so her intellect. Each week for the past 7 years she has driven across the bridge from Lillian, AL, into Florida- a few miles, to meet me and ride along to our designated painting site with the Plein-air Painters of Pensacola. Without missing a beat!  

At the Beach with the girls.
In this age of brain-training games, I believe the artist has a head-start, a real advantage because we're always observing, comparing, studying, problem solving as we create. Each artwork poses a multitude of decisions as we arrange shapes, fine-tune colors, and consider what is important to us about this live vignette. 


 The back-story of Vada becoming an artist: As a busy mother of 7, she liked to draw. Her eldest son, Denny, noticed his mom's talent and had her painting designs on his moter-bike. His life was cut short at 21, tragically from a motorcycle accident. It was months later that Vada found out from the local art instructor that Denny had paid for her to take painting lessons. It brings chills to know what she endured. Battles fought and won in a mind that is now so vibrant and healthy.
  
  This painting by Vada Hammen was gifted to me, and I love it.


 We skipped out of the group one day last summer. Never got our paints out, but enjoyed a visit on my back porch while studying Richard Schmid's big awesome book "The Landscapes".


Not only does she stay active in our plein air group but she leads a portrait session on Thursdays. On this day, I was the model for her group. Behind me is her wall of work. She doesn't limit herself to one genre or medium, she is fluent in portraiture as well as still-life and landscape. She regularly participates in another life-drawing group that meets in Pensacola.  

 New pacemaker seems to be working good! She was ready to get back out there and paint camellias this winter. Picasso said, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." Conversely, as we age, the artist in us keeps our minds active, youthful, and open to explore the possibilities of a blank canvas and full palette.
A landscape of Vada's
At the reception for an exhibit of my work.


 Learning to use her iPhone camera!
Admittedly, this is an unscientific study of but one. If you like facts and figures, check out this article with data from a Mayo Clinic study on how creative activities benefit your brain. I like this- "Long ago, 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away'. Perhaps today, the expression should expand to include painting an apple, going to the store with a friend to buy an apple, and using an Apple product." NYU neurology professor Dr. James Galvin. 

Leaders in our ART community: Vada, Kay and Rhoda- cornerstones who've kept the group organized through the years. So many lanes our group has explored together. So much canvas covered... And we are not letting her stop now. See ya Friday!


Making a case for sketching rather than just snapping pictures which we are so in the habit of these days, John Ruskin poetically describes the appreciation for visual beauty that artists share. 
‘Let two persons go out for a walk; the one a good sketcher, the other having no taste of the kind. Let them go down a green lane. There will be a great difference in the scene as perceived by the two individuals. The one will see a lane and trees; he will perceive the trees to be green, though he will think nothing about it; he will see that the sun shines, and that it has a cheerful effect; and that’s all! But what will the sketcher see? His eye is accustomed to search into the cause of beauty, and penetrate the minutest parts of loveliness. He looks up, and observes how the showery and subdivided sunshine comes sprinkled down among the gleaming leaves overhead, till the air is filled with the emerald light. He will see here and there a bough emerging from the veil of leaves, he will see the jewel brightness of the emerald moss and the variegated and fantastic lichens, white and blue, purple and red, all mellowed and mingled into a single garment of beauty. Then come the cavernous trunks and the twisted roots that grasp with their snake-like coils at the steep bank, whose turfy slope is inlaid with flowers of a thousand dyes. Is not this worth seeing? Yet if you are not a sketcher you will pass along the green lane, and when you come home again, have nothing to say or to think about it, but that you went down such and such a lane.’


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Inspiration at Florida's Forgotten Coast

Sailing Vessel at Day's End, 12x16, Oil. 
 As I arrived at Florida's Forgotten Coast Paint-Out, this beauty-of-a-boat and her reflections greeted me warmly and I knew I would return the next evening to paint her. 
 My painting site was across from our group's base-camp. I was asked to participate in a pilot program for a Plein Air Academy. The course will focus on career development, the mentor/leader was Don Demers a popular marine painter. After three days of painting, it was fun to sit and watch him paint a boat.

 There was lots of independent painting time. In fact the sailboat painting that I am featuring was my third painting of the day. My mid-day painting was in the shade across the street from the lighthouse where soon painters gathered for refreshments and camaraderie. The event hosts public meet-and-greets for the artists. I thought I spied an artist working at his easel up in the top of the lighthouse, so I was interested to see the displayed work from this painting session. Yes, he had captured the view from the top.
 I enjoyed my stay at the Bryant House Bed and Breakfast in Appilachicola. Bridgette was so kind to pack food for me when our early schedule kept me from a relaxed breakfast. I love my porch time in Summer. So peaceful there!  The perfect place to gather your thoughts and do your homework: we were to write down our thoughts on which way we want to go as artists, so we could plot our course.

 After cleaning my brushes one afternoon, I wandered down to explore the old cemetery. At first, it was the visual appeal that drew me in, the great variety of stone crosses, ornate monuments and simple gravestones.



 So many short stories were revealed as I read the inscriptions. How can you sum up a life's existence in so few words? 


A little sprout decorates the heartbreaking memorial which courageously states, "Our Baby DIED Feb. 18, 1895. Aged 14 days. The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away." Among the shipwreck victims and soldiers who had to face Gettysburg, was someone who will simply be remembered as a friend, with this quote: "Parted friends again may meet, From the toils of nature free, Crowned with mercy, O how sweet, Will eternal friendship be." Another carved stone says: "A Life so Well Spent on this Earth cannot Fail to Reap a Bountiful Harvest in the One to Come."

Somewhere between the graveyard, private soul searching, and the time spent painting and with other artists - I had gained a renewed appreciation for life. Like I'd been to a revival. Our Art Spirit needs the motivation of friends from time to time.

Friday, February 13, 2015

My One and Only Time in the Snow


Swiftly Melting Shadow, 12x16, Oil.

It's my one and only ever, plein air snow scene! There was more than one reason to work quickly on this November day as I visited Ohio. Foremost - to get back in the warmth before my toes got frostbitten. Furthermore - the sun that provided the lovely shadow was relentlessly melting the snowy cover and forcing me to add green peeking through.
 I like how the distance has a chilly feel, and how I was able to look past the houses across the street to retain my original idea- the tree and it's shadow in the snow. It is a nippy 30 something degrees here in the North of Florida this morning, so I though I better post this while it's at least seasonally relevant. Not so much posting going on these days but I'm still "painting up a storm".

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Fine Art Connoisseur - Featured Artwork: Jill Berry


Fine Art Connoisseur - Featured Artwork: Jill Berry
To read my latest news in Fine Art Today click the link above.

It was reflection time as I wrote my new Artist Bio for this feature. ---


"As a landscape painter living in Pensacola, Florida, I am forever entertained by waterways, blue skies and sunlight. Each week I take in the fresh air and experience of painting outdoors. Creating the spirit of a place with pigments on canvas. Recording by hand the beauty I observe. It is a fascinating occupation.

"For as long as I remember, I have enjoyed the landscape around me. Our mimosa tree in the moonlight; a stone fence decorating the rolling countryside: these were my early subjects as a young artist in Kentucky. Many moons have past since 1976 when I received an Art Scholarship to Murray State University. I continually study and develop my passion for art. As for style and influence, I am an Impressionist. With thick oil paint and broken color, I build surface texture that vibrates with life, echoing nature.

"Impressionist Landscape Painters leave a wonderful legacy, one that I am happy to contribute to, for the enjoyment of generations to come. Think of all the great paintings of Venice, or the works of the Hudson River School and the California Impressionist. Once you’ve stood in the same locations, your appreciation of their art soars, simply because you can relate. Future artists may stand from my vantage point, witness the same scene, and be compelled also to paint their interpretation. This makes the world of art evermore intriguing. Landscape painting has a powerful way of connecting the ages.

"My 'travelogue' of treasured plein air paintings includes work from California’s coast, NY’s Adirondack waterfalls, and the Italian Riviera. This year’s 'summit' took place in Denver, as I painted the Colorado Rockies and exhibited with the American Impressionist Society. Through my blog 'Plein Air Painting Journal' I have shared my painting adventures since 2008."

Recent Achievements:
2014 - American Impressionist Society National Juried Exhibition, Abend Gallery, Denver Colorado, October 2nd - November 1
2014 - Pensacola Museum of Art Juried Exhibit
2013 - “Ways of Water” solo show, Fairhope Alabama
2013 - Emerging Artist Award - Art Galleries & Artists of the South

I invite you to view more of my work at www.JillBerryArtist.com.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

American Impressionist Society Exhibition!

"Restoration Time", 12x16, Oil on Linen, American Impressionist Society Exhibition 2014.

 This plein air painting was juried into the 15th National Exhibition of the American Impressionist Society! The Abend Gallery in Denver is hosting the show. I am excited to attend the Opening Night on October 2nd and see it hanging among the works of modern Impressionist painters whose work I admire. From over 1300 entries, 165 were chosen. One of the events surrounding the show is a group paint-out. I'm sure the newness of painting a Colorado landscape will be well worth packing up Easel for the journey.


  It was during Florida's "Forgotten Coast en plein air" that "Restoration Time" was painted. A group of us were painting in a boatyard near Apalachicola. While searching for my inspiration that morning, I met Leon Holmes who pointed out the pile of ruble, boats that had been demolished since he had painted them the previous day. A board from yesterday's boat became for him the surface of a boatyard tribute painting. It does add an erie respect for your subject knowing that it may not be there tomorrow and you may be the last to enjoy it.



 Though it has no water, nor is it my usual landscape, I'm glad the painting which achieved my goal of this national show is one that represents Florida's Gulf Coast, my home and where I love to paint. You can find it in Fine Art Connoisseur magazine's feature on the American Impressionist Society Show (October issue).


 For me, the concept was the purple shadow on the brightly lit cabin, and in contrast, the weathered hull dripping with rusty stains. I'm not the kind who needs to perfectly state every rigging pipe. Just a few swipes with the palette knife and I am satisfied that I've said enough.

 Studying Impressionist Art trains my brain to see and think Impressionistically. It's a painted language where you are allowed to put the emphasis where you desire. How and when the poetry stops, is all up to you. The luscious texture of this genre is what compels me to the easel, and to the museum shows. Oh! Also I'm looking forward to the French Impressionist works at the Denver Art Museum, "Finding the Light", a tour and lunch sponsored by Fine Art Connoisseur. I will have to write a post afterwards and tell you all about it.
To view all the juried works - click here for the AIS 2014 show catalogue online.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pensacola Museum of Art - Juried Show!


"First Evening in Venice" 14x18.

I'm happy to announce that my work resulting from the Italy adventure has been juried into the Pensacola Museum of Art! It's their 60th Annual Members' Exhibition!
Our art museum has a rich history that dates back to 1906 when the Spanish Revival Style structure was built as our first permanent jail. It also housed the Courthouse, Police Department and Shore Patrol. In 1954, members of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) envisioned a venue to exhibit traveling art exhibitions... and provide a meeting space, as well as a venue for lectures, films...

 Photo and Facts- PMA
Photo: Wikipedia







For the opening reception, the museum was packed out! It was my pleasure to meet a crowd of new folks. 
Interested to see the inspiration for this studio piece? Check out my previous blog post where I take you on a trip to Italy (click here).  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Painting Adventure in Italy!!!

Cliffs of Cinque Terre, 11x14, Oil, Plein air in Italy, Private Collection.

It certainly was a thrill to paint this one on location! Excited that my trip-of-a-lifetime had finally arrived, and there I was with my easel set up to paint the Italian Riviera! It still feels like a dream! Each morning a different village with spectacular views.





For my second painting of the day, I went down on the rocks and painted the colorful buildings of Riomagiorre. To paint the "Cliffs of Cinque Terre" I was situated midway along this steep sidewalk by the buildings. As I worked, a stream of tourists filed by, many stopping to chat and observe.

I was constantly snapping memories and I've compiled a video of my favorites. Grab an espresso and enjoy a 15 minute whirlwind tour of Cinque Terre, Florence, and Venice!

I could go on telling about --- The aqua color of the sea, more beautiful than I'd ever seen. Rising early to explore Vernazza for the first time, so quiet, like my own private amusement world.

 --- How navigating Venice became a fun challenge! Finding the places I'd booked on-line with only a print-out confirmation and the help of friendly folks pointing me in the right direction. My language of gesturing worked nicely in person, just not over the phone. So a shopkeeper called the hotel number for me. With my backpack & Dora-like instructions, I proceeded... (1) lingerie shop (2) alleyway (3) bridge... till the cobblestones led me to the building with a small plaque by the door that matched my reservations. Boats and waterways, so much more alluring than paved streets and signs.

--- Even from the train window I was enthusiastically photographing the Tuscan countryside. No I didn't have my head out the window as a puppy might, but I was extracting every ounce of delight from the experience. I'll let the pictures tell the story...
Reminder: the icon at the bottom right of the video makes it a big screen production! Enjoy~