Plums on a White Plate

Plums on a White Plate, oil on canvas, 9x12"

Plums on a White Plate, oil on canvas, 9×12″

Finally I’m back in my studio and painting again after a two-month reconstruction of my backyard that made it impossible to get in there. These sturdy plums waited for me in the studio fridge all that time, then sat on a table by the easel for nearly two weeks during a heat wave. Some days it was just too hot to paint–well over 90 degrees. I was afraid they would have exploded, fermented, or worse. But nope, due to the magic of non-organic, supermarket fruit, they were still holding their own (unlike the beautiful, expensive, organic fruit from my natural grocery that goes squishy and grows fur if not eaten in a day or two) and I could finish the painting.

Below is the value study I did in Procreate on the iPad before starting the painting, my sketch on canvas and a photo of the setup, which I painted from life.

Found or Free: Apples and Candlestick

Found on the Street #1, Candlestick and Apples, oil painting on panel, 8x8" (<a href="">$110 at my DPW Gallery: click here</a>) (Click image to enlarge)

Found on the Street #1, Candlestick and Apples, oil painting on panel, 8×8″ (Click image to enlarge)

This is one in a series of paintings of free stuff and things found on the street during my walks in the Berkeley, California area. The little apples had fallen from a neighbor’s tree and the candlestick was in a free box on the curb. Below are photos of some steps in the work in progress of this painting (which is available to purchase from my Daily Paintworks gallery here) and a couple of cool studio tips too. Read More

What Is This Stinky Fruit?

Stinky Fruit, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

Hurried Sketch of Very Stinky Fruit, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

These funny strawberry-like fruits came from a tree in Berkeley that I passed while  walking with a friend. The patterns on them reminded me of cloisonné beads. I picked up a few that had fallen from the tree and was surprised to find them very light and seemingly hollow, rather like marshmallows. I stuck them in my pocket to take home and sketch.

I didn’t have time that day to sketch so left them on a plate in my studio. When I returned to the  studio  the next day I noticed a foul odor, rather like vomit , and realized it was coming from these “fruits.”

Stinky Strawberry Fruit from Tree, photo

Stinky Strawberry Fruit from Tree, photo

I braved the smell and set about sketching them (quickly). I would have cut them open to discover what was inside but was afraid I’d need a gas mask. As soon as I finished the sketch I bagged them and got them out of the studio, opened the doors and turned the air cleaner on high.

In this case, beauty really is only skin deep. Whatever is under the skin is really yucky. A clever ruse by mother nature to prevent them from being eaten?

UPDATE: 1/9/12.

Mystery solved. One of my readers on Facebook put the query out to her horticultural friends and here’s what they reported:

The tree is Cornus kousa, one of the very best small tree/large shrubs. Spectacular in bloom, late spring, then very decorative in the fall. Good for birds. I found this video

Kousa dogwood (“Cornus kousa”) produces delightful fruits in the early fall. Learn how to recognize & use them.

From Tree to Table: Fig Bruschetta, Fig Tree and the Book

Grilled Fig Bruschetta table card, ink & gouache, 5x7"

Grilled Fig Bruschetta table card, ink & gouache, 5x7"

At the book publication party for my friend Barbara’s wonderful new book, From Tree to Table: Growing Backyard Fruit Trees in the Pacific Maritime Climate I decided to make one of the recipes in the book: Grilled Fig Bruschetta. But first I sketched a few of the figs (above) before cooking them. I used a blank note card because I wanted to stand it on the table with the food. But since it wasn’t watercolor paper, the paint just sunk in. I switched to gouache which worked great and was huge fun.

Fig Bruschetta on the table

Fig Bruschetta on the table

I’m not a confident cook, but the recipe sounded simple and very delicious: figs tossed in olive oil and fresh thyme and broiled, then set atop a toasted baguette spread with gorgonzola dolce cheese (soft, sweet blue cheese), and then drizzled with a bit of honey and a sprinkle of thyme.

They were fabulous! A perfect combination of flavors and everyone loved them. I’m glad I took a picture (above) before they were all gone. I served them on plates I made many years ago when I was a potter.

Baby Fig Tree Growing Bigger, ink & watercolor & rubber stamp, 7x5"

Baby Fig Tree Grows, ink & watercolor & stamp, 7x5"

This is the baby fig tree that Barbara gave me last spring. I’ve sketched its progress from stick, to growing three leaves to now (above) with three skinny trunks. I’m going to use the pruning section in From Tree to Table (and a little help from Barbara) to learn how to prune it so it just has one trunk, once it drops its leaves for the winter….if winter ever comes…we’re still having warm summer-like weather half the time and fruit trees are so confused.

Figs On Deck

Figs in glass bowl in sun, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

Figs in glass bowl in sun, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

After a summer of fighting with a contractor to properly complete my backyard deck and some other construction (beginning stages of garage to studio conversion), the work is done and I can finally enjoy painting on my backyard deck. This was my first happy little backyard sketch of three varieties of organic figs. I painted sitting on my cute new wicker love seat, bought  for just $20 from neighbors who were moving away.

I may at some point share my lengthy rant about the way many contractors condescend, ignore, cheat and/or bully women clients, but it’s too nice a day to dwell on such things. I’ll just say that after talking to other women who’ve managed their own construction projects with male contractors, the problem is all to common.

But now the sun is shining, the wind and fog have disappeared and I have a little bouquet of roses waiting to be painted so I’m heading out to the deck!

Red, White and Blueberries

Red, White and Blueberries, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

Red, White and Blueberries, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

Happy 4th of July, whether it’s Independence Day where you are not. Why not make every day Independence Day and claim your right to freedom from whatever holds you back?

Today I chose the freedom of sketching blueberries in my sketchbook instead of struggling with other “work” I’ve been doing in the studio. I’m also trying to claim independence from the “shoulds” that are telling me I should be at a barbeque, roasting wieners, drinking beer, and waving flags.

It looks like the Bay Area will at last have a non-foggy 4th and if so I’ll be heading up to Albany Hill to watch the fireworks around the Bay Area. And now I declare independence from my computer!

Meyer Lemons Bowled and New Adjustable Still Life Table

Meyer Lemons Bowled, oil on linen, 8x8"

Meyer Lemons Bowled, oil on linen panel, 8x8"

These lemons came from my little Meyer Lemon tree which produces the sweetest, plumpest lemons. I planted the tree from a small pot about 5 years ago and now it’s as tall as me. I really like the Centurion Oil Primed Linen Panel I painted this on, except that it takes much longer for the paint to dry than when painting on Gessobord because it doesn’t sink in to the oil priming.

Still life table beside easel

A= Still life table beside easel

I set up the bowl of lemons on my new rolling, adjustable (from 28″ to 45″ high) still life stand, also known as an Over the Bed Table on Amazon where I got it with free shipping (good thing because it’s not light). Since I was taking a picture of it I thought I’d also describe the other items in the photo since I’m so happy with my painting set up.

A = Rolling, adjustable height Still life stand/Over the Bed Table

B = Karen Jurick’s “Alter Easel” which I love for holding thin panels instead of trying to balance them between the narrow supports on my easel. Works great!

C = Daylight Studio Lamp for lighting the still life (not visible is the Daylight Artists Easel Lamp that is attached to the top of my easel to light the painting (that I was given for free by the company and liked so much I bought the standing light).

D = A silly maul stick (just the top shows) that doesn’t work very well. I’ve seen people using canes instead, hooked over the top of the painting to provide support for your hand when painting details.

E = Masterson Artist Palette Seal with a lid that seals like Tupperware and with a pad of palette paper inside (the palette paper is a recent discovery that I LOVE because it saves so much time from having to clean the palette.) I keep the palette in my freezer when I have paint left over. Once thawed (in a few minutes) it’s in perfect condition for the next painting session. The palette is on top of an upside down plastic drawer from a defunct rolling cart to raise it up high enough for me to use without bending over (I’m 5’10”).

Not lettered but in the picture is the beautiful silk sari fabric my friend Barbara gave me for my birthday for just this purpose and the ancient microwave cart that holds my palette and supplies. Not shown is the rolling plastic taboret I’ve had for 20 years that holds my brushes and other stuff.

OK, I know I’m a gadget girl and many of these things are not necessary. But I feel like painting (and life) are hard enough, why not have great tools to make it easier? There are lots more pictures of my studio under the category “Studio.”

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