Wednesday, June 6, 2018

It's Raining Kewpie Dolls!......or How a Media Blitz Helped Win the Vote for Women

It's Raining Kewpie Dolls
8 x 11 inches Watercolours and acrylic paints on watercolor board 
Basic photo reference a family photo of my grandmother

This week's blog is about a fun mixed media piece called It's Raining Kewpie Dolls. I had done the original watercolour painting of the two women dressed in 1910 era clothes a while back. I did the watercolour from an old family photo of who I believe was my grandmother and a relative (?) who was pointing up in the sky. In my watercolour, to show what the relative was pointing at, I made up the shadow of a bi-plane .....and adjusted the second figure so she was looking up. But once I was finished with adding colours …... I didn't quite know where the watercolour needed to go to finish the itty bitty story. It sat in the finished bin until recently. 

I've been working on a painting series about the effort to win women the right to vote. The 100 year anniversary for the passage of the 19thAmendment is coming up in August 2020. In my reading I came across a neat story about what would be called today a media event. Apparently in November 1914 a convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association was held in Nashville Tennessee. A week after the convention, at the Nashville Fairgrounds a female pilot, Katherine Stinson staged an air plane demonstration. As she flew over the assembled crowd, she let loose a shower of Kewpie dolls with little banners saying “Votes for Women”. The itty bitty dolls floated down on tiny yellow parachutes. Well, I couldn't let an artistic opportunity like that pass me up!

I pulled out the watercolour, and began sketching Kewpie dolls.


I did a bit of altering of the original watercolour to fit the facts on the ground, so to speak. Since the Kewpie doll event was actually in November and was described as quite cold, I gave the girl looking up a heavy white suit coat to go along with her elbow length gloves. Using acrylic paints, I changed the background scenery to a more autumn dull green. Then I got down to painting Kewpie dolls. I made up a parachute, and painted them “raining down” on the crowd.

A quick bit about Kewpie dolls......they were popular line of figurines based on illustrator Rose O'Neill's cherub-faced comic strip character. She became one of the highest paid female illustrators in the country from the use of the Kewpie image in advertising as well as sale of the dolls. They became a household name.....and in addition to appearing on a throng of household items, were used by Rose O'Neill to promote the women's suffrage movement.
Needless to say, I was quite gratified to learn that in that even in that era (1910), a (female) illustrator not only thrived.....but flourished with her art!

I got to tell a bit about a past era's effort to win the vote for women.....and got a great story ending for my original watercolour painting.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

My Robert Penn Warren painting on the cover of Kentucky Humanities



This is just a quick blog post to show off the lovely Spring 2018 Kentucky Humanities cover, which is my recent painting of Robert Penn Warren. This painting also appeared in Historic Todd County's book; T is for Todd County. 
I so appreciate the nice folks at Historic Todd County for choosing me to do the Robert Penn Warren portrait along with four other interesting portraits of people and events in Todd county. I also want to say how much I appreciated the wonderful help of the Dept. of Library Special Collections, WKU for providing me with just the perfect reference photo to use in the making of the painting! Thank y'all!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Networking-Old School



Networking-Old School
24 x 30 inches acrylic paint on gallery wrapped stretched canvas
Photo reference for the interior room ( Clarksville TN. Photographs, Drane Collection titled Interior of Room) used with the kind permission of AustinPeayStateUniversityFelixG.WoodwardLibrary,Archives&SpecialCollections

This time around I'm talking a bit about my most recent painting, “Networking-Old School”. I started out with an idea for a painting showing how suffragists might have begun their networking in support of getting the “votes for women” or the 19thAmendment passed in 1920. I wanted to show how local ladies would gather at one person's home or another, have refreshments and mingle and chat......about the weather....or the possibility of getting to vote, and the impact that could have on their everyday life. 
In a local Clarksville history, I found a listing noting that in February 1918 a CESL (Clarksville Equal Suffrage League) meeting was held at the home of Emma Lupton. Then a lovely local volunteer researcher found me images of both Emma Lupton and Lulu Epperson another Clarksville Suffergist. The final icing on my “research cake” was lucking up on an interior photograph of a (sadly un-named) Clarksville home of the period. With the kind permission of theAustinPeayStateUniversityFelixG.WoodwardLibrary,Archives&SpecialCollections I had the final piece of the painting in place. 

I sketched off the basic structure of the room and the lovely old wood marble top table, as my focal point. I positioned the two main characters...Emma Lupton and Lulu Epperson interacting with an un-identified lady. Here I was just feeling my way as to overall composition and colours. I decided that I wanted three younger women grouped in the second room.


Then I began developing the painting along, one section at a time. I wanted to show interactions between the foreground ladies.....


with Lulu Epperson talking animatedly to a smartly dressed friend.....while Emma Lupton, the hostess, fondly looks on at Lulu's enthusiasm. The striped dress Emma Lupton is wearing comes from an old family photo I had of an ancestress posing on a sunny porch.


Aside from the enjoyment I had getting all the bitty details like I wanted them.....the glint of the light off the marble table top and the sheen of the bronze vase holding the yellow roses (also a symbol of the suffragist movement) I added two or three women's suffragist pamphlets and newspapers. In addition I wanted to add a photo credit for the use of the photograph of the home's interior. I did this with help of a bit of computer wizardry. I typed up the photo credit in a computer program, scaled it to fit as a magazine on the painting, “twisted it” perspectively to look like it was laying down on a shelf and printed it out on a sheet of paper. I physically cut out the paper and glued it down onto the canvas, and glazed over it with clear acrylic varnish. 


This was an all together fun painting to work my way through......solving different ways to make it look like what I had seen in my mind's eye. I especially enjoy bringing into view, the small unsung, everyday bits of a BIG historical movement.....one little vignette at a time.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Music Hall...Playing on a Mixed Media Theme

Music Hall 16 x 20 inches
Acrylic, Watercolours, and Colored Pencils on watercolor board

This painting is another entry in my ongoing play with different media, in this case using acrylic paints and clear gels, watercolours and some colored pencils. 

I got the idea for this violinist from an old 1920s family photo. Apparently this ancestress played the fiddle in a band in the 1920s. I had another photo of her in this glam dress from the same era. So I took yet another photo of an un-related girl playing her fiddle.....and combined them all together.....taking great liberties with the features and background. I envisioned the young lady playing her fiddle in a 1920s era “music hall” or pub. 

My other motivation for this painting was to play with a technique I discovered a while back. I wanted to do a mullioned stained glass window......but without having to do all that pesky lead work for the design. So I started out taping off my window and glazing it with a couple of watercolour washes to show the evening lights coming thru the stained glass....


After the watercolour was totally dry, I laided a plastic stencil over the watercolour wash and brushed a clear acrylic glaze over the entire wash area.....


You can see here how the clear acrylic glaze seals the watercolour wash under the “glass” pieces.....but NOT where the stencil covered what will be the leaded strips.

Then I took some watercolor darks....browns, blacks, blues......and washed them OVER the entire window square, excluding the music hall lettering. The watercolours sank into the un-glazed portions of the window leading.....but was easily wiped off from the clear acrylic glazed window panes! Instant window leading.

I continued with the rest of the painting, using watercolors, coloured pencils and some acrylics. I used watercolours where I wanted an “organic” graduated wash, like the dress silhouette and the wall. I used coloured pencils for the violin, window sash and lettering since I needed the preciseness of the pencil tips. I finally used acrylics for her arms and face and for texture in the wall.


And this is the outcome.......hung on a wall in an art show.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Garden Party-Chairs...or How I got out of a Compositional Corner



Garden Party-Chairs
10 x 20 inches acrylic painting on gallery wrapped canvas

This week's painting was a “twice-finished” painting. I “thought” I'd finished this painting last year.....but after a while of walking past it again and again I felt that I hadn't quite finished it. Here's what it looked like:




As you can see most of the main elements of the painting have been done, but it somehow lacked cohesion. This is one of those paintings that I started out thinking I had a plan.....but really didn't. I wanted the story in the painting to “read” left to right.....just like you read a book. The composition was horizontal, to fit with the shape of the canvas. But there were gaps in the flow of the action.

So I went back to one of my painting technique books, and found a solution. A lot of paintings' composition can be roughly compared to letters in the alphabet. Some paintings have a “C” type of composition, others more like a “L”.....and I decided that my painting needed to be shaped more like a “T”. To that end, I added in more chairs to the center of the painting, to lead the eye into the painting.
I added another small figure in the background to help balance the new larger female figure looking off to the right. I also added a small poochie running after the little rascal that caused the boy to upend his chair along with his hamburger. Both these characters are being egged on in the chase, by their dad who is laughing.......
This doesn't seem to bother the young courting couple in the center left......

or the father and son (in matching outfits and red glasses) on the far left. They don't seem to be bothered by the uproar at all, if the little boy with his two hot dogs and huge piece of cake is any judge.

And if this isn't enough....I added a bit of whimsy on either end of the gallery wrapped canvas.
On the right side I have the little girl scampering away, giggling, after she goosed the boy and made him overturn his chair and chase her.


While on the left hand side I added a puppy licking his chops eyeing the dropped hamburger, while he plots how best to steal it.



Sometimes too much in a painting can add up to being just enough!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Before the March – Clarksville Suffragists

Before The March
11x14 inch acrylic painting on gallery wrapped canvas

This blog post is starting off an occasional series of paintings featuring my take on the local suffragist movement to pass the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. I want to highlight local women's contribution to that cause. In researching the suffragist movement, I found a lovely photo on the Clarksville Arts and Heritage website.....


Clarksvillian Constance Rudolph (first row, center) is only one identified, date unknown.
(photo courtesy of the Montgomery County Archives)

Seeing all the lovely young ladies in white, being shepherded by two women leaders in dark suits and bowler hats......I couldn't help but wonder what the scene might have looked like as they were gathering together before their march. I love imagining what might have happened before/after a photograph was taken.

So I began to design a composition.....

I settled on a sunlit bit of grass for the suffragists to gather together into their march formation. I really wanted to highlight the young ladies white dresses and straw hats or “boaters” against the contrast of the shadowed trees. I also wanted to add in, in the background, a few male onlookers scoffing at the gathering. The symbolism of the gentlemen in dark suits and hats, lurking in the shadows of the trees against the white of the sunlit young women's dresses was a compositional perk not to be wasted. I also liked the “messaging” of the two march leaders.....dressed in “serious” dark dresses and suit coats with the “take charge” bowler hats....usually only worn by men. I did want to note that there was in the photograph, a couple of men in the group....whether sweethearts, brothers, or “suffra-gents”. To add this note, I added one young gentleman talking to the standard bearer on the right.


Here I've gotten the composition firmed up and gotten the basic colours set in. I had added in some white marking a curb......as a design feature. I wanted to draw attention to the urban setting for the march and as visual “pointer” to an out of sight young lady rushing to join her friends in the group. In the finished version I put the young lady running towards the group in the main front view to connect the curb and the background hecklers. This is done on a deep gallery wrapped canvas.....so she is finished out “around the corner” so to speak.


I've had a blast painting this subject, and even more fun researching the stories about this movement. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

2018 US Bank Celebration of the Arts Open Art Exhibition

                                        


This is a bitty-bitty blog post just to let ya'll know about the 2018 US Bank Celebration of the Arts Open Art Exhibition, at the Kentucky Museum March 3-April 7- Monday thru Saturday 9-4 in Bowling Green Kentucky.

We got to visit the art show last week and took our annual photos of our artwork at the show. Frank and I both had two pieces of artwork in the show. We did have to search through over 400 other pieces of artwork displayed in five different parts of the Museum! I believe that that is a record number of entries for this show......it keeps growing each year.

There were artwork pieces of every kind of description.....anything from a group of kids (of the young goat variety) escaping their leash to ceramic castles with fully furnished interiors! So many artists with such a variety of artistic visions.

Frank had his Teacher and Firebird displayed in two different rooms. I've linked to my blog posts for each sculpture. I had Garden Party and a new piece called Music Hall.