Category Archives: Uncategorized

Paint for money…or paint for love?

If you’ve been an artist for any time at all….say more than a minute or two…you will begin to wonder what to do with all your wonderful creations.  Maybe the closet is full, or they’re being stacked in the back room or your studio.  Maybe someone in your house is urging you either subtly or more strenuously to get rid of that stuff!

I’m not really sure where the notion that creating something with the intention to sell it became tainted, particularly for artists.  After all, we have bills to pay, food to put on the table, braces to buy for the kids.  I can’t really think of any other profession where not making any money by your labor is considered a good thing.  So unless you are willing to live rough and sacrifice some of the niceties like flush toilets and a shelter, then you must really give some thought to creating in order to make money.

I painted several of these little pumpkins in watercolor with pen and ink outlines. They were fun to do. I sent them as postcards to some friends and will probably add them to one of my online shops.

This doesn’t mean that you should only consider the financial aspects of your work, but it should be in the equation somewhere. I think the key here is to find balance between doing what you love to do and making some things to sell. 

For instance, I did art fairs around the country for many years.  This can be a rough way to make a living but I knew quite a few artists who made their entire living doing fairs.  Packing up the vans and trucks, carting everything across the miles, setting up in various weather conditions….not easy.  But some of the artists and crafters loved the lifestyle.  Live up north in the summers; move to warmer climates in the winter.  I even knew a couple of jewelry makers who floated around the Gulf of Mexico all winter long, only stopping long enough to catch their mail.  They would then put the push on to hit the art fair circuit from May through September. 

I actually enjoyed talking with patrons.  I had figured that I could sell at least one red painting per show.  (For some reason, people always have room for a red painting.)  And I would have my big showstopper paintings which would entice people into my booth in the first place although they often settled for something more modestly priced. My bread and butter work were the all original line of fruit and vegetable paintings that I did, all 8 x 10, matted and wrapped.  Yes, that felt more like production work but well…

Since the advent of the internet, the world of options has expanded exponentially.  We’ve all become accustomed to shopping from our laptops or phones.  You can set up shops at Etsy or Ebay or your own websites for very low fees.  And guess what?  You don’t have to worry about the weather, either!  There are print on demand sites, and group websites, the list is endless.

But that brings us back.  What to sell? 

A couple of my autumn minis. Themes such as apples and pumpkins are very popular, but I also do small autumn landscapes for variety.

Here is where a little trial and error comes in.  Or just walk around some galleries, gift shops, art fairs, etc.  Do some online research, too.  (You can get ideas but don’t copy!)  What do you like to do?  Make chairs?  Do you really think you can sell those $2,000 masterpieces?  Well, maybe…eventually.  But how about looking at what you do like to do, then trying to scale it back?  You don’t have to give up the big, challenging pieces.  Those are what inspire you to keep going.  Your style may change over time.  That’s OK.  Maybe you’ll look back in ten years and wonder what you were thinking when you made it.  Or maybe it will be a collector’s item and the crowds will be demanding that you make more, and bigger.

I guess the bottom line here is that don’t let anyone tell you that you’re selling out if you decide to devote at least part of your time to creating work that has a ready market.  You’re not.  You’re trying to stay in the game and affording yourself the opportunity to make more, bigger, and better creations.  So, unless you have a large trust fund or a very wealthy sponsor, just keep digging in and keep on keeping on. You only have to answer to yourself. 

These are a few holiday minis that I’ve created over the years. Many times I’ll repeat a theme, or print them on cards. I sell these mini paintings online and in local gift shops. Each one is painted separately so they’re all individual but very similar.

Tomatoes! Tomatoes! Tomatoes!

It’s that time of year in the garden.  I have been picking tomatoes by the five-gallon bucket load.  The freezer is full and we have just about run out of room. 

We have been growing tomatoes for decades.  We try different varieties.  Some years we like this one, another year we might like another one. This year I decided to make a semi-scientific analysis of the different varieties that we usually gravitate to.

First of all, I don’t start any plants from seed anymore. Been there, done that.  I can usually find a good variety in the local stores and garden centers.  Also, we don’t use any sprays and rarely fertilizer (none this year.)  But I do rotate the crops in the garden so the same thing is not planted in the same place each year. 

This is my schematic for the tomato part of the garden.

This year I planted fifteen tomato plants (not counting the five that I planted in the spring garden).  I have planted as many as sixty-four plants in the past but that is ridiculous.  The varieties that I planted this year are:  Goliath, San Marzano, Roma, Better Boy, Pink Brandywine, Red Beefsteak, and Park Whopper.  Not counting the cherry tomatoes (Sweet 100 and Yellow Pear).  I did all the planting on May 15th because we had a very late freeze and SNOW earlier.  We had plenty of rain earlier but not too much since mid July.  Sometimes we’ll water, especially if the plants are little but usually not.  I planted the seedlings very far apart, about five feet, so they had plenty of room and we could get down the rows with the tiller.  We also put them up in cages with stakes and ties.

I have lost track of how many tomatoes that I’ve picked but in just one day last week, I picked three five-gallon buckets and gave one away.  I have to pick about every three or four days. Our freezer is full.

Tomatoes, tops. L-R bottom: Pink Brandywine, Red Beefsteak, San Marzano. Top: Celebrity, Better Boy, Park Whopper, Goliath, Roma.
Tomato samples, bottoms. L-R bottom: Pink Brandywine, Red Beefsteak, San Marzano. Top: Celebrity, Better Boy, Park Whoppers, Goliath, Romas.

So let’s go down the list.

Goliath.  We’ve liked this tomato in the past and it started off well but slowed down.  I paid a lot for just one plant so will probably not plant it again next year. 

San Marzano.  This is supposedly the king of Italian tomatoes.  VERY prolific.  I can pull the tomatoes off the vine in handfuls, like grapes.  But they seem a little dry and have quite a bit of white/green core which is not tasty. 

Roma.  We’ve grown these before but they really produced this year.  Much larger than the San Marzanos which was a surprise.  Very meaty but sometimes a little black inside which is probably blossom end rot from uneven watering.

Better Boy.  Good but nothing to write home about.  Will probably pass next year.

Pink Brandywine.  These were a real surprise.  The tomatoes are huge, at least six or even seven inches across.  A beautiful pink color and low acid.  Really tasty and very meaty. One slice is enough for a sandwich. 

Red Beefsteak.  Very meaty but knobby. Difficult to use for a slicing tomato but pretty good for canning.  However, not worth the trouble even though they are so large and produce well.

Celebrity.  We’ve grown these before but for not for the past few years.  VERY good producers.  The tomatoes just keep coming.  Great for putting up or eating just plain.

Park Whopper.  We were told by a friend that this is his favorite tomato so we thought we’d give it a try.  Very consistent shape, good taste, but not very large.  And they’re petering out, even in mid-August. 

The final verdict?  We’ll definitely plant the Pink Brandywines, Romas and Celebrities next year.  But….depends upon what other options catch my attention.

Meanwhile, back to the salt mines…er ummm….the garden.  And don’t talk to me about beans and corn.  Ha!

How to improve your art skills

One of Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. Many artists explore a subject in a series of paintings of the same subject. Van Gogh did at least twelve paintings of sunflowers.

I’m often asked, “How do I get better at my art?”  Hummmm….well, I have several suggestions.  They aren’t anything new but maybe they’re new to you.  In no particular order.

Make a LOT of art!  Studies have shown that students who create a lot of art eventually get better, especially compared to those who seek to create one perfect painting or poem or story or pot.  Like almost anything else, the more you do, the better you get.  This is the time to explore.  Try new things, new styles, new subjects, new mediums.  Just make a whole lot of it. Don’t worry if it’s any good yet.  Just do it.  The old adage that practice makes perfect applies here. While you are testing new things, your mind will begin to make connections and build on what you have done before.

Make it easy.  Make it easy to make art.  Do you have to clear the children’s homework from the dining table?  Drag out all your equipment and easel every time you want to paint? Find a space where you can keep your materials at hand.  Set up a corner in the bedroom to work.  Use a portable screen if the clutter annoys you.  Keep a sketchbook next to your TV chair.  Or in your purse or pocket.  I’ve often drawn mini-sketches while waiting for dinner or in the theater.  If your materials are nearby, you’ll be more likely to use them.

Don’t worry if it’s any good.  So many people worry about if their work is any good.  Stop that right now!  Refer to the first suggestion.  Just do it.  Do a lot of it.  ALL artists make some really bad paintings.  That’s Okay!  That is what preliminary work is for.  Try it out.  Maybe it will be brilliant. Maybe it won’t.  But you will have learned what works and what doesn’t.

Copy other artists.  Yes, I recommend studying other artists, your favorites perhaps.  Go to the museums or the library or even review their work online.  What do you like about their work?  What don’t you like?  Try making a few copies in the style of the artist. How does that feel to you?  Does it feel natural or awkward?  Look at what attracts you most.  Their subject matter?  Style?  Brushwork?  But do NOT EVER try to pass off someone else’s work as your own.  That is dishonest and plagerism. You won’t feel comfortable about it and you’ll be found out eventually.

Do a series.  A series is a group of artwork of, perhaps, the same subject or style or theme.  This helps you to dig deeper.  Find out what attracts you to this subject.  Van Gogh painted twelve sunflower paintings.  I’ll bet that he got better at them towards the end.  Monet painted thirty haystacks, 250 waterlillies, and over thirty of the Rouen Cathedral. Different angles, different times of day. 

My concluding advice is just keep at it.  Don’t let anyone discourage you. Only you know what you are learning.  If you have tried it before, try it again.  You’re in a different place and time.  Perhaps you have more skills and knowledge now.  Just keep moving forward. Good luck!

The Cultural Center, Part II – The New Library Is Open!

The new Thyen Clark Cultural Center is now open to the public.

Finally, the new library is open at the cultural center.  And, boy, is it magnificent!  Better than anything I could have imagined, even when I was working on the project!

As mentioned earlier, this is a joint project combining the Jasper-Dubois County Public Library and the Jasper Arts Department (excluding the performing arts center).  I posted photos of the new galleries earlier.  I’ll add the classrooms, studio spaces, and the black box theater later.

Cultural Center front, east wing holding the library.

Today’s photos feature the new library.  After nearly two decades of planning, votes, fundraising, the doors were open this week.  I took my granddaughter for our first visit afterschool on Tuesday.  Then went back alone for a more thorough visit on Wednesday.

This is the beautiful atrium which separates the arts side from the library. It has a full catering kitchen for special events and will seat 150 at table. I think this will become very popular for families looking to get out of the house in the winter with the kids…once we’re allowed to get together again.

In speaking with the library director, she said that people have commented on all the new books.  She’s replied, they haven’t added any new volumes; the old library was just that over-crowded.  Now it has plenty of room for technology, including a maker space, a teen zone, genealogy room,  lots of quiet nooks and meeting spaces.  Plus…the books books books. It even has an outdoor balcony for those who like some fresh air while they read.

For now, the entire Cultural Center is open six days a week with plans to expand to seven days a week sometime later.  If you come for a visit, don’t forget to save time to visit the nearby Schaeffer Barn, the old school house, the mill and the train depot, all set along the scenic Patoka River in downtown Jasper.  Admission is free.

The view from the library entrance from the atrium.
Lots of current magazines and newspapers to read and plenty of reading nooks for everybody.
One of many work spaces for patrons. Most of the tables have charger stations, too.
The beautiful wall art by Romy and Clare Designs. The upper level holds offices, the genealogy room and an outdoor patio/balcony.
One of the little reading nooks in the children’s section. Each has its own reading light, too. Of course, I had to try one out.
A view of the children’s section with child-sized furniture, shelves and family-friendly activities.
Another inviting lounge area. The teen zone and maker space are in the glass-walled areas behind. Recorded books and digital media and music to the rear right.
The money shot from the balcony area. Such a beautiful design for all.
Parking at the rear of the center shows our neighbors, Schaeffer barn and a one-room school house which was recently moved in. To the rear of that is the famous Riverwalk. And across the street from the center is the Jasper Train Depot and the old restored mill. This will be a great place to bring kids for field trips.

Uh, oh!

Sorry, folks, I’ve been asked to put a hold on the sneak preview of the new Cultural Center. They’re not quite ready to roll everything out. But be assured, that I’ll post more about the whole shebang later when they are. Probably a few weeks. Anyway, for those of you who caught the sneak preview, keep that in mind. It’s still an awesome new arts venture in Jasper.

Thanks for your kind comments and patience.

Living in the boonies: the downside

I have often posted my favorite things about living in a rural area.  Although I tend to focus on the positive, living in the country is not for everyone. 

A little background.  My husband and I were living in the northern climes where we were faced with nine months of winter and three months of mosquitoes.  Fighting three and a half million people to work every day.  And leaving for work in the dark and returning home in the dark.  So after many long discussions, we decided to pack it all in and move to southern Indiana.  A milder, four-season climate and definitely away from the rat race. 

This was not a sudden relocation but was accomplished with much planning and research.  Like driving up and down the Ohio River valley, checking out small towns here and there.  We finally settled on our area when we drove into town and realized that it looked prosperous, neat and clean, and there were no boarded up buildings on the main square.

But these are some of the things you need to keep in mind if you are considering moving to a rural area.  It isn’t perfect and there are challenges.

Utilities

I remember asking my grandmother one time what was the greatest modern convenience she had seen in her lifetime.  She didn’t hesitate at all but said, running water!  Carrying water up the hill for a large family was a never-ending task.  So one of the things you need to consider is what is the water source?

We were very fortunate that city water had just been installed along the road where we live about three months before we bought the place.  Will you have city water?  A well or cisterns?  Or will you have to haul water in a big tank on the back of your truck?  (You might get tired of that in a hurry.)

Also under utilities comes electricity.  We’re fortunate to have a rural electric co-op and they’re very diligent about getting out to fix downed powerlines, no matter the weather or time of day. 

Internet, telephone, TV.  No cable out this far but we do have satellite internet and TV.  Can’t really do streaming, though, so there are tradeoffs. 

How will you heat your home?  No natural gas lines out here.  We have propane for the furnace, water heater, and stove.  An alternate wood furnace, the beast in the basement, which provides toasty “free” heat.  Not counting all the labor that goes into it. 

Solar panels would work, too, but they’re probably not on our horizon.  And it’s not consistently windy enough for a wind generator. 

Schools

We didn’t have children at the time we moved but if you have kids, that would be a consideration.   How far to the schools?  Reputation, etc.  Fortunately the schools around here are pretty good but you’re probably not going to get that new class in Japanese that you might want for your kids. And sports are always big everywhere, it seems.

Isolation

Do you enjoy your own company or do you require a lot of contacts with your neighbors?  Frankly, I’m really happy that I can sit outside and not see another house.  But I know they’re there.  Neighbors pull together and you will generally get to know your neighbors for a wide radius. But they’re usually not in your business either.

Shopping

Well, it’s twenty-five miles to the nearest good grocery store, in a couple of directions.  On rural roads, that’s twenty-five miles in twenty-five minutes.  I remember living in the city when it used to take me twenty minutes to go two miles due to traffic.  Of course, there’s the local dollar store for bread, milk, eggs and other items that you may have run out of.  You learn to do better planning when you make the long trek.  And nearly everyone has a deep freezer, too.

Shopping for other items – clothes, household, garden stuff – ensures that you plan better and bundle several errands together.  For even bigger things – malls, department stores, book shops – we go to the city.  That’s about fifty miles in one direction and about seventy-five in another.  Again, you make a day of it.  And you don’t buy as much.

And, of course, you can buy nearly anything over the internet these days and it will be delivered right to your door.  Even an international airport is only about ninety minutes away.

Services

Most services are available out here that you would find in a more urban area and the suppliers are used to the further distances.  One of my particular favorites is the local and regional library system.  If they don’t have it, they’ll get it for you. 

Medical

This is very important to some people.  We are fortunate to have some great doctors and a hospital only a half hour away.  It should be noted, however, that emergency care may be more difficult.  Twice I’ve had to drive with my lights flashing to meet with an ambulance.  They could have found our place but we were just saving time by meeting them.  And there are always the bigger cities for more specialized care.

Security

Frankly, most rural people I know have some kind of personal protection, probably firearms. (It may take a long time for an official to show up if you call.)  This could be for racoons in the sweet corn, coyotes stalking the hens, or one time, a couple of feral hogs that were particularly unpleasant.  A story for another time.

Coyote with pear. Taken in back orchard in summer. About 40 feet from the house.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things.  But I’ve had a tendency to paint a rosy picture of living in the country and that may be a little overblown for some.  It suits me fine but this isn’t the life for everyone.  There’s a lot of work involved in keeping up the garden and property. On the other hand, we can do it at our own pace and inclination.  Please feel free to ask any questions you may have about living in a rural area and I’ll try to answer.

Keeping an art journal

Last year I talked about taking a sketchbook with you wherever you go.  (September 2019) But today I’d like to elaborate on that a little. 

A day at the lake. Loved the fall colors which were more brilliant than I could capture. Many of the boats are readied for winter but there was still a fair amount of traffic on the lake for a beautiful fall day. This is the elongate sketchbook, about 5 x 7, opened to 5 x 14, perfect for landscapes.

This week the temperatures were up in the 80s here in southern Indiana.  My husband and I decided to take the day off (heh heh) and go to the lake.  We took breakfast sandwiches.  He fished while I painted.  Later, as we were waiting for the paint to dry, I showed him some of my other sketches over the years.

This particular book is an elongated one, perfect for landscapes.  I’ve captured scenes from vacations and travels in many places over the years.  He asked if I would ever consider selling the book. After a little thought, I replied, no. It has too many memories. 

One word of advice.  Date your sketch and make a note of where it was done.  Our memories get fuzzy over time and this really helps.

Gare de Lyon. One often has plenty of time to wait in airports and train stations, but this was one of the more beautiful ones that I have been in. What you can’t see are the jillions of people milling about, on their way here and there.

The primary difference between a sketchbook and an art journal (in my mind) is that the journal may have much more extensive writing, like a diary, along with sketches, and even things that have been glued inside.  One of mine has the label for a special chocolate shop in Paris.  I will visit that if I ever go there again.  And I sure would not have remembered exactly where it was.  Tickets, photos, postcards…even pressed flowers have all ended up in my art journals.

This is a view of Avignon taken from the hill where the Palais des Papes is. I later used this in a large watercolor painting.

You may wish to keep a running commentary in your various journals.  But one thing that I’ve found really enjoyable is to create a dedicated book for a special trip or event. 

A museum visit in Paris. I wanted to remember the general layout of these paintings and they didn’t allow photographs. So, I made sketches. AND…recorded the artists’ names.

One of my favorites is a bicycle tour I took through Provence a number of years ago.  The journal wasn’t very large, only about 5 x 7, but was easy to slip into a purse or my bike pack.  And it really turned out to be more of a diary with sketches than a sketchbook.  But it has been so fun to pull it out every once in awhile just to read about my trip and think about where I was when I made the sketches. 

I loved this small marble bust of a boy with a wreath in his hair. Sketched at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. You have to get used to people leaning over your shoulder when sketching in a crowd, but really, most people are very polite and may not even notice you at all.

I know we are all feeling the angst of staying at home these days, but do you have any ideas for an art journal?  Maybe a gardening one or something dedicated to the holidays?  What do you see out of your window?  Activities at the park?  Let your imagination roam. 

Picasso exhibit at the Guggenheim. It was truly a memorable exhibit, but again, no photographs. I completed several sketches under the watchful eyes of the security guards.

There are a number of books about art journaling which might give you a few ideas. Here is one of my favorites by Danny Gregory. He has actually written several books on the subject. Check them out here.

An Illustrated Journey: Inspiration from the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators, and Designers.

Pumpkins! Pumpkins! Pumpkins!

Ever since our visit to the pumpkin patch a few weeks ago, I have been obsessed with painting pumpkins.  Well, this has gone on long before that visit, but there is just something about the shapes and colors, the many varieties of these humble squashes that appeals to me.

Pumpkin Head – final painting, oil on linen, 29.25 x 36, Kit Miracle, Halloween theme, telling a story

The first pumpkins that I painted were several years ago in a large painting of my granddaughter and son carving pumpkins.  I posted the “how to” of that painting here.  Pumpkin Head presented many challenges.  When my granddaughter wanted a happy face, my son replied, “No, they’re born as pumpkins but they die as scary jack o’ lanterns.”  A bit macabre sense of humor, I’d say.

Fall still life set up.
Little Turk. Love the shape and warty bumps on these pumpkins.
Big orange pumpkin with sunflowers.

Since then, I’ve painted little white ones and little orange ones, and pumpkin buddies.  Pumpkins with flowers and leaves.  And some larger pumpkins.  I know it’s not “high art”, whatever that is. But it amused me this autumn.  But I think I’m done.  They’ve sold well in my Etsy shop and some local shops.  I guess that I’m not the only person who loves pumpkins.

Little White. I did two of these and they both sold instantly. Guess white pumpkins are popular this year.
Two Pumpkins. This is one of the older paintings of these little friends.
Pumpkin friends. The small squash is actually more yellow than orange but this is the way it turned out.

Back to prepping canvases for the larger series. 

Or…maybe something else.

Fall decorations on the farm. My husband’s old 1952 Allis-Chalmers tractor all gussied up for the studio sale a few years ago. He even washed it! And this was his idea entirely.

Sunday Breakfast, Blueberry Pancakes! Yummm!

Sunday breakfast with blueberry pancake, oven-cooked bacon, and fresh oranges.

Normally I stick with a light breakfast – fruit and yogurt, fruit smoothie, oatmeal, etc.  But on Sundays we go a bit overboard.  My husband loves to cook big breakfasts.  Sometimes I even get to put in an order.  So today I asked for his out-of-this-world blueberry pancakes.  They are so good.  One is enough for a normal person but you could eat two if you really want to get stuffed.

He uses fresh blueberries which really makes them special.  And cooks them one at a time on the ancient griddle he inherited from his father.  Probably at least eighty years old and seasoned just right.  Yes, I’ve got another griddle, and yes, this takes a lot of time, but it’s his show so this is what he does.

Blueberry pancake on the ancient family griddle.

My husband insists on real maple syrup but I’m a product of my childhood and like the cheap stuff made with all those things we’re not supposed to eat these days.  Left over pancakes are frozen on a cookie sheet and then put in a bag for future breakfasts.  The recipe below makes about fifteen large pancakes.

By the way, for you bacon lovers out there, if you’re not cooking your bacon in the oven, you are really missing the show.  Perfect every time and not greasy at all.

Here’s the recipe (adapted from Pete’s Scratch Pancakes.)

Ingredients:

                2 cups flour

                3 tablespoons sugar

                ½ teaspoon salt

                1 tablespoon baking powder

                2 eggs, beaten separately before adding

                ¼ cup melted butter

                1 ¾ cup milk

                1 teaspoon vanilla

                couple of generous shakes cinnamon

                1 cup blueberries

Directions

Mix the dry items first.

Combine the eggs and melted butter to the milk and slowly stir into the flour mixture.

Add the vanilla, cinnamon and berries.

Heat the griddle to325 F or the pan to medium high let sit at least 10 minutes while heating the griddle or pan.

Oven bacon

                Preheat oven to about 380.

                Arrange bacon strips on rack on cookie sheet with sides. (otherwise the grease will run all over the place. )

                Cook until desired crispiness. 

                When you’re done, there will be a lot of grease in the pan.  You can either carefully pour this off into a container or put it in the fridge to harden, then scrape it off.

What’s on the Bookshelf? Artists’ Biographies

I don’t write too many book reviews on this blog but that’s mostly because I read A LOT!  Two or three books a week, and have several going at the same time.  I write tons of reviews for Amazon, probably in excess of 1,000 and that is NOT everything that I read or use either. 

But I thought I’d share with you my thoughts about some artist biographies that I’ve read recently.  These are not art books but actual biographies or autobiographies.  Some I liked; some not so much.  I have eclectic tastes.

Norman Rockwell: My Adventures as an Illustrator, the Definitive Edition

The first one that I would highly recommend is Norman Rockwell’s autobiography My Adventures as an Illustrator.  He actually recorded his thoughts on a Dictaphone in 1960  and then it was pulled together by his son Tom.  It is an enjoyable read.  Rockwell is so humorous and self-deprecating.  I always love to see how people became who they eventually became and this is a great book which follows Rockwell’s life from beginning to end.  There are many illustrations and drawings in this tome but that is not the main focus.  It’s a huge book at 500+ pages printed on thick paper.  Best not to fall asleep in bed with it as you could get hurt if it falls on you.

Carl Larsson: The Autobiography of Sweden’s Most Beloved Artist

Another favorite painter of mine is the Swedish painting Carl Larsson.  I fell in love with his work when I first encountered his beautifully illustrated books over forty years ago.  This autobiography is well-translated making it immensely easy to read.  Another artist who came up from difficult circumstances to become a national treasure.  The book is illustrated with many of his original sketches.

Edward Hopper in Vermont by Bonnie Toucher Clause

Edward Hopper in Vermont by Bonnie Toucher Clause.  I am a big Hopper fan.  Generally I love the feeling of the lonely soul which he seems to be able to impart in many of his paintings.  But he is also known for his landscapes and street scenes.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t a huge fan of this book.  The author basically focuses on a small series of watercolor paintings that Hopper did during his time in Vermont.  (I should mention here that many artists escaped the city during the 20s, 30s, and 40s, if not permanently, then at least for the summers.)  Frankly, the book reads like a senior thesis.  Not necessarily my favorite.  It does have some black and white illustrations.

The Art of Rivalry by Sebastian Smee

The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals and Breakthroughs in Modern Art by Sebastian Smee.  I enjoyed reading this book very much as the author writes about four pairs of artists who were contemporaries.  Matisse and Picasso.  Manet and Degas.  Pollock and de Kooning.  Freud and Bacon.  Although I was familiar with all of these artists, some more than others, the author delves deeply into their influences, jealousies, rivalries, and the times in which they were making art.  Frankly there were a few artists that I didn’t really like so much after I read this book but, hey, that is why we read, isn’t it?

Rosa Bonheur by Anna Klumpke

Rosa Bonheur  by Anna Klumpke, The Artist’s [auto] Biography.  I have always been an admirer or Rosa Bonheur’s paintings, particularly some of her large animal paintings.  But, well, this book is a bit dull.  Typically, it follow’s Bonheur’s early life and how she got into painting.  Then entered her companion Anna Klumpke who writes a good deal about Bonheur’s life.  Supposedly it was nearly dictated to her, or Anna had a photographic memory for what Rosa relayed to her. Overall, written in very stilted and flowery language, it takes perseverance to get through the entire book.

Finally, I’m going to recommend two videos/movies about a couple of my favorite artists.

David Hockney: A Bigger Picture

The first one is David Hockney: A Bigger Picture.  I first saw this film on TV and then purchased the DVD.  I’m a huge Hockney fan.  No, I don’t paint anything like him but I’ve always admired how he keeps reinventing himself.  He doesn’t seem afraid to follow whatever rabbit trail he is on, from his early California paintings to several years experimenting with  copier prints.   In this film biography, Hockney returns to England and gets caught up in loads of plein air paintings, including one on a grand scale (the size of a warehouse wall) which he donated to the British National Gallery.  The film is worth watching several times just to hear Hockney’s thought processes, his humor and his own challenges. 

At Eternity’s Gate. Final years of Vincent Van Gogh.

Finally, if you haven’t seen Willem Defoe’s portrayal of Van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate you have really missed something. I’m sure your local library will have a copy or you can probably catch it on one of the on-demand channels.  The film depicts Van Gogh’s final years in Provence, his time with Gaugin, and the influence of his brother Theo.  So beautifully shot, you will want to watch it more than once.

So, if you’re interested in learning more about your favorite artists, these are a few biographies that I would like to recommend.  Please check out an earlier post where I had other recommendations.