Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Still Life Oil with White Flowers

"Anna's Gift"
Oil on Linen
24" x 36"

The New Year is nearly upon us.  I'm crazy busy getting ready for Christmas and Hanukkah (we're an equal religious opportunity family) my annual New Year's Day Brunch and cleaning up all the old details of the previous year that needed tidying.  As I run back and forth between the house and the studio carrying things that have migrated to the distant corners of the house, I realize how fortunate I am to have all this space.  A few years ago I built my studio large enough to hold myself and my students.  Despite being over 400 square feet though, it still feels crowded.  But that's part of my good fortune. The clutter, I mean. It's loaded with easels, paintings and supplies that keep me busy seven days a week and fills my home once a week with several wonderful students.  Anna is a young student in my class and she gifted me earlier this year with a lovely branch of hand crafted white flowers on a branch.  It's in the painting above.  

My days are filled with work and painting (OK...that's work too), good friends and students and lots of laughter.  How lucky I am.  Then there's my husband.  He's patient (he needs to be) and good humored and sometimes I don't think I deserve him.  My cats are wonderful too.  They snuggle with me when I read in the evening and follow me around talking to me all day.  I have a lot of wonderful artist friends and non-artist friends and family and life is generally pretty damn good.

So what I'm trying to say is that although this post started as a gripe about how busy I am, I have turned it into a letter of gratitude.  I know I don't hear from many of you in terms of comments, but I know you're out there and occasionally stop on by to see what's new.  So you're part of my total gratitude picture.  Thank you for being a part of my crazy life.

I wish you a wonderful holiday and a magnificent New Year.  Be healthy, be happy and be safe!

All my best to you!


Monday, November 28, 2016

Oil Portrait Study

Study of Lauren
Oil on Linen

I host a weekly life drawing group in my studio on Mondays.  We're just a small group of friends who enjoy each other's company.  Often our poses go for up to six weeks so that members can do polished drawings or paintings from the pose.  This time, though, we ran the pose for four weeks.  Now I know that there are a lot of very good alla prima portrait artists out there but I'm not usually given to alla prima work.  Well, yes, I used to be an alla prima painter but in recent years, I've changed my style to that of a more polished look so I'm badly out of practice on alla prima portraits. 

I do like to do studies every so often and I have decided to dedicate every other session to just painting from the model rather than drawing. This study of our model, Lauren is the first in a long time.  I try in these little pieces to focus on the bigger picture and limit myself to just a couple of brushes.  Basically I use three.  I have a 1 1/2 inch for the background and other larger shapes and a 1/2 inch for the medium shapes and a 1/4 inch brush for the smaller shapes.  I'm learning to wield the larger ones with more finesse and I resist the urge to go to smaller brushes.  Usually I can achieve a fine line when needed by turning the brush on it's edge.  So much more to learn here.  

Friday, November 11, 2016

Oil Painting of a Reclining Nude

"Jen Sleeping"24" x 30", Oil on Linen Panel

Finally! I've been working on this painting for almost three months and because my studio time has been limited, I haven't worked on anything else! So glad to be finished.  The hardest part though hasn't been painting this.  It's been photographing it!  I have a lot of cool skin tones in here and the light in my studio is either too dim or too warm when I turn on the lights.  I finally found the right combination of warm and cool to photograph it in.

I hope to enter this in some competitions. A couple of times a year, I paint a piece strictly for this purpose.  That means that this won't be for sale for awhile, but that's OK.  I'll enjoy looking at it for a bit.  Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Painting Alla Prima with Susan Martin Spar

I uploaded my very first teaching video today to You Tube! I'm pretty new to this although I've had the camera for a couple of years, I just haven't gotten around to using it. So I traded lessons for help from one of my students who has been acting as a studio assistant. Anna is a young lady who has taken a class on vidography, (hmm - is that a word?) and so she was willing to jump right in and help out. We're a little rough around the edges yet, but I thingk we're improving and will get better over time.

I made this video for a student who lives in India and who takes lessons via Skype from me every week. I've been promising to do a demonstration for her for awhile now so we have her to thank for pushing me out of my rut and getting me started. Thank you Mamta! I hope this works for you.

Although I've evolved into a indirect painter over the years since my alla prima days of being a daily painter, Mamta is interested in learning alla prima techniques so I gathered together a couple of apples and put together this exercise. I enjoyed the process so much, I think we'll be doing a bunch more over the coming year. More alla prima because the practice is good for me - and a variety of other subjects as well. Here it is. Hope you enjoy it. I would appreciate any feedback you may have. Say it nicely please. :-)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Where I find my Inspiration

Untitled18" x 14", Oil on Panel

This still life piece has been sitting on my easel for about three weeks while I finished preparing for my show at Gallery-9.  I'm still considering changes I think would enhance the piece.  For instance, I've been considering adding a little more violet or bluish violet to background on the right.  Perhaps a little softening of the edge on the egg.  Maybe a bit of brightening on I'm otherwise pretty happy with this piece.

People sometimes ask me why I paint still life.  I've given this a lot of thought.  For one, I prefer to paint from life.  Cameras produce pictures that have very little in the way of life to them and lie horribly.  They blow out the lights and tend to make the shadows too dense.  Nothing beats the human eye.

But what inspires me? That's an important question.  This week, as part of an assignment in an art marketing course I'm taking, I was given some exercises to do to assist me in re-writing my artist's statement.  Now that's a touchy subject.  There are lots of coaches out there giving advice on this subject and I've read quite few of them. I had written my statement some time ago and have been pretty happy with it so I was resistant to this exercise, but this assignment brought up some things I hadn't actually pinpointed before.
My current statement talks about light being the predominant theme in my work. This is still true - as it is for many artists.  But that's what made me stop and think. What about light is it that I am trying to say? So I answered a bunch of questions about important events in my life and who or what incidents were pivotal in my life.  I found some interesting things.

In almost every case that I was writing about, I saw an image in my mind.  "So what?" you think. "Everyone does that." Well, yes and I'm a visual artist so for me it happens with every memory and every projected thought about the future.  But I came to realize that I wasn't just seeing the image, I was feeling something about it and in every case, the light in the image carried the emotion for me. 

Here's an example of what I'm talking about.  When I recall my childhood from about age three to six, I recall a lot of lonely afternoons at my Grandmother's house.  My father was dying of  Polycystic Kidney Disease and my mother had to spend most afternoons at the Veterans Hospital in the Bronx.  I was left at my Grandmother's house.  Some folks have many happy memories of their days with grandparents.  Not me.  I loved my grandmother but those were lonely days.  The images that came to me were of lying on her couch, bored and watching the late afternoon sun come in from the north facing windows.  It was a bit dim and it fell on an old clock that ticked away the hours until my mother would come to get me. That light felt sad to me.

Now I have a north facing window in my studio and I paint using its light, but it doesn't depress me.  Sometimes, though, if I'm feeling lonely or just a little sad over something, that particular quality of light will become the focus of my painting.  Other times, it's a more silvery or golden light I'm after that speaks about other emotions.  So it's the light that carries my message.

One more thing:  We live in a world that is fast and caters to instant gratification.  My work is about slowing down and taking the time to look at things - the light on an object, the patina on a silver chalice that tells us this piece is old and has a history.

So there you go.  That's why I paint still life -- and other subjects as well.  Because the light carries meaning and emotion for me and I want to share that with you.  Be well.  And if you think of a name for this piece, go ahead and post it here.  I'd love some feedback!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sky Painting

"One Last Cast"

Oil on Linen Panel

36" x 24"

Well, the title of this painting might confuse you a bit.  It's rather difficult to see here in the photo but there are two figures fishing with a bunch of Seagulls swooping around them as a storm approaches.  I had a different title for this piece originally but once I placed the figures, it became apparent that the title had to change.

This is the last painting I had to complete for my show at Gallery 9 in Port Townsend.  My show as Featured Artist will be on display for the month of August and will have 11 new original skyscapes, so if you have a chance to drop by, please do.  I'll be there, of course, on August 6th at 5:00 for Gallery Walk so if you can, come on by and share a glass of wine with me. I'll also be at the gallery all day on the 9th and the 14th and would love to chat with you about art in general or, even better, my art!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Studio Tour

I have recently started teaching through Skype. Of course Skype is a great tool but it makes it difficult for my students to see what I'm doing when I paint because I can't direct the camera on my computer. Sooooo...the obvious answer is video! Now I'm no veteran video artist so this requires a learning curve. I pulled out my video camera - which was brand new about three years ago and which I only used once. I know. Bad, right? But better late than never. So as a practice exercise, I decided to do a tour of my studio which one of my Skype students thought would be nice to see. I must warn you, however, that I failed to do any house cleaning when I shot this and it's pretty raw. But it will give you a very good idea of the space I work and create in. So, welcome to my studio. Hope you enjoy the stay. I wanted to offer wine, however, there just wasn't an option for that on YouTube.

Friday, July 08, 2016


Sun Shower
Oil on Board, 10" x 24"

I just finished number seven in a series of skyscapes for a show in August when I'll be featured artist at Gallery 9 in Port Townsend, WA.  I usually show a variety of work but with the advent of spring and now summer, my eyes have been cast heavenward at the spectacular show of clouds we've been enjoying over our waters and mountains here.

I've also been trying to master the technique of glazing the difficult colors that emerge in sunsets.  Pigment, unlike light, is a gross substance.  It doesn't do what light does and although nature can get away with very intense color, when an artist does it, it can come out positively garish.  Also, in order to get the ethereal effects of rim light on a cloud, I'm forced to change the colors that nature displays.  For instance, I have to add small amounts of yellow to my whites in order to make them brighter and cast violet into the areas around the cloud so that when I glaze them later, the blue areas around the clouds don't turn green.  It's a tricky thing.  But very satisfying when it comes out right.

I now have about nine paintings for this show and I'm fairly satisfied with the results.  Still have one on the easel I'm toying with but I should work out the problems fairly soon and then be done with the piece.  Frames ordered.  Now to move on to other things. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016


"Distant Storm"

20" x 10"
Oil on Panel

I recently finished this piece for an upcoming show at Gallery 9 in Port Townsend when I will be the featured artist. The show will be called "The Sky's no Limit".  Actually, that might change but for the moment it seems to fit.  I've completed a number of cloudscapes over the past year and I'd like to present them together in one show.

Like most folks, I'm always looking up at the sky.  I find clouds fascinating and a touch spiritual. They're always changing and so ephemeral.  I've recently adopted a few new techniques for capturing them.  The best is to work in glazes from the very first but I find this frustrating as it means only working a painting for an hour or so before having to put it aside to dry.  And I'm not one to work on several paintings at a time.  Maybe two or so but rarely more than that. So I've adopted a technique that once I'm through with the initial first pass, I can start working in combinations of opaque and glaze.  It generally takes about four or five passes before the work is finished.  A fully glazed painting could have as many as 20 or more - many more, passes.  This technique seems to work best for me although I'm always looking to improve or innovate.

Stop by Gallery 9 on first Saturday in July.  I'll be there about 5:30 and am always happy to talk about my technique.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Still Life of Brass and Silver Cups

"Two Cups"
12" x 16", Oil on Panel

After a month and a half of various and sundry illness along with a back issue, I finally got into the studio, whipped out two paintings and then promptly put them aside and started another.  But I forgot to photograph them.  So I spent the better half of the other day behind the lens of a camera trying to get them recorded.

"Two Cups" is one of my signature metal pieces.  I like painting metal and despite my claims that it's really not hard, I found this one difficult to do.  I'm not sure if it was the surface of the new double lead primed linen or not.  It should be a nearly perfect surface to paint on but this piece just seemed to fight me all the way.  Despite the battle, however, I think the piece came out just fine.

I recently sold the painting "Clouds over Mendocino" to a collector and then this month sold another two landscapes.  Despite being under the weather for a month or so, I emerged to find the sun shinning.