August 28, 2015

Battery Park New York City - August 26th

I Love Battery Park!  For me there is something so magical about sunshine, lots of trees, Harbor and River breezes, and lots of activity.  The Art Program of the Battery Park City Conservancy, which runs from May through October, drew me down to the Park on Wednesdays (weather permitting), and now I can't wait and watch the weather forecast from Sunday through Wednesday morning.  From 11-1, the program is based in Wagner Park - the west side of Battery Park, along the Esplanade and in beautifully manicured flower gardens that extend from Pier A to South Cove.  From 2:30-4:30 there are clothed figure models to draw in South Cove.  This is a quick picture of one of the many shady areas in Wagner Park, and the people you can see on benches are some of the artists.  The rest are spread out in the gardens or along the Esplanade facing the Harbor.

 

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On the right side of the above photo, in deep shadows, is the Art Cart.  The staff from the Conservancy drives the cart to both sites, filled with free art supplies, including stools, drawing boards, paper, and a large variety of media.  I always bring my own supplies - but love the stools.  I used Photoshop to lighten the photo and focus on the cart for this blog post.

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This week I challenged myself to draw the setting for a beautiful water lily that I saw in one of the Gardens.  Landscapes are my least favorite types of drawings/paintings.  If I'm painting flowers I prefer to carefully observe one or a few. While I was there, the Conservancy gardeners were busily at work, I was in the shade and breezes, and loved the first hour.  Here is my sketchbook page.  I sat near the water during the second hour and prepared a new sketchbook, mixing my primary watercolors to put a sample of my palette on the front page.

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And here are several of my figure drawings from the afternoon session. 

Five Minute Sketch:

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Composite of 10 and 20 minute sketches:  These were sketched on the same large sheet of watercolor paper, but scanned individually and put back together in Photoshop.

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After Figure Drawing I walk with my friend Benedicte along the water, and we revel in the Harbor activity.  This was one of the first things we saw this week. 

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August 24, 2015

Portraits and Figure Drawings

I'm not very good drawing portraits of my family, but I think there is some improvement in my sketches of my husband.  He was sitting across from me on a Manhattan bus when I sketched him in the first drawing below, the other two were sketched while having coffee at the Boat Pond in Central Park.  He was doing the New York Times Sat and Sunday Crossword Puzzles and therefore quite still.

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This page was pre-printed with watercolor and then drawn in graphite, with a little charcoal.

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Barry with the Crossword Puzzle he finished while I was sketching him with graphite and a little charcoal.

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I try to go to figure drawing weekly during the summer, weather permitting.  Figure Al Fresco  at Battery Park City has one clothed model, in the Park, for two hours.  Last week was the second time I sketched this model - who told us he lifts weights and runs marathons. 

I did 10 0ne minute sketches, and 5 Two minute sketches.  Here are two of the 2 minute sketches that were done on newsprint.

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These are 3 of the 5 minute sketches done with soluble graphite and water. 

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August 20, 2015

Urban Sketchers and the Seaglass Carousel

Today is the Grand Opening of the new Seaglass Carousel in Battery Park.  It took 10 years to reach completion and is a labor of love for the Battery Conservancy, a group founded by Warrie Price in 1994.  The WXY architectural firm's Mark Yoes and his team members conceived of the nautilus shape to honor the original New York Aquarium that once was located in Castle Clinton in Battery Park. 

Yesterday our weekday NYC-Urban Sketchers' group met there to sketch the exterior one day before the official opening.  Upon arrival we learned that it was Press Day and the "keeper of the press list" wouldn't let us any closer.  You can see  the table set up at the entrance.  I sat on a bench and started sketching, soon joined by 2 others from our group.  Several others were disappointed and decided to go sketch along the water where it was cooler.

 

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Much later, after my sketchbook page was painted, one of our members approached the Battery Conservancy Chief of Operations, and was granted permission for the 3 of us to enter based on our almost completed sketches.  The official program for the Press was over and press attendees were just riding the carousel, so I was even able to see the Nautilus spiral ceiling from the inside.    

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Warrie Price and NYC-USK: Much later, the Chief of Operations, Steve Lagerstrom, introduced us to Warrie Price.  From Left to Right - Raylie, Me, Maureen from Urban Sketchers, and Warrie Price the President and Founder of the Battery Conservancy.  The man behind Raylie is Mark Yoes, architect.

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Here is my sketchbook page.  I wasn't sure how long I could sit on the bench in the sun, so the sketch was done quickly and the measurements aren't completely accurate.  Just before we were given permission to enter, the carousel was started and I saw that great big pink fish pass inside the windows.

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When I went inside, I actually met Mark Yoes, completely by chance, as we discussed my open wet paint palette and painting.  I told him I would send him a link to my blog post and hope that he enjoys it!  Here are 4 of the many photos I took as the fish were whirling past me,

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There are many articles already printed, and even a short 1 minute video showing the 30 fish as they spin around and move up and down.  I'm including 2 links, one to the NY Times video and the other to the NY Times article plus video.  Seaglass will now become a favorite NYC destination for NYC families and tourists alike. 

 

Video:  NY Times   http://www.nytimes.com/video/arts/design/100000003846021/take-a-ride-on-a-seaglass-carousel.html

Video Plus Recent Article Describing the Project:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/14/arts/design/new-yorks-new-carousel-puts-you-in-a-whirling-school-of-mechanized-fish.html?_r=0 

August 17, 2015

A Fun Trip on the Staten Island Ferry

Our granddaughter from Washington DC spent last week with us in NYC and 3 of her NYC  cousins stayed over the first night, and then Zach stayed for two more.  We went to the Museum of Mathematics, an Art session at MoMA, Matilda The Musical on Broadway, and the Museum of Natural History.  On her last night, our remaining 3 NYC grandchildren returned from 7 weeks at summer camp, so she had a full week of cousins. 

One day we took Annabelle and Zach on the Staten Island Ferry to see New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.  The Ferry, which is free, runs every half hour from both Manhattan and Staten Island and the two ferries pass each other on each of these 30 minute runs.  Here is a photo of our ferry passing the one headed in the other direction.

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When the ferry reaches Staten Island all passengers must disembark, and can wait for the next return ferry in a waiting room with two huge fish tanks.  We took sketchbooks, and here is my painting of two of the fish.

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This is the fish that Zach sketched, but I don't have a copy. 

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On our return trip we had a great view of the Statue of Liberty, and the tip of Manhattan. 

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After ice cream with a visit to our son, Zach's Dad, we went to the big Dick Blick store where they each chose a new big art set. 

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They sketched with color pencils immediately, making 10 drawings in total, as soon as we got home!  They even put prices on them in case someone in the family wanted to buy one!  We were sad to return her to her parents and brother over the weekend.  This is her second week with us this year and we are already planning another visit.

August 13, 2015

Bookbinding in August

We are planning a Fall trip to Spain, and I like to repurpose/recycle an old book with a theme for our vacations.  I found an old $2.00 book on an outdoor cart at The Strand in New York City - named Spanish Drawings.  I carefully cut the stitches to separate the old signatures and folios and selected two of them for my end papers.  I also included the original title page for the first page in my book.  The rest of the pages are Fabriano Artistico 140 lb Soft Press Watercolor Paper.  I created a 4 part tutorial for a book of this kind before a trip to Italy in 2012 and here is the link:

 
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I also made a new daily watercolor sketchbook using the same paper and one of my newly dyed pieces of fabric as the bookcloth.   
 
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I love the pencil/pen/eraser pocket I made for my last daily sketchbook, so I used some of my dyed fabric samples to make one to go with a purple and blue book. 
 
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It is very convenient to have these tools readily available when I'm carrying around my sketchbook and eventually will have a multitude of colored pockets to match them. 

August 11, 2015

July Was Surface Design Month

I spent the month of July playing with fabric and dyes.  I use the fabric as bookcloth for my watercolor sketchbooks and a variety of other projects.  It takes me awhile to get out all of the dyes, tools, containers, and PFD fabric (prepared for dying), so I love it when I can find blocks of time to concentrate on fabric dying.  Then I can leave everything out in my apartment, play creatively, and dye lots of fabric in a short time. I used procion MX dyes, low immersion dying, fabric folding, clamping, monoprinting, corn dextrin and soy wax resists.

This is a photo of my total output for the month - July 2 - 31, working 1-3 hours per day for 19 days during the month.  I made over 20 tree stamped pieces of fabric and a total of 4 thick dye drawings of Axel and Alice.  The two best ones were on this blog already (July 31st).  The small piles of fabric in the middle and left were samples on which I was working out designs.

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On the left above, and spread out below, are 32 pieces of fabric (12 X 22") that can be used for bookcloth, but I'm sure that I will use it for other sewing as the need arises.

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I wanted to try a technique I learned from Susie Monday at a Craftsy demonstration at Quilt Festival in 2013.  I did a color drawing on a silk screen with Neocolor II crayons, and then used Golden Silkscreen Medium and a squeegee to transfer the print to fabric.  This is the first print - darker than I expected - but I probably left the medium on a little too long before pulling the print. 

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This is the second print - with a Sakura Pigma Micron pen outline to restore some of the shape lines.  The third print was too pale.  I could have added more crayon, but didn't.

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My final project:  Figuring out how to use the tree wood stamp (which I'll probably use to make some Christmas ornaments), and my first dye painting of Axel.  The thick dye was not quite think enough, the drawing line spread, and I continued to use this piece as a test sample while painting another drawing of Axel and Alice. 

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I'm thrilled that I set aside many blocks of time for one month to play creatively.  Some days I dyed 4-6 pieces of fabric, and the next day just had to wash out the excess dye.  Then I thought about other experiments as I went around the City, ready to begin again the next day.  I have a totally different mind set when I have unlimited supplies and a spirit of experimentation and play.  I made a list of techniques that I know and then added some new things to try - realizing they could be awful and need further manipulation. 

August 6, 2015

Wednesday is Art Day in Battery Park

This is a view of the Southern tip of Manhattan, and the trees along the water are part of Battery Park.  The multilevel triangular-roofed structure, at the bottom of the photo, is the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and we spend the morning painting, just to the south of that building, and in the afternoon draw a clothed model just to the north of it.  Turning my camera a little further North and you can see The Freedom Tower, the new World Trade Center, which dominates the skyline.

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The gardens surrounding the Museum are full of dinner-plate size hibiscus this month every year.

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If I turned around while painting, this is the view I would have seen.

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My first painting on Wed. was a composite of the 3 color flowers on display.  Then I just looked up, and decided to draw "what was in front of me" - the wall of the Museum with sky, clouds, and trees reflecting in one set of windows. 

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After lunch we moved around the Museum, to the area of the Park known as South Cove, for Figure Al Fresco to draw Rebecca.  She is a model who I like to draw best in very short poses.  Here are the last 4 of my 10 one minute poses. 

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This is a free program sponsored by the Battery Park Conservancy and they even bring art supplies to every session from the beginning of May to the end of October. 

August 4, 2015

Weekend Coffee in Central Park

We live within walking distance of the Conservatory Water in Central Park, and this is one of a series of photos I took this summer on mornings when we go for coffee and watch the activity of the toy boats in the pond.  This is Le Pain Quotidien café - the source of our coffee and my croissant.  Most people stop to buy food and continue on their walk, so slowly sipping coffee like we do is not a problem.  Children rent remote-controlled sailboats for the pond ($11 for 30 minutes).  The "big boys" bring their own toys and the handcrafted beauty in the photo below plays Dvorak's New World Symphony as it sails!

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I frequently draw/paint while we are there and here are 3 recent sketchbook pages.

Dogs can be off their leash until 9AM.  New York City dogs are very well behaved, as anyone knows who watches many dog walkers with 6 -8 big dogs on a leash.  They don't bark or nip each other, and I love watching a group of them sitting patiently watching an apartment entrance waiting for their "friend" to come out to join them.  One of the big dogs took a nap at my feet, and I sketched him in two positions before his owner woke him to go home.  

 

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This weekend I sketched a Mother and child on Saturday, and another contemplative young woman on Sunday.

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There are still lots of flowers in bloom, but there were lots of bees buzzing around, so I just looked from a distance and didn't try to draw them. 

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July 31, 2015

From Dye Painting Silk to Watercolor to Dye Painting Axel on Cotton

I started to dye fabric for quilting in the 1990s, and my big projects were the dye painted, quilted, 6 foot square chuppahs that I made for our 3 children's weddings.  We live in a Manhattan apartment and it took me quite awhile to figure out how to develop a surface design studio without a dedicated space.  I loved mixing the primary color dyes to match the color requests from the brides, and definitely loved painting and shading the silk.  While making the chuppahs in 1999, 2oo3, and 2005, my interest in watercolor painting on paper began and I love moving back and forth from paper to fabric. 

Here are the 3 chuppahs:

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I couldn't find watercolor sketchbooks that I liked and began to make my own, initially with traditional bookcloth, and then with fabric that I dyed.  These are the earliest ones I made. 

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And this shows the progression up to early in 2015. 

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I even make an annual Remains of the Day book, inspired by Mary Ann Moss, using scraps of my fabrics.  Here is the one for 2015. 

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I also just started making pockets for my pencil, eraser, and pen that I can attach to my current sketchbook and it was made with scraps. 

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We traveled most of June, so I decided that July was going to be a "surface design" month to dye fabric to replenish my stash.   My studio is very small, and not appropriate for wet projects.  Here is a photo of the 6 X 9' space while I was pulling out lots of surface design supplies.  You can see a color wheel made from mixing the primary color dyes on the back wall.

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Today is my final day of dying fabric, except for washing out 8 more bookcloth pieces tomorrow morning.  And this is my stash for the month.  I completed 20 samples on which I worked out specific techniques, and made 32 pieces that can be used for bookcloth, bookcovers, pen pockets etc.

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My favorite project of the month was my dye painted images of my imaginary friends Axel and Alice.  If you follow this blog, you may remember that Axel was born from my imagination during a 100 day project, and in conjunction with a homework assignment from Sketchbook Skool Semester 4.  My grandson Zach is my co-creator and he recently decided that Axel and Alice came from the moon and have heads of that shape because they were born during a crescent moon.  I decided that Martians are green and Moon people must be blue.  I loved creating these two 12 X 6" fabric paintings of them during one of my sessions. 

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Shirley Parker Levine
New York City

August 2015

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