Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spin takes shape

The last day of 2009 found me in front of the easel, and the painting going quickly. Of course it will be different when I'm painting the strands of corn silk.
First I blocked in the background with mix of Asphaltum, Burnt Umber and Ultramarine blue.
After a nap and a pot of tea I did some work on the wheel. Iron Oxide, Burnt Sienna, Ocher, Indian Yellow, Cad Orange and Titanium white.
I'm using three references; one for the shapes, another for the color along with looking at the same photo on my computer, which is brighter and more detailed than the print.
It's a lovely spinning wheel, an antique from Canada on loan from a friend.

Since pretty much everything is variations of reddish brown. I'm saving the green of the husks and yellow of the corn silk, yarn and gold coins for dessert.

This was a good day.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A good end to a good year

Finished a 24x24" drawing of the spinning wheel making gold thread out of corn silk. The background is three yards of brown velvet, and the wheel is old polished wood, so the overall effect is very chiaroscuro, all dark with the gold of the corn silk and thread picked out. The wheel is cropped in to weight the focus of the painting to the silk. I don't think the drawing will show up very well, but here goes.
Did a smaller corn in the grinder drawing - 12x16 - that I'm okay with but not as excited.

Figured out what was wrong with another composition - a basket of vegetables - peppers, squash, tomatoes - in front of tilled rows of a garden with espaliered trees in the far background. The garden photo was taken in October and has cabbages ( I think - maybe broccoli or Brussel sprouts) in the rows, whereas the basket of vegetables came from a group I shot this summer. The garden and the produce clashed - wrong season. I've made a list of October vegetables - cabbage, onions, carrots, Swiss chard, radishes and kale for example - and am going to reshoot it. It's funny, I couldn't tell what was wrong, but something kept nagging at me. Then, all I once, I saw it.

Went for a walk in the park with Robert & Parker, came back, and after a nap I did a little more on the Harrow.

Had an email from HHFA, saying I'd sold the painting of Moochie, 'In the Kitchen.' A good end to a good year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Some days peanuts, some days shells

This morning I bought 16x18 and 24x24 canvases and gessoed them a warm, mid-value taupe. It's a task I enjoy - mixing the gesso and acrylic color, painting it on, then wiping it off with a towel until there's an even thin coat on the front and sides of the canvas. I went through my photos (which are in various sizes - 5x7, 4.5x6, 6x8 and 8x10) and tried to match the right image to the right canvas. It's a mostly intuitive process, and again, one I enjoy.
Then comes (insert sounds of shrieking and gibbering here) math.
I grid my photos and canvases to transfer the image. When photographs and canvases don't divide evenly I have to figure out whether losing or adding some inches will work with a given image. And that depends on the specific image and is not predictable. Hours of painful, fumbling use of a calculator and ruler later, I have three pairs of gridded photos and canvases, including an 18x24 canvas I already gessoed.
Now the drawing begins.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Hambidge Harrow

Here's the start of the harrow painting from yesterday. It was a misty morning up in the North Georgia mountains. In fact, I think low clouds were passing through. I like the out of focus, hazy feel.
Most of the background blocked in. The foreground is long grasses, knee deep. Once upon a time I would have painstaking painted each blade from the very start. Now I've blocked in some areas and will be going in to pick out darks and lights on top of this, and specific blades in the foreground and across the wheel of the harrow.
I'm going to start another drawing tomorrow. Everything is wet. I remember why I need to have several going at once. Being able to turn to another painting is all that saves me from turning good, clean color into muck, when what it needs is for me to wait.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Art Trifecta

The little telephone painting at the Swan Coach House gallery's 'Little things Mean A lot' show sold. Don't know who bought it yet. Glad it found a home.

There's a nice four page spread of my work in the January issue of American Art Collector. Come New Year's Day try their site, It's a thrill to see my work in this context. The writing was very well done too, a particular pleasure for this ex-journalist to read.

Best of all, my new website is live, the result of a month of emails winging back and forth between myself and a tech savvy friend. Everything you admire is her work, all errors my own. May I present for your viewing pleasure...
Insert celebratory handspring here!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

the start of the new series

I've been working on the story behind the next series of paintings, which helps me with the way I combine elements.

This period of genesis requires some groping around, feeling my way along the walls, being open to inspiration and unexpected left turns.

The last few days I've been putting together various set ups. Not much actual painting but several drawings. Moved the set up from the dining room (steady north light) to the studio where I can get strong, bright sunlight, aimed and controlled by a series of flags and screens.

Everything seems malleable, still wet and warm, with no guarantees.

Good times.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Moochie in the kitchen

Home alone in the post-Thanksgiving day peace and quiet. Ah.

Here's what I painted today. Moochie in the kitchen.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cavalier - Blenheim

It's pretty much done. There's actually some gradation in the background that aren't showing on this photo.

I was back to work on South of Eden today. I mostly mixed paint, as everything leftover from Hambidge had turned to rubber. I did a tiny bit of painting on the green apple and the sunflower seed packet. Not enough to register on a photo. I mixed the paint for the brick and the moss beneath it. The moss is going to be a learning experience. I have a new yellow, a transparent oxide, that is just fabulous mixed with some sap.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I spent today drawing and painting a Blenheim Cavalier, but it just didn't do right. At the end of the day I washed all the paint off with turp, which has left me a nice toned background. I finally put my finger on the problem, which is scale.

I was going to do a few drawings to test my theory and start again tomorrow. butended up doing a detailed redrawing on paper, and saw that it worked. I turned the canvas (already dry from its bath) upside down, drew the grid in white chalk and did the new drawing. Then I painted in the negative space with Paynes gray thinned with Liquin.

Two reasons: a Blenheim is mostly white and I wanted the value contrast, and I needed to cover up the traces of the earlier drawing. That blue gray color will do well with the orange gold of the ears, and orange red of the back. The official name of that color in the Cavalier standard is 'liver'.' Not the right word if you ask me.

It's a companion painting to this one, of my Black and Tan Cavalier

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tomatoes x 5

Here are the new tomatoes. One is still wet with varnish. Two are still drying enough to varnish - probably a week from now. All of them need wiring. I am so impatient to show them off - I'm like a kid who wants to wear new shoes home from the store.

There are all 10x10", oil on canvas, and $425 at HHFA. The Tomato & Chrysanthemum Knife is spoken for. I am still working on my photography - I see glare from the varnish on parts of some of the photos that's not visible in person.

Tomato & Chrysanthemum Knife

Tomato & Civil War Knife

Tomato & Japanese Knife

Tomato & Pocketknife

Tomato & Camping Knife

Friday, November 6, 2009

Solo show opens tonight

WHO: Virginia Parker
WHAT: Metamorphosis; Solo Art Exhibition
WHERE: Galerie Gigi, 627 Saint Peter Street (Between Royal and Chartres)
WHEN: Opening Reception Fri. November 6th, Exhibition runs from 11/6/09-11/28/09

Many write about painting, but at Galerie Gigi’s solo exhibition Metamorphosis, artist Virginia Parker paints about writing. More accurately, the painter and former journalist holds a mirror up to publishing's storied past and journalism's troubled present with her series of complex and hyper-realistic still lifes.

Parker’s series Metamorphosis couldn’t be more relevant right here – right now. As journalism and print media outlets vanish locally and nationally, profound cultural changes are taking place. Newspapers and magazines are shrinking, and independent booksellers and publishing houses are going out of business. “Last January, after the worldwide financial Armageddon hit, the acceleration of job losses and the collapse of magazines and newspapers was phenomenal,” Parker says.

At first journalism seemed endangered, a casualty of the shift in information delivery from actual to virtual, paper to Internet, but as Parker pulled the elements together, what began as the depiction of a calamity became one of evolution. Several of the canvases present the obsolete tools of writers – from movable type and printing plates, to quill pens and typewriters.

“Metamorphosis involves the porous border between extinction and evolution,” says the decidedly glass-half-full artist. "Inherent in these discarded relics is the implication that although the way we publish the stories changes, the stories will continue to be told,"

As the medium and the method for communication shifts, the shape of publishing’s future is still tantalizingly undefined. Parker's contemporary Nature Morte series with its elements of Vanitas paintings, uses visual metaphors and social commentary to present both the catastrophe, and her belief that journalism will survive.

Please join us on Friday November 6th, 6-8pm at Galerie Gigi for an opening reception with the artist. The exhibition runs at Galerie Gigi from November 6th– the 28th, Thursday through Sat 11am to 5pm. For more information visit or contact Galerie Gigi director, Lindsay Viner at (713) 385-7890 or

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My sojourn at Hambidge

Hambidge = amazing.
First, the setting. My studio.
The bedroom.
The view

Let's check the stats. :biggrin:

My last baby in the Metamorphosis series, Herald Square, from raw 12x16” canvas to finished.
Developed the first of the new series, South of Eden. I got the initial layer of paint on every one of its 30x40”. Many more to come, but it's a solid start.

Completed not one, not two, but four new tomato paintings with...interesting knives, ready for the gallery.

I experimented with a new medium, egg tempera (using two colors, white and burnt sienna, loaned to me by another nice fellow, Blake). The result, a 12x18’ dodo skeleton. I am thinking of donating it to the Hambidge auction.

Finally, I tried a technique called wet-in-wet, which is not my usual approach and knocked this 10x10” oil out in about 2 hours. I really really missed my dog.

Stretched a canvas myself, taught by one of the other fellows.

Made friends with a local gun and knife shop owner, and took some tomato photos with a very cool civil war knife made by a blacksmith, and a very fancy filigree-patterned silver fish knife.

Wrote, practiced and have been critiqued by a dramaturge fellow, and am now prepared to perform my artist talk this coming Wednesday, complete with props.

Other than art, I hiked trails – nothing like marathon in length but some of them did basically go straight up. I got lost once on the mountain and ended up hiking into North Carolina until I could find a road I could walk back on. No kidding. Took me from 3:30 to 6. I thought I was going for a 45 minute stroll. Ha.
What I haven’t done has been as important for my work. I sneaked out and popped online a few times to take care of art business, but otherwise have spent very little time on the internet. Also, quit drinking coffee entirely, went back to tea, and feel decidedly mellow. No TV or phone, no interruptions, just one gloriously fun, goof-off weekend with my spouse.
I could stay longer. I am curious to see if I sustain, not the pace of work which would be brutal, but the clarity of mind.

I’m happy as a clam.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Read Red all done

Read Red is finished, varnished, and wired - ready for the show next Thursday, Oct 1, and for a trip to NOLA, Nov. 6.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

a change is as good as a rest

That's what I drew yesterday morning, before I went out for a run. I felt a strong pull to paint something simple, fresh and uncomplicated.
First I did peaches on a 10x10' canvas, with the basic shapes established and the color roughed in. They are on a silver tray. I didn't get to the ivory handle of the knife yet, but it was a good morning's work.

And here is today's rough in - tomatoes on a cutting board. This is boyscout pocket knife.

I like the tight framing of this better than the peach. The truth is the peach was much smaller than the tomato. We'll see how they turn out in the end. With these, the best part happens on the last day, when I highlight them, creating the juicy glisten.

This is the second pass on this tomato with my grandmother's silver pattern knife. There's will a lot of detail to come on the handle, and (my favorite part) the handle's reflection in the tray.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Read Red

Lettering on the upright books is done.
kicked up some values, worked on the caterpillar and chrysalis, the background drape and the letter 'P'.

Tomorrow working on the reflections in the wood beneath the scarf on the left.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Progress on Read Red

Working on the butterflies and lettering on the books today. I decided to add a butterfly chrysalis and a caterpillar to the mix. I like how it rounds out the theme and the detail and intricacy of these little guys. The caterpillar was munching on my parsley - after she modeled, I set her free.
It's going to be a push, but I hope I can make it. The pattern on the drape will be the deciding factor - not so much how involved it is, but the color - red, which is slow to dry.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Read Red

Today I worked on the butterflies, the hourglass and the bookend's doormouse. The only areas with no paint on them are the right hand handle of the chest, and the pocket watch, which is in front of the upright books. I'm thinking about leaving out the watch and placing the caterpillar there. I am wondering if I can skid in under the wire and have this done by the 20, which is 4 days before the show.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Read Red

I got all the books roughed in, along with the upright and base of the marble bookend on the right. I'm eager to get paint on every bit of the canvas so I can start refining and adding pattern.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Read Red

I started Read Red yesterday with the dark red background. This afternoon I roughed in the drape, which is a saffron yellow Indian scarf. I love the warm saturated color. The scarf has a red pattern I'll be adding towards the end.

All the books are various shades and intensities of red, thus the title. I pulled them from my shelves and they make a kind of commentary on my life. They are books that shaped me.


Today I roughed in the front and top of the chest, and made a vat of gumbo.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Blood & Knavery, Cold

Worked hard on Blood & Knavery Cold. I love the limited palette, the cool, measured feel. It has an almost abstract quality to me.
Did itsy bitsy detail; the notes on the music, the reflection of the title in the silver tray, another layer on the pebbled texture of the books. Here and there, some lighter lights and darker darks. It's very close to done.
Here's the over all progress. The canvas is 16x20, so it's quite compact.


A couple of close ups-


I gave myself the thrill of chalking the grid on Read Red and making the first couple of graphite marks. I'll work on the drawing tomorrow, while this dries. I might gesso another couple of canvases, get them prepped to go. Having two shows to prepare for is very energizing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Periodical Blues done!

Done. Off to the drying room. Retouch varnish in a week or two.

Of course, I am bound to see things - an angle here a detail there, something that will require intervention. Happens every time. It's like putting copy away in your drawer and pulling it out a week later and finding all the typos and infelicitous phrases.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Periodical Blues with lettering in place

It was lettering day. Or 'day when I hold my breath so I don't jiggle the brush.' High anxiety on the front end, but it's worth it to me.
I'm really excited about the HHFA show Sept. 24, when all three of the bigger Metamorphosis paintings make their debut together.

Here's the overall look of the lettering so far. It's not complete - More to do on the front of the New Yorker and a few more lines on the PRINT card. Also, the fortune in the 8 ball. One more pass on the crystal ball, possibly a deep blue glaze on the drape and it's done.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Periodical Blues, progress


On schedule - added more detail and texture to the globe, worked on the spines of the magazines and strengthened the values of the hourglass.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Periodical Blues, progress

I put in the abstract reflections in the crystal ball, and outlined the cover cartoon. Sometimes people ask me how long it takes me to finish a painting and the unsatisfactory answer is, of course, it depends, but what I did today took three hours of steady work.

Plus a couple of close-ups.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Periodical Blues

Here's today's effort - the edge of the magazines, the handle on the right and another layer on the wooden chest. Still to go, the crystal ball and the embroidered gold stars on the background. Then it's lettering, and refining of the globe etc., in time for the September HHFA show.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Periodical Blues

Redid the drape (it was driving me crazy!) and first round on the hourglass.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hand to Hand project, July 13-18, done.

Here are the final images for the Hand to Hand project. I ended up sewing a little piece of barbed wire on each hand, using picture wire. In the back the wire is twisted together so each piece can be hung.

July 13: Iraq government faces claims of prisoner abuse

July 14: Car bomb explodes outside Iraqi church, kills four.

July 15: Suicide bomber shot dead while driving a car bomb in Fallujah.

July 16: Shiite pilgrims wounded in bomb attack in Baghdad.

July 17: Body of girl found in Kut.

July 18: Helicopter crashes outside Baghdad.