Lost time…

Claire de Lune for Painter's Progress 6-18-18
‘Claire de Lune’ Peony Watercolor pencil on paper

I just took a year off from painting, at a point in my life when I really don’t have that much time left!! I didn’t mean to stop the work, but a series of difficult geographical moves left me without a studio in an unexplored part of America.

It is always detrimental to an artist to find the physical environment in which she works compromised. This is especially true for someone like me who, as an ADD personality, has only the most tenuous hold on discipline and forward momentum! When I had to close up my studio in the Belgo Building in Montreal and then chose to move to my daughter’s apartment in Dallas, Texas, I had thought to continue my floral and portrait work in Texas. Unfortunately,  I found the loss of the Botanical Garden and my Montreal tango community very disorienting. It was as though, with the loss of my muse and my audience, I also lost my train of thought!

Without the distraction of a whole new planet to explore (and Dallas was like another planet!), I hope to get back on track with my painting during the next five months in Montreal. Happily I am back in time for peony season. This will be the third June that I will be sketching in the Botanical gardens. This time I will be using the watercolor sketches as the basis for paintings. The big challenge with this is how to maintain the spontaneity of the sketch in the oil painting. And my struggle continues to discover my unique ‘voice’ within a traditional subject matter.

The one useful thing that came out of the yearlong pause, was that, upon my return, when I unpacked my studio, I realized that many of the drawings and paintings I had done in the past four years were not worth keeping! So ruthlessly I threw tore them up or painted them over! (The noise you hear in the background is my friend André screaming “noooo!”). But here is the thing, after a year away from the work, it is very clear which pieces work; and which don’t, which have the germ of future directions, and which are simply going over the same tired ground. The laws of minimalism and sustainability apply here as well as everywhere else in my life!

I am looking forward to continuing this blog, The Painter’s Progress. I expect that doing my work in public, in front of you,  my readers, will keep me honest. As always, your feedback is my inspiration!

Drawing the live model


It must look odd from the outside, this act of drawing a nude live model. But when one has done it one’s whole life, well at least since art school, as I have, it really seems very unexceptional.

I am doing these drawings of life classes as a way to think about where one sees naked bodies. Degas put his in bedrooms; Bonnard painted his wife in the bath; Lucien Freud just plopped his models down on dirty sheets or filthy floors. The old masters painted nudes in lovely landscapes or ensconced in luxurious beds…but there always was a context.

However, that context is nowhere to be seen in most nude drawings I see being made. Yet the idea that nudes are central to “real art” seems to be alive and well, if the packed class I attended today is any indication. But I’m not quite sure why people feel this way!

Il doit sembler étrange de l’extérieur, cet acte de dessin d’un modèle vivant nu. Mais quand on a fait sa vie entière, bien au moins depuis l’école d’art, comme je l’ai, il semble vraiment pas exceptionnel.

Je fais ces dessins de classes de vie comme un moyen de penser où l’on voit des corps nus. Degas a mis son dans les chambres; Bonnard peignit sa femme dans le bain; Lucien Freud vient de déposer ses modèles sur des draps sales ou des planchers sales. Les anciens maîtres peignaient des nus dans de beaux paysages ou se cachaient dans des lits luxueux … mais il y avait toujours un contexte.

Cependant, ce contexte est nul par être vu dans la plupart des dessins nus que je vois être fait. Pourtant, l’idée que les nus sont au centre de «l’art réel» semble être en vie et bien, si la classe emballée que j’ai assistée aujourd’hui est une indication. Mais je ne sais pas très bien pourquoi les gens se sentent de cette façon!

All my drawings cataloged!


Note to self: don’t wait a full year to catalog all your work done that year!

I spent hours yesterday measuring & recording in a ledger the sixty paintings & drawings done since last summer. Next I will photograph everything. And promise, from now on, I will catalog as I go!

Cataloging does a couple of things: it records what I have created- for posterity and for selling and marketing purposes; it gives me an objective idea of how well I am working (how efficiently and fast); and it makes me think more deeply about the direction and meaning of my work.

A dance buddy asked me recently how many hours I spend a week on my art. He thought it might be a couple of hours a week, but it is actually many hours a day! It is much like dancing, or playing a musical instrument, or doing anything professionally: there is the constant practice; the actual doing of the art; and then the effort to get the work seen.

And keeping a record is just one of the many tasks!



Flowers & Fans



During this past summer in Montreal, I had the pleasure of spending hours in the Botanical Gardens when the peonies were in bloom. I did a series of sketches using watercolor pencils which, as the name suggest, are colored pencils that act like watercolors when water is added. The drawings were done on a heavier weight but smooth tooth mixed media paper. The sketches will be available soon as prints.

Not all artists work from Nature, but I like to start with more realistic botanical drawings and then use them for references for looser, more abstract paintings. With these I have chosen to paint a series of fans using acrylic paints to which glaze can be added to create a watercolor effect.

I’m just starting this series so I have not yet decided on the type of fan or the look I want. This first paper fan is small (about 10 inches when open) and takes the paint well. The inspiration for doing fans comes from the fan pieces that Edgar Degas did in the 1870’s. (The fan below is Degas’.)degas_fan_dancers_1879_0



A Painter’s Progress

Welcome to a new blog, “A Painter’s Progress,” a new website, JHart-Artist, and a New Year!

I made a few New Year’s resolutions that I would like to share with you:

  1. I would like to invite you to be a witness to my daily practice of painting. This blog is a great way for you to get a peek into what is involved in creating art. You will see and understand how I make art: what the struggles are, and what the pleasures. I will happily answer any of your questions about the process. It is also a good way for me to stay honest about what I do!
  2. I have also changed my art practice to be more collaborative. Like artists in the past, I must be responsive to the needs of my society. So, to a certain degree, my skills are in the service of my fans’ and patrons’ interests and passions. I can paint anything in any style, but I am interested in learning what you want to see in a painting. Your comments are important to me!
  3. And finally, I am building and running this blog & website myself. I had a great webmaster, Natalia Usselman, for my last website, but I found that having someone else set it up and run it let me off the hook. For the New Year, I am pulling up my big-girl panties and building and running http://www.jhart-artist.com myself. It will be, like all my other art pieces, a work in progress!

Hoping to hear from you soon!

In the meantime, I wish you and yours the happiest of holidays and a healthy and peaceful 2017!