Monday, June 6, 2016

Mending the Tigers

I just finished painting "Mending the Tigers". I have been working on it since March 9 when I last posted about it in progress. It has been almost three months. People often ask me how long it takes me to do a painting but I never keep track. So now I know. I guess keeping a blog is good in that respect. 
"Mending the Tigers", oil on linen, 4' x 5'

As I mentioned in my earlier post the idea came from a short story by Aimee Bender called Tiger Mending. It is a mesmerizing story so you should read it. It is in her collection called "The Color Master". Here is a link to her website http://aimeebender.com/.
I interpreted her story to have an environmental message. In my mind the tigers were coming out of the mountains to get help from humans. Their stripes falling off as symbolic of the fragility of this great beast in the modern world. The young woman mending the tigers represents the mindfulness, inventiveness and skill it is going to take for us as the responsible party to "mend" the environment. While she is the creative and the talent who has the ability to do the mending, her sister, leading the tigers in, is the facilitator-the person with the brain and resourcefulness to make things happen. 
(Note that this is my interpretation. There are others out there that focus on the relationship between the sisters). 

While I was preparing to do this painting  I looked at lots of paintings through art history that were about tigers both to see how they were handled by artists in terms of drawing and painting but also to see their place in art.  I went to the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia to see Henri Rousseau's "Scout Attacked by a Tiger".  It is a brutal scene but Rousseau's vision is magical. They seem like mini figurines in long grass. The tiger's anatomy is a little odd but it makes for an enchanting painting. I hope the tiger came out on top of the situation, but Rousseau keeps us guessing. 


Eugene Delacroix was another great painter of tigers. I especially love his "Tiger Resting" which I also included in "Mending the Tigers", hanging above the Rousseau, and his beautiful watercolor and pencil study, simply called "Tiger". It is in the National Gallery.  I included it as a plate in the book in the right foreground- as if the young woman was studying it to see how to stitch the stripes back on. 





Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Mending the Tigers in Progress

It has been awhile since I've posted anything on my blog. Sometimes when I am working I am too involved it the process to spend time on social media or even my computer. I guess I will always be "old school". Even though I spend the necessary time each day on my computer for my business, sending images, emailing clients, communicating with my galleries, and trying to update my facebook studio page and instagram (yikes!)  I never really feel like I am truly "working" unless I am up in my studio standing in front of my painting wall. I had been working on another book and some portrait work so it took me awhile to get this painting up and running. To dust off the cobwebs in my brain I first did a full size drawing in charcoal and chalk on brown paper. The drawing and the painting are 4' x 5'. It is great to work in charcoal so I can push it around until I get the composition where I want it. So that is the first image you see here.  The second is the perspective drawing on the actual canvas. The third is the underpainting in grisaille with just the start of the first glaze. (pink area on the right) The fourth image shows more of the first glaze. That is where I am right now.  So stay tuned for more images of the progress. By the way the subject of the painting is inspired by a mesmerizing story called "Tiger Mending" by the writer Aimee Bender. I can't wait to paint the tigers!



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"The Collector", oil on panel, 26" x 32"

This is a portrait I just completed for the New York collector Neale Albert and his lovely wife Margaret. He asked to be painted in his library with some of his favorite pieces. He has an astounding collection of paintings, porcelain, English brass, miniature Shakespeare books, and a beautiful replica of the new Globe Theater made by Tim Gosling. He is also known for commissioning unusual  (and challenging) projects from artists, cabinet makers, and book binders. His collection will eventually go to Yale University and there will be an exhibition at Yale next spring of his miniature Shakespeare collection called  "The poet of them all": William Shakespeare and miniature designer bindings from the collection of Neale and Margaret Albert.  They have decided to show this portrait as part of the exhibition. 
A few interesting things about the painting: There are paintings by George Deem, Robert Kulicke and Nell Blaine among others. Neale and Margaret own another small apartment two floors above their  apartment on Park Avenue, which opens on to a roof garden, that overlooks the city. They call this apartment and garden "The Morgan Cottage" and refer to it as their summer home. So to include it in the painting we brought it down to the 6th floor and opened the library to it (in the painting). Neale and Margaret are also represented in the garden, enjoying a peaceful glass of wine above the chaos of the city.  Also included in the painting are many objects they cherish from their personal life histories. I have known Neale for a long time and I did another painting for him years ago of his favorite London pub. It was an honor to do this portrait for them and it gave me a deep appreciation for their lives and the kind of focus, passion and perseverance it takes to form a collection over a lifetime. And I admire their generosity in giving the collection to Yale where it will be appreciated by many-forever.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"The Sunday Paper" and homage to "La Grande Jatte"

I finished this painting, "The Sunday Paper", just in time to frame it and put it on a truck to Dog and Horse Fine Art, in Charleston, South Carolina. My show there opens on Friday night and I am very excited about it. http://www.dogandhorsefineart.com/index.php/exhibits/item/kathryn-freeman-a-perfect-reality  Come to the opening if you are going to be in Charleston! There will be jazz music and cupcakes! Along with wine, of course. Charleston is known for its Friday night art openings.

"The Sunday Paper", oil on linen, 36" x 48"


 As you can see the interior of the painting is a typical Sunday morning in some houses-guy on the sofa, dozing off while reading the Sunday paper. His faithful dogs would love to go to the park, but their owner won't wake up and take them. So the park is coming to them.

Georges Seurat's incredible painting, "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte", has had a huge role in my development as a painter over a period of 30 (at least) years. I fell in love with it when I was in graduate school, -for its formality, compositional brilliance, such as the use of the golden section and diagonals, use of the silhouette, shape repetition, shape symbolism, and about a million other reasons. Seurat was a genius and so much more than the "pointillism" technique he used for awhile, which tends to be his big claim to fame in art history books. He died at age 32 and I always wonder what he would have produced if he had lived longer. He was a skilled draftsman as well as an auspicious colorist, so he was capable of anything.

Whenever I feel confused about painting (frequently) I return to La Grande Jatte along with going back to look at Vermeer's "Woman in Blue Reading a Letter". Those two paintings clear my head, reinforce what painting is about, and restore my faith.  I had seen lots of studies and reproductions of La Grande Jatte but I had never seen the big finished painting until last year when I finally got to Chicago. The painting took my breath away and I felt dizzy standing in front of something I had studied and admired for so long. I spent the entire day there.

It was time to pay homage. So I decided to make the park in "The Sunday Paper", La Grande Jatte.

I had to expand Seurat's landscape a little bit so that it was visible out the door and the side window, and I borrowed a few figures from some of his other paintings and studies. As you can see, a few elements of the painting have already seeped into the room. The monkey on a leash being held by the woman with the black parasol has sneaked into the picture along with her hat, as have some of the vertical elements and diagonals. I do realize that there are a lot of people who are not reading a hard copy of the newspaper anymore, so there is a tablet (maybe a kindle?) on the coffee table on top of the red book. So that is me tipping my top hat to new technology, while also tipping it to one of the greatest paintings of the 19th century. Thank you Georges. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Summer, Water, Mermaids- Limited Edition, Signed Prints

Hot and sultry days, heirloom tomatoes and corn, diving into the waves, going fishing, sailing, looking for mermaids...

Since summer is upon us my printmaker in Charleston is doing a limited print edition of two of my mermaid paintings- "The Attraction of Fishing" and "Water Music".  There is more about these two paintings in the archives of my blog, so just scroll down.

I received the proofs yesterday and I am excited to say that they are perfect. They are printed on beautiful archival paper, signed and numbered. Let me know if you would like to order one or both!

The Attraction of Fishing

                                                                   Water Music


Price and size options:
The Attraction of Fishing-  15" x 20"   $275
                                                20" x 28"  $375

Water Music                       16" x 20"   $275
                                              24" x 30"   $395
10% discount for two prints

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sometimes Magic Happens -"The Queen of Hearts"

The Queen of Hearts, egg tempera, oil & gold leaf on panel, 48" x 60"

     Many years ago I was asked to do a painting for a fundraiser in New York City that was being held for the Big Apple Circus's Clown Care Unit. http://www.bigapplecircus.org/clown-care which was started by a legendary man and legendary clown Michael Christensen- also known as Dr. Stubs.
The Clown Care Unit is a group of specially trained clowns who visit the hospital rooms of sick children. Michael/Dr. Stubs believed deeply in the healing power of humor and felt that "clown rounds" could do great things for sick kids and their families.  I was  honored to be asked  because I believed in the idea, and I am always searching to make my work meaningful to humanity.
 I did a painting called "The Queen of Hearts". The painting is of a mother by the bedside of a sick child. She hears a sound at the door to the room and sees The Queen entering the room carrying a heart on a pillow.
     I attended the Clown Care Benefit Auction at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in Soho. It was a magical night with both benefactors and clowns chatting and mingling. One clown kept walking by me and sneaking things out of my purse then handing them back to me with a twinkle in his eye. The clowns were so funny and colorful, they lightened up what might have been a typical stuffy black tie art evening. I could imagine how cheerful, comforting and entertaining they must be for a child who feels miserable and frightened in a sterile hospital room.
     In the middle of the evening someone came up to me and told me that "The Queen of Hearts" had been taken out of the auction. I wasn't sure what had happened at the time, but I later found out that the organizer  of the benefit had actually purchased "The Queen" for Michael.  Here is the story from Michael, in his words, which he wrote to me earlier this spring in an email.

March 3, 2015

For Kathryn,

I am standing in the basement of an art gallery in Soho watching pieces of art arrive that are going to be auctioned off to benefit the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit.  The Queen of Hearts, a painting by artist... Kathryn Freeman, just arrived.  When I see it, I start to cry and don’t know why; it doesn’t matter; this painting touches my soul. I immediately turn to the gallery owner and make a bid for the painting, $1,000.  Fat chance. The painter is very well known and since it is a benefit, my bid will not even cover her minimum.

Rick Segal, the man who organized the benefit stands next to me and says: “You will never get it.” Thanks, Rick. Thanks for your positive attitude.

The evening of the auction arrives and I, dressed as a clown, am the auctioneer.  I do my best to run the fine line between entertaining the audience and selling the art.  Right in the middle of selling a piece, Rick whispers: “The Queen of Hearts is gone.” Ok. I loved it. It touched my soul and it is gone. Ok. I accept that; many things and people I love leave. It’s ok. Let’s continue with the job at hand; let’s sell as many pieces of art that we can at the highest prices possible to benefit our program.

I am in the dressing room after the show taking off my makeup. Rick comes in and says: “Michael, follow me; I have something to show you.” He stands me in front of the Queen of Hearts and says: “Wendy and I bought this for you. You deserve it.”

The Queen of Hearts hangs on the wall in our living room.  I don’t remember when I first noticed it. I was standing on the landing.  I looked at the painting and felt that there was something different. As I looked more closely, I noticed that the sunlight that was streaming into the living room of my home lined up perfectly with the “painted” light that was streaming into the living room of the piece. I stopped. It was perfect. There was no difference between what I was experiencing in life and what I was experiencing in the painting; they were the same. This time, I didn’t cry; I wondered.

More. Maybe it happened every year and I just didn’t notice; maybe it happened only this year, only now, only in this moment. I am sitting in the living room with my wife, Karyn.  She says: “Look at the painting.” I look up to see the child’s face illuminated by golden light, warm, soft golden light only on the child, perfectly aligned; the line separating painted life from breathing life is dissolved; there is no difference.

Thank you.

Michael

Michael also sent me some photos of the painting lit by the natural sunlight in the room in the way he had described it...  I am so happy that Michael and his wife have "The Queen of Hearts" and I am honored that my work and life have touched theirs. 

Art and life, life and art. Sometimes magic happens. 






Thursday, May 7, 2015

"Armchair Blues"

This is my most recent painting. The inspiration for it came from multiple sources as is the case with most of my paintings. As you all know by now, I am a big advocate for adopting shelter dogs. The before and after photos are among the things I like best about the dog rescue world. So in the first photo you see a skinny, sad, mangy dog on a concrete floor or tied to an outdoor dog house in a dirt yard. Then the second photo shows the same dog looking well fed, happy and relaxed on a comfy couch in someone's living room. A few months ago I discovered there is a little company that produces piano music especially to calm the nerves of stressed dogs. I downloaded some for my two, and oddly they did seem to enjoy it. One of my favorite Italian Renaissance painters is Fra Angelico. Lately I have been looking at his interesting and often dissonant color palettes, which influenced the yellow and blues in this painting. And lastly the title... there is a great tune that Ray Charles performed called the "Rockin Chair Blues".  It is the perfect music for this painting but since the dogs are in armchairs, not rocking chairs, (that would be tricky), I changed the title a little.
And I also need to thank Ellie, of Two Blockheads fame, for letting me use her photo for the dog in the striped chair.

                                "Armchair Blues, oil on linen, 36" x 48"
                     

Here are some links you might like:

Music to calm dogs:  http://throughadogsear.com/
Two Blockheads:  https://www.facebook.com/TwoBlockheads
Rockin' Chair Blues:
Remdog and Loulou enjoying some tunes: