Installment#5: THE WONDER OF BEING


"TUCO"--ENDANGERED SPECIES SERIES 22"x33" original Watercolor by Vera Dennen on display at EIGHTEENTH INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION ON ANIMALS IN ART, Baton Rouge, LA, March 19 thru April 17, 2005.

I met a newfound friend last evening who was both thrilling and refreshingly calming at the same time. Not only was his ability to converse far above any standards I have found recently available face to face, but also with a depth and sheer variety of wisdom always difficult to find in any one person. During the course of the evening he mentioned his favorite quotation, which happened to be made by the late Abraham Heschel (1945 to 1972), Rabbi, Professor of Ethics and Mysticism, author (A Passion for Truth written during the last few months of his life, among many other books), peace Activists (marching with Dr. Martin Luther King), co-chairman of Clergy who spearheaded opposition to the Vietnam war, and voice of the times.
Indifference to the wonder of being is the root of all sin.”

Oh that Heschel were alive today! I wonder what his reaction to the Terri Schiavo case would have been, or what he would have said to the fact that man is rapidly forcing half of our planets animal species into extinction. Heschel would not have sat quietly by just letting this happen.

True, Abraham Heschel had the ear of Presidents, Senators, and people of power, while we, the masses have only ourselves and maybe the ear of one or two friends willing to put up with our soap box. Well I for one have realized that Art has been my Calling for a reason, and that reason is as a small voice, hopefully loudly spoken about the “richness and beauty of something outside of ourselves.” In other words, “the wonder of being.”

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  • 5/13/05

    Installment#4:THE COLOR OF GRAY-Set 2


    "WHITE TAILED DEER"--20"x28" original Watercolor Painting by Vera Dennen

    So almost a week has flown away, and with it my determination to blog at least three times a week. Have to admit right here and now that it never will happen!!!

    But I do want to continue my look into gray. An artist friend of mine, after recently reading Set 1 on gray, had this to say . . .
    “...I find I use grey more and more as I understand it better and I too used to avoid it! Ha! Maybe now with grey hair and everything else happening, we have made friends with the color!” I think she may have a point. And what is really so strange is that gray is no big mystery at all: mix any variation or intensity of the three primary colors and you will have produced some shade of gray. What took it so long to sink in?

    The nonstaining triad is one of my favorites. Aureolin, rose madder genuine, and cobalt blue can be combined in equal amounts of altering proportions of each. Grays made with these pigments will have a great transparent, luminous quality, perfect for glazes. You can create wonderful atmospheric effects in your paintings without creating a heavy background, or modify the intensity of an underlying color. Try adding a small amount of any fourth pigment with this transparent blend. For example, make your fourth addition a small amount of brighter pigment you plan to use in the painting--the mixture that would normally be discarded as muddy can now be used to accentuate that much brighter hue.

    Predictably, the mixing of the staining triad will work in reverse; Winsor yellow, Winsor red, and Winsor blue can also be mixed to make gray (along with any other combination of staining primary’s). These neutrals dry lighter and with less intensity than they would appear to have as wet pigment, so be careful when first becoming acquainted. They are wonderful for use as middle values, but tend to take over completely if used as a glaze. You can mix your own version of Payne’s Gray, Sepia, etc. with the staining triad, so be aware and do not plan to use this gray in any way you would not use a deeper toned premix.

    And finally, we come to opaque. Yellow, Indian Red, Cerulean Blue are some examples of the opaque triad that you might use, although there are certainly others. An opaque neutral, although being made-up of pigments I normally do not find beneficial, takes on a richness and consistency that is especially useful while a broad assortment of darks can be produced. I find myself mixing a batch of opaque gray for use in landscapes, animal fur, and places I will be adding short, quick brush stokes such as building rocks or rocky terrain. However, large areas of this triad can quickly be overdone, appearing muddy, or boring in scope.

    So there you go! Neutrals can be a lifesaver if you become aware of individual properties and where they are weak. In the painting above, “White Tailed Deer”, I have extensively used several triad mixtures to my advantage: an opaque triad in the trees, with non-staining pigments on the ground as a glaze, and another neutral for highlighting fur. There may be a fourth combination mixed in there somewhere as well, I don’t quite remember, but I do remember having fun . . .

    * Artist's, if you would like to receive a list of pigment properties for mixing a varity of triad's, please contact me through my web site. I will happy to sent one in return.


    Installment#4:THE COLOR OF GRAY-Set 1


    When in the very early stages of painting, certain revelations about color begin to gel in ones brain. Of course you hear painting terms being kicked around by your peers that at first have little meaning. For instance, it took me the longest time to realize what glaze meant, and how it would affect the over-all composition. While many terms are fairly straightforward, such as a wash, wet-into-wet, even hard and soft lines, others seem truly elusive, at least for me . . . another of these mysterious words was the term muddy.

    At last I realized that wash and glaze were almost the same thing, except that a wash went down first as it “washed” across the paper, adding color. While a glaze went on second, over the wash, in order to “glaze” select areas only, changing top and bottom colors together into a third. Wow, what a concept, simple, easy to grasp, and all connected with adding an attractive and varied assortment of shades, tints, and hue!

    The same can be said for hard and soft lines, fairly uncomplicated, easily recognized on paper, and enormously helpful when mastered. Much simpler than color!

    As an example, did you know that there are blue-blacks, and red-blacks, just as there are blue-reds and orange-reds, and that’s just for starters! Confused the heck out of me! And to make matters worse, any combination of red, yellow, and blue (called a Triad) happening to meet on your paper will produce an off-shade of gray known as muddy. Since this is to be avoided at all costs, somehow it was much further down the road before the benefits of mixing useable shades of gray, or an assortment of neutral hues, came to light.

    This was a real breakthrough in my development, and gray began to make sense.


    Off Subject: BLACK MOOD!


    "TWO'S A CROWD"--18"x22" Original Watercolor Painting by Vera Dennen

    Oh my gosh, I feel as if I am being pushed and pulled by my Art, with all kinds of tuggings trying to force more directions than I want to go.

    Gracious! In case you have not discovered this for yourselves just yet, other artists can be such ninny’s sometimes. Apparently there is only so much of the "pie" to go around . . . meaning of course sales. Kind of like the Porcelain Crabs in above imaged painting . . . each fighting for a small stretch of beach.

    Oh well, this too shall pass. And it is almost a new day!!!


    Installment#3:THE ROLE OF YOUR MUSE


    "TOWN & COUNTRY"--lithograph w/ graphic border (original watercolor 14"x21"--SOLD)

    According to Webster the definition for muse is: a source of inspiration, which is any of the nine sister Goddesses of learning and the arts in Greek Mythology. Webster seems very sure the number is indeed nine! Well, I have never read that particular Greek Myth, but I would swear there truly were only three. Heckle, Jackal, and Hide, not necessarily in that order.

    Oh? I see, you thought your Muse would be the tender hand holding type, having a never ending supply of solutions designed to keep you encouraged, and your career moving forward. Yeah, right! No. No, but please don’t get me wrong! The fact that your Muse is much more likely to be a slave-driving wretch, who will make you bleed for every step forward you gain, is not entirely their fault. In fact, the fault does not belong to the Muse Sisterhood at all, but is rather embedded in the true nature of man (or woman, whichever applies). You see, owing to our own highly competitive nature, humans do not respond as well to kind the word of advice as one would suppose.

    Think about it. Does a toddler refrain from climbing just because loving parents have repeated some seventy million times that their angel will fall and go boom? No, of course not! The toddler will continue to climb. And, until they have experienced a really good goose egg on their own terms, words will be totally wasted. Even then, just to make sure that the “boom” really had been as bad as they’d thought, the toddler will do it again.