Sunday, June 28, 2015

3 water colors

As you know I am in the process of trying to figure out what kind of water colors I want to make.  The first one I did I wet the whole paper, made a loose water color of the scene and then after it was dry put a pen and ink drawing over it.

ALIUM 2015

Next day I went outside and decided to start off with the pen and ink sketch.  I had a new selection of calligraphic pens that I was eager to try.  I sketched in the drawing with the pens and then using a rather larger brush then I wanted to (because that was what I had) I began to fill in the colors.  The pens, which I had selected because they were supposed to be water proof, were not, so all the water colors turned a bit dark and the lines fuzzy.  After the paint was dry I went in again and did some more pen and ink.  This is a scene by my pool.  The whole thing has gotten so fussy I'm not sure that is even visible.


Things had gotten out of hand so I decided to simply play with the colors and pens at this point.  This was a lot of fun.  

water color on Arches cold press
9" x 12"
Nancy Herman


Next day I hunted around my studio until I found a small water color brush, made a sketch and painted very carefully these 4 tulips that I have been longing to paint since early spring.  Nothing loose about this and no pen and ink.  Today I will try another version of this scene.  I have to admit this was also a lot of fun.  So where I am heading I do not know.

Nancy Herman
water color on arches cold press
8.5" x 11"


Friday, June 26, 2015


Nancy Herman
6" x 8"
oil on canvas board

Nature is always fighting for more of what it needs.  Here the plants thrust into each other for a little more sun and then when it gets too hot they hide to preserve themselves.  I have painted the foliage almost the same tone so that they are united in the struggle.  


Wednesday, June 24, 2015


This year I had a bumper crop of beautiful Alium.  I didn't get around to making any oil paintings of least not yet, but I did experiment with a water color.  I have been thinking about making some water colors for some time and have now assembled all the supplies I need to get started.  I think what I want to do is very loose water colors with pen and ink, after considering many methods.  This is my first stab at it.  The water color does not end abruptly on the sides as it does in the photo but blends into the paper as in the bottom and top.  My scanner isn't wide enough to include all.

ALIUM 2015
Nancy Herman
10.25" x 12.5"
water color and pen and ink


Friday, June 19, 2015


Nancy Herman
6" x 8"
oil on canvas board

This is the painting I would have painted in the afternoon of the competition if I had more time and energy.  I like the way old buildings are juxtaposed with bits of nature in Chestnut Hill.  This building had flags flying from lots of windows creating a festive air.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Two Houses on the Hill


I got up bright and early on Sunday morning, not even stopping to think about the New York Times Crossword puzzle, grabbed all my equipment and headed out for my location in Chestnut Hill, the 8200 block of Germantown Avenue, east side.  The biggest part of the contest for me was to get to a spot under a tree with something to paint, not blocked by cars, before any other artist got there.

A little before 8:00 I arrived on 'the hill'.  It was very quiet and I had my choice of places, as there didn't seem to be another soul about.  I set up quickly across the street from the oldest house in Chestnut Hill.  I had decided to follow the rules, as I knew if I didn't I would be mad at myself, so I had the allowed sketch ready to draw onto the canvas.  Usually I would simply use graphite paper and trace it on, but that seemed not to be in the spirit of the contest, so I drew it on using a grid on the paper and the canvas to get things in about the right place.

As I started to put out my paint I noticed that I was not the only painter here after all, and in fact someone was sitting right in the middle of my scene painting my side of the street.  Pretty funny really.  The best laid plans in plein air painting almost always go awry.  I decided not to include the painter and her umbrella in my painting as I knew if I included a figure, the buildings, which had a lot of character, would be lost.  Buildings have personalities to me and these two sitting together for years had a lot to say.

Things went along swimmingly for an hour or so and then people began to wander by, the traffic picked up and it started to really warm up.  Painting on the street is not exactly plein air - which implies fresh cool breezes and communing with nature.  You really have to keep your concentration if you are on a busy street...and in the spirit of the occasion be as gracious as possible to people stopping by to chat.

I had planned to make two paintings but I decided early on that if I was to enjoy the social aspects of this 'contest' I would relax and be satisfied to finish one.

The children were especially delightful and quite respectful.  One little boy around 4 stood watching me for a long time without saying anything.  I asked him if he liked to paint, and his eyes got really big and he backed away slowly and then ran off.  I think he must have thought I was asking him to paint my picture.

Two wonderful friends came by around 12 and brought me lunch.  This was a real boon as I didn't want to leave everything and go anywhere else until I was done.  Someone who knows local history chatted for a while and said there is a tunnel from one of the buildings I was painting  connected to the Chestnut Hill Hotel.  An old friend I haven't seen for years stopped by and we caught up on children and grandchildren.  It got hotter and hotter and around 2:30 I was pretty much finished in every sense.  I was satisfied with my painting, in that I did the best I could and it looked pretty good.  It's always hard to tell what you really think of your work right away however I find, sometimes I like a painting when it is finished and hate it 2 weeks later.

The judging was not to take place until 4:00 so I had an hour and a half to kill.  All the finished paintings were placed against a wall behind the hotel and they were beginning to accumulate, with the artists sitting around waiting for the judging in the heat.  There was free water which was an excellent perk and quite necessary.  I thought about going home with my little painting and skipping the judging altogether, but then I knew I would always wonder how it turned out, so I stuck it out.

The judge for the art work was Liz Osborne, an artist whose work I have always enjoyed.  A bit before 4:00 she started sorting out the work and placing some together, presumably ones she liked.  I did not envy her this job as there were 40 or 50 paintings to choose from and there were bound to be a lot of hot tired artists who would be very disappointed.  I noticed mine was among those in the favored position.  At this point I realized why I don't like painting contests.  No matter what happens you feel bad.  If you loose you feel bad and if you win you feel bad because you know that those who didn't win feel they should have, and partly blame you.  It's not as if you got more points than the other team, or came in first in a race.  It's all subjective.

I know the suspense is killing you and you assume that because I have described this whole scene in such detail it is because I won the contest.  Nope.  I got third prize.  Third prize.  Should I be pleased?  Yes I should as my painting was chosen over many others and I am pleased to a certain extent, but really you don't want to go around telling people you won third prize unless it's maybe the Olympics.  

So what would be a better conclusion to this event in my opinion?  Hang all the art that the artists struggled to create and skip the prizes.  If anyone sells a painting that will be their reward and they won't be humiliated if they don't.  

And finally here is the painting!!!

Two Houses on the Hill
Nancy Herman
9" x 12"
oil on canvas board

Here is a link to all the winners. 1,2,3 and honorable mentions plus some scenes of the event.  (I have a friend who got honorable mention at an art show and was so outraged he never exhibited in a competition again.  Artists are sensitive beasts)


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Strolling Down the Hill

Nancy Herman
9" x 12"
oil on canvas board

This is the second painting I did last week while practicing for the Plein Air Festival in Chestnut Hill.  This time I used a sketch that I made after changing the photo in Photoshop so that the shapes were simplified.  I painted it outside in the shade of my Elm tree while looking at my iPad using lots of juicy paint.  This is a very strange method of making a painting but I do enjoy pushing the paint around into shapes that have been decided.

Here is a small blowup of the texture.

Now I have tried two methods of painting.  Neither follow the rules of the competition but at least I have been working outside, testing my set up, and getting used to the vagaries of weather and seeing if I can sit in my very small chair for several hours.  Now I have to decide what method of painting to use at the actual competition.  Let me say at the outset that I am against competitions for something as subjective as art.  But now that I am in this contest I must decide whether or not to follow the rules and how to manage the 'painting as a competition' idea philosophically.  Tomorrow - The contest.


Monday, June 15, 2015


Yesterday I participated in the first Chestnut Hill Plein Air Festival.  There were around 50 artists dispersed over several blocks of Germantown Ave.  We were assigned a specific block and a specific side of the street.  We could begin at 8:00 with a blank canvas and were to be finished by 4:00.  It was a contest and judging was to take place at 4:00.

I signed up for this work because I have not painted outside for many years and I knew if I signed up I would have to get out there and do it and I wanted to get back to that taxing but rewarding approach to painting.

So, last week I went to Chestnut Hill on two occasions to check out where the sun was in the morning and the afternoon and where I could stand that was under a tree.  I have an umbrella that can be used if there is a place to stick it into the ground but I didn't see anywhere with ground accross from a place I wanted to paint.

While I was there I took some pictures of possible spots, as this was part of the possibilities permitted by the rules of the contest.  I decided to get some practice in before the actual event but did not want to sit on Germantown Avenue and paint so I set up my tables in the shade of my yard and painted from a photo on my iPad.  Sort of plein air.

This is the first painting.   Traditionally one would start with thin paint working probably directly with the brush (no sketch) starting with the dark areas and working gradually into thicker paint and lighter areas.  I, however, have been trying to use more paint lately and at the same time to simplify and condense my shapes.   So I make a careful sketch and fill in the shapes with juicy paint.  This is not a tried and true method for painting outside at all.  It is what I have been doing in my studio.

This painting was done with that method but painted outside.  It is a little cut off and the 9" x 12" paintings don't quite fit into my scanner.

Nancy Herman
9" x 12"
oil on canvas board

 More about the contest tomorrow.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Painting in Chestnut Hill on Sunday

8405 Germantown Avenue | Philadelphia, PA 19118
Monday - Wednesday 10-6
Thursday-Saturday 10-8
Sunday 12-5 

Chestnut Hill's first annual open air artist event

SUNDAY JUNE 14th 10-4 pm
8100-8600 blocks of Germantown Ave

Art, Food, Kids events and Music! 

local musician's 
in our new exhibition gallery
Performing 11-2 pm! 

watch her paint on the 8200 block of Germantown Ave.
There will be a special installation of her recent work on display in the gallery

Jonathan Cohn
Artist reception
Thursday June 25th 5-7pm 

New Artist:
Cynthia Miller

New Artist:
Joel Cohen

Gravers Lane Gallery specializes in contemporary art in all media, including painting, works on paper, sculpture, jewelry, glass, ceramic, wood, and fiber.
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Gravers Lane Gallery is one division of The Goldenberg Group,which is comprised of three entities: Goldenberg Development, People Helping People Foundation, and Goldenberg Enterprises
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Gravers Lane Gallery | Gravers Lane Gallery | 8405 Germantown Avenue | Philadelphia | PA | 19118

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

moving on

I am so pleased that my quilt MOVING ON has just been donated to the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles by the collector Penny Nii who commissioned the piece in 1994.

48" x 48"
woven fabric strips
and sewn and then cut fabric

This was a rare combination of woven strips with a textured border.