Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Coffee Hour Drawing

Study of Irma, 12" x 12", Graphite & White Chalk on Stonehenge, completed 3/27/07

St. Irma, 8" x 8", Oil on Panel, completed 1/07

After learning about the history of Irma Rombauer through press at the time of the Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition publication, I needed to paint her portrait. In doing so, I came to the idea of sanctifying celebrity women chefs. I painted the portrait on the right in January from the only photo I could find of her on the Internet. The drawing on the left I did yesterday as my Coffee Hour Drawing to work on my portrait drawing skills.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Facing Rejection

Ups and downs are quite frequent in the life of an emerging artist. I recently submitted three new works for the Skylands Juried Show in Newton, sponsored by the Sussex County Arts & Heritage Council. It's a very well-known show with quite a tradition and in the past couple of years, the bar of the show has been raised. Last year, I had three works selected for inclusion and won two awards: Best New Artist, and the Tranquility Gallery & Frameworks Award.

I never go into a show thinking that I will get accepted or win anything. It's much too unpredictable and so subjective. To enter a juried show, you send in images of the work you're submitting either via digital CD or slide, depending on the criteria of the show. Your work is viewed on a screen for a brief amount of time, and the judges make their opinion. There were three judges for Skylands. So, their opinions are combined to make a decision.

I got home from Italy to find a letter notifying me that my work was not selected. Of course, the natural immediate reaction was disappointment. However, I quickly pushed those feelings aside and looked at the situation more rationally. You never know what the jurors are looking for and how they came to their decision. And, just because three artists combined didn't select your work, doesn't mean you're a bad artist. It just means that your work didn't fit in their vision of what the show should look like.

Now, I'm not trying to say that if you constantly get rejected from shows you're still a good artist. That may not be the case. But, if for every few shows I get into or sell my work, there are a few I don't then I'm not going to lose sleep over it. If an artist is to be successful, you have to just move on and continue to make the work and exhibit it. I learned this early on when I applied to Governor's School for the Arts in PA when I was in high school. It's a summer-long program for talented artists to participate in advancing their technique and abilities. If accepted, the program is free. It's quite an honor and I knew many people who applied. So of course I wasn't accepted and it was a hard lesson to learn so young. But experiencing this at 16 made me realize that it didn't mean I couldn't be an artist or a successful artist.

So, I didn't get into Skylands, but I'm forging ahead to develop new relationships with collectors and dealers and find new venues for my work. Keep posted for future successes!

Left to Right: Napolitana Series: Cona di Cioccolato, Oil on Panel, 8" x 12"; Cona di Fragola, Oil on Panel, 8" x 12"; Cona di Vaniglia, Oil on Panel, 8" x 12"

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Emerging from Italy

Arrivederci Italia, Ciao America. I'm back from my awesome 12 day adventure in Italy and I managed to get back to NJ with a few kinks, despite the storm that hit on Friday. It was an incredible two weeks and too much to mention. I will try to give a summary of the most incredible stuff. First the food and the art. Incredible. Did I already say that? The food kept getting better, some things stand out -- a two hour meal at the Castello delVerazzano (yes the very castle of the namesake of the Verazzano Bridge) winery in Chianti where we were served a seven or eight course lunch with wine tasting, fabulous pasta carbonara (served with raw eggs that cook in the heat of the pasta with parmagiana and pancetta) in Rome, to die for fresh artichokes cooked in a multitude of ways, oh and did I mention the wine and the gelato?

The art -- it was so great to see David and Michelangelo's Unfinished Slaves again. I saw a painting from 1470 by Antonello da Messina of Sicily that was strikingly modern to me in its composition. I did a sketch of it and just tried to find it online, but can't locate it. It's the Madonna and Child Enthroned and Two Angels in the Uffizi collections. Then in Rome, after spending two hours in the Vatican Museums, we stumbled upon the modern art galleries which my tour book author shunned as horrific. I was so amazed with some of the work that I could have spent hours there despite my hunger and our need to also see the Sistine Chapel. We lingered slowly through each room seeing the Deposition of Christ by Van Gogh, a wood relief carving by Gaughin, several unfamiliar Italian artists I fell in love with, and an entire room dedicated to the art of Georgio Morandi, a 20th century Italian painter whose work I looked at often in art school.

The highlight of the trip was driving to Castrocielo and Ausonia, the two towns where my great-grandparents were born. We were given a private tour by a friend of my parents who lives in Castrocielo, driving us all over both towns and to Montecassino, a well-known abbey that has been destroyed and rebuilt three times due to war. I walked all through the towns, saw a family crypt with the names of possible family ancestors. It was incredible. Not much more to say than that.

The trip has given me a clear mind and lots of new references from which to paint. Though I am swamped with work to do for upcoming shows, I am emerging from Italy with freshness and relaxation. I have a couple of commission pieces to finish over the next week and a half and then onto paintings of Italy. In the meantime, I have just set up a flickr account and uploaded all of the sketches I did while in Italy. I completed ten drawings, I would have liked to do more, however my trip was not just for painting but also for a vacation with my husband and seeing and experiencing Italy.

To view my sketchbook drawings, go to

Monday, March 5, 2007

Castrocielo, It

My most recent Coffee Hour Drawing is of Castrocielo, Italy. It is done in sepia ink with bamboo pen on Stonehenge paper, 10" x 10". Castrocielo, Italy is about an hour and a half south of Roma. This is the town where my great-grandmother, Carmela Cataldi was born.

I will be bringing this drawing as a gift to Italy this week. My parents traveled to Castrocielo in 1999 when I was studying abroad and while there they researched my dad's genealogy and found birth certificates and the home where my great-grandmother grew up. I no longer have any family that I know of in Italy, but my parents met a family during dinner at a restaurant in Castrocielo, had dinner with them, and went back to their home to meet their children. They've since kept in touch, and on 9/11, the family called my parents in Easton, PA to make certain we were all okay. I am hoping to meet the family and give them this drawing of a portion of their town.

I will be travelling also to Roma and Firenze, visiting the city I lived in and getting the opportunity to re-experience an amazing country under different circumstances. I hope to create a Coffee Hour Drawing each day at some point in my sketchbook. Check back in a couple of weeks for new drawings and interesting stories about an emerging artist travelling in Italy. Ciao!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Playing with Ink

I'm still entranced by the stale cupcakes sitting in my studio from last week. Honestly, they aren't decomposing or rotting! I don't understand it. They are made from all natural ingredients and yet they are rock hard with not a sign of mold.

So, I will continue drawing/painting them. However, I am leaving for Italy next week for ten days and will probably have to discard them for fear something else might find them while I'm away. If anyone has any suggestions as to how I might ensure their preservation for a longer period of time, please comment to my blog, or email me

I haven't used a lot of ink in my artistic lifetime, and have found an interest in it after seeing Vincent Van Gogh: The Drawings at the Met about a year and a half ago.

Harvest Landscape, Vincent Van Gogh

Arles: 6-8 August 1888

(Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett)
F 1485, JH 1540

Click here to see more of Van Gogh's drawings. His use of pen and ink is purely sublime to me. I could stand in front of his drawings forever peeling away the layers of marks upon marks, constantly seeing something new. Van Gogh turned drawing into an expressive medium and this exhibit displayed the equality of Van Gogh's drawings next to his paintings. He drew for expressive purposes, reference material for later works, for the love of drawing, and to show his brother and his friends recent paintings he had done. In a way, Vincent was blogging in the 19th century. Maybe he would have become a successful artist in his lifetime if he had access to communication the we do today.

The "Coffee Hour Drawing," titled Awash with Cupcakes is done with sepia ink washes and reed pen on Stonehenge paper. Stonehenge is a type of paper with a warm, grey semi-smooth finish that I started using in my Anatomy Drawing class at SU, which I see is no longer a course to my disappointment. It's a beautiful surface to work on in color or black and white. The reed pen, though manufactured out of bamboo for drawing, is the closest thing to what Vincent worked with, without making them myself. He used reed pens that he cut with a penknife because there was no cost to him. This drawing is really a study in technique and materials, as well as the subject of desserts. Enjoy!