Sunday, December 27, 2009

Poinsettia-Days 5 to 6

© Ellen Blonder
The green leaves are just about finished, and I've started shading the bracts roughly. The actual flowers are barely noticeable in the center of the colorful bracts.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Poinsettia-Day 4

© Ellen Blonder
I'm painting in the leaves when I can catch a little time, but I can't paint from life, since the real leaves have started to curl and fall off. I was hoping to have this finished by Christmas. Well, maybe New Year's Day. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Poinsettia-Day 3

© Ellen Blonder
Here's a slight close-up showing a detailed leaf and one pink bract. Holiday stuff is getting in the way of painting. Some of the leaves on this plant have curled up or started drooping, so I'll have to rely on the photos I took for reference.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Poinsettia-Day 2

© Ellen Blonder
I've filled in details and painted in the background color. The green wash is just underpainting to help me see which of the leaves are not going to end up cream-colored.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Poinsettia-Day 1

© Ellen Blonder
I bought an amazing cream-colored poinsettia plant last week, so big that I knocked off one of the branches getting it out of my car. I put that branch in water, and it has been begging to be painted ever since. I'm just beginning to sketch it out on a 16 x 16-inch board.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dim Sum-Final

© Ellen Blonder
Because this is painted so loosely and on a pretty coarse canvas, I think I'm done. From the upper left, going clockwise, I painted a pork and shrimp steamed dumpling, a sweet sesame-flavored roll, a xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumpling), spinach-dough dumpling, an unusual tomato-filled dumpling and a leaf-wrapped rice flour roll with sweet bean filling.

In Shanghai, I watched a dumpling crew make the soup dumplings with astonishing speed. Each one is rolled out, filled with a meat filling that includes jellied broth, then closed up with an impossible number of pleats. The broth melts during steaming, making a little soup inside and accounting for the slightly saggy shape. I didn't paint the shreds of ginger or vinegar that usually go with these.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dim Sum-Day 2

© Ellen Blonder
I've changed some of the dumplings to balance colors and shapes better. Still needs a lot of work, though.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Telephone Doodle

© Ellen Blonder
December's much too busy. That must have been on my mind when I was on the phone today, although this woman doesn't seem terribly concerned about time.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dim Sum-Day 1

© Ellen Blonder
Part of the fun of China was eating different dim sum from what I've had at home. I'm just starting to work out a painting of some of them; it's pretty rough so far. I might change some of the dumplings. This canvas is 8 x 16 inches, and the dumplings are about twice their actual size.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Card for 2009

© Ellen Blonder
Here are the Surinam cherries (see November 26 post, below) laid out on what will be my 2009 Christmas card. I've layered black and white patterns that I had hand-drawn a while back, then colorized and layered them in Photoshop. The abstract background pattern is taken from a scan of peeling paint.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Vegetarian Thanksgiving

So what do you do for Thanksgiving when your family traditionally doesn't get together until Saturday, to allow family members to spend the day with other in-laws? Years ago, my side of the family bowed out of vying for Thursday, but it still feels like a day for a special meal, even though my in-law family has passed on. This year, I went vegetarian for the two of us (top photo, clockwise) with cauliflower gratin, chard timbales, chickpea-seitan cutlets with porcini mushroom gravy, and a relish made with apples, dried peaches, dried plums, and ginger. I also made a simple green salad with roasted red and yellow beets. We finished with an apple galette. Somehow, it felt Thanksgiving-y without a mashed potato, cranberry, turkey or pumpkin in sight.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Surinam Cherry-Final

© Ellen Blonder
It's hard to put something down for a month and add finishing touches. Here's the Surinam cherry painting I last posted October 19. I may turn this into my Christmas card, since we did find these in Kauai over winter.
By the way, I just found out about a great foodie dictionary and recipe resource, so if you want to find out more about Surinam cherries, check this out:
Surinam Cherry on Foodista

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Peony Leaves

© Ellen Blonder
The peony watercolor above is something I painted a few years back. But what I really wanted to share is how much more finely someone can take shading of peony leaves. The photo below shows part of an embroidered work I saw during my recent China trip. Not only are the silk threads almost as fine as hair, the work is embroidered on a translucent rectangle of silk that hangs in a free-standing frame; the piece has a "front" on either side--no messy knots or stray threads anywhere. I was told such a piece can take three years to embroider.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fall on the Sacred Way

photo © Ellen Blonder
I'm still trying to get back up to speed with the drawing and painting after returning from China. Meanwhile, I've been working on a personal album of photos from the trip. The photo for this page was taken alongside the Sacred Way to the Ming Tombs, a path that funerary processions took when an Emperor was to be buried.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


photo © Ellen Blonder
I didn't paint these. Children who were visiting the Beijing Zoo did. I love how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Thousands of these small, hand-painted pandas were arranged on an enclosed lawn. The results were stunning.
I was in China for two weeks, and have been working on a personal photo book since I've been home. This is one of the pages. We were at the zoo to see the real pandas.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chez Blonder

© Ellen Blonder
Inspired by old European liquor posters, I thought I'd play with creating a painting for my kitchen. This layout was as far as I ever got, but it seemed an appropriate item to post before my trip to China. See you here on my return.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Drawing Group Yesterday

© Ellen Blonder
My drawing group met yesterday, after over a month's hiatus. Here's a fifteen-minute sketch of the other four members: April, Barbara (twice), Abby, Georgia, Abby again. Places visited by group members since our last meeting include New York, London, Italy and Budapest; planned trips in the near future include Savannah, Peru and China. Hardest thing to do while we model for one another: not talking, especially after a long break. Yesterday's great music discovery while sketching: soundtrack from Tout les Matins du Monde.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Surinam Cherry-Day 3

© Ellen Blonder
Just had time to lay down some preliminary color for the cherries and start adding leaf detail.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Surinam Cherry-Day 2

© Ellen Blonder
I like the idea of painting this on a mid-tone neutral background; eventual highlights will have more of a chance to "pop." Meanwhile, I've been learning a few interesting facts about this plant. It's also called a Brazilian cherry or Pitanga, the fruit is rich in vitamin C, and the leaves, when stepped on, release an oil that repels flies. The seeds from the fruits contribute to a resinous flavor, so they should be removed. If the fruit is then put in a bowl with sugar, they become mild and sweet, and can be used in recipes calling for other types of berries. To read more than you'll ever need to know, check out this link.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Surinam Cherry-Day 1

© Ellen Blonder
When we were in Kauai two winters ago, I bought a bag of Surinam cherries at the farmers' market. The glisten like carved jewels, with their fluted shape, but had a somewhat disappointing, slightly bitter tang, more watery than the unrelated cherry most of us know.
A couple of days ago, I was at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, and stumbled across a Surinam cherry tree. They're as intriguing as I remembered. Far too humid in the glassed-in conservatory for me to stay long, I at least photographed the tree. I've sketched out a fruiting branch on a 9 x 9-inch board, to be painted in acylics.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Banded Cow Sketch

© Ellen Blonder
The banded cow that I photographed last week is actually a bit sleeker than in this sketch. The herd looked startling; in place of black and white patches, each member of the herd sported a wide white band between black front and hind quarters. I'm considering making a painting based on the photos I took.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

There but for...

I'm researching for a trip to China, and came across this site with the caption:
Art colleges entrance exam in Shangdong Province. The 8,000 candidates for art schools are gathered at a 20,000 square-meter size conference center to participate in the exam in Jinan-capital city of Shandong. (Feb. 5, 2009)

From other photos on the site, you can see that all of them are sketching a portrait--with mixed results. I've wondered how different it would have been to pursue art in China, and here was a stark example. I wonder what percentage made it; the site didn't explain.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

More Tulips-Final

© Ellen Blonder
Blending green and orange convincingly was as difficult as I feared. This took longer than painting both of the other tulips together. Below are all three tulips in the series.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More Tulips-Day 3

© Ellen Blonder
The red tulip is done, but the peachy one still needs a fair amount of work--blending, highlighting and shading.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Red Tulip-Day 2

© Ellen Blonder
This is one of the two tulips I'm working on, to go with the first 5 x 7-inch yellow tulip (see posts below). I'm still tweaking shadows and highlights and smoothing out color transitions.
This is my 100th post, by the way. Nothing like trying to keep up a blog to keep one painting.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Birthday Treats

Foodie break. Yesterday was a big birthday for my husband Nick, so I was in the kitchen rather than the studio. The farmers' market is bursting with fall vegetables, and we came home with kabocha squash (tip from a farmer: the dark green ones are sweetest), zucchini, red onion, Japanese eggplant and pimiento peppers.

I made an oil-based crust with finely chopped almonds in place of some of the flour.I sauteed the onion, but coated chunks of the other veggies in olive oil, sprinkled them with a bit of gray salt and oregano, roasted them separately, then tossed them together when cool with the kernels from an ear of sweet yellow corn. The crust dough is rolled out directly on a silicone sheet, veggies are mounded in the center, the edges of the dough brought up around the sides, and the whole tart slid onto a baking sheet. Because the vegetables are already cooked, about 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven is all that's needed to brown the crust.

I served it with a sauce from Veganomicon, meant to imitate a cheese sauce. While it didn't, it made the tart reminiscent of a good pot pie. The green on top is shredded basil and parsley.

We finished with a semolina-almond meal cake brushed with orange juice and cloaked in Valrhona chocolate.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

More Tulips-Day 1

© Ellen Blonder
I liked the results of the tulip study enough to want to paint two more on the same 5 x 7-inch size boards. The one on the left will eventually have a lot of green in its petals, and the one on the right will become mostly warm red with deep yellow edges.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tulip Study-Final

© Ellen Blonder
It's nice when, once in a while, things fall into place without a lot of fussing. I suppose that makes up for all the times painting is a struggle. Here's the study of a tulip I started yesterday and finished today.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tulip Study-Day 1

© Ellen Blonder
I photographed the tulips in the garden after a brief rain several springs ago, but I'm just now turning this one into a painting. It's just a small study, on a 5 x 7-inch board. The challenge will be to capture the light and shadow without turning the shadowy yellows into mud.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


© Ellen Blonder
I repainted the veins on the leaves truer to the spacing on the real leaves, and continued shading the pears. This post shows a slightly closer view. Now it's time to eat the still life.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pears-Day 4

© Ellen Blonder
I've been slowly shading and highlighting the pears, and have also added some details to the leaves. It amazes me how difficult it is to capture an almost smooth surface. All the pears have ripened and the leaves have dried out since I began this painting.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pears-Day 3

© Ellen Blonder
I've fixed the perspective a bit on the bowl, and still need th shade the interior more. I'm in the process of shading the pears; a challenge is that the paint dries darker than when wet, so what looks smooth when applied becomes blotchy as it dries. The leaves still need their veins painted in; I've made them greener than they are in a more dried out state.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pears-Day 2

© Ellen Blonder
Just filling in truer colors today. Getting the pears shaded is going to take a while. The bowl's perspective needs correcting, too.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pears-Day 1

© Ellen Blonder
My friend Janet shared her abundant pear harvest a couple of weeks ago. I put some in my favorite green bowl and photographed them before they ripened. I'm still exploring painting against a dark ground (see Rose in Bottle posts), so here's the first day's underpainting. I used to think detailed leaves would be much harder to paint than smooth open areas--like the surface of the pears or inside of the bowl--but the opposite is usually true. The painting is on a 16 x 16-inch sheet of masonite.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tulips from Years Ago

© Ellen Blonder
Sometimes it's nice to go back and trace where one's been in order to figure out where one's going. I've been interested in flower paintings for a long time; this was done in 1992. I painted this in gouache on bristol board; it's small, about 8 x 3 1/2 inches. It was meant for a line of enamelware teakettles and other kitchen accessories, but never got produced.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


© Ellen Blonder
I painted over the sky to even the tones, lightened the pavement, and added details to Wendy's hair, clothing and shoes. I also wanted to add some perspective cues without distracting from the dynamics between Wendy and Bear. I think I'll stop now, so as not to clutter this up any more.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reluctance-Painting Day 3

© Ellen Blonder
This doesn't look like much progress for a day's work. When I started painting Bear, I realized I hadn't gotten her stance right. Her legs needed to move farther forward so it's clearer she's holding her ground. I also needed to shorten her face and body; a lot of today's painting was painting over mistakes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Reluctance-Painting Day 2

© Ellen Blonder
With a long holiday weekend trip, this underpainting was as much as I managed to do in the last few days. I considered added foliage behind Wendy, but perhaps I should put it behind Bear to give the illusion that Wendy's pulling against even more resistance.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Reluctance-Painting Day 1

© Ellen Blonder
On August 28, I posted a sketch of my talented friend Wendy Slick and her dog Bear Lee, based on a photo I took along a recent walk. I liked the dynamics enough to turn it into a painting. Wendy is clever and resourceful in her documentary filmmaking, but she's no match for Bear when Bear doesn't want to go uphill.

The canvas is 16 x 20 inches.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Blue Sky Collaboration-My Day 4

© Ellen Blonder and Lisa Blonder Ohlenkamp
I'm probably done for now. I've added details to the newly-lightened bricks, sharpened some of the clouds in the sky.
Detail of the center of the painting is shown below. The painting doesn't feel quite finished, but I need to set it aside and think about what else it might need.

© Ellen Blonder and Lisa Blonder Ohlenkamp

Friday, September 4, 2009

Blue Sky Collaboration-My Day 3

© Ellen Blonder and Lisa Blonder Ohlenkamp
The scene is taking shape. I have to add the mortar between the bricks, details to the inside of the archway, and smooth the transition between the scene inside the arch and the sky below it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Blue Sky Collaboration-My Day 2

© Ellen Blonder and Lisa Blonder Ohlenkamp
I'm starting to paint in the brick wall and arch, but don't expect it to cover much more of the sky than it has on the left. I'm glad to have finally settled on a direction (see posts below). The archway view is something Lisa and I experienced together in Rome.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Blue Sky Collaboration-Four Possibilities

© Ellen Blonder
I don't know why it's so hard to figure out what to do with the Blue Sky Collaboration canvas (see multiple posts below), except that a blue sky invites possibilities. Upper left sketch is the view of a lone tree through an archway on the Palatine Hill in Rome. Upper right is a floating section of foothills (following the influence of yesterday's post). Lower left is an elegant double door, entry to a house in Rome. Lower right is the barn from my childhood. The double doors are too staid and blocklike, and the barn reminds me of The Wizard of Oz. I like the foothills, but I'm going to try the archway.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Blue Sky Collaboration-Possible Influence

© Ellen Blonder
I'm considering floating a mountain in the sky (see yesterday's post) of my current collaborative painting with my daughter Lisa. Contours of mountains and hills have fascinated me for a long time; evidence here is a 30 x 30-inch canvas I painted in my early 20s, not long after my first visit to Hawaii. I liked the way the four sections of mountains turned out, but the center of the painting has always bothered me. I may revisit this with my paints and a fresh perspective once the other painting is done.