Friday, July 31, 2009

Mt. Tam-Final

© Ellen Blonder
Yesterday's post showed an experiment: a painting "done" in four hours. It took another full day of painting to actually get it done. It's a stylized view from my favorite spot in the garden.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Four-Hour Experiment

Last weekend, my hometown sponsored a four-hour painting contest. Thirty-five artists hauled their acrylic, oil, and watercolor paints, easels and canvases (including some very large ones) to the town plaza and set to work painting anything they could view from the plaza.

Since it takes me days or weeks to complete an acrylic painting, I wondered how it would feel to even attempt a painting in such a short time. Yesterday, I decided to find out. I set myself up in my favorite part of the garden with a 12 x 12-inch canvas board and my acrylics.

After the first hour, I had done this much. I thought I had plenty of time.:

After the second hour, I thought, "I have two whole hours to fill in the foreground.":

By the end of the third hour, panic was setting in.:

And by the end of four hours, this is as far as I got.:

© Ellen Blonder
Oh, well. I'll post this painting again when I've spent more time playing with it. Meanwhile, hats off to the artists I saw over the weekend--and they painted with hundreds of onlookers and myriad distractions.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


© Ellen Blonder
I resisted the temptation to fill in the lower right corner with a scene and decided this was finished--at least for now.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Drawing Group

© Ellen Blonder
I've been sketching with a small group for over two years. We spend about two hours, twice a month, taking turns posing for one another, then sharing our work over a brown bag lunch. This is a five-minute sketch of Barbara Myers, one of our members, who has been a painter and photographer all her life.

I've managed to avoid drawing people in most of my commercial work. It's still a challenge to get back to it many years later, even with all I've learned since college life drawing classes.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hibiscus-Day 6

© Ellen Blonder
I'm adding details to the leaves, and just starting to add shading and details to the flower. The real garden is competing for time lately.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Red Rose

© Ellen Blonder
I designed this rose into a greeting card that was never published. The watercolor was painted first, then the pencil drawing was done on an overlay. The drawing was to have been on the outside of the card, opening to the full-color version inside.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hibiscus-Day 5

© Ellen Blonder
I've been trying to get the growth pattern of the leaves down, playing with scale and overlaps to make it interesting, but this is a messy and dense plant. I wish I had taken more reference photos. Even the local nursery wasn't great help, since all their hibiscus varieties had more curled and serrated leaves.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hibiscus-Day 4

© Ellen Blonder
I'm still laying in rough color, adding tones to the flower and trying out a simple blue sky background. Next, I'll focus on making some sense of the tangle of leaves. I'll get back to the flower after that.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hibiscus-Day 3

© Ellen Blonder
I'm afraid all I had time to do yesterday was quickly lay in the underpainting for the foliage. I nixed the idea of a scene to the right--too gimmicky. I'll probably just fill in the lower right corner with some grassy greens.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hibiscus-Day 2

© Ellen Blonder
I'm just starting an acrylic study of a hibiscus. It's sketched on a 10 x 10-inch canvas, and I've laid out a quick underpainting in watercolor. I love the variety of colors and shapes of hibiscus, but I don't find the leaves or shape of the plant that interesting; because of that, I may put other plants or a distant scene on the right.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sketch from the Getty

copyright Ellen Blonder
A room at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles is set up with sculptures, paintings, and drawing materials and seating, and visitors are invited to sketch from any of them. A docent offers to stamp your finished drawing when you're done. Here's my pencil sketch of one of the sculptures, drawn over a 40-minute period yesterday.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


My daughter Lisa (blonderland) and her husband Sean (ohkamp) got into drawing the same thing with either hand, then either foot. Silly, but I had to try it, too. This shows one-minute efforts with the left, then right hand, and thirty-second drawings with the left, then right foot--about as long as my feet could hold a pencil.
Reminds me of a time I had a cast on my drawing hand, and a teacher wouldn't let me off the hook. She insisted that the brain controlled the hand and eye, but the results of our drawings may beg to differ.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Birthday Book

I need to take a week off from the blog to finish up a birthday book I'm compiling and designing for my mother's birthday. Today's post is a the earliest photograph I could find of her, taken in a studio in the Zhongshan area of China. She's the girl on the left.

See you in a week!

Friday, July 10, 2009


© Ellen Blonder
My husband Nick brought home this moth that he found in its death throes on the pavement at a gas station. This is my pencil sketch of it. I learned that it's a Cecropia Moth, found in the eastern United States. How it ended up in California is a mystery. Did it hitch a ride cross country? Anyone else see these out here? It's soft orange-y browns with just a touch of blue on its wingtip eyespots. This one has an impressive 5-inch wingspan.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Peach Crepes

© Ellen Blonder
And yet another watercolor from the peach book proposal. These are basic crepes filled with sweet, lemony ricotta, topped with sweetened sliced peaches. I put one on my favorite old Blue Willow plate--almost impossible to paint the details accurately, though.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Peach Sorbet

© Ellen Blonder
Yet another watercolor from the peach-book-that-never-happened. I loved how the peach sorbet looked in a Japanese lacquer bowl. The trick here was getting the sorbet to look icy.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


© Ellen Blonder
I finally added the groundcover plants after all the details on the leaves and spathes. The white flowers on the left actually grow attached to trees in the Allerton Garden in Kauai, but I took artistic license here.

Monday, July 6, 2009


© Ellen Blonder
Here's another card design that never got published. Viburnum--or snowball bush--is one of my favorite flowers--but it's difficult to paint with all those individual flowers in each "snowball."

This is acrylic painted on canvas paper, measuring about 10 x 7 inches. If the layout looks odd, it's because it's meant to be folded in the middle, with text added to the front and back.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


© Ellen Blonder
I'm continuing to add details to the foliage--a slow process. I'm also starting to think about what to add to the ground.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


© Ellen Blonder
Not every greeting card design I do gets published. Here's one I always liked that didn't get used. It's painted on canvas paper, about 5 x 7 inches. I usually paint much tighter than this, so it was fun to loosen up and finish this in less than a day. I put gold paint on some rubber stamps to stamp the text.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Anthurium-Day 8

© Ellen Blonder
Painting along, detail by detail, hoping to make progress over the holiday weekend.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Apple Sketch

Late post today, no time to paint. Here's a sketch I did a while back of apples from our mystery tree. I've never seen this variety in a store or found a description in a book that matched how they look and taste; the tree was already old when we bought the property. It was also ailing, so I held my breath and gave it a severe pruning that winter, figuring I would either kill it or do it a great favor. It has rewarded us every year since with a crop that makes great pies and applesauce.

By the way, I find the best way to make applesauce is to core, but not peel the fruit before slowly simmering a potful (with a tiny amount of water to keep them from scorching before they break down). Stir occasionally. Once they've turned into mush, run them through a food mill to remove the peels. The peels add both flavor and color--the applesauce from this tree becomes a lovely shade of pink.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Anthurium-Day 6

© Ellen Blonder
Getting the leaves and spathes right is going to take a while. I do marvel at the fantastic variety of colors and shapes in this plant as I paint, but it's a hard thing to capture with opaque acrylics.