Monday, August 31, 2009

Blue Sky Collaboration-My Day 1

© Ellen Blonder and Lisa Blonder Ohlenkamp
I finally decided to stop worrying and just throw some paint on Lisa's canvas (see explanation in August 27 post) . It feels very strange to add to someone else's artwork, even my own daughter's, and to change her original intent. Beyond trying to match colors and mood, I realized we have very different hands in applying paint. I did feel like I had to cover the white canvas before I could think further about what else to add. I'm debating on whether to carry on with Lisa's Magritte influence somehow.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Blue Sky Collaboration-Rejected Idea

© Ellen Blonder and Lisa Blonder Ohlenkamp
I had thought Lisa's sky (see August 27, 2009, post) would be the perfect background for a painting of the barn behind the house where I grew up. With flat farmland all around, the sky was always very big, and often dramatic.
Part of the allure of Photoshop is that one can make quick "sketches" to see if an idea will work. I dropped in a photo of the barn and added some quick color details and cloned clouds. It's not interesting enough for me. I'll have to think of something else.

Friday, August 28, 2009


© Ellen Blonder
Amazing how a dog will let you know when it doesn't want to go in the direction you want to take him. My friend Wendy and her dog Bear Lee were a perfect example. I sketched this from a photo I snapped on a recent walk. Maybe I'll turn it into a painting.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Blue Sky Collaboration

© Ellen Blonder and Lisa Blonder Ohlenkamp
My daughter Lisa started this 30 x 30-inch canvas, inspired by Rene Magritte's "An Empire of Light." She's moving to Toronto tomorrow, and isn't taking the canvas with her. We're turning this into a collaborative project. I won't take her up on such a difficult challenge as copying a Magritte, but I do love her sky so far, and will see what I can add.
We used to do collaborative drawings when Lisa was young, with each of us adding a few lines to a drawing each time we passed it back and forth. This will be a grown-up version.
By the way, Lisa's blog with her current work is at

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


© Ellen Blonder
Here's a sketch I did in my drawing group, of fellow artist and writer Abby Wasserman. She has wonderful angles to draw and big, expressive hands, although not as big as I drew them with only five minutes to sketch.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Alex in the Garden-Final

© Ellen Blonder
I've added details to the hydrangea flowers and put in some ferns in the upper right background. I've also touched up many of the leaves and added shadows and ground covers. I could go on forever, but I think I'd better stop before this gets even busier. With all the different plants, this painting required more work than I anticipated.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Alex in the Garden-Day 10

© Ellen Blonder
Alex got his fur back, and looks much more himself. I also filled in the society garlic flowers by Alex's hind foot and added details to the fallen leaves. Now I just have to finish noodling out the foliage, especially the hellebore on the upper right side.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Peach Pie Realized

I just played with the background of a photo my niece Christi sent me, of the peach pie she made from the recipe in my August 8, 2009, post. Triathlete that she is, she doesn't shy away from trying new things. She even used her creativity to add a lattice top crust. Yum, looks good, doesn't it? Now get into that kitchen before peach season is over--peaches are great now at the farmers' market.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Alex in the Garden-Day 8

© Ellen Blonder
I'm still slowly working on the foliage to the left while Alex waits for me to add some fur to his body.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Alex in the Garden-Day 7 Detail

© Ellen Blonder
Just getting back to painting some more, working out details in the heuchera and oak-leaved hydrangea before I add the flowers to the society garlic. Alex watches patiently.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Alex in the Garden-Day 6

© Ellen Blonder
I thought Alex should be painted with all his fur, even though it means more work. I'll have to overpaint his shorn self and continue to work on the facial fur. I've also just had time to paint a little more foliage detail since my last post.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Not So Long Ago

© Ellen Blonder
I'm taking a few days' break for a family reunion, but while I'm immersed in thoughts of time passing, I will leave you with this job I did back in the 80s, years before I had my first computer. These icons were used for a corporate annual report; I don't remember the company anymore. What strikes me is how easy it would be to do in Adobe Illustrator now. Back then, though, everything was hand-inked with the aid of a compass, templates and straight edges. Making the lines uniform around the computer keys or the boards on the house icon was a nightmare. A bit of wet ink running under a straight edge or a speck of dust catching on a pen point could ruin a line and force me to start over. I thought twice about caffeine if I was inking.

Enough codger talk. See you soon.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Alex in the Garden-Day 5

© Ellen Blonder
Progress is slow. The hydrangea flowers still need details, but I was eager to start painting other foliage in first. Alex went home yesterday, so it's nice to still have him in the painting.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Alex in the Garden-Day 4 Detail

© Ellen Blonder
Summer guests. Little time to paint or post, but here's the hydrangea in one corner of the painting of Alex in the garden. The leaves are just about finished, but the flowers just have an underpainting so far.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Alex in the Garden-Day 3

© Ellen Blonder
Alex is a Cairn terrier, but he's shorn for summer here. I may have to paint more of his fur back on before I'm done.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Alex in the Garden-Day 2

© Ellen Blonder
I put Alex amid plants that are really growing in the garden, although not in this arrangement. I like the contrasting textures and colors among the leaves and flowers that I chose: oak-leaf hydrangea, hydrangea macrophylla, society garlic, penstemon, heuchera and two kinds of hellebore. Alex goes home soon, so I've got to work on him more first. There's a long way to go on this painting.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Peach Pie

© Ellen Blonder
At our local farmers' markets, peaches are at their peak, smooth-textured and juicy with a perfect balance of tart and sweet. Time to get out the rolling pin.

These are more watercolors from the peach book that never happened. At least I learned to make a good pie; here's the recipe from my manuscript.

© Ellen Blonder

Yield: One 9-inch pie

My first pies with truly ripe peaches had problems: Much of the peaches’ wonderful extra juiciness leaked out early on, before the thickener kicked in, and the bottom pie shell turned soggy from so much moisture. I finally added a couple of simple extra steps. First, I drained the sweetened juice and cornstarch mixture from the prepared peaches and pre-cooked it until it thickened, then stirred it back into the fruit. Second, I baked the pie in a metal pie tin—not a glass pie plate—on the bottom rack of a very hot oven for the first 25 minutes before finishing it on the middle rack at a lower temperature. By paying attention to those small steps your pie should turn out both shatteringly crisp and wonderfully juicy.

1 recipe All-Butter Dough (recipe follows)

About 3/4 cup sugar, depending on sweetness of the peaches
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter, cut in 1/4-inch dice
2 teaspoons milk
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand 20 minutes to reach room temperature.
Mix the cornstarch and sugar in a large bowl. Add the peaches and lemon juice and mix gently with a wooden spoon or your hands. Let stand.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger disk of dough into a 12-inch circle. Fit the dough into a 9-inch metal pie tin, leaving the extra dough hanging over the edges. Refrigerate while rolling out the remaining disk on a lightly floured surface into an 11-inch circle. Let it rest.
Pour off the accumulated juice mixture from the peaches into a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat until bubbly, then reduce the heat to medium low and stir constantly about 4 minutes, until the mixture is thick and slightly translucent. Pour the mixture over the peaches and mix in gently with a wooden spoon.
Remove the pie tin from the refrigerator and pour the peaches into the bottom pie shell.
Brush the edge with some of the milk. Lay the other circle of dough over the top and press around the edge to seal. With kitchen shears, cut off the excess dough 1/2 inch past the edge. (I put the scraps in a pie tin and bake them about 25 minutes with the pie. They make a deliciously buttery—if misshapen—little treat with tea.)
Crimp the edge in a decorative pattern. Brush the top with the remaining milk, then sprinkle the top evenly with 2 tablespoons sugar. Cut several slits around the top for ventilation.
Place the pie on a thin metal baking sheet and bake on the bottom rack of the oven 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375°F, move the pie to the middle rack, and bake an additional 40 to 45 minutes, until the pie is golden brown. Transfer the pie to a rack to cool.

ALL-BUTTER DOUGH © Ellen Blonder
Yield: Enough for one 2-crust 9-inch pie

Butter or shortening? Shortening, with its higher melting temperature, is slightly sturdier and bit more forgiving, but the superior flavor of butter is hard to resist. If you prefer shortening, by all means substitute it—and seek out the no-transfat kind. In either case, handle the dough gently and it will not be tough.

2 cups all-purpose flour plus 1/2 cup cake flour (see note)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter (or cold shortening), cut in 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water

Note: Using part cake flour, which has less gluten, will make a slightly more tender crust, but you may use 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour instead.

Put the steel blade in a food processor. Measure the flours and salt into the container of the food processor and pulse two or three times to blend. Add the diced butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the water and pulse two or three times to blend. Do not overmix or the dough will be tough. It will be crumbly. Turn the dough onto a work surface and divide it in two portions, one slightly larger than the other. The larger portion will be used for the bottom pie shell. Press each portion into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and flatten it into a 6-inch disk.
Refrigerate the disks at least one hour, and up to 2 days. Let the disks come to room temperature about 20 minutes before rolling out.

Friday, August 7, 2009


© Ellen Blonder
This is a 4 x 6-inch gouche painting, part of a series I did when I was fascinated by Jacobean prints. It was intended for a note card, so I didn't have to work out an actual repeat pattern, but just give the impression that this might have been a section of a larger design. The series was never printed.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Alex in the Garden-Day 1

© Ellen Blonder
We're dog-sitting for about a week, so I think I'll paint Alex in the garden, although he was actually posing near my feet at the computer. It's hard to identify him as a Cairn terrier since he was shorn for the summer. He's impossibly cute and round; we've been told he has a much mellower disposition than many of his breed.

Lately, I prefer smooth surfaces to paint on, as opposed to canvas. This is a 16 x 16 sheet of masonite.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rose in Bottle-Final

© Ellen Blonder
Well, this doesn't resemble an old Dutch flower painting but I'm already in danger of overworking it and making it too muddy. I think I'm finished.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rose in a Bottle-Day 4

© Ellen Blonder
I spent most of yesterday afternoon adding details to the rosebuds and deeper shades to the large rose. I'll need to do more of that in the next couple of days.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rose in a Bottle-Day 3

© Ellen Blonder
I'm starting to add shading and detail to the flowers, and will still do more with the leaves. I'm not unhappy with the results so far, but it doesn't have that old flower painting look. I may need to go way darker.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rose in a Bottle-Day 2

© Ellen Blonder
I thought I'd work around the flowers first to establish surrounding darks. I do love how the smooth wood surface allows me to paint sharp details.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Rose in a Bottle-Day 1

© Ellen Blonder
I love old Dutch flower paintings--those realistic depictions of wild bouquets against dark backgrounds. I thought I'd see how much I could imitate that style on this 8 x 10-inch board.