Saturday, December 25, 2010

Something Red and Green

© Ellen Blonder
MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE. Here's something red and green from India--doors in Jaipur, more specifically.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

India-Ganesha Large and Small

© Ellen Blonder
Ganesha is everywhere and in every size, from the gigantic painting on a cement wall to a tiny icon over a doorway in Varanasi.

Monday, December 20, 2010


© Ellen Blonder
Even when ornament is weathered or absent, textures and patterns are around every corner in Varanasi.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

India-Art Everywhere

© Ellen Blonder
Art abounds in India. In Varanasi, that includes the painted doorway along a random alley, and the extraordinary painting around the door to our bathroom at the Ganges View Hotel.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

India-Serenity Anywhere

© Ellen Blonder
I haven't posted lately because I was in India for the first time. Here are a couple of photographs I took in Varanasi. The first is of a boat on the Ganges, the second is of a woman texting from her narrow perch on a bicycle rickshaw. She possesses the serenity of the people on the boat, even though she's bouncing through a sea of wild, heavy traffic.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Persimmon Revisited-Final

 © Ellen Blonder
Finished. The actual fruit is still hanging on the branch, but by today many of the leaves have fallen.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Persimmon Revisited-Day 3

© Ellen Blonder
Slowly adding color to the leaves over this holiday weekend.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Persimmon Revisited-Day 2

© Ellen Blonder
Just had time to work on the persimmon fruit today. Since the windstorm a couple of days ago tore off many of the leaves, so I'm glad I took reference photos.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Persimmon Revisited-Day 1

© Ellen Blonder
I'm revisiting the persimmon in a second watercolor. This will show leaves in stages of turning rich yellows, oranges and reds, different from my painting from a couple of weeks ago when the leaves were all still green. Many of the actual leaves blew off the tree in today's heavy windstorm, scattering brilliant color all over the garden.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Persimmon Leaves

I don't normally post photos instead of paintings, but I had to share the fleeting glory of the persimmon tree. It's raining now, and the leaves are falling fast, but for the last few days, it has been magnificent.

Friday, November 19, 2010


I have mixed feelings about collage as an art form, because it feels like taking credit that rightly belongs to the original photographer or artist. Still, my friend Rona gathered some friends today to play with it, and it was a fun exercise. I clipped and arranged  over a dozen images from catalogs and magazines, then scanned and cleaned up the cut edges in Photoshop and added some type and cloned areas.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Unwelcome Guest

© Ellen Blonder
When cleaning out my mug one morning at a beachside motel, I discovered this cockroach in the remains of my tea. How had it gotten there? Had I carried him in my thermos, and had I been drinking cockroach tea all along? Or had it crawled into the mug in the middle of the night? 

When I got over my horror, I photographed it, and have finally sketched it. It's no small creature; counting its antennae, it curled halfway around the inside curve of the mug.

Friday, November 12, 2010

First Persimmon-Final

© Ellen Blonder
The painting's done. Now to wait for the real persimmon to ripen enough to pick.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

First Persimmon-Day 3

© Ellen Blonder
Starting to noodle in the details on the leaves. I thought I'd better paint in the persimmon first so I could get the contrast right. The fruit and leaves on the real tree are changing daily as I paint.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

First Persimmon-Day 2

© Ellen Blonder
I'm just beginning to lay in some color. After painting so much in acrylics lately, it's a challenge to remember stray brush marks can't be painted over with watercolors.

First Persimmon-Day 1

© Ellen Blonder
I planted a persimmon tree four years ago, and even moved it once because I didn't think it was getting enough sun. While it has become a handsome young tree, it has never borne fruit. I only discovered the first fruit this fall when it began to turn orange against the green leaves. Here, I've drawn pencil outlines on an 8 x 10-inch sheet of watercolor paper; the lines are actually much lighter than then appear here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Another Loaf

The fun bread experiments continue. I'm still following the Mark Bittman-Jim Lahey instructions, but instead of flipping the risen dough into the dutch oven, I put parchment under the dough and lift it into the pot by the paper's edges. This way, I can also slash the top of the loaf before the rise. Almost as fun as eating the bread is listening to the crust crackle as it cools. I also follow some of the modifications, adding a few drops of vinegar and using very hot water, but still let the dough rise at least 12 hours.

Friday, November 5, 2010


© Ellen Blonder
While I haven't been working on new paintings lately, I have been prepping past work to sell as giclee prints. This watercolor seemed appropriate for my first November post. Happy Fall.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Magic Bread

I'm late to jump on the bandwagon, but the no-knead bread experiment led to finding a 2006 YouTube video with Mark Bittman of the New York Times, watching baker Jim Lahey bake beautiful no-knead bread in a cast iron dutch oven. A follow-up video details minor improvements. Here I've substituted one cup of whole wheat flour for white, but otherwise followed the improved version. All it contains is flour, salt, yeast, water and a few drops of vinegar. Wow. Incredibly easy, and it may just be the best yeasted whole wheat bread I've ever made.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Different Kind of Pizza

My friend Jeri introduced me to a book, Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day. The very wet yeasted dough isn't kneaded, and it can be stored in the refrigerator for over a week to be shaped and baked as needed. Yesterday, I used the last of the master dough recipe for pizza, too impatient to make their olive oil pizza dough variation. It will be fun to continue experimenting, but a first attempt provided a wildly puffy result.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Christmas in September

© Ellen Blonder
One of the weird things about designing holiday greeting cards is that you're always doing them out of season. So here's my upcoming Christmas card preview, finished in a September heat wave. The poinsettia was posted in progress earlier this year, but for Christmas, a brown background didn't seem right. I've silhouetted the flower against layers of text and a repeat pattern that I drew. The red area, when folded, will be the card back.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It All Adds Up

I've been distracted from posting lately, but I realized all these posts add up. To see all posted art, click on the Ganesha above.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tulips-Reaching into the Archives

© Ellen Blonder
Reaching back into my old art, I've used Photoshop to change the color story and touch things up. I had never been quite happy with the original gouache color combination, but pre-Photoshop changes would have meant either completely repainting it or overpainting existing color. A further complication is that colors never dry the shade that they are wet. I still like the hand-painted texture of the original, though. Dead flat colors wouldn't look the same.

Below is the design when worked into a repeat pattern. The design, intended for fabric or gift wrap, was never used, by the way.

© Ellen Blonder

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Short vs Long Poses

© Ellen Blonder
In yesterday's drawing session, we worked with a model who paused intermittently for a few seconds of stillness(sketches on left) in otherwise constant motion. It made the four-minute poses (sketches on right) feel luxuriously long. Unfortunately, the extra time also makes it way too tempting to tighten up.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

What I Did on My Summer Vacation-Day 5

Best. Pizza. Ever. We found this at Serious Pie in Seattle; it's part of Tom Douglas' restaurant empire in that city. At 3:30 in the afternoon, the place was packed. This is the gold standard, with a light but chewy crust and delectable choices. My order was topped with chanterelle mushrooms and truffle cheese. Perfect!

We were tipped off to this place on Day 4 of our vacation by a chance seating at a Portland wedding next to Blaine and Cheri Walker, owners of the 42nd Street Cafe
, tucked away in the southwest corner of Washington state. We regretted we didn't have time to detour there, too.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What I Did on My Summer Vacation-Day 2

© Ellen Blonder
On a driving trip north, my husband and I stopped in on my old boss, who lives in rural northern California, almost to the Oregon border. The sketch shows a working outhouse between the apple trees, but the toilet in front of it is just for decoration. It'll be planted with flowers.

© Ellen Blonder
We continued on to lunch at Culture Works in Ashland, Oregon. The veggie panini served on a crusty ciabatta roll burst with garden freshness. Attention to organic ingredients showed in this vegetarian restaurant/performance space. I wish we could have stayed for dinner.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Life Drawing This Week

© Ellen Blonder
My daughter Lisa was home for a few days, and we spent one morning at a drawing session. The model completed 61 poses in a three-hour period, with most poses lasting one to four minutes. Here are a couple of four-minute poses. See Lisa's on her blog.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


© Ellen Blonder

Friday, July 30, 2010

Parrot-Day 6

© Ellen Blonder
The foliage needed to be brightened, so most of it has been overpainted. The shell ginger flowers still need work.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Parrot-Days 4 and 5

© Ellen Blonder
I've been working on the feathers before I finish out the foliage.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Parrot-Day 3

© Ellen Blonder
Adding detail to foliage catch as catch can lately.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Parrot-Day 2

© Ellen Blonder
Just laid in washes today so I could see how the parrot will look against all that green.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Parrot-Day 1

© Ellen Blonder
This doesn't show up very well, but I'm sketching a parrot on a 12 x 24-inch canvas board. The parrot was photographed by a friend on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. I'm taking it out of its urban setting in favor of tropical shell ginger.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Life Drawing

© Ellen Blonder

© Ellen Blonder
The drawing at the top is a ten-minute sketch that I did months ago; the one at the bottom is a five-minute sketch of a different model from two weeks ago. I just discovered a drawing group nearby, where no pose lasts longer than seven minutes and most are one to five minutes. It feels like an all-out sprint to draw that fast, and a session is three hours long. It's a workout--and I feel out of shape.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Another Rooster-Final

© Ellen Blonder

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Foodie Break

Cooked for a party last night: triangles of smoky tempeh with nectarines and basil before I added a dab of chipotle dressing; grilled veggies (summer squash, radicchio, eggplant, red peppers and zucchini; non-dairy cashew "cheese" on broken rosemary crackers with sundried tomatoes and chives; and peach-blueberry galette. Fun to apply abstract shape and play with colors of different food.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Another Rooster-Day 10

© Ellen Blonder
Working on grasses in the foreground; they'll need work to bring out highlights and shadows. I also added some red-leaved plants to break up all that green.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Another Rooster-Days 8 and 9

© Ellen Blonder
I've been painting catch-as-catch-can lately, slowly filling in the upper left area. One of my reference photos shows a tree trunk blotchy with lichen and criscrossed with wiry vines, and figuring out how to paint the texture was a fun challenge. I still need to add details to the hanging leaves and the left foreground.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Another Rooster-Day 7 Detail

© Ellen Blonder
Over the holiday weekend I finished the rooster's feathers after painting in some background behind his tail.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Another Rooster-Day 6 Detail

© Ellen Blonder
The spider lily is such a complicated flower, even though I've simplified and stylized it somewhat. I think I can finally move on to another part of the painting.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Another Rooster-Day 5

© Ellen Blonder
Slow progress on the feathers, especially on the neck. A little more detail on the spider lily in the front right corner.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Another Rooster-Day 4 Detail

© Ellen Blonder
I like how the clock vine (Thunbergia mysorensis) flowers have similar colors to the rooster's head. This plant, native to Mysore, India, was growing at Kauai's Hindu Monastery.