Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ivory Dahlia

© Ellen Blonder
Last watercolor of the year. This is an ivory-colored dahlia from an Oregon friend's garden. I loved the flower's frilliness and graceful curled petals. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

More Monkeys

 © Ellen Blonder, © Steve Coleman
Here's a shot of the room I'm working in, filled with Steve Coleman's amazing art. The monkeys I'm painting are in the blue spaces at the top of the columns.
  © Ellen Blonder, © Steve Coleman
This is a close-up of the top of the column in the room shot.
  © Ellen Blonder, © Steve Coleman
Here's a better photo of the second guy.
 © Ellen Blonder, © Steve Coleman
And this is today's work.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Monkeys in Progress

 © Ellen Blonder, © Steve Coleman
I'm enjoying a collaborative treat, working with artist Steve Coleman on his anteroom interior at 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, California. He's working on covering every square inch of the theater in his over-the-top style. My small contribution is three monkey scenes on blue faux-insets. Above is my tissue sketch taped in place, ready to transfer to the board underneath.
  © Ellen Blonder, © Steve Coleman
Here is the finished first painting in place at the top of the wall.
 © Ellen Blonder, © Steve Coleman
The second painting is nearly done, but the light was fading and I was losing my edge. I'll add final touches tomorrow when I can look at this with fresh eyes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Red Dahlia

© Ellen Blonder
I've been painting mostly pastel-tinted dahlias, but they come in bright red, too. Here's another flower from the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden. I'm painting it the week before Christmas, so it looks like a summer flower dressed in winter colors.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

English Bulldog Skull

© Ellen Blonder

The skull exhibit has closed at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, but I photographed many of them for drawing reference. This was one of the most extreme of the dog skulls. The English Bulldog has a startling underbite and smashed in nasal cavity. I wondered how it eats, and it's easy to see why it must have trouble breathing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Satsumas Are Here

© Ellen Blonder

Satsumas are plentiful at the farmers' market, and they're sweet and wonderful. I had to do a quick watercolor of these, so pretty with all those leaves attached. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

White Dahlia

 © Ellen Blonder
© Ellen Blonder
When I think of dahlias, I usually visualize bright colors. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to paint one that was all white, where I couldn't rely on color gradations to define the layers of petals. My reference was another flower from the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Turkey - Final

© Ellen Blonder

The drawing's done, and I don't think I'll ever look at turkeys the same. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Turkey - Progressive Drawings

 © Ellen Blonder

In early October, I visited Johnston's Cranberry Marsh in Barrie, Ontario. Besides the cranberries, there was a pen of extraordinary-looking turkeys. I had hoped to get a drawing of one of them done before Thanksgiving was over today.

 © Ellen Blonder

I've been working on the drawing for a week, daunted by how complicated their heads and necks are. For how important turkeys are on this holiday, few people (including me) have probably ever truly looked at what strange beauty and dignity they have.

© Ellen Blonder

I underestimated how long it will take to finish the back of the turkey's neck, but here's today's progress. I'll have to finish it later, but now it's time to cook vegetarian Thanksgiving. After looking this guy in the eye all week, I'm glad I don't have his cousin in the oven.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Another Pink Dahlia

 © Ellen Blonder
 © Ellen Blonder
© Ellen Blonder
Here's another dahlia from the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden. The variations are endless. I liked the way the petals curved in all directions in this one. Like the other dahlia paintings, this is a watercolor, built up darker and darker over a week's time, catch as catch can.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Frilly Dahlia

 © Ellen Blonder
This dahlia was so complicated I hesitated to try to capture it. I had photographed it at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden last summer, and loved its frilly petals.

 © Ellen Blonder
I always seem to start too light, but going straight to darker tones feels wrong.

© Ellen Blonder
Here it is finished, after several days' work. I decided it was complex enough without adding leaves.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Pink and White Dahlia

 © Ellen Blonder
 © Ellen Blonder
© Ellen Blonder
The last few days, I've been working on this watercolor of a pink and white dahlia that I saw last year at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens at Fort Bragg, California. It was the height of the season for dahlias, so I took many photographs and hope to paint more.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Blasts from the Past - 2

These were under piles of other old artwork. I painted them on illustration board, using gouache and watercolor, and adding some final details with colored pencil. They illustrated an article on controlling pests in the garden in a 1983 issue of Home magazine.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Blasts from the Past - 1

 © Ellen Blonder
 © Ellen Blonder

Poor, neglected blog. I have been busy, though, spending over a month to finally dig through, purge and organize many years' worth of old art files. Sometimes you have to clear out what's behind you to see your way forward. 

One of the fun parts of all that was finding things I had forgotten I painted. These three spots were part of a presentation I made in 1994, for a line of stationery and other paper products. While I got the job, none of these spots were used. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pink and Yellow Dahlia - Start to Finish

 © Ellen Blonder
Last year, I photographed dahlias at the botanical garden in Fort Bragg, California. It has taken me this long to finally paint from those. 

  © Ellen Blonder
This flower seemed to glow from within, with delicate pinks layered over pale yellow on the inner parts of the petals.

 © Ellen Blonder
I've been working on this water color off and on over this last week. Time to stop fussing and getting to some of those other reference photos of these wildly varied flowers.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mauve Dahlia - Final

© Ellen Blonder
Since the last post, I've been adding more blacks mixed with the pink-mauve. I was planning to add a leaf or two, but decided I like this the way it is. Done.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mauve Dahlia - 2

© Ellen Blonder
It always feels like the first layer of basic color will be dark enough, but it never is once I start adding shadows. I'm slowly layering in darker shades.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mauve Dahlia - 1

© Ellen Blonder
Back from a drive into Oregon, where I saw this lovely dahlia. I'm starting a watercolor of it, and this is the first two days' progress.

© Ellen Blonder

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Small Cardinal Painting - Final

© Ellen Blonder
Done. I hope the fallen leaf gives a sense of scale to this little bird.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Small Cardinal Painting - 4

© Ellen Blonder
I spent yesterday and today adding leaf colors and details, and starting the dried grass at the cardinal's feet. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Small Cardinal Painting - 3

 © Ellen Blonder
 © Ellen Blonder
It's time to give the cardinal an environment. I worked it out on tissue paper, then transferred the results roughly onto the canvas through graphite paper.

I'm planning to add lighter dead grass in layers over the dark ground, and some delicate weeds I've been wanting to paint. I found the leaves in the background at the McBryde Garden in Kauai. They seem to be a kind of philodendron. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Small Cardinal Painting - 2

© Ellen Blonder
Oops, I realized the head on the cardinal was too small for the body. Now it feels more in correct proportions. I'm starting to think about what to put around it, rough as it still is.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Small Cardinal Painting - 1

© Ellen Blonder
This is the beginning of a small canvas, 8 x 10 inches, for a small bird, a Brazilian cardinal that came for a visit in Kauai. It looked at me warily as I took a few photos for reference, and my favorites were the head-on poses.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Apricot Galette

It's apricot season! Just picked these the evening before last, and they were begging to be baked into a galette, easier than I pie. 


The filling is about 3 cups of pitted, halved apricots mixed with about a half cup of sugar and a tablespoon or so of flour. Set this aside while preparing the crust.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

I adapt an old Betty Crocker oil-based recipe for the crust:

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
pinch salt
1/3 cup canola oil
3 Tbsp soy milk (or milk or ice water)

Mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Pour the oil and soy milk into the bowl, stir gently with a fork until incorporated, being careful not to overmix. 

Have a rimmed baking sheet on hand. I like to roll the dough out directly on a lightly floured silicone mat (Silpat or Matfer), but you can lightly flour a 12-inch length of foil or parchment paper. Transfer the dough from the bowl to the surface, pat gently into a loose ball, place a sheet of waxed paper or parchment over the dough, then roll into a rough circle about 12 inches in diameter. Remove the waxed paper. 

Arrange the apricots over the dough, leaving about 1 1/4 inches of margin all around. Dot the apricots with a bit of butter or vegan butter. Gently gather up the edge of the dough to fold over the outer inch or so of the filling. It's easier if you work with one hand under the mat or foil. 

Sprinkle the dough with about a teaspoon of sugar. Carefully slide the galette onto the baking sheet, mat/foil/parchment and all. 

Bake until the crust is golden and apricots are soft. The juice will probably overrun and may burn a bit outside the galette, but don't worry about it. 

Remove the galette from the oven. Where the juices have overrun, slide a spatula under the galette to loosen it before the juices cool and harden too much. Once the galette has cooled, you should be able to slide it off the mat onto a serving plate.

Yum. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Tulip Studies

I found a great bunch of tulips at the market last week. I may work them into an acrylic painting, but for now, I've photographed them, then painted some quick watercolor studies in my sketchbook. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Song Sparrow

I think this is a song sparrow. I spotted it at Sea Ranch, California, in May, perched on a yellow lupine. It posed for me while I fiddled with my new telephoto camera lens, and I was happy with the resulting reference photo. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

© Ellen Blonder
First nectarine from yesterday's farmers' market. I bought this one for its leaves. This is a watercolor in my sketchbook.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Cardinals - Sketches 1

© Ellen Blonder
I'm just now getting to sketching the delightful Brazilian cardinals that like to visit our lanai in Kauai, or hop about the beach and pathways near our place. I used my photographs for reference, while they posed obligingly and pecked at our breakfast breadcrumbs. I don't know what will work its way into a painting.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Lupine - 3 Final

It's starting to feel overworked, so I'm going to stop now.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Lupine - 2

© Ellen Blonder
I spent a little time laying in base colors, and now I'll keep shading them. The tricky part is keeping the petals delicate.