Friday, May 27, 2016


After I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1974 I went into my third floor and spent a lot of time thinking about how I was going to go about making colors do what musical notes do so well. 

Nancy Herman
8" x 6"

I decided to see if I could somehow “translate” music to color and see if the colors made any sense to me.  Were the results beautiful or not basically.  I had already constructed my keyboard.  I placed red in the C position because red and green are in the middle of the spectrum in terms of how light they are.  My choice of red over green was arbitrary, but years later I read that Sir Isaak Newton also associated red with middle C, so at least I was in good company.  As we will see later on it is more important that the colors are tuned in a slow progression from dark to light than that any one color is in the position of C.

      Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 3.45.43 PM.png

Notice how red and green are about the same tone or shade.  (These terms apply to the amount of light a color reflects)  Yellow has a lot of light and purple keeps its light to itself.


to be continued....

Please pass along to anyone you think may be interested.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


So you can get an idea of how one color changes another, here is an exercise from the Josef Albers course THE INTERACTION OF COLOR. The two small squares are exactly the same color.  The background color changes our perception of them.   The one on the left seems darker than the one on the right and the one on the right also seems to have more of a yellow tint.

tomorrow...getting started in the attic.

Please pass this along to anyone you think might be interested.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Although there was never a time in my life that I was not making some form of art, after my four children were off at school, I decided to go back to college to get my degree and see what I could see that would inform my work.

At that time at the University of Pennsylvania they taught Josef Alber's course the interaction of color.  Neil Welliver, then the head of the department of Fine Arts went to Yale where Albers taught.  As a result the thrust of the department was a combination of the Bauhaus courses of Albers and painting outside from nature.  Welliver painted outside in Maine.  My instructor in painting was Rackstraw Downs who paints very large panoramic views of New York while sitting on the street.  I have been painting nature and examining color ever since.

In the Alber's course it is necessary to see the way one color changes another when they are juxtaposed in order to complete various exercises.  It is really the only class in art I have ever taken that taught something that is not subjective.  You see it or you don't,  but it really does happen.

This changing color felt like music to me.  Could there be a way to present colors in a sequence that would move the emotions the way music does?

Gould's Hill
Neil Welliver

80th Street and Broadway
Rackstraw Downs be continued

Please share with anyone you think might be interested.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Color of Music

People have asked me how I arrived at my ideas about color and music and what inspired me to spend so much time on this project.  So I here we go.  A lot of this material is covered in my book IF C IS RED, with many illustrations, but this is a more personal story.

My mother was the youngest of three sisters.  The oldest played the organ and painted, the second had a beautiful singing voice and painted.   My mother, although she played the piano and sang, never felt she measured up to her older sisters.  She had two unhappy marriages, and although she finally married someone who was just right for her, most of my time growing up was spent trying to cheer her up.  She was thrilled that I showed some talent at painting.  I was pretty much a failure at playing the piano however.  Is it any wonder then that I ended up trying to make art out of music?  This was certainly not a conscious decision but it does seem like a probable underlying motive.

I love music and really had a strong longing to make color sing in the same way that music makes sound sing. The more I thought about this, the more it seemed to me that if color were arranged in the same way that notes are, that might be possible.  So I began by constructing a color keyboard.

to be continued.....

share this with anyone you think might be interested please.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Brooklyn Building #2

Nancy Herman
9" x 12"

Everything dissolves into itself on a foggy day in Park Slope.

At auction on DailyPaintworks

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Nancy Herman
9" x 12"

While cleaning out my studio I found a small treasure trove of water colors of street scenes of New York. I was surprised at how spritely they were.  When I get back to painting I am going to try water colors again.

This one is on auction at Daily Paintworks. Here is a link to my gallery there.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


I am starting to sell paintings on various websites.  Here is a promo from Ugallery an Amazon affiliate.  When I attached this picture to the site I didn't realize it included the martini as it shows up very small when you choose it from your files.  I guess it is ok to be seen drinking a martini.  I am after all not always painting. See what you think.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Yesterday was such a beautiful day I finally got outside and began weeding and planting.  While I was scooting along in my weeding chair/cart I noticed a small frog moving along with me.  He or she accompanied me all along the row.  Maybe I was stirring up some tasty worms or bugs, I don't know, but it was a pleasure to have his or her company.
Later in the day I walked to the post office through Merion park where spring is in full swing.  The new Redbuds are blooming as a greeting at the entrance.

As I was walking along the path by the creek I heard what sounded a lot like the mating call of an American Toad, the very creature I had earlier spent time with.

 What do you think is this a toad call and response?

Monday, April 18, 2016


I have been saving this wall hanging for a while because I really love it, but since I will soon be moving I am offering it for sale on eBay.  It is made of thin strips of unfinished satin, silk and cotton, woven together.  The loose threads further knit the colors together.  It is a fragile but lovely piece.  I will try to get a better picture of it on this sunny day.
Here is the eBay link

Joanna's Garden

Joanna's Garden
Nancy Herman
20" x 20"
oil on stretched canvas

Here is another painting I have been saving that has to go.  It was done several years ago in the beautiful gardens of Joanna Reed, who until a year before she died at 85 could be found working in her garden at almost any time of the day. She gardened for more than 60 years at Longview Farm, creating what many considered a living work of art.

  bid on eBay

postcards from Brooklyn

Since I have two children with families living in Brooklyn I often am inspired by the shapes and colors I find there to paint.  As a result I have just published another book in what seems to be developing into a series of Postcard books.  This one has lots of images and musings from Brooklyn and has just hit the news stands.  It is available from Amazon for only $15.00.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Song #15 Weeping Cherry at Dusk

The weeping Cherry I planted in memory of my mother, as it usually blooms on April 15th, her birthday, looks like it may be in its last year.  It is a grafted tree and the graft is oozing a lot and there do not seem to be any leaves forming after the blooms.  It bloomed quite a bit early this year so it will be the first year it has not bloomed on her birthday.  These are all bad signs.  I have painted it repeatedly and rarely gotten it just right.  Here is one more stab at it with a cheery song to lift the sad story.  It is very dark so if you want to see it best view it large by clicking on the button in the far right corner of the screen.

Here is a photo of  the tree at dusk.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Nancy Herman
8" x 10"
gicee print
(signed limited edition print on archival paper with archival ink)

In my ongoing attempt to bring art into the world at reasonable prices I offer this
print.  I created it with the software Procreate.  It has been sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks and it always makes me smile.  Here is the video of me "painting" it in case you forget.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Chanticleer Aloes

Nancy Herman
20" x 20"
oil on canvas

Today's painting was done in Plein Air at the beautiful gardens of Chanticleer in Wayne.  I have been saving it for a while but along with some of my other favorites it has to go to make room for new life.

Here is a link ( I hope) to the eBay auction.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Song #14 - Gridlock

Hi I am busy with spring cleaning but had to take time out to try another song.  Here it is Song #14, GRIDLOCK.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Spring is beginning to happen again.  It is still a bit cold and grey but the crocuses are up!
Shall I paint them again? And if so will I be able to do as well?  How will I have changed?
Here are some images from years past.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

color and music

This week I heard Mahler’s Symphony of a thousand at the Kimmel Center with Yanick Nezet Sequin conducting.
It was a wonderful performance balletically conducted by Sequin.  But even before it began the whole scene was beautiful to look at with the combination of red wood tones, the black and white of all the performer's formal wear and the huge glorious organ at the back of the stage.

 As the oboist hit the perfect A440 the concert master tuned his strings accordingly and all the players tuned their instruments, I once again wished that there was a tuned instrument that allowed me to play colors in time and that others would have tuned instruments with various textures to play along with me.  How glorious it would be.
We take for granted that musical instruments are tuned to a finite set of tones and because of this music can be written down and performed by anyone. This makes possible great symphonies with multiple instruments producing magnificent sound.

It could be the same with color if only someone would design an instrument to play a tuned set of colors in real time to get the ball rolling.

Pass this along to a techy friend or two.  Times awastin!

Here are a couple of examples of what it might look like for one instrument to play colors.

or maybe like this

or even this

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


Nancy Herman
9" x 12"
oil on gesso board

Will these two young men grow old together waiting for an opportunity to escape this corner?

This painting is for sale on ebay.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Nancy Herman's February Newsletter

Winter finally arrived this month and even though I hate the cold I was glad to see that things were back to “normal” for the sake of nature.  Plenty of art to see and a small contingent of our art lover’s group did manage to see several exhibits at Woodmere Art Museum.  We were fortunate indeed to have a private tour led by museum director Bill Valerio.  Bill has really created a kind of heaven for Philadelphia artists and art lovers as Woodmere produces one interesting show after another using the art of predominantly local artists.

The glorious show of Eileen Goodman’s water colors really took my breath away.  If you have ever struggled to control water color media you have to be in awe of these large carefully managed pieces.  I could not help but wonder why one of these beauties was not included in the still life show at PMA.  These paintings should be seen in person as the delicacy and scale of the work is amazing.  The show is there until March 13th.

Eileen Goodman

Eileen Goodman

Next we moved on to the large show in the grand rotunda space LOOK BOTH WAYS : ART AT THE CROSSROADS OF ABSTRACTION AND REPRESENTATION

This is an interesting conceit.  Is it the abstract qualities of a painting or sculpture that make it memorable?  Does the reference to “reality” disqualify a piece of art from being a strong abstract composition?  These are a couple of the questions that come to mind when looking at this selection of art.

In Bruce Pollock’s work FRUITFUL DARKNESS he has created a form that seems quite organic using abstract elements, yet it has nothing to do with the representation of any living plant.

Bruce Pollock
oil on canvas (inset)

This book made out of cut out paper and paint certainly has references to reality but the references are not what makes it arresting.  It is the juxtaposition of the paint and the paper and the choice of color, all abstract elements.

Bettina Nelson

This handsome painting definitely represents an easel but the painting is really about orange and blue.  I was  surprised to note that the blue and orange never directly touched, which would certainly have set off a strong vibration.  There is a margin of three or four colors carefully laid down between these two colors at the opposite end of the color wheel.  Very interesting and quite effective.

Joshua Marsh

This painting by Stuart Shils is one of the most representational works in the show, but like all of Shils work it is very loose and painterly.   Shils often creates paintings that are completely abstract with no obvious connection to representation and here there is a strong sense of composition, but the sky is up and the buildings are down and it is definitely a street scene.  The ability to keep a feeling for paint, an eye to the reality of what you are seeing and a strong composition is a skill that very few possess.  It is a juggling act well caught by Shils.  The buildings dissolve into paint and make the city seem mysteriously beautiful.  No graffiti on these walls.

Stuart Shils
oil on linen

I recommend both of these shows.  One for its simple beauty and the other to stir the grey matter.

Earlier in the month I visited my good friend Eleanor Schimmel’s show at Rosemont College’s Lawrence Gallery.  It is a beautiful show of her encaustic paintings.  In this group of work she lays down many layers of color and then digs into the surface to expose the layers.  Her surfaces are rich and voluptuous and the colors, partly because of the waxy texture, really sing.  There are occasional sprinkles of glitter on some of the paintings adding little fragments of colored light.  Here is a close up of one small painting.  You can see here the amazing variety of subtle color created by the combination of paint, wax and glitter. These paintings should be seen in person to appreciate their complexity.  The show is up until March 4th.

fragment from
10” x 10”

Another good friend, Alan Soffer is showing his work in West Chester at the Church Gallery.
I have not seen the show yet and it is over in 1 day so I had better hustle (you too).  It looks luscious.

If you got this far - thanks for tuning in.  While writing this newsletter I realized I have been experimenting all month with some of these ideas about abstraction and representation while creating ‘songs’ as I learn how to use the app Procreate on my iPad.  This software for the iPad allows you to “paint” using your finger or a stylus.  For me the interesting thing about it is that it records what you are doing and you can then play it back.  It plays back very quickly so the whole process takes a few seconds to view.  It is something like creating jazz with color, except of course it is not in real time.  The challenge is to make each mark matter.  The image you end up with is no more significant than any one second of the video.  I have set these experiments to music which is really the fun part.  This is a link to song #1   There are 10 songs and they follow each other if you stay on youtube.  See what you think about the difference between the abstract and the representational songs.  As you probably know if you have followed my work this is the latest series of pieces about music and color.  This time the color comes first!
Let me know what you think.  Talk next month. 


Friday, February 26, 2016


Nancy Herman
oil on gesso panel
9" x 12"

It takes courage to go to school past your buddies who have dropped out and through a disintegrating neighborhood.  This is a kind of courage not rewarded with medals.  If only those who could finance schools had that kind of courage, the trip would be more worthwhile.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

City Summer #2

Nancy Herman
Oil on Gesso Panel
12" x 9"

Today's version of City Summer is how I imagine it feels to be caught in a small deteriorating house in a dirty, crowded city, in the middle of a hot day.  


Monday, February 15, 2016

City Summer

Google maps provide a very interesting glimpse of the world.  You can sit in front of your computer wherever you are and cruise along streets far away or around the corner.  These scenes are not happening in real time but were taken presumably by a car with a camera but it could as easily be a drone.  They are videos frozen in time.  The people will always be caught mid step where they are.  The buildings will always be standing on that street corner.  We have been capturing things forever as humans from the time man carved an image in a shell 540,000  years ago.  But Google maps is a new wrinkle.  You can go almost anywhere in the world where there is a public road and ride down it in the comfort of your home.  This is a strange and wonderful thing.
I am looking for scenes of Philadelphia for a project.  I am really not going to go out with my paint and easel or even my camera to the wilds of the city in this weather.
What to do?  In the comfort of my studio I cruise the streets.  I came across this scene in North Philadelphia that says something to me about living in the city in the summer. I not only was able to find what I was looking for but it was nice and warm there.

Nancy Herman
12" x 9"
oil on hard board


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Song #10

Here is the last song for a while as I am back to painting.
Song #10.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Song #9

I was going to try an abstract song yesterday but I got a bunch of flowers that called out to be painted so I could not resist their call.
I worked on them three times.  The first pretty much the way I would approach any painting.  The second paying more attention to each stroke of the stylus and the third drawing with white first to see how that would go.
SONG # 9

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Song #8

Yesterday I made two versions of the original Barnes Foundation which I glimpsed through the gate on my walk.  As you can see I have gotten away from trying to create colors in time...but not for long.  In the second piece I tried to make each stroke interesting as I might in the abstract colors in time.  This is harder to do when you have a preconceived image in mind.  Today I will go back to looking for a pattern in time in color alone.
Song #8

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Song #7

Today's "song" is just plain corny.  When I got up yesterday morning and looked out the window the whole sky was lit up as the sun came into view and the reflections on the snow were spectacular.  You've seen this kind of scene portrayed ad nauseum but I decided to do it anyway.  You don't hear people talking about stuff that is "corny" much anymore but here is the definition and derivation in case you are interested.
  I find that simply starting out with nothing in mind and working away at trying to create something is much more fun than having something in mind and going for it.  There is the joy of figuring out how to do what you have in mind but not the same kind of excitement or spontaneity as reacting on a moment to moment basis to what is happening.  This one was planned...but not too well as I didn't use layers as well as I could have. I may do it again with better planning.
Here it is SONG #7.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Here is Song #6 in my attempt to make a song a day in Procreate as I find out all the things I can do.  Here I tried the water color brush.

Song #6

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Blizzard Fun

"Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow"

Since I have no children at home to build a snowman I decided to go back to my own childhood when I would spend hours making pictures of kids having fun with my trusty box of Crayolas.
I used the crayon brush in Procreate which is a little heavy handed but still had lots of fun with this one. I will try again tomorrow. Music is by Kevin MacLeod.

Blizzard 2016

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Song # 5

Time for a little Gershwin, I got Rhythm!  I am finding that by repeating actions I can create visual rhythm that connects with the music even though the actions are created completely separate from the music and the music is added after the fact. what do you think?

Song #5

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Song #4

Today's song is a pattern of sorts.  I thought I would find some indian drumming to go along with it but was unable to come up with any free drumming.   I did find this piece that definitely got the feeling for me.  Hope you like it.

Song #4

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


1. Song #3
2. Direct translation of music to color

Yesterday I neglected to say that the second piece, (Direct translations of music to color) because it is really formed by music, has a distinct rhythm and color scheme.  The first piece is more like dance. It moves in time to the music vaguely but does not have a rhymic structure of its own.
I have for many years been attempting to find a way to have colors move in time and move the emotions in the way music does.  So for me these distinctions are very important.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

song #3

Continuing my song a day, here is yesterday's stab at some sort or colors ordered in time.  There are lots of problems with this idea.  First it is impossible to control the timing of anything.  Spaces are not recorded, so if you put down a mark it is recorded and it doesn't matter how long it takes you to make the mark is still rushes on willy nilly.  Second everything is cumulative so there is a lot on top of other stuff.  These are just problems that can be solved probably.  Is it worth it?  We'll see.  Here are two versions of the same piece of music.  Dilebes' Flower Duet from Lacme.  The first is the Procreate version and the second is my translation of music to color animated in Flash.  If my Flash program were still working I would go back to using that.  When I got a new computer it went kaput.  That is also a problem that can be solved probably.  It's one on my list.

1. Song #3
2. Direct translation of music to color

For more color music translations type in my name in youtube and you will get my channel.   Lots more to see there if you are interested.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Song #2

In the spirit of a painting a day I'm going to post my Procreate paintings in time each day. They are stabs in the dark as I cannot control the timing at all and barely know how to use the brushes but it should get better as time goes on.
Here is song #2.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Song #1

I just got a new app for my iPad.  I thought I might like to try to create a still life for today.  While playing with lots of the options I found that it automatically recorded what I was doing and I could play it back.  Now this opens up a whole other realm of possibilities.  Here is one of my first attempts to create something that is unique to this new media option.  (Actually I have no idea what anyone else is doing with this app but it is certainly new for me)  I'll check into that and let you know.  I added the music by going through my iTunes library and looking for something sprightly that was about the length of the piece.  I don't think this is a way to make unique still lifes but it may be a way to create some color in time that is fun to watch.
Here is a link to song #1:

Friday, January 8, 2016

January Newsletter

Is there still life in still life?

The show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art does not set out to ask that question but, if we are to believe what we see there, the answer I’m afraid would be no.  

Audubon is the first painter represented, an ironic choice, as his paintings are not what one would usually consider to be still life, but paintings of animals and birds pictured in action.  They were  painted while stuffed so were actually quite dead.  I guess that’s where the “still” comes in.  They are beautiful works so who can complain.  The rest of the next several rooms of the exhibit are filled with ravishingly beautiful paintings of fruit, vegetables and flowers with the occasional human holding them.   There is an especially luscious painting of a woman slicing an onion amidst an array of vegetables whose eye is just about to spill a beautifully painted tear.  Ah the detail, the loving caress of paintbrush here and delicate application of light there.  These are paintings to die for.  If you owned one you would never tire of taking it in.

I loved the delicacy of the lighting and the way the compositions were carefully put together.  These are not real fruit, or flowers, they are an ideal feeling of fruit and flowers caught in their most perfect form forever.  Here are some clips from the Museum’s web site.

Slowly at first things change as one moves forward in time to the next rooms.  Flowers and fruit change into violins, guns, and once again dead animals.  This time they are not posed as live as in Audubon but really dead and in 3D.   Trump 'oil takes over…and the the flowers that remain are getting flatter and flatter.  Subtle light disappears and is exchanged for a certain sameness of tone.  What happened to the mysterious darks I wonder and crisp highlights?

Suddenly we are confronted with a room full of paintings whose relationship to the ripeness and sensuousness of the older paintings is gone.  Although in the past I would have said I enjoyed Georgia Okeefe’s Lillies I found them rather disappointing after so much careful attention to sensuous detail and light.  In this room only the painting of Grant Wood’s mother and the water color of Demuth held up for me.  The rest were worth a glance and out the door. Warhol’s Brillo boxes?  No life there folks, just a chuckle.

But it did not have to be that way.  I see the intent of the curators.  Art does change and taste for art changes but what is considered “art” by the art critics and taste makers may not be what is actually happening in the world of “seeing” and art making.  There are exciting still life paintings from the 20th century.  They were not however represented in this show.  Here are a few possible inclusions that would have rounded things out nicely for me.  This is a very small sample assembled in an afternoon.  Imagine what else is out there.

Iris and Fruit
N.C. Wyeth

      John Hammell

Caroline Bays

Wayne Tiebald

(this lovely painting by Philadelphia native Elizabeth Osborne is actually in the museum collection but not in this show)

Bill Sharp

Sydney Bella Sparrow

David Hockney

From the 21st century several times a week I get lovely small works in my email from people who are still concentrating on an arrangement of items and examining them carefully to create a lasting image in paint. These works are notable as beautiful art, because they are for the most part sold on line not through galleries.  Is this the wave of the future?   Their small size also makes them affordable for the average person!!! 
Imagine that.
The first from the founder of the movement “a painting a day”, 

Duane Keiser

Barbara Kaciacek

Daniel Jackson

and last but by no means least our local talent Abbey Ryan whose work could be from the last century with its careful observation of texture, color and light.

Abbey Ryan

This show really got me thinking about what I am doing and reawakened my respect and delight in seeing what is really there.  Take your eyes to the Museum, leave the head phones on the rack and see what you think before it is too late.  I recommend taking your reading glasses and getting up close.  You only have 2 days to go!

Thanks for reading.  Let me know if you have any fabulous finds in still life to add to this so incomplete list.