Thursday, July 17, 2014


I'm not making any headway with my large painting as I was recruited by my daughter Anna to teach some city kids how to make a video at a camp described today in this article:

This is  quite a good article as it gives you some idea of the atmosphere at the camp.  I have had a little difficulty getting some of the kids to knuckle down and get to work.  They are good natured, for the most part, but sadly lacking in the ability to concentrate on the task at hand.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we are outside and it is summer.  Anyway they are making a video about the camp and I am making a video about the camp and they are also breaking up in groups of two to make a video of one minute in length.  It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.  Stay tuned.

I hope they learn something.  I sure am.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


I hope you are wondering where I have been.  My absence began because I had some minor surgery and decided to just sit around quietly and read on the porch to heal and revive my spirit.  That was very satisfying as I had several good books.  Then there were men working on the roof who had to be moving through my studio and I just couldn't face the constant interruptions.  Underneath it all however was the desire to do something different with my work.  I didn't know esactly what I wanted to do, but I couldn't get excited about any of the projects I had ready to go.

I have been gardening quite happily this year after last year's very unpleasant need to remove lots of perrenials for the whole season into pots and cover my garden in order to get rid of the dread Pinellia and Gout weed.  The garden replanted in the fall looks great this year, in spite of the year spent in pots.

While admiring the lovely shades of purple and blue reflected in the swimming pool I realized this is my next painting....and it has to be big.  It is going to require a lot of photos and painting from life to get the colors just right and I will be telling you all about it as I go along.

Here is a photo collage of about twelve images pieced together in Photoshop that is something like what I'm shooting for.  It happens around 7:30 in the morning and will be 40" x 32".  The flowers will fade before I get it finished so my job now is to make enough notes of the colors so that I will be able to get into the final work whatever it is about the color combinations that move me now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Nancy Herman
9" x 12"
oil on canvas board

Traveling by Google maps into Russia, I was cruising down a major highway looking for something to paint when I came upon this colorful roadside stand and two bearded gents peering out from the forest waiting for customers.  Looks like something from a Russian novel.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Trash Day

9' x 12"
oil on canvas board

'Trash Day' is finished and dry.  After all the choices I found in Photoshop I ended up painting a piece of the photograph pretty much the way it was minus the trash barrel.  The dramatic tree shadow will have to wait for a square canvas.  I am pleased with the outcome.  The boy seems somewhat burdened by his load of trash but cozy in the sun with the tree pushing him forward into the net of shadows.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Nancy Herman
9" x 12"
oil on canvas board

While I am removing the barrel from the 'Boy with the Trash' painting and it is drying, here is the painting I did before that one.
I had a hard time deciding what to call this one, as you might imagine.  It is an odd subject but it fits in with my objective of catching everyday activities.
This girl is caught, first of all in the space.  Second she is caught in the duty of walking her dog when she would probably rather simply be roller skating down the street. Third she is caught in the civic responsibility of cleaning up after the dog.  Third I caught her, all dressed in her matching outfit with pom poms on her toes,  in the always embarrassing act of picking up dog poop.


Monday, June 9, 2014

On to the canvas (process)

The next thing I do is to trace the outline of the painting on to the canvas using graphite paper.  In the first shot you can see the lines on the right.  (I began painting before I started this series so I don't have a picture of the whole drawing but you get the idea.)
I start painting at the upper left hand corner and work to the lower right hand corner when I paint.  This leaves room for my hand to rest on the canvas without getting paint covered, as these are small paintings and I work with them on a table not an easel.  I need a steady hand as the details are small.

This is not the way one is "supposed to paint".  The usual method suggested in art school is to begin the whole painting at once going into the dark areas with thin paint and working all over the canvas at the same time, gradually getting thicker and thicker and into the lighter areas. 

I have painted this way and when working outside must use this method.  However, I really enjoy the 'coloring book' method much better.  There is something soothing about simply going along inch by inch filling in until you get to the end.  It requires patience and a sense of the whole while you are working and of course I must go back and edit sometimes.  In this case I am having second thoughts about the trash barrel.  I like the way the boy is pushed by the tree but the barrel is an awkward, heavy shape and maybe I will paint it out.  I can eliminate it in photoshop and see what I think before I do that.  We'll see.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

more process

Too much information in yesterday's version so I moved the boy again, this time right into the blue green area.  I like this but  - whoops it's not the right size and if I'm going to go with the shadow I want the whole tree shadow.  That would make a nice square painting - but I don't have a square canvas so that composition too is for another day.

What is this painting about anyway?  Well we have a guy carrying trash and we have a barrel full of trash on a lovely day.  This is what life is often about.  Shall I zero in and make it just the guy with the trash or include the looming tree and the trash barrel?  I adjusted the light and went with the looming tree and the trash barrel.  Tomorrow - on to the canvas.

Friday, June 6, 2014

next stage

I have had a couple of requests for more info about my painting process so here is the second installment.
In recent years I have been painting from photos so let's go with that.  First I take a lot of pictures with my little Canon Elf.  The latest group that I am working on were taken from the car window as I rode around Philadelphia because we were caught in a traffic jam on the river drive.  I took the pictures when we stopped for a light or stop sign, somewhat at random.
The first shot is one of these.  I think I was aiming at the shadows on the wall but got the bonus of the boy with trash.
I downloaded the photo into my computer and opened it in Photoshop.   The first thing I wanted to do was straighten out the buildings.  I used "filter" and then "distort" for this.  Next I moved in and eliminated some of the building and moved the boy forward in a complicated combination of "copy, cut, paste, erase and move" for the boy and then "copy and image size ( in edit )" for the background of the boy.
Why did I want to move him forward?  Not sure, just did.  It was something about the combination of shapes and the way he was heading into the blue green area.  Then I wanted a little more atmosphere so I adjusted the light situation with "Filter, Render, Light Affects, omni."  This was a little too light on the right but I knew I could adjust that when painting and I liked the feeling.  However it was much too much information for the 9" x 12" canvas I had ready to go.  It should be a larger painting.  Tomorrow next version.

Adjusted buildings, moved boy forward, cut out extra stuff.

Light adjustment.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Getting Ready

Time to begin a new group of paintings.  I am starting with a pack of 9" x 12" canvas panels.  Just a bit larger, but I am thinking of these as possible plans for larger work.  First I cover the white canvas with a warm beige beginning.  I cover all the panels at once using a quick drying white as the base.  It is a sunny day so I put them all on the roof outside my 3rd floor studio window to dry.  I don't want the aroma in my space.
When I climb the stairs to this sanctuary I close the door and leave the phone and the computer behind.  Just me and my mess and whatever order I can make on the canvas.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Nancy Herman
6" x 8"
oil on canvas board

After being away from painting for a month and a half while finishing my web site and gardening I have had plenty of time to think about what I am doing with paint.  One of the things I want to do is paint larger.  So this is my last 6' x 8" painting, at least for a while.  

Also I have very few paintings incorporating figures, but I would like to do more of that.  How do we fit in?  What are we doing here?  A lot of the time we are alone talking to someone on the cell phone not aware of our surroundings, but we are none the less caught in the shapes and smells around us.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Barnes Arboretum #10

On my way out of the gardens I decided to take a lilac lined path to the gallery building.  I passed an arbor covered in purple wisteria with chairs ready for a bit more quiet contemplation.

The last nature in bloom were the lovely rare white wisteria hugging the walls of the empty building.  The gardens, were carefully planned by Laura Barnes to reflect the paintings collected by Albert Barnes.  The paintings however are no longer waiting just inside the door of the gallery.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Barnes Arboretum #9

While strolling through the gardens coming in the other direction I saw many things I had missed on the way down.  The thoughtful way one is led through the gardens amplifies the experience.  Tomorrow - to the gallery.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Barnes Arboretum #8

The trees gradually thin out as you leave the forest and some prize specimens can be appreciated in all their shapely glory.

Back to the formal gardens the vista up the gentle slope is quite different.  The arbor beckons at the very top of the garden and the 'rooms' open up again.

Tomorrow new details of the plantings appear.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Barnes Arboretum #7

Now, inside the woods I followed a stream to the Koi pool.  There is an iron bench there and as I settled in to enjoy the setting a profound stillness enveloped me.  I sat for a long time simply watching the circles of water that were being created by the insects as they dropped in and out of the pool.  It was a naturally meditative state that is rare but deeply satisfying.
Laura Barnes' cabin was reflected in the water.   As I left I peeked in the window, only to see the garden reflected back at me.  What solace she must have found in this place.

Tomorrow on the way out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Barnes Arboretum #6

As you come to the end of the formal gardens there is an open space where some beautiful unusual trees are planted, but on this trip I decided to examine them on the way out of the woods which were calling to me.
These woods are simply a relatively small dense patch of trees which, none the less, have all the mystery of a larger forest.  There is a big difference however as they are cared for, so they don't have vines strangling the trees or bushes and trees crowding each other.  This is a garden forest with paths and planned wild flowers.

If you look up or down you are rewarded by nature that has been lovingly cared for for a long time.  Tomorrow the Koi pond and Laura Barnes' retreat.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Barnes Arboretum #5

Before we go into the woods at the Barnes Arboretum I would like to say something about the way one is led through the gardens.  The paths not only invite you from one area to another, they are beautiful in themselves.  The geometry of the gardens is carefully designed to lead your eye and then your footsteps through a series of openings and closings.  It felt to me like breathing in nature.  First the vista expands then it contracts to lead you to the next space.

 Some of the stone paths are beautifully designed.

They all lead to another place to look with its own special beauty.

Tomorrow - into the woods.