Category Archives: animals in art

Scientific Whimsy

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Donna Atwood of Moravia, New York, is a former Science teacher turned full-time professional watercolor artist.  Intuition is her guide.

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She applies the watercolors (usually one hue per piece as a starting point) onto a variety of papers. Then she plays with abstractions and visual textures, adding found and household objects – plastic bags, rags, torn window screens – and weights to hold everything down until the next morning.  When she removes the objects, she assesses what she has and begins to deliberate.  She asks her husband what he sees, like a fun Rorschach test game and they laugh at the disparity of their visions.

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Ultimately, she makes her own decisions about what she sees, as though the paper truly speaks to her alone.  I delighted in her enthusiasm, positivity and passion as she spoke of this process when I met her at the First Friday event last night at Gallery 54 in Skaneateles, New York, where she is the featured artist this month.

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Once Donna decides on the spirit animal, she goes to work rendering the composition focusing on the eyes.  Tiny details are emphasized, allowing for the animal to disappear into the colorations.  These are paintings that need to be seen in person.  The photographs do not do them justice.  They truly imbibe the artist’s joyful spirit.

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Donna Atwood originals and prints are available for sale at Gallery 54 (54 E. Genesee Street, Skaneateles, New York 13152).  If you would like to meet her too, perhaps ask her further questions about her process, Donna will be doing a demonstration at the gallery today (1:00-3:00 pm).  ❤

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  • Excerpt from the gallery web-site

Even though Atwood was a science education major in college her interest in creating art, which began as a child, continued to flourish. It wasn’t until 2012 that she started practicing watercolor, she says describing her artwork as abstract impression. While she creates her share of surreal landscapes her preference, as the Gallery 54 show will demonstrate is for paintings of animals.

“I decided to create surreal animals and found many different ones lurking in patterns,” she notes. As she describes her work, the backgrounds start out as abstract colors and shapes, but “by manipulating shapes in to eyes, ears and a noses,” she can get the viewer to see” what she sees . . . “the face and body of a creature.”

Atwood is particularly fond of finding animals that are endangered or under represented in artwork generally. Many people, she notes, relate to specific creatures or what she calls “spirit animals.” She likes that viewers of her paintings relate to her whimsical version of “their animal” and that the colors or faces in her paintings make them smile.

“Keeping the background of a painting as untouched as possible allows the animal to grow from it,” she says, adding, “I want to express the presence of the animal, not highlight every hair or whisker.”

Atwood’s work has received awards at the New York State Fair and well as numerous local art exhibits. A resident of Sempronius, NY she has had artwork shown at the Cortland Public Library, the Dryden Community Cafe and the Gilded Lily gallery in Connecticut. Following her show at Gallery 54 she will have an exhibit at the Cortland Guthrie Hospital, from September through November and currently has work displayed at the Tully Artworks Gallery.

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Gallery 54 July Hours
Monday – Wednesday: 10-5
Thursday, Friday & Saturday: 10-8
Sunday: 10-5

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The Elephant in the Room

Elephants are taking over Central New York.

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There is a new restaurant in Skaneateles called the Elephant and the Dove.

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The brainchild of proprietor Adam Weitsman of the Krebs, this new endeavor serves up Mexican fare.  The name alludes to Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo’s partnership, a marriage of contrasts.  It is meant to be a casual destination – no reservations required.

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We have seven Asian “pachyderm residents” at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo – Doc, Siri, Romani, Kirina, Targa, Mali and Batu.

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And, currently, the Petit Branch Library , 105 Victoria Place, Syracuse, New York, is host to original paintings of elephants by Rebecca Stella.  The artist reception is today from 2:00 – 4:00 pm. The exhibition continues through April 30, 2019.

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Here is the press release –

Artist Rebecca Alexander (Rebecca Stella Art) will be exhibiting her work throughout the month of April. Her work is primarily mixed media, many pieces of which are elephant and music themed. She donates 10% of all elephant art sales to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, an organization that provides support to end the ivory trade and promote elephant conservation via an orphan rescue and rehabilitation program. Rebecca believes that art and painting are channels for emotion, dreams, and fantasy. In addition to being an artist and animal activist, Rebecca is a yoga instructor and a physical therapist. She shares, “All of these roles shape my creations and the way in which I choose to interact with the world. 

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Rebecca sells her work on Etsy . You can also find her on Facebook.

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Oh, and lest I forget, my favorite of all elephant sites – Bistro Elephant, which is what they call the bar area/bistro of the Lemon Grass restaurant in Armory Square.  It offers the best Thai cuisine.  My favorite place to go on a Friday night to hear my friend John Spillet on sax. ❤

Best Intentions

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Janine and I took a trip to Cazenovia, New York today.  We visited Cazenovia Artisans, an artist’s co-op.  It is located at 39 Albany Street in the heart of the village.  Linda Bigness just joined, so I thought it would be fun to visit and see the new work. (For a full list of artists in the cooperative, visit their website).

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Bob Ripley was manning the register.  He is a former Advertising Design man turned full time watercolorist.  His work is AMAZING!

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It was such an honor to meet him and speak with him about his art.  Bob uses Windsor & Newton watercolors and Arches 300 pound paper, which he staples into foam board while working on the individual pieces.

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Bob shared his technique – here he is working on a commission.  He added the figure of the man into the landscape and strategically placed the fishing line to add rhythm to the composition.

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He uses frisket to assist in the layering process of glazing.  It stops the paint from bleeding into areas and also helps to save the white of the paper, which is a watercolor technique used instead of painting with the more opaque Chinese white paint.  In addition, he shared a method he’d perfected through trial and error – placing clear transparent tape on an area then going back in and shaving the edge with an Exacto blade to match it with the landscape, all to insure that the paint stays where it belongs.

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Watercolor is tricky that way.  It is about sheer layers blending together.  Bob was very clear about never using black.  Instead, he combines Hooker’s Green and Alizarin Crimson or if he wants a cooler looking dark, he mixes the Alizarin with Ultramarine Blue.

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This work is really incredible.  Each piece takes about seventy or eighty hours to complete.  Bob draws the basic lines of the landscape then adds more detail with pencil as needed.

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There are original watercolor paintings on the wall for sale, as well as high quality Giclee prints, which look almost identical to the originals in quality and color.  Each piece is infused with Bob Ripley’s vivacious spirit.  He is so talented!

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Thank you, Bob Ripley!!!  And thank you, Janine Hudun, for joining me.  We also popped over to the Cazenovia Public Library to visit their museum and gallery (blog to follow) then had lunch at Empire Farm Brewery.

I privately set an intention this morning – I wanted to see a cardinal, believe it or not.  People always say that when a cardinal crosses your path, it is a sign that someone who has passed away is nearby.  I was sifting through Bob’s prints thinking I might see one (I can’t explain why I thought he would even have one). Then I turned and found a cardinal print in his section on the greeting card fixture!

Later that day, I saw an actual cardinal while hiking around Green Lakes.  It literally called out to me then it frantically fluttered about while I flustered getting my cell phone from my pocket.  I was laughing and crying at the same time while trying to get the shot, so this is not a great picture, lol, but it doesn’t matter.  Thanks, Dad. ❤

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Cazenovia Artisans is open Monday – Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm and Sunday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.  For more information call (315) 655-2225.

The American

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In 1956, Vasil Tashkovski came to Syracuse, New York alone, as a sixteen-year-old boy, a runaway who escaped the Iron Curtain fleeing Communist Yugoslavia for Greece, an incredibly dangerous journey that led him to a refugee camp where he lived for a year while waiting for permission from the American Consulate to live his dream.  It is the story of legend – the boy who dreamed of being an American.

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He was my father.  Dad married an American girl and had three American daughters with whom he only spoke English.  Yes, he helped many Macedonians from his village come to this country including his own brother and his family, and you can argue that his life’s purpose was to help them.  But if this is true, then the desire was fueled by a belief that these others would see what he saw – opportunity, liberty and freedom to live an authentic life in the greatest country in the world.

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To just be.  Dad was always there for us.  Always healthy and strong.  I truly thought he was indestructible – until he got cancer and suddenly passed away.  I mean, I just never thought about a time that he wouldn’t be with us.  He was seventy-nine.  It happened last week, so the wound is fresh and raw.  There is never enough time with the ones you love.

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Eagles are currently wintering in Syracuse.  About seventy at last count.  It seems like the most obtuse idea.  For many years, Onondaga Lake has been the number one most polluted lake in the nation and yet our national bird is here living off fish from said lake, with families in tow soaring around in all their glory, wonder and perfection.

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It is simply amazing – and ironic to see these majestic creatures here now.  I don’t think I had EVER seen an eagle in real life before this moment.  Our national bird!  It feels like they are here for Dad.  I like to think they are.  And that Vasil Tashkovski is soaring with them.  I know he is.

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You can park at Destiny Mall and see the eagles in the trees across the railroad tracks or drive to Onondaga Lake Parkway in Liverpool, New York to see them wading on the shoreline.  Bring your cameras preferably with telephoto lenses in order to paparazzo them.  There will be a guided birding walk on March 2, 2019 from 10:00 – 11:30 am.  It is sponsored by the Onondaga Lake Conservation Corps.  This link is to their Facebook page.

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The incredible photographs accompanying this post are by my über-talented friend Julia C. Banach.  She is an award winning (and currently self-described amateur) photographer.  I am in awe of her work here.  Just so magnificent!  Thank you, Julia, for capturing the majesty of these creatures.

Find more photography by Julia on Facebook.  This is the link to her “Like” page.  Become a fan.  She has recently updated her page to include incredible animal shots from trips to the local zoo, as well as gorgeous sunsets and full-moon illustrated landscapes.  Really beautiful work!  I have no doubt that Julia’s photographs will appear in nearby art galleries and museums very soon. ❤