Seeing Red

Andrea oil 1

Lilibeth André, Andrea oil 1

It is easy to forget how much I enjoy painting when I get distracted with other activities. The holidays came and brought good reason to focus on other things. And perhaps before that, I had reason to work on other projects and life issues as well. Although I kept sketching throughout the year, I put up the paints and brushes for a bit of time longer than I usually do.

This week I decided that I would bring out the oils and paint. So rolling  out my paint box, I showed up at the Markos Group determined to get the oils out. The sketch pads remained in the car.

You’ll remember that two weeks ago I sketched this model with conté on paper. I got a half figure featuring her face and blouse. This week I wanted to focus on the face and see how much I could do in the two hour session I planned to spend at the studio.

Andrea oil 1 detail

Lilibeth André, Andrea oil 1 (detail)

It was like putting on an old glove. Everything fit just right. I prepped my canvas, drew the outline, blocked with darks and lights, made a couple of corrections and added more color.

This day I took more creative liberties than I usually do in these sessions. I used the model as inspiration for a more expressive painting than focusing on pursuing a likeness.

The feel of the paint as I modeled the features was delightful. I played with simple texture and focused on creating an impression of color with efficient strokes to give it shape.

My fellow studio mates recognize my style. We all typically recognize and acknowledge each other’s work as our own finger print. My work is familiar to them. It is more obvious, particularly since I haven’t been painting with the group in a while.

At the easel, it is just me at work but my studio-mates see a canvas with characteristically strong and dramatic use of stroke and color. David, one of my friends has always been impressed by my use of the color red. One of his typical comments is, “that painting could use a little more red”. So this week, after an extended sojourn from the group, when I was busy focusing on my canvas, I distractedly heard David’s dry humor remark and I looked at the painting to see if I agreed with his comment. Then with a grin I realized, it was just David and his self confessed “fear” of red.

I had missed the paint from my palette and so had they.

Re-Natured One and All

Our connection with the natural environment is vital to our overall health. This connection must include immersion. Growing up I had a good share of direct contact with nature. Outdoor sports, hikes and picnics were frequent and we enjoyed our yard as well. Feeling the earth, looking at clouds and observing the small worlds in earth and water were things I enjoyed. My most prized possession was a a very nice microscope my dad got me. Better to see textures, colors and just about anything.

In Richard Louv’s book,  Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder, he thoroughly explains the importance of having nature in your life. From the emotional to the physical and mental development, he stresses the importance of nature to the growth of a well-rounded individual.

I tend to make myself a guinea pig in my own experiments. Having lost my way from nature in my adult life as I made less and less time to make that connection, I can clearly remember the time I changed my routine and found that “all I need is the air that I breathe”.

I was invited to go on a hike a short drive from Houston. So I packed a lunch, water, a little gear, natural bug spray, sun screen, a hat (of course) and off I went with my hiking boots. These hadn’t seen the light of day since they were last a fashion statement.

The moment came when the group walked at a relaxed pace and folks strung out with plenty of space between each hiker. We came up from the creek and walked into a magnolia stand. I was on my own. The others were farther ahead of me. I was alone in that piece of earth. I walked on the soft soil packed high with leaves that crackled under my boots. The blue of the sky peaked among the branches. I could hear what sounded like waves but there was no ocean. It was the rustling of the leaves with the wind. At that moment I felt a oneness with this beautiful space. I could not feel where it ended and I began. I felt welcome. I felt at home.

I tend to forget this vital need and maximize my days and weeks right here in the urban jungle multi-tasking to the very last second possible of the day. And then I realize that I need to recharge so I find a reason to escape with a plein aire excursion or just a plain old hike with my camera in tow.

My landscape and wildlife paintings are a demonstration of love, a respect for what I admire and wish to protect and preserve, if on canvas or paper but with the intent to share the images and invite others to experience their own moment of connection with the amazing and diverse natural environments. All within a short trip from Houston or from trips I have been fortunate to take.

Art, An Economic Powerhouse, And A Superhero

Andrea 12 conte

Lilibeth Andre, Andrea 12, conté on paper

Off to a great new year! First of all, I was excited to read in the Editorial of the Houston Chronicle that in Houston we now have our own Marvel comic: Scarlet Spider. He is here to fight corruption and bad guys. How cool is that! So he’ll be popping up at the Port of Houston and other area hang outs. I wonder if he’ll show up at our many artist studios (how about mine?) or our diverse ecosystems to see our extensive wildlife?

Speaking of ecosystems, wildlife, and art, my post for November 29, 2011, Houston, We Have An Experience seems to be generating ripples. Robert L. Lynch and Joseph C. Dilg wrote The Arts Are Houston’s Clandestine Economic Powerhouse, to spread the wisdom of what the art industry is doing in Houston already.

Andrea 12 conte cu

Lilibeth Andre, Andrea (detail), conte on paper

These are exciting times! So with that enthusiasm, I popped in at the Markos Group Studio to do some portrait sketching. As I’ve mentioned before, we are a small group of folks that get together, listen to classical music and paint at our own pace and without instruction. We exercise the hand-eye coordination while we socialize a little and have a relaxing evening. Someone brought some King Cake (similar to Rosca de Reyes celebrating the Epiphany) and someone brought some mochi,  a Japanese sweet rice cake. There was coffee and a fantastic model.

I continued with my objective of doing more drawings so I took out my white sketch paper pad and drew with my sepia conté stick. This 24×18 sketch presents a half portrait of the model in her braids and Mexican blouse. I focused on the likeness and was satisfied with the final drawing. I had 90 minutes to spend at the studio and the model posed for about 3 sessions in that interval of time with a couple of breaks for snacking and chatting in between.

Perhaps for the next sitting I’ll actually do a painting of her.

I would like to recognize the life of Mrs. Lajos Markos who left us at the end of 2011. Her support of the Houston Civic Arts Association and the Markos Group will always be remembered.


Goals Fulfilled


The year 2011 has passed but not without some highs and lows for many people. The end of the year for me is always a time of recollection for accounting, planning or inspirational reasons.

I had the opportunity to spend time with family, friends and myself. During this time I realized that every morning I walk by one of the very first still lifes I painted in Houston well over 15 years ago. It is called Granny’s Apples and I can recall enjoying painting it, particularly the apples and the carnations. I stood in front of the painting and still enjoyed the apples and the other elements in the composition.


The painting took me back in time. I recollected on several of the paintings and activities I’ve participated in and I appreciated my last 20 years of work. I relished the moments of growth, typically when facing challenges. With persistence, I tried again and again until reaching a more satisfactory outcome and always learning with each new experience.


Each year, I set a technical goal for myself. This past year, my goal was to work on figure sketches. I did portrait and figure drawings. I also did many quick sketches. I found those to be the most challenging and fun. I drew on paper working on graphite, charcoal and conté.

Now it is time to set my new technical goal for 2012.

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