Archive for the ‘Sketchbook’ Category

Andrew Wyeth

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Andrew Wyeth viewed his work as abstract, the realism just happened to be his style. Sadly, this great iconographic figure of contemporary American painting died in his sleep on Friday, January 16th at his home in Chadds Ford, PA. This New York Times Obituary by Michael Kimmelman gives a very good overview.

Andrew Wyeth in his father\'s studio. Via New York Times

I was very saddened to hear this news. I’ve always been spellbound by Andrew Wyeth’s art, in fact N.C. Wyeth’s too (his father’s — illustrative quality and luminous color), and I’m coming around to Jamie’s (his son’s — a little too macabre for me, however, yet quite talented like his forefathers, nonetheless).

This news makes the art trip that I took to Maine in the summer of 2007, all the more meaningful and memorable. I remember we were on a ferry going to Monhegan Island, a fantastic artist’s haven, and as we passed by a small island, a man sitting on some beach rocks sketching started waving at us. It was Andrew Wyeth. His family had owned the island for years and it was his escape away from the public, yet he happily waved to our boatload of strangers from a distance. I was struck by his gesture of congeniality.

I’ve always been intrigued by his painting — his ability to render such fine, exceptional detail and his economy of expression which leaves an overall sense of mystery to his work. We had an opportunity on that trip to visit the Olson house in Cushing where he did many paintings such as Christina’s World and Wind from the Sea (both below).

A little side note that we learned while visiting…You may notice that Christina’s fingers are somewhat blue. Maybe you’ve never noticed it before but it’s one of those subtle details that Andrew Wyeth purposely put in his paintings. Many thought Christina, who suffered from polio and could not use her legs, also may have had a circulatory problem. Actually, in this painting, she is returning to her home from one of her favorite pastimes by dragging herself across the field, which fortunately, isn’t as far as this painting makes it out to be (see my photo post on Friday). She loved to pick and eat blueberries at the patch located at the bottom of the field and her hands were constantly stained blue because of it. In many ways this painting gives the sense of struggle but her handicap did not stop her from what she wanted to do and Andrew Wyeth was admiring of that perseverance. What may appear initially as a struggle or hardship in this painting is also a tribute to strength and determination — a rich dichotomy of meaning that only a masterful painter could achieve.

Christina\'s World by Andrew Wyeth. Museum of Modern Art

Wind from the Sea by Andrew Wyeth, 1947

While at the Farnsworth Museum I picked up a notebook of a small collection of his drawings and I’ve scanned one of the Olson House below. Here’s where you can see what an incredible draftsman he was. I’ve also included an interesting composite of the window sketch and a profile of Christina Olson, probably done just as random thoughts. Actually, as an artist, I always just as fascinated in the preparatory sketches and illustrations behind the paintings because they are a part of the creative process and lead to the final product.

Andrew Wyeth\'s Sketch of Olson House. Study for New England 1960

His notation as best I can read it says “very waring [wearing] color and wallpaper – running into rich red brown near ceiling.” He seemed to be taken with the interior as well. I have many pictures from my visit here to post at a future time. The fading, interior colors and aged textures of weathered paint were very inspirational for decorative finishes and seeing them in situ were some of my favorite parts of this trip.

Andrew Wyeth\'s sketch of window over study of Christina Olson, 1947

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Fall Passing

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Fall Hydrangea by C. Ashley Spencer

The colors of the fall hydrangea in my garden are splendid. Because I didn’t cut it after it bloomed, the fading flowers pleasantly surprised me with indescribable shades. I couldn’t fully capture the purple-crimson and vibrant, yet fading colors here in this watercolor sketch — just like words, when they don’t fully express the intensity of emotions. My friend has passed away (on my mother’s birthday) and because I am on call for his wife, my dear friend, and their four children, this will be the only post this week. I will try to find the time to post next week after the funeral. Amid this chaotic time, I’m noticing all the more that art is everywhere and it is sustaining.

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Political Caricatures

Monday, August 18th, 2008

This was an informative and funny article in The Washington Post on how three prize-winning caricature artists, Steve Breen, Signe Wilkinson, and Mike Luckovich, view the political candidates — through their art. I found the artists’ creative process interesting and what they had to say was delivered with humor. I like to think, despite the stereotype, that artists think beyond politics and even though the political views of these artists, featured in Line by Punch Line (interviews by Michael Cavna), may be present, they seem to have an objective eye when it comes to their drawing.

This is a fun and instructional illustration by Steve Breen on how to draw Obama. Just think of this during all the debates ahead and yes, you too can try it at home!

I couldn’t help but think of when I first tried my hand at caricature drawing — back in 1983. (This is one for the archives!) I thought it was hard. Well, maybe because I was drawing myself. I drew this for a high school senior photo. (I can’t believe I found it!) I think mine is too flattering….

Whereas, the one my friend Shauna drew of me, below, is way more on target!

I must have liked those earrings!!

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Reflection on the Arboretum

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

The weather was absolutely gorgeous for spending a Sunday afternoon at the National Arboretum. The azaleas and rhodos were in full bloom and everyone and their neighbor seemed to be there enjoying their beauty. This is that annual time of year to make the journey to witness Spring in its full splendor. The only unfortunate thing was that we decided too late in the day to do this and didn’t have enough time to explore. At least for now, we can always go back.

Here are a few pictures I took:

Herb Garden @ The National Arboretum by C. Ashley Spencer

Peony @ The National Arboretum Asian Garden by C. Ashley Spencer

Ellen @ Peonies at National Arboretum by C. Ashley SpencerEllen and Koi @ National Arboretum by C. Ashley SpencerKoi @ National Arboretum by C. Ashley Spencer

I came across this YouTube video of Japanese style sumi-e painting of a koi and I thought it was pretty fascinating to watch the process; although, it does take about 10 minutes because it’s done in real time.

Upon further reflection on our visit to the Arboretum. I found this interesting flower attached to this leaf and several petals on the ground and I was able to do a quick sketch later before they all dried up the next day.

Interpretive Flower Sketch by C. Ashley Spencer

I can’t think of anything more perfect than pretty flowers to share for this 100th year of celebrating Mother’s Day this Sunday. Happy Mothers’ Day to all the mothers out there. This day should be celebrated daily.


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Spring Break

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

While on spring break, my boys and I took an outing to one of my favorite spots to view nature and get inspiration for drawing, River Farm Park, which is also the headquarters to the American Horticultural Society.River Farm, American Horticultural Headquarters by Piers Spencer

I drew an invitation to one of their galas, which can be seen here on my website. Anyway, we had been coming here for years so I thought it would be a good break from being indoors. It was a beautiful day, and although the weather was generally still cold, this was an exceptional summer-like, warm day in March. As we all branched out to do our thing, my 15 year old went exploring, I went to draw and little did I know that my oldest was spying on me, taking some beautiful photos for this blog:

New Woodrow Wilson Bridge, photo by Piers SpencerRiver Farm, HaHa Wall. Photo by Piers SpencerRiver Farm Big Tree. Photo by Piers SpencerSleeping Under Big Tree, River Farm. Photo by Piers SpencerTree Branch/Clouds @ River Farm. Photo by Piers Spencer

River Farm, Drawing Place. Photo by Piers Spencer

And this is what I was drawing:

River Farm Sketch Reference. Photo by C. Ashley SpencerRiver Farm Sketch. Sketch and Photo by C. Ashley Spencer

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Fading Flowers

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Fading Flower Photo 2Flower Illustration


Valentine’s Day just passed as did my birthday. I noticed these beautiful roses and flowers were in full bloom but starting to fade. I loved how they looked against the colors of the background–a happy accident. They inspired me to do a quick illustration, which became the first entry in my new sketchbook. I had just completed my old one that I started 10 years ago. It’s my goal to do more illustrations on a regular basis. This will help keep my drawing abilities in practice. Coincidentally, this blog should help with that effort…One thing usually leads to another.

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