Friday, May 30, 2008

Morning Horse

horse by Lori Levin
horse by Lori Levin "Morning Horse 1 &2"
Acrylic on Canvas
Click to Purchase

You may remember back a few posts the picture I sketched in my moleskine sketchbook of a similar image. In preparation for larger oil paintings I decided to do two smaller works to firm up my ideas. Morning is my favorite time of day and is most inspirational to me. I feel at peace and very connected to my surroundings at that time. This relaxed state can also be seen in the animals around me. These horses represent that feeling and have a dreamlike quality. They remind me of the glorious windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Someday I plan to learn to create windows like that. For now my paintings will do.

These two works will be shown and for sale at the next opening at First Impressions Art Gallery in Salem, NJ on June 13th. I will be there briefly as I need to rest up for two days of painting in plein air at the event in Millville on Saturday and Sunday. If you are interested in purchasing these works or would like to know more about the gallery show feel free to contact me at the studio.

Off to work on my secret dog portrait commission. I can't wait until I can show it to all of you!

Speaking of horses, let's all cheer for Big Brown to win Belmont so he can be a Triple Crown legend. I cannot tell you how excited I will be if this happens. Perhaps a painting of him will have to be done in his honor. How could I resist?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Round Bale by Lori Levin "Round Bale"
sketch in moleskine

Last night's storms are over, leaving us with a gorgeous day today. Though I have deadlines I must meet, I took time to take in the beauty of my lovely Salem County and record it in my moleskine sketchbook. This view is alongside the road leading to Fort Mott. (Remember, this is yet another state park that is scheduled for closing. I'll stop there before I get hot.) There were a dozen or so round bales in a small field. Egrets were hanging out there as well. I stopped on the side of the road to take it all in and began my drawing.

Purposely I chose to do a scene with the Salem Nuclear Plant's cooling tower looming in the background. I no longer see this as an eyesore. Now it has become a source of inspiration to me. Most would have passed by this scene unmoved but it is my vision and perspective that creates the interest. Though it doesn't really belong in a landscape, I see the tower as beautiful. This is how I see my life you could say. Of course I made the hay, the naturally lovely object, take center stage. Yes, I put it dead center for a reason. It is a visual conversation about power. To me, this speaks of how things in the background can subtly overtake the obvious attention getter. Tell me what you think about this. Is there a clear object of dominance in this drawing or does something continuously beg you to adjust your thinking?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Red Geraniums

Geraniums by Lori Levin "Red Geraniums"
sketch in moleskine
Geraniums by Lori Levin "Red Geraniums"
Oil on Canvas

Over a year ago I believe I posted "Red Impatiens", a little painting I did in my backyard. It was the first plein air painting I tried. That experience planted the seed of interest in painting outside. I've done more since then but of late I've been busy in the studio with pet portraits. I cannot post the one I'm working on now as it is a surprise gift and I am not sure if the recipient reads my blog. I took a break from studio work over the weekend to dust off my plein air skills. "Red Geraniums" is the result.

The lovely folks that purchased "Red Impatiens" purchased this piece. I created it with them in mind. I was so touched that they bought another of my works. Someone collecting my art is the ultimate form of flattery. I send out a big thank you to them!

Above, you can see the original sketch that prompted the painting. If you look closely you can see that the drawing did not include the small buds to the right. When I started the oil painting I noticed the composition no longer worked due to color. The red was so intense and only present in the left of the canvas that the right side seemed awkward. Back in my younger years I would have started over putting the red flowers dead center for balance. Now that I'm a little more experienced I knew that would only lead to a boring composition and boredom on my part. I solved the problem by adding a touch of red with the buds. Those little buds carry as much weight as two full blooms. That sends a message I think. I love that composition even more than the original. Here's to happy accidents. They always result in a better piece of art.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What I've Learned From My Dog

horse by Lori Levin "Morning Horse"
Cows by Lori Levin "A Moment"
Barn by Lori Levin "Red Barn"

The three sketches above are all from my moleskine sketchbook. Each one was done early in the morning from lovely Salem County, especially around Pennsville. These were done back in April when I was still longing to be running in the park as the sun came up but just couldn't muster the strength. I would try and try but the more I pushed to do what my body didn't want the more my body won. Since I realized at that point that my mind was stronger than my body I used my morning hours
to draw.

These are some of my favorite sketches in my book. I feel they resemble what I see myself and how I want to be seen as an artist. They speak of solitude and quiet beauty as well as the universal need for companionship. Sure, this may not be earth shattering news to anyone but sometimes I think we overlook the most obvious things in life.

How is this all related to my dog? Well, during this time when I was unable to be as physically active as I wanted to be I noticed a change in my dog. If you remember Miss Gracie had ACL surgery back in 2006. Since that time she would limp on some days and be very lethargic on others. She gained weight. I figured this was how it was going to be and accepted her fate as being slightly disabled.

Then a miraculous thing happened. When I finally stopped lamenting over her disabilities and focused on other things she began to run around a little. Before I knew it she was making tracks in my backyard by running circles in a wild frenzy. She began once again waking me up early in the morning insisting on a jaunt to the park. I thought this dog was gone forever. After a few weeks of constant movement her girlish figure returned and she no longer had to diet. There was no real effort there; it was just nature taking its course.

I'm not always the sharpest tool in the shed but it didn't get past me that she allowed healing to happen and it did. It took about 18 months but she bounced back. I doubt she spent her healing time trying to push herself and worrying if she would ever recover. She focused on other things like finding the nicest part of the yard to sunbathe and how to swindle me out of a treat with the least amount of effort.

Then of course I had to take an honest look at myself. Only just recently have I been able to take her to the park without major effort. Actually, I am able to enjoy it once again. I notice I move around a lot more though I refrain from running in circles in the yard. My girlish figure is sure to follow suit. It has been about 13 months since my treatment ended. I can totally see myself as feeling 100% in 5-6 months. Understand, I don't think one can abandon good sense and healthy living but healing can't be a reusult of just will. This won't be a matter of effort or determination; it will be the natural course of things.

Why does that damn dog always have to be smarter than me?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Doberman Dog Portrait - Amanda

pet portrait by Levin "Amanda Rose"
graphite on paper
private commission

Yesterday I completed the dog portrait of the Doberman named Amanda. The client asked me to include her name at the bottom with a tiny rose. Usually I do not do this but it seemed very important her. As a commission artist, I always have to balance between making the customer happy and staying true to my creative side. Hopefully I have found a balance here and will have a very happy pet portrait owner.

People and other artists especially, laugh at my business of drawing deceased pets. I've heard all the jokes, trust me. What folks don't realize is that I love what I do because I feel I am offering more than just a drawing. Every single one of my clients that ask to memorialize a pet has told me that I helped in the healing process and the pain of loss. On rare days that I'm just not in the mood to draw, I use that knowledge of my true purpose as a motivating force. I've always wanted to make a difference in this world. Perhaps this is a very tiny way to do it but I'm still doing it and I'm thankful for the ability.

As to the question always asked of "how do I get that look in the eye", the answer is I just don't know and I love the mystery of it.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Pet Portrait In Progress

pet portrait by Lori Levin
pet portrait by Lori Levin
Above is a view of my drawing table where I surround myself with different pictures and versions of my subject. I've been working on the pet portrait of this Doberman named Amanda for about a week now. Yes, this is what a week's worth of work looks like. As you can see, at this rate I make about 5 cents per hour. However, I wouldn't trade the way things are to return to the corporate world. As I work, my studio is open allowing the occasional bird to fly in and say hello, as well as hourly visits by Gracie. My favorite music plays in the background and I can wear anything I want or nothing at all. Just kidding there, I wanted to see if you were paying attention.

Currently I'm also working on a small painting of two cows and sketching many future paintings. I have been a bit behind on posting my sketchbook drawings as I've been more into working than blogging about it. It will all come out in the wash, it always does.

This past Friday, the world lost an extremely talented artist with a very unique vision, Scott Fertig. Scott was kind enough to send me words of encouragement in regards to my own cancer and my art while all along he was preparing to leave this world because of his. His work influenced me in a very important way. I always strive to bring more to my art than just a reproduction of a photo or the scene before me. When I studied his work suddenly I understood how to find what I was looking for all along. It all made sense. This piece in particular opened my eyes and without a doubt is brilliant. Thanks Scott and I hope there are big lazy dogs where you are too.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Amanda...or is it Gracie?

Doberman by Lori Levin

pencil sketch in moleskine

It has been said that often the people represented in an artist's work often resemble the artist. Is this also true for the artist's dog? I am working on a commission of a lovely Doberman named "Amanda". She passed away last year but stays in the hearts of her humans and I am attempting to honor that. It seems my mind has other plans.

Anyway, I sit down and work out my thoughts on the piece in my sketchbook. As I sit sketching happily, Miss Gracie walks into the studio to check on me. I keep telling her I'm drawing another puppy and ask her for her opinion. I pick up my book to show her and at that instant I realize I've created a very nice sketch however, it looks an awful lot like Gracie! How did that happen? Gracie seems to like it though and goes back to watching birds. So, I went back and played with it some more, of course killing the freshness of the drawing and get a closer likeness to the Dobe. Damn you Gracie.

The drawing is not spot on but it does help me figure out some issues before I go to the good paper. Mistakes in a sketch are a good thing. It alerts me to my assumptions and reconnects me to my observations. We walk around in the world labeling everything in our minds. This habit blinds us to what is really there. Artists usually don't do that as much but when errors happen it is a clear sign we are labeling and not looking. You can understand better what I mean by trying this little trick. Pull out your favorite photo of yourself or a loved one. Look at it closely, close your eyes and picture it in your mind. Now turn it upside-down. Do the same thing. Now email me and tell me the differences in your observation.