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Artist's Notebook

Artist's Notebook


Artist's Notebook

Dining Room Art Or What I Know So Far

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Detail of study for “In the Dining Room,” oil on canvas, Nancy Gail Ring 2010

Here is a detail from a new painting I am making studies for that will be about small moments. I’m asking a lot of new questions now in my painting practice, looking to communicate something more and something truer than my habitual ways of working from the past. This is a little portrait of my son at the dining room table. Enjoy.

see also: Dining Room Art




Artist's Notebook

Dining Room Art

The “How to Freeze Cookie Dough in Logs” post intended for yesterday, Saturday, March 13th, had to be postponed. What’s this about? Click here Join Nancy next week instead to learn to freeze Ginger Molasses Cookie dough in logs with some great cookie baking tips, March 30th. See you then!



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Oil on paper study for painting, “Dining Room”, Nancy Gail Ring, copyright 2010.

Here is another study of my dining room that I am doing in preparation for a series of large paintings I will begin soon. It’s the reason my baking posts have been less frequent lately.

There is always a balance that artists have to keep between what we need to do to survive, like working for money, cooking, cleaning and taking care of children, and what we need to do to make art, like making priorities that preclude a perfectly organized house and full social calendar such as long periods of solitude in the studio.

Conversely, there is also a richness of experience, necessary to art-making, that comes from simply living life — doing dishes, gardening, spending time with friends and family. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn, who also writes poetry, once said that there would be no poetry without gardening, meaning that if he did not experience life, there would be no inspiration to draw from when contemplating the form the art will take.

I have been living life, and lots of it, in this dining room for years and years. I hope the paintings will eventually be informed and deepened by that experience. If you know the paintings of Jan Vermeer, you will notice that I have given a small nod in this piece to his “Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid.” Read on for a reproduction of Vermeer’s painting and to see if you can pick out the details that repeat in mine. 

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Artist's Notebook

Dining Room Art

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Nancy Gail Ring, “Dining Room,” oil on paper, 2010

I’ve been painting studies on paper of my dining room in preparation for a new series I will start soon on canvas. Here are two done at night.

I’ve lived in this house for seven and a half years and there’s been a lot of life lived and a lot of meals served in this room. So many families have lived here; it’s an old house, built in 1926.

The room remains virtually the same while families pass through it, eat here, change and grow here, arrive and depart.

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There is a sense of place that is very much a part of me now.

see also: Dining Room Table On The Garden




Artist's Notebook

Thing of the Day - Cezanne

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Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Apples and Peaches, 1905

As a woman and mother of a young child but part of the generation that has been given nearly every freedom to leave the house, why do I still feel a longing for the domestic space of the household and more than that, depictions of it like this Cezanne? What pull does it still exert upon me? Why such intense longing for the stability and beauty of traditional domestic space along with an equally intense desire to escape it? It is usually in paintings or poems that I find clues to ambiguity like this, and in particular, in this painting.

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Artist's Notebook

Of Honeybells and Blank Canvases

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At the same time as my family sent me a big box of honeybell oranges I just happen to be in the middle of stretching canvases for a new series of paintings I will start this week. If you don’t know honeybells, they are unique among oranges. You shouldn’t really peel them as they are too juicy for that. Better to slice them with a sharp serrated knife and suck the juice and flesh right off the peel. The company that sells them coyly sends plastic bibs with them like the kind that people use when they eat lobster. Ice cold from the fridge they’re particularly refreshing.
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Somehow they are linked with my blank canvases for me this year and all the new beginnings inherent in them. Also I’ve been thinking about color a lot, and how I would like to work with color in a different way than I used to - more for an emotional response than a literal one. I’ve also been thinking about light, and those oranges just seem to radiate that southern, warm light where they hie from. They’re so juicy and fresh, and so are the blank canvases, ripe with possibility. I look at the oranges and think of orange cake, of the deep orange of Indian silk pungent with incense, of Joni Mitchell singing “There was milk and toast and honey and a bowl of oranges, too, and the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses . . .” The blank canvases are intriguing to me because they remind me that the surface of a picture is flat, something that artists have been making art about for decades. No matter what we put on the surface - an illusion of depth or one that asserts the flatness - the canvas remains an object to be reckoned with. How mysterious it is that for centuries artists have been fascinated by this simple problem of arranging color, form and line on a plane that hangs on the wall.
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My brushes, though well used, are all newly scrubbed and ready to go. All I have to do now is drop down, like a diver, below the surface of everyday life, to plumb the depths of the ideas that have been rolling around in my head for a month. Ideas about poetic, glowing color, about images that elude definition but rather hint at places or things, leaving room for the viewer to enter. I hope I can express it.
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In the exuberance of an orange, clues reside . . . intense hue, light, inspiration.


Artist's Notebook

Grill-master and Artist H. John Thompson Serves Evocative Feast

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Artist H. John Thompson
JELLYPRESS WAS ON THE SCENE Wednesday July 8th at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia for the opening of “Dave and Jim” an installation and performance piece by my good friend and fellow painter, H. John Thompson. Inside his evocative construction of embellished chain link fencing surrounding two living yards of grass, University graduate students and faculty gathered around to share potluck summer fare as John manned the grill. For more photos, John’s fascinating concept for his piece and a taste of what it’s like to eat charcoal-roasted corn and hot dogs inside a work of art, read on.
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Artist's Notebook

Kitchen Art — Artichoke

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“Artichoke" Oil on panel, 16” x 20” 2009
Here is my new painting, another in a series that are all part of a conversation I’m having with 17th century Dutch and Flemish still life painting. The initial inspiration for this one came when I found this gorgeous artichoke at market with its astonishing color. I knew immediately that I had to paint it. 

see also: Kitchen Art — Nancy’s New Work




Artist's Notebook

Kitchen Art — Nancy’s New Work

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Here is my new oil painting, “Leap.” I did it after spending time with the Caulfield and Zurbaran paintings I’ve posted here before. If you’ve been following this thread, you’ll recognize that lemon in my painting.
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This one’s called “Dark Side.” More coming soon. Enjoy.

see also: Kitchen Art — Patrick Caulfield




Artist's Notebook

Chocolate and the Art of Tiernan Alexander

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“Chocolate Pot” ceramic, copyright 2008 Tiernan Alexander.
Photo credit: Tiernan Alexander.

Brrr, it’s definitely hot chocolate time in the east. Here is a beautiful contemporary interpretation of a traditional Mayan chocolate pot, the kind once used to serve hot chocolate, by my friend the ceramic artist Tiernan Alexander. I love the way Tiernan has referenced the aged surface and gourd-shaped bodies of ancient chocolate pots without copying them. The deliberate imperfections in her vessel are almost painterly and eloquently evoke a sense of history and the passage of time. I caught up with Tiernan recently for an interview and asked her about why she made the pot and her interest in ancient hot chocolate vessels. And got her favorite old recipe for hot chocolate.
Jellypress: Tiernan, what made you want to reinterpret an ancient chocolate pot?
TA: Chocolate had an incredible history in Central and South America. There are ritual and traditional pots made from ceramics, coconut shells, wood, and gourds. These days you see the gourd shaped pots used mostly with South American Yerba Mate tea, but I have also seen the little gourd pots and dippers used at chocolate and atole stands in the streets. (Atole is a cornflour based drink that is often combined with chocolate into a thick hot drink called Champurrada.)
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Jellypress: You told us that you took the above photo at a spring festival where they were serving a fruit drink, but that in winter, hot chocolate is served in a similar way. Tell us more about your experience buying hot chocolate and how they serve it.

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Artist's Notebook

Kitchen Art

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Seated at my easel late one night looking at a careful arrangement of beautiful objects I had placed on a counter-top, I had an epiphany. Why am I such a curator in my paintings when real life is so messy and full of movement?  As an exercise, I began taking photos of my subject matter without looking through the view finder in order to force myself out of my conventional way of seeing. This photo of my sugar canister is one of the first. Check in here for more as the work progresses, and in the meantime see the beautiful Cotån mentioned in the quote below by clicking here.

“The kitchen pictures or bodegones of Juan Sånchez Cotån (1561 - 1627) are conceived from the beginning as exercises in the renunciation of normal human priorities . . . It would not be enough simply to record the fruit and vegetables and game as they are; mere realism would not bite deep enough into vision to dislodge the habitual blindnesses and vanities which lurk there . . .The enemy is a mode of seeing which thinks it knows in advance what is worth looking at and what is not; against that the image presents the constant surprise of things seen for the first time.”
From Looking At The Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting by Norman Bryson (Harvard University Press, 1990.)


Artist's Notebook

Old Fruit, Modern Life

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The last peaches of summer. That’s how pastry chefs referred to September peaches when I was in the business. They’re wonderful in a tart with ginger ice cream of course, but more than that they’re a symbol of an ending, of the last warm days of dying summer, the fleeting days of cricket song and cooler nights. When the peaches are fresh picked, they’re glorious, full of juice and intense flavor. Overripe they’re even more impressive, as there’s such beauty in the dying. This is what I’m trying to paint now. Thinking about this a month or so ago, I thought that the young peaches are like children to me with their smooth blushing skin, and all the character of midlife and old age is there in the wrinkled and bruised skin of a peach that is overripe. But there was more than that. My painting professor at graduate school told me that this is a cliché. I must look deeper, she said. So I did.

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Artist's Notebook

Paris in New Jersey

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I’m in Paris. No I’m not, but I feel like I am. It’s the long holiday weekend, my ex-husband has my son and I am painting by day and going out to cafés by night. It is all so sensual and delicious. In a paint splattered tank top at my easel until the sun sets, and in heels leaving lipstick prints on glasses of pinot at a table for two until I’m sleepy and ready for bed. Kisses and paint and arugula . . . sigh. And tomorrow I will be a single mom again hurrying from my full-time job to child to home and to my easel again, this time at night with my son safely abed as I paint in the kitchen into the wee hours, well beyond the time I would like to put my head on a pillow. Don’t get me wrong, I love my New Jersey life, my son’s angelic face as he sleeps, our spaghetti dinner plates resting in the sink. But oh, as I load them into the dishwasher tomorrow night, I know I will be dreaming of my brief nights in Paris . . . 


Artist's Notebook

Old recipes, Modern Life: an installation mapping identity and personal history

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The following are photographs of the installation piece I made for “conceptual drawing class” here at graduate school out of the vintage recipe book that writer Dianna Marder generously gave me for a gift. (Don’t worry Dianna, the installed pieces are color copies, not the original!) The piece goes between my apartment kitchen and the studios in the art school. The first one is in my kitchen at the dorm . . . basically it’s a piece showing the handwritten recipe page as aesthetic object inspired by the essay “Reading the Language of Objects” by M. Anna Fariello. Fariello explains that an aesthetic object is a document (a map of the maker’s marks, and in this case, with particularities of handwriting, crossings-out and changes, fingerprints, etc.) a metaphor (since it is recipes, for sustenance physical and emotional) and also what she calls a “socially integrated object,” meaning an art object that is not set apart and rarified but rather part of the social fabric and of daily ritual (in this case, cooking.) As such it is capable of resonating on a deep emotional and spiritual level. With artistic intent of course. Enjoy! Captions below each photo explain a bit more . . .

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Artist's Notebook

Packing for graduate school: paints, palette, uh, kitchen counter?

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Yes, I took it with me. How could I not? When I found out that I would be living in another city for three summers to attend graduate school for painting, I made a small replica of my kitchen counter with the leftover tiles and packed it. I couldn’t imagine working without it. It’s been a part of my painting practice for three years. The metaphor of the grid, measured just as time is measured. Its evocative color and texture. The way it structures the painting. I also packed a bag full of my beloved antique and vintage kitchen tools. Little did I know that my painting professor had something else in mind. 

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Artist's Notebook

To paint on the knife edge

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I suffered a loss. Devastating. But It wasn’t the kind of loss that the world stops to acknowledge, especially if deadlines are looming, children need to be fed and cared for, and one needs to show up at one’s job. Oh, and a painting to finish, and not just any painting, but the banner painting for Jellypress. All I had so far was this oil sketch of daffodils and the pot of cooked strawberries. It was a nice sketch, but only a sketch. The plan was for Laura to come over and pose for me, so I could do an oil of her hands cutting fresh strawberries and rhubarb. Her company that night held me together - that’s what friends do for each other - but I couldn’t paint well to save my life. Mere days remained until we had to have the banner ready.

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