Summer Madness

Jean Newburg

Jean Newburg

This summer I have been expressing myself in pastels.  I am drawn to them for the intense color, something difficult to achieve using watercolor.  Sunsets have been my inspiration, and I’ve been saving photos for a year, many from the Hudson Valley page in Facebook.  The image of TRAILING was taken by me this February on Longboat Key in Florida.  I brought them to Christie Scheele’s Landscape Painting Intensive workshop in June where I started and later completed 4 pastel paintings.

Pastel is relegated to summer for me, when I turn my porch into a studio, and can shake the dust into the garden, and keep washing my hands in the adjacent bathroom.  It’s very dirty work! Last winter I tried working indoors but had to cover everything with plastic.

I know that I am also drawn to the immediacy of using pastels.  No tools are required other than my hands. It’s a primal response, and I love to put my hands in clay in the sculpture studio, in earth in the garden, and now pastel on toothed and colored paper. With pastel there is no mixing of colors, so many sticks are required, and the softest ones are heavenly to use.  And I will try velour paper as well.


The living has been easy in Woodstock this second summer of my retirement. I’ve casually set up studio space on my screened-in porch, and have been working independently. I’ve started a sculpture of a man in motion, working without a model. Fortunately my cousin visited and he took the pose for me while I took photos. And two guys running on my road let me take videos of them! But I’ve ordered a book by Eadweard Muybridge who took photographs of men and animals in motion, so I won’t have to accost the neighbors in future.

I’ve also started playing with pastels. I love blending intense colors, and I’m putting on disposable gloves and blending with my fingers. I realize that I am happiest when making art with just my hands, applying clay to the armature or color to the paper. However, I do have great respect for my metal sculpture tools and sable watercolor brushes. They are essential for creating details.

My newest sculpture is now cast and patinated, and looking ethereal. “Floating” was inspired by Cabanel’s painting of the birth of Venus, but elevated from the sea to the sky. The model provided a fabulous twisted but languid posture. The base is white Carrera marble to evoke clouds, and she’s light and fair as well.

Both “Round Midnight” and “Floating” were inspired by works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, an American sculpture and a French painting. The figure I’m working on now is from a photo in a men’s cologne advertisement, Bleu de Chanel. Inspiration can come from surprising places, I see.

May Day

I love this time of year when the world feels reborn, the garden grows in great eruptions of bloom, and the long process of sculpture is complete and the figure emerges from the clay. This winter I found inspiration for two new sculptures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Both were just on exhibit at the Art Students League on 57th Street, the venerable institution where I study.

At the Met a larger-than-life carved marble called “Evening” is cool and quiet, folding in on itself. In my hands it became “Round Midnight,” warm and pulsing with life, letting her hair down in response to a jazz riff. My second piece “Dream” was inspired by a Birth of Venus painting by Cabanel. I love the languid pose but not the ocean or the cherubic pitti flying overhead. My version is floating on air, her hair cascading down.  I found a base of carrera marble to stand in for a bed of clouds. The painting was a gift of Catherine Lorillard Wolfe, the sole woman among the founders of the Met. Her Art Club has shown two of my pieces at the National Art Club on Gramercy Park, so I feel a special affinity to her.

I’ve been painting as well. I did a series of watercolors from my visit to San Miguel de Allende, and showed “Adama Street” at the Woodstock School of Art Alumni Exhibit. My curiosity regarding abstraction and pastel was explored in a workshop with Meredith Rosier. It was liberating to focus on the watery quality of the paint and not the representation of an image, but to let the subconscious lead and to play with color and texture. I was delighted that my painting “Pulse” was accepted to a juried show. It’s at the Lev Shalem Gallery at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation.

This summer I plan to sculpt a male figure on my porch in Woodstock, a perfect studio for art. The armature and clay are ready and my hands are eager to begin.  I’m going to try more pastel.  Stay tuned, and surround yourself with beauty this summer..

Winter’s Tale

The artist at The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild opening with her sculpture Moving On

The artist at The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild opening with her sculpture Moving On

The new year has brought a lot of activity on the art front, as well as politics. The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild hosts a winter show and I have two pieces of sculpture on display. There is a dearth of figurative sculptors in the region, so I am glad to show my work and discuss with other artists. The Guild was started by the original Woodstock art colony of Byrdcliffe, created to encourage handmade goods at the beginning of the industrial revolution.

In November I traveled to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico with the National Association of Women Artists. It’s a high desert town near Mexico City which is an art colony drawing 16,000 expats from all over, including about 40 from Woodstock, I heard. It’s a town of steep hills and completely cobbled streets and narrow sidewalks, all adding to the charm factor. But it’s known as “the city of fallen women” because many do injure themselves. I painted en plein aire at the nearby Botanical Gardens and at a sleepy crossroads town Atotonilco. Now that I’m home I painted the street scenes from photos.

Click here to see some of my watercolors from that trip.

The artist hard at work in her studio

The artist hard at work in her studio

The artist is hard at work finishing the new piece in the NYC studio, and painting watercolors at home. I’m reading through art school catalogues and musing on other modalities, like abstraction and pastel. And also looking at garden catalogues, and dreaming of spring.

Publish or Perish

two_publications_2016This week photos of me and my sculptures appeared in two publications.  One is the catalogue of the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club‘s 120th open juried show now at the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park.  My latest piece “Moving On” was selected to be in the show, and the reception was on December 9th. The historic mansion was decorated for the holidays, and the public rooms filled with wonderful paintings and sculpture. Thanks to my friends for coming to support me, and for a special surprise visit by Toni and Bill who came down from Albany.

Last year I also had sculpture in that show, and attended the awards dinner as well as the reception, which is always a benefit for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Catherine Lorillard Wolfe was the only woman among the founders of the Met, and her donated art works formed the start of the European Painting Collection. Last New Year’s Eve the members of my sculpture class joined our teacher, a club member, for a black tie New Years Eve there on Gramercy Park in the fabulous private rooms, gorgeously decked out for the holidays.

The other publication is the Art Students League magazine “Lines from the League.”  Rhoda Sherbell, great sculptor and teacher, was the cover story which included photos of the class at work.  I am in two shots, and in one of the photos she is teaching from my new work in progress.  Rhoda has been in 27 museum shows, and has spoken at recent annual meetings of the Portrait Society and the National Association of Women Artists.  Students join her class and become part of her coterie.

sculpture_class_2016Our class is unstructured, everyone works on their own different piece and the model takes poses for each of us.  We drink wine as we sculpt and listen to all kinds of music: Opera (which Rhoda loves) and all kinds of other sounds, from jazz to rock & roll.  One member of our class is a Swiss DJ, and he loves techno. Four of us from sculpture class at the League took the party to Birdland last week to hear songstress Stacey Kent in person.  Her father is a former member of the class, and we listen to her CDs. Our class is social and fun and the students are multinational, from their 20’s to 80’s, doctors, scientists, finance pros and full time artists. It’s a party every Monday and Tuesday evening!