Thursday, December 15, 2011

Couvent des Célestins

I've seen a few churches in my life and this one seems pretty unique to me. I did some research on this monastery because it seems so unusual to me (from an architectural point of view) but found relatively little information in my Google searches. Evidently it started out as a wooden chapel built around 1389 and then, in 1393, Pope Clement VII granted the Celestines the authorization to build their monastery there. In 1395 the first stone was laid and construction continued until 1424, when work was stopped due to "insufficient resources". The architect, or Master of Works, was a fellow named Pierre Morel. Anyway, by the 17th century,the "Couvent des Célestins" was one of the most sumptuous in Avignon, with one of the richest accumulations of art. Most of that bit of history comes from this website on Avignon.

But what interested me from an architectural perspective I never found. There are arches that were started but  just end in space. The arched window in the upper left corner looks like something Louis Kahn would do - it's very modern. There are capitals to columns that are unlike any I have ever seen. If anyone comes across this blog entry and knows where I can learn more about the architectural treatment of this building, please do leave a comment or email me. I'd love to know more about it.

These watercolor sketches are in my 5x8 handbook.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


After the bike trip, we hung around in Gordes for a night and then took a taxi to St. Remy, where we stayed for 2 days. Looking back on my time there, I don't think I used it very wisely. There were lots of things we missed but maybe we just needed to chill for awhile after being on the bike for a week.

This sketch is from the Musée Estrine, Centre Interprétation présence Van Gogh. I went there after a long stretch of drawing a house just outside of the central town. The museum was pretty disappointing - there were no Van Gogh paintings or drawings and the other main exhibit was pretty awful. However, I did find this courtyard and got this sketch done just as they were closing for the day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


While biking in Provence we stayed in Gordes for a couple of nights. Gordes is a lovely old hillside village - often described as "one of the most beautiful villages in France". Before I left for France I had seen a wonderful book of sketches on the Provence region with drawings by Fabrice Moireau's that inspired my drawing above. They are pencil and watercolor sketches that are often "unfinished" in places. The effect is that eye is focused immediately on what the artist is most interested in describing and supported or framed with the added context of  the uncolored pencil drawing. One afternoon, after a hard day of biking, I forced myself to take my art backpack up the hill from where we were staying and draw this. It took me a couple of hours to draw the scene and the next day I spent an hour or so painting it.

When I returned and saw Moireau's book, I was amazed to see that the sketch on the front cover was of the very same scene that I drew! You can see his drawing here. They are similar in many ways though he sketched from a slightly different location than I did. This is  pencil and watercolor on 12x16 Canson watercolor block.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Colors of Provence

I loved Provence. I have always wanted to go and what better way to see it than on my bike. There is just no better way to see a region like this. The sketches above were mostly done in the small town of Gordes except for one on the top right which I did in Rousillon. Watercolor, pencil and ink in my 5x8 handbook journal.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Paris Institute of France with Riverboat

When I walked by this scene, I was intrigued with the contrast of vertical and horizontal lines. The strong vertical of the dome and the strong horizontal of the long riverboat. This sketch never quite captured it - too many mistakes of color and perspective are getting in the way. Maybe I'll try again sometime. This is in my large Handbook Journal (8x10)and reworked some in Sketchbook Pro.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Paris Cafès

In Paris, it is easy to just hang out at sidewalk cafès for hours drinking coffee, sketching, watching people, chatting. There are no shortages of these cafès in Paris - they're everywhere. On the day I sketched this scene, we woke late and I came down to a bakery around the corner from our hotel while Valerie did some work on the computer. The croissants were great, coffee delicious, and a nice mix of people came and went as the workers joked with the regulars. Valerie joined me as I was beginning to put color on the sketch. It was a great breakfast that managed to last until 1 o'clock in the afternoon.

Valerie enjoyed it so much that the next morning, while I was out drawing, she went there for breakfast again but found a completely different scene. The doors were closed, scaffolding was up, paint cans and tools everywhere. What a difference a day makes...

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I got hitched earlier this month - October 1st to be exact. One of the benefits to getting married is that you get to go on a honeymoon. And since we had a smallish wedding we decided to go big on the honeymoon and spend 3 weeks in France. We flew from Boston to Paris and arrived just before sunrise. We like to go economy when we fly - something about sitting in an upright position for 6 hours and having your head fall forward when you start dozing off just works for us. NOT.

Anyway, as we were wearily getting off the plane, it dawned on us that we couldn't check in to our room for another 8 hours. No problem. We dropped our bags off at the hotel and checked out our neighborhood. First stop was Notre Dame Cathedral where we did an audio tour. After that, we found a little cafe on Ile Saint Louis called Lutetia Cafe. We had lunch and a cafe au lait and I sketched the bookstore across the street but what I really enjoyed drawing in this sketch were the outdoor heaters.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Influential Person #1 - Daniel Quinn

For awhile now, I've been thinking about doing a whole sketchbook full of portraits of people that have had an influence on my life and the way I think and act in the world. If you believe that by sketching or drawing or painting someone that you can come to understand them better (as I do), then this kind of an exercise seems like a good idea. So I started a list of all the people I could think of that have had a significant influence on me and started collecting some images from internet searches. Here is my first victim - Daniel Quinn.

Daniel Quinn wrote a book called Ishmael. At the time I read it, some 20 or so years ago now, it had a profound impact on how I thought of myself and my place in the world. From Wikipedia - "Ishmael is a 1992 philosophical novel by Daniel Quinn. It examines mythology, its effect on ethics, and how that relates to sustainability. The novel uses a style of Socratic dialogue to deconstruct the notion that humans are the end product, the pinnacle of biological evolution. It posits that human supremacy is a cultural myth, and asserts that modern civilization is enacting that myth." . The book forced me to challenge some assumptions I had grown up with and, in doing so, it changed the way I saw the world.

I'll be posting these portraits periodically and numbering them in the titles but they are in no particular order of importance in their influence.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gazebo Sketch

I woke early on this Friday morning and wandered over to the gardens, which I hadn't really seen since we drove in on Wednesday. There are over 125 gazebos on the property - most are wooden and built in the Adirondack style. This stone gazebo was sort of unique and fit onto a page I was doing with vignettes of these gazebos. I wanted to do a sketch without the black pen. It's a little different from my normal way of sketching but I actually kind of like it so look for more pencil and watercolor sketches. This little sketch is about 4 1/2" x 5 1/2".

Monday, September 5, 2011


In my 5x8 PORTRAIT sketchbook Moleskine. It will have to do and although it's not great for watercolors, it's good enough...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Lake House

Sketched in my 5x8 Moleskine journal. I'm determined to do portraits in this landscape book!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Monhegan Island - Day 4

This day we started on the Cathedral Woods Trail. I posted my first sketch of the day here. I went right from that sketch into this oil painting. The colors aren't quite right here. I need to figure out how to photograph these oil paintings better. I was pleased with this little 6x8 study. It was quick but caught the scene pretty nicely.

In the afternoon we hiked over to Squeaker Cove and I climbed over some difficult terrain to paint Blackhead. Again, the colors are agonizingly off from the actual painting. Not really any better or worse - just off.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lunch Sketching

A lunchtime sketch at Paolina's Way - a restaurant here in Camden that serves great local, organic food made with love. Valerie and I shared a Potato & Rosemary pizza. Very good...

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Waiting for Alex to come out of tennis, I sketched this scene quickly in my moleskine journal. 3 1/8 grip refers to the size handle Alex needs for his tennis racket...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hubbard Hall

This past weekend our painting class met at the Museum of Art on the Bowdoin campus and saw the "Edward Hopper in Maine" exhibit. All I have to say about that is if you can go, you should go.

I decided to go early and paint near the museum. I don't usually work this large but I've been enjoying working bigger lately in oils so I wanted to bump it up in watercolors. The actual size of this is 9"x15". I fussed with it a bit too much to be completely happy with the end result but I think the fussing actually goes in as part of what is learned for the next time.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Petition for Portrait Watercolor Moleskine!

I've been drawing in a 5x8 Moleskine journal lately. And while I love the paper, I'm not real keen on the landscape format and it's amazing to me that Moleskine doesn't make this size journal in a portrait format with watercolor paper. I sent an email with this request to them 2 years ago and here is what they said:

"Dear Mr. Foster,Thank you very much for your mail and suggestions. We really appreciate the ideas of Moleskine's users. We will keep in mind your ideas for future updates.
Kindest regards,
Vittoria Cleva"

Not very promising is it? If you have time and you want this as much as I do, please send in a request. They just might do it if enough people ask.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Monhegan Island - Day 3

Day 3 was another beautiful day on Monhegan. The top painting is 8x10 from Little Whitehead looking toward Blackhead. I was on the edge of a cliff while painting this scene. I had the idea to repeat the shapes of the tree in front of me along with the shape of the coastline. At about 2 in the afternoon the updrafts started, which threatened to pull my umbrella inside out, so I had to close it up and paint in the strong sun.

The bottom painting is 6x8 looking toward Manana (The small  island adjacent to Monhegan). A storm was coming in and it got pretty exciting as the wind kicked up, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees, rain blowing in my face, lightening flashes in the distance, seagulls flocking and flying around me. Painting is cool.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thought for the Day

"The energy conveyed in a quick sketch far outweighs my humble opinion.
Curious how more diligence can be less productive."
John Wright     
"It ain't sophisticated, but somehow it's exactly what sketching is supposed to be - fast, impressionistic and less than perfect."
Roger O'Reilly

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Monhegan Island - Day 2

This is "Washer Woman" near Lobster Point. Oil on 8x10 panel. I thought the horizon line turned out nicely and I had fun abstracting the rocks in the foreground. Beautiful day.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Painting Class - July 20th and 22nd

This is a copy of a William Merritt Chase painting I did a couple of weeks ago. That Ron actually has a Chase painting is pretty cool and that he would bring it in to class for us to copy is beyond cool. I'm not that good at photographing these oil paintings but I think I actually like the photograph better than the painting in this case! I probably shouldn't admit this but the colors are warmer and richer in the photograph and I like that. However, in my defense, my painting is much closer to the original. Anyway, I like the thick/thin contrast of paint and feel like I'm making good progress. This is on a stretched 18x24 canvas. I didn't measure the original but it was more like 22x40.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Monhegan Island - Day 1

Both of these paintings are small - 6x8 "studies" I will call them. I went to Colin Page's studio last night with a group of folks from my painting class and someone made the comment that "studies" are simply unsuccessful paintings. I thought that was funny/true.

These are my first paintings from Monhegan. We went to Fish Beach and set up our stuff and watched while Michael (Michael Vermette) did a painting demonstration with a palette knife and introduced us to Black Oil Wax medium. I did the top painting there and I was slipping and sliding all over the place using that knife. What a mess. Oh, and I should point out that we only had 20 minutes to do these "studies"!

The bottom painting was done after dinner. I went down to Lobster Cove at sunset and tried to integrate some palette knife with brush. The cool thing about that painting was the experience of doing it. The wind was intense and blowing me all over the place. I couldn't make a straight line to save my life. This is a life ring on a post. They have these at various places on the island because the currents are so strong they can sweep you out to sea. The photo to the left I found on the web - taken by TR Smith. That's what it looked like in real life.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Painting Class - June 29 - July 8

I spent 3 sessions on this painting. I think it's the most "realistic" painting I've done. Really looking at color and value, shadows, highlights, etc. I worked on it for 2 sessions and was ready to move on to something else but Susan encouraged me to continue and push it a little further. I'm glad I continued to work on it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Painting Class - June 15 and 17

Same subject, different view but this time the bowl and pitcher were on a white paper towel so it lessened the colors being reflected up on to them. I like the apple here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Painting Class - June 8 and 10

It's been awhile since I posted anything from my painting class. This still life was fun to paint. Just shows how much color is in white!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cathedral Woods

Just back from a week on Monhegan Island. This is my only watercolor sketch. The rest were all oil studies on either 6x8 or 8x10 canvas panels.

This was done in the Cathedral Woods. I loved doing this sketch as I was on familiar ground here - both physically and artistically. When Alex was 4, 5, and 6 we would come to the Cathedral Woods and build Fairy Houses. He loved it and I have good memories of doing that with him. And after a week of struggling with oils, I needed to do something I felt familiar with and for me, that is watercolor with pen.

I'll post some oils soon...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bananas Farnsworth

Next week I'm heading off to Monhegan Island for a whole week of painting. A former watercolor instructor I had a few years ago is running a workshop called "The Race - Monhegan Studies". It's based on a story that Robert Henri (The Art Spirit) and a few other artist - George Bellows, Rockwell Kent, Leon Kroll, and Randell Davey - came to Monhegan in the early 1900's and made a gentleman's wager amongst themselves to see how many paintings they could do in a day in the weeks to come.They felt this was the best way to get acquainted with the island and experience as much of its uniqueness as possible in the short time they had. This became known as “THE RACE” and it created some of the most beautiful studies ever painted of Monhegan Island by these very same painters.

Now, I don't think I'm going to "race" but I hope to paint at some interesting locations and sharpen my plein air skills. See you in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New Pens

I bought some new pens on the advice of another artist. I actually bought a set of 12 pens - Nexus Kohinoor. Kohinoor has a good name - I have done a lot of technical drawing with their technical pens. They have been exceptional. However, these pens are extremely inconsistent. Of the 12 that came in the set, only 4 worked. The supplier offered to send me another set free of charge and when they arrived, only 3 worked! It's too bad because I do like the ones that work until they stop working. Ah well, the search goes on for that perfect pen....

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Painting Class - June 1 and 6th

Ron wanted me to copy a painting of his for my next exercise. I worked on this for two classes - about 5 hours. I didn't get to some of the final details but I did OK with color, drawing, and edges. Oil on panel - 11x14.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Morrocan Gala

More journaling pages from my 5x7 Handbook Journal. These Moroccan lamps hang from my canopy bed. They're cool when the candles are lit and they put out all these dots of light that move around the room - gives the room a nice romantic ambiance.

The people on the right side are there to hide a major screwup in drawing. I should major screwup more because I often like the outcome of fixing the screwup. That's where the art juice really kicks in. I love that. There are some strangers in there but there are also two of my roommates from college and the woman in front is Salvador Dali's wife, Gala.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Painting Class - May 25th and 27th

I actually had 2 nights to complete this painting. That's almost 6 hours. It turned out pretty close in color and the drawing was fairly accurate too. It's no masterpiece and I don't think I want to paint that red blanket again anytime real soon but as study and exercise, I'm pleased with it and feel I'm making some progress.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Painting Class - May 20

I think this is one of my best oil paintings to date. I like the way it all came together. I worked out overall values, drawing, color, and composition in a nice controlled but organic way and then started getting into the details at the right time. I didn't finish it but I think I could with the foundation I built for it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Plein Air at the Lake

This is sort of my first solo plein air effort. I went out to the lake, where I wouldn't be seen, and therefore embarassed. Not sure why I'm embarassed to be seen painting so badly but then I post it on my blog for all the world to see. Maybe I'm just certain I will improve. Oil on panel - 11x14

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Painting Class - May 18

This is kind of a bizzarre still life that Ron set up for a few of us. I didn't want to paint it at first but soon found myself immersed in the challenge of it. A reflective pig placed in this shell-like-something-or-other. The challenge I had with it was I kept getting into the details before I had the overall colors and values established. This is oil on panel (11x14)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

London Sketches

Pencil and watercolor sketches for a change. I must have lost my pen...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bali Memorial, London

In 5x8 Blue Handbook Journal - digital color added in Painter 11

I didn't really know what this was until recently. I was in London over New Years and since I didn't want to visit the Churchill War Rooms with the group I was with, I found a nice place to sit and sketch - I thought. I sat on the little bench that is in the shadow of globe in the lower photo and started drawing. It was pretty empty when I started the drawing but within about 5 minutes there was a crowd of people taking pictures and I realized I was sitting in some kind of monument. I got up and left and walked across the street to a park and sketched the little scene on the right hand page. Today, going through my sketches, I googled the "peace dove globe" that I was drawing and found out what it really was. It is a memorial dedicated to the 202 people killed in Kuta, Bali in 2002, 28 of whom were Britons. There are 202 peace doves carved into this 5' round marble globe representing every person that died in that bombing.

I hate terrorism. It's the worst part of humanity. I don't understand it. It's worse than suicide, worse than murder, worse than lying, or cheating, or stealing. It is absolutely the worst thing a human can do. I also hate war. There are better ways to deal with conflict. This drawing on the left hand page means all sorts of things to me now and has all kinds of layers of feeling it didn't have before. I've been dealing with this heaviness for 2 hours now since I found the sketchbook drawing. It didn't seem finished so I worked on it digitally and in the working on it I discovered more about it and more about me. It doesn't feel right to pour it all out on this blog but I think it's one of the reasons I love drawing/sketching and painting. I learn more about the world and in that learning I discover more about who I am and what kind of person I want to be.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Wheels on the Bus

From my actual Sketch Journal! I've been posting so many paintings lately, I'll have to rename my blog. Well actually, the way I see it, they are all sketches or studies - a sort of record of my life/artistic growth. This was from a family trip way back in December. I was waiting with Alex outside of the tennis courts at Pomfret for Valerie and felt compelled to draw the school bus in the parking lot. I stood outside and finally my fingers got too cold to draw! This is in my 5x8 Handbook Journal.