Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quick Draw

This afternoon I went to an Open Life Drawing Session at the McLean Community Center as a drop-in for the second time. Today was so much better than last week mainly because I always need to get acclimated to my environment in order to do decent work. Last week, it seemed whenever I reached into my drawing box, I was missing what I needed. Better prep this week helped and allowed me to change gears when I felt like it.

All the poses for these Open Life sessions are quick. They start with a series of just one minute poses, then go to a couple of five minutes, then 10 minutes, 15 minutes and end with one hour long pose with a break. So, here's a sampling of what I did.

Open Life sessions are most Thursday afternoons from 1 to 4pm and cost only $9 as a drop-in (even less per session if you sign up for the series).

The drawing in black is done with vine charcoal and General's charcoal pencils. The red drawings are done with chunks of real red chalk I bought in Florence, Italy from Zecchi's, plus some conte crayon and a touch of red pencil. I found the red chalk inspiring!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Making Sargent Jealous

John Singer Sargent would have been in painters' heaven painting the gorgeous setup in today's portrait painting class. Me, too. (I spent the class dying to paint...) Fellow artist extraordinaire, Brenda Drake, not only agreed to model for my class (taught through the Great Falls School of Art) for today's session plus two more -- she brought along some magnificent props as well. Colorful parasols, Brenda's unique chair, pillows, beautiful fabrics, and Brenda's grace inspired everyone.

The work done today by the whole class was fantastic. I can't wait to see what they do in session 2.

By the way, Brenda was taking time out from her significant duties as the Chair of the Gala for the Great Falls Foundation for the Arts that is taking place November 21. The Gala is a fundraising effort for the school -- to provide some much-needed funds for equipment, space and supplies so that courses can be expanded to serve the art educational needs of aspiring artists of all ages. Tickets cost $75 per person for a wonderful night celebrating the arts, a silent auction with artwork donated by local and regional artists (including me), and a chance to help turn a dream into reality. Download the Gala Invitation and Reply Cards on the Foundation's Events page here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Amazing Painting at the Met

I'm taking a momentary rest from showing you what I've been up to (part painting, part actually resting) -- so I thought I'd revisit some of my discoveries, surprises, and happy moments of the last two weeks. That includes the trips to New York for the Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club Exhibit and the Studio Tour, plus my classes. So, starting with NYC and the Met.

Admittedly, the fact that I found an amazing painting at the Met shouldn't come as a shock -- but when viewing this particular painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), I was stunned. The painting is "The Church of Saint-Philippe-du-Roule, Paris" by Jean Beraud (French, 1849-1936) and it measures 23-3/8" x 31-7/8" -- so it's not huge. What surprised me was the extraordinary detail it contained. I saw it from far away and expected to see what artists call "mud-heads" -- simplified forms suggesting faces in the crowds -- but instead I found ridiculously well-painted miniature portraits, an entire crowd's worth.

I'm not sure what possessed Jean Beraud to paint this way. I've been accused (I'm sure lovingly) of creating lifelike figures in many of the scenes that I've painted, but there's always a fluctuation in the level of detail -- with the focus of the painting receiving more attention and the "background" elements painted more loosely and less defined. To achieve my level of detail takes an inordinate amount of time for each painting. I can't imagine how long Mr. Beraud took to paint this.

Side note. Randy and I have been watching documentaries on famous artists and art lately. Last night we watched "Stolen", a documentary about the search for the paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990. Randy and I visited that museum last year -- loved it and couldn't believe that someone had the audacity to take these treasures (Rembrandts, Vermeer's "The Concert", etc.) from all of us.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Studio Tour 2008 Kickoff Party

If you ever get invited to a party hosted by the artists of Great Falls Studios or the Great Falls Foundation for the Arts, go! What a great party tonight. It's just, always, a ridiculously fun time.

I took photos -- but not many. I always start off strong, with all good intentions, and then totally abandon my camera once the fun gets in the way.

Tonight was the kickoff party for the Studio Tour. The turnout was fantastic (you can't tell from the pictures -- see above paragraph). There was a hat contest and Jon Fisher, the one wearing a wood sculpture on his head, won Most Creative Hat. Jon's a fellow Great Falls Studios board member and artist who has a sense of humor second to none. He makes three to four hour board meetings amusing. That's a feat.

Jon's also the hard-working, ridiculously successful Communications Chair for Great Falls Studios. If you live in Great Falls and read the local paper, you're aware that artists have overtaken the neighborhood. That's Jon's work.

I hope you visit Jon's studio and the other 39 artists (including me) who are participating in the Great Falls Annual Studio Tour this weekend. See to download a map and brochure. I'm in Studio #10, the Artists' Atelier, 1144 Walker Road, Suite G, Great Falls, VA 22066. The Tour is self-guided, free, and is taking place all over Great Falls this Saturday and Sunday from 10am-5pm. Come join us! Bring art-loving friends and collectors. And, it's okay to buy before the election. I promise.

I will work at giving you a recap of some of the events of this week as soon as I can. So many things to talk about.

The top picture shows Al Reitan, Carole Fisher, Jon Fisher and Pat Mercer Hutchens enjoying themselves. The blur is courtesy of laughter. The other photo depicts my studio set for the Tour. Come taker a closer look.

I hope to see you this weekend!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Painting Bob

Here's a glimpse into today's afternoon painting session at my client's condo in Reston. After the portrait's done, you get to see what's on the other side of the canvas. I'm pretty sure that this isn't the most exciting photo on this blog, but I did want you to see evidence that a paintbrush is in my hand -- as it is almost every day.

This painting is a very special project that Bob and I have planned and progressed with together -- a portrait of him and his late wife, Bridget. Bob keeps the conversation interesting -- and I learn something new, totally unrelated to painting -- each session. It's been a journey for us both.

Bob gets a couple of phone calls during the session. I particularly get a kick out of his comment "I'm being painted" -- evidently in answer to what he's doing. I wonder what the person on the other end of the phone is picturing.

Today, his daughter Anne, and granddaughter, Katie Pi stopped in to check on progress. Anne was kind enough to take this photo.

By the way, Bob's condo building is quite elegant. I get to visit in painting attire, with a large canvas; a Trader Joe's canvas bag stuffed with, well stuff; a palette; and a tool box filled with my paints. It would be difficult to blend in.

My blog entries should be shorter this week. Monday is an Atelier model painting session. Tuesday's the day I teach two classes. Wednesday I head back up to New York for the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club Exhibit Award Dinner. Thursday I head home and pick up frames from Frame Masters so I can hang new paintings in the Atelier for the Tour. Friday's the Kickoff Studio Tour party at the Atelier. Saturday and Sunday is the Studio Tour. Busy week.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Sunflowers II" Still Life -- All Done!

My latest still life is complete and awaiting its frame (from Frame Masters -- my favorite framer). Photo by Greg Staley.

I love this painting! Bob from Frame Masters asked me, after seeing this, whether it sometimes is too hard to give a painting up. Some are definitely hard to let go of, but I still want to spread around all the happiness owning a painting like this has to offer.

This painting will be in the Atelier for next weekend's Annual Great Falls Art Studio Tour. I'm in Studio #10, 1144 Walker Road, Suite G, Great Falls, VA 22066.

"Sunflowers II," 30"h x 30"w, oil on linen, copyright Jill Banks 2008.

Nocturne Revisited

For those who had taken a look at my first plein air night scene previously, here's a revision a little easier on the eyes. This is Deli Italiano's awning seen from a patch of grass in the Great Falls, VA Village Centre. I loved the flowers, twinkling lights and overflowing green vines.

"Night in the Village Centre," 16"h x 20"w, oil on Senso linen canvas, copyright Jill Banks 2008. Photo by Greg Staley.

A Boat and a Car

Transportation seems to be on my mind. I finished up two paintings today. "Touring", a small painting of a woman sitting next to her car, seems to speak of more carefree times. "Ferrari Boat" shows some more Italian men sun-spangled in a Murano canal. Both will be featured in my studio space for this weekend's Great Falls Studio Tour. Please come, visit, enjoy!

Friday night is pre-tour party night at the Artists' Atelier, 1144 Walker Road, Suite G, Great Falls, VA 22066 (3rd floor -- but not as bad as that sounds) from 7-9pm. There's a raffle for Art Bucks (money to spend on the tour) and you're invited to wear a hat and participate in a contest for the most creative, and craziest, I believe.

Then the tour is all around Great Falls this coming Saturday and Sunday from 10am-5pm each day. Bring your checkbooks. You can pick up a booklet with map and other locations at the Atelier and at other stops on the tour. Or print one out at the Great Falls Studios web site (

"Touring," 8"h x 10"w, oil on Senso linen canvas, copyright Jill Banks 2008
"Ferrari Boat," 24"h x 36"w, oil on Senso linen canvas, copyright Jill Banks 2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Visiting "Madame X" at the Met

Part of Randy's and my trek around New York this past weekend included seeing John Singer Sargent's "Madame X" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- a painting this master considered his masterpiece. I've certainly read enough about it, but I've never seen this beauty in person.

All sorts of history accompanies this painting. In short, when "Madame X" was first revealed in the Salon, one strap on the subject's dress was off her shoulder -- and this "touch" set off a huge scandal in Paris -- ultimately causing the successful portraitist, Sargent, to have to restart his career in London.

The subject, too, was trying for the artist -- constantly moving, changing position, and generally acting as a moving target. John Singer Sargent worked and thought hard about how to best capture this intriguing, multi-faceted woman. It's just the right pose, drama, dress and attitude. Tons of sketches -- that would have produced less exciting paintings -- preceded this.

As an artist, I could also see his frustration on the canvas. The background, particularly around the head shows areas of paint where he worked and reworked the surface. It's a masterpiece -- but the process was a battle.

There are battles with almost every painting I create, as well. There's something I want to capture or create that I've never done before -- and it's hard work. There is, however, nothing like the sense of accomplishment that comes from having gone to battle and created a winner.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

New York, New York

Randy and I had an amazing time in NY this weekend. We thought we were driving back last night -- but we were sleepy -- so spent an extra night on the trek back in Elkton, MD.

The Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club show at the National Arts Club is fantastic. During the reception, in typical style, I probably over-asserted myself. Some very well-dressed man was talking to others (females) in his group about what a great show it was, and commented that (amazingly) all of the pieces were created by women. I interjected that "yes, we can paint, too." I'm sure he didn't mean anything by it, and I'm sure I couldn't help myself. There are extraordinary pieces there, and anyone with a full checkbook in New York, who appreciates art, should surely put this on their "must-see" list. The art is truly great, plus diversified.

We went to the reception on Friday night -- which was packed and grand. I thought, somehow, that I would meet everyone I needed to meet to succeed in the art world that one night. That wasn't the case, but I enjoyed every minute, anyway. Just being in NYC was terrific. There is a special energy, and the city is nothing if not supremely paintable. Plus, it felt fantastic to be a part of such a special event.

So many people admired my "Tea with Anne". This painting is strictly about the subject, Anne Heilman, who takes center stage with such aplomb. I spoke to one appreciative couple -- and mentioned that Anne has many friends in New York -- and they said, "well, now she can count two more." As far as I can tell, she can count many, many more.

"Tea with Anne," a portrait of Anne Heilman won the Cassidy Memorial Fund -- a great honor.

Randy and I didn't take photos during the Friday reception, but came back on Saturday to try again. We actually walked to the National Arts Club from our hotel (about 2 miles) Saturday am, only to be told it wouldn't be open until 1pm. Randy also found out it closed at 6. So, we taxied back to the hotel, checked out, went to some galleries (Coda, Arcadia and Eleanor Ettinger) in Soho, ate a late lunch and headed back to the National Arts Club before exploring the Met.

So, we get to the National Arts Club and find out that they are setting up for a wedding where the paintings are being displayed. The lobby had other visitors waiting, too. Randy and I explained that we were there just to photograph my painting that was on display. One of the other visitors asked my name and said that she was here to look at the same painting. It was Anne Heilman's daughter, Miriam, there with a friend and two of Anne's grandsons -- all there to see "Tea with Anne"! After awhile, the manager of the National Arts Club, let us sneak up to take these shots. One's with me, and the other is with Anne's daughter and grandsons. Anne's calmly sipping tea, above the fray.

Miriam added a comment to my blog about "Tea with Anne" winning an award. I view art as some grand circle that involves all of us. "Tea with Anne" certainly fits that mold.

"Tea with Anne", 24"h x 18"w, oil on linen-lined board, copyright Jill Banks 2007 is available for sale through me, with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club during this Exhibition. Please contact me via email: or by cell: 703-403-7435.