Friday, June 27, 2014

Sacré bleu

My husband was reading the novel by Christopher Moore Sacre blue and either neglected to tell me or notice that a motif centering around blue, a particular blue used by artists for centuries might interest me...more than a little.

 "The translation of sacré bleu is sacred blue," says Moore., in an interview with NPR "In medieval times, the church said that if you are going to portray the Virgin Mary's cloak, it has to be in a certain shade of blue. And that blue must be ultramarine, because ultramarine blue is permanent. It doesn't go black or fade as organic colors do. And that is made essentially from crushed lapis lazuli, which is only available in Afghanistan. If you think about the 11th and 12th century, trying to get a stone from Afghanistan to Europe, for years and right up into the 19th century, was more valuable, weight for weight, than gold."

French blue or Ultramarine is a favorite of mine to use as it has a bit of red making it lean towards violet but more because it never dulls as some colors can when thinned or white is added. My friend, artist Christina Baker and I had a discussion about blue and it led to her suggestion to combine a few of my recent works containing this historically important and marvelous color.

I thought you might enjoy the first page of text from Christopher Moore's book Sacré bleu. After reading it I was stunned that my husband did not hand the book directly to me. Apparently he has underestimated my interest in color.

Prelude in Blue
This is a story about the color blue. It may dodge and weave, hide and deceive, take you down paths of love and history and inspiration, but its always about blue.
How do you know, when you think blue- when you say blue-that you are talking about the same blue as anyone else?
You cannot get a grip on blue.
Blue is the sky, the sea, a god's eye, a devil's tail, a birth , a strangulation, a virgin's cloak, a monkey's ass. It's a butterfly, a bird, a spicy joke, the saddest song, the brightest day.
Blue is sly, slick, it slides into the room sideways, a slippery trickster.
This is a story about the color blue, and like blue, there is nothing true about it. Blue is beauty, not truth. "True blue" is a ruse, a rhyme; it's there, then it's not. Blue is a deeply sneaky color.
Even deep blue is shallow.
Blue is glory and power, a wave, a particle, a vibration, a resonance, a spirit, a passion, a memory, a vanity, a metaphor a dream.
Blue is a simile.
Blue, she is like a woman.


Are you a fan of any particular blue?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Room of the week

I am sure you are thinking, WTF, Kerry.  I never called this "prettiest room of the week".
Truth is that I am feeling a little ornery and wanted to post this to show you that its not a new idea to use books with color-coordinated covers as decor. Its an old stupid idea.
I confess I am guilty of it. I did it in my daughter's room, so it's her fault.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Room of the week

You have probably seen this image before. What I find most divine is the masterful way symmetry and asymmetrical  pieces act in harmony. The mostly monochromatic walls and textiles allow the art of different size and color to work anyway.
Also, I want that Jan Showers coffee table really badly.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Another way to see blue and white porcelain

What is it about blue and white porcelain filled with flowers that is so appealing?

I often look for excuses to buy flowers for my collection of blue and white. Sometimes Saturday seems excuse enough.

When I am not arranging my own flowers I am often in the mood to paint them and the Waterlogue app was a great inspiration for watercolors.

My need to abstract things seems to have won out.

"Blue vase" 24 x 24 oil on canvas by Kerry Steele

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen a muted, neutral background as the start of this painting.
The first picture below is a detail of the neutrals.

 I used a large brush loaded with French blue and white to paint the vase and added layers upon layers of energetic color to depict the overflowing blooms.

Just like in life I wanted to capture what I love about a vase of flowers. Tiny bits of neutral in varying color peek around the edges, playing shadowed light. Hints of green and yellow like the folded leaf or wide, overripe blossom dot the pinkness.
 Sometimes abstractions seem like a kid making up their own language that only they understand. I know that only I see things through my lens I can only hope my abstract visions of pretty things translates to you too.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dream house dreaming part 2

Yesterday I featured Castle Hill in Keswick, Virginia and today I want to show you Old Keswick which was also featured in the Kathryn Masson book Hunt Country Style. Masson's book states, " Old Keswick is one of the earliest houses in an exclusive area outside of Charlottesville, famed for its large horse farms and the Keswick Hunt. A rambling driveway begins at an entrance marked by two low fieldstone columns and winds past barns and stables, a stone springhouse, and pastures for finely bred horses, leading to a white weatherboard farmhouse hidden among trees. It is a rare piece of Virginia history."

It was originally built as the hunt lodge for the yesterday's property, Castle Hill and is located nearby. I would have a tough time choosing between the two.

This MLS photo instantly caught my attention as the east parlor and the image from the cover of  Hunt Country Style.

Masson's book goes on to say, " Keswick Stables has been a renowned Thoroughbred operation since the mid 1950s."
This is horsey style at its best.

Old Keswick is listed for $12,000, and the full listing can be seen HERE

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dream house dreaming part 1

With the summer vacation here, little ones play outside and teens are out and about. On Saturday morning I actually found myself bored. *Gasp!* I am never bored. I did what any self-respecting design junkie would do and browsed real estate listings.

It was not until I clicked entirely through several listings that I realized there are two Virginia treasures for sale. The first is Castle Hill, in Keswick Virginia and less than an hour from me.
I recognized it from My book by Kathryn Masson Hunt Country Style, a favorite.
The book states, " Castle Hill is one of the most magnificent and historically significant plantations in Virginia. It is located in Keswick on what was one of the first land grants in Albemarle County."

image Paul Rocheleau from Hunt Country Style

This image from the book differs from the MLS listing but I knew the hand painted walls were familiar.

This photo shows the original 1764 frame dwelling to which the grand Federal style brick house was added, thus changing the orientation of the house to face the mountains.
A bit more of the interior shows the grandest Virginia country life.

 The house is listed for $11,500,000 and the full listing is HERE
Join me for part 2 tomorrow to see an equally wonderful and related property.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Room of the week

This is what I call camping.
 I do not not camp but if I had a lovely little retreat like this, I would call it camping.
It would also make a magnificent art studio.
What would you do with a cozy place like this?

Monday, June 2, 2014

new artwork

"Resonation" 30 x 40 oil on canvas

I have finished quite a few canvases in the past few weeks and I am very happy with the vast majority of them.
The image above, "Resonation" is the kind of painting that got resolved in my favorite way. That is I painted for a bit and just wasn't all that excited about what I had, in this case, another pink and green painting. I didn't hate it (I occasionally do) but I walked away and tended to other things leaving the canvas on my easel.
It would catch my eye through the open door and one afternoon I said, "big blue!" I knew I wanted to add blue in a large way so out came my new big brush, french blue, white and a healthy dose of turpentine.

Another that that worked the same way was "Piazza Navona"

"Piazza Navona" 36 x 48 oil on canvas

This is named after the famed piazza in Rome with several Bernini fountains, including the Fountain of the Four Rivers. Originally painted heavily in blues and yellowy greens it began to remind me of pollen dripping down the side of a blue car in the rain...not so pretty. I still wanted to keep the sense of water flowing but add a lively atmosphere and this is where that idea took me.

"Just epiphanies" 30 40 oil on canvas

"Just epiphanies" came to be in a more ordinary planned fashion where I selected the color palette in advance (for the most part) and layered the color in the desired composition. Boring but I am thrilled with the result and it might be a little hard to let this one go.

"Sunday suit"

This one, "Sunday suit" is a little 8 x 8 and I am including it because I really don't prefer to paint small. The edges are too close to each other for my animated brushstrokes but I have been working on it. I really loved this because it reminded me of my great-grandmother's Sunday best. She wore dark blue suits (think boxy Chanel type) with netted pillbox hats often with gloves and a Kelly bag and on special occasions was given a lily or orchid corsage.