I've posted before about the Paris Cafe book I'm working on, but I'd like to share a bit more of the drawings and my process. Almost all my work begins with black & white ink sketches, most from life, but I often use a digital color process. For the Paris Cafe drawings I'm trying something different.
I've always loved drawing with pencils, and I really LOVE these Faber-Castell watercolor pencils. I use them a lot in my works on paper, including my Bird Games and Still Life series. For the Paris Cafe drawings I like the interaction between the sharp black line and the softer pencil coloring. I'm using them here as colored pencils, without the watercolor option. These pencils have the best strength of color I've found, dry or wet.
I want the book to have a casual feeling, an inclusive quality of being on the spot in Paris, exploring neighborhoods, finding new fun places, stopping at all kinds of cafes. For me the style of the illustrations - loose, unforced, spontaneous - helps convey that sense. I'd love to have your feedback - please leave me a comment and tell me what YOU think!
I'm not one of those folks who start hanging lights and decorations as soon as they see the first autumn leaf fall. But even before that leaf, I start thinking HOLIDAY, because a new Philly Holiday card is an annual task - and a great pleasure - to create!
For 2022 I decided to feature Philly's beautiful Rittenhouse Square, with Center City showing just beyond. It's a pretty scene in any season, but with those celebrated lights and some freshly-fallen snow, it's picture-perfect. Two happy shoppers, bundled up for the cold, make tracks across the urban winter wonderland.
Here are two in process images: the initial simple black and white sketch, then a step-along-the-way where you can see the fun of peppering the scene with lights and sprinkles of 'snow' to give a sense of the lovely holiday scene each year in Rittenhouse.
Each year I offer several choices of cards in single design boxed sets and a mixed set, always with one that's brand new! You can also find my cards - Holiday and regular - at Paper on Pine on Sansome Street.
I'm about to send out my October Newsletter, where you'll find details of this year's Philly Holiday cards - what, where and when to order. You can sign up for the Newsletter (about 4 mailings a year) on this website, and you can also find information about the Holiday cards and great gift ideas by following me on Instagram (MacGregorArtDesigns) and FB (MacGregorArt)
I've been sending a lot of cards lately. Right now there seem to be too many friends and acquaintances with health and family problems. I wish I had the power to solve serious issues, but since I don't, the least I can do is send a little cheer.
Even when words don't come easily, flowers speak a language of love and care. I like to think that my FLEURS series is just right for the job of conveying heartfelt hopes and wishes. They work for happy events like marriage and anniversaries, but they strike a nice balance for sadder times too; fresh and fun, gracious and gentle, colorful and charming.
With these FLEURS I send my best wishes for you and your family, hoping you have lots of reasons for sending happy thoughts, even if you also have some sad ones.
Take a look at my FLEURS - they come in several sets, perfect for keeping close when you want or need some flowers to speak for you. https://www.macgregor-art.com/fleurs
Travel is a concept as much as a much-loved activity. My sketchbooks have always been a record of my travels, inside, outside, far, near, upstairs, downstairs. I love the 'travel' log of my home during the pandemic as much as the many sketchbooks of travels to nice places over the years. There is no better way to get to know a place than by drawing, taking the time to really observe and transfer what you see into your mind and on to paper.
'Lines and Places' is my Etsy shop for fine art prints from my travel sketchbooks. I recently sent out a print of St Peter's Piazza at the Vatican in Rome to someone in England, a nice bounce across time and place. In January 2018 I was lucky enough to have a week to myself in Rome, dedicated to walking, seeing, and drawing. Many of the finished scenes from those sketchbooks are now in the Etsy shop (as well as on my website and on a new shop at INPrint.com). Take a look and watch for new scenes to come - lots of drawings still waiting in sketchbooks from Rome and elsewhere.
Two of my favorite drawings from that week show my inevitable twist - a bit of a wink and a tug at the seriousness of a grand scene. Here, the august Pantheon, emblem of high Roman belief and public display, surrounded by colorful crowds of modern day humans. And the Dora Pamphili Gallery, magnificent art museum crammed with very important objects. I couldn't resist tweaking the seriousness of those ancient Roman heads.
In contrast, here are a couple of my 'pandemic' At Home drawings, now - hopefully - as much a mark of a past era as memories of a bygone trip. Doing them each day took me up and down and around my house, finding new ways to see and think about what is right in front of me. Much like travel to Rome and other wonderful places.
I'm always interested in what you think. Leave a comment!
I wasn't very good about blog posts during the last couple of months - apologies. It was a busy time in France with a big solo show and .... well, a lot of nice people and fun things to do. But now that I'm back in my studio for a while, my thoughts are with the series of Still Life drawing/paintings I started before I left.
Like my better known scenes of Philadelphia and elsewhere, these start with line drawing - free, spontaneous, loose. But they then continue with a mix of media - watercolor pencils, charcoal, pencil, gouache and acrylic. I always like my original works on paper best when they are a conversation, an exchange between me and the materials. Here I'm letting the lines and colors have free rein to gallop on the page, guiding and nudging, happy to follow as much as to lead. This series, called Pots, Bottles, and Jars, is on-going.
I've set up a new website to show the range of my work, including Pots, Bottles, and Jars (my Still Life series), my Philadelphia and International scenes, series of Creatures, abstract works. I'm also working on revising and adding sites to make these available for purchase as originals and/or prints. Stay tuned, and please take a look at the new site www.mmacgregorart.com
Paris is many things, and soon, I hope, those will include a book with my drawings, on the subject of Paris Cafes. I just spent two weeks tramping, trudging, wandering, hiking, climbing, exploring Paris, searching out cafes of all sorts, fancy and modest, in interesting corners and sites, filling 2 1/2 sketchbooks with my on-site sketches.
The book is now taking shape; I'm working on it in my studio in the Loire Valley, about 1 1/2 hours south of Paris. I'll post more when there is more to show and tell, but I'm liking the way it's going. There will be color along with the line drawings, with fun glimpses of people as well as all that wonderful Paris architecture, and with text about background, history, and observations. My 'Paris Cafes' will be a personal, quirky stroll around Paris - I think as much fun for a reader as for me!
What I've posted here are raw drawings, with my margin notes. I may leave some of those notes in - what do you think?
More to follow soon.....
I've been in my 'new' studio for a year now, after moving from a small but delightful space in the convivial South Philly BOK building. I miss the companionship at times but it's great to have a space that is more than twice as big, with two rooms, one for the business side (printers, shipping, etc) and the other for ... whatever I want to do there.
I've added more things on the walls since these pictures were taken, giving it more atmosphere, and have begun to really enjoy the space to create more freely. At first facing the space was a challenge, like the proverbial scary blank page or canvas, but now it feels great to walk in and start to work.
I've just set up a new website to better show the range of my work, which has always focused on drawing and work on paper. I've been busy with my Philly and International Series for some time, but I also make, publish, and exhibit original works and fine art prints from a variety of subjects. A favorite subject has always been Still Life, or as I like to think of them, Domestic Landscapes. The works shown here are from a new series called Pots, Bottles, Jars.
My Philly and International designs, marrying the old - hand drawing on paper - and new - freehand digital color - are a staple of my work, always a joy to create, and I so enjoy sharing them with folks who enjoy having these works and giving them to friends.
But it is great to be working larger, more directly on paper, with ink, pencil, colored pencil, acrylic and watercolor, drawing and painting and seeing what hand, mind, and materials come up with together. www.mmacgregorart.com is the new site, where you'll find new work of various subjects, familiar scenes, older work-on-paper series, For the present it's primarily a portfolio site, though I will add some purchase options soon. For now please use www.macgregor-art.com for purchasing prints and cards.
My series of Paris scenes covers a lot of ground, as I myself have done over the years, wandering and sketching this most intriguing city: gardens, parks, neighborhood, famous sites. A gallery of contemporary prints in the 11th arr., Slow Galerie, shows a nice selection of my Paris scenes; I'm hoping to give them this new one of the Pont des Arts, along with a few others, when I'm there this spring.
Here is the original sketch. I thought this would be fairly easy to finish, but it turned out to be more complicated than expected. The Pont des Arts, actually a 'passarelle' (pedestrian bridge) rather than a pont, is an engineering marvel. The superstructure is elegant and sturdy - my challenge was to broach the divide between accurate and fitting for my design. I took some liberties, with apologies to French engineers, who are renowned for their expertise. Here I'm working out a sense of intricate metal lacing while also creating a pattern that contributes to but doesn't dominate the scene.
The Pont des Arts, the first metal bridge in Paris, was famous for a few years as the center of the 'Love Locks' craze. I hated that fad because it was harming the bridge while also detracting from the timeless beauty of the river and the city. The side panels became so weighted down with padlocks (more than 45 tons) that they began to be a public hazard, so the panels were removed and replaced with sheets of plexiglass over the metal structure.
My last stage in a scene is the people, like seasoning for the architecture and landscape. Because my scenes are straight from my sketchbooks, I don't fuss with details - presence and participation in the moment are the important things. There is no shortage of love on the Pont des Arts, never mind the locks. It's a place where your heart skips a beat at all times of day and in all weather, with a lover, a friend, a dog, or by yourself. The beauty of the scene, a favorite place for sunset picnics, musicians, and a million photos, never gets old.
Saturdays mornings are special in Saumur, my town in the Loire Valley of France, when the beloved market spreads out through the town, offering a copious spread of essentials to fill stomachs and kitchens for much of the week to come. In France, a country still defined by proud agricultural traditions, markets offer gifts that define the taste of that month, that week, that season. The scene is repeated all over the country, but some markets are more special than others - Saumur has a great one. I'm getting new scenes ready for a show at a winery in early summer and knew I wanted to include this view of the market along with others from 2021.
Heaped tables of colorful seasonal produce always draw the eye (and cameras) but the constants - roast chicken hot of the spit with potatoes basted in the juices, local honeys and jams, fish and shellfish, sausages, candies, etc., are just as important. My scene focuses on two of these, a very popular patisserie stand (despite several fabulous, well-patronized boulangeries/patisseries in town), and a traveling rotisserie, steaming with rich aromas. The Loire region is famous for many good things - great wine of course, but also goat cheeses, and, especially in the area around Saumur, mushrooms, which benefit from the same caves in the hills that shelter the wines as they age. The local 'mushroom lady', (in her blue hat), is a popular vendor who totes her table and her baskets every week, dispensing her wares to long lines of eager shoppers from about 7 in the morning until the market closes at 1pm.
This was a complicated scene to finish, but fun to 'attend' the market even at a great distance and in the aftermath of an East Coast US snowstorm. You can see by the scarves and jackets that it was getting cooler in Saumur at the time I did the drawing, in late November just before I returned from a 3 month stay. What may not be obvious is that I did the drawing from a window in my house there. For us the market is not just a great weekly happening, it'ss a neighbor on the historic plaza where we live. It's always fun to say a quiet good night to the square on a Friday and wake up to find the market outside on Saturday morning, already bustling by 6 or 7am. My challenges for this scene involved the many colors - the heart and soul of this design - and conveying the range of people busy about their lives. Like most painters in any medium, I rough out my colors, fitting them to the lines in the original drawing, and then go back to refine and correct. Digital painting gives me a great deal of flexibility, but it requires organized thinking to remember, or at least figure out, all the different shades and variations I've used.
Marche St Pierre, Saumur (2022)
I hope you can believe that the finished scene, a riot of color and life, is as full of friendly people, good food, and great spirit as the Saumur Marche itself! I'd love to have comments - let me know what you think!
No one has to tell anybody that these are weird times. 2020 might have been the worst, when the world shut down and came to know the meaning of 'global pandemic', but 2021 was no picnic, and no one can be sure what 2022 will look like. For a year-end post, in an effort to emphasize the positive, I thought to share some of what I worked on this year. Being an artist can certainly be frustrating at times, but it sticks with one through the tough times as well as the good.
INK BIRDS: my series of small original drawingpaintings, inspired by the birds in my new park-like neighborhood. The birds, and this series, were and are a great source of joy. (available as note card sets)
Travel Sketches - Incredible luck that we managed to squeeze in 3 months in France, between the summer opening of Europe and the slam of Omicron in late 2021. I did plenty of sketching, in the Loire Valley with all its beauty and history, and some in Paris, where I celebrated a birthday and got an idea for a book... Some of the sketches will be finished into colorful scenes (the Hotel de Ville of Saumur in progress at upper left).
FLEURS - additions to my ongoing series of fresh colorful florals, always so much fun to dream up and draw. Available as prints and note card sets
ORIGINAL WORK drawing and painting
Mad Cats - a new series, rich in color and whimsy, of cats with attitude. DrawingPaintings, like the Ink Birds, created on paper with pencil, charcoal, watercolor pencils. Better scans coming soon. I miss having a cat - these guys remind me why. More to come.
Commissions - As the year ends, I'm working on a couple of commissions. Too early to show those, but here are two recent results - a home in France (2021) and a birthday love letter to a favorite Philly place (The Italian Market - 2020) I know my loose, irreverent style is not for everybody but I love it when people appreciate what I do so much that they want a bit of it for their very own. If you have an idea, email me!
Stay tuned for more in 2021. Sign up for my newsletter on the Home page if you'd like to get the latest news straight from me!
Artist/Designer/Illustrator - Drawing is my way to see and think about life in all its dimensions, color, meanings, and pleasures