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!
It's hard to believe that 2021 is the 9th year of my line of Philly Holiday cards. Soon after I began my Philly series, 'Famous Sites & Favorite Places," a retail buyer for my regular cards suggested I make a Holiday card, and I've been grateful to her ever since. Sadly, her shop is no longer in business, but the Holiday cards have picked up steam. They've become a regular part of my life and, from what I hear, many other Philly-loving lives too!
All of the designs start with a b&w sketchbook drawing. In 2018 I chose my quick sketch of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with the PMA in the distance. I wanted a cheery scene of the Holidays in Center City, along with the chance to celebrate Philly's cultural riches and its International connections in the flags from many countries. I fudged a bit, keeping the trees green under a starry, snowy sky - but the greens work perfectly to complement the reds in my Joy on the Parkway card!
Last year, in the midst of our 2020 locked-in lives, I chose a drawing of Reading Terminal Market. As many of you know, I was a weekly vendor there for a few years, so I know RTM - people and stores - well. Like all of us in 2020 the market was doing its best to keep its spirits up and keep going, so I wanted to celebrate it and send a message of hope and cheer. Although my sketch wasn't done at the Holidays, Bassett's and Market Blooms worked perfectly for a palette of seasonal reds and greens. RTM Festive has been a very popular card!
This year the new card is Billy Penn Holiday, starring the high-flying founder of Philadelphia who stands firmly atop City Hall at the center of his 17th c. creation. City Hall is a magnificent building at all times; at the Holidays, with the skating and the shops and the decorations, it becomes a magnet for fun and cheer and all good seasonal doings. Stay warm up there, Billy Penn, and enjoy the view!
Over the years I've added more Holiday cards and gradually reduced those that focus solely on Christmas In order to celebrate the celebrating of any and all variations of Holiday cheer.
My Philly Holiday cards are available through my website and from selected shops*. There are always eight designs to choose from, with a new card joining seven classics each year. Cards are A6 size and come with white envelopes. Order a mixed set of 5 designs (15 cards - 3 each design) or single design sets of 6 cards. Order now - shipping starts Nov 29. Happy Holidays!
*Look for my Philly cards, Holiday and regular series, at Paper on Pine (Sansom St) and Paper Moon (S 4th St)
I once had a dog I really loved, but I'm much more a cat person. Cats are endlessly fascinating: the way they look, the way they move, their little OCD cat habits. But the best thing about cats is the way they keep secrets. You just know by the look in their weird alien eyes that they are plotting something, and you may not want to find out what it is. At heart they all belong in Alice's Wonderland, charming but bonkers, mad beings in a mad world.
My joy in these drawing/paintings is not just about the cats (though a cat would tell you that should be enough.) All my work involves drawing - hand to paper - but instead of freehand digital coloring, here I'm working with tools I relish. Ink pens, charcoal pencils, watercolor pencils, brush and water: complete freedom in a few sticks, mixed with chance, luck, and lifetime practice - what can be better? My favorite pencils are Faber Castell Albrecht Durer - beautiful rich color that responds perfectly to the touch of a wet brush.
This series is a tribute of sorts to Mad Cat Excellent, Sir Toby, a furry beautiful rescue alien who allowed us into his world for about 14 years - he left us in 2020 at 18. Every cat I draw is at least a little bit about him.
Note: the images of the Mad Cat works are not perfect - I'm away from my studio for a couple of months so am making do with photos instead of high quality scans. I will be back in late November and will then provide better images and information about availability and pricing.
Let me know your thoughts about cats and about my Mad Cats!
I've been a tireless sketcher for most of my life, long before it became a popular thing. If you know my Philly and International series you likely know that all those colorful finished scenes start with free-hand on-site drawings straight from my sketchbooks. Not all the sketches make it to the finish line; there are plenty of outtakes, sketches just for my own pleasure or interest, or ones that don't call for a place in the finished series.
Take a scroll through a few - enjoy them with me.
A cold night in January 2020 - a long awaited chance to visit an empty Mount St Michel in France out of season, with a stop in stony, historic St Malo. We were happy to find this locals' bar, rich in good drinks and camaraderie. Who could know then that Mount St Michel - and everywhere else - would be without tourists for a long time to come.
Sketching - as opposed to finished drawing - should always be loose, spontaneous, in the moment, and happy with unplanned quirks of pen and hand. Below is the kind of sketch I do for my interest in all things art historical - a beautiful 16th c tomb in Nantes Cathedral. The sculptor is the awesome Michel Colombe - not well enough known, but one of the greats. My notes remind that I shorted the sculpture one niche. I took a picture too, of course, but sketching gives me time to drink it in.
Some sketches take a few minutes, some a good deal longer. The longer ones require a seat with a good viewpoint. (what you don't see is the nice lunch and glass of wine) Here's my view of the central square of Brussels, with the grand Hotel de Ville - that one may make a finished International Scene one of these days.
Paris is a sketcher's paradise; somehow every cafe seems to be peopled with the cast of an interesting art film. And who ever could get tired of the Seine and its bridges - here the Pont Neuf and the Vert Galant.
I was a high school art teacher for a long time - one of my mantras was that subject didn't matter. A kitchen counter, a pair of socks; small things are just as worthy of time and attention as a palace or a fashion model. The act of drawing - of seeing - is the magic. My daily housebound sketches in 2020 were as satisfying to draw as any grand scene. See some of them here
To end, one grand, one more comfy. On the left, the facade of the Rouen Cathedral - if you know Monet's Cathedral series this is his subject (his studio was just across the plaza). On the right, a summer day at Spruce Street Harbor Park in Philadelphia, with hammocks and fiber optic lights sprinkled in the trees.
Check out my finished Philly series here
Check out my finished International Series here
I'd love your thoughts! Are you a sketcher? Do you have favorites things and places to sketch? Leave a comment
I've just added an Original Drawings and Paintings page to my website, starting with a feature on a new series I'm calling 'Bird Games.' I'll continue my colorful prints of Philly, Travel Scenes, FLEURS, etc with enthusiasm, but I'll be adding more and more original works on paper.
My love of working on good paper with simple tools - in this case an ink pen and watercolor pencils - goes way back. I've always believed in the conversation approach to art - I have my ideas, but the paper and the materials get to have their say too. In the case of my Game Birds I begin with my characteristic loose ink lines corralled into a grid for a semblance of order, layer pencil colors for a rich background, and give a lighter layer of varied colors on the birds. What brings it all to life is water - careful brushing with a small brush on the background, and swifter, more impulsive flicks and swipes on the birds. I can never be completely sure what will happen until it does (though I have good sense of the possibilities) and am usually delighted with the result. A classic case of the whole becoming more than the sum of its parts. Knowing where to stop is essential.
Who are these birds? If you've seen my INK BIRDS series of cards you know the origin - the idea of birds just stuck with me. Birds are such an interesting meld of wild, cute, sweet, and sort of strange and savage; a bit like people, perhaps. 'Bird Games' - a play on board games and game birds - places birds in a kind of 'everyman' state, where every unconscious tweak of my pen gives a new personality, emotion, attitude. Or maybe that's just my crazy perception. What do you think?
Original Work: Drawings and Paintings
Pricing on request
Artist/Designer/Illustrator - Drawing is my way to see and think about life in all its dimensions, color, meanings, and pleasures