Sunday, June 30, 2013

"Summer Clouds" - A Characteristic North Florida Scene

"Summer Clouds" by Mary Lemmenes
     Several summers ago (in fact, looking back, it was in 2007!), I took the dog out for a walk and ran right back in for my camera. The towering clouds to our south were amazing that day, although in coastal North Florida, our changeable skies are often stunningly lovely. This view would make a fine subject for a painting, I thought. You can view the original  reference photo below.

     Translating that neighborhood scene to a painting took longer than I had anticipated, but "Summer Clouds" is finally ready to show you. The 18" X 24" acrylic painting, seen on the right, is on gallery wrap canvas and can be hung without a frame--or can be framed if one wishes. The detail photo illustrates some particulars discussed below for readers interested in technical aspects of the work.
Close-up Detail 

     The two major challenges in this piece were: to create an interesting foreground and to convey an adequate impression of the cloud formations. First, although our neighborhood street is attractive, I did not want to use a city street and houses as a foreground. So, I imagined, sketched, and sketched again until a composition plan  seemed workable. I wanted the clouds to "star" and worked to avoid upstaging them with the foreground. Yet, the foreground seemed to need more than just a vague suggestion of ground and foliage. A single tall, dark loblolly pine on the left (balanced by a birch on the right) is a clear contrast to the bright clouds as well as giving some character to the land (the models for these particular trees live on other streets in our neighborhood). In fact, the area where the pine stands against a bright cloud area emerged as the painting's focal point, which Anthony Whiting taught us in recent painting classes is either the darkest dark next to the lightest light or the brightest color in a painting.

     Secondly, painting the clouds as you see them here required gradually building them up in many layers. They cannot be done with a heavy hand (at least, in this style of painting) and yet needed to look as impressive and substantial as they appeared that summer day. They also needed richer color variation and play of lights and darks than we can see in cloud photos.
Reference Photo, Jacksonville, FL

     The acrylic paint palette for this piece includes: Paynes grey, ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, cadmium red light, sap green, yellow ochre, and cadmium yellow light as well as titanium white. When I asked Anthony Whiting for advice as it was nearly finished, he suggested a color mix for the under side of the clouds I never would have dreamed of or tried on my own: alizarin crimson and veridian green--with white as needed. Normally, red and green blends create a brownish neutral or even a rich, true brown (depending on the tones of the original hues), but I was amazed at the warm, rosy purple-grey this blend created. Thanks to Anthony for that! I left some of the shadowed cloud areas of greys and bluish greys I had used originally, but adding some of the new blend (in my view) enriched and enlivened the cloud layers.
Question of the day: Isn't the sky beautiful and miraculous, and isn't the variety in sky scenes across our great land a gift to see?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Easy, Make-ahead Cabbage Salad Recipe

     I like to make salads ahead of time when possible, especially when we entertain. This cabbage salad is not only simple to make ahead and have ready for a meal; it also keeps well over several days, improving with age. It has a light, fresh flavor and stays crisp. 

     Many years ago (mid-1980's) family members who live in Chattanooga, Tennessee, gave me a Chattanooga Junior League cookbook called Dinner on the Diner. Among our favorite recipes from that book is this "Dutch Cole Slaw". I am sorry that individual contributors are not credited, so we can't thank the creator of the recipe.

     Our dinner guest this past week liked the cabbage salad as well as we do and took the recipe with her (as well as that for the Cuban Carne con Papas--beef and potatoes--it accompanied). We will enjoy the generous amount left over this week, too. The recipe claims that the "Slaw may be kept for several weeks and improves with age," but it doesn't last nearly that long in our house even though there are just two of us. It is delicious with lunches and dinners and has never tasted "old", up to a week later. We can't vouch for the "several weeks" claim.


1 large head cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
1 large or 2 medium onions (Vidalia onions are super), thinly sliced
1 sweet bell pepper, thinly sliced 
1 cup sugar
     Put vegetables in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and toss well.

1 cup cider or white vinegar
1 cup light vegetable oil (such as canola)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon dry mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
     Mix dressing ingredients in a saucepan and bring just to a boil. Stir well, then pour hot dressing over cabbage mixture. Mix with vegetables and refrigerate in an air-tight container.

Question of the day: What foods do you like best in the summertime?