Monday, February 28, 2011

Western Avenue Series

Mile 2: 114th Street-106th Street
This sketch is a part of my Western Avenue Series, through which I'll be making 24 watercolor paintings, one to document each mile of Western Avenue, in Chicago.  I started this project because while it is not considered to be among the most “beautiful” of Chicago’s streets, Western Avenue is a perfect place to document the humanness of Chicago, the positive and the negative. In the words of Stuart Dybek, "Western, with apologies to State Street, is a great street,  Unlike State, it is a street that goes to the interior, the heart of the city, as it glides and glows through a United Nations of neighborhoods."  Check back next Monday to see the painting completed based on this sketch.

The second mile of my journey down Western took me deeper into Beverly Hills (or Beverly).  This portion of the city located on the southern edge of the city was built by English engineers as an exclusive streetcar suburb.  In addition to English roots, Beverly is also home to a large Irish-American community and many Irish establishments. I had been to this portion of Beverly before for the South Side Irish Parade, which was held the Sunday before St. Patrick's day until it was cancelled in 2009.  

As I walked through Beverly, I came across the Beverly Arts Center, which was founded in 1968 and offers nearly 100 classes, as well as the Irish Film Festival.  The Center moved to their current location at 111th Street and Western, in 2002.  Also, along this stretch is Kennedy Park, which at 18 acres was by far the largest park created by the Calumet Park District.  The Calumet District began to purchase land for this park in 1911 at the urging of Morgan Park residents. By 1912, the Calumet Park District had completed acquisition of a dump site and an existing ball field for park development. Although much of the property remained unimproved through the 1920s, the park district worked with the Morgan Park Woman's Club to create a bird sanctuary and wild flower preserve on 5 undeveloped acres. The park district began full-scale improvements in 1930, using labor from the state's Unemployed Relief Service. 

Have you been to the Beverly Arts Center, Kennedy Park, or the South Side Irish Parade?
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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Other Work

Showing work at the Ravenswood Pink Walk
Looking for something to do this afternoon?  House Beautiful and the Ravenswood ArtWalk are hosting a "Ravenswood Pink Walk" from Noon – 5 P.M. today along Ravenswood Avenue.
House Beautiful photographed more than 20 pink chairs along Ravenswood Avenue and around the city.  Today the chairs will be returned to the sidewalks.  Also, in the spirit of the yearly Ravenswood ArtWalk, local artists will display one of a kind pink artwork in a series of studios and galleries.  A portion of the proceeds from any work sold will go to the Ravenswood Elementary School art program.  My recently completed "Pink Sunset" painting will be included in that display.  This painting allowed me to revisit a series of paintings of Belmont Harbor I completed earlier this year and to dwell in the memory of the summer evenings spent walking along the lake. 
If you want to see the work, check it out at the following locations:
Blackbird Gallery + Framing
4428 N. Ravenswood Avenue
1802 Building
1802 W. Berteau Street
Art Lab
1802 W. Berteau Street, Room 106
Architectural Artifacts
4325 North Ravenswood Avenue 
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Friday, February 25, 2011

Featured Artist

Josefina Bolano
Josefina Bolano was born in Colombia 24 years ago.  She is currently a Barranquilla, Colombia based fine art photographer, graphic designer, and Christian.  Josefina initially began taking photographs while studying Fashion Design from 2005-2008.  After moving to Venezuela, she studied graphic design for two years, though much of her graphic design knowledge is self-taught.  From 2008-2010 Josefina became more involved with photography and decided to study photography at NYIP (New York Institute of Photography).  She has done graphic design work for musicians in Colombia and Venezuela, as well as local newspapers, and advertising.  Her photographs can be found in private collections.
Does your work in graphic design inform your practice of photography?
Yes, definitely, yes. It flows naturally.  I do not sketch a design before taking the photographs.  I take the photographs first, then I just start creating, sometimes I spend hours looking for pictures I took 3 or 4 years ago, and all of the sudden, an idea pops in my head,  That’s why I never delete a photo.  The photograph you see today as worthless may be worthwhile some day.

What are your favorite places to take photographs in South Florida?
For me every single place or scene is great.  Each has its own beauty, you just have to find it, and observe carefully.  But, I have to say that I love birds, powerlines and clouds,  When I think of walk to take photographs, I'm drawn to the beach or downtown.

What types of photography and/or graphic design projects do you hope to undertake in the future?
Well I have a lot of ideas, tons of ideas actually.  With Photography, I want to do fashion, weddings, portraits, and of course continue with fine art photography, because it’s my personal view--what I own.  I think that every photo I take has a little bit of me, of my personality.
With Graphic Design, I’ve always wanted to have my own studio and work on my own. I love Editorial, Travel and Advertising. Also, one of my dreams is to work for a magazine.

Thank you very much to Josefina for her work and her thoughts on photography and graphic.

What do you think of Josefina artful photographs and designs?
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wedding Invitation

Sea Shell
I have made numerous posts of paintings of various bodies of water: Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, beached at Puerto Vallerta and the Aran Islands, and the bay in Rossaveal, Ireland.  I am frequently drawn to paint water.  
In addition to the beauty of the water and the great feeling of bathing in salt water, the humid air and the distinctly wonderful smell of the beach are hard to beat.  I love the image of a shell because as a child I loved combing the beach for treasures: shells, ocean-polished glass, and shiny rocks.  It's not surprising that so many couples choose to wed near the water.  I've revisited this shell design, experimenting with a dark background to offset the shell and champagne colored text.
Together with my starfish invitation design, I'm developing a small collection of nautically themed invitations and accessories.

What do you think of beach weddings?  
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Monday, February 21, 2011

Western Avenue Series

Mile 1: 119th Street-114th Street
This painting is a part of my Western Avenue Series, through which I'll be making 24 watercolor paintings, one to document each mile of Western Avenue, in Chicago.  I started this project because while it is not considered to be among the most “beautiful” of Chicago’s streets, Western Avenue is a perfect place to document the humanness of Chicago, the positive and the negative. In the words of Stuart Dybek, "Western, with apologies to State Street, is a great street,  Unlike State, it is a street that goes to the interior, the heart of the city, as it glides and glows through a United Nations of neighborhoods."  Check back next Monday to see a post about the next mile of Western.
The painting to represent the first mile in our northerly journey up Western will feature the Beverly Records a classic Chicago record store in operation since 1967.  It strikes me a reasonable representation of this portion of Beverly.  It's a part of the city that feels slow to change.  Much of the architecture and business that survives today seems to have had its start about a half century ago.

The Beverly Record store was started by John and Christine Dreznes.  It was Christine who expanded the business to what was at one time four stores (they have since consolidated to one store).  The store is still in operation selling hard to find 45s and LPs.  Not only that, you can rent a karaoke machine for $99!

Click here to purchase this painting.

What is your favorite record store?
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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Other Projects

Designing a Poster 
I recently completed this design for the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival poster design competition.   This competition had a series of specific requirement for entries, such as the use of the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival logo and the inclusion of specific text and space for sponsor logos.  
I developed this design after spending part of a Saturday afternoon walking along the stretch of Milwaukee where the festival will be held this July.  It is a portion of the Avenue, which cuts through the Logan Square neighborhood, in Chicago.  It is a commercial strip that includes newcomers like The Rocking Horse and mainstays like the Logan Theater.  After that visit, I made an original watercolor painting of the stretch of Milwaukee just north of Logan Boulevard, which is featured in this poster.  It is the stretch that includes El Cid, which has a great patio and affordable Mexican fare.  It is just north of Lula Cafe, one of my favorite Logan Square restaurants and the Logan Square Auditorium, which feels very much like seeing a concert in your high school gym!  

What are some of your favorite Logan Square haunts?
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Friday, February 18, 2011

Featured Artist

Carol Poppenga
      Carol S. Poppenga's artmaking is a life-long pursuit and interest. Her first formal art sale -- the work was a pen and ink portrait of a neighbor's English Bulldog -- was made when she was a fifth grade student.  After high school, Poppenga enlisted in the United States Air Force. Following active-duty, Poppenga joined the Montana Air National Guard.  She retired with the rank of Master Sergeant in 1995.
      Poppenga earned a B.A. in U.S. History and Art (summa cum laude) from the University of Great Falls in Montana. She continued her formal art education at the Alberta College of Art (ACA) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In 1994 Poppenga became the Home & Family Editor with the Lewistown News-Argus in Montana.  Other work experience includes Executive Director of the MonDak Museum in Sidney, Montana and Studio Arts Technician for the Art Department at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. Today, however, Poppenga is giving her full creative energy to the making of art on a professional level. Her artworks are in business and private collections in the U.S., Canada and Germany. In addition to her studio work, Poppenga also designs and paints large-scale murals in the public and business sector.
"Powerful Storm", (drawn from memory and some simple line drawing notes made on-site), oil on paper, 18"x24", 2009, Carol Poppenga, Donated to the Juried Yellowstone Art Museum's 43rd Annual Art Auction 
What projects to you hope to undertake in the future with your new printing press?
I’d like to create a series of monoprints and monotypes using the etching press to pull the prints. So I’ve been trying out a variety of papers and objects for embossing and am hoping to combine techniques. Printmaking is not entirely new to me. I took courses in lithography, etching, wood block and photo-stencil in Calgary. Over the years I’ve also explored silkscreen printing, creating a number of small edition prints using single screens with glue block-out and up to 37 colors per image. But I’ve always wanted to work more with the processes that really needed a press. So this year I gave in to my inner muse and bought the etching press.
"Petrolia Reservoir Memory", (based on memory), oil on paper, 5"x7", 2010, Carol Poppenga
You mention in your artist statement that you are inspired by travel beyond your home region.  Are there particular places you would like to visit to inspire future paintings?
      Oh yes! Dutch Harbor, Alaska is high on that list. So is Isle Royale in Lake Superior. And I’d jump at the opportunity to experience and paint the landscapes Canadian artist Tom Thompson and the Group Of Seven were inspired by in Canada’s north country. Of course, there are plenty of locations closer to home as well. I plan to hike and draw some areas of the Missouri River Breaks Monument, which is only about 70 miles north of my home. Last summer I hiked a small creek canyon about the same distance from home but in another direction; I hope to return to paint it this spring. 
      Sometimes exploring a place that contrast where I live has a surprise influence on my work. A good example of that was a two-week solo artist residency I did in the Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana. I love trees, but hiking in the “Bob” (as we Montanans call it) with dense spruce and fir trees blocking the sky except for a tiny “sky portal” directly above me was a claustrophobic experience. Hiking 60 plus miles in a tree-covered mountain environment strengthened my desire to paint the wide-open prairie/sky vistas.    
     I got a step closer to some extended road trips last summer when I was commissioned to paint a band shell mural in Helena, Montana. While working on that mural, I tent-camped. It poured rain and lightning every night of the month I was there. So I spent some of the profit from that project to purchase a small fiberglass travel trailer. It’s lightweight so I can tow it with my old Jeep. I tested it out last autumn and it’s the perfect fit for a long painting trip. I used to do those road trips where you just sleep in the car but I think it’s time to move up the comfort ladder. I spend my coffee breaks at the studio preparing art supplies and small canvases to put in the trailer so I’m ready to hit the road as soon as winter loosens its grip (which, in Montana, might not be until May—but whenever it does, I’ll be ready to roll!)
Mural in Veterans Memorial Park Band Shell (outdoors), acrylic latex on stucco and wood panel, 50 feet across the shell opening and about 45 ft high, 2010, Carol Poppenga
You title your painting work "Latent Images--Landscapes Remembered."  Please share a bit about this title.
For the past decade or so I’ve collectively titled my paintings “Latent Images—Landscapes Remembered.”  Have you ever taken a photo of something only to look at the photo later and think the photo wasn’t quite what you remembered? I’ve often contemplated the why of it and decided that it’s because, with the passage of time, the only “real” anything exists in one’s memory. Memory becomes the “real” because it is what we carry with us after the physical real is gone. Memory contains latent images just as undeveloped film contains latent images, but unlike film, memory can (and often does) manipulate the real. You might say that what I do when I work is “develop” memory to make paintings just as a photographer develops film to make photos. But, although they may be recognizable as particular locations, my paintings are not photographic renditions. Rather, they are the manifestation of the “latent image” as it is retained in and recalled from memory. I’ve been working primarily with sky and landscapes latent images, but eventually I’ll explore other subjects in this manner as well.
"Anchored in a Sea of Grass", oil on paper, 18"x24", 2009, Carol Poppenga
Many thanks to Carol for sharing her beautiful "latent images."  

What do you think of these Montana inspired images?
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wedding Invitation

This invitation and coordinating accessories are a redesign of a "tulip design" originally created last spring.  It was one of the first invitations I designed.  As, I have experimented with various layouts and font styles over the course of the last year, I became excited about the idea of revisiting the tulip watercolor I created last spring.  
The gentle curve of the tulip petal seems ideally suited to being paired with organically curving text and script with grand flourishes.  
It is a subject matter of great appeal at this time of year.  Tulips require a period of cold while they are dormant and resting between shows.  This means that they must be planted before freezing weather, in order to get a great display of colors in the spring weeks.  As a Chicagoan, it is this time of year that I began to yearn for those spring weeks.  This week brought milder temperatures to the Windy City and although I know we have several months before spring really settles over our city, it is nice to daydream of the days when tulips will bloom on my street.
What are your favorite spring blooms?
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Western Avenue Series

Mile 1: 119th Street-114th Street
This sketch is a part of my Western Avenue Series, through which I'll be making 24 watercolor paintings, one to document each mile of Western Avenue, in Chicago.  I started this project because while it is not considered to be among the most “beautiful” of Chicago’s streets, Western Avenue is a perfect place to document the humanness of Chicago, the positive and the negative. In the words of Stuart Dybek, "Western, with apologies to State Street, is a great street,  Unlike State, it is a street that goes to the interior, the heart of the city, as it glides and glows through a United Nations of neighborhoods."  Check back next Monday to see the painting completed based on this sketch.

The southern-most stretch of Western in Chicago is a part of the Beverly neighborhood.  It is an area that appears to have seen very little change in the last 50 years or so.  This is evidenced by a number of small businesses that have been in operation for many years.  

For example, Beverly Costumes, which rents costumes has been open since 1967.  Another local business the Beverly Woods restaurant was established in 1954 and has been a staple of the neighborhood ever since.
The painting to represent this mile of Western will feature Beverly Records.  Next week, I'll post that painting and a bit more about a classic Chicago record store.

How far south have you ventured on Western Avenue?
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Other Projects

Exploring the Lake Front in February
Last Sunday I was experiencing a bit of cabin fever.  A blizzard in Chicago meant that I barely left the house on Tuesday evening and Wednesday.  I spent the latter part of the week inside mostly cooking and loving it, but by Sunday I was feeling the urge to move about a bit, perhaps even run!  The sidewalks, in Chicago, though are still a patchwork of shoveled and unshoveled, with no shortage of icey spots.  

Given the inconsistency of the neighborhood sidewalks, I decided to make my way over to the lakefront path.  I remembered for years past that city shovels the walking/running/biking path along the lake with a snow plow, leaving it much more consistently clear than other areas of the city.  And, in fact, only four days after the blizzard hit Chicago, the lake path had been cleared.  I was delighted to find that the lake which is a tremendous summer time resource can be a delightful place to spend a winter's morning as well!
I diverted from the path, trudging through snow to the edge of the lake.  I found a surprising number of people were exploring the beach at Lawrence Street and, in addition to runners (more than you would guess), I saw snow shoers and cross country skiers.
This mid-winter outing was fantastic and made me wonder what other sorts of winter-time- lake-front-adventure I might be missing I might be missing right under my nose.  I did a bit of research and found a few sub-freezing activities for Chicagoans:
  • Polar Adventure Days: February 26th, Northerly Island.  The Chicago Park District promises that we can "watch as amazing ice sculptures are created, meet live animals, make winter-themed crafts, sip on hot cocoa, and much more."  That's right-live animals and hot cocoa!
  • Snowshoes!  A bit of research revealed that you can rent snowshoes without even leaving the city!  "Webs" (the slang for snowshoes, who knew?) can be rented at Viking Ski and Snowboard on Fullerton for just $10 per day or Runner's Edge on Clark for $15 for two days.  
  • Renting Cross Country Skis!  It seems that there a quite a few places where one can rent cross country skis, including for free with an ID at the Northerly Island (by the Chicago Park District) when there is more than three inches of snow on the ground.  In addition skis can be rented at REI in Lincoln Park, Beverly Bike and Ski, and Viking Ski Shop.
  • Finally, don't forget to try out Chicago best sledding hills.
What are your favorite outdoor adventures for the winter months?  
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Friday, February 11, 2011

Featured Artist

Brent Rodgers
Two Little Fruits Art Studio
This is the second installment in a two-part series featuring the Two Little Fruits Art Studio.  Two Little Fruits is owned and operated by Derek Cadena and Brent Rodgers.
Born from good stock in Colorado, Brent Rodgers has been a working artist in Denver for the last 7 years, he works in acrylic, wire and metal, and new media.  Mr. Rodgers’s is a member of CoArt Gallery and has shown his art around Denver at Rock the Cradle, the Pork Chop Show, Detail Gallery in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware and all over the world via the internet.  Brent is one half of the Two Little Fruits Art Studio, where he works alongside Derek Cadena, his life and business partner of 10 years.
Rainy Day Drive, digital photo collage, Brent Rodgers, 2010

What attracted you to head vase ladies, inspiring you to use them as the basis for your “Fruitville” series?
vacant stares and smooth porcelain faces really intrigue me.  They are simply begging to be given a story to save them from epic boredom.  There is something really nostalgic and comforting about them, like a trip to Grandma's house.  A heavily medicated trip to Grandma's!  I'm not exactly sure why, they just inspire me to give them life and I have a lot fun with it.

Untitled - Detail, acrylic/wire on panel, 12x24," Brent Rodgers, 2005
One of the unique aspects your work, is the technique you use for your abstract wire paintings, what initially drew you to that method?
     As a budding child artist, sculpture was my first love, especially clay.  Slab roll sculptures of fish and imagined creatures still sit proudly on my Mother's refrigerator and book shelves.  Another sculptural technique that really captured my attention was gluing string and macaroni to cardboard.  Which is pretty much the same thing I do with
my wire art. I found some thin bailing wire at a odd little mom and pop craft store in Denver, wadded it up and doused it in acrylic polymer.  At first, they looked like hairballs. As I improved, the wire became these amazing organic shapes, reminiscent of microbial life.  The painting aspect gave these almost animated sculptures an environment in which to thrive.  I still find them exciting, and have few left in my personal collection.  I stopped making them because I would use the home oven to bake the acrylic for the bubbly effect, and decided it was a little too toxic.  I would love to make some new versions of my wire art, but with encaustic and maybe some natural fibers and other found elements in nature.  Even encaustic wax needs proper ventilation when it's heated.  Someday, hopefully soon, Derek and I will have our dream studio and can make all the toxic art we want!
The Marshas Visit Red Rocks, digital photo collage, Brent Rodgers, 2009
You seem to create imagined scenarios through your work with “Fruitville” and “Dark Hour Doodles,” do you feel as though you are telling stories through your art?
    I like letting my subjects tell stories, I'm just here to guide them.  A Fruitville girl usually starts off with the
head vase roughly cutout and put on figures with fabulous dresses. Then, once the perfect head/body combo is found, I can create scenes to put them in, or, vis versa.  Sometimes the background comes first, if I'm out on an adventure and feel a story happening then I capture it.  A great example of this is: one day while on a hike at Red Rocks outside of Denver, Derek and I stumbled upon the site where aliens were getting beamed down out of their spacecraft, well, that's the story told with "The Marshas Visit Red Rocks".
    I always hope that part of my artwork's story is created by the viewer.  I never feel like the story is set in stone,  there is a lot of room for interpretation.

Jack Maggot - Dark Hour Doodle Series, acrylic/mixed on panel, 8x10," Brent Rodgers, 2009
Sincere thanks to Brent Rodgers for sharing his fantastic Fruitville Series, Abstract Wire Sculpture paintings and Darkhour Doodles here.  

What do you think of Brent's work?
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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Custom Wedding Map

The design for this custom wedding map is in progress.  It is a design for a couple who will wed in Washington, D.C.  this spring.  The bride liked the playfulness of maps with a hand drawn feel.  I had great fun creating this map with little sketches of the church where the ceremony will the held, the white house, and the reception venue.
I've spent a bit of time in Washington, DC and am alway fascinated to see the pattern of streets, which reflect Pierre-Charles L'Enfant's 1791 plan for the city of Washington.  This scheme of broad radiating avenues connecting significant focal points and gridded streets oriented north, south, east, and west is fascinating to see in two dimensions.  A great city to map!

What cities to you find most interesting in map-form?
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Monday, February 7, 2011

Western Avenue Series

As darkness overtook Chicago two Fridays ago, I found myself walking with an uncharacteristic weariness.  I approached Western and Foster Avenues, where I boarded a bus and returned to my home.  My day had begun in the early hours of the morning, on an unseasonably warm January day, at 119th Street and Western Avenue, the southern Chicago boundary of Western Avenue.  From there, I began a Northerly journey walking 21 miles along Western to Foster.  Two days later, I walked the last 2.9 miles of Western, concluding a 23.9 mile hike down Chicago’s longest street.

This urban trek was the result of a project I have recently been interested in pursuing. Over the next 48 weeks I'll be executing a series of 24 watercolor paintings, one to document each mile of Western Avenue.  Walking the full length of Western confirmed my project hypothesis. Namely, that while it is not considered to be among the most “beautiful” of Chicago’s streets, Western Avenue is a perfect place to document the humanness of Chicago, the positive and the negative. "Western, with apologies to State Street, is a great street," said writer and poet Stuart Dybek, who grew up on the South Side as the son of a factory worker. "Unlike State, it is a street that goes to the interior, the heart of the city, as it glides and glows through a United Nations of neighborhoods."

In documenting successive miles of Western Avenue, I walked through large portions of the city through which I had not previously tread.  I found myself continually surprised as I traversed 13 of the city's 50 wards, each stretch of the avenue reflecting the unique demographics of successive neighborhoods.  I was astonished by the Dan Ryan Woods which run along the eastern edge of the throughfare offering over sixty acres of wooded area, the starkness of our city’s defacto racial segregation, the proliferation of the car dealerships (approximately 70) and portions of the city, in which large-scale industrial manufacturing has remained. 

Through the “Western Avenue Series” I would provide glimpses through a series of 24 paintings that reflect the lives of the 306,412 residents of Western.  These paintings will include images of iconic Chicago businesses, and reflections of the city’s ever-changing cultural configuration.  Additional paintings aim to illustrate the historic, natural, and cultural resources that exist along one of the city’s major arteries and to portray the industrial and practical workings of the Avenue.  These images are intended to create documentation of that which is at  “the interior, the heart of the city.”
Check back each Monday to see the Western Avenue Series as it progresses.  

What do you think of this new project?
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Other Projects

Making Gnocchi
I find that February is an ideal time to hold a dinner party in Chicago.  The busyness of the holidays has past, the snow and cold have a firm hold on the city and people are eager to share a warm meal.  In that spirit, I had the delight of sharing a meal with some friends on Friday.  The menu included some new and old favorites, including my favorite homemade bread (which my friend Dan passed along last year), Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Dried-Cherry Vinaigrette (which I discovered in November), and a new recipe for Potato Gnocchi with Classic Tomato Sauce.  The gnocchi comes from the Essentials of Italian cookbook.  I made and froze the sauce a week in advance and merely assisted in rolling, cutting the gnocchi on Friday.  I loved the way the gnocchi looked lined up on the baking sheets and wanted to photograph them, share the recipe, and wish you many a cozy winter dinner in 2011!

Potato Gnocchi
1 lb small baking potatoes, unpeeled
1 large egg
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup all purpose flour
     To make the gnocchi, in a saucepan, combine the potatoes with water to cover, and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 40 minutes.
     Drain the potatoes and let cool slightly.  Peel the potatoes and then pass them through a ricer or  a food mill fitted with the fine disk held over a rimmed baking sheet.  Spread the potatoes out on the sheet and let cool.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg with the salt.  Drizzle over the potatoes, then sprinkle the 3/4 cup flour over the egg.  Mix together gently by hand, being careful not to overwork the dough, until the flour is incorporated.  Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface.  Knead a few times until just smooth, adding a little more flour if needed to arrive at a dough that is not sticky yet is still moist.  Set the dough aside, and scape the work surface clean, discarding any bits of dough.
      Lightly dust 2 rimmed baking sheets and the work surface.  Cut the dough into 4 pieces, cover 3 pieces with an overturned bowl, and put the remaining piece on the floured surface.  Using your palms, rool the dough into a long rope about 1/2 inch in diameter.  Cut the rope crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces.  Pace the gnocchi onto the prepared pans, being careful they don't touch.  Repeat with the remaining 3 dough pieces.  
     Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a rolling boil.  Add 2 tablespoons salt and then drop in the gnocchi a few at a time so they do not lump together.  Cook, stirring once or twice, until they rise to the surface, about 3 minutes.   

Classic Tomato Sauce
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 lb fresh plum (Roma) tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 1 can plum (Roma tomatoes, drained and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper 
     In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add carrots, celery, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and the carrots and celery are very tender, about 15 minutes.  If necessary, reduce the heat slightly to prevent browning.  Add the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper and cook until the sauce begins to bubble.  Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and the tomato juices have evaporated, about an hour.
    Taste and adjust seasoning.  For a chunkier sauce, remove from the heat and use as is; for a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender or transfer the sauce to a food processor to puree the sauce to the desired consistency.  Use immediately, or let cool, cover, and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze up to 2 months.
What are you favorite cozy winter cuisine?
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Friday, February 4, 2011

Featured Artist

Derek Cadena
Two Little Fruits Art Studio
This is the first installment in a two-part series featuring the Two Little Fruits Art Studio.  Two Little Fruits is owned and operated by Derek Cadena & Brent Rodgers.  Derek Cadena was born in Kansas in 1973. After high school, Derek moved to Denver where he attended the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design.  For over a decade Derek has been creating stunning original fine art pieces. Also a commissioned artist and muralist, he has works displayed in private and commercial collections throughout the United States, as well as, abroad. Derek has been a member of the Art Students League of Denver, The Chicano Humanities and Arts Council (C.H.A.C.) Gallery, The Pork Chop Show, Detail Gallery, CoArt Gallery, and exhibits his work at other various locations throughout the metro area.
Walk the Line, 14.5x23," acrylic/mixed media on wood, 2LF Studio, 2010

The warm colors and organic shapes in your abstract paintings seem as though they may find inspiration in nature.  Have you found artistic inspiration in the plains of Kansas or the dramatic peaks of Colorado?
I absolutely love being outside. Growing up in rural Kansas I spent a lot of time tracking the creek and searching for E.T. in the corn, sunflower, and wheat fields. Kansas plains definitely inspired some of my abstract paintings with minimalist landscapes peppered with alien-like pods going to seed.
Now, I live in Colorado.  It's a bonanza of inspiration!  Leisure hiking on mossy green mountain paths, biking around Denver on a Schwinn cruiser, and paddling on quite lakes with Brent in our kayaks are the best ways of gathering inspiration.  We always have a camera with us, so we take a ton of photos that are all fair game in either of our art.
Untitled 1-2, 13x15," acrylic on panel, Derek Cadena, 2007
In your 2007 VIDA show you explored life’s journey through bunnies, flowers and skulls.  Do have a sense of what subject matter or themes will inspire your work in 2011?
I totally have art A.D.D... Right now, I like graphic illustrations of Colorado wildlife and zoo animals in urban environments or vignettes of animals on plywood.  Brent and I have been working together on several pieces in this new series.  I digitally illustrate critters that he photographs, then we both paint prints and transfer the images to wood. We have a lot of fun doing this.  As far as my oil paintings... I'm leaning towards capturing grainy old Poloroid-esque images of toys and other plastic or tin junk.  I have a few images I've collected from recent family holiday travels that I plan on painting, such as, two little Christmas reindeer figurines, which, have been displayed every Christmas since I've been alive.  I am drawn to nostalgic toys and objects from my childhood. My Great Grandmother had an old steamer trunk that was full of toys that spanned about fifty years. I'm currently painting an old tin robot that looks like something that would've been in that old trunk, it's coming along nicely!
Sleeping Nude, 12x24," oil on panel, Derek Cadena, 2005
Are there particular artists who inspire you in your figure paintings? 
 There's too many to name. Dead guys: Vincent Van Gogh and Francis Bacon. Living artists: Jenny Saville and Lucian Freud.  A couple of years ago I saw a huge painting of a reclining female nude by Saville at the Denver Art Museum. It had to be at least 15 FT tall, and I was absolutely in awe of the mood, texture and SIZE of her painting. I hope to have a bigger studio space someday so I can paint that big!  For now, I like dropping in on life model sessions at the Art Students League of Denver and painting small figures. One of my favorite paintings that I still have in my collection is of a sleeping nude I painted there in 2005.
Still Mighty, 8x10," oil on panel, Derek Cadena, 2010
Many thanks to Derek for sharing his wonderful paintings.  Be sure to stop by next week to see the work of Brent Rodger's, the other half of Two Little Fruits Art Studio.

What do you think of Derek's work? 
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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wedding Invitation

Just Married
I love the playfulness of this image of a VW Bug as a getaway jalopy for a bride and groom, featured in this new invitation design.  A few tips from The Knot about decorating a getaway mobile.
What can you use? Write on windows with bar soap or shaving cream. Attach plastic soda bottles (no sparks) or streamers to the rear bumper. You can also tie streamers to the antenna and front bumper, and attach rosettes made of streamers to the car's roof -- but don't use any tape that will pull off paint! Stick with Scotch tape, and don't be surprised if some d├ęcor flies off as the couple makes their move. To make a grand statement, you can even attach a placard to the car's rear -- just don't hide the license plate! A visit from the fuzz could mar an otherwise excellent getaway.  
One automotive decorator used white shoe polish to write messages on the getaway car's windows. He says he stuck with the traditional, "Just Married," but you can get a little more creative with, "Just Hitched," "Finally Hitched," "Tied the Knot," "Lovebirds," "Old Married Couple," or whatever strikes your fancy. You can also use bar soap or shaving cream instead of shoe polish. For a darker car, write on the body of the car itself with soap or shaving cream.  

Why Decorate?
If you've ever seen a convoy of cars drive by decorated for a wedding day, you know the commotion it causes: People honk their horns, scream congratulations out their car windows, or wave from the sidewalk. What a way to exit the wedding reception -- or even to arrive there from the ceremony! Many Latino weddings in Los Angeles feature a fleet of cars decorated with crepe paper rosettes and streamers. Take a cue from this tradition if the ceremony and reception take place at different locales -- decorate the cars before the group moves between locations. It will make the journey as fun as the reception itself.

What are your best tips for decorating the bride and groom's getaway mobile on their wedding day?
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