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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fair Winds and Following Seas: the Art of Patricia Andril

Colored Pencil Artist Patricia Andril
The Summer Race, Colored Pencil by Patricia Andril
“Colored pencil drawing has fascinated me since 1998," says Gallery Underground's Featured Artist Patricia Andril. “At that time, I read a review in the Washington Post about the Colored Pencil Society of America’s annual international juried show being held in the Washington, D.C. area. The glowing review included photos of the art, and it was stunning. I had to see that exhibit. When I did, I found that no two artists used the medium in the same way. Some of the pieces looked like watercolors, others resembled pastels - and for the artists into photo realism, their drawings looked like photographs. That was the beginning of my obsession with colored pencil drawing.” 

Colored pencils work well for Andril’s favorite subject: the Chesapeake Bay. Being part of a family of avid sailors, Andril spends a great deal of time on those waters, having spent over thirty years sailing with her family. Her work reflects her interest in sailing, boats and water scenes. In particular, she tries to capture the effect of the wind and of light on the water.
Windward Mark, Colored Pencil by Patricia Andril

Early history of colored pencils is not too well documented. It is known that Ancient Greeks used wax-based crayons and Pliny the Elder recorded that the Romans also used colored crayons based on wax. The first colored pencils appeared in the 19th century and were used for “checking and marking.” Staedtler, the German company owned by Johann Sebastian Staedtler, invented the colored oil pastel pencil in 1834. Production of colored pencils for art purposes started in the early 20th century. The first art color pencils were invented and produced in 1924 by Faber-Castell and Caran d’Ache. Berol started making its color pencils in 1938, followed later by other manufacturers such as Derwent, Progresso, Lyra Rembrandt, and Blick Studio.(
Lanikai Under Sail, Colored Pencil by Patricia Andril
Andril has experience with pastels, watercolor, oil and acrylic painting but using colored pencil is when she is happiest. “You can’t beat the precision of a sharp pencil point!” she says. “Since that first colored pencil exhibition in 1998 I’ve grown significantly as an artist,” she relates. “I now enter that art show annually and have earned my signature status in the organization. When I go to the exhibition I love to hear gallery patrons remark that they are amazed by what you can create with a colored pencil.”

That sharp pencil point creates beautiful scenes of fair winds and following seas, to the delight of the many art patrons who are devotees of her work.  To see more of her work, click here for the gallery's Flickr feed:

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Co-Director

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Discouraged and Delayed, but not Deterred: Driven to Create

A common theme among artists discussing their careers, whether they be full-time or part-time artists, is that people in their lives - parents, friends, sometimes even they themselves - were unenthusiastic about them pursuing an art career.
Looking for Oats by Meg Mackenzie

"At around 15 years old I discovered art class in school as an elective and fell in love with the different media possibilities, says Gallery member Meg Mackenzie. "But being raised in a military family, my father did not think art would constitute a legitimate living wage. I did not really know what direction I wanted to pursue in life. I tried history, math, Russian language, finance..."

Waiting II by Chica Brunsvold
(Acrylic on Paper)
“Even as a preschooler I loved to draw - it was my favorite activity,” echos Gallery Member Chica Brunsvold. “My parents encouraged me and actually hired a teacher for me when I was in junior high school. My interest continued through high school where I took painting courses at night at the University of Michigan. I wanted to major in art but my father, a retired linguistics professor at U of MI, was convinced I would not get an education in the Art School and insisted I attend the Lit School there."

Having been born and raised in the Soviet Union, Gallery member Anya Getter had to chose a more practical path to pursue than the tumultuous world of art. While she had dreamed of attending an art school she choose instead to enter the world of Information Technology. 

Of Two Element by Anya Getter
These artists all took circuitous routes to get to where they are now - motherhood figured prominently in all of their lives. Mackenzie "meandered through a career as a business manager with a defense contractor," eventually staying home to raise her 2 sons. Brunsvold also did some career meandering, albeit more related to art: she obtained an art degree after her father's death, and worked in both the CIA's and Armed Forces' art shops, eventually leaving to raise her daughter.

For her part, Getter immigrated to the United States, married, established an IT career and added a dynamic duo of twins to her family.

However, what was overriding with all three was that they could not ignore their artistic muses. Brunsvold eventually began taking watercolor classes and after the first course, the instructor said she was quitting and wanted her to teach the class. That meant she had to seriously study to be able to guide her adult students. She took lots of classes and workshops and when her daughter went off to college, she immersed herself in artwork.

Do You See What I See By Chica Brunsvold
When she began, considered herself a realist, but it was during the time of abstract expressionism, so she joined in. Even now she says she begins her paintings as an abstract expressionist, but searches for images, as she's still a realist at heart. "My greatest joy is discovering and developing hidden images, usually fanciful and whimsical in nature. My husband was a patent attorney and got me a trademark on the term Zooillogicals (R). I imagine the term may someday be more valuable than my paintings!"

Getter felt the longing of her creative side wanting to be free and found a way to create that related to being a mother. In the beginning, she began experimenting with imaginative decorations for children's jeans and denim overalls. This practice took off with the help of eBay and other mothers looking for unique outfits for their children. This allowed Getter to review her talents and the directions she wished to go in artistically. In 2009, she began more serious work as painter, exploring methods and techniques that communicated her vision. 

A Fine Balance by Anya Getter
(Acrylic on Board)
Drawn to bright colors and whimsical images, she is often inspired by powerful quotes. "Painting is like a meditation for me," she says. "Even though it can get very frustrating every now and then to the point where I can't bring myself to even go near canvas, eventually I return to that bittersweet process, she says "Because nothing is more rewarding than throwing your emotions and thoughts on canvas and have other people 'get it.'"

Mackenzie had a friend who was starting to teach an acrylic course, which Mackenzie eagerly decided to take for a year.  Then in 2000 another friend asked if she would be interested in watercolor classes they could both attend and carpool together. An early passion for horses developed into a successful career painting both traditional and abstract works depicting horses. Her painting "Horse #17" (shown below) just won Best in Show at the monthly juried show "Small Works" at the Art League in Alexandria, VA. 

Horse # 17 by Meg Mackenzie
(Mixed Watermedia)
These artists have all had a winding road to artistic success, but are now selling and showing their work, earning kudos in the form of acceptance into juried exhibitions and awards. Despite early discouragement and delays, when you are truly an artist, you are never deterred.

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sacred Images: Iconographer Laura Clerici

Iconographer Laura Clerici

"My mother told me that I started drawing as soon as I could hold a pencil," says iconographer Laura Clerici, the gallery's featured artist this month. "I took art classes after school most of my childhood, but gave it all up when I studied at Georgetown and then joined the Foreign Service.  Thirty five years later, while stationed at the Embassy in Moscow, I wanted to take up painting again, so I studied iconography, thinking that a brush is a brush.  To my surprise, I found that I made good icons."

The Annunciation by Laura Clerici
 (Tempera and Gold on Board)
Icons (from the Greek eikones) are sacred images representing the saints, Christ, and the Virgin, as well as narrative scenes such as Christ's Crucifixion. While today the term is most closely associated with wooden panel painting, in Byzantium icons could be crafted in all media, including marble, ivory, ceramic, gemstone, precious metal, enamel, textile, fresco, and mosaic... In Byzantine theology, the contemplation of icons allowed the viewer direct communication with the sacred figure(s) represented, and through icons an individual's prayers were addressed directly to the petitioned saint or holy figure. Miraculous healings and good fortune were among the requests.(Brooks, Sarah. "Icons and Iconoclasm in Byzantium". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (originally published October 2001, last revised August 2009))

"The “Annunciation" (right) is based on a life-sized (!) 12th Century icon now at the Tretiakov Gallery.  "Mary and Gabriel converse in static poses, but the image is still powerful and energetic," says Clerici of the piece. 

Clerici is an iconographer in the Byzantine tradition, but she came by this almost by accident.  She entered the Foreign Service after studying at Georgetown and London School of Economics.  In that capacity she served in Poland during Martial Law, worked as a refugee Officer in Central America, as a disarmament official at the US Mission to the UN during the first Iraq war, then was one of the State Department Officials honored for constructive dissent during the breakup of Yugoslavia.

While assigned to Moscow as American Consul General, she opted to take instruction in iconography rather than classical art studies to resume her art study.  She discovered a talent for the work and found that it helped “center” her during three turbulent years in Moscow.  She continued to study the craft aspects of iconography, often coming to the US for workshops from oversees assignments.   Since her retirement from the Foreign Service in 2006, Laura has concentrated her attention on iconography and working as a volunteer interfaith chaplain at Alexandria Inova Hospital. 
"Resurrection" by Laura Clerici
(Tempera and Gold on Board)

"In 'Resurrection' (left), Jesus breaks the gates of Death and Hell, and he pulls Adam and Even (i.e. humankind) out of their graves, witnessed by Jewish kings, prophets and patriarchs," Clerici explains. 

Clerici says the  'Mandylion' (below) "is an icon historically tied to the Shroud of Turin (which in Constantinople was folded to just show the face) and to images of Veronica’s veil.  A simplified variation of this image is usually the first icon students complete, and it is called 'The Image Not Made by Hand,' referring to the story of Jesus imprinting his face on a cloth (just like Veronica’s) for King Abgar. This title also reminds iconographers of the teaching that the real iconographer is the Holy Spirit and we are merely her tools."
"Mandylion" by Laura Clerici
Tempera and Gold on Board

"Icons are for 'the glory and adornment' of home and church so I strive to capture the jewel-like beauty of Byzantine icons," she says. "Additionally, because the technique I use requires multiple applications of color, creating an icon can be time-consuming, and this gives me the opportunity to sink into myself, a creative mental state all artists hope to achieve.  When someone spontaneously comments 'What a beauty!' the pleasure it gives me is beyond words."

Iconography is a medium which many people have never seen up close; these beautiful images constantly draw people into the gallery to view the fine detail in the stunning work.

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Co-Director

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Rebecca Croft: Pushing Between Dark and Light

Oil painter Rebecca Croft
“Painting for me is a new exploration every day,” says Rebecca Croft, Gallery Underground's featured artist this month, of her process.  “It takes my mind to places that it would never otherwise go.  I love to travel and represent my memories of places in my paintings, expressing nature through color and light with individual brush strokes to represent a place or thing."

Growing up as an army brat, Rebecca has lived in many places in the world, but makes her home in Arlington, Virginia with her husband and two children.  She has traveled extensively and likes to paint from her photos as well as “Plein Air."  Having grown up moving from place to place has obviously inspired Croft to paint the many places she has experienced.  Recent trips to Africa and Italy have brought forth a treasure trove of exotic paintings, including her recent Italy series, hanging in the gallery this month. "There is nothing like visiting monuments at night, " she says. "The Coliseum was just gorgeous all lit up."
Night at the Coliseum, oil by Rebecca Croft

She says of her style, “Influenced by the impressionist movement, I strive to push my paintings more towards the abstract as opposed to realism.  Each stroke should count."

Impressionist Tulips, oil by Rebecca Croft

Croft was always interested in art, and tossed the idea out to her parents as a college major, but they insisted she major in something they felt more confident would lead to a job. So she majored in business, primarily because learning languages came easily to her and French went along with business classes. She did not revisit art again until her youngest child began school full time; she began taking classes in drawing and painting, and a decade later, "my passion has taken me to the place where I want to share my work, and I'm now selling my work in galleries and online venues." 

Trees with Lavender Fields, oil by Rebecca Croft
"Recently, changing my palette has moved me to push between the dark and the light," she says. "Painting requires total focus that brings me total and complete peace. No other endeavor is the same except possibly reading a really good novel that you don't want to end."

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Color: Joy and Torment

Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment - Claude Monet

Color. It can be an artist's friend, or worst enemy (trying to mix a color you see in your head but cannot replicate, for example). It can make - or break - a painting. It is often cited as the single most compelling reason a buyer will choose a painting. Many artists are known for a particular palette, or set of colors they return to over and over. Think of the subdued greens and browns of the Hudson River School artists, or the bright primaries of Matisse. What makes an artist gravitate toward certain colors? The answers are as varied as the different paint shades and range from personal preference to the rules of their game.
"Pink Sky Over Marsh" oil by Rebecca Croft

Some artists use the colors they are continually drawn to in life. "Bright colors make me happy. I’m not drawn to subdued colors," says Gallery member artist Rebecca Croft. "I’ve never liked fall colors like yellows/oranges/browns and don’t buy clothing or decorate with those colors either. I just prefer the pinks/purples/blues/greens."

Member artist Sybil Bedner-Ostrowski says she is more drawn to an analogous palette, or three colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, with one being the dominant color, which tends to be a primary or secondary color, and one on either side of the color. For example, redred-orange, and red violet. "I think my favorite mixed oil color is terra rosa and Naples yellow, that emulates lamp light and the afternoon sun," she says.
"Almost Home" oil by Sybil Bedner-Ostrowski

Iconographer and Gallery member Laura Clerici also prefers brighter colors, but her palette is largely dictated by the icon art form. 

"I find myself using the same colors, because the palette is relatively limited by tradition. EVERYTHING in an icon has meaning, including color," she says of her work. "Canonically, certain colors are generally associated with different figures. The Archangel Michael's outer robe is usually a bright red, rather than maroon or blue-red. Jesus always wears an orange-y or gold ocher garment -- because it is supposed to represent "cloth of gold" which is associate with Jesus as the King. He is only shown in white twice, in the icon of the Transfiguration (where the text says his garments were bleached whiter than anyone could make them) and in the Resurrection.
"Lady of the Sign" by Laura Clerici

"You can vary it a bit, but it has to be intentional - what are you trying to say about the figure? For instance, in a Madonna, Mary always wears an outer robe which is largely red, but it can be purple-sh, cherry red, maroon or a brownish red. Each color says something different about who she is. The more blue/purple talks about her close association with the Divine; the more red the color makes a statement about her humanity, and by association about Jesus' nature." 

In addition to being influenced by the art form, color is also influenced by the medium. "Now I am using acrylics more and more, says Bedner-Ostrowski. "And it is wonderfully satisfying to experiment with the oddest color combinations and then just cover it up with another combination until I'm happy."  

Any gallerist will tell you that there is no predicting what colors will draw customers in. This bright abstract by gallery member Nan Morrison, hung near the front of the gallery one month, caught the eye of everyone passing by. Conversely, our solo artist Nihal Kececi's subtle palette is similarly packing them in. 

"Moulin Rouge" acrylic by Nan Morrison; "H Street" acrylic by Nihal Kececi

On the sixth day, God created the artist, realizing no doubt that He had far from exhausted the uses of color. - Robert Brault

~ Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director

Friday, August 14, 2015

Unknown Lands: Sybil Bedner-Ostrowski's Art

Artist Sybil Bedner-Ostrowski
Sybil Bedner-Ostrowski is on an artistic journey. “I am a beginner at art, picking up a paint brush for the first time five years ago,” says Gallery Underground's featured artist for August.  “As a beginner, I am like a traveler starting out for unknown lands.” To look at her colorful oil paintings, one would never guess she has only been painting for 5 years.

I call my painting style contemporary Impressionism,” she says of her work. “My approach has been evolving over the past few years into a more expressive style, from painting primarily what I see, to attempting to paint what I feel, as well. I am continuing my search for ways to paint more impressionistically.   I want my art to be abstract, but I still want the subject to be discernible, not by attempting realism but rather by using other means such as color and texture.  Eventually, I hope to make my paintings look as if they are emerging from the canvas.” 
"Endless Summer" oil by Sybil Bedner-Ostrowski

Sybil's paintings, always popular with Gallery patrons, pay homage to the great impressionists of the 19th century, and she continues in their tradition. When discussing her bright, unique color palette, she says, "So many choices: warm or cool, high key or low, analogous, complementary, monochromatic?  Where to put the color spots?  Where is the light coming from?   I try many things. I used a limited palate, blending the colors and blurring the edges. I [often] use  bright neon circus hues  and  hard-edged theatrical colors under stage lights.  I [try] to depict calm, and to raise the temperature and excite the senses."
"Naples" oil by Sybil Bedner-Ostrowski

Sybil is also known for her depictions of city life in cities all over the world, both day and night scenes.

Having often wished she had at lest minored in fine arts in college, Sybil hopes that her BA in philosophy from George Washington University will have laid the groundwork for developing the contemplative and observant nature necessary in an artist. She takes art classes and workshops on an ongoing basis, reads art books and artist biographies, and learns by observing the techniques of other local artists. She comes from and artistic family: Her father was known for his handmade exotic wood boxes, which he deeply carved with intricate leaf designs. She has lived in Pennsylvania, New York and Geneva Switzerland. She now resides in Arlington with her husband and two cats - the latter of which often show up in her paintings.
"Siamese Muse" oil by Sybil Bedner-Ostrowski

"I have so much to learn. . . so many unknown lands. . . and so little time," she says. As her work continues to evolve, gallery patrons and fans of her work look forward to seeing where she will venture next, literally and figuratively.

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director

Friday, July 31, 2015

Layers and Transparancies: The work of Elisabeth Hudgins

Artist Elisabeth Hudgins
"In starting a painting, often I begin with a story to tell, but sometimes the story emerges from the artwork." So says Elisabeth Hudgins, whose work was showcased in the gallery this month as our Featured Artist. "My most recent work consists of mixed-media paintings which are an exploration of my imagination and creative process, " says Elisabeth. "Sometimes, the story is elusive. My process involves working with layers, transparencies and double exposures by utilizing collage, photo transfers, paint, found objects, and monoprinting in my artwork. As I build up layers, earlier surfaces sometimes disappear, like memories, layered beneath fresh elements. At times, I peel away top layers to reveal what is underneath, and find what was lost. Visual elements often found in my artwork include: leaves, trees, portraits of people, quilts and fabrics and threads. Much of my work seeks to bridge the gap between the modern and the nostalgic."

"Shelter" mixed media by Elisabeth Hudgins

Elisabeth has done a number of works,culminating in several solo shows,  in which she has incorporated old photos of people and houses. These mixed media works - which incorporate acrylic, watercolor and collaging - have a wonderful nostalgic, generational "found in the attic" quality to them.

Elisabeth’s art journey started at a young age. Inspired by her artist grandmother, Elisabeth earned her BFA at James Madison University and was a Graphic Designer and Art Director.  Later, feeling the need to reconnect with her creativity, she began painting again. This part of the journey has taken her from representational watercolor paintings, to mixed media studies that are more exploratory.

"Dragonfly" mixed media by Elisabeth Hudgins 

"I enjoy the whimsical nature of depicting bugs, fish, cats, dogs and other animals," says Elisabeth of her animal and insect works.  "When I teach art to children, I always include a lesson on painting animals, since there is a universal appeal!  All these mixed media pieces are depicted with many layers of paint and paper, and sometimes a surprise element such as thread, maps and even insect wings!  Trained as a watercolor artist, I maintain my love of transparency, and being able to see through layers of elements.  Now, as a more experimental painter, I enjoy seeing what happens when I make "homemade" papers, which I then use in collage.  My goal is for my artwork to maintain that spontaneous and transparent quality.  I also try and strike the balance between the modern and the nostalgic.”

"Vernal Impressions," acrylic by Elisabeth Hudgins
Another subject matter Elisabeth returns to often are scenes of nature. Trees and leaves are particular favorites. She often uses bright hues to portray cherry blossoms and other flowering trees.

In addition to being a Gallery Underground member artist, Elisabeth's artwork has been also featured in Elan Magazine and regularly shown in the Art League Gallery at the Torpedo Factory and at Stifel &Capra in Falls Church. Her paintings have been accepted into many juried shows, and won awards, including several First Prizes. She has exhibited her work in solo and group shows throughout the state of Virginia. Her most recent solo show was "Lost & Found" at Stifel & Capra in Falls Church, VA. This year, 25 of her pieces were included in an invitational show in the Atrium Gallery, Takoma Park entitled "Dichotomy: A Play of Opposites". Elisabeth accepts commissions, and her work can be found at

-- Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director