Contact Us

Phone: (571) 483-0652
Hours: M-F 10AM-6PM, Sat. 10AM-2PM

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Magical Properties of Light: Elise Ritter

Artist Elise Ritter
"My art reflects my adoration of luminous jewel-toned color, and the magical properties of light," says Gallery Underground's featured artist for March, Elise Ritter.

Working mostly in watercolor and acrylic paints, Elise Ritter captures landscapes with fluidity, paying special attention to light, atmosphere, and reflection. She creates luminosity through an emphasis on air and saturated color and light. Certain palettes dominate and reappear throughout her paintings, including golds, purples, blues and oranges. Her subject matter generally includes seascapes, nature and cafes. Elise also does compelling abstracts in mixed media.

"I try to capture a special moment, and elicit an emotional and interactive reaction on the part of the viewer. My subject matter includes landscapes, seascapes, and spiritually influenced abstracts," she says.

"Morning Has Broken" by Elise Ritter (acrylic)
Elise spent much of her youth moving and traveling around the US and Europe. After earning a degree in journalism, she had a 20-year career in publishing, primarily for Time-Life Books, in Alexandria, VA. In the mid-1990s, after receiving a masters degree in clinical social work, she was a counselor, and also worked as a freelance writer/editor. Around 2003 she started painting, and has been creating ever since.

She says various influences include stained glass windows in cathedrals; expressionist art from Vienna, Austria; waves, wind and dappled light at the seashore; the pulsating vitality of the city; and the love of family and friends.
"Red Skies" by Elise Ritter (watercolor)

In addition to her membership in the Arlington Artists Alliance, Elise was selected to join the Potomac Valley Watercolorists, a group of top watercolor artists in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia region. Her work was published in “Potomac Valley Watercolorists: Celebrating 40 years 1974-2014,” a commemorative edition. She is also a member of the Virginia Watercolor Society and her paintings have been selected for several annual statewide Virginia Watercolor Society shows.

"Communion of Saints" by Elise Ritter (acrylic)
"I believe in the healing properties of beauty, creation, and light," she says. "As Irish Mystic John O'Donohue wrote: "The human soul is hungry for beauty...when we experience the beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming. We feel most alive in the presence of the beautiful, for it meets the needs of our soul."

Elise resides in Arlington, Virginia, and at her waterfront home in Urbanna, Virginia near the Chesapeake bay.

Elise's has pieces in Gallery Underground every month; her featured pieces will be up through March 28.

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Nuances of the Human Figure: Francesca Di Lorenzo

Sculptor Francesca Di Lorenzo
Visitors to Gallery Underground are frequently stunned by the beauty of Francesca Di Lorenzo's divine, compelling sculptures. Francesca is our featured artist for the month of February. 

Francesca began sculpting in the 1990s, when she discovered she loved working with clay and sculpting figures from life. Her love of sculpting, with its many challenges when creating a realistic sculpture, has evolved into a second career path after spending many years in the workplace. Francesca works mainly in water-based clays and favors sculpting from life using live models.  More recently she has been sculpting figures from the animal kingdom. 
Francesca Di Lorenzo "Lost in Thought," Terra Cotta 

Says Francesca of her work: "The human figure is quite fascinating, with its many nuances speaking out to define its three-dimensional characteristics." In creating a sculpture working with a live model, Francesca looks to capture the inner being and character of the model, which she hopes is reflected in her final piece. She finds that this challenge of capturing these nuances is most satisfying.

Francesca has studied at The Art League School in Alexandria, VA, taking classes and workshops with various instructors throughout the years. She has also participated in a number of sculpting workshops in the United States and in Italy. She has been juried into various venues throughout the Northern Virginia region, and has received several awards for her sculputres; her works have been acquired by art enthusiasts both in the United States and in Europe. In addition to Gallery Underground, she is also a member of  The Loft Gallery in Occoquan, Virginia.

Francesca Di Lorenzo, "Woman," Hydorcal

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director

Francesca Di Lorenzo, "Tracker," Terra Cotta

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Got Diebenkorn?

"I'm really a traditional painter, not avant garde at all. I wanted to follow a tradition and extend it."

Richard Diebenkorn
These are the words of artist Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993), who came to define the California school of Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s. This month, Gallery member artist Jackie Afram suggested that member artists challenge themselves to paint in Diebenkorn's style. Many artists rose to the challenge, resulting in a "Diebenkorn Corner" with gallery artists displaying their versions of Diebenkorn-inspired paintings.
"Seawall" by Richard Diebenkorn (1957)

Although he moved back and forth between making abstract and figural paintings throughout his career, Diebenkorn's version of Abstract Expressionism became an important counterpoint to the more well-known brand of the movement popularized by artists such as Jackson Pollack and Willem De Kooning. During the 1950s through the 1960s, he was noted for developing a unique form of Northern California Realism, now referred to as the Bay Area Figurative School. His later work (best known as the Ocean Park paintings) were instrumental to his achievement of worldwide acclaim. In turn, Diebenkorn's Ocean Park paintings were said to be highly influenced by Henry Matisse's paintings French Window at Collioure and View of Notre Dame

Visitors to the gallery this month have been fascinated with what our artists submitted in the Diebenkorn style, and the artists loved the chance to stretch their artistic muscles and try something new.
"Los Lobos Pines," Jackie Afram 

"Vertical Spectrum," Parvaneh Limbert
"Beach Bound," Bryan Jernigan

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Co-Director

Friday, January 30, 2015

Featured Artist Mary Ryder: A Love for the Bizarre and Marzipan!

We've decided to feature an artist's work each month in a little mini-exhibit in the gallery. Our first featured artist, for January, is artist Mary Ryder. Mary works in a range of mediums, including acrylic and carbon. Says Mary of her work: "I enjoy exploring a wide range of styles from traditional figure drawing in graphite and charcoal, to painting in oil, acrylic, and mixed media in subjects that span "the usual" to the fun and fanciful."
"Walking Winston"  Acrylic

 Mary was born in Norwich, Vermont.  Shortly thereafter she became active in art since it was something she could do until the earth thawed.  “There was hardly a time when she wasn’t drawing,” says her Mom, “she made so much stuff, I had to throw it out when she wasn’t looking.” During college, Mary worked as an archeological draftsman in Colonial Williamsburg since it combined her love of using ink and digging in the dirt. After college, she worked at a graphic design studio in San Francisco which afforded her the opportunity to design, art direct, press proof, eat good food and pay for her apartment.

"Outstanding in Their Field" Acrylic
She moved to Honolulu and worked in the art department of a bank, did freelance designs and logos for a surfboard builder, a manufacturer of beach towels and a bikini company. Really! Back in Virginia, Mary worked at an ad agency in Old Town doing design and production work, which kept her from thinking about how much she would rather be in CA or HI. She freelanced briefly for the Dept. of Ed. After her son was born, her artistic energies took a backseat and were diverted into homemade Play-Doh and bizarre and inappropriate marzipan objects. After living overseas for many years soaking up art everywhere, Mary returned to VA and plunged back into art and nearly drowned in book binding, painting, printmaking, life drawing, graphite, pastel, charcoal, anything that would leave a mark…she retains a love for the bizarre and marzipan!  

Although she works in a wide range of mediums rife with color, she says "...but I always return to black and white and to drawing. Within my artwork I try to use unusual materials and unusual techniques."

"An Innocent Man" Carbon
Mary's work is extremely popular with Gallery patrons, especially her compelling black and white works. Her entry into the Arlington Artists Alliance recent juried show "Left Out," titled "An Innocent Man," won her a second place award. The piece was at once disturbing and compelling, and Mary allowed as how this piece, not oritinally intended to show a scary figure, simply came out that way - causing her to think about how apperances can be deceiving, This man could be totally innocent but looks sinister.

"Oh No!  The Dolls" Acrylic
Mary also did a series of "dolly" works, depicting dolls. She admits they are a little creepy but also fun. She titles her pieces whimsically such as "Oh No! The Dolls" with a nod toward the fact that many people are creeped out by dolls!

Mary has work at Gallery Underground every month, which can be seen on our Flickr Feed:

- Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Gallery Sculptor Marsha Brown Interviewed by The Art League

Our own gallery member, sculptor and painter Marsha Brown, was recently the recipient of the Art League's prestigious Bertha G. Harrison Memorial Award for Figurative Sculpture for her piece "Golden Stretch," which was displayed in the gallery in November. Read all about her process here:

"Golden Stretch" by Marsha Brown

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Negotiating On Art: Do You Do It? Should You?

I was recently exhibiting a rather large (24"x48") painting at an art show. The show was scheduled to come down on Sunday; on Saturday afternoon I received an email from a patron stating that he and his wife loved the painting and, if it did not sell by the time the show ended, would I consider coming down on the price "a little." I offered to come down $100, which was about a 15% discount.  This touched off a back-and-forth negotiating session such as I've never experienced, both by email and phone call, with the buyer offering to pay cash if I could just come down 30%. I offered to let them pay in installments, and even directed them to another venue where I had smaller works more in their price range - to no avail. It became clear to me that, quite simply, they desperately wanted this painting but weren't willing to pay what I felt it was worth.

Thus brings up the question: Is it ethical for a buyer to negotiate the price of art? Is it wise for an artist to knock down their price? Not easy questions to answer. To the question of whether it is ethical to negotiate on art: some folks are used to negotiating on everything, if they can.  And they feel it's a particularly good idea to negotiate on art since they are dealing with a single person, rather than a corporation (I doubt these same folks walk into WalMart and say "How about $29.00 for this shirt rather than $35?" although if they thought they would succeed, would probably try.). They also might - either rightly or wrongly - assume the artist is of the "starving" variety and will jump at the chance to sell any of their work at any price. Most artists - starving or not - will admit to feeling slightly offended when they are asked to lower their prices. This is, after all, a piece of art that represents their time and talent - not a used car they are unloading on Craigslist.
Most artists feel exactly this way

That being said, however, there are many factors that go into whether, if at all, an artist will wheel and deal. There are those artists who will never, under any circumstances, change their prices. Some are so successful that they don't have to. You don't want to pay $1,500? The next customer will.  These artists have a proven track record and know exacly how much their paintings will sell for, so there is never a need to lower a price. Then there are those whose works take weeks, months - even years to complete. With so much time invested, they simply cannot afford to take less. There are also those who simply feel that an artist should never "cheapen" their work by negotiating on it, and never will - if this happens to mean that they don't sell, then so be it. Another factor is the artist's own expenses. Do they have to pay rent on a studio? Are they paying a commission to a gallery or oganization that will cut into their profit? Does the piece have a particularly expensive frame?

In the next category are artists who, if asked, will always come down 10% but no more, ever. Some of these artists, if they are approached to take the 10% often enough, will simply build that into their prices. Other artists, such as Gallery artist Jane Coonce, will offer the buyer the opportunity to buy the piece unframed, and deduct the price of the frame. "That way the buyer feels they are getting a 'deal' and I can use the frame on another piece," she says. Since most artists will build in the price of the frame to their overall price, this is an excellent way to make a sale without feeling they have come down on the actual price of the artwork. Many artists offer special pricing to repeat buyers. "I feel this is a great goodwill gesture," another gallery artist said. "I appreciate their coming back to me for more art and this is a way of letting them know I value them as a patron." Artists may also be willing to negotiate if they are selling their art at an art market where there are huge crowds, and a more casual vibe than in an upscale gallery. "There is a certain psychological aspect to the location you are selling from," said another artist."People expect to pay more in an upscale location; and expect to pay less in a casual, outdoor atmosphere."
A casual art market may  invite negotiation

It should be mentioned that there are other - artistic - factors that contribute to whether artists will deal. Many artists will admit that if they have had a piece for a long time, have exhibited it several places and it has not sold, then they are more willing to negotiate.  Ditto if they are a bit ambiguous about how they feel about a piece. Every artist has pieces that, for whatever reason, in their minds simply didn't work. In these cases they are less likely to hold fast on a price, unless they priced it lower to begin with.

This brings us to the last category, like the one I encountered: the buyer who wants the artist to come way, way down on their price. In my case, I ultimately - politely - declined to come down lower than the initial 15%.  This was a large piece, took a lot of time, was brand new and - most importantly - was a piece I felt very strongly about. Having the cash in my pocket and my painting on someone's wall would not have ameliorated the feeling I would have had that I had undervalued my work.

In the end, this is what a buyer needs to understand when they attempt to negotiate on art: sometimes it may work, but just as often, it may result in offending the artist - who may interpret your offer as "I like your art, but it's not worth this price." When you're dealing with the fragile egos of artists, this can be a deal-breaker.

--Sandi Parker, Gallery Co-Director

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hidden in Plain Sight?

The Arlington Artists Alliance recently announced they will be having a "Where's Waldo"-esque juried show at Gallery Underground this August titled "Hiding in Plain Sight." This is an intriguing call to artists, who will be required to hide a symbol somewhere in their piece.

The iconic "search" symbol
Familiar to everyone who has ever looked for anything on the Internet (that would be...all of us), the iconic symbol for "search," a magnifying glass, is the symbol that will be required to show up big, small, in the folds of clothing, the trunk of a will be up to the artist to hide it and the viewer to find it.
Katharine Hepburn by Al Hirschfeld

Famous caricature artist Al Hirschfeld was known for hiding his daughter Nina's name in his work, and would indicate after his signature how many times the name appeared. Many a child and adult alike have been fascinated with trying to spot all the names. In this rendering of Katharine Hepburn, you can spot one in the far left leaf on her collar...depending on how much time you have, you may be able to find the rest in the crazy hair.

Dan Brown's book "The Da Vinci Code" comes to mind when thinking about hidden codes, but theories on hidden objects and messages in famous works of art abound. There is an entire website,, devoted to the notion that Van Gogh's works were full of hidden messages and pictures, many related to religion. The site puts forth that a donkey, representing the biblical depiction of Christ entering Jerusalem on a donkey, can clearly be seen in the shape of the beard in one of the many portraits Van Gogh painted of postman Joseph Roulin. Of course, like those optical illusion puzzles, once you see it, it will drive you crazy because that's all you'll see.
Van Gogh's Postman Roulin

Another version of things "Hidden in Plain Sight" in paintings (actually, not so plain sight; in this case just hidden) is the new scientific technology that has evolved, which has enabled museums and art conservators to discover earlier versions of paintings underneath famous works of art. One example is Picasso's "The Blue Room," which was recently discovered, through infrared scanning, to have been painted over an earlier work, a portrait of an unknown man in a bow tie.

In another recent fascinating discovery, scientists at the Winterthur Museum's Scientific Research and Analysis Laboratory found that beneath a study for a family portrait by N.C. Wyeth lay another painting. The painting was a full color illustration Wyeth did for a magazine short story. In the magazine, the illustration appeared only in black and white; so until this painting was revealed using x-ray imaging, it had not been known that it had been done in color. Many artists who provided illustrations for magazines did them in shades of gray if they knew they would be reproduced without color.

We look forward to seeing how artists will meet the challenge of hiding the search symbol within their works for the juried show; possibly years later these works will be the subject of much debate among art historians.

--Sandi Parker, Co-Director, Gallery Underground