Saturday, January 23, 2016

Emails from my Father, continued... snippets of encouragement and random musings on life, art, and literature

On Feb 13, 2013, at 4:34 PM, "Norman K Vance" <> wrote:

As Cyrano de Bergerac said in his final soliloquoy " My salute will sweep away all the 
stars from Heaven!!,,,,This is how I feel about you and your astonishing painting 
progress! The painting of the  rusty bike tells me how much you have learned in these 
past months.  There are many things I want to say about the painting:Good background. The weathered and vari-colored boards were a good choice.The bike: Very well done, except that worrisome spike on top of the seat.  Just brush 
it out with a dab of white. The wheels, tires and spokes are just perfect.  
Highlighting the few spokes was a good idea.  It would be my guess that you used the 
ellipse guides to draw those wheels!  Ole!  Foreground: The bike is sitting on the ground, instead of floating above it.  That is a mistake made by many painters.Good for you for considering this!

No criticsms...I find your rusty bike a fine work, hopefully wanting to see it in one 
of your local art exhibits.  Now, don't be shy, you are ready to show the public your ability!!!
Love, Daddy

From    : Tamsen[]
Sent    : 2/13/2013 7:18:34 PM
To      :
Subject : RE: Re: rusty bike II

Hi Daddy:
Your salute to my rusty bike and progress in painting is very much appreciated. I took 
the photo at my friend's Stinson home last fall and have been itching to make a 
painting of it. I printed the photo in Black and white to study the tones and shapes, 
then painted in the fence and bike in thinned burnt sienna. I did use the ellipses! 
They were a big help, though I still think my hand is shaky when I painted over the 
sketch making the tires a bit off kilter. 

The multi colored fence was my own invention as the real life fence was dull brown and grey. I wanted a contrast to the orange rust of the bike, so I used a complimentary color scheme. I used a little comb to add texture to the wood pattern and a razor knife for the spokes.  

I also liked the idea that the bike was so old that it had sunk into the sandy soil and that helped keep me 
from having it float on the ground. It was nice that you noticed that detail! The spring protruding from the seat is a disturbing detail that Jeff also questioned . I will take another look and maybe paint it out, but I may do the opposite and enhance it just for fun! 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Emails with my Father, continued.

>------- Original Message -------
>From : Tamsen Armstrong[]
>Sent : 7/22/2012 4:45:34 PM
>To :;
>Cc : 
>Subject : RE: railroad crossing
>Well, this was a two day project that started yesterday out at the Carquinez Straits with my friend Kim Homes.. I sketched the composition first, then started painting. The funny part was when the trains would come by (it seemed like every 15 minutes!) and broke my concentration! But it was lovely to be outdoors in the sunshine. When I took it home, I realized I was much too tentative and stingy with the paint, so I loaded up by brushes and went to work! I like it so much better now. Im sorry I did not take a photo of the first step, but here is my (nearly) first landscape in oils. It just needs a few more highlights and some detailing on the sign. I hope you think it is decent. I think I was trying to emulate your bold color strokes, Dad. Love you both!

From: "Norman K Vance" <>
Date: July 22, 2012 6:11:31 PM PDT
Subject: RE: railroad crossing critique
Reply-To: "" <Norman K Vance>

GOOD ONE!!!  Your composition is good, but I would like to see the tree trunks a bit smaller, and one tree trunk looks like it is resting on the track.
I love your choice of colors, and your application technique/  
Tone down the tree leaves, they overpower the study.  Use mix of chromium oxide and a bit of naples yellow for this.  
All in all, a very good study, worthy of a glance from Edward Hopper!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Emails with my Father

I'd like to post some of the email conversations I had with my father on the subject of books, painting, art and life, since he has given me so much encouragement and inspiration throughout my life. 

We didn't start talking seriously about my own journey as a painter until 2010 when he and my mother came to visit during the Christmas holidays that year and we started painting and drawing together. He died in 2013, just after his 60th wedding anniversary and a few weeks before Christmas. 

From    : Tamsen[]
Sent    : 4/22/2013 7:55:05 PM
To      :
Cc      : 
Subject : RE: Re: holding my breath...

Oh frabjous day! Callooh callay! 
Or is that not Lithuanian enough for you!? Glad to hear your computer is 
back up and running. It's my lifeline to the world and I don't know what 
I'd do without it! 

Hey, Daddo, I'm glad you like my Mount Diablo painting. I feel that for a 
first effort, I did pretty well. Im still making changes to the 
foreground tree line and may do some more with the sky  I'd like to keep 
exploring the subject and try for all kinds of variations. I found that 
the best time to see the mountain is in the late afternoon and early 
evening. The colors are much more saturated at that time. 

I think of you every day and hope you are feeling well. I love you!

From: "Norman K Vance" <>
Date: April 23, 2013 10:59:22 AM PDT
Subject: Claude Monet, the father of impressionism....
Reply-To: "" <Norman K Vance>

,,,,,painted dozens of studies of "haystacks". I can only assume he was 
exploring the shapes and textures, the lighting and colors.  Monet was in 
a learning curve at this time, a place you are in, now, so don't be 
afraid to paint Mt Diablo again!  You will learn much as you do this!
If you remember my series of abstract paintings of "Rock Crushers", I did 
many studies and finally found some design I liked.
Just a few words of advice from

your ever loving


Sunday, October 18, 2015

I'm going to Stinson Beach next weekend for my annual Accidental Readers Book Club Slumber Party, so I decided to practice painting a beach scene. This photo is from my friend Lisa, who loves Stinson over any other place on earth. I used brushes at first, then started messing around with a painting knife. Just a little 5x7 quickie on a cheap canvas board.
I thought it was time to get back to drawing, but I really hate working with pencils. I need to erase too much, so I started drawing a shoe that I love but don't wear anymore. I drew the shoe in thinned out blackish paint, then started filling in and moving the paint around until it looked right. That's not a great way to learn to draw, but easier for me. I call this one Kitten Heel.
I participated in the Lamorinda Arts Alliance show at the Lafayette Christian Church a couple of weekends ago---my first big chance to show and sell a bunch of paintings! My painting buddy, Kim Homes, and I had a lovely patio all to ourselves, shady and pleasant. We greeted visitors as they came through and I got the opportunity to speak with several people, five of whom bought small paintings. It was fun, but exhausting. A lot of work for so little money! I've been told that these kinds of shows are hit and miss and not to get too discouraged, especially if your first wasn't all that spectacular. We'll see. I've heard that the big shows are really expensive to get in. How to make enough money to keep going, buy paint and canvas...I love to paint, but I'm not an expert at selling.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The glorious Piedmont Center for the Arts: the Lamorinda Arts Association show will be every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3:00 until Sept. 27
 I am standing next to two of my "Grapefruit Series" paintings. I sold both last Saturday an hour after the show started! The last two will be up for the rest of the show.
 Valerie Corvin did an amazing job on the show: she was awarded these orchids as a thank you from the artists.

 My painting buddy, Kim Homes. Her meditative landscape is called Highway 37