Christmas Pomanders - Fragrant and Festive Symbols of Prosperity and Good Luck

Have you ever smelled the spicy fragrance of clove studded oranges? The wonderful fragrance of citrus and cloves filled the air as I worked on this painting of "Spicy Christmas Treats".

For my painting, I made orange pomanders by piercing fresh oranges with whole cloves. Click here for more about making pomanders.

Next, I positioned the orange pomanders on a plate so that the pattern of cloves made an intersecting line with a red bow and candy cane. This strengthened the painting's composition by using both line direction and color contrast in the center of interest also called the "focal point".
I used a cool greenish gray background to contrast with the warm red and orange colors of the fruit and candy. In art as in life, contrasting elements add impact and interest. The important thing is to keep it all in balance.

Clove studded fruit has been a favorite holiday tradition since the 15th century. England's Queen Elizabeth I was reported to have always worn a pomander. Read more about the history of pomanders at this link.

In the ancient customs of Europe and China, oranges have been given as New Years gifts to symbolize a wish for prosperity and good fortune.
With this painting of orange pomanders, I too wish you peace, prosperity and good fortune in the New Year.

"Christmas Lights on Shem Creek" - A Painting by Katherine M Schneider

"Christmas Lights on Shem Creek"
Pastel on marble dust prepared panel
12" x 9" unframed
Due to recent recent interest in my painting of holiday lights on Shem Creek, I'm re-posting the essay describing the process used to create the pastel on panel painting... Best wishes to you all for a Merry Christmas and and a peaceful New Year.

Christmas is a time for boat owners in Charleston to decorate their boats for the annual "Parade of Lights" in Charleston Harbor.

I recently saw a decorated sailboat docked by a popular seafood restaurant on Shem Creek.
The sight left me with a strong impression of the colorful lights hanging from the boat's rigging in the night sky and the bright reflections of the lights in the dark creek water.

I began working on the painting "Christmas Lights on Shem Creek" from drawings and photos back in the light and warmth of my studio. Here's a quick look into my studio set up for working in pastels.

My pastel taboret is custom built to hold many different types of pastels and drawing materials.

It's a design developed by master pastel artist, Daniel Greene, with whom I studied in New York.

The base of the taboret is made from an antique cast iron drawing stand that was used by the Charleston sculptor, Willard Hirsch, with whom I also studied.

When working in pastels I often use prepared pastel panels such as Ampersand pastel boards. I use many layers of pastel, often working into them with water and bristle brushes. I've found panels are sturdier than paper supports when using these vigorous pastel techniques.

For this painting, I used a grey sanded panel. I began with a light drawing in a mid tone, grey hard pastel to reserve the "tooth" of the painting surface for additional layers of softer pastel.

I worked from mid to lighter and darker values to establish the composition, checking often in a mirror to correct drawing errors and adjust my values.

A folded newspaper "dust catcher" under my forward tilted painting keeps excess pastel dust from falling onto the floor where it can become a toxic hazard if tracked around by shoes.
Barrier cream or plastic gloves are useful to keep pastel dust off my hands.

Although safeguards are important when working with pastels and the dust they produce, modern production techniques and less toxic pigments have made them safer to use.

The purity of the pigments and intensity of color in pastel paintings makes them well worth the extra effort in care and handling.

A Snowy Egret (aka: White Heron) Woodcut Intaglio Print by Katherine Schneider

This hand rubbed woodcut is a fine art intaglio print of  A Snowy Egret  also known as a white heron. It can be found in shallow waterways and ponds throughout the Carolina Lowcountry.

Patient hunters, these beautiful birds can be seen stalking minnows and fiddlers crabs on their long stilt like legs.

In my woodcut painting, an egret stands among the tall marsh grass as tidal waters fill the area.

"Marsh Watch"
Image size: 12" x 10"
Paper size: 22"x 15"
Price: $225.00

This hand rubbed woodcut painting is an artists proof of a small series of hand pressed paintings on French Rives BFK paper.

Paintings By Katherine Schneider Juried into Southern California Show at Higbee Gallery

If you're in Southern California over the Holidays, I hope you have a chance to see this amazing show at the Higbee Gallery. I'm pleased to have my paintings "Full Moon Rising" and "Summer Sky" included with over 300 paintings from nationally acclaimed artists on exhibition from December 4 - 23, 2010.

"Afterglow" A Painting of the Evening Sky

The late evening after the sun has set in the west is one of the most fleeting and beautiful times of day. 

My oil painting "Afterglow" shows a lone tree on a Lowcountry marsh hummock silhouetted against the soft colors of the evening sky.

Painting in the Moonlight

Painting outside en plein air is always a challenge. Shifting weather conditions and rapidly changing light are only a few of the problems to be considered when painting on location. Recently I decided to take on an even more challenging task - Painting outside in the dark to study the subtle effects of moonlight on the landscape.

I had a great evening painting in the moonlight even though I wasn't sure of what the paintings looked like til I got back to the studio.
I decided to work on a larger than usual (16 x20") canvas. It felt good to paint in a larger plein air format but I had to mix and paint faster to get the job done before the light changed.
I also finished a second smaller painting of the full moon seen through swaying fronds of SC's state tree - the palmetto.
I look forward to more painting in the moonlight - It's an exciting challenge to try capture in paint the subtle beauty of the moon!

"The Old Boardwalk to the Creek" A Plein Air Painting by Artist Katherine Schneider

"Springtime in July" could have been the weather forecast today. The unseasonably cool and dry air here in Charleston made painting out by the creek a relaxing event - unusual in this subtropical climate in the summer.

The late afternoon sun casting interesting lights on an old boardwalk out to a fishing hummock on a tidal creek is the subject of my plein air painting. Over the years, I've watched this bluff on the creek grow smaller and smaller as it is being eroded by swift tidal currents. Today I decided it was time to make a painting of it before nature has it's way and the creek reclaims the old boardwalk and the little hummock.

"The Old Boardwalk to the Creek"
Oil on Cradled Panel
Unframed dimensions: 14" x 11"
Price: Sold

Making Canvas Panels for Painting

Many materials may be used for making painting panels. In this post I'm using birch plywood and fiber board as supports for canvas panels. I prefer 1/4 " or 1/2" birch plywood to fiber board (or white board) because of it's strength and resistance to warping in sizes up to 11" x 14".

First I cut the board to size and sand it with a medium grit paper or pad.

Glue is applied to the panel with a trowel. The canvas is cut to sizes 1/4" larger on each side to allow for shrinkage.
Glue is also applied to the back of the canvas with a trowel. Several different glues can be used on the panels. It's important that the adhesive used is acid free, archival (ph neutral), and water soluble. I'm using "YES!" brand paste to glue the canvas to these panels.

When the glue has been spread evenly on both the panel and the back of the cut canvas, a brayer (roller) is used to smooth out the glue and air pockets. Start in the middle of the panel and roll out to the edges.
A cover sheet of newspaper can be used when rolling the surface to catch excess glue that comes out at the edges of the canvas.

The panels can either be stacked between paper and dried under weights like books or air dried on a flat surface.

After the glue has dried, excess canvas is trimmed from the edges of the panels. The dried and trimmed canvas panels get another coat of gesso.

When the gesso has dried, the canvas panels are ready for use.

"After the Storm" A Study of a Lowcountry Sky

The summer weather patterns are creating beautiful skies here in the Lowcountry - towering thunderheads, cumulonimbus clouds, silvery patches of summer showers and rainbows! I've been out studying the rapidly changing effects in the summer skies recently.

"After the Storm" is a study of the atmospheric effects of passing rain clouds and an ephemeral double rainbow over a pine island in the marsh.

A Plein Air Painting of the Restored Bandstand in White Point Gardens by Katherine Schneider

White Point Gardens was a great place to paint today. The park was full of activity as children hunted for Easter eggs, blankets were spread for picnics, and everyone enjoyed the sunshine by the harbor.

The newly renovated Bandstand looked lovely with it's lowered platform and fresh paint.

"What's Old Is New Again"
The Bandstand at White Point Gardens
Oil on cradled birch panel
Plein air painting by Katherine Schneider

"View of a Charleston Alley" Painting on Location in Historic Charleston

Spring is finally here. Today was a beautiful day painting in this quaint alley in the historic French Quarter of Charleston. Our city is a great place to walk, especially in the spring when all the gardens start to bloom.

Little alleys like the one in my painting are hidden gems just waiting to be explored!
"View of a Charleston Alley"
Oil on canvas panel
8" x 10"

"Marsh Creek Reflections" Plein Air Painting by a Lowcountry Creek

A bright blue sky with cumulus clouds reflecting in a tidal marsh creek was the subject of today's plein air painting.

Lots of sunshine and temperatures in the 70's made it a great day for painting on location near Edisto Island, SC.

As I painted, I noticed that young green grass has started to push up through the brown reeds of winter.
Soon the marsh will change from the winter brown into the fresh green of new growth for Spring.
"Marsh Creek Reflections"
Oil on canvas panel
8"x 10"

Plein Air Painting On Location at the Charleston Waterfront

Grey skies turned sunny during a morning of plein airr painting in Charleston.

For anyone who knows Charleston, can you guess where I'm painting today? Hint: It's in on the Cooper River right near the spot "where the Ashley and Cooper Rivers meet to form the Atlantic Ocean".

You're 100% correct if you guessed Waterfront Park between the Splashing and Pineapple Fountains.

"Lowcountry Oyster Boat" Plein Air Painting in a SC Fishing Village

Windy conditions on the creek made painting on location chilly this March afternoon.

Quick placement of values and color notes was important in the plein air painting of this boat because of the rapidly changing water level in the tidal creek.

This weathered oyster boat is a favorite subject of mine to paint.
I like to imagine all the time it's spent traveling the creeks and marshes in all kinds of weather harvesting Natures bounty.

"Lowcountry Oyster Boat"
Oil on panel
11" x 14"

Spring Fever Replaces Frost Bite for Plein Air Painting in Charleston March 2010

What a difference a couple of weeks makes. Just a short while ago, I was painting in the snow from the same spot that this afternoon brought out shorts and a case of spring fever.

Temperatures reached the 60's with warm and sunny skies and a light breeze off the lake. Perfect weather for plein air painting or ..... not.

Even a serious outdoor painter is susceptible to being seduced by Nature on a winter afternoon like this. So I gave it my best shot until a mockingbird started singing right above me adding more enticement to "do research for my art" by relaxing and absorbing all the sights and sounds of this unseasonable warm afternoon.

In the famous words of Scarlet O'Hara "...after all, tomorrow is another day...".

"Writing Women Back Into History Art Exhibit " Reception at Courtenay Gallery MUSC March 2010

The reception for the "Writing Women Back Into History Art Exhibit" at the Courtenay Gallery in honor of Women's History Month at The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) was a well attended, festive event.

The evening provided guests with new artworks by a select group of regional women artists, live music, good food, wine and stimulating company.

Babes Gergulis (left) and her daughter Lisa (rt) discuss "The Little Dancer" with exhibiting artist Kay Schneider (center).

The "Writing Women Back Into History" Art Exhibit and reception are co sponsored by MUSC Women's Scholars, Office of Student Diversity, Woman's Club and the Center for Women.

"Writing Women Back Into History" Art Exhibit 2010 at the Courtenay Gallery - Medical University of SC

Katherine (Kay) Schneider is an exhibiting artist in the 2010 Women's History Month Art Exhibit "Writing Women Back Into History" at the the Medical University of South Carolina's Courtenay Gallery.
A free opening reception for the exhibit will take place Thursday March 4 from 5:30 to 7:00 pm at the Courtenay Gallery in the MUSC Wellness Center 45 Courtenay Drive, Charleston SC.

The exhibit co- sponsored by MUSC's Office of Student Diversity, Women's Scholars, Women's Club and the Center for Women will run from March 1 - 28, 2010. For information call (843) 792-2146.

Wild Brown Pelican Encounter During Painting trip

This young brown pelican showed up at a local supplies store this morning while our plein air group was preparing for a day painting in a near by fishing village.To the amazement of all, the pelican walked up the path among cars and people to the front doors of the store.

As I walked to my car, the bird followed reaching his long beak up toward the food in my hand. When I held out a piece of shrimp, the bird opened his formidably large bill and took the shrimp from my hand.

Not liking the cooked shrimp, the pelican flew to the hood of my car and tried to drink out of a bottle that had been place there. (I was too shocked to run get my camera to capture that sight!) The young bird, which had been banded, may have been bottle fed and mistook the shape of the Arizona tea bottle for a bottle feeding.
When I got into the drivers seat, the pelican walked up to the windshield and looked in to see what I was doing... which was getting my camera to capture this amazing encounter with a beautiful wild brown pelican who was very friendly.

The pelican seemed to enjoy sitting on the car and was in no hurry to leave. He let me lift him lightly from the car hood and carry him to a safer spot.
Once the pelican was safety off the car, we continued on our way to paint by the creek with the knowledge that naturalists from the Cape Romain Wildlife Center had been called to assist this cold and hungry young brown pelican.

Plein Air Painting in the Southern Snowstorm of 2010

Three inches of snow fell tonight here in Mt. Pleasant on the coast of SC.

The sight of the falling snow inspired me to get out my easel to paint the beauty of this rare moment.

It's an understatement to say that painting in the snow tonight was a "learning experience".

First lesson.. Don't try to paint without cover while the snow is still falling. It seemed so dry at first....

Second lesson: Anchor the easel well into the ground. I usually do but in the excitement of the snowstorm (and the wind had been calmer) I forgot. You can see the predictable result in this picture.

Third Lesson: Snow can turn to rain very quickly...See lesson one about painting under a cover.

With my charcoal sketch on a cold, wet easel I decided I've "learned" enough tonight. I've sketched an interesting composition and have enough reference material to finish the painting in the studio.

For me, the value of plein air painting is as much the "process" as the "product"...

It was a fun painting challenge, but I think Mother Nature won this round.

Either way, it was a beautiful night.