Saturday, December 12, 2009

Judge and Jury

Photo by David Lee

The Parkland Art League, a large and active organization in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, asked me and Nancy Bea Miller to jury and judge their Annual Juried Show at the Allentown Art Museum last Thursday. It took more than an hour to drive there, which made me realize the long commute a couple of my students have who live out in that area and belong to this art league.

Since Nancy Bea and I have slightly different styles and different taste in art, we wondered on the trip up to Allentown whether our difference would make the selection process more difficult--but it actually went smoothly, though it took a lot of thought. There were so many good paintings! Going through this experience makes one appreciate what jurors go through, and how tough it is to decide.

Here I am with Nancy Bea on the steps of the museum.

A Semester of Color

Ellen in cool light
Ellen in warm light

For the past three years I've been teaching a class in portrait painting at the Wayne Art Center. This class has been rewarding in so many ways. When I was in my twenties I never imagined that I would like teaching, and I couldn't understand how my parents, both architects, could enjoy it so much. But my attitude gradually changed. I began to take on private students, then a friend asked me to take over his portrait class, and the rest is history.

I have a wonderful group of students (some of whom are professional artists) who ask such great questions. Last spring I noticed they were asking a lot about color, so I decided to devote a few classes to painting with a limited palette. The few classes turned into a whole semester of painting with six colors--two reds, two yellows and two blues, plus white--and it has been a real learning experience for me as well, since I normally paint with lots of colors on my palette.

Our last exercise was to paint the same model twice, once in warm light and once in cool light. My friend Ellen Cooper, a portrait painter, posed for us. I was able to do very quick oil sketches of her in each light. At the end of the class we all compared our paintings in warm and cool light, and the results were exciting.

Star-Studded Cast

James Toogood and I standing in front of our paintings.
Outside/Inside, oil, 42" x 50"

The Philadelphia Sketch Club is celebrating its 150th year with an exhibit of paintings by past and present members. As one of the present members, I was invited to be in the show, and I have to say it really knocked my socks off to see my painting hanging in the same room with an N.C. Wyeth, a Thomas Eakins, a Rockwell Kent, a Daniel Garber, a Thomas Moran. . . the list goes on and on. A humbling and awe-inspiring experience!

You might notice something about these illustrious past members: they are all male. That's because the Sketch Club just started admitting female members very recently. think I'm one of four women artists in the exhibition.

The show comes down tomorrow, and I'll be sad to see all those amazing works go back to their permanent homes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Beaver Farm Opening at Rosenfeld Gallery, Philadelphia

Garth Herrick in Fedora delivering calendars, Lynne Campbell on right.
Carla Tudor and Eliza Drake Auth trying the delicious food
Ani and Guy Alma, who live at Beaver Farm and run the program there, with Nancy Bea Miller
Giovanni Casadei and Marianne Mitchell talking
Here I am with my paintings.
I'm still coming down from the euphoria and excitement of a packed gallery, enthusiastic crowd, and brisk sales--an unusual sight these days. Tuesday evening was the culmination of our Plein Air Day at Beaver Farm event. Nancy Bea Miller organized the painting events and the one-day group show at the Rosenfeld Gallery in Philadelphia. At least 25% of the sales went directly to benefit the Camphill Special Schools, and some artists donated the entire purchase price of their work to the school. The energy in the gallery was palpable, all the more so because the space was packed to the gills. I wish I had better photos to show of the crowd. There was a man with a TV camera who hold to hold the camera high to get through the crowd.

As we packed up the remaining work the following morning, the gallery owner Richard Rosenfeld was answering calls from more people interested in buying art! In all, over 50% of the work was sold and more is expected to sell. Not bad for a recession! Some of the best artwork is still available, so check out the online gallery if you are interested in seeing it. Garth Herrick and I made calendars which will be available for purchase. They contain lots of images of the work, and of artists hanging out together and painting at Beaver Farm. Information on how to purchase the calendars will be posted on the school website.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Beaver Farm Paintings: Exhibition and Benefit


Please join us for a reception and sale featuring art created en plein air inspired by the landscape of Beaver Farm, home of Camphill Special School's Transition Program for young adults with special needs.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009, 5:00-8:00 p.m.

The Rosenfeld Gallery
113 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Encore for "The Duet!"

I'm going to have to stop teasing one of my artist friends (he knows who he is) for getting so much mileage out of a painting (it was a very good painting), because for some reason I'm getting more mileage than I expected out of my painting The Duet.

This painting was chosen for a show of figurative work at Susquehanna University, north of Harrisburg, PA. I don't want to bore anyone by posting the painting again. . . but here's the information:


Lore Degenstein Gallery, Susquehanna University
Show Dates: October 24th--December 21

Opening Reception and Awards Presentation: October 24, 7-9 p.m.

Painting at the Red House

Sunset from the Red House
The cemetery in fog
Nancy Bea at Lobster Cove
Mary painting on the porch
At the Barnacle
Two Houses
Edges in Light
Ferry Dock in Afternoon
This was the Maine Landscape Guild's third summer on the island of Monhegan off the coast of Maine. We stayed in the Red House, famous for its bright color and its connection with artist Rockwell Kent. The view from the house was magnificent in all directions, and we were tempted to just stay there and paint, but the cold wind drove us to find good painting spots in other, more sheltered corners of the island.

Our system of meal preparation and chore-sharing, which we planned out beforehand, worked beautifully, allowing us a hassle-free week of painting, delicious food, and good company. We met a few other artists, but due to the fact that we came later in September we missed the crowds of artists that we encountered all over Monhegan last year. I'm not sure which I like better: solitude or artist-mania!

Here are some shots from the trip, and a couple of paintings.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Painting at Beaver Farm

A few days after returning from Maine, I was off to Beaver Farm in Pennsylvania for a day of painting outdoors with a group of artists from all over the area. My friend and fellow artist Nancy Bea Miller organized the event. Her son Henry attends the Camphill Special School, and Beaver Farm was recently purchased by the school. Upon visiting the farm, Nancy Bea was struck by its particular beauty and thought it would be a great place to paint. I drove out there with her early in the summer and agreed wholeheartedly. The idea of holding a fundraising event for the school began to take shape, and evolved into "Plein Air Day at Beaver Farm," with around 30 artists participating.

I was one of the first to arrive, and I got down to work painting the barnyard and side of the huge red barn. On my way to lunch I saw a green tractor parked in the doorway of the barn and whipped out another painting before the tractor had to be driven out to do the haying. Then on to a delicious lunch. My afternoon painting was not as fruitful but I had time to take a bunch of photos. The day ended with an incredible dinner of organic food straight from the farm! Many, many thanks to Guy and Ani who run the program at Beaver Farm and hosted the event.

Our day at Beaver Farm was mentioned in several national publications including the October Issue of American Artist Magazine!

To see a selection of paintings by participating artists and photos of the day, check out the online gallery on the Camphill website.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Week-long Workshop

I wanted to share some photos from my workshop on Mount Desert Island, Maine, that ended last weekend.

This summer in Maine has been WET! It has rained almost continuously since June-- a worrisome sign of climatic change. The ponds and lakes of Mount Desert were full to the brim, so full that the water level is just under the trees, and hardly a rock is visible along the shore from a distance.

Apart from being concerned about the implications of this weather, I had more immediate concerns that the workshop week would be one long rainstorm--but luckily there was enough sun to give some variety to the weather. One completely sunny day allowed us to paint in two prime locations, Ocean Drive and Cadillac Mountain. On cloudy, foggy, damp days we painted at the Beaver Pond across from the north end of Eagle Lake, and Somes Landing. We painted at many of the key locations on MDI.The talented and dedicated participants worked hard and we all had a lot of fun.

I'm so glad I was able to work with my painting partner and long-time friend Diana Cobb Ansley in planning the workshop.We stayed in her historic home in Somesville, and she provided hospitality and made sure things ran smoothly. Every day for lunch she ordered delicious gourmet sandwiches from Mother's Kitchen which we brought along for picnics on location. She also knew the best restaurants on MDI for dinner. By the time I got home, I actually felt that I had had my fill of popovers!

We're looking forward to doing this again next year. There are so many themes for plein air landscape workshop, and so many more painting locations on MDI.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Where the Action is

Last week I went to the Dowling Walsh Gallery in Rockland, Maine, to the opening of the Monhegan show. Looking around at the crowd, it was hard to believe this country is in the middle of a recession!

First of all, I must reiterate that this gallery space is worth seeing--and it keeps getting better. There are three rooms (each as big as an average storefront) downstairs, and now there is an equal amount of space above it, on the second floor. This means the gallery can hold several exhibitions simultaneously. The crowd poured in the door and went every which way depending on which shows they were interested in. The artists range from N.C. Wyeth, George Bellows, and Andrew Winter to Peter Poskas, Jon Redmond, Connie Hayes, Colin Page--famous artists to emerging artists. Wine, cheese and delicious finger food was served. I had a great time chatting with other artists, art lovers, and collectors. Maine artist Mary Cupp traveled two hours to the event--it was nice to see her there.

Here I am beside one of my paintings in the show. This one is of Monhegan village and the Island Inn, from the lawn of the Monhegan House. The photo was taken by artist and friend Diana Cobb Ansley.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Unveiling at Mutter Museum

There have been so many landscape-related happenings lately, I totally forgot to mention a significant portrait event in early 2009. These days there are too many blogs, Facebook posts, and newsletters for an absent-minded, un-tech-savvy person like me to keep up with! I know, I shouldn't be making excuses, but it's all too true.

On January 9th, 2009, the Philadelphia College of Physicians (which houses the famous Mutter Museum of medical artifacts) hosted a party to celebrate their 150th anniversary. I had been asked to paint the portrait of the museum's former director, Gretchen Worden. It is a posthumous portrait of a dynamic, humorous, and compassionate woman who devoted her career to the museum. You may have seen her on the David Letterman Show; she appeared on the show three times over the course of several years.

The Mutter Museum is a medical museum founded by Thomas Dent Mutter in the 19th century with the donation of his collection. The collection, studied by medical students of the day, includes human skulls and skeletons; preserved body parts showing evidence of various diseases, conditions and abnormalities; and old medical instruments. A plaster cast of Chang and Eng, the original Siamese twins, resides there. The purpose of the museum is to preserve knowledge of, and to educate the public about, human pathology and medical history. Personally I have always found the museum to be a fascinating place, and I was thrilled to be asked to paint its director.

In the background of the portrait is the skeleton of a 7' 6" giant and the skeleton of a 3' 6" achondroplastic dwarf. Ms. Worden is holding a lithotrite, an antique instrument used to crush bladder stones!

everyone loves GOOD NEWS

This is the title of the Fischbach Gallery's summer group show. What is good about the news? you might ask. Well, your glass can be half-empty or it can be half-full. Some aspects of the economy seem to be showing a glimmer of hope--art, for instance. It could be that people just get tired of doing without all the luxuries that make life more than just subsistence. . . or it could be that people are actually feeling that the stock market is on its way up and they can start spending again. Whatever the reason, collectors are venturing out again.

Some of my work will be in the show, namely Maine landscapes. My work ranges from sweeping aerial vistas of the Maine coast to smaller, more intimate views of places, and some in-between.

everyone loves GOOD NEWS
June 2 - August 14, 2009
Fischbach Gallery
210 11th Avenue at 25th Street,
New York, NY 10001

Tel: 212-759-2345

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Consider the Lobster!

Toast to Lobsters, oil on linen, 22" x 30"

Maine and lobsters. An obvious connection, maybe too obvious, but Ron Watson, owner/director of the gWatson Gallery in Stonington, Maine had the brilliant idea of putting a new creative spin on this universally recognized connection. He asked a group of artists, including some well-known ones, to participate in a show all about lobsters. Anything goes, as long as the Maine lobster is the theme. The response from the artists--and the public--has been overwhelming!

The exhibit will open June 26th and run until July 11th. There will be an informal reception on Friday, July 3rd, 4-7 p.m., along with First Friday Night event at the Stonington Galleries.

Another great thing about this show is that it has become a benefit for the local lobster hatchery! There will be an event connected with the benefit, tentatively scheduled for July 10th. Check with the gallery for updates.

Special Delivery

Last week, my artist friend Nancy Bea Miller and I managed to carve out a time to make a trip to Maine. Not a vacation, but a business trip! We delivered paintings to a total of three galleries and then headed home. The weather was not exactly cooperative. It varied between blue skies and torrential downpours, but we made it without mishap.

Highlights of the trip included walking and driving around Portland, where we visited galleries and saw the wonderful old brick buildings in the downtown area. We went to Stonington where Ron Watson, owner/director of the gWatson Gallery, treated us to a delicious lunch, ice cream, and coffee for the trip. Then we headed to Rockland and the Dowling Walsh Gallery where we enjoyed the artwork in the expansive new gallery space. The food was great, too. We found a Thai restaurant in Brunswick whose ingredients come straight from an organic farm--an artistic and culinary delight. On the way home we stayed overnight with Nancy Bea's relatives who run a restaurant, Bella Luna, in Jamaica Plain, MA. Her brother-in-law made us a gourmet breakfast that could only have come from a man who knows food.

Even though it would have been nice to stay longer in Maine, it was not so bad for a business trip!

Monday, June 8, 2009

"Monhegan" Show at Dowling Walsh Gallery

For the second year in a row my work will be included in the summer group show, "Monhegan," at Dowling Walsh Gallery in Rockland, Maine. Starting this year I'll also be one of the artists represented by the gallery.

This can't help but be a good show. The island of Monhegan is a microcosm, a jewel of a place. It offers rugged and varied terrain, and a fascinating combination of architecture and natural beauty. No wonder so many excellent and accomplished artists have painted there in the past, and are still painting there. I can't wait to go back there in September to paint for a week with my fellow Maine Landscape Guild-ers.

The Dowling Walsh Gallery is located on the main street of Rockland, just across from the Farnsworth Museum.

There will be an opening reception on Wednesday, July 15th, 5 - 8 p.m. Please come if you can!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

PLEIN AIR PAINTING WORKSHOP on Mount Desert Island, Maine


Thomas Cole and Frederic Church First popularized Mount Desert in the mid-1800s. Their works inspired families from New York and Philadelphia to make the journey by steamer to "rusticate" and enjoy the untouched beauty of Mount Desert Island. Artists will be painting outside in a group for approximately 3-5 hours a day. Sites will vary from the spectacular summit of Cadillac Mountain to the rugged shores and quiet lakes and ponds of Acadia National Park. The group will focus on plein air painting techniques and strategies. Participants will stay in the Abraham Somes III house built in 1800. Daily critiques, individual instruction, and demonstrations will be provided. Alexandra Tyng and Diana Ansley will lead the group.

Tuition is $500.
Lodging and lunch is $575.

For further information on the lodging, travel arrangements, and the daily schedule, or to enroll, contact organizer Diana Ansley at 703-960-0612 or at

Painting at Valley Green

Valley Green is a spot on the Wissahickon Creek in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. The creek flows through a steep wooded gorge, and Valley Green Inn is an old, historic inn where travelers stopped to refresh themselves while traveling the dirt road along the creek. Now this road has become a popular trail for walking, riding bicycles and horses.

A few weeks ago, I went there to paint with my artist friends Alyce Grunt and Garth Herrick. It was a spectacular mornng. I have rarely seen the sky such a deep blue. Spring had not yet sprung, but the tips of the maple trees were slightly reddish. I love the winter color of the woods in Pennsylvania so I was glad of the chance to try and capture the subtle colors. We had a great couple of hours in which I produced this oil sketch of the creek valley and stone bridge, then we went out for lunch in Manayunk.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Portrait Painting Class at Wayne Art Center

My portrait painting class is starting up again at the end of April, and it will run for five weeks. Here is the class description and information:


Students will be painting portraits with a consistent color framework using complementary colors. We will study the relationship between light, atmosphere, and shadow; and work on creating the feeling of "air" and depth around the figure. We will also focus on value relationships, edge quality, and composition. All work will be from the live model. Drawing experience recommended; experience with oils helpful.

MONDAYS, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
$130. for 5-week session
Class runs from April 27 to June 1
No class on May 25 (Memorial Day)

To register for the class, or to obtain more information, please contact the Wayne Art Center in Wayne, PA


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tyng Portraits in The Artist's Magazine

In the April ("Portrait") issue ofThe Artist's Magazine is a feature article on my portraits entitled "In Their Element."
The writer, Christine Proskow, interviewed me a few months ago, and I was impressed with her intelligent and thoughtful questions and insights. I was even more impressed with the article she wrote, and with the editors Maureen Bloomfield and Chris McHugh. Working with these three women was an experience of cooperation, respect, and creativity. It was very exciting to see the article. The reproductions are excellent, too.

Above you can see the cover of the issue, which features the work of David Wells.

To read an online excerpt from the article (about a work in progress), click here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Visiting a Collector

On a recent trip to the West Coast, we visited the home of one of my most faithful collectors. I can't believe it was about twenty years ago that she first commissioned me to paint a portrait of her granddaughter. Soon after that, I painted her two grandsons. That was in the '80s. By the '90s she had two more grandchildren, and she commissioned a double portrait of them. A few years ago I painted a full-length portrait of her youngest granddaughter.

It was almost overwhelming to find that she and her husband had decorated an entire room to showcase the portraits. Of course this is not really about my artwork--it's about her grandchildren--but nevertheless I did not expect to walk into a room and be surrounded by my own artwork. I suspect I am not alone in feeling embarrassed by this. Artists are notoriously self-critical, especially about their own work, and if it was painted 20 years ago the feeling is more intense. At the same time, it was like seeing an abbreviated version of the development of my style, which can be a very enlightening experience. I think the most important thing about seeing ones artwork in someone's home is realizing that art isn't completely frivolous, that the opportunity to create something that brings happiness to someone else has a value.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Opening Night at Fischbach Gallery

To backtrack a bit, I wanted to post some pictures from the opening of my show, "Above and Beyond." Yes,this is really late because the show has already closed, but it was such a fun evening. I want to thank all my family, friends and fellow artists who attended. Your presence was very much appreciated. And I want to also thank Larry DiCarlo and the people at Fischbach who worked so hard to pull the show together.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Four-Way Strategy: Fourth-Place Winner

This portrait was a lot of fun to paint. It is of four children who live in London, commissioned as a gift for their grandparents. Recently I was very pleased to find out that it was awarded Fourth Place by the Portrait Society of America in their Members' Showcase Competition, "Mulitple Figures" category.

There is a really nice story behind this painting. My first contact with this family was when I painted the children's grandfather, author and presidential speechwriter, around 1995 or 6. There was an unveiling party at the Union League back then. A few years ago, his daughter commissioned me to paint her four children, which became the portrait you see here. After that, both the children and their mother, and the grandparents have visited my studio on separate occasions. I feel blessed to know these wonderful people. This kind of ongoing relationship with families of clients probably sounds familiar to most portrait painters--and it's one of the best things about painting portraits.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Three to Watch!

The January/February issue of Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine should be hitting the newsstands about now. I'm excited about it because my Maine landscapes are featured in this issue, in an article entitled "Three to Watch: Artists Making Their Mark."

The section about me is by Nancy Bea Miller, who not only is a talented artist, but also a fine writer.

The editors chose to reproduce a painting of one of my favorite subjects, Isle Au Haut, one of the lesser known areas of Acadia National Park. Isle Au Haut is smaller than Mount Desert but has similar geological features including comparatively high mountains (hills) and long, glacially carved troughs between them, one of which is a lake. Because it is not accessible by car and is quite far from the mainland, it is still relatively unspoiled. From the air it has a lonely, dark, mysterious feeling, which I've tried to capture in this painting.