Grand Sceneries

Who is not moved by the breathtaking sight of the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls or by an imposing Roman aqueduct? And, if you are a painter you are likely to be motivated to capture such majestic sceneries onto your canvas. As a fellow painter once said with true conviction, “if I just start with a great composition, a great scene, a great model, my work is half done!” Is it?

Choosing to paint an impressive scenery does not guaranty a grand painting. I often see artists struggle to recreate such sceneries only to end up frustrated and terribly disappointed. Perhaps sticking to more humble subject matters might be quite rewarding.

The beauty of the Grand Canyon is obvious and great beauty is indeed inspiring. Yet, beauty can be found in a rain drop, a snow flake or in the smile of a child. William Wordsworth’s poem Splendor in the Grass comes to mind.

An artist is privileged to be in a unique position to find beauty in the seemingly ordinary and to communicate it to others. An artist can be both an explorer and a magician. Look at Cézanne’s apples, Van Gogh’s flowers, Morandi’s vases; look at the abstract compositions of Joan Mitchell! Such works of art are to me as breathtaking as the Grand Canyon.

Yvette Stenzel

What Is In My Closet? Accessorize!

Scarves are extremely versatile and you should have a collection of them. Choose textures and colors according to seasons and depending upon what you are going to wear with your scarf. Need a lesson in tying them? Watch the scene in the delightful movie “ Le Divorce” where Glenn Close explains to Kate Hutson how French women use scarves. Invest in a few designer scarves. They will add an instant chic to any outfit.

Belts are another great accessory. Here too you can be playful with color and texture; don’t be afraid of boldness! The buckle itself can be a statement and as decorative as a piece of jewelry. Opt for quality; a fine leather belt is timeless.

Handbags and Pocketbooks
Quality! Quality! Quality! Yes, invest in a few high end designer handbags. Have at least one for every season. I have an Italian designer handbag I adore to rediscover every summer when I change my closets. It is gorgeous and won’t go out of style.

Who wears them anymore except in winter? I do occasionally and I always feel well put together when I wear a flattering hat or a beret. It can be so feminine. No baseball caps or bomber hats please…leave those for the guys!

Get those expensive designer power shades! They are a must for a stylish look. Keep them safely in a case and be careful not to lose them.

I consider shoes an accessory. Always choose comfortable shoes that fit well. If your shoes are not comfortable it will show in the way you walk. That said, by all means avoid “orthopedic” looking shoes regardless what the trend of the day is. Here too choose quality and design over quantity.

Costume Jewelry
Mix and match faux with real, but do it wisely and discreetly. Stay away from wearing too much jewelry…it can look kitschy. Occasionally wear a bold piece of costume jewelry. I love beads and pearls. I often mix and match several necklaces to create a unique look. Pearls look particularly pretty in the summer.

The Year of the Horse

Your eyes sparkle a laughter

As deep as lost time
As you run through the night
On misty shores when twilight
Shines on dunes and hidden coves
With each trot a new promise
Standing still in the snow
A white mare by the seaside
Soon spring fills the salt air
With visions of swimming horses
Into the dawn of summer
When a full moon explodes
A young mare in expectation
Tosses her mane to greet
A lover from distant shores
As summer’s end unfolds
An old story anew
The year of the horse

Solace in Solitude  

     It is a rare privilege to have a full day to yourself and to enjoy the pleasure of your own company without any interruption.  You’ll discover a voice you forgot you had, a voice that got lost in the chatter of your daily life.

Start the day with your favorite coffee or tea poured in the pretty cup you like or in that special mug.  Look outside and take notice of the light.  Yes, even on a foggy or cloudy day there is light out there.  Take notice of the colors around you.  Put on some comfortable clothes that flatter you and take yourself for a walk.  If you are blessed with owning a dog…by all means take the dog, take him on a walk that is different from his routine.

Spend the morning in quiet solitude.  Treat yourself to a healthy lunch and listen to your favorite music.  Spend some time thinking about your art and take inventory of your accomplishments.  Visualize your next project.  Think about the people whose company you enjoy.

You might also consider taking a day to paint solo especially if you habitually paint with other artists.  While joining peer groups can be fun and motivating, time spent in solitude has its own rewards and merits.  It might free you up to experiment when you find yourself uninfluenced by others and sheltered from judgment.

Finding solace in solitude and silence will lead to finding truth in your heart.

Perhaps you might find the above course of action and suggestions a more helpful alternative to break in the New Year rather than the usual list of resolutions.

New Calendar

Enjoy these low cost easy monthly activities. Obviously fill in your own projects.

Bundle up in your favorite sweater and take yourself on a Sunday morning stroll. This is a solo activity but it is just fine to take your dog if you have one. Enjoy the quietude and take some photos.

If you live where you are blessed with four seasons you are probably longing for warmer temperatures by now. Refresh your culinary skills and make some wholesome delicious stews like beef burgundy, Hungarian goulash, chicken a la king, white vegetarian chili…

Winter is getting long. To beat cabin fever why not paint some tropical scenes. Not a painter? Not a problem! Get a travel magazine and make a collage. Discover your creativity! You will be amazed how much a little color combined with a creative task can uplift your mood.

Watch a “feel good” movie and listen to music celebrating spring, joy and renewal. Take yourself to a museum date. Treat yourself and a friend to lunch.

It is time to organize and rethink your fitness routine. You don’t have one? Good grief what are you waiting for! Organize closets and clean your studio. Get the garden ready for planting. If you don’t have one, buy yourself a couple a plants.

Take yourself on a pic-nick in the park. Buy a couple of summer outfits. Offer to go on an extended walk with a friend who has a dog.

Organize an outdoor pot luck with lots of friends and games. Whenever you can, dine “al fresco”. No outdoor space? No problem! Improvise in front of an open window.

Plan as little as possible and enjoy unstructured time. See lots of friends. Eat lots of salads. It is a great opportunity to lose some weight.

This may surprise you but plan your holiday cards now. Every year I make my own. Everyone loves them…and expects them! The sooner I start the better I feel.

Enjoy as much as possible the outdoors while you still can.

The busy season is starting. Organize, plan and stick to schedules. Do not let others distract you. Remember that it is OK to say “no”. Do not overload your plate or else you’ll get indigestion…who wants that during the holiday season?

If you planned November well you will feel the holiday cheer. If you don’t feel it, fake it and smile through the day. Invite friends for a holiday toast including an activity like exchanging favorite poems or inexpensive but creative gifts.


The Power of Silence

While visiting an Italian site on art I recently landed on an interesting documentary about the painter Giorgio Morandi whom the narrator coined as the painter of silence. Not exactly a minimalist myself, the principle of minimalism has always intrigued me.  The idea that less is more has its appeal and I have used this guideline in several areas in my environment.  It certainly keeps guiding me each time I undertake the boring task of uncluttering my house.  It is quite amazing how much stuff one quickly accumulates.  I hate clutter!

While my small urban garden spills over with lush opulence and keeps me working for hours, the garden in the back of my beach house is a traditional Japanese garden that invites serene contemplation.  I like to think that some of my paintings do too.

As I look at my paintings I can clearly see in my work the allure and expressive freedom of color.  Color becomes synonymous of exuberance, joy and also of shock.  At times, an intense panoply of color can be overwhelming and saturating like a cluttered space.  What I came to realize looking at my work is, that those paintings that are characterized by some degree of minimalism, whether expressed by a monochromatic palette or by a quiet abstraction, are just as powerful as those with intense colors and complex compositions.

Looking at your paintings as a collection is quite informative.  Obvious patters and repetitions will emerge in a way you may not have considered.  In the process you might discover surprises; you might start questioning and imagine new directions.  Possibilities may suddenly engage you to experiment.

We find ourselves often trapped by the comfort of the familiar and by the ease of the habitual.  I suspect this creates clutter in the creative process.  It may well keep us from evolving.  Let’s make room for renewal!

“Gone”, a Poem

The ash grey field ahead
In its enormity distorted
And every space filled
With rocks in boredom blank
Wide open towards fading light
Still expecting a vision
As if it hadn’t happened
As if it were still possible
Within reach in each breath
Yet how stark the horizon
And how numb your canvas
When your heart in silence
Remembers a train gone by
                                                                 Yvette Stenzel

Back to the Studio

Back to the Studio                                               September 2013

September is the month that loudly shouts “back to school!”.  While I am no longer teaching, I still get excited by this time of the year which always feels like a new beginning.  This is really when a new year starts in my calendar.

It is a good opportunity to organize the studio, take inventory and finish unfinished work.  Perhaps you might consider taking a class and change your routine for something new like moving up a grade.  It is also a great opportunity to buy some supplies and mingle with real students at the art supply store.

Back to my studio there is plenty to do as I have not been there much during the summer.  Yes, I do take a vacation from painting and I suggest you do as well; you will come back in September with renewed energy and a fresh vision.

September here in New England is usually a beautiful month.  The temperature is still quite warm during the day, the air is comfortably dry, the evenings are cool and many flowers are still in full bloom.  This extension of summer days which are slowly drifting away gives us plenty of time to adjust and even change our closets at a reasonable pace.


Fall is the season to assess and adjust before the haste of the holidays and the doldrums of winter.  So, get out there and enjoy!

The Tyranny of Perfection

The Tyranny of Perfection

Perfectionists know exactly what they are going to paint and how they are going to paint it.  They tend to see the finished painting before they start.  Perfectionists need to feel in control at all times.  Obsessed by details and visual accuracy, they have mastered techniques.  Perfectionists speak with authority and love to analyze using their unshakable logic.  Listening to them can be both impressive and intimidating.  Indeed their skills get often rewarded by praise.

I too am a great believer of techniques and skills.  As I said in previous blogs an artist painter needs to practice the art of drawing with accuracy; for this is the foundation of many art forms, even if your voice takes you on the path of abstraction.

Yet, unless you want to be a tight painter governed by logic and reason which is a choice, you may want to practice the art of letting go and taking risks.  You may not get the results you wish right away, but in the long run you will paint with greater passion.

The following suggestions are easy steps to encourage you to loosen up and paint with greater freedom:

–         Come organized.  By all means, be a perfectionist with regard to your supplies and materials.  It will save you time and frustration.

–         Have your personal ritualistic routine when setting up.  It is calming.

–         Play music that inspires you or that energizes you.  Awaken your senses!

–         Don’t outline your composition on the canvas.  It will confine you.  If you feel the need for an outline do so in your sketch book.

–         Do a practice warm up painting on a small canvas before you start your actual painting.

–         Tone your canvas.  A big white and blank canvas is intimidating.

–         Once you started take regular breaks.

–         Don’t allow others to make unsolicited comments.

–         Don’t be discouraged when the process is not going your way; tell yourself it is only paint, mistakes can be corrected.

–         Welcome surprises and experiment.

Remember perfectionism is an obstacle to the creative process of discovery and interpretation.


“Why should an artist persist in treating subjects that can be established so clearly with the lens of a camera?”  Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973.