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Observational Drawing Challenge: Drawings 1-10

For the past few years I have not really done much observational drawing. I want to stay fluent in drawing, and of course there is always room for improvement. I think observational drawing is an important skill, even though I work abstractly most of the time. There is always something to learn about the play of light and shadow, the creation of form, composing an image, and dedication to completion, that drawing from life teaches.

So! I have decided to challenge myself to make two observational drawings each week for the next year, creating 100 drawings total. I am using a variety of media for these drawings, from graphite to charcoal to soft pastel, and I may eventually start making paintings as well. The important thing is that they are all drawn from observation and that they are all completed works, rather than sketches or studies. For me that means that I consider composition on the page, and that the drawings are rendered to a level that I consider “finished”.

My first ten drawings are below.

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25 Minnesota Landscapes

For the past few months I’ve been working on a commission for the city of Eagan, MN, for their annual CSA project. No, I’m not growing green beans. In this case, CSA stands for Community-Supported Art. Each year, six artists are chosen to create a series of 25 original works, which are distributed to people who buy a share at the end of the summer during the “Art Harvest”.

I thought this was an interesting model for paying artists and I was thrilled to be selected as one of the artists to participate!

My body of work for this project is now complete and I’m excited to share it with you.

25 Minnesota Landscapes

This series of collage paintings was inspired by my experiences in the landscapes of Minnesota. Having lived in Minnesota for just three years, these landscapes still feel new and surprising to me. I’m struck most by the contrast of colors within the landscape: intense, deep blues and greens in summer; spruce green and aspen yellow setting each other off in autumn; electric pink and orange reflections in the lake at twilight; barren whites and yellows against the rich blue of a winter sky. I hope that by expressing my experiences in this way, you will be struck by the same feelings of wonder and inspiration that I feel within these unique landscapes.

Lake In Summer 1
Lake In Summer 1
Prairie In Bloom
Prairie In Bloom
Lake At Twilight 3
Lake At Twilight 3

To see the whole series of 25 Minnesota landscapes, and to learn about my process in creating them, click here!

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Commission for a Florida Condo: Part 2

Commissioned Artwork by Cathy Durso
Florida Stone 1-4
Mixed media collage on paper
Each piece 15 x 11 in
2017

This set of collages was commissioned for a Florida condo to go along with this diptych. Since the original diptych is two 30 x 30 inch paintings on canvas, for the second commission I wanted to create a group of smaller works so that the two commissions would not compete with each other. The final result was this set of four collages.

Florida Stone 1-4, collages by Cathy Durso

Florida Stone 1 (detail)

Florida Stone 4

Florida Stone 3 (detail)

If you are interested in commissioning a painting from me, there is more information about the process here.

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Commission for a Florida Condo

Florida
Florida
acrylic and thread on canvas
each panel 30 x 30 in
2017

I just finished up a commission to be displayed on the wall of a Florida condo. The finished work is a diptych, two canvases each measuring 30×30 inches. The stipulations for this work were that it use tropical, Florida-inspired colors, as well as that it take inspiration from the colors of a recently upholstered couch in the condo.

Florida (left-hand panel) by Cathy Durso

I wanted to use the colors in a way that gave the work a sense of narrative. The fact that it’s a diptych already makes the eye move in a narrative way, from one canvas to the next. I wanted to give a sense of time shifting from day to night. In the left-hand panel are daytime colors, which are interspersed with evening colors toward the bottom right-hand corner. There are some dark blue-greens in there as well, that might evoke a passing rain shower. Then, the right-hand panel has evening colors that change from the bright reds and oranges of a sunset to dark, dusky purple on the far right-hand side.

Florida (right-hand panel) by Cathy Durso

The circles are acrylic on canvas. They are sewn with thread onto the background canvas. They move across the canvases in a way that evokes the movement of the ocean, as if a wave is moving across the two canvases.

Florida (detail) by Cathy Durso

I like to use circle shapes as a way to focus the viewer’s attention. There is something about a circle that frames things in a way that can be very pleasing to the eye – I’ve always found circular windows on houses to be particularly beautiful. I found that the circles in this work evoked a sense of focusing on one aspect of a landscape at a time. The circles move across the canvas in a way that mimics the way our eyes work, in that they don’t travel smoothly as we look around, but rather, they hop from one point of focus to the next. The circles are also reminiscent of the way our eyes can be focused on one thing, and then when we shift our focus to another thing, everything around us has changed. This can happen when we ourselves our moving (walking, driving) or when the landscape itself is changing (the sun is setting, or clouds are rolling in). Our vision hops around to different parts of the landscape, and we take all these points of focus in to create our own sense of the experience.

Florida (detail) by Cathy Durso

I really enjoy the challenge of creating a piece of artwork for a specific space. If you are interested in commissioning a painting from me, there is more information about the process on my commissions page.

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The shaded circle

Shaded circle graphite drawing by Cathy Durso

When I first saw him in the hospital bed, I couldn’t hold it together. He looked so small and fragile, so weak, like I’d never seen him before. But on this particular occasion, although he was still in the same condition, he was larger than life. He thought he was going to die. We all were gathered around him. We each went up and spoke to him, quietly, one at a time. In that moment nothing else existed. Life and death and time and everything was contained within him. Despite his physical weakness there was nothing more real, more true, more solid than him at that moment. He was the center.

Cathy Durso's sketchbook

Shaded circle drawing, graphite on tinted paper, by Cathy Durso

Art every day week 21: Cathy Durso's daily art challenge