Category Archives: art exhbitions

Ironstone Vineyards Spring Obsession 2013

I’m delighted to say I’ve been accepted into the Ironstone Vineyards Spring Obsession 2013 exhibition! I’ll be at Ironstone, in Murphys, California, on March 2, painting at the winery in the afternoon and attending the reception from 4:00 to 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the event are $25, and are available by calling (209) 728-1251 ext#11/reservations. They’ve even posted my bio on their blog!

The Lighthousekeeper's House by Stephanie Benedict
The Lighthousekeeper’s House ©2011 Stephanie Benedict. Oil on canvas, 400 mm by 1000 mm

The show runs through May 12, 2013, 3:00 p.m. I hope you can make it!

When you go wine tasting, do you think about purchasing artwork from a winery?

Secret Treasures at the Crocker

Imagine walking into a room and suddenly being transported to another time, another place. A place where satyrs raise families, where temples slowly crumble in Arcadian decay. A place where miniature cows graze in tiny fields, or an army of 1/8th-inch tall soldiers march across a field.

That’s how I felt this week—transported―when I walked into the The Artist’s View: Landscape Drawings from the Crocker Art Museum exhibition at the Crocker Art Museum. While the big show currently at the museum is the Norman Rockwell show, there’s a hidden treasure on the second floor that I highly recommend. The show only runs through January 6, 2013, so see it while you can!

Willem van Bemmel Landscape
One of the drawings in the exhibition. Not my favorite, but the only one I could find an image of. Willem van Bemmel, Landscape with an Artist Sketching, n.d. Black chalk on beige laid paper, laid down to beige laid secondary support, 6 1/8 x 7 15/16 in. Crocker Art Museum, E. B. Crocker Collection

The exhibition features drawings from the 17th through the 19th centuries from the museum’s permanent collection. Most of the artists were new to me, but that didn’t make them any less amazing. Most are small: from perhaps 3 x 4 inches, to about 12” by 20,” these are ink and chalk and graphite drawings (and a couple of watercolors) and sketches of hillsides, trees, Greek temples in idyllic settings. The latter may not be to our modern tastes, but to anyone interested in seeing how someone works, they’re fabulous.

The museum kindly has a few magnifying glasses for visitors to use “for a closer look” at these small works. With them, you can see teeny figures done in ink (with quill pens, remember), or that family of satyrs in their forest home. Or you can just get a closer look at the individual strokes of the quill that form branches or the squiggles that transform into leaves when you stand back to look at the entire work. For the artist, it’s a great opportunity to look at the technique of these predecessors working 150 or 250 years ago.

I’ve heard that one of the reasons modern artists don’t get the effects these earlier artists did is that the paper we have available today is different (this is the Era of Bad Paper, after all). I could clearly see the difference in some of these works, on blue or cream laid paper. Some were made with brushes, some with charcoal, and others with chalk. The white highlights could be very subtle or bright washes—but they all seemed softer and yet more precise than most one sees today.

It’s a gem of a show. Where the Crocker did fall down, however, is in the gift shop: there’s not one image of any of these pieces on a postcard or print anywhere. I wanted to take a couple home with me (on postcards) so I could study how they were made. No luck. So literally, you may never get to see these works again.

And the Rockwell show? It’s pretty amazing. I’m not sure why illustrators get such a bad rap.


Ebb and Flow: a solo exhibition by Kathleen Dunphy

I had the chance to attend the opening of Kathleen Dunphy’s solo exhibition, Ebb and Flow, at Knowlton Gallery in Lodi, California, this past weekend. Twenty-six paintings fill the gallery at Knowlton with light and—I have no other word for it—grace. The works range from still lifes of flowers in glass vases, to cows quietly watching the watcher, to fog rolling onto the Marin Headlands. Some were created on site, en plein air; many are larger studio pieces. (A couple of the pieces are 36″ by 48″, and one is 48″ by 60″.)

Kathleen Dunphy at Knowlton Gallery
Kathleen Dunphy discusses how she painted “Sanctuary” from the small plein air sketch in her hand. At the opening of Ebb and Flow, October 2012. Photo by Stephanie Benedict

The landscapes, especially, have a grandeur and immediacy to them that stops you in your tracks. And it’s not the plein air pieces, so full of the energy, that strike you. No, it’s the big ones. So often, enlarging a smaller painting results in a loss of the energy of the original work. However Dunphy did it, whether by creating a new composition by using multiple sketches as the source material or what, she has given the larger pieces a different kind of energy: less visceral, perhaps, but more intense.

I overheard another artist at the opening say, as the highest compliment he could pay, “I wish I’d painted this.” Well—me, too.

(Full disclosure: I’ve taken several of Dunphy’s workshops. I’m a huge fan, so this is not an unbiased review.)

I’ve long maintained Dunphy is an incredibly generous teacher. She was also generous with visitors at the opening. The 30 or so people who attended last Saturday afternoon got to hear Dunphy describe how she uses her small plein air sketches as source material for her larger pieces. Her stories of trying to catch the light before the fog engulfed the view, or heading out for trip to the Sierras and forgetting all but one brush, helped give each painting a life beyond mere canvas. They also helped her listeners understand a bit of what it’s like to be a painter.

It’s also nice to see all the red dots at the exhibition.  But then, most of Dunphy’s paintings sell.  So if you’re interested, act quickly.


Ebb and Flow: Painting Nature’s Rhythms is at Knowlton Gallery in Lodi through November 24, 2012.


A Mine of Beauty, Landscapes by William Trost Richards

Last week I mentioned that I’d received two new books on my doorstep. This post is a review of the second book.

Thanks to James Gurney, my library has a new addition: a delightful book of watercolor miniatures by Nineteenth Century American painter William Trost Richards called A Mine of Beauty. Published by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art for an exhibition of the paintings, this little book is itself a mine of beauty. Or, as my friend Steven put it, “Holy cow!”

An Essay at Twilight by William Trost Richards at PAFA
An Essay at Twilight, watercolor on paper, 3 5/16 x 5 inches. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Promist Gift of Dorrance H. Hamilton in memory of Samual M. V. Hamilton

Richards (1833–1905) was a Philadelphia painter who painted both in oil and watercolor. The approximately 100 paintings in A Mine of Beauty are printed full sized, from about 2 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches to 3 by 6. Richards painted them for his patron, industrialist George Whitney. Remarkably, the collection remained intact and now belongs to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

The paintings in A Mine of Beauty are remarkable: beautifully rendered landscapes and seascapes from southern New England, mostly around Newport and Conanicut Island in Rhode Island, and from Britain. They are exquisitely detailed little things, images of shorelines, boats, villages, sheep grazing in fields, river scenes. The man must have had a size 000 brush and a magnifying glass to make some of these tiny people and animals and castles. I recently had a brief discussion with another blogger about size. Well, these miniature watercolors show just how big a world a tiny canvas can convey. And they’re watercolors!

If you believe, as I do, that a painter should study the masters to improve her own work, then, as much as Sorolla or Sargent, this is a must see for landscape painters.

The book is fabulous. The exhibition runs from September 29 to December 30, 2012. I wish I were going to Philadelphia this fall so I could see it!

Postscript: To be fair, there’s another new book on Richards, called William Trost Richards True to Nature: Drawings, Watercolors and Oil Sketches by Carol M. Osborne. As the title indicates, this larger book showcases Richards’ oils and drawings. I recommend them both to anyone interested in Richards’ work.

A Framing Malfunction

I learned something about framing recently. Never wait until the last minute.

I’ll have more about frames in a future post, but for now I want to show you what happened recently when I waited too long to order and test out a frame.

First, here’s the painting. I seem to like these panorama formats.

Around the Bay by Stephanie Benedict. Oil on canvas.
Around the Bay ©2012 Stephanie Benedict 15” x 45” Oil on canvas.

I always envisioned this painting in a floater frame: that is, not with the frame wrapped over the edges, but the frame held away from the painting.

Detail view, Around the Bay by Stephanie Benedict
Detail view, Around the Bay, showing how it would look in the frame.

About a month before the deadline to take the piece to the gallery, I ordered a gold floater frame. It arrived about a week before I needed it—and I left it wrapped in the bubble wrap. The painting was wet, I was trying to finish it, and I didn’t want to risk scratching the frame by handling it too much. So I waited until the painting was done and dry.

With typical frames, you attach the frame to the painting with brackets or framers points or even nails—but you don’t nail through the painting. The painting is rigid, so all you need to do is put the framers points or nails behind the canvas to hold it into the frame. The front lip of the frame itself keeps the piece from falling out the front.

With a floater frame, there is no front lip, so you have to attach the frame to the painting by screwing it to the stretcher bars from the back. But when I went to do that, the brackets the framing company provided were too short, and would have put the screw right through the spline holding the canvas to the stretcher bars. This might be OK, but I didn’t want to risk my painting by screwing directly through the edge of the canvas.

On this floater frame, the screw would have gone through the canvas
On this floater frame, the screw would have gone through the canvas

I went to two hardware stores and a Michael’s to find longer brackets: no luck. Happily, my friend Kat Oliver works in steel. She fabricated some longer brackets for me. But she had a problem: the jig she had made them deeper than the originals: from 3/8” to ¾”. And when I tried to use them, that extra depth made the painting stick out in front of the frame awkwardly. So I couldn’t use them.

The bracket on the left came with the frame. The one on the right was hand-fabricated.

In the meantime, just in case, I had put an extra coat of black around the edges of the painting. I’d used black gesso on the edges to begin with, but paint had splattered around the edges, so I added a layer of oil paint to the edge.

Around the Bay by Stephanie Benedict: edge view
The black edges of Around the Bay by Stephanie Benedict

So for now this is how the painting is hung, at High Hand Gallery. I’m still working on getting longer brackets, so I can frame this piece eventually. Otherwise, I need to order or make another 15” x 45” canvas—without the gallery wrap—just so I can use that floater frame!

Have you had framing malfunctions? Do you prefer not to use frames?