Thursday, August 30, 2007


Variably Cloudy
acrylic and oil on canvas
36 x 24 inches

copyright 1996 by Ann Thompson Nemcosky

I was still in college when I first discovered the art of John Constable. Seeing a small exhibition of his sky studies at a local museum, I was fascinated by this concept of focusing solely on sky as a subject matter and filed it away. Later, after having earned my degree, I returned to landscape as a subject and spent some time developing images of skies. The painting above is one example. (I do apologize for the poor photo though, the fish-eye effect is distracting, it's not that way in real life!) Somewhere along the way I also acquired a book of Constable's paintings, Constable by John Sunderland. Published in 1972 by Phaidon Press Limited I see from my Amazon search that this book I picked up used many years ago in a used bookstore is no longer in print. Anyway, it seemed fitting to begin my exploration of John Constable's work with the subject of sky.

John Constable, 1776-1837, was a landscape painter who held an interest in painting the truth in nature, even the precise weather of a particular time and day. In doing so he rejected those of his contemporaries in 18th century landscape painting who made generalized and idealized depictions of nature.

American Artist Drawing Magazine Summer 2007 issue features an interesting article about John Constable's Sketchbooks. The article discusses how he carried with him pocket-sized sketchbooks in which he did graphite studies for large oil paintings. For Constable, sketchbook drawing advanced his skills as he refined his method of showing the effect of light and shadow. Yet even these small drawings show his attention to the sky as he managed to capture the quality of light at a particular time of day.

There is more concerning his interest in the quality of light that I will share later as I work on my own Constable inspired landscape drawings. But for now, I have come across an interesting correlation in the writing of Winnifred Gallagher's The Power of Place, where she states,

"Like other living things, however, our species has evolved over the millions
of years to respond to the cycles of the earth and sun with predictable
biochemical and behavioral changes. Environmentally minded scientists have
begun to question the trade-offs we unwittingly make in order to live sealed
up inside an artificially heated, cooled, and lighted world that is structured
around economic rather than biologic concerns."

And finally, I can't leave out the John Constable art project I did with my daughter a couple of years ago. We spent a year going through
Discovering Great Artists by Mary Ann Kohl, by choosing an artist to study each month and ending the month with a project in the style of that artist's work. This book is a terrific introduction into art appreciation for kids ages 4-12. We certainly had a lot of fun learning about different artists and working on the projects together!

Watercolor After John Constable
approx. 12 x 9 inches

copyright 2005 by HRN
Private Collection

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

For the time being. . .

Avon Dunes II
colored pencil on pastel board
12 x 6 inches
copyright 2007 by Ann Thompson Nemcosky

No, I didn't forget about posting yesterday. In fact I spent a little while organizing my thoughts and plans for future posts with an eye toward the upcoming month of September. It was while working on this latest piece, Avon Dunes II, and looking back over my previous posts that I decided to take this blog into a more specific direction, for the time being anyway. Of course I will still include all the before mentioned topics, but organized around the theme of a "sense of place". This stems from my interest in landscape and the power that particular places can have in our memories and imaginations. The images I choose to draw are not selected randomly, but chosen for their relevance of location to my senses, my personal connection to the place. So, I dusted off my old copy of The Power of Place, by Winifred Gallagher and went looking for information on one of my favorite landscape painters, John Constable. As I read and begin my next drawing with these influences in mind I will share my findings here. Please feel free to join in and comment here and/or email me. I'd love to hear others thoughts on this topic too!

edited to add: if the book link to Amazon does not work, you can find The Power of Place in my aStore by clicking on the link under Ann's Bookshelf.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Best Intentions

Avon Dunes I
graphite on paper
12 x 12 inches

copyright 2006 by Ann Thompson Nemcosky

Yes, I had such good plans for today, for this whole week really, but somehow most of the time life got in the way. It wasn't such a great homeschool week. It happens. We acknowledge it and move on with a goal to make next week better. And my car's battery died. It was only nine years old! And the weather was hot. Well, for here anyway. Up here in the mountains we are wimps about the heat, but we're also unprepared for it. No air conditioning at our house, so I had a perfectly good excuse for not sitting at my drawing table, it was just too darn hot! But this is artwork day and I fully intended to have a new work to show, complete with references to artistic influences. Instead I'm posting this drawing that I did a little over a year ago, Avon Dunes I. I'm working on the same scene now but with a slightly different composition and in colored pencil this time, sort of as a companion piece to Avon Boat. You will just have to be patient with me.

One thing I did manage to get accomplished was to figure out a way to have links for the books I mention here and recommend. I spent the better part of this evening putting together an Amazon aStore, where I can keep all my book recommendations neatly in one place. It was kinda fun, searching for the titles that are on my bookshelves and that I can confidently recommend. I know I will be adding more there and I will occasionally feature a title or two here in blog posts with more details. Check it out by clicking on the link under "Ann's Bookshelf" on the sidebar.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


"It takes a long time to learn that nothing is wasted."
- M. C. Richards

Manteo Tree
colored pencil on pastel board
5 x 7 inches
copyright 2007 by Ann Thompson Nemcosky $40

As promised, here is my weekly review of a book that has been influential in my development as an artist. This time I am digging up an old copy of Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person by M. C. Richards. Yes, it is a book about pottery and poetry but it is also about waking up to living a creative life. I first read this book when I was a college student and it had a huge impact on my attitude towards studying art and learning in general. Part Zen philosophy, part the author's own experience and much more, Richards expresses the concept that education, learning that is, is a process of awakening and continues on throughout our lives. An idea that I have revisited many times since my college days and now as I homeschool my daughter this concept of life-long learning carries even more weight with me. And I can see it revealed now as I rediscover my art through new and varied media. It is all a part of the process and we use it all to get there. Nothing really is ever wasted.

As a side note, I am struggling with getting these book links to work. You may have noticed (or not) that the book text link in my last post did nothing. Even though I followed the same procedure I had done previously to link to books, which of course worked just fine. It seems the text link I tried including above also does not work. Soooo, at least for the time being, to alleviate this aggravation I have added a section on the side bar for a Weekly Book List. For now, anyway, it appears those links will function properly. And in the meantime, if anyone has any tips for getting the text links to work, please let me know!

Monday, August 20, 2007

"Sing a Song of Seasons!"

Color Study #10
watercolor on paper
approx. 6 x 6 inches
copyright 2007 HRN
Private Collection

In the other gardens

And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

from Autumn Fires by Robert Louis Stevenson

I have been spending the evening searching for poetry to use in our homeschool. So good for speech and memory practice, we try to study poetry often. There are many children's poetry books available, some I find at our local library, but I have also discovered some great sites online where you can browse poems by subject if you are searching for something specific. Like autumn themed poetry, for example. One such site that I often visit for poems to add to our collection is Can Teach: Songs & Poems, They have many poems appropriate for children conveniently listed under subject headings.

And speaking of things appropriate for children, this comes under the heading of what I wish I had known when my daughter was still a baby. Earlier this year I read Magical Child by Joseph Chilton Pearce. It this 1977 classic he discusses the stages of child development and how they relate to growth and learning. With, "The child's need is to be a child," Pearce challenges the then and still popular educational model of forcing children into learning situations before they are developmentally ready and the damage that can be done as a result. Yet his message is positive in that by examining our ideas of parenting we can see where we are and only come away better.

The image I included with this post is part of a series of color studies my daughter has been working on lately. They are all wonderfully lively and unique expressions of her response to color and form. She says that she is not trying to paint anything specific, she is just working with color in her paintings. And she has done a lot of these lately!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Plan

Morning In The Neighborhood
colored pencil on pastel paper
8 1/2 x 4 inches
copyright 2007 by Ann Thompson Nemcosky

Well, I've got a plan. For the time being anyway. Thinking realistically about managing my time and keeping up with everything I want to do forced me to actually devise a schedule. Really, I create schedules all the time so this is not something unfamiliar to me. Our method of homeschooling requires a schedule to help keep us on track. Plus there's all the extra activities my daughter participates in that must be taken into account. Then there's the day-to-day stuff like housework, errands, cooking and meal times. Add in time for making art, reading, and plain old relaxing and well, you can see that the days around here are pretty full.

Yet I do strive to maintain a balance, especially where my daughter is concerned. I firmly believe that kids need time for doing nothing.
For that matter we grown-ups need the same thing, a bit of unscheduled time for quiet contemplation now and then. It's fine to have plenty of activities but I feel kids also need unstructured time to just be. That's where a real sense of self comes from. And where creativity gets a chance to grow. The pay off is that I have a child who has always been very self-directed. That's a good thing.

But back to my plan and how it relates to this blog. I have decided to plan for three posts per week, probably on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

~Mondays will be "Home" day. This is where I will share information and resources about anything having to do with home and homeschool. There is an art to both of these endeavors and it's a continual learning process.

~Wednesdays will be "Books". Here is where I will share all those books that have been and continue to be influential for my ongoing development as an artist.

~Fridays will be "Art Work" days where I will focus on the process, intent and artists of influence concerning my re-entry into the world of actively making art.

Of course I am hoping that you will share in the discussion on any or all of these topics. I will be posting artwork as often as possible, not just on Fridays, so please stay tuned...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Avon Boat, a work in progress

Here is the piece I was working on when I took a break yesterday to play with pastels. It is Neocolor and colored pencil on a 12 x 6 inch pastel board.

This is the first stage, where I colored the board with Neocolor crayons,

paying attention to value contrasts.

Here is the second step, where I washed the Neocolor with water, blending and covering the grey board.

Avon Boat
12 x 6 inches
colored pencil on pastel board

copyright 2007 by Ann Thompson Nemcosky

And here is the final drawing, after having worked the entire surface with colored pencil. What I like about this working this way is that not only does it speed up the drawing process but also the Neocolors have more color intensity and are more opaque than colored pencil alone, so it seems to add a depth to the piece.

All of these landscape images relate to the idea of souvenirs, saving the memory of a special place in time. A mountain hike or a quiet moment by the water somewhere, it's the feeling of that place that I am drawn to capture in images. This particular boat interested me because of the color and strong contrast present in the bright sunlight. It's from a little place on Hatteras Island, a place I love for it's sense of tranquility. Hatteras Island has managed to escape most of the development that plagues many beach communities. Even a little further on up the coast, in Nags Head, there is a different energy, a nervous kind of feeling from the endless array of strip malls, discount stores and putt-putt golf places all lined up beside the zooming four lane highway. I prefer the tranquility of Avon on Hatteras and I hope this drawing expresses that.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

In the Meantime. . .

Summer Field
8 x 5 inches
pastel on sanded pastel paper
copyright 2007 by Ann Thompson Nemcosky

Just got the urge to get out the pastels today. It has been quite some time since I have worked in pastel and it was fun doing an image more quickly than what colored pencil will allow. I am actually working on a new colored pencil piece but just felt I needed a break from it for a little bit. This was a nice diversion on a sunny afternoon.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sunny Day

Yes, it was a gloriously sunny, summer day today. This is a view from a nearby park looking out to the surrounding hills. Despite our recent warm weather small signs of the turning of the seasons are beginning to emerge. A red and a yellow leaf here and there. It won't be long before these warm, sunny days are put away until next year.


10 x 8 inches
colored pencil on paper
copyright 2007 by Ann Thompson Nemcosky

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fogs in August

The local folk lore here in these mountains says that for every foggy day in August there will be a snow fall in winter. It's already mid way through the month of August and this is our first somewhat foggy day. Snow fall totals here have been well below our average for several years now. Every August my daughter and I put a bean in a jar for each foggy day and then during winter she takes one out for each snow fall. Every year it comes pretty darn close, if not exact, that the number of foggy days match up with that winter's snow falls.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sentimental Souvenirs


did this!

Looks pretty innocent, doesn't he? Who can resist that sweet face! But wait, notice the chewed hole in the top of the cap and the teeth indentations on the brim. (OK, they look HUGE in real life!) Our just 1 year old springer enjoyed himself while we were out today. Or maybe not. Perhaps he was angry that he didn't get to come along. This cap was a souvenir of mine from Cape Hatteras, NC. It's funny how some objects hold special meaning to me. An object of otherwise little value can carry great importance for it's ability to conjure up memories of a certain time or place. This cap did that for me. So do images of landscapes. Which is why, I suppose, I am always drawn to creating landscape images in my art. They become a kind of souvenir of that place, that time.

I enjoyed pursuing the flower imagery that I showed in previous posts but felt it time to get back to some landscapes. I returned to an image I have visited often, in various media, and used it to
experiment with a method of using colored pencil over a wash of Neocolor crayons. The place is Thunder Hill, one of my very favorite spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was pleased with the
saturated color the Neocolors provided once the colored pencil was layered over top.

Thunder Hill

7" x 5" colored pencil and Neocolor on pastel board
copyright 2007 by Ann Thompson Nemcosky

And if anyone is going by Frisco on Hatteras Island, would you mind picking up another Cape Hatteras baseball cap for me? Thanks.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Some things I have learned and re-learned

" In a great man's work, at its fastest, no line is thrown away, and it is not by the rapidity, but the economy of the execution that you know him to be great." - John Ruskin

Being open to possibilities for creative exploration is not always easy. Consistent practice is important and it is worthwhile to set some goals. As long as those goals are not so rigid that they are either impossible to attain or create burnout before they are achieved. You never know where new inspiration will come from or in what form.

Here are a couple of books that have helped me rediscover the creative process. The first, by Dory Kanter,
Art Escapes: Daily Exercises and Inspirations for Discovering Greater Creativity and Artistic Confidence

is packed with ideas to get those creative muscles working. Most of the exercises were things I knew, but had forgotten while I was busy doing stuff other than creating art. It was a pleasure to be reminded of the simple activities one can do in small, managable bits each day that will lead to greater creative discoveries. Kanter also gives instructions for making your own sketching kits so your supplies are always together and ready to go with you.

Another book I spent some time with this summer is John Ruskin's
The Elements of Drawing
This is a 1971 edition of his original book published in 1857. Written in his straightforward way, John Ruskin outlines the steps needed for observational studies in drawing from nature. Although dated, I still gleaned practical advice from Ruskin's text and some timeless gems of wisdom.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Cone Flower
colored pencil on paper
5" x 7"
copyright 2007 by Ann Thompson Nemcosky

Morning Glory
colored pencil on paper
5" x 7"
copyright 2007 by Ann Thompson Nemcosky

Hosta Flower
colored pencil on paper
5" x 7"
copyright 2007 by Ann Thompson Nemcosky

Here are some of my recent explorations with colored pencil on paper. With the exception of the Morning Glory, these and the flowers I posted yesterday, are all from our flower garden. Our flower garden is beautifully in full bloom by mid summer and I was inspired to try to capture some of it's brilliance. The Morning Glory I found growing beside a trail while on one of our hikes.

The image of the Hosta looks a little dark here. I'm still working my way through figuring out this blog stuff! Hopefully I will at least have the text sitting next to the images this time, not like yesterday's post!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

And now, where are we going?

colored pencil on pastel board
8" x 10"

copyright 2007
AnnThompson Nemcosky


colored pencil on pastel board
8" x 10"
copyright 2007 Ann Thompson Nemcosky

"One never goes so far as when one doesn't know where one is going."

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

So what does this quote have to do with art and homeschooling? How can these two subjects possibly be related? Well, in my life they have very much in common. Education, or rather learning, opens up endless possibilities. When I began our homeschooling journey I used a highly structured curriculum with my young daughter. We knew exactly where we were going each day, week, month, and year. To the end of the worksheet, the end of the chapter, the end of the text book. But did learning happen? Maybe. But it was a struggle. Obviously it wasn't long before we left the highly structured curriculum for a kind of learning that is more open ended. It took me a while but I finally did see that the point wasn't to complete the exercise.
It's about the journey, not the end result. The purpose of education is, or should be, to instill a desire to learn.

Now, although I thought I had my goals as an artist firmly established oh, say 9 years ago, having a long awaited child made for a lot of changes. As a new parent, art was put on the back burner. There would be more time once this child started school. I could pick up teaching more classes and have more time for my art. I was content waiting. It was all good. Then we found we had a child with a life threatening food allergy. Sending her to school was too overwhelming. We were convinced the school would not be responsible enough with her life. So we began our homeschooling adventure. None of this was in the original plan. We never thought we'd be going this way. I immersed myself in learning everything I could about education and homeschooling. Now I can confidently say that home education is the best educational choice for our family.

But what happened to my art? Before my daughter came along I had been working in acrylics and oils on sometimes fairly large canvases. I finally began drawing again a little over a year ago. Graphite drawings of landscapes. Landscapes because this
has always been an important subject to me. Graphite because it required little space, I could work at the kitchen table. There are no fumes or mess and I can work on a drawing in short spurts, between refilling juice glasses and folding laundry. This was all fine but my work wasn't going anywhere. Then one day while waiting for my daughter when she was in an art class, I picked up an art magazine and saw an article about using colored pencil. A little while later I started putting color into my graphite landscapes. Then reading about colored pencil artists. This lead to more experiments with the colored pencil medium. I was finally excited again about making art. I had found a medium that fit my needs and I had an interest in exploring further. None of this was in any plan. It was exactly because I didn't have a predetermined destination that I was more open to learning. So where will all this take me? I don't know yet. I'll have to wait and see.

Monday, August 6, 2007

We're here!

We have finally arrived in Blogland! This blog, Nemcosky Art, is a place for us to share our creative explorations in art. I will mostly show completed works by myself and Gary, although sometimes a work-in-progress will appear or works not to be included on our website, In addition to our sketching, drawing, and painting I will also include posts reflecting on homeschooling, our favorite books, recipes, and life with our dogs.
Thank you for joining us on our creative journey!

Avon Still Life
mixed media on paper
by Gary M. Nemcosky copyright 2007

Whalehead Sound
5" x 7" colored pencil on pastel board
by Ann Thompson Nemcosky copyright 2007


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