Friday, May 15, 2015

Exhibit Announcement: Tables and Chairs, 6/19-30

June 19-30, 2015
Sit Set: Concerning Tables and Chairs
A multimedia group show curated by Scott Gengelbach and Billie Hamilton.

Emile Galle, side table, ca. 1905
Billie will exhibit various table-top tableaux, chair and stool assemblages, as well as several  altered antiques from her personal collection (including, Emile Galle: a three-legged French Art Nouveau side table with exotic hardwood marquetry, signed, ca 1905; Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Scottish Art and Crafts "flying arm-rest" chair in tiger maple and quarter-sawn oak, ca 1900,
and more . . .)

Opening Reception:
  Friday, June 19 , 7-10 pm
  The Brokers Building Gallery
   402 Market Street, San Diego, CA 92101

Friday, March 13, 2015

Exhibit Announcement: Earth Day in Balboa Park

April 18-19, 2015
Earth Day Exhibit, theme: water
In this group show, Billie will be hanging a 36" X 72" pastel tryptich featuring ocean and cloud references.
Centro Cultural de la Raza
Balboa Park, 2004 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA

Billie Hamilton: Tryptich: Rain-Voice in the Humpback's Song, 2014
soft pastel on hardboard panel, 24" x 36" each

Greenland is Melting*

And still
you ask, Why? and

even more, Whether?
Where’s the hard proof? and

anyway, What can I do?
And still

Greenland is melting.
Get ready.

*dedicated to Dr. Richard Somerville, climate scientist and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

new book

Just bought
Carter Foster's Hopper Drawings (Whitney Museum).

Pastel Painting In Progress

work in progress, 42" x 42" (detail)

It's merely a study at this point, but I'm thinking it needs scale: 42" x 64" seems about right. On paper. Arches Reeves BKF comes in a roll that wide. I want a fawn or kraft color, which I'll over-wash with a thin cerulean blue ink with mercurochrome edges (!) Then I'll coat the paper with a clear sanded pastel ground. It should be mounted on birch panel with a 2" box edge. 
The first layer will block in quickly--probably Mount Vision stick pastels for good tooth. The stippling and sgraffito will take quite a lot of time--at least a month of steady work, but I'm looking forward to it. I think this one has legs.

Carbothello pastel pencils worn to stubs

Time to order more Carbothellos!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Exhibit Announcement: "La Mujer" at Centro Cultural de la Raza, 3/17 - 4/12

Billie Hamilton has five pastel paintings in this exhibit. 

Billie Hamilton: Dyptich--Guadalupe 43 & 44, 2014
pastel on hardboard panel, 18" x 24" each

A drawing is simply a line going for a walk. --Paul Klee

Spent the afternoon studying this compact and critically important primer. I first read it in the mid-'60s, a tattered and poorly translated "mimeo" copy borrowed from a teacher at SFAI. I was less impressed then than now--too young, I suppose, to appreciate such basic basics. This is really about the heart and spirit of drawing, of rendering both emotion and reason. 

I believe Paul Klee has influenced me more than any other teacher--his timeless pedagogy fills my head with ideas. And then, of course... Kandinsky.

Wow, I just found a free PDF download of both volumes of Klee's notebooks: The Thinking Eye and The Nature of NatureI just saved $400. Get your own copies here:

So much to learn, so little time . . .

Monday, March 2, 2015

On the easel

New pastel painting (detail):

Here's a new study (in progress) with stippled passages, rendered in pastel on paper. The under-painting is a cerulean and cobalt ink wash on Rives BFK paper. I coated the blue wash with a transparent acrylic ground impregnated with marble dust--gives the substrate enough tooth to bind heavy pastel layers. I'm using a combination of Carothello, Pitt, and Conte pastel pencils for the stippled details. Under-layers are Unison, Schmincke, Sennelier, and Mount Vision sticks. Wish I had some Henri Roche deep cobalt orange-red . . . saving my pennies.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Originality depends only on the character of the drawing and the vision peculiar to each artist. --Georges Seurat

Today I pulled one of my favorite books* from the shelf, and spent the morning musing about the Seurat drawings I'd seen as a teen. I was living with my grandmother in San Francisco and had just started art school. That exhibit of mysterious black Conte drawings changed my life, expanded my perspective on art and its imaginative possibilities! I realized then I must become more serious in my studies and commitment to art as a vocation, as a calling. Ah, to be 15 again . . .

*Hauptman, Jodi, et al. George Seurat: The Drawings, 2007.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Brokers Show

Taking down the show at the Brokers Gallery tonight. Several paintings from the show are posted above.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


I've been on a roll lately, spending 10-12 hours at a stretch in the studio. It's wonderful being in "The Zone." I'll exploit it as long as it lasts or until I run out of steam. Or recover my senses.

I recently ordered another batch of birch panels with a 2" box. I'm just about out of the 36x36 inch ones I picked up in December. The new ones will be 42x42, custom for roll stock BFK. I seal the bare wood with four coats of GAC-100, then use matte gel to affix the paper surface. Next, I under-paint with ink and/or watercolor, then two coats of a clear pastel ground for tooth. I end up with a superior and satisfying torture-proof painting substrate--one that really grabs the pigment. Now, if I could just find pastel sticks that never wear down . . . and don't cost money.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Dyptich: "Guadalupe 43 & 44," 2014

                                  Soft pastel on hardboard panel, 18" x 24" each

Dyptich: Quickening, Early Summer, 2014

Soft pastel on hardboard panel, 11" x 14" each
(currently in Dolphin and Hawk Gallery inventory)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Desert Bloom, 2012

                                                                                                                                                           photo by Jim Kapsalis

Soft pastel on original digital print, 12.5" x 12.5"

I like to print some of my more meditative digital paintings on watercolor paper, then hand color/alter them with soft pastels. This is a manipulated fractal composed with an old frac-generator a friend of mine wrote in the '80s as a senior project at UCLA. Don't know if anyone else has a copy of this little program--I call it Kathy-Frak. Anyway, I printed it on an Epson R-3000 using archival ink on Epson watercolor paper, (cold press, gsm 240). The original was a pale duo-chrome ochre-sepia print. Then I broke out a Unison pastel set of earth tones and went to town. I like the contrast of high- and low-tech rendering in this piece: the very deliberate mathematical fractal image and the loose-wristed fragile stick of pastel meeting on paper. I love this bashing of methods, these materials, this freedom. My life is good.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Exhibit Announcement: San Diego On the Edge, 3/7/15

A one-night show featuring artists in the Dolphin & Hawk stable. Billie will be showing pastel paintings on paper and wood panel.
Saturday, March 7, 7-10 pm

Dolphin and Hawk Gallery
7742 Herschel Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037
858 401 5945

Billie Hamilton: Old-Fashioned Titty Bar, 2011
pastel and monotype on paper, 15" x 20"

Monday, February 2, 2015

On the Easel

Just started two new paintings this week, both  42" x 42" soft pastel on Rives BFK (100% cotton rag made by Arches). The one on the left is very close; the right-hand one needs more time, more thinking, more . . . something.
   My usual M.O. is to block-in and hold for a few (many?) months on the wall, living with these ur-paintings as I work in the studio. Sooner or later, the piece will click into place in my mind, and the next stages of execution begin. Final embellishments (layering, sgraffito, calligraphical ornamentation, etc.) may take months more to complete.
  Or . . . sometimes the piece just doesn't pan out and is recycled. Let's see how these two will grow.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dyptich:" Gold and Ruby Floaters," 2014

"Gold Floater" / "Ruby Floater"

Soft pastel on board, 18" x 24" each

I've been exploring thickly layered color fields with heavy sgraffito and dense calligraphic embellishment. This is pure pastel--no impasto gels or under-painting. Here, I've used a combination of soft sticks and pencils on Ampersand Pastelbord, a sturdy hardboard with a toothy marble dust, clay and gesso ground. It's less gritty than the sanded papers I often work on, but capable of withstanding the torture I put a substrate through.
"Ruby Floater" (detail)
Color, color, color! This is as pure as pigment gets. No wonder I'm in love with soft pastels. I made a few deep sienna and blue-crimson hand-rolled sticks for this piece, with a pinch of pumice to keep the bite fresh. With all the layers, a really soft stick like Schminke just won't hold up to the elbow grease and pencil treatment. I used mostly Carbothellos in the calligraphy, a little Caran D'ache. The lower layers were lightly fixed with Sennelier LaTour.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Behold: Murphy!

I rescued this split-leaf philodendron from a yard sale two years ago. It was in a 6" pot, withered and nearly dead. A little water, plant food, good light and my companion Murphy is taking over the studio.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Monday, February 25, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Tunisian Garden #2," 2013
soft pastel on paper, 22" x 30"

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lester, 2009-12

Soft and oil pastel on original digital print, 17.5" x 17.5"

Lester (detail)

Lester is a mixed-mediums painting I worked on for several years. It began with a free-hand digital painting I composed in Illustrator. I printed it on Stonehenge paper with a large-format Epson printer using a platinum filter and light-fast ink. Somehow, it lost its punch on paper and I put in in the reject pile. But, it's strange how some things grow legs in the dark... I had a dream about the print and decided to see if it could be altered or collaged into something more exciting. 
   So, out came the oil pastels.  First, I put down a clear mate acrylic barrier coat to isolate the paper from the safflower oil binder. I used a combination of Senneliers (those phat jumbo o. p. sticks that feel like you're painting with lipstick) and Rembrandts in thick passages over the digital original. I like to use an orange stick dipped in Windsor Newton Oil Painting Medium to move the pigment around. I also have a hand-collected set of pine and pin-oak twigs and sticks for free-form drawing and sgraffito work. They come in handy for just pushing color around.
    Then I worked the whole image with dental tools--little scraper-thingys with beveled edges, great for details. I let the piece rest for a while. Oil pastels never dry or form a skin, but they do toughen up a bit if you let them sit out for a few months. If you work back into fresh o.p. you can end up with mud. It is not an easy medium and not one I'd recommend to beginners. But there is nothing else like it--thick and messy and rich and brilliantly saturated with pigment.
   Finally, I livened up the palate with soft soft Schmenckes and Unison dry pastels; a little graphite pencil work as well. I sometimes use Derwent colored graphite pencils to sharpen up edges or deepen texture over oil pastels. I think I also used some soft pastel pencils here and there, but I can't remember which brand--probably Carbothello (Stabillo) or maybe Pitt.
    Anyway . . . ta-dah: Lester!