Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Daily Drawing: Ink and Wash Butterfly studies #2

I made 3 of these mid sized butterfly studies today. Pen and ink drawing with a wash of oil paint.

Butterfly studies: ink and oil wash on Kitty Wallis sanded pastel paper, 7 x 5". Available for purchase at $100.00 each, framed

Monday, December 1, 2008

Daily Drawing: Butterfly studies

I made 3 of these small butterfly studies today.

Ink and oil wash on Kitty Wallis sanded pastel paper. 6 x 4"available for purchase at $75 each, framed

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Aphrodite: The Goddess Marilyn Portrait

"Aphrodite" Charcoal and pastel on mylar 20 x 16".

New from the Black Butterfly series, a tribute to Marilyn Monroe from a photograph taken by Bert Stern at the last sitting. I always said I wouldn't draw Marilyn again, lahttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifst time I was 15, but my friend Val inspired me with her recent portrait of the Goddess and I couldn't resist.

A video inspired by Marilyn's last sitting, the actress's likeness to Monroe is astounding!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Blog: My NEW space ~ fresh beginnings

I've been meaning to move my blog off of it's former SPACE, so here it is. I deleted my two myspace accounts this week, long story but I'd been meaning to do so anyway. It felt like the world fell off of my shoulders to tell the truth. I may return to it sometime, but not quite yet. I saved my blog archives, wasn't able to save my blog comments, so feel free to revisit older posts here and comment if you wish.

Another fresh beginning: I moved my studio back to the Fine Arts Building in downtown Chicago this week, after working from home for about six months. It feels good being back at FAB, I'm sharing space with an artist friend who leaves for the warmer southwest in the winter months. He left me his easel and drawing table and one full wall to display my work, which is great during FAB's monthly second Friday open studio events. I was just in time to participate in the October Chicago Artist's Month open studio event this weekend. I moved in and organized, hung my work and started working right away on a new series of Irish related works. I'll be in a group show at the Beverly Arts Center once more in time for St. Patrick's Day, a big month in my Beverly neighborhood.

The theme so far for the series is sheep. For some reason sheep sell. Every sheep I ever painted sold within it's first showing or two, so there must be something to that. I don't mind painting them, so why not an entire series? I'm planning to paint a few of them life sized or so, just for kicks. My trip last month to Achill Island in County Mayo Ireland has left me with dozens of great sheep photo references. I'm sure I'll eventually get around to painting some of the other beautiful scenic shots and session musicians I snapped in the pubs as well.

If you're interested in seeing more of my Irish photography from the trip, visit my Flickr site here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/amwhitestudio/

It was great hosting friends from my Chicago artist community once more at the Fab Open Studio event, especially myspace friends Brett Manning and Morgan Leavitt.

I had a few new works to share and the reaction was very positive. The mylar works created lots of conversation, as did the new poems and butterfly metaphor. As always there are questions about my models and the Beatles themes, or discussions about my trips to Ireland. There were 25 other artist studios open at Fab for the event, and it's fun to visit some of my favorite artists and view their new work and catch up on the building news.

Thanks for visiting my new spaces. Ciao for now! xx ~ Alice

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Daily Drawing: "Summer's Muse"

This piece has been sold.

I liked this small frame and decided to use it for another of my Black Butterfly pieces. I think the style of the drawing resembles an old sepia photo somewhat and so suits the vintage fame. The butterfly is symbolic for the artist's muse. Since this is a self-portrait, I decided to incorporate the Celtic knotwork, from my heritage.

"Summer's Muse" charcoal and white pastel on mylar drafting film with Canson moonstone backing paper, 11 x 9" framed in vintage tabletop swing style frame. $300.00 SOLD!

"Summer's Muse" in vintage swing desktop frame.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On Finding an Irish Peacock Butterfly on Croagh Patrick

An Irish Peacock Butterfly, photo taken on Croagh Patrick, County Mayo Ireland (c) Alice McMahon White September 2008

Written today in about two hours, after waking with a head full of words. Please forgive the rawness, and the serious tone of this piece. The butterfly should teach lightheartedness and joy, and it did. The powerful and ethereal experience of the butterfly encounter two weeks ago in Ireland only took a moment, but changed my outlook on everything. So, I think it deserves a bit of weight in the telling. :-)

Feileacan na Péacóige

On Finding an Irish Peacock Butterfly on Croagh Patrick

(for Steve)

A fourth journey to Erin

My love as guide

Threading the needle of existence

Grace found

On Maigh Eo's ancient sacred mountain of Celt and Christian

Rough stone path of pilgrim hardship

Nature turning tides at our feet

Stark splendor

Set soul and spirit free









On ascent in the mystical place

Overhead, a breathtaking


Scarlet - violet rainbow

Seasons of impending joy announced by

Frail and fragile fairy dust wings


Begging a dance

She pauses to drive the thought home

Perfectly still


Sits for a time


To meditate on sun warmed rock -

The creature's only embrace?

Or simply trusting

Accepting in faith

The spirit capture

On descent


As travel inevitably will

Filled up and overflowing

To contemplate

Our dream awake muse

Celebration of coming home


New life unfurling

We pause to warm ourselves

In a lover's embrace

On stone

In brilliant sun

Breaking through cloud

(c) Alice McMahon White 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ireland September 2008

With Steve on Galway Bay

We're nearly over the jet lag now, and almost back on Chicago time aft
er spending close to two weeks in Ireland. So I thought I'd post a bit about the journey before I'm entrenched in reality again, and forget the impressions that explain the ache I'll soon have to return. I've seen some great places on past trips over, but I'd have to say this trip to Galway, Westport in Mayo, and Dublin was the best yet.

The trip was planned months ago with my sister. She always travels to Ireland w
ith me, and does the driving on "the wrong side" while I look at the landscape and tell her when to STOP! Carol loves the country of our ancestors as passionately as I do, and we enjoy planning the trip almost as much as the trip itself. Unfortunately two weeks before we were scheduled to fly, her son broke his leg and needed surgery, it was not a good time for Carol to travel. He's doing better now, but we couldn't postpone the trip because of reservations for accommodations, so my husband Steve was able to get time off of work and came along instead.

It was Steve's first trip to Ireland, he's not as Irish as I am, but he felt at home right away and now loves Ireland, too. This trip, he did the driving on "the wrong side" while I looked at the landscape and told him when to STOP!

The first two nights were spent at a b&b in Galway. I wish we'd had more time there, 2
nights were not enough, especially since I had several myspace friends I wanted to meet.

We had good weather in Galway. The college of Galway is in session, so the students were all out enjoying the sun on shop street, along the River Corrib, and at Galway Bay, and I got some fantastic candid shots to use for my next series of Beatles inspired works. A bonus I wasn't anticipating on this reference gathering trip!

We were fortunate that Colm Mac Con Iomaire, the violin player from Dublin group The Frames was in Galway for his solo CD release party our first night in town, on the third floor in an intimate candlelit venue at Busker Brown's pub. Colm's playing is otherworldly, and we bought his new disc. We were so jet lagged we left as soon as the performance ended and didn't get to speak to Colm or the Frames guitar player Rob Bochnik, who was there backing him up.

Our second day in Galway we took a bus tour through Connemara and visited Kylemore Abbey and gardens. Lovely and well worth the trip. That evening back in Galway we met my myspace friends, artist Dahlia and violinist/violin maker Paul Bradley. They were both delightful and led us to some of the best music we found on this trip.

Saturday morning we drove to Westport in Mayo and it was the perfect place for touring the west. There are many Mayo people who settled in Chicago and they look for paintings from the area, so I thought it was time I spent a week there. We had a two bedroom apartment over a beauty salon in town, a perfect place in a location close to all the pubs, including Matt Malloy's
- of Chieftains fame. I could swear I saw "himself" there on Saturday night - but it was hard to get a look as the place was swamped with Hen and Stag parties besides tourists like us. :)

Westport won the Tidy Towns competition for the third time the week we were there - and
the place was busy with festivities to celebrate and even a German film crew was there one day. I'm quite sure it was a well deserved award, as I'm certain it was the loveliest town I've ever visited!

While we were in Westport, we visited Croagh Patrick - where the faithful have climbed to the summit for centuries. We did climb, but nowhere near even half way up. The view back to Clew Bay was spectacular and I had yet another close encounter with a butterfly, this time an Irish Peacock Butterfly, according to my friend Lynsye, and it even posed for a photo on one of the jagged climbing rocks of the sacred mountain.

Sainted hubby Steve braved a long drive out to Achill Island - without doubt the most beautiful
place I've ever seen on earth. There were miles of deserted bog lands - not even grazing sheep or birds to be found. There was the castle tower of Grace O'Malley, the Pirate Queen of legend and also an upcoming Irish film. The cliffs on the island were a spectacular sight, with views back to Croagh Patrick and Clare Island, a fine sandy beach and craggy rock breakers, and many many sheep. I'm always glad to capture sheep images. Strangely the paintings of sheep are a sure sale every time. The most haunting place on the island was the deserted village at the Slievemore mountains. Some 80 - 100 deserted stone cottages can be explored in the mile long area, and tombs dating back 5000 years. http://www.achilltourism.com/deserted.html

We drove to Clifden town in Galway and spent the day, and another day hiked along the fantastic grassy sand dunes at Bertra, at the foot of Croagh Patrick. This was another harrowing trip as a rain storm suddenly appeared out of nowhere as we were far out from the coast on this strip of dunes connecting an island to the mainland.

We spent one afternoon at the Clew Bay Heritage Center and Westport House, a stately old mansion with gardens. Some days were spent exploring the town as we had a rainy spell while there, Ireland had a rainy summer. But we also had some sun each day, with rainbow
s and the glorious clouds I love to paint!
Westport, Mayo, Tidy Town 3 time winner

We spent the final two days in Dublin, and again wish it was longer, not so much for the city, but to take day trips around the east coast, which I have not seen enough of. In Dublin, we spent time on another glorious Saturday in City Center, O'Connell street, Temple Bar of course. On a drizzly Sunday and our last day in Ireland, we took a commuter train south of the city to the seaside town of Bray. We returned in the afternoon to visit Grafton Street and St. Stephen's Green, and a few of the old traditional gem pubs like The Swan Bar, the Long Hall and the Stag'
s Head Pub.

Cappuccino, a good read, and a sketch of Westport. Great trip indeed!

During the trip, I gathered thousands of photos to keep me in Irish references f
or a long while. I may just start a Flickr page as well, too many great shots to share here on myspace. I did do some sketching, mostly in the pubs, but one on the street in Westport. I played my bodhran (Irish drum) at Matt Malloy's! Steve played guitar at a session at Blouser's Pub, Westport, to the tune "Sweet Home Chicago".

Yes, the pints went down easy after drizzly days, but maybe a bit too easy! LOL. Still recovering. Steve is finally off the Harp and onto the black stuff. He's hooked too. We shared many meals picnicking outdoors or in our flat, which was nice because we saved money, and we both get tired of restaurant food quickly. Local fresh made breads, cheeses and meats are delicious and i
t's always fun grocery shopping in a new country. Our meals out were generally pub food, soup and sandwiches or hearty stews. Our biggest splurge outside of Guinness was cappuccino and chocolate. Yum!

Fad saol agat, gob fliuch, agus bas in Eirinn.
"Long life to you, a wet mouth, and death in Ireland."

I missed you Carol! Hope to go to Ireland with you again very soon! Yes, you too Steve! ;-) Now I get to go twice as often, right? Well, maybe if I sell lots of sheep paintings...

Over 100 pictures from my Irish trip can be seen on my Flickr page here:

Finally, here is a video I found about Grace O'Malley, The Pirate Queen. It was filmed at many of the places we visited in Mayo, Murrisk, Newport, and Achill Island. Enjoy!

"One of the most famous women in Irish history is Grace O'Malley. She is also known to history as the Pirate Queen of Ireland. She lived from around c. 1530 to c.1603.

Grace was the daughter of the chief of the O'Malley clan. The O'Malleys controlled most of what is now the barony of Murrisk. The O' Malleys were a great seafaring family and taxed all those who fished off their coasts. Their leader bore the ancient Irish title of The O'Malley."

This video is a bit overdone, but it gives you the feel for the wild area better than still photos.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

McMahons Hall: A visit to the old family Homestead

Today was a day I'll remember with mixed emotions for the rest of my life.

I received an email a
couple of weeks ago via my website inquiring about the drawing below. I had done this ink and coffee wash drawing as a gift to my nephew David McMahon on the occasion of his wedding, because he is so into his Irish heritage. The drawing was done from the old photo shown below it here. This is McMahons Hall, the grocery store my Irish-born great grandfather built about the year 1900 on south Archer Avenue in Chicago.

The inquiry came from a woman who now owns one of the condos. An historian, she wondered what I knew about the history of the building. I got goosebumps hearing from her, because I'd always wanted to visit the building, and find out more about the history myself. My father
passed away several years ago, and we only have sketchy details about his grandfather, a few facts handed down over the years and a couple of old census reports I found online.

Michael McMahon met his bride here in Chicago, an Irish-born young woman named Catherine McMahon (Kate). So this is a very strong family name for us. Michael must have done a good job, because the building still stands, looking much as it did 100 years before. Besides the grocery store, there was a dance hall on the second floor, and their living quarters were on the third floor, with a separate street level entrance. Michael and Catherine had 6 children. They came to the US around 1870, he was born in 1853, she in 1857. Their kids were born between 1882 to 1894. They lived and worked in the building until at least 1930. My father was a meat-cutter as was his father before him, taught by Michael.

Now the building is converted to high end loft condos, joined with the building next door. At one time the buildings were a coffee and tea manufacturing business, and the sign for that business can still be read clearly on the brick exterior of the building next to McMahon Hall.

Below is a series of photos of how the building looks today. I took the pictures when the gracious new residents opened their doors and hearts to me today and gave me a glimpse into the life of my ancestors. I'm afraid they were able to provide me with more background information about the building than I was able to give them.
So, this was a joyful homecoming for me, although I had never stepped foot inside "The Hall" until today. It was also a sad day, because my mother so wanted to see the place her husband visited as a child. Unfortunately a flare-up of her arthritis ended in a trip to the emergency room and she wasn't able to come along. I took lots of pictures and listened to the stories about the building the new residents were able to share. Tomorrow, I'll visit mom and share the pictures and stories while she's recuperating.

I know mom will be delighted to know that the new occupants of McMahons Hall love and take great pride in the building as my great grandparents did. The spaces are each unique and carefully but comfortably decorated to reflect the style of each resident. They are teachers, artists, photographers, musicians, interior designers, cat and wounded pigeon lovers, and music aficionados. They allowed me to snoop in all the nooks and crannies of their homes, opened up the for-sale ground floor condo that was once the M. McMahon's grocery store, current asking price$500,000. They offered me coffee and homemade blueberry muffins, invited me to a barbecue and told me stories of the not so good days of the building. Back in the 80's there were unauthorized raves held on the premises, mirrors and graffiti on the walls.

It's only been about 3 years since the building underwent it's latest incarnation, and the neighborhood is thriving once more, partly because of artists who moved into the area, such as the Zhou Brothers from China who opened their art center not far from "The Hall".

So, if you are reading this, McMahon Hall current residents, I thank you from the bottom of my heart once more for the two hours you shared with me this morning. I entered a stranger, and left a friend. I wish you many years of happiness in that special home. I'll be sharing your kindness with my very large Irish extended family.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Chains to be shown at the Saatchi Gallery, London!

I received an email today from the Saatchi Gallery in London, regarding my placing in the Saatchi Showdown online competition. "Chains" will be shown at Saatchi Gallery, scheduled to open in October 2008.

At first I didn't believe it, I hadn't heard about the gallery opening, it is a year behind schedule. But there is a link to the virtual tour of gallery on The Saatchi website. It looks too good to be true! I'm beside myself!

Thanks again to all of you for your constant support! ~ Alice

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Black Butterfly

It was our 28th wedding anniversary yesterday, so I did this as a gift to Steve. The past month or so working on the portrait ended up being a kind of intense period of introspection for me as well. I think this was partly because of completing my White Album series of portraits of my kids, and feeling more like concentrating on myself at last, but it has also been a time of personal growth and transformation.

There were several unusual spiritual moments for me while working on this portrait. One was a near out of body experience while on a walk in the park, which spurred me to write my first poem in 30 years. You can read the poem "Fairfield Avenue" back further in my blog. A few days later, I started seeing black butterflies. Not so unusual in summer I suppose, but I don't remember seeing this particular type in Chicago, maybe it's due to our changing weather patterns. The odd thing was that I had just found a photo of a black butterfly online at RedBubble
had favorited it and commented on it. Then a black butterfly fluttered around me several times while I was walking that same afternoon! It happened again a couple of days later, this black butterfly flying in loops around me as I walked. Odd that the only black ones I saw, also seemed to notice me as well! Almost like they knew of my transformation. So, that inspired my second poem, "Black Butterfly" and I decided to incorporate a black butterfly into the drawing.

Just a couple of days ago I came up with a way to add the text of the poem to my work. I used my home printer to print the text onto a letter sized portion I cut from the pink backing paper. After I printed it, I pieced it back together with acid free tape. The mylar film is translucent, so the text shows through in a subtle way.

The piece was made to fit a vintage distressed frame I found at my local antique shop. It is really in a bad way, but I think it suits me - I'm a bit rough at the edges myself these days. But I figured it's now or never to expose more of myself. :)

Steve likes the gift by the way.

The Poem:

Black Butterfly

Bemusing muse

Black butterfly

Came through the ether

Mystical wings

Encircled me along the way

Enraptured on a summer day

Music painted on the sky

Black butterfly

Blown in from far off dust

Astral soul

Dressed in stardust

Black butterfly

Draw me perfect

Emergent from this coal black shell

Wet wings spread in joy to stand


Flawless at the artist's hand

Evanescent passion lies

In our wavelengths intertwined

Black butterfly

Never caught

Light gently in the mind

Bring luminous thought

(c) Alice McMahon White 2008

"Black Butterfly" 22 x 18" charcoal on mylar drafting film (c) Alice McMahon White