Author Portrait

Photo: Janet Brignola-Tava

The Thinking Woman's Almanac

Art Historian or Artist.. Which Hat Does She Wear?

The Artist in her own inadvertent Vermeer-like composition in the studio while preparing watercolors to be photographed.

Photo: Hana Mendel


A couple of weeks ago, while I was preparing to inventory the sheet of four watercolors of lilacs seen below, Hana Mendel, one of my intrepid assistants, caught me unawares. Her candid photo of me, shot against the light of the studio's east window, is at left. 

I was bent over one of the studio work-tables, engaged in separating the sheet from the block it had been part of. I'd just washed my hair and was letting it air-dry. In the foreground of Hana's photo: a bouquet of lilacs awaiting my students, and the remnants of a pot of past-their-prime tulips from a previous week of serving as watercolor class models. Note the yardstick and T-square on the back wall.

As soon as I saw the composition, the art historian who still inhabits my head said, "Boing! It's Vermeer's Geographer's cousin.” Painted around 1668-1669, The Geographer depicts a young man in a Japanese robe -- possibly Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, famous for his work with microscopes -- by a window, bent over his work, dividers in his right hand, left braced on his work-table. In the foreground are a rug draped over an unseen object, and a stool. Together they constitute a foreground blockade, while also inviting the viewer to look past them into the brightly-lighted workspace of the geographer. The art-historian-ese term for an object placed like this in a composition is a repoussoir -- something that pushes back. 

If you care to engage further with this kind of exploration of composition, lighting and subject matter, you could do worse than to immerse yourself in a study of Vermeer's compositions of figures in interiors. Travel is necessary. Or reliance on good reproductions. Sadly for all of us, tickets to the current Vermeer show at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam have been unavailable for months. I hope you'll look further, however.

Lilac Season: Four Views, watercolor, 17 ⅛” x 23,” 2023.


The Healing Power of Color 2023 Online Exhibition

St-Michel-de-Cuxa Cloister Garden, watercolor, 7 1/8″ x 7,″ 2021.

“Cityscapes” Art Exhibition 

Winter Reflections, oil, 18” x 24.”



Hot off the watercolor presses, first irises of the season

Irises, watercolor, 15" x 11," May 8, 2023.

Bachelor’s Button with Wallpaper, watercolor, 15” x 10 ⅞,” 2023.


Salmagundi Milonga: Four Dancers, oil on linen, 24" x 30,” 2023.

It’s finally done, and here’s a link to a video that tracked its progress:

Milonga video

Recent monotypes 

The red square at bottom right on these prints is the Salmagundi chop, or signature stamp, indicating their having been made in the course of monotype parties at the Salmagundi Club of New York.

Left: The Bandoneonista, monotype 1/2, 10" x 8,” 2023.

Right:: The Bandoneonista, monotype 2/2, 10" x 8,” 2023.

Your Dinner is Served, monotype 1/2, 8" X 10,” 2023.

Kangaroo Court, monotype 1/1, 6" x 8,” 2023.

Left: Barber Shears, monotype 2/2, 8" x 6," 2023.

Right: Poultry Shears, monotype, 2/2, 8" x 6," 2023.


The Cloisters: A field trip (not a formal class).

Photos by AESC

Fearless Watercolor Classes at Bond Street studio

Mondays, 12:00-3:00 pm; Wednesdays, 2:00-5:00 pm. If you are interested in trying a class, contact the studio via email or phone (; or text 212-464-7519) to inquire about specifics.

I continue to offer small group classes at my Bond Street studio. We're never more than five in the double-cube room: 11' x 22' x 11;' high ceiling, with good light and ventilation. A few student openings available. COVID precautions observed.


Tea is always offered at break-time and the studio is air conditioned, 


Please feel free to get in touch

contact my assistant:


Current schedule:

Monday 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Wednesday 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm


Four Red Rabbits, watercolor, 12.25” x 16,” 2023

A pack of our beloved Armando Playing Cards has been donated to the Bulldog Haven NW, a 501c3 not for profit, 100% volunteer driven organization. It will be part listed in their 6th Annual auction held on June 03, 2023 at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, WA. You can read more about them here.


[From left to right:] Garden: St-Michel-de-Cuxa Cloister, watercolor, 29” x 21 ¾,” 2022.

Lush Garden, St-Michel-de-Cuxa Cloister, watercolor, 21 ⅜” x 21 ⅜,” 2022.

 Two views of the St-Michel-de-Cuxa cloister garden


Died in the line of duty, painting irises while suffering from terminal shedding, one of my all-time favorite brushes, just worked to death, a size 12 Isabey squirrel mop, with traditional horn-and-wire ferrule.

This brand and this design of brush -- a petit gris in French -- available in many sizes, is one of my fundamental watercolor tools. Making the decision to retire this one put me in mind of Thomas Hardy’s shepherd Gabriel Oak in Far From the Madding Crowd (1874) having to shoot his young sheepdog-in-training after it drove his flock over a cliff to its collective death.


Two new floral watercolors in my shop. 

Irises and Peonies in Frankoma Vase 1, watercolor, 14” x 11,” 2023.


Bachelor’s Buttons with Wallpaper, watercolor, 15” x 10 ⅞,” 2023.



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Annie Shaver-Crandell