Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Artist's Process

"Tree Study #3", 12x16 oil on panel
"Tree Study # 2", 10x8 oil on panel
"Tree Study # 1", 10x8 oil on panel

        On November 1st an exhibit of plein air paintings by the Washington Society of Landscape Painters opened at the Athenaeum on Prince Street in Old Town Alexandria, VA.   Athenaeum curator, Twig Murray's concept for the exhibit was for "sketchy" field studies that might be used to inspire larger, more complex studio paintings or be the finished work in itself. She wanted to show the various methods artists use to create their finished paintings.
         The WSLP is well known for plein air painting and it is something the group does together the last Sunday of every month. Some members paint exclusively en plein air while others view their paintings as studies. I fall into the latter group. That is not to say that on occasion I feel that a particular painting created on site is "done" and I frame it up and exhibit it along with my studio work.
         The three little paintings shown here were all created from my deck in the summer between the hours of 6:30 and 8:00 PM on different evenings. Each portrays a different view of the woods behind my house being drenched in the same golden light. While they do stand on their own I was most interested in studying the light and interesting ways to create texture and movement when painting the trees. They are studies in positive and negative spaces and the use of both palette knife and brush. They will be helpful references.
My Sketchbook 
      Also included in the exhibit is a glass case holding sketchbooks by four members and mine is one of them.  Shown here is how I prepare for a studio painting by doing a pencil sketch on one side and then a color study on the other.  I can then prop the sketchbook up and use these studies as my reference. I find it more helpful and interesting than working from a photo as I have already edited the information before me.
      There is one more week to view the exhibit: THE ARTIST'S PROCESS at THE ATHENAEUM GALLERY 201 Prince Street, Alexandria VA. Closing date is Sunday, January 7th at 3:00 PM.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Something Had to Give!

"Silver Morning" 60x48 oil on line Commissioned Painting
        I haven't posted in months! This has not been for lack of something to say or due to a lull in production.  Quite the contrary.  This fall I went into over drive with preparations for five shows, a large commissioned painting, a week long plein air event and all the rest of the stuff of life that all of us have to deal with.  Like many artists I do my own framing, packing and publicity.  Something had to go if I was going to honor my deadlines and that something was my blog and social media.  Even that small change took some of the pressure off. The good news is the commission was a success and the paintings arrived on time to the shows, the bad news is nobody heard about it. Hmmmm.

      So, I will at least document some of the work and events in this post and some upcoming ones. The painting posted here is the one commissioned by a couple from North Carolina who already own two of my paintings. I was thrilled with the request particularly since the subject was my beloved Outer Banks. All they asked was that the palette be muted greens, bright grays and white and that the size be 60x 48. I did four 8x10 studies and let them choose the one to work from. I gave them the study along with the painting.
       The last two studies are currently on view in the 109th Thumb Box exhibit at the Salmagundi Club, 47 5th Avenue, NYC!

"Silver Morning" study 8x10 oil on panel
"Low Cloud" study 8x10 oil on panel
"Aftermath" study 8x10 oil on panel
"Edge of the Storm" study 8x10 oil on panel

Monday, August 21, 2017

Another Nocturne

"Key Bridge Nocturne, 32,5x32.5 oil on panel
        Summer is entirely too enticing to spend indoors so I have been silent here on my blog preferring to squeeze every moment from this wonderful season,  We have had a wet summer which has enhanced the lush greenery of this region and when combined with the notorious Washington heat it has helped create some wonderful atmospheres.  One such night is what inspired this painting.

         The air was moist and heavy and the colors from the city lights reflected back up through that atmosphere. There was a shimmer and sense of movement in the sky. I painted this on a panel larger than I usually use and it was a great opportunity to use a variety of tools.  There was a lot of brushing, rolling, scraping and dragging.  I let accidents lead me along instead of correcting them and they helped create an interesting surface.  Sometimes it is best not to stick slavishly to the original plan.  If I see something good I go with it. I think that if the painting is exciting for me to paint then perhaps that will translate into the image. I was enjoying this one so much that I was in danger of overworking it.  I put it out of sight for a week, took it out and corrected a couple of things and declared it finished!
          I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Back to the City

"Summer Rain, Pennsylvania Avenue" 30x30 oil on panel
     I have enjoyed painting and sketching outdoors again and have some good studies to put to use but I am feeling compelled to return to the studio and paint the city.
    I am working larger for now and I find the square format helps create some strong compositions. My favorite panels are not available larger than 20x24 and no squares larger than 12x12 but Ampersand will cut any size Gessoboard I request! I have been adapting to the different surface and I find I like it very much when I give it more tooth by applying additional layers of gesso both with a roller and with a brush. Good to know it is such a strong, archival substrate, the only drawback is the weight. I will most likely not go larger than 36x36.

     ON THE EASEL....I am working on a 32.5x32.5 painting titled "Key Bridge Nocturne". So far so good but it still has a little way to go. I am still experimenting so we shall see.......

     ON EXHIBIT.....I have four paintings on view at the Delaplaine Center in Frederick MD (well three, because one sold) and you can see some photos of that show in my last post.
      ON THE HORIZON....The Washington Society of Landscape Painters will have a plein air exhibit at the Athenaeum in Old Town Alexandria, VA and it will open November 1st and extend until December 31st. I will be the coordinator for that exhibit.


Monday, June 26, 2017

The WSLP at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Center

    This beautiful exhibit of 87 paintings by the members of the Washington Society of Landscape Painters opened at the Delaplaine Center for the Visual Arts in Frederick MD last Saturday.  I am proud to be a member of this society which has been in existence for over 100 years. Membership is limited to only 40 members and we exhibit as a group at least once a year. We meet monthly for plein air painting excursions and several times a year for meetings and critiques.  I find the work of my colleagues an inspiration!

     I am the Exhibitions Chair Person for the group so I have been busy with this show, painting and getting ready for our next exhibit which is scheduled to open in November at the Athenaeum in Old Town Alexandria, VA. That too will be a spectacular setting for a show! If you live anywhere near Frederick please try to stop by this impressive arts center and see our show. It runs until July 30th and there will be an artist's reception this Saturday, July 1st from 3:00 to 5:00. 

     I have four paintings in this show and two of them are among the paintings in the photos. I wonder if you can tell which two are mine :-)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Getting Out of the Studio

Painting the Perennial Garden at Bon Air Rose Garden in Arlington

      Finally my favorite time of the year!  I adore spring and all it's glory, particularly flowers. Along with wanting to get my hands in the dirt and plant new things is the desire to be out painting all that color and light.  We have been having so much rain (pouring as I write) that I haven't been out and about as much as I would have liked. However, last Friday the sun blessed us from time to time on a mostly cloudy day and I was able to join friends from the Washington Society of Landscape Painters at the Bon Air Rose Garden in Arlington Virginia.  The roses were extraordinary but the textures and intense colors of the perennial garden lured all five of us.

"Larkspur" 8x8 oil on panel
      This is the little study I did of the bed I was facing. The actual color of the larkspur is somewhere between the color in the photo and the color in my painting.  I had left my cobalt blue at home and I think that would have been the right blue to mix with alizarin or pyrole red or cad red to get just the right color. Instead I relied on ultra blue with a little cerulean and alizarin.  I used a palette knife for most of the painting but also a loaded brush here and there. The panel was toned with a wash of salmon pink and you can see some of it shining through in the trees, among the flowers and along the walk.  I thought it a good choice for both a cloudy or sunny day painting.
       I would love to do a large, studio version of this one. Perhaps 30x30?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Summer Grazing"

"Summer Grazing" 24x30 oil on linen

     Just a quick post of a painting I did in June of 2015 of a vista of rolling Virginia hills looking towards the Blue Ridge Mountains.  My mare Gypsy was hospitalized at the Marion DuPont Equine Medical Center in Leesburg and this is the view that helped ease the stress of that time.  This week we were back there again for another hospital stay and once again I fell in love with that landscape!
     This stay there were mostly large, dark ominous clouds scudding over the fields threatening storms. The day we came home was brilliant and sunlit with a sky filled with white fluffy clouds just floating along. Thank God for places like this!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cloud Play

"Cloud Play" 16x20 oil on linen panel

     Many artists have locations that they like to paint again and again.  This is one of mine. Actually I have painted over twenty 6x8 studies, some plein air and others in the studio from memory. This is a scene I see everyday and as it is on high ground and fairly open it is easy to watch the changing sky and how those changes affect the color and light on the fields. This studio painting was developed from the plein air painting shown below.
     There are several exhibits looming in the near future and I think I will submit "Cloud Play" for one of them. This season is so beautiful that I would like to attempt another landscape from this property but next time perhaps the lower field and maybe a spring storm will be on the way. Time for a little drama!

Plein Air study, 6x8 oil on panel

Monday, April 17, 2017

Quick Studies

"From the Kitchen Window" 6x8 oil on panel

     I have a couple of paintings in progress in the studio as I have three exhibition deadlines to meet and I am finding it hard to stay focused when all is coming to life outside my windows. Last week, after painting in the studio most of the day, I was struck by how beautiful the early evening light was. I was standing in the kitchen considering what to cook for dinner when I changed tack and decided I absolutely had to paint that light!  I am so happy that I keep my pochade box loaded and ready for such moments. I had exactly the right panels tucked in the cover of the box and the one I chose had been toned with a wash of cadmium orange. Perfect!  So I spent a happy hour painting this tiny study, "From the Kitchen Window".

My process for studio work

     Studies like "From the Kitchen Window" have become an important part of how I work. Some, like that little painting, can stand alone and might find their way to a small works exhibit but mostly I like to keep them as references for larger studio works. I also work from drawn sketches in my various sketchbooks, most starting off from quick "thumbnail drawings" and then developing from there.  The above image shows how I created "Blues Alley" which I posted a short while back.  I like to carry a 4x6 inch sketchbook with me and just a ball point pen. That way I am ready for whatever scene might entice me. If it is something I feel I want to paint later in the studio I size it up on graph paper (scaled to the size canvas I want to paint)  and then do a color study (in oil) in the sketchbook I keep for that purpose. Those three things are my references for the painting.

Take a trip to the hardware store!
     In my last post I mentioned some new tools.  Here are some of the fun things I found at my local hardware store and that I am finding useful, particularly for larger paintings. Good edges, both sharp and blurred can be created with some of these!


Friday, March 24, 2017

New Tools, New Approach

"Yellow Sky" oil on panel, 32.5 x 32.5

          I began my art career (more years ago than I care to remember) as an abstract painter.  I worked large.  In those days a panel the size of the one above would have been considered a small work by me.  Working on paintings as large as 5x8 feet was physical and liberating. I enjoyed experimenting with the application of paint by using different tools besides brushes.  Lately I have felt the itch to revisit that approach to painting but this time I wanted to apply it to a representational image and this time not so large.

          Off I went to the hardware store and selected tools that I thought would help me create an interesting surface.  I selected a 3" wide, flexible edging blade (love it!), another edging tool which is a one inch wide wooden roller, and a 6" wide plastic paint smoother. I also unnearthed an old rubber brayer I used years ago.

           Next I did a color study in my sketchbook of a view I am very familiar with, it is the view of DC seen from the point off Daingerfield Island on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. I paint from that location often and working from memory I didn't get hung up on detail.  I used a limited palette of Paynes Gray, Alizarin Crimson, Vermilion, Yellow ochre, Naples Yellow and Titanium White. I propped the study up next to my panel and got to work.

          Ampersand gesso board can be slippery to work on so I like to heavily gesso the panel again myself.  I used both my wide gesso brush and a paint roller leaving behind the texture created by both. Then I pulled out my large brushes (2" and 3"), all my palette knives as well as the above mentioned tools and started layering on paint working dark to light. The water was painted almost entirely with the new 3" edging blade and palette knives.  The sky was worked from the top down first with the same 3" blade, then the brayer and the 3" brush. As the sky descends towards the horizon line the paint is applied heavier with palette knives and bristle brushes.
          I had a wonderful time! More to come....

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Warming Up

"Blues Alley" 20x16 oil on panel

        Like many of you on the East Coast of the US I have been enjoying the warm, early spring weather and that has been reflected in my choice of palette for recent paintings. This painting outside Blues Alley, a popular jazz club in Georgetown in an alley of the same name, was originally planned as a moody nocturne. However, I was inspired by the weather and chose instead to paint early morning light, sort of a "morning after" narration of the scene.

        In fact the original, on site sketch was created in morning light last May. It was a quick ballpoint sketch in the 4x6" sketchbook I like to carry with me. I didn't think of it again until last fall when I did a color study for it using the morning light from my sketch and then decided to shelve the painting until I could view the scene at night as I thought a nocturne would create a more fitting mood for the scene. Then flipping through my sketchbook looking for inspiration late in February I decided to go with what I had and add some atmosphere to the strong contrast of light and dark of the morning light. I am pleased with the outcome but I still want to do a moody Blues Alley at night!
        Below are the little 4x6 inch sketch from last May and the color study from the fall. I like working from these better than from a photo because they represent what was important to me in the scene, sort of a short hand of everything that was there.  Incidentally, I originally added the overhead wires in the painting but felt that they did not add to it and were just literal elements so I painted them out to  strengthen the composition.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Black and White

"Rain, Lexington Avenue" 16x12 oil on panel
     New York City is a great inspiration for black and white paintings. I really enjoy doing these as it is relaxing to concentrate on the values and forms just using a tube of titanium white and ivory black. Over the years I have experimented with different blacks and have also mixed my own chromatic blacks to good effect. However this time I wanted simplicity (just out of the tube) and the warmer tone of the ivory black.  For this painting I toned the panel first with a midtone mix of the titanium and ivory and then just dug in when it was dry.

      Needless to say this was not painted on site.  What I like to do when I have the itch to paint NYC and can't be there is go to Google maps street view.  That way I can walk up any avenue to whatever view I desire.  This view up Lexington was from downtown, I think I was at about 36th street. I wanted to go far enough down to get a good image of the Chrysler building which is why I chose Lexington Avenue.  I think the Chrysler is one of the best buildings in New York.  Of course the weather was my invention. The view on Google maps was of a bright, sunny day.  Once I have a general feel for the placement of the buildings I just take some characteristics of them and then invent. I have been painting rainy day street scenes for a long time so I can just create that on my own. The idea is for the scene to look right to a New Yorker but on close view they would tell you that building isn't there or that one doesn't really look like that. They would, however recognize the Chrysler which even though it is shrouded in mist was the reason for the painting.

    Here is the sketch I made before starting the painting. I did this from sitting at the computer on the Google street view I described above. It is the next best thing to being there!  I will be entering the painting in the 2017 Black and White Exhibit at the Salmagundi Club on 5th Avenue in NYC. I wonder what the New Yorkers will think of it.....