Saturday, June 30, 2012

Annual Painting Trip

Three years ago a few of my artist friends, along with myself, decided to travel to a "painting destination". The plan was to share the costs of lodging and find an interesting and picturesque place to paint. The first year I found a wonderful place in North Carolina near Franklin. Painting the Smokey Mountains was an eye opening experience to this flat-lander. Last year we stayed a bit closer to home and we ended up in Penn Valley, PA. This was hilly Amish country and there were plenty of farms and rustic scenes to paint. This past week we traveled to Northern Michigan for a week at Lake Ocqueoc, which is near Lake Huron. Lake Huron has miles and miles of unspoiled white beaches! Who knew?

Our group was a bit larger this time so we rented two small cabins and traveled to a different place each day. This is the painting I did on Monday, when we drove over to Lake Huron and found the place where the mouth of the Ocqueoc River formed.

16" x 16" oil on canvas
Ocqueoc River

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Model from Saturday's Group

I loved painting this model... she was beautiful and she held the pose so nicely. I love the painting I did too, and that is not always the case when you have two hours to paint someone.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Simple is Better

I need to qualify that title. Simple is better when you have twenty minutes to capture the fleeting light. I have a growing number of trees in my back yard. (Pun intended). We keep planting them and they keep growing. So the character of our green space changes year after year. The willow trees are growing particularly fast. Maples dominate, with their large attractive leaves and hearty root systems. Their majestic limbs will provide shade for many years to come. This is a young maple tree that was planted around eight years ago. It's a popular destination for the local birds who can scope out the bird bath prior to zooming in for a drink.

June has been dry and the grass is hard and crunchy beneath my bare feet. The soft green blades of spring have disappeared with the drought and we're offered a glimpse of August. The sun was setting when I began this painting and I had just twenty minutes to capture the scene. The honeysuckle grows up and out behind the birdbath and the edges of leaves are turned to shades of molten gold. The abstract forms of shadows and shapes is mysterious and I use a loaded brush full of silvery blue to paint the darkening sky into the background.

Painting is like poetry when you get it right.

5 x 7"
oil on gessoed masonite

I won't be around next week. I'm taking my annual trip with several other artists to a new painting place in northern Michigan. Hope to have many new pieces to share when I return.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ideal Conditions

In my experience, it's rare when you go out to paint and meet with 'ideal conditions'. This actually happened last Saturday when a friend and I visited Harrison Lake State Park. We arrived early because a group of Civil War re-enactors were camping and we wanted to get some photos. This turned out WAY better than expected; the re-enactors were in costume, they had children and a real live CANON and they were happy to pose for pictures--with the canon. Was this my lucky day or not? Now I have some great material to use for paintings when I am trapped inside the studio during those long winter days.

After our photo shoot, my friend and I headed over to the other side of the lake where she had spotted some lily pads earlier in the week. I decided to paint the lake and surrounding area after looking over the lily pads and finding just a few blooms. That's a painting for another day. Saturday's painting turned out great and I had a wonderful time because THE CONDITIONS WERE IDEAL. I am stressing that because most of the time conditions are not ideal when you go out to paint plein air. The bugs are biting, it's muggy, the day is too hot, the day is too cold, it's windy etc. Or maybe there's a menacing dog or a honking goose who won't leave you alone. The variables are endless, but Saturday was one of those rare days when conditions were perfect. If I hadn't gone home with a nice painting it would have totally been my own fault.I was pretty happy with the painting of the day, which even included a fisherman who actually caught a fish right in front of us. This allowed me to capture his gesture and stance when he reeled it in. Some days are just better than others.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Back Up Painting

Do you have a painting that you keep in the studio to work on whenever you have a few moments? I usually do. I know that I need a minimum of one hour to paint a small 6" x 6" panel and I don't always have an hour to spare. Usually I find myself with 20-30 minutes of time before I have to go to work or an exercise class or the store... whatever. Once in awhile I am just not tired enough to go to bed but I don't want to start something "new" late at night. When I have short blocks of time like this I turn to my 'back up painting'. This is usually an experimental piece that needs to be worked on in layers or a piece that has been sitting around for a long time and needs more 'interest'.

The past few weeks this piece has been Hannah, a 9" x 12" portrait piece that I initially started to explore the Anders Zorn palette. Zorn was a 19th century Swedish painter who became famous for his ability to create stunning alla prima portraits. It's said that he used a very limited palette of White, Yellow Ocher, Cadmium Red and Ivory Black. I've looked at a number of his portraits and I definitely see hues of green that would be impossible without a blue but I wanted to give it a try anyway.

Here is a painting of Grover Cleveland by Zorn and you can see he was a master of brushwork and gesture. Cleveland was a huge buy but Zorn somehow managed to position him in a manner that minimizes that fact.

Here is Hannah in the early stage of the painting when I used just the Zorn palette to bring her to life. I liked the warmth and natural color harmony of the piece but the photograph showed a green scarf and it was impossible to achieve that brighter hue of green without adding blue.

 Below is a picture of the painting after I glazed some green (mixed with ultramarine blue and yellow ocher) over the scarf. I also mixed some alizarin crimson with blue to change the color of the coat. So while I think Zorn's palette is wonderful for flesh tones I miss the additional colors needed to paint fabric and if I were painting something outside I would REALLY miss by blue.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Early June, Franklin County

This painting is the second one I did in Marc's workshop and I am a lot happier with it after working on it some more when I got home. Marc suggested that I open the path to the patio. I had a small opening to begin with ut lager one did open up the composition. Then I added a lot more color to the flowers etc. This is another gray day painting and I really like to add bright spots of color into the piece when I paint these. I am just not into a 'moody' gray style of painting. The color is what attracts me.

Around the Bend 20" x 24"

This is a studio painting I did this week in Marc Hanson's workshop. The day was overcast when I did the outdoor study. I worked on it for about 7 hours in the workshop and finished it in another 2-3 hours at home. The lesson learned here is to keep my greens cool, especially on a cool day.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Marc Hanson workshop

I am taking a workshop this week with Marc Hanson, an oil painter from Minnesota. He is teaching "plein air to studio" at the McConnell Arts Center in Columbus. We started out doing black and white studies and progressed to color studies and today we were in the studio working from our color studies and photos. Tomorrow I'll post some pictures from the workshop.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Networking, Painting and Making new Friends

Networking with other artists is important. When you pursue an activity like painting, which involves many hours spent alone in the studio, you need to schedule time to get out and be with like-minded folk. Most of my friends are artists. Not all, but most. I think that's because I love painting and creating imagery so much that I tend to spend my free time looking for ways to improve what I do. So I make a point of attending a portrait group where we draw or paint from the live model once or twice a month. I belong to several arts organizations and these groups plan activities like paintouts, workshops and shows. Right or wrong, these are the ways I spend my free time and I've met a lot of interesting people along the way.

Next week I'll be attending a workshop given by Marc Hanson and sponsored by an arts organization I belong to. It's all about using your plein air paintings to create larger studio work. I have been trying to do this lately and it's been tough just using my own intuition so I'm willing to pay someone who knows a lot more than I do to help me learn. During the workshop, which is quite a distance from my home, I'll stay with an artist I met through another artist a year or so ago. I'll give her a painting and she'll give me room and board. Like I said, networking with artists is important! I will meet many new people at the workshop and I hope to make some new friends. You make new friends, you expand your horizons and you have FUN!

Once a month, my artist friend Teri Bersee, who owns Bountiful Arts Studio, sponsors a couple hours of life drawing in her studio, which is an old converted barn. I asked her if I could come a little early this week and paint the barn, which was built in 1849 and then moved to her property later when the state was going to tear it down.

Teri has a trio of lamas, two fluffy but large dogs and dozens of chickens. She and her husband Jim also grow lots and lots of organic vegetables. It's a really great location to paint at and I want to go back when the weather warms up and more flowers start blooming.This is my plein air from that afternoon.

10" x 20"
Bountiful Arts Barn