Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Patio Rocker

Patio Rocker - In Progress
Our tiny piece of paradise is a mere 3000 square feet - property size - not the house size.   Who needs more property when the abutter consists of 25 acres of red cedar, bayberry thickets, salt marsh and the Cut River.     This open space has been the backdrop in past paintings and again in this painting.  The subject is my next door neighbor's patio; it is flooded with afternoon light and deep blue shadows.
Patio Rocker

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Engagement with Nature

Engagement with Nature - Stage One
Plymouth’s Town Brook is an amazing green oasis this time of year.  Every April tens of thousands of herring enter through Plymouth Harbor heading upstream to lay their eggs in freshwater. Most of the herring that migrate through Town Brook are a variety known as alewives, which Native Wampanoag have been using as food and fertilizer for centuries. Back in 1621 the Wampanoag people shared this knowledge with the Pilgrims.   The Town of Plymouth has done a great job weaving in this natural wonder for the enjoyment of all.  

Engagement with Nature - Stage Two
There are walking paths that run parallel with the brook that flow to Plymouth Harbor.   The roadways that surround the brook are up above the slopes on either side and as this scene shows, a main thoroughfare sits upon a beautiful old stone bridge.   It was perfect for painting with a potential scene in every direction.  I talked with at least a dozen people, walkers, tourists and workers also enjoying this gem.   As always time melted away and given that I talked to as many people as I did, it was no wonder that three and a half hours had transpired once I finished up.

I set up facing downstream looking at the large stone overpass with the winding paths and a small foot bridge in the foreground.      The transparent darks typically are applied thinly, but I thought the darks should be very dark so they are thickly painted.   Of course the greens and yellows are thick - like soft spread butter.  Oh so much green, but that coupled with the sound of running water made for heavenly experience.

Just Engaged
The most memorable encounter of the day was meeting a young woman who was there to take pictures of her friends getting engaged, a surprise to the bride.   She asked if she could hang out next to me as if taking landscape pictures so as to be unnoticed.  Of course! :)  The groom had arranged the whole thing (obviously a special guy).  At 10:30 the couple would be at the top of the brook at the Grist Mill, an exquisite spot for the special moment.  The woman taking photos was ready and to be honest I kept painting and didn't realize they had come.   A few minutes later they all came down to say hi,

very happy and emotional, and proudly showing me the ring.   How very special to have been - slightly - involved with this life changing moment.   Pictures of the couple and their lovely picture-taking friend to the right.

Oh and my painting is here too :)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Solstice at Marina

Stage One - Sky and Structure
The sun rose at 5:05 a.m. on this day (summer solstice) and I had all good intent the previous evening as I planned a paint out at dawn.  Ha!   At 6:30 a.m. I arrived at the dock - still early enough to see the long morning shadows.      It was surprisingly quiet, given that it was a perfect "10" weather wise.  

Stage Two - Treeline and Water
There was a fishing expedition that was getting underway.   I gathered from the dialogue that they were four college friends who were turning 40 this year and they had chartered a manned fishing boat.   I got a chuckle out of their chatter which included subjects such as how many layers of clothing to bring, cell phone reception and the difficulties of having school aged children.    What a great way for old friends to reconnect!

Stage Three - Lobster Boats
The few lobster fishermen who were starting out early hopped into their dinghy (foreground), rowed out to their boat on the mooring, tied the dinghy to the mooring, and then motored to the dock in the big boat, picking up gear and crew.   Yes, the marina can be challenging because of the ever changing scene especially if the boat chosen for the painting happens to disappear! 

Stage Four - Docks and Dinghies
The complexity of the visual elements: sky, tree line, buildings, boats, masts, water, docks, pilings begs for simplification - that is, without oversimplifying. The chattering splotches of color was what I liked about the scene in the first place.  Luckily it was early morning, and for me, that afforded the best chance of staying disciplined.  Abstraction was my friend here in that the myriad of elements on the far shore became bursting dots of color.  Painting fast was also very helpful in this situation, at least for those things that changed, specifically - the color of the water (it got darker), the shadows (they got shorter) and the height of the tide (it got lower). :)

The substrate for the painting was new to me, an umber toned gesso hardboard from Jack Richeson.     I loved it!  There was no drag a positive factor for thick, palette knife painting.
Summer Solstice at Marina

The paint on this one is especially thick and I didn't dare clamp it for the ride back. This was a thoroughly satisfying paint out - and I was back to the studio by 9 a.m.!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Seaside - Ocean Bluff Beach Scene

Ocean Bluff Beach Stage One
Hazy, hot and humid were the words to describe this paint out.   I figured if there was going to be a breeze, it would be right on the beach.   I parked at an opening in the seawall at 13th Street in the Ocean Bluff section of Marshfield, MA.  

Seaside - Ocean Bluff
I set up facing north, a vista that included a beautiful old seaside home with a domed watch tower on top.  

The faint blue coastline jutted out a bit to the east (Humarock and Scituate Cliffs), and were barely visible due to the haze.  I used Gamblin quick dry white for this high key painting and I used quite a bit of it via palette knife especially for the high wispy clouds.   The ocean color was a pale summery green-blue.  At noon, I realized how thirsty I was and packed up as the painting was roughly 90 percent complete.   As always, I welcome comments and questions!


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Myles Standish Homestead View

Miles Standish Historical Marker
I stumbled onto this piece of history as I looked for a beachy type spot to paint.  The location of this paint out was on the southern tip of a peninsula in Duxbury, MA where Plymouth Colony Military Leader, Myles Standish lived until his death in 1656.    The historical farmland is preserved as a small park and has a fantastic view of Kingston Bay and Clarks Island.   We are so fortunate to live in an area rich in history, and not to mention its diverse beauty.

It was windy when I started this painting and it got even windier as I painted.   It was so gusty that I placed my palette on the ground instead of risking it tipping over with the easel.  The sun gave way to clouds eventually and since the conditions were changing dramatically, it was essential that the painting get "locked in" to the original concept, rather than "chasing" the current circumstances.

Miles Standish Homestead View
The tide was dead low and the sand bars were visible through the shallow waters.   Directly below my spot, bordering the shoreline, there were a number of tidal pools filled with water and surrounded by seagrasses.    At the edge of the bluff right in front of me, there were various bushes and vines growing (and blowing) wildly.   This painting was a good exercise in creating greens in a cool light situation.    As you'll see, I introduced a bit of warmth in the foreground vegetation to help the depth.  The final element added was the old dock, essentially in ruins, making me wonder just how old those pilings were - also who built it and when - given that this was such a historic spot!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Creek Zen

Once in a while, everything seems just right, and a better painting happens.  It has only happened occasionally to me before; that is when things flow with minimal struggle and the end product looks just right.   Fortunately it happened during the Camp Hill competition, and the painting won an award.

I'm a morning person and for this painting, I was all set up by 7:30 and ready to paint.   The location was the Yellow Breeches Creek close to where I had painted the "Barn at Dusk" the evening before.   The light was - of course - completely different since it was twelve hours later.   

Creek Zen in Progress
The creek was crystal clear if you looked straight down to the colorful, rocky riverbed, but if you looked upstream the dark green underbrush on the far shore was reflected perfectly.   The dark bushes and their reflections were so perfectly matched that the shoreline was practically imperceptible.  Conversely on the right-hand shore, the shrubs and grasses were brightly lit by the full strength low morning sun.   Likewise the reflections of these bright yellows and green were just as bright and strong.   Bright on the right shore, dark on the left.    Nice contrast but they needed to be integrated.    To rectify this sharp imbalance, I added the vivid gold-green tree bow overhead with the thickest juiciest palette knife strokes.

Creek Zen

Okay and then?   A fisherman with red sleeves waded into the calm pool of water upstream and started to cast.   Perfect timing.   The painting needed it.   Distant figures are three or four dots of color.   The reflections are the same dots pulled down into the dark water in one, long careful stroke.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Spring Green and Telephone Poles

Spring Green and Telephone Poles
This painting was an exercise in injecting non-greens in a scene that looked "all green."  The tree line to the left was in shadow and the tree line to the right was brightly it.   The telephone poles that marched down the middle were a good way to lead to the muted distant treeline.  The sky was gorgeous cerulean with puffy cottonball clouds.  

When there is as much green as in this scene, it is worth analyzing what variants of green are there.   Blue-green, gold-green are present in the foreground.   Pink-green and gray green are visible in the distance.    The telephone poles march in from the left.   It's nice to be out painting in perfect weather!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Camp Hill Plein Air Festival Quick Paint

The most challenging and exciting event at the Camp Hill Plein Air Festival was the "Quick Paint" event.   Participants stood in line at Willow Park to have their substrates stamped between 9 and 10 AM.   At 10:00 AM, each painter commenced with their creation somewhere within a prescribed Camp Hill  geographic area. 

The first thing I did was to pop the stamped painting board into a one inch black frame that I had covered with blue masking tape.   I didn't want my thick juicy paint getting smeared during the framing, so I did an inner frame before starting to apply color.

I chose a beautiful old brick home with a glass conservatory that was located a couple of blocks up from Willow Park.  I stood across the street so that I would have a nice long view and be able to include enough surrounding elements.  The first step was a careful (relatively tiny) drawing in paint of the home.     I spent the largest percentage of time on its interesting rooflines and the glass conservatory.   As the center of interest, I wanted it to be realistic and accurate.  Each panel of conservatory glass was reflecting something different and I improvised a bit to balance other color masses.  

Quick Paint Entry Ready for Judging
Once I had the home done, I picked up my palette knife and buttered on my cool transparent darks letting the streaky colors mix on the surface.     The skies were partly cloudy and the trees, shrubs and lawn were spring green to the max!     Again I scooped the color with the palette knife and spread it onto the surface in wide thick strokes.    When the 11:45 alarm sounded, I still hadn't applied the final color on the home or the foreground shrubbery. (I didn't mention yet that I had set alarms on my phone for 10:00 AM (start), 11:00 AM (halfway point), 11:45 (finish-up), 12:00 Noon (frame).) With 15 minutes to go, a slight sensation of panic gripped me, which is really funny when I think about it now.  My husband took some videos of the progress of this painting, so I have strung them together in the following movie.


At noon, I took the painting off the easel and peeled the blue masking tape off the inner frame.   This ensemble was then inserted into the wider outer frame. 
Done!... with ten minutes to spare.   I grabbed my easel and painting and headed down to the park, setting it up amid an array of fabulous quick paint works.   It was truly amazing to see the quality and freshness of works that were done in a mere 120 minutes.

This was undoubtedly the most fun I have ever had painting under a deadline.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Camp Hill Plein Air Festival Paintings

Barn at Dusk
The Susquehanna River Valley is just as picturesque a place as can be, the iconic farms with tall silos, cattle on rolling hills, and distant hills fading into the distance with light shades of blue.     It wasn't hard to find some stunning scenes!

During the painting competition we could paint up to five plein air paintings, two of which would be submitted (all without he assistance of photography.)   I shared the first painting of the side of the mansion at the Fort Hunter.  Here are three more paintings.

View for Eternity
The Barn at Dusk was done along the Yellow Breeches Creek looking uphill.   Teens were enjoying "surfing" down the swift currents of the creek behind me, along with their dog.  They would slide down the rapids then emerging downstream and walk back upstream for a truly natural carnival ride.  They provided company as well as entertainment:).

Susquehanna from Fort Hunter
View for Eternity was done early in the morning from the back parking lot of a hilltop church looking down the slope of the adjacent cemetery.   I loved the hills and the moist clouds (there was a quick sprinkle).  The colors were cool pinks, yellows and blue  - and sooo much green!

Susquehanna from Fort Hunter was done in the late afternoon.  I was facing west and the sun was sitting high above the hill on the other side of the river.   Whenever the sun peaked though the clouds, there would be bright yellow illumination over the tops of the trees and down the hill.   (Dark patches were the cloud shadows.)

Does anyone know if "America the Beautiful" was written here?   So amazing!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Fort Hunter on the Sasquehanna River

Fort Hunter Mansion
I set out on Day One of the Camp Hill Plein Air Festival with a map, a GPS enabled IPhone and my painting gear loaded into the trunk of my (non-GPS enabled) neon-blue rental car.   One of the Camp Hill Plein Air volunteers (Dianne :)) suggested Fort Hunter on the east side of the Susquehanna River.   I had told her the kinds of things I like when I'm painting (views, water, shade, parking, etc..)  Her recommendation was perfect!   The gardens were pristine and each huge old tree specimen had a botanical tree species marker.

Garden Gate at Fort Hunter Mansion
The Mansion at Fort Hunter is an ornate federal style structure located on the site of the old French and Indian War Fort Hunter.  I walked the perimeter and  learned that it was built in three sections, two sections of which were built with locally quarried stones in 1814.  The middle “cabin” section, built in 1786, and the rear wooden portion was built in 1870.

I wanted a little bit of everything in the scene so I positioned at the east side of the mansion looking down a brick path to the gardens in the back.  The gardening shed and the fence behind it were picking up full light and seemed like they were framed by the elements in shadow.

This was my first time setting up since arriving the night before.   I don't think you can underestimate the impact of logistical challenges when you are attempting to get into a creative groove.  :)   Unfamiliar geography, easel assembly, palette set up, different vehicle....I'm not complaining; it was a blast.   It's just that until the physical issues are resolved, there would be no presentable artworks created!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Meeting House on Hardin Hill Road Duxbury MA

Harden Hill Center
Perfect temperatures and a great day for plein air.   This location is about a 400 feet from Duxbury Bay and I could hear the seagulls and boat horns, but not see them.   I liked the matching cupolas on the rooflines as well as the lush pine tree out in front.  My adjustments to this one would be to add more warm yellow to the roof planes which were brightly sunlit, as well as the lawn.