December 13, 2009

15 minutes with Claudia

Of the 15 minutes Claudia "sat" for me, she agreed to look up from her book for about 2. She said I look at her all the time and should know what she looks like.

December 5, 2009

Open Door at the Store?

I've been puzzling over how to deal with the effect of looking into the store and seeing the reflection at the same time. Since it's snowing out, I took some studio time to try out opening the door and putting figures into the mix. I also moved over the glowing Apple, although I still think it looks too far right. I might have to move the store wall to the right to solve the problem.

December 1, 2009

The Real California Sky

Two California natives helped me look at the painting again and I've made a few changes. The biggest one is that the sky is no longer defined by my East-coast sensibility, which says if there's mountains, there's clouds. What I was reminded about California is that the blue of the sky is potent -- and that what I was interpreting in the photos through East-coast eyes was really blue sky.

November 28, 2009

Santa Rosa California

I am working on a commissioned painting, which ended up needing to be done from a photo since the desired view is of California and not an easy plein air painter's drive from Bethesda. The challenges include working with photos that have little color in them and my need to understand the palette that best describes the light and color of Santa Rosa. I researched paintings at the Irvine Museum through an exhibit book "Palette of Light" as a starting point and I'm trying out colors I haven't used much before.

Here's the current state of the painting and the photos from which it has been created.

November 16, 2009

Light at Great Falls

I never made it to the waterfalls this morning -- the light coming through the trees stopped me before I even got to the path. The effect of a yellow sky and blue hills in the distance ... with a silhouette of fall trees!

November 11, 2009

Maine... in the Studio on a rainy day

I had started a painting in Maine this summer, liked the idea, but never got very far (was it the sunset or a bottle of wine that ended that painting session?). Today, with rain outside, I picked up my otherwise unusable start of a painting (below) and worked on it. I moved the horizon, altered the relative sizes of the boats, added the buoy in the front and touched color after color from one part of the painting to the next. The smaller painting is how it looked when I started.

November 9, 2009

Refinement of the farm painting

I had just 1/2 hour this morning to solve some of the issues with the shrubs, foreground, balance of color...

November 4, 2009

Birthday, Anniversary, Farm

Today is the 10th anniversary of my return to painting -- and it's also, not coincidentally, my birthday. 10 years ago, I decided to give myself a weekend painting workshop as a present. Today, the weather was beautiful and I enjoyed every minute of painting back at the farm in Poolesville.

October 28, 2009

Fast Moving Cars

Today's challenge was to "paint something you'd never paint." Well, fast moving cars fit that description, so I set up next to MacArthur Blvd. and this is the result.

October 26, 2009

Coming this week -- Tennis Racquets

The weather this week looks fine for painting, and I'm going to add some tennis racquets leaning against the wall in the mural. A little challenge -- since the mural "cuts off" at the bottom (the wall gets too rough to paint low down), I shouldn't be painting the full racquet head, just as I don't have dog feet.

The tennis addition will be made as a nod to the owners of the garage, who have fine and devoted tennis players in their family.

October 21, 2009

Maybe I'm 99% Done with the Mural

I'm thinking that once I get the second coat of paint on the sky behind the cat -- and make it match the rest of the sky, the mural will be just about done. I keep thinking that a simple butterfly right above the nose of Charlie the poodle would be a nice touch... but it will depend entirely on the weather.

Janis's Farm

This may have been the most beautiful fall morning, ever.

October 20, 2009

Charlie the Poodle, mural model

I added Charlie the poodle today -- he's my friend Georgia's dog and a very good looking dog! He's positioned to be looking at the upper right corner, where I'm planning on painting a cat or squirrel sitting on the fence. Somehow, though, it looks like there should be a more immediate object of interest -- something sitting on the gate post? It was a beautiful day to paint -- I think I will only have a few left before it will be too cold and at that point, the mural will be done.

October 14, 2009

Back at Violette's Lock

The site where I'd done the last painting was occupied this morning by a large truck with a dredging attachment. I set up across the lock to get a quick painting done -- it had to be finished at the point when the workers noted that if we didn't move, we might get splashed. Not my usual reason for ending work on a painting, but it was good enough today.

October 12, 2009

Gray day at Violette's Lock

It was gray and cold this morning at Violette's Lock. The painting was done at the point where the wide Potomac is shunted off into a lock along the C&O Canal. Fall leaves getting underway.

October 11, 2009

Rousseau & the Mural

While I was painting today, I was visited by artist Elyse Harrison, her architect husband Michael Belisle and their dog, Rousseau. Elyse is an artist, mural painter and gallery owner whose work adorns several restaurant facades in Bethesda. Rousseau was sitting so patiently while we talked it seemed worth rewarding him with a spot in the mural. He's a wheaten terrier and too cute to pass up. In addition to working on his fur, I need to paint more ivy on the wall.

I also painted the roses, added some red penstemon-like flowers and repainted the "brown" mountain, which will hereafter be thought of as Bowman mountain. I made the color change after being asked, "are you going to keep that brown mountain?"

October 8, 2009

Almost Covered

The mural is almost covered with paint. I'm really happy with the color variation I've been able to work into the mural, especially since I gave up on clean edges and have been working with the wall texture instead of trying to work around it. The house and gate are undoubtedly going to consume some thought as I have to figure out how to make them share the touch of the rest of the mural.

October 7, 2009

A really Big Leaf

I found a really big leaf at Violet's Lock this morning and was more intrigued by it and the shadow it cast than the windy views of the river. The 3-d pine needles fell onto the canvas when I took the photo -- I didn't paint them there.

October 6, 2009

Time to Embrace Texture

This is one rough wall -- there's no way I'm going to have neat edges and I decided today to pull out some of that texture with small touches of paint. Again, rain is threatening, so I don't know when I'll get my next chance to work on it.

October 4, 2009

3 a.m. Gate Idea

I woke up at 3 a.m. last night and had the idea that what the mural really needed was a gate in front. Way back when I was thinking of the ideas for the painting, I did consider an opening in a wall, but wasn't pursuing it... until 3 a.m. last night when it came back to me. Here's the unleveled, unmeasured rough in of the gate. The wall on either side will be "stucco."

October 1, 2009

Unifying Dark

The weather was better today for a little more work on the mural. I put a band of unifying dark green across the middle and it's tied things together nicely. I started to put in the band of light above it as well.

I have started to attract more visitors while I'm painting. And, of course, people who ask me things like why the trash in the park isn't picked up more often.

September 30, 2009

Quartermaine's in Bethesda

The forecast is too iffy to work on the mural this afternoon. Here's Quartermaine's in Bethesda, painted this morning.

September 23, 2009

More Bethesda and Mural

The mural is progressing, in spite of the rain forecast, as it's sunny day today. I've been looking at a book "In the Garden with Jane Austen" and have added a lot of hollyhocks to my planned garden mural. Chawton Cottage isn't the most picturesque and the estate that inspired Pemberly is quite grand -- I'm not sure what's going to work as a center of the mural.

I don't have red paint in the system that I'm using, so the mural is going to be painted in the muted -- lightfast -- colors I've got and then I'll be touching up at the end with pinks, purples, reds and oranges using acrylic paint. You can see the hollyhocks are really a beige/pink.

As for the Bethesda painting, I was across the street from Barnes & Noble this morning.

September 21, 2009

Bethesda & Mural

I painted in downtown Bethesda (that's Gifford's and the Landmark movie theaters) in the morning.

In the afternoon, it was a first effort at using the colors and laying out the mural. The forecast for the rest of the week is rain, on and off, so I don't know when I'll get back into it. I like the paint, but mixing is more complicated than I expected and I need to bring more jars and brushes. The dilution is hard to measure in small quantities.... but still -- so far, here it is.

September 20, 2009

Mural Preparations

With a little help, I finished the 2nd prep coat on the mural today and need to get serious about the image. I plan to start painting it tomorrow.

I've been taking photos of flowers I want to have as reference, but the direction of sun and shadow is different on each one and I may be creating more problems than I'm solving by having something to look at. The wall owners are Jane Austen fans and I've been researching Chawton Cottage and her writings about gardens to get some inspiration for the scene. Here too, though, I've got to deal with seasons -- Jane Austen loved lilacs, but the early spring bloom is not what I'm envisioning in what I think will be scene of a cottage garden in summer.

Interestingly, the wall itself (it faces east) and the owner's north-facing yard are both very shady -- so I do think the wall will provide the chance to imagine a sun garden in a spot where one couldn't exist.

September 16, 2009


So months ago, when I painted that lock house in silhouette (see June 2 post) and a yellow piece of light behind it, let's just say people weren't exactly excited about it. I sign up for a fall painting class, and sure enough, here's our first day's warm up paintings. Silhouettes... and then today's New Yorker came in the mail. I guess we're onto something.

As for the mural, it rained yesterday and threatened rain today, so I have to wait for clearer weather before I get back to it.

September 15, 2009

First "Grob" Coat

I began preparing to paint the garage wall mural today, mixing white grob paint with a dilution of 15%. The wall of the garage had some cracks and odd rough and smoother spots -- all of which seem to have disappeared under the layer of grob paint. At the edges, though, along the ground and up against the fence, there was lumpy concrete and I have to figure out what to do about them.

Given the choice of a roller or brush, I decided to use a brush to start getting a feel for the wall.

So, 2 1/2 hours later, having listened to the sounds of the park and playground as I painted, I can report at least this -- there's as much laughter as their is crying among the little kids in the park and to everyone but the little kids I was invisible.

September 11, 2009

Mural in Bethesda

Coming soon -- my work this fall includes two commissions.

One is a mural, about 14 x 20 feet, to be painted on a garage wall in Bethesda. It's in a very visible public spot and although I suppose that's an opportunity to take great risks, I am sticking with sunflowers and garden landscapes. Still working out the actual image, but I've ordered the paint. Keim mineral paints are what's used by mural painters for works that last a hundred years. There's a whole system with pigments and grob coat and the end result is a non-peeling bond with concrete.

I also have to work on a commission painting that will be done from photos -- a planned Christmas gift.

Neither work is within my comfort zone of going outside, setting up some paint and spending a few hours in a frenzy of plein air painting. Both, though, will challenge me to bring more thought to my work and I'm looking forward to putting my thoughts in order!

August 8, 2009

Maine, 2009

I've just returned from painting in Maine. Many images to come.

June 20, 2009

Updating Stotesbury painting

I'm back into a painting I started in mid-May. The hardest thing is getting the rowers in the right position, oars on the correct sides. When I did the painting, the boat was a blur as it went by and there were oars, reflections, colors merged together. As much as I want the work to show what it was like in that moment, the painting was done as a commission and I need to fulfill the expectation that a few details will show the team, the athetes. Now that I've put in those dashes of paint, I need to work on the whole -- finding the rhythm of the paint. The composition, as it stands now, has a strong diagonal feel with the rooftop seen above the bridge (I think it's at the Philadelphia Zoo) pulls you toward it. I may switch things around and see if I can alter the experience a bit.

June 10, 2009

Agricultural History

Out in Derwood, Md., this morning at a farm that's been turned into an Agricultural History Center.

June 8, 2009

View of a Parking Lot

The view in every other direction included a stream, rocks, trees, a bridge... and the jockeying of artists for a "good" spot left me with a view of the parking lot.  Walt Bartman has passed along the advice (I don't know who said it first -- Charles Hawthorne?) that you should pick the pretty scene you want to paint and then turn around and paint what's behind you instead.  So, I was facing a parking lot.

The low horizon was a big departure for me, as was filling most of the canvas with the sky.  I had initially painted the cars in a bit more detail, not a lot, but ended up with just the suggestion that they were there.

June 2, 2009

What Lies Beyond

Yes, this is the same painting I was working on in the last post.  Why the dramatic change?  I was uninspired by the first result, which was a pretty literal look at the scene.  I don't have a need to work that tired approach into the ground, so I decided to force the issue of focus -- what you are really looking at -- by silhouetting the front house and trees and pushing the painting toward the spot of yellow that I'd always wanted to be the focal point.  As a thought process and a concept, I'm happier with the outcome.   Not sure, though, that I'm where I want to be in terms of turning the concept into a visual experience.