December 19, 2012

Roses in Paris

I wish I could tell you I'm painting this outside ... but it's not spring and it's definitely not Paris where I am.  To combat the dreary outside weather, I took out a 5 foot long canvas (it's 30" high) and am recreating the scene in front of a shop selling roses in the St. Germain neighborhood in Paris.  I feel better just thinking about it.

It's a busy scene, with flowers, tables, chairs all in front of a window through which you can see more flowers and tables.  There's a geometry to the window reflections and window displays that I think will play nicely off the loose bouquets of flowers.

The finish date for this is December 31 -- I'm going to put it into the Foundry Gallery January exhibit.

November 25, 2012

Quartermaine's Holiday Blend

I think it's done!  I will be bringing it to the store for a light check (to see how it looks in their florescent/natural light combination) and then adjust if needed.

November 21, 2012

Work Begins

This painting is 4 feet high, 5 feet wide.  In the cupping room,  there was a map of the world on the wall which we took down for a little geography lesson (why Kenyan coffee is different than Ethopian coffee).   The wall behind Steve is pretty dark, so if I paint in the map, it's not going to be much more than a contrast of continents to oceans.  At this point, I just want to be sure I like the way the elements of the scene work together.  I've moved a few things around and I've curved the counter (the way my eye, not a camera, saw it when I was there.  I may play around with that some more.

November 13, 2012

Next -- Back to Quartermaine's for Cupping

I went to the warehouse today to watch "cupping" -- the fascinating tasting process that coffee roasters use to select and blend coffees.  I'm going to start a new, huge painting of the scene, but today I had two logistical problems.  One was that the canvas I wanted to work on was way too big, so I was going to do sketches.  The other problem is that the aroma of the different coffees is a big part of the cupping (much like wine tasting includes that swirl in the glass and deep sniff) and that is mutually exclusive with a palette of pungent oil paint and cup of linseed oil (even though I don't use turpentine, the paint definitely makes itself known).  So I'll be working from photos.  As much as I like the scene with the view into the roasting plant through the window,  I think the winner is the picture I took from up on a stool looking in to get a fuller look at the coffee.

This could take a while to paint.  I hope to get it done so it can go into the store in early 2013.

November 12, 2012

More Painting Problems & Unfinished Work

I was working on this painting today, making nice progress with the pattern of trees, leaves, river... and the tree on the left was nicely defined with a pretty strong dark along its left side.  Well, I thought it was nicely defined...  I showed it to Walt Bartman, who took his palette knife to the tree on the left side and nearby water, scraped it off the paint and said, "isn't that better?"  Hmmm.  His point was that I'd made a more distant tree come too close to the foreground.  Rather dramatic surgery, but maybe I'll go back to see if I can resolve the issue.

November 9, 2012

A Painting Problem

I started this painting outdoors a few weeks ago, excited by the intense light between the house and the column on its porch.  I liked the way the steps up to the house led to that light.  After putting down color, though, the painting lost its focus and I scraped it down.  I repainted the dark areas in cadmium red and then put it away in the studio.  I got it out again yesterday to see if I could rebuild the color without the problems I'd encountered earlier.  Without a reference (either being on site or having a photo), I was working very slowly.   I'm not sure whether I'll ever finish it, but it's a useful exercise in working out a problem of keeping color in its place to allow the idea to shine through.

November 6, 2012

Lunch on the Amalfi Coast

This painting is a real departure for me in a lot of ways.  I don't usually use so much black, so much contrast.  I used Galkyd Lite, which is a lightly shiny varnish/medium for paint that helped even out the different levels of oil absorbency in the pigments, necessary especially in the mixed black areas.  And I pulled back from defining features and objects to allow the shapes and colors to merge into images.  The painting will be part of the December Foundry Gallery show, A Cool Palette.  The show will feature works where blues, purples, greens dominate (or cool blacks, in this case).  The people at the table in front are my husband & daughters.

I've got work on display now at the Framer's Choice Gallery in Kentlands -- the work will be up though December 1.  The reception is this Sunday afternoon, November 11.

October 22, 2012

A little "Rothko" in the landscape

My new mantra, don't be boring, was on my mind today out at the farm.  I was facing the silhouette of the farmhouse, a large looming dark square, when it occurred to me that it looked like a Rothko painting, just with a large tree in front of it.

With that in mind, I painted the landscape with more abstraction -- there's more to go, I'm sure -- and kept the looming square effect as a strong element of the painting.

 I have more work to do on this and I'm enjoying the push-pull of abstraction vs. the landscape before me.

October 17, 2012

Farm Fatigue

I was working on a painting this morning and Walt came over to me and said that I wasn't using enough red and the composition was fine, but boring (ok, he didn't say boring, but I knew what he meant).  Predictable.  Safe.  Red, he reminded me, was passion.  Was I lacking passion?  Um... yes.

I didn't take a picture of where this at the start, but here's the more passionate, less predictable painting of Rocklands Farm.

October 16, 2012

Lunch on the Amalfi Coast -- A Cool Palette

I started working on this painting today, which is of a lunch we had on the Amalfi Coast a few years ago.  It's got a Vermeer level of contrast with brilliant sunlight coming through the window to a very dark room.  So far, I've put in the darks (and they are dark!) and lights and am finding the middle values.

As to the color, the Foundry Gallery is having a show in December entitled "A Cool Palette" and the works in the show are going to feature the blues, greens & purples of the cool side of color.  My plan is that this painting is going into the show when it's done.  I am going to take it as far as I can without a warm yellow, peach or red, although I may put a little warmth into the sunlight.  We'll see.  I'm also -- and this is actually going to be kind of inevitable, since my reference photo is not great -- going to resist a whole lot of detail.

October 10, 2012

Loosen Up!

Happy to spend some time painting a very loose painting of a pick-up truck parked at a home being remodeled in Washington Grove this morning.

October 5, 2012

October 4, 2012

Working on Luminosity

The paintings I've been working on -- Main Street Kentlands and Town Hall, Washington Grove, have both been working for me ... mostly.  In my studio at home, where I'm not so blinded by outdoor sunlight (although I use a lamp that's supposed to provide the full spectrum of sunlight), I could see that my colors lacked luminosity in indoor light.  The show they'll be going to, at the Framer's Choice Gallery, will be illuminated much the same way that my studio is, so I have been working on putting more sunlight and contrast into the paintings.

When I was outside, I only had Payne's Gray with me -- indoors, my Ivory Black was a much darker, richer black and even so, I mixed in blues and crimson to make it warmer and cooler in the paintings.  Outside I was mixing white into paints to lighten them -- indoors, I used colors that are premixed to look like sunshine in a tube:  radiant lemon, radiant blue and the like.

October 2, 2012

Morning on Main Street, Kentlands

My next show is at a frame shop in Kentlands, a community that's part of Gaithersburg, Md.  The show will be on display -- my work, artists Melissa Miller and Jan Lamb, too -- during the month of November.  We're going to show work we've done featuring the community sites.

Here's early morning on Main Street.

October 1, 2012

Model Merger

I started on a painting of this model in front of a Japanese gate last week.  Today, she was posing in a garden in the neighborhood of Washington Grove.  Rather than start a completely new painting, I took the gate painting and today's pose and merged them.  Once I'd done that, I realized that the lighting on the gate and the lighting on the model were out of sync.  Also, the charming tilt of her head in real life looks a bit odd on the canvas, so she will probably need a bit of posture improvement as well.  This is a work in progress.

September 19, 2012

New Kentlands and Old Peirce Mill, revisited in the studio

I just started working on this painting of a house in Kentlands today. The facade of the house is in shade, so the main idea is the bright back light and intense shadow.  It's hard not to get caught up in the house details, which should really be barely seen.  I changed the color of the house to a cooler blue (below) to have it work better in the painting, still not quite there.

The small Peirce Mill painting was started this spring -- a decent composition that moves you past the Mill to the building beyond.  The color, though, seemed dull.   The larger version is the update of the same painting. I still have a way to go balancing the addition of more interesting color with the way it reads in the painting.

September 12, 2012

Back to an unfinished painting

I went into my studio today, where I've had the painting of the Jefferson Memorial I started in the spring sitting, just sitting, on an easel for months.  So many things about the start were ok, but they were completely overwhelmed by what I felt was the dullness of the painting.  My first thought was that it's time to get rid of it.  My second thought was to put the energy into it that it really needs.

Color was the first issue.  I don't remember why the palette was so limited when I was working on it outside, but it definitely needed to have a much broader range of color.  Focus was the next.  You'd think with an iconic image like that, it would be easy to think about the focus, but I thought the original painting drew you to the center bottom column for no good reason at all.  Perspective was a problem too --  the city seen beyond the memorial was too big, too blocky.

I'm partway into reworking this and liking it much better, enjoying the challenge of solving the problems.  I can still see that the line of shadow and light that I thought was so interesting on the right side of the memorial is too rigid and I will break that up as I continue on.

September 3, 2012

Exhibit Installed

It may still need some tweaking, but here's how I left the gallery today; the show opens Wednesday.

August 21, 2012

More From Maine

 While I was in Maine, I had a rental car -- I didn't drive my own paint-spattered car up there -- so I was very worried about driving around to paint.  The rental car was expensive enough without having to contend with charges for paint damage.

I ended up painting only what I could see from the house.  You can see why I feel like it's endlessly wonderful to be there from these paintings -- the harbor is the view from the East side of the house; the back barn is on the West side; the rock beach is to the south; the ferry and lobster boats are past the harbor; the rose hips are from the front lawn and set up on the porch in the still life of rose hip tea.  Usually I also paint the house itself, a beautiful 1880s Victorian Maine classic, and I also like to paint the Adirondack chairs on the front lawn before the beach.  No time this year.

You can see how varied the weather is -- and the light in fog is a completely different and diffuse glow compared to the crisp light under a blue sky.  And how, without leaving the house, you can experience the rocky coast, the busy working harbor, and relax on rocking chairs on the porch or on the lawn.

August 18, 2012

Maine Lobsters

I love to paint in Maine and there's no subject for a painting that interests me more than lobsters.   The painting of a live lobster has to be a quick one -- both because the lobster needs to either be cooled off or cooked and because they like to move.   As models go, they are a steal at $3.50/pound and they hold that "cooked" pose until hunger strikes.  This year, I painted lobsters with painter friends who are used to taking a bit more time and exercising a bit more control in painting -- and their paintings were fantastic.  Here's mine.

August 4, 2012

Painting from a Study

In the background, there's a smaller, 16 x 20, view of early morning sun streaming through the trees at Great Falls that I painted a few years ago.  It's a painting that embodies a lot of what I love -- a combination of abstraction and a view of reality, a lot of color and a feeling of intense sunlight.  I've been meaning to use it as a study for a larger painting, but haven't had the time.  This morning, I found that time (let's just say that there's only one short downstroke of type between A and P. .. I missed that my intended 10 AM departure is actually at 10 PM, a 12 hour "find" of studio painting time).

I've spent time l looking at how other artists have used studies painted plein air to create larger studio works (and I did that for my Washington monument painting I did in late winter).  Already, I can see how the color is cleaner since I'm in the studio and have more time to mix paint, I have more clean brushes on hand and I have a much bigger range of paints than I usually bring on when I'm out.  The larger painting is 30 x 40.  I think it's going to end up in my September show.

One thing you might be wondering about -- what's the thing resting on the easel tray below the painting?  It's a level and I'm finding that I'm looking to it a lot to make sure that my paintings are being painted squarely.

August 1, 2012

Studio Cleaning

Today I took a large number (a painfully large number!) of canvases to the transfer station.  That is the local euphemism for dump.  I loaded them in the car along with some beat up furniture, a badly mangled snow shovel and other junk and they are now gone.  Some of the work was unfinished, others not successful and some, well, I just didn't feel like they represented the vision I see for myself now.  My hope is that a cleaner studio will lead the way to some great painting this fall.

I rescued the above painting, which was at the back of a closet.  This painting was done at Riley's lock where the canal meets the Potomac River, probably in 2010.    Here's what I like about it:  the depth of the space; the way that you can see both arches yet you are drawn to look through the arch on the right; the warm abstraction of the intercutting of stone, tree branches and light on the far right and the cool light on the far left.

July 27, 2012

Alla Seconda? Not Quite Alla Prima

Normally, I paint "alla prima" putting wet paint into wet paint and finishing a painting in one intense, sometimes exhausting session.  I've got paintings in my studio that weren't finished at that stage and need more work, which I rarely get to.  The super hot weather has given me the incentive to go back to two paintings I started in May.


July 19, 2012

New Website!

I've just set up a new website -- -- which will soon have images of all my work.  It came with a new email, so I now can get email at  How cool is that?

July 16, 2012

Lotus Position

From the gardens at Kenilworth Aquatic Garden, the lotuses.  In the few weeks since I started this, many of the lotuses have dropped their petals and the "shower head" seed pod has begun to brown.