December 29, 2013

Montana Snow Paintings

I was in Montana last week at Big Sky and brought oil paint, boards and an easel.  In the frigid weather, I found it best to paint on the porch of the house we were in so that I could periodically take refuge indoors and warm up. I had to shovel off a fair bit of snow to make a spot to set up, but the view of the north side of Lone Peak was just fine.

I was using a lot of white paint and the paintings are really wet since white takes so long to dry.  I've painted on trips before using gouache and acrylic, but oil paint is definitely better for me.  I unpacked the wet paintings last night (they came home in a box that had a ridged piece of plastic on each side to keep them separate) and they made it home in pretty good shape.

December 20, 2013

Shirtless Painting

We've got a clause in our Studio B lease that specifies we can't be shirtless in the studio.  It wasn't something that entered my mind, ever, as a possibility, so it seemed weird that it was in the lease.

I'm reading Man with a Blue Scarf, a book by Martin Gayford, which is a diary of sorts of the time he spent sitting for his portrait by Lucian Freud.

This may explain my lease:

December 12, 2013

Lilacs with a Warm Shadow

Now that I realized I have to choose the time of day for the wedding dress painting, I put it aside.  If I'm keeping the morning reflections in the window,  I can't work on it in the afternoon.

Instead, I went back to the lilac arrangement on the desk I painted last month for another variation.  This time, instead of the cool gray shadow, I painted the shadow in a warm color.  I chose a smaller canvas, different angle and narrower view (no distant corner of the room) to make the shadow an even bigger part of the painting.  It's at a pretty simple stage right now and I'll work on it tomorrow afternoon too and see where it goes from here.

Today's painting of the lilac arrangement -- in progress

This is what I painted last month

Stages of a Painting

This is going to go through a lot of stages...   Today I realized that I'm not used to painting with natural light while inside a studio.  My South-facing window, which seemed pretty constantly bright to me, does in fact include reflections in the morning that are gone by afternoon.   The question is whether to include them or not.

I painted in the reflection today, and, in order to make the lights more luminous, darkened and dulled the shadows and interior wall to a color closer to the real silver-green paint on the walls.  Interesting, definitely both improved and diminished the effect I was trying for.  To make the range of light, reflection and shadow just in the window alone, I've got a range of blues, grays, greenish blues, violets and cool whites...and I think the result is pretty mixed.  The cerulean in the upper right corner definitely has to go.

December 10, 2013

Studio News, Shows, Wedding Dress Painting

Studio B moving day is January 2, 2014!

While I've got a piece showing every month at the Foundry Gallery, I've got a solo show (which is to say, a lot of my work) in April 2014 at the Foundry in Washington, DC.  And in July 2014, I'll be in a group show at Gallery B in Bethesda.  At Studio B, I'll have work on display, paintings in progress and an open studio night the 2nd Friday of every month.

The April show will have its opening reception on Friday, April 4, which happens to be my wedding anniversary.  It got me thinking about the wedding dress that's been hanging in my various closets over the years, completely unprotected and definitely showing signs of age (not to mention the style, so 1982).  I hung it up in the window of my home studio and the yellowed cotton dress, light behind it and  streaming through it suggested a painting to me.  This is where it is so far.

December 1, 2013

Morning Light in the Kitchen

I was reading the paper early this morning (too early -- thanks to my early rising dog) and light was streaming through the full glass kitchen door.  Thought it was worth trying to grab it for a painting. Here's what's a little embarrassing -- the color of the scene reminded me a bit of Van Gogh's bedroom painting, the one with the warm orange floor and cool blue wall, light coming through a bright window. If you look at Van Gogh's painting, well,  maybe the shape of the light in my kitchen and the shape of his bed... nevermind, it was just an idea.  I'd seen the Van Gogh painting over the weekend at the Phillips Collection's fantastic special exhibit.

Not sure if this will be just another start that I abandon, or if I'll keep playing with it.  By the way, the objects on the counter are two glass orbs filled with cranberries.  

November 25, 2013

Soon to Be At Studio B!

We got the official word today!  Artist LInda Button and I will be sharing a studio at Bethesda's Studio B!  This is what the outside of the space looks like -- there are three studios inside when you go down the hall.  We'll be in the first one.  The space is in the Air Rights Building, which is connected to Bethesda Metro by a tunnel.

We'll be moving in sometime int he next month, planning to be fully in the space by January 6.

Light in June - start of a painting

You will see blogs that feature daily painters -- people who work on and finish a small 6 x 6 inch painting every day.  A lot of them are fruit and cupcakes, maybe just a little formulaic and sweet, however technically accomplished they may be.  I mention this because I think I am heading into having a blog of the paintings I start but never finish.  Having just made myself a promise that with the cold weather forcing me to stay in studio, I would work on paintings I'd started before and actually finish them... I couldn't face the stacks of paintings in my studio.  Nice idea anyway.  

Since last June, when I participated in a show at Gallery B in Bethesda, I've been thinking about an afternoon when the light was streaming into the gallery and through a vase. I'd cut flowers from my garden that morning to put out --  lilacs and "puffs" and leaves from purple smoke bush (cotinus coggygria). It was too bad, really, that another of the artists in our show was allergic to lilacs!  So the arrangement didn't stay there for long.   There was warm light coming through the vase and cool light coming through the tinted windows and it was just beautiful.  I took a photo so I could remember it.  And now, so I could paint it.  Or at least start painting it.  

November 18, 2013

Under the Bridge

This is the last planned day of outdoor painting -- how amazing that the weather was warm, sunny and beautiful!

I think I painted this bridge 7 or 10 years ago, but have crossed it many, many times on the way to paint along the canal or hike the Billy Goat Trail.  Today I chose a slightly sheltered spot to try to get my light painting set up out of the wind.

The goal painting this was to get you to look under the bridge. In spite of how softly I painted the bridge railing, it's hard not to focus in on the wood forms.  Still, I think I got that dark reflected water under the bridge to draw your eye down there.

November 11, 2013

Canal Vision & Updating

On Monday, I set up at the same spot as last week.  Many more leaves had fallen, so the view of the Potomac river was clearer.  It was a crisp, brilliant, calm day, so the reflection in the river was striking.

On Wednesday, rather than brave the cold, I set this up in the studio to see if I could work the shapes within the landscape and use thicker paint than I'd splashed on when I was outside.

November 6, 2013

C & O Canal -- A little abstract painting

 This morning we were painting at the C & O Canal, looking through the trees to the Potomac River.  I had just started to brush in broad areas of color, when Walt Bartman came over and took the painting away from me.  His comment was that I'd put down something unconventional and interesting, and if I kept working on it, I'd just turn it into an ordinary painting.  Ouch.  But true.  And something to think about.

I put that one down and did a second painting before the clouds cleared completely and turned the soft mauve/yellow world we were painting into a crisp, brilliant color with a vivid blue sky.

November 4, 2013

Garrett Park Painting Update

This painting has been through a lot of stages. This morning it was immediately clear to me that I'd been wrong to pick up the red brick in the house on the left of the painting,  Its light value was a distraction from the focus of the painting, which was the strong light on the right.  Once I fixed that, the red reappeared as a new color for the umbrella.  Much better.  Introducing black into the painting helped ground the blue.  Not done yet, but much closer than where I was last week.

November 2, 2013

Studio B! And a Camelot Update

It looks like I'll be moving into new studio space in the next couple of months! Bethesda's Studio B has space for 6 artists and I'm one of them.  I am hoping -- as my painter friend Christine predicts -- that I will be much more productive.  We'll see how 2014 goes.  The space is at the end of a tunnel that goes from a building on Wisconsin Avenue to the Bethesda Metro.

I've been working on and off building the color in the "Camelot" painting.  Here's where it stands now. Much more paint to come, but I think the wind, sun and puppies are coming through as I'd hoped.

The Race T-Shirt

The 5K Race that I did the t-shirt art for is tomorrow, Nov 3.  Today was packet pick up day and I'm already seeing people out wearing the shirt!  There's a definite split among people who get the New Yorker Saul Steinberg reference and people who don't.  But everyone seems to get the humor!

October 28, 2013

Too close to the edge?

I saw a photo yesterday of JFK and family -- it's in the public domain, I looked it up -- that struck me as the embodiment of what's meant on a personal level when people talk about Camelot.  Promise of the future, ideal vision, beauty, it can mean a lot of things.  The family is posed holding and loving their dogs -- six of them! -- squinting from the sun on their faces and wind in their hair.

I was thinking, just thinking, that it would be interesting to take that image and play with it as a painting.  And then pose other people, other pets, in the same way to create a different Camelot. Maybe as silly as putting in cats to replace the six dogs or as serious as putting in Obamas.  Nothing mean, just an exploration of what sets an idyllic scene with a narrative that suggests closeness, love, and a perfect time.   In spite of the endless public fascination with the Kennedys and the books, movies, tv shows about them, the first person I mentioned this to thought it was violating the family.   Too close to the edge of bad taste (it's art!  what's bad taste? oh, maybe.).

So I'm thinking.  In the meantime, here's the start of the painting.

Stages of a painting

It was a cold morning in Garrett Park and I'm wearing a big down parka to stay warm!   I'm working on a painting of a house with a facade in shadow and light coming from the right rear.  Not done yet, but here's the stages its going through.

October 25, 2013

What Would (Artist) Do?

I find myself stuck sometimes and I think about how another artist has solved a painting problem.  Usually, what I find is that by looking at ways other artists tackled an issue, I can find ways to approach something bothering me in my own work.  The painting I started a while ago with the big shadow in the front was one I tried to solve with many hours looking at other works with a dominant foreground shadow, examining ways that the form was integrated into the palette and the composition of successful paintings.  That unfortunately didn't reveal any answers, ultimately, as I'm still working on what to do with the large foreground of that painting.  The painting is screaming out to be freed from its stretcher bars and cut into a different shape ... and I may have to listen to it.

I had a small painting I'd worked on in September and it was just a mess of muddy color and a composition that didn't (although it should have) break into foreground, middle and distance.  It was flat.  So I was thinking about my friend Ed and what he would do .... so this is what I did to the painting.  It was very interesting to try to wrap my head around his thick paint, no oil, strong brush strokes that followthe forms they are creating (trees brushed vertically, etc.).  It did make the painting work in a way, and I think I gained some insight from the exercise.

October 23, 2013

Bethesda View of the World Giclee Print & Square

I sold my first print today and ran the charge through my iphone using Square.  Quite a leap forward.  Not only is the first time I've done a reproduction of my work, it's also a work I did as an interpretation of someone else's work and it was printed first on t-shirts!  The story is that I was asked to create art for a 5K race t-shirt and it seemed time to take the concept of Saul Steinberg's New York view of the world and apply it to Bethesda.  I had a lot of fun creating the watercolor that expressed what I saw as the local way of looking at the world -- the houses are from our neighborhood, I made choices about  what we see including our metro station, Navy Med, the Apple store and onto the world beyond.  The response was really positive and people asked if I would make prints.  Since the original work was a watercolor, I had the image reproduced and giclee printed onto watercolor paper.  Honestly, the prints are as vivid as the original. They are priced at just $25 -- not much profit in this for me -- because I think it's fun that so many people want them and I'm still not sure I could justify charging a lot for a print.

Garrett Park

This was one of those fall days where the color is so vibrant it's breathtaking.  I was determined to get that "glow" in this painting this morning.

I have a friend, Ed Miller, whose paintings I admire to an unhealthy degree.  Yesterday he posted more beautiful work on his blog,  You should check it out.

October 21, 2013


Last week when I worked on this top painting, it was cloudy and the shadows weren't very powerful. Today, I was going to leave it home since the sun was out, but decided instead to paint the shadows in and see how the re-lit painting would work. Much better.

I then turned to the right to look at the closer shed you can't see in the top view.  Another falling-down structure filled and overflowing with stuff, well worth painting.

October 16, 2013

Sorting Out a Painting

It was a gloomy morning at the farm today and it's not easy to choose what to paint when there's so many piles, so many buildings, so much decay.  I ended up trying to compose a painting from this scene.

Somehow this called for restraint on my part, taking the painting slowly and building it up from soft brushstrokes.  It just felt like I couldn't jump into it.  If the sun is out on Monday, I'll have to finish this in the studio since the scene will look completely different with a blue sky and bright sun.

October 9, 2013

Cold Morning on the Farm

The farm we painted at today is a very large, has beautiful views and, um, a lot of piles of stuff.  There are cars, some whole, some in parts.  There are piles of tires, propane tanks, scrap metal.  There are big hulking barns and squat huts.  Beautiful gardens, wild fields.  From all that, the challenge is figuring out what to paint, what to edit out.

October 8, 2013

LIly pond at Tregaron

It was a  beautiful day to return to the lily pond at Tregaron.  Last year I painted there through spring and summer.  I'd planned to go there earlier in September, but the Conservancy's website announced that a tree had fallen (a BIG tree) across the lily pond.  Today no sign of the damage could be seen.

The plants I was painting are called pickerel rush.  They have purple spiky flowers in summer, but those flowers were gone and the leaves were turning yellow.  Goldfish were swimming around the roots and I caught them and the reflections in the pond water.

October 2, 2013

Dark Shadows

I picked a spot to paint today early -- like 8:30 am -- when the shadows were long and dramatic.  By 10:30, they had changed so much (shorter, different angle) that I realized I needed to stop painting.  I will go back into this in the studio.

I have a lot of color variation to work out, as this is just the lights/darks and a few colors dropped in.

The 8-month old baby boy on the farm with the big blue eyes was glad to let me paint his stroller.

September 30, 2013

Reverse-order painting

You'd think it would have made sense to do the small study before I worked on the large painting last week.  But I didn't, so today I got to the farm early to work on a study that I hoped would help enlighten me about what I should have worked out before getting into a big painting.  I definitely see the benefit of the lighter, more violet sky and plan to work that into the larger painring.  Not so sure about the large and simplified shadow.  Interestingly, in spite of its flaws, the large painting in the state it's in from the previous post got a very positive response from the group of painters.After getting that out of the way, I worked on a small painting of the farmhouse and nearby buildings.

September 28, 2013

Rethinking the farm landscape

I have a feeling I'm going to be thinking and rethinking this one.  I spent some time in the studio trying to tame the large shadow but it was a monster that couldn't be controlled.  Same thing with the house.  So they're both gone, for now.  Monday I'll be back at the farm with a chance to see whether I can bring the house back.

September 25, 2013

Start of a Painting at Rocklands Farm

A beautiful day, here's the start of a painting.  More work on it next week.

September 18, 2013

Wisteria Trellis at Brookside Gardens

 Yesterday I thought I picked a chaotic subject for a painting.... and then today I found myself facing the wisteria trellis at Brookside Gardens.  It's a beautiful spot, I couldn't resist.

It's definitely not a simpler subject!  I was painting in a shady spot at a corner of the trellis and, in spite of that, had the same difficulty settling on the values of the colors I was using as I had in yesterday's bright sunlight.    I think the evenness of the yellows on the left and right is so odd -- I swear I mixed different colors to get them... but they read awfully close to one another.  Something to fix.

September 17, 2013

Trying to Bring Order to Chaos

I had 45 minutes today to paint outside and I picked what I thought looked like a reasonable spot to paint.  Well, it was chaos!

I haven't painted in the woods in a long while and I wasn't really ready.  It's funny how a "warm-up" painting is really needed to wade back into painting outside -- working with such intense lights and darks, such a large amount of information to distill into a composition.

I completely wiped out what I had worked on for the first 1/2 hour, and then went back in to rebuild the painting.  This is what was left when my time was up and I had to pack up.  I think I may need to look at the painting in indoor light to see if I have the color variation I was aiming for, particularly in the blues.

September 16, 2013

Still Life by Lamplight

I must have painted this one at night when we were in Maine, I can't remember exactly, although I know we tried the lamp on and off to see how it would affect our paintings.  I was in favor of having the lamp on.  I had over-emphasized the shade in my initial working of this painting, so much so that it loomed over everything.  Here at home I brought it back into balance so that the peach is very much in the foreground, and the white flowers of the hosta are in front of the lamp (and its shade!).

I really mean to work on new paintings, but I keep looking at the paintings from Maine and I still want to get them all into better shape.

Tomorrow the weather and my schedule should be just right for painting outside again.