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, bearmiller.blogspot.com.  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.