August 4, 2017

19 Years of Painting A House in Maine

2017, oil on multimedia dartboard

1998, watercolor
 I've been painting in Maine during summers for the past 19 years, always staying at the same house.  While I'm there, I paint lobsters, lobster boats, rocks, the ocean, the beach, adirondack chairs, the ferry across the harbor... and the 1880s Victorian house with the wrap-around porch that I rent.

19 years ago, I did a small watercolor painting from the front lawn and it may have been among the last times I took out watercolors and a soft brush.  Since then, I've painted the house from the front, the side, the beach, in the morning, at sunset, and any other time it has struck me that I can get a bit more familiar with the house.

Over the years, the house has been surrounded by more or fewer wildflowers, and drought has turned the grass to the color of wheat or wet summers have made it a lush green.  The landscaping has gotten a bit more elaborate, too.

My own exploration of paints, my palette, mediums and painting surfaces has resulted in some looser and some tighter paintings.   There have been times when I only have a short session in which to paint and other times that I have more opportunity to contemplate the scene.  Sometimes the spot I set up my easel gives me an angle that make the house look taller or wider, and I emphasize that.  The house's white siding can turn yellow in bright light or blue or purple in deep shade.


Artists paint the same subject over and over, not as a commercial strategy (although some do -- painting upon painting of an apple, then two apples, and so on), but as a way of getting to know and understand a subject or a place.  Jennifer Bartlett famously published a book, In the Garden, of almost 200 drawings in a range of styles of the garden at a villa.  Monet painted haystacks (and many other things) at different times of day.

And I keep painting this house.




June 28, 2017

Taking the pressure off -- working on paper (updated)

I've been painting in Montana for a few days now and it's a humbling experience.  It's beautiful and the weather changes at a pace that makes me paint in a frenzy.  I've been working by the Gallatin River where a stream comes through the woods, working on canvas and trying to warm up to being outdoors painting again.

Today I decided to take some of the pressure off -- working on "multimedia artboard" instead of on stretched canvas.  It's a paper-like substance, very stiff and heavy, and purports to support oil paint.   It allowed me to work more quickly, both because it's small 8" x 10" and because I set myself up on my deck (yes, that's the hot tub cover I'm using as a table) in case a sudden rainstorm hit.  I managed to get two quick paintings done between rain showers today.




June 9, 2017

Color Change-Up

It's those same flowers again, but I changed the lighting and my palette to add intense color.  I did move the vases around again. And kept it loose.

I love thinking about the different ways these flowers and their shadows can be painted.   Today, as their edges were browning, the tinge of red led me to this.

Loose Flowers

I think these flowers only have another day or so in them -- a good reminder to me to keep the paint fresh and loose.

Yesterday's palette was used again in this painting, but I added just a bit of cerulean blue both into the grays to make them bluer and into the hydrangeas and reflections.

June 8, 2017

Roses, Hydrangeas, Alstromeria


Summer in Maine I like to paint flowers.  It's a respite from working on a landscape that is so rich and vast that it's a relief to focus on a small space.  I'll be in Maine this summer (and Montana -- another big landscape to contemplate) so I've been thinking about flowers again.

I had a few vases with roses, hydrangeas and alstroemeria so I brought them into the studio to paint.    I  set up a very limited palette to help keep my focus and keep the painting from being overworked.

After 2 hours, I was at this point and decided to stop.  I'm going to call this one done and start a new painting of the flowers another day.

May 26, 2017

K Street in Georgetown

new painting in progress

original sketch
K Street in Georgetown is at water level; above it, the Whitehurst Freeway whisks cars past Georgetown traffic.  I've spend a lot of time under the freeway painting, and I went back to my other sketches and paintings to create a new painting of the site.  The views from each painting are different, some of which is due to where I set up my easel; other changes were made to compose the painting the way I wanted it.

The wall of the building that houses Ma Maison restaurant does have black paint on the upper half of its east-facing wall, but in the earlier sketch I found the black stripe and the prominent roadway girder right in front of it too intense and distracting.  In the painting I'm working on now, I've shifted the focus of the painting so you are led along K Street to its end.  I'll be working on more balance of the color and see how well I can add come variation into the deep shadow to add movement to the space.

May 5, 2017

Revisiting a Yellowstone Meadow

the second version of the scene 
This meadow is above Trout Pond in Yellowstone National Park.  The trail goes through the meadow and down to the pond.

I painted this scene first after visiting it last summer on a smallish canvas.  In my first painting of it, I shied away from the intense green of the meadow and I think the loss of a lush carpet of grasses and flowers made that first painting worth revisiting.   In this one, I let the saturated colors shine -- and although I painted it on a slightly larger canvas, I didn't go all out and paint this on a larger canvas.

Now with these two done, I think I may tackle a truly large painting of the scene.
this was the first painting of the scene


April 18, 2017

Fly Fishing Success

This is not only about the success of catching the fish, but also about finishing a painting I'd started months ago.   I hadn't painted any features into the shadow on the face, and I'd been thinking about how best to address the deep shadow cast by the baseball cap.

Yesterday I decided to work on this and I think I've got the face finished.  I also added the yellow sun-lit grasses to near and distant mountains.  The water may still have too much intensity as it goes into the distance and I'll tone that down ... and maybe it will be done.

The fish, by the way, is a rainbow trout.  We caught (and released) rainbow trout and cutthroat trout on the Yellowstone River last summer just a few weeks before the river was closed to fishing due to a concern about bacteria and warm water temperatures.  Today on NPR there was a report about how the native cutthroat trout are being weakened by breeding with the non-native rainbows.   Fishing is regulated, licensed, managed and monitored and it bodes well, I hope, for a plan for the future to protect the Yellowstone River and the native cutthroat trout.

April 5, 2017

Bison Painting -- Done (and work in progress, days 1 & 2)

The bison painting is done -- it's 3 feet by 4 feet -- oil on linen.



2nd day working on the painting


first day's work
When I was in Yellowstone in March, I had the amazing experience of seeing a herd of bison walking down a snow-packed path.  To be
on the safe side, literally, the group I was in on snowmobiles all got off and stood with the machines between us and the bison as they walked just a few feet away from us.  I took a lot of photos and brought the images into the studio to work on a painting of the bison walking.

This is just the beginning, where I'm trying to lay down the basic shapes and colors.  I may be adjusting the size and position of the bison in front to make him larger and darker, I have to work on that.

The white areas of the painting are just blank canvas showing through.  A lot more work to come.

March 29, 2017

Frog Pond, Matthew Henson Trail

I'd never been to the Matthew Henson trail before, I found it only by looking at the  Montgomery County Parks website.  What a spectacularly beautiful and trail.

The frog pond was near where I parked and although I walked a short length of this very long trail, this spot kept calling to me.

Early in spring, there's no leaves on the trees (such a contrast to Montana, where I was last week and evergreens far outnumber any deciduous trees) so I was looking at trunks, reflections, dark shadows and deeply colorful water.  I brought this into the studio this afternoon to adjust some of the color.

March 28, 2017

A River Runs Through It - updated

The movie A River Runs Through It was filmed along the Gallatin River.  A few weeks ago, I went fly fishing there and took photos to use as a reference for a future painting.   The fish were cold and sluggish -- I was even slower to set the hook and can only tell tales about the ones that got away.   
finished painting
early sketch

March 22, 2017

Unfinished view

I hadn't appreciated how much I'd miss a real studio easel ... until I was working on this large 4 ft x 3 ft canvas which was attached to a dining chair with a bungee cord.

Aside from the challenge of painting a view that truly changed every 5 minutes -- you could see the mountains in the distance, then they were covered in clouds, then the sun would break through, then it would rain/snow/sleet, then the snow melted etc.  -- it was hard to paint the whole canvas when to reach the bottom edge I had to crouch next to the canvas or bend over.  A studio easel lets you raise the canvas so you can paint the bottom at eye level and lower the canvas to focus on the top.  What a difference it makes!  I'm going to ship this back to my Maryland studio and finish it there.

March 17, 2017

View from the Deck

I started this a week ago, today I finally got back to work on it.  It's been brilliantly sunny, so the color is much more intense than in the initial sketch.  The snow on the railing is gone now, but I did leave that in the painting.

March 10, 2017

Painting, Snowing, in Montana


I bungie-corded a very big canvas to an old broken chair so I could paint on the deck in Montana today.  I didn't count it starting to snow while I was painting -- this is going to be fun!

March 7, 2017

Painting in Montana

Working inside this morning while looking out at the Gallatin River Canyon.

February 17, 2017

Gallatin River Sketch - updated and done!

this is how it started
I'm headed back to Montana in a couple of weeks and to get ready, I've decided to work on smallish sketches from some reference photos I took in December.   This is a 14 x 18" oil on a burnt umber toned ground.

The Gallatin River is beautiful all year!  In the winter there's snow and ice along the cliffs and on rocks in the water, and red berried shrubs on the banks.  I stopped to take a photo at many of the pull outs on the road between Bozeman and Big Sky and I think they'll be a fine place to paint plein air (if it's not too cold!) next month and maybe do some larger paintings on site and in my Montana studio.

this is the next stage of the painting


Update -- this is the next stage of the painting.  I felt like the color needed to be adjusted and both made the rocks bluer and the water less green.  Although each section of the painting seems more satisfying to me, the water and rocks just aren't relating to one another properly yet.  More work on this to come.





done!
Study of the latest iteration of the work helped me realize that the reflection in the water and the intensity of the color (curse the pthalo pigment I'd mixed into that paint) was in conflict with my intention that the water should look like it's moving.  The color and broken reflections made it look of a piece with the rocks and that was what wasn't working.  Done now!

January 25, 2017

Still Life with Rubik's Cube and Collie - updated and finished!

This is the finished painting!





I started working on a new still life in my studio, mixing it up just a bit by changing the teapot from the last one and adding a Rubik's cube that we had on our shelves.  As I put this together, though, I decided that I needed to add something on the floor.  Shoes didn't seem right.  A tote bag didn't add much.  So I put in my dog, Ollie, a tri-color smooth collie who is almost 10 years old.  I also ended up making the my round table a rectangle.

Still life symbolism is much studied, what with skulls and such in old paintings by masters.   The symbolism here, well, hmmmm.


January 13, 2017

Still Life in the Studio

During the 2nd Friday Art Walk, I  set up a little still life to paint.  I had about an hour to work on it, and got this far.

Next week I'll have a chance to work on the rug in the background that I'd just left untouched and get back into the colors and patterns in the foreground.

January 6, 2017

Livingston Montana Streetscape

Livingston, Montana looks like a movie set -- and it has been used as one for at least one recent movie ("Certain Women") and probably a lot more in the past.  I couldn't paint when I was there this past summer, so I took a bunch of reference photos and brought them into the studio to play with.

I've been trying to vary my palette, using colors that are brighter and more vibrant than the standard palette I'd been working from (I added prussian blue, phtalo green and cadmium lemon, took away alizarin, among other changes).  The image of the painting here is a bit darker than the end result in real life, but I made the choice to make the shadows on the brick buildings in cadmium red medium and keep other shadows in purples, blues and greens rather than going darker and duller.  I think the result works -- I've been playing with this for a while and I'll get a fresh look at it next week to see if other changes are needed.