November 28, 2017

Back to the Card Game - updated

Here's the latest update 
I've returned to the old image of my grandmother and friends playing cards.  The earlier sketch I'd done has attracted a lot of comment and interest, especially when people look at the woman on the left.

As with all of these  old images, I'm finding that as I sketch them, they go from being intriguing at this stage (a a lot of white, unresolved space) to a stage that I find less satisfying.

detail from the earlier sketch
I think, in part, it's a function of photos (whether old or not) that lack my eye in defining a focal point.  Of course the other part of that is that I need to adhere less to the strict depiction of the image and more to my vision of what I want to see in the work.  I find the initial sketch brings out large shapes, relationships between objects (or people) and allows me to tell a story.

I'm going to keep playing with painting these old slides and see how I can find the interpretation that works for me.  And for now, I'm going to leave this "unfinished" and think about whether or what comes next.

November 16, 2017

San Francisco Ferry Building

I did a little 8 x 8 painting of the San Francisco Ferry Building today in the studio.  I had the great pleasure of going there earlier this week while visiting a friend in California!

November 9, 2017

Edgemoor Lane Fall -- in progress/updated!

This is after the 2nd day of work on the painting

first day's work

Walking down this sidewalk toward my studio has been a real joy as the leaves have been turning.   I realized today that since I've been thinking about this landscape so much -- how the light hits the maple leaves, how the Japanese maple and holly hedge on the right cast shadows -- that it was time to paint it.

I need to knock back the intensity of the shaded plants on the right -- they jump forward of the maple a fair bit, when they should sit more quietly in deep shade.

Right now there's large blocks of color everywhere, and I had thought before painting that I'd need to break up the leaves on the ground a bit more.  I may study that on my walk to the studio tomorrow and see where it leads me.

November 3, 2017

Birthday Party 1962-3?

I'm still not sure where this project is going, but I'm continuing to explore painting from the slides of my family from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

A lot of the slides are cut off in strange ways -- faces cut in half, feet missing and the like -- that is making me wonder if I should fill in some of the details (in this one, I used feet from another slide to rough in the black mary-jane shoes on my sister) or if the strange cropping should be part of the look back into the past?

I love the homemade paper hats we are wearing in this image.  The framed print on the wall is Picasso's The Lovers, which hung in our house when I was growing up, so I guess my grandparents were visiting for our house in upstate NY for a birthday for one of my sisters or me.

October 26, 2017

In the Old Wooden Boat -- in progress

I started this last week -- it's from a slide that must be from 1960 or 61 in the Adirondacks.  That's my grandmother, mother, sisters and I'm the baby in the front seat with the white knit hat on.  Much more work to do on this, particularly on the faces of my sisters.  There's not much detail in them and there won't be, but the shapes of light and shadow aren't right yet.

October 20, 2017

Grandma's Card Game -- updated

here's an update, may still do more work on this but I love the way it feels now...

quick sketch from an old slide
I started a sketch today from a photo of my grandmother and friends playing cards.

Just having fun with these old images!

October 5, 2017

Old Family Photos -- Paintings? Updated!

continuing to refine this.... still not done...

Yesterday I had the amazing experience of seeing, for the first time, family photos from the late 1950s and 1960s that my sister found as slides and had converted to digital images.  There are pictures from the NY World's Fair, from my dad's time as a doctor on a Navy icebreaker, from summers in the Adirondacks and so much more.  The photos of my grandparents are particularly spectacular for their unreserved joy (photos then, as Facebook now, highlight the good times) and the eyeglasses, dresses, furniture and style that fixes them firmly in time.

Winter in my studio is often a time when I pull out old sketches, old paintings and photo references to consider work that was unfinished, unsatisfying or never undertaken.  I'm intrigued by the idea of taking some of these images and making paintings from them.

Not done yet... but getting there
I started one yesterday, from a photo of my grandmother as she is getting ready to board a cruise ship.  The old slide color is both heavily saturated and at the same time strangely cast from what I assume is the degrading of the chemicals that made the image.  The vivid color of her dress is something I'm going to stick with -- not sure that I'll keep what the slide shows as the violet color of the sea.

this is the start of the painting

September 8, 2017

Franciscan Monastery

In NE Washington, there's a Franciscan Monastery with a beautiful garden.  The inspiration for the building and garden struck over 100 years ago and the site now has a beautiful cathedral and replicas of holy sites from Jerusalem and around the world.  I'm not Catholic, so a friend who is guided me around the site with stories about why different memorials and grottos were there.

In preparation for the upcoming 202 Arts & Music Festival, I painted there this week and refined the  painting a bit in my studio today.

September 7, 2017

Studio work on a Montana Poppy Painting

I am back in the studio today after painting outside all week for the 202: Create Arts & Music Festival.  After painting at Tudor House this morning, which was beautiful!, it was almost a relief to be out of the sun and breeze.

I'd started this painting of poppies and field in Montana in June.  I shipped the unfinished painting back to my studio and today I got to work on it again.

I was painting in a sad state of disbelief that a friend who'd been ill for as long as I'd known her passed away this morning.  My friend had, during many days she'd spent in bed (when she wasn't running marathons or dancing in spike heels!), looked up at a painting I'd done of sunflowers that she'd hung in her bedroom.  She used to tell me that it always gave her something joyful to look at when she wasn't feeling well.  It takes my breath away to think about that.  So I focused on reliving what it felt to stand in a field with poppies this summer. looking off to mountains in the distance.

September 5, 2017

Howard Theater, Franciscan Monastery

Continuing my adventures painting around DC this week, I went yesterday to the Franciscan Monastery to paint in the garden there.  Today, I joined other arts festival participants at the Howard Theater.  All the week's paintings will be for sale on Saturday.  Great fun painting and talking to people all over the city this week!

September 3, 2017

LeDroit Park Plein Air Painting

I'm participating in the 202 Arts & Music Festival in DC this week, which will culminate in a day-long music and art fest down by the waterfront at 4th & M on Saturday, Sept 9.  During the week, plein air painters will be working around the city on art that will be displayed in a tent, for sale, at the festival.

Scouting painting locations led me to LeDroit Park, a historic DC neighborhood where beautiful row houses were built between Howard University, the MacMillan Reservoir, and the busy Florida/Rhode Island Avenue commercial area.   We set up at Anna J. Cooper Circle, a pretty tree-shaded space named to honor an African-American feminist who was born into slavery and graduated from Oberlin College.  Her story and that of others who lived in LeDroit Park are told on a heritage trail with signs thoughout the neighborhood.

I painted row houses this morning.

August 30, 2017

View of Lone Peak, summer

I did a lot of painting in Montana this summer but this is the only painting I finished.  The view is from the meadow at a house that's for sale which is actually about 6 miles, maybe even 7, from the base of Lone Peak.

The challenge of painting a meadow is one I tackled more than once with some success and a lot of "needs more study".  There's the issue of making the grass look grassy without the fussiness of painting individual plants; there's the need to show flowers but not every single one; and there's the way that light catches areas of grass or the tips of plants at different times of day.  And the look of a meadow is greatly affected by how dry the summer has been -- whether there's a tinge of gold or wheat to the lightest grasses.

In mid-July when I painted this, there were still areas of snow visible on the peak.  By August, they were gone.

I've shipped the unfinished paintings to my studio in Bethesda and I'll be working on either finishing them or using them as studies for larger paintings.

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.

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!