Thursday, April 2, 2015

Step by Step

I've been working in my studio all winter (I'm not an extreme plein air painter, sorry) but sketches and photos have been getting me through. The weather is changing, though, and I hope to get out again in the next month.
Here's a painting from sketches done in Alaska.

"Bones of the Earth"  watercolor   15" x 22"

Sketch in pencil

First pass. Keeping it loose and soft.

Defining values and shapes

Final pass. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Wild Life

I have never thought of plein air painting as particularly dangerous. Unless, perhaps, you twist an ankle while hiking to a prime spot. Or get drenched on an "iffy" weather day and wind up with a cold.

But last week a friend and I were painting just off a major road and had chosen a lovely stone bridge that crosses a small stream. We were quite proud of our spot. It had good subject matter, shade, and room for parking on the verge. In fact the only thing lacking was a bathroom (plenty of woods around, though).

As I focussed on my canvas, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and looked up to see a black bear appear, sauntering off the bridge and heading my way! Not a baby bear, not a juvenile bear, but a big, full grown and very healthy looking adult black bear.

I said, in a low voice, "A bear…" and we started to back toward our cars. I reached into my bag to get my camera, but it was tangled up and wouldn't come out! The bear strolled forward a few steps, glanced our way, the turned (not speeding up or slowing down) and ambled into the woods on the other side of the road.

My camera finally came out of the bag and I turned and looked at Nancy. She had her phone out, ready to snap a pic, and said, "I didn't get one either. Nobody will believe us."

The rest of the day we painted while periodically looking over our shoulders!

Bear Bridge Off 611  9x12 oil on canvas

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Plein Air with Friends

Nothing like getting outdoors with friends and doing what comes naturally - painting!

I roam around Bucks County at least two times a week, loaded up with painting gear, hunting for that perfect landscape. The fact is that a good artist can find a good painting no matter where they look, so spending time looking for the perfect composition is wasted time - time that could be spent painting.  One of the artist's jobs is to rearrange the elements of the scene to MAKE it a better composition.

Sometimes a good exercise is to close your eyes, turn around a few times then open them. Then, create your painting from whatever happens to be in front of you. Do it enough and it will get you out of the habit of seeking that ready-made landscape.

This week the Bucks County Plein Air Painters visited one of Bucks County's covered bridges. The Loux Bridge is unusual in that it is white rather than red as are most of the others. Constructed in 1874 of hemlock, it sits over Cabin Run Creek.

The weather was perfect! We parked ourselves on the side of the road and spent the morning painting. My friends worked in oil, but I decided to try a small watercolor. I was working on Arches 140 lb. paper and am fairly happy with the way it turned out.

"Loux Covered Bridge, Bucks County" 9x12 watercolor

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Wayne Plein Air

The show is over and the week in Wayne, PA painting in the Wayne Plein Air Festival was quite an experience!

Well organized and held in an area rich with subject matter, the only thing that didn't cooperate was the weather. We had rain off and on for all but two days and I discovered that I don't do my best work crammed into a car while the rain pours outside. You can't get any distance on your work!

The evening of the first day was an orientation of the area, with suggested properties to visit (owners had given permission to paint there). I spotted several roadside views, but parking like that is always a problem. Safety is a concern in that kind of situation.

The next two days were full of thunderstorms, but I still managed to create three paintings. Ridley State Park was where I settled after checking out a number of new areas.

Thursday was the only truly sunny day and I painted on the side of Darby Paoli Road, and spent most of the day at Androssan Farm. This is the last of the big estates in Radnor area and was used as the basis for the movie "Philadelphia Story" starring Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart. We had special permission to roam around the estate which is normally closed to the public. It will soon be broken up and sold off (so sad!).

Friday was a wash out…literally… as it poured rain all day. Streets were flooded and I took that time to do more framing.

By Saturday I was exhausted! That morning we were to paint in town. My effort was a real stinker, so I didn't even bother to turn it in.

The opening truly WAS "gala" with champaign, wine, a feast of dishes, and lots of sales. Approximately 180 artists applied, 31 were chosen, and they produced over 250 works of art! The paintings will stay up through July at the Wayne Art Center in Wayne, PA.

Oh! And I got and Honorable Mention!

Along Darby-Paoli Road   9x12   pastel on sanded paper

Monday, May 12, 2014

Heading out

This week I will be participating in the Wayne Plein Air art festival in Wayne, PA, and the first order of business is to cram everything I might need into something that is portable….and light enough that I can actually lift it. No small task.

So after stripping everything down to the bare essentials I have two bags. One for pastels and one for watercolors. I will pick which one I want to use at the beginning if each day and head out. I am rather proud of how small a space it takes up. Watercolor is on the left, Pastel on the right, and the tripod that I will use for both in its bag in the center.

Well….ok….It doesn't show the umbrella I will take for shade, or the wheely crate in case I have to do a lot of walking around town, or the folding chair (in case I want to sit down), or extra plastic bags in case it rains (which it is supposed to), or my big floppy hat, sunscreen, plastic poncho (rain again), rope and or bungie cords for tie downs, drawing and sketching materials, and a bag lunch and water, and first aid kit.

Oh yeah….I forgot about the framing materials. All paintings must be framed and ready for hanging before they are judged. So I must take frames, glass, mats, backing, and all tools it takes to put it all together on the spot.

I guess it's good that I drive an SUV………

Here's the reason I go to all this trouble.

"Dancing Birches"    9x12     pastel on sanded paper

Friday, April 25, 2014

It sounded like a good idea at the time……..

One of the reasons I was interested in exploring pastel (aside from the fact that it was new to me) was because of my interest in plein air painting. And one of the things the plein air painter is always trying to do is to lighten the load. Since everything one uses must be carried, it behooves the artist to have as little equipment as possible.

With pastels, I thought, I can eliminate all the liquids that have to be carried with oils or watercolors. After all, fluids are heavy.

Silly me.

What I failed to take into account was the fact that by carrying only 5-6 tubes of color I can have full range of colors. But…… and this is a BIG BUT…….with pastels you must have dozens and dozens (even hundreds) of sticks, each a different color, in order to have a full range. And those sticks add up to a lot of weight.

And so it would seem to be a wash in the weight department. BUT……pastels are fast! Really fast! There is no drying time between layers of color or at the end, when you pack up.

So, I continue to explore pastels as a painting medium... and have started to exercise to build up some muscle……..

"Clear Day Today" 5x8  Just a sketch of a tree I see on my daily walk (exercise!).

Thursday, April 24, 2014

New Beginnings

They say that new challenges will keep you young…..well, we'll see about that!
It may just give me more gray hair.

I have decided to learn more about pastel and am experiencing the pains of a steep learning curve.

Let's see where it goes!

Touched by Fall    8x10   pastel on Canson paper