Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Little Christmas Magic

This painting was a commission for a friend, as a gift to her dad for Christmas. It's the family home depicted, just as it would be on Christmas eve, candles in the windows, and the fir tree by the barn lit with those big old fashioned colored bulbs. Even Tug, the big ol' barn cat, is in the scene.
The family used to sell Christmas trees in the field in front of the house, and the dad has many fond memories of those days. He loves Christmas, and all its stories and sense of wonder, so I added a visit from the old elf himself in the spirit of the season.
Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Winter is here!

No doubt about it, winter has finally arrived.
Single digit temps, dusting of snow, sun is low in the sky and daylight fades by 4:30pm. Plus, the cats sleep as close as possible to the woodstove - that's the sure sign of winter!
So, maybe that's what prompted me to paint
this scene, "Twilight, Boston Common". Well, really, I just wanted to do something different.I am enjoying placing figures in the landscape, and this view of the Common at the end of the day after a light snow and drizzle seemed like a nice way to play around with that idea.
Color harmony is achieved by a very limited palette,(for you non-painters out there, that just means I only used a few colors) and using a "mother color" in every mixture, in this case, oxide red for a warm, transparent glow. Actually, the entire painting was done with oxide red, ultramarine blue, yellow ochre, and alizarin crimson, plus white. The umbrella, the one spot of real "color", has a touch of cadmium red in it, and the lights have just a whisper of cadmium yellow. There's some slight skewing to the photo, so those lamp posts arent really bent.
I hope it's warmer tomorrow!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

View from a morning run

This view of wintery Mt. Monadnock was done from a photo Steve took on one of our many runs around the mountain. It happens to be from E. Lake Rd., in Dublin, NH. The morning sun was peaking over the mountain, bathing everything in it's warm light, and casting beautiful shadows on the snow.
Of course it was still like only 12 degrees, but
at least the sun was out!
Our run would take us all the way around to the back side of the snowy summit dome, and then along that summit ridge to the north (left) and back down into the trees.
I have always thought the folks who own this property have one of the best views - their house, a stately brick colonial, is out of the picture to the right, and they also have Dublin Lake in front of their property, and the stream that flows from it borders their land.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Fitzwilliam's View

This view of Mt. Monadnock can be seen from Rt. 12 in Fitzwilliam, NH. There are extensive wetlands, where Scott Brook drainage comes through.
It was really cold both days I went out to the location - the water had frozen around the edges - but the sky was clear and the afternoon light was great. That stump in the foreground was actually further over to the right, out of the picture where I was standing, but it had such a nice shape, I moved it into this view for balance.
I watched the late shadows creep along and begin to cover the wetlands. I don't think they reached quite as far as I've depicted them, but it made a better statement I think to have the foreground all in shadow, putting emphasis on the wonderful warm colors of the swamp grasses and red berry bushes in the late day light.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Foundations and Hope

We just had the foundation of our old 140+ year old barn repaired, and some work done to strengthen and support the barn floor, so we can finally drive a car in for the winter months.
The barn has three levels, and on this lowest level, the original stone foundation (second photo) was failing due to some drainage issues that had never been addressed by the previous owner.
Since this stone foundation wall is also the back foundation wall of the house, and sits at the edge of the driveway, it was mandatory to get it fixed, or we risked having the whole thing fall down, which somehow seemed like a bad thing. :-)
If you look close in that photo, you can see that the beams were being supported by small pieces of wood, sitting rather precariously on top of the wall. Besides this, there was considerable rot - when the contractor removed part of the floor above this in order to pour the new concrete wall and do the necessary repairs, one of those beams basically crumbled apart.
The contractor had to dig out a new footing in front of the existing stone foundation, pour a concrete footer, and then, with rebar reinforcements and considerable work done to support the forms themselves, poured 9 yards of concrete to form the new foundation wall, which is about 2 and a half feet thick and 24 feet long (first photo). They then put in new beams and joists in between the old original stripped log ones. These mortar and tenon joints are still good, but the additional support means we can drive both our vehicles into the barn. Since it's snowing right now as I speak, this will be much appreciated this winter. Getting out at the crack of dawn to scrape ice and snow off the windshield is less than pleasant.
I found it interesting that I have such a sense of relief now that I know the foundation is secure.
I guess, without realizing it, I've been sort of walking on eggshells knowing that the barn was
really sitting on a failing foundation. Everything seemed insecure. I walked gingerly over the floorboards of the barn, and wondered if it would hold up.
There are the obvious analogies to life of course. I've thought quite a bit about it as we've watched the progress on the barn and listened ad nauseum to the doomsayers on TV and radio about the current crisis.
Failing economy = insecurity. Neglected values and plain ol' common sense = crumbling futures.
Things can, and probably WILL, get worse before they get better, and we're in for some hard times. In the middle of all that, however, I have a sense of security because I know what I've built my life on. I have hope.
Our pastor described hope as "faith in the future tense". Not the wishful thinking kind of hope, but a firm conviction that I can hold onto the truth and find that it really is the truth. I do believe that Jesus is Who He said He was, and that the Bible is an accurate record of God's message to us. I've bet my life and future on that, and it's a good solid foundation. Better than 9 yards of concrete and steel. Here's the words of an old hymn that sort of say it best:
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus' blood* and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
but wholly lean on Jesus' name
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand.
(*that refers to His death on the cross on our behalf)
I've heard it said that "we don't know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future."
I like that - and when I remember it, things dont seem so grim.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Workshops and other fun stuff

This past weekend I attended a painting workshop in Vermont with a fabulous painter and wonderful instructor. His name is Hagop "Jack" Keledjian, (see his website here) and I think it might just have been the most productive (but not the easiest!) workshop I've ever attended. We had a great group of folks, most of whom have been studying with Jack for a couple of years. I was the newbie, but they welcomed me warmly and we had a great time.
First day was portraits. Yikes!! I have done 3, count them, quick oil sketches of people in my life, from the drawing class I attended earlier this year, but this was the first official portrait I've ever attempted, and it was very hard - but I loved it!! I want more, more, more!
Our sitter didn't come, and so a husband of one of the gals kindly agreed to sit for us. He had a wonderful face, with very expressive eyes, and he patiently sat all day while we painted. I'm not showing my feeble attempt here, but you can bet I'm going to try this again. Jack finished the portrait and it was just wonderful.
Second day was still life, and that was hard too! I tried to learn a better method of painting, more expressive brush strokes and use of light.. so it seemed slow and laborious to me, and I did not finish the piece, but Jack was very encouraging and I did learn some things to take home and practice.
Second thing, the painting here is a scene from New Mexico, where we used to live. It will be the poster image for the Jemez Mountain Trail Runs, and will be auctioned off to raise money for the race too. I am happy to donate it, and honored to be asked to do the work. Though nobody offered to fly me out to work on location. Dang! It's titled "Morning in the Jemez" and shows Mt. Chicoma (11k) as seen from Caballo Mtn. (10K), near Los Alamos, NM. Boy, do I miss it out there!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Four Views, Four Seasons

Here are three more miniatures for the Sharon Arts (Peterborough, NH) mini exhibit coming up in a couple of weeks. These are all 5x5's, and there is one more coming, but ran out of panels and will pick up some more of those today!
The series is "Four Views, Four Seasons", and it's just different views of Mt. Monadnock in each of the seasons. As you can see here, there is winter(from the west), summer (from the south)
fall (from the east). The only northern views I have in my photo file are summer or winter, so Spring will also be an eastern view, or slightly southeast maybe. I've enjoyed doing these little sketches, and the Ampersand gessobord panels are a breeze to paint on. Their slick texture allows for interesting detail to be suggested in the first thin oil washes as I block everything in. Note especially in the winter view the brushwork in the pine trees.. that is all done in the first transparent wash, and is a great way to suggest the pine branches without having to paint each and every one. I'm all for doing something the first time if possible, and not having to go back in and re-paint areas! enjoy!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Foliage Tour

This little work, titled "Foliage Tour", is another 4x6 for the miniature show. I've had in mind to do this painting for awhile. I think it's done, but after things sit around awhile, sometimes I will see something that I want to "fix"... but I doubt it will change in any kind of dramatic way. I do like the light in this one, and have been enjoying placing figures in landscapes. This portrays an older couple on a very relaxed paddle on one of our beautiful pristine ponds during peak foliage season. Those colors aren't exaggerated at all - it really does get that bright.
Painting autumn foliage can be a challenge - the colors are so fluorescent that there is a danger of becoming quite garish if one tries to paint them literally. I wanted to get some of that bright color in here, but didn't want it to be too much. Choosing this slightly back lit composition allowed me to keep it dark, with just the very bright spots of color where sun was coming through. The color becomes a pattern of light against dark, but the greatest contrast is still on the figures (just that bit of light hitting the gentleman's cap, and the lady's hair) which keeps them the focus of attention. Our eyes are drawn to contrast, so a good compositional tool is to intentionally put the highest degree of contrast, sharpest edges and most detail right there where we want the viewer to look. It's just a way of visually saying "Look here! Look at me!" And that, after all, is what we hope to accomplish!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Sharon Arts Gallery in Peterborough (NH) is having the annual miniature exhibit in a few weeks. This is always a fun show - with homage to that old saying that good things come in small packages! These are two of the little works (both 4x6) I'll be sending to the show. I decided not to do the very tiny miniatures that I have painted before (sizes like 2.5x3) Artists were asked to create a series of sorts, to enable grouping of artwork for display. So, I'll have several of these small still lifes, and also several landscapes. Yesterday's field sketch is one of them. I'm also working on a series of four views of our local mountain, Mt. Monadnock, in each of the four seasons. Those are a square format (always fun). Look for some of those photos to be posted in the next day or so.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Field Sketches and Plein Air painting

This little painting (4x6) was painted on location on a chilly morning a few days ago.
.. I have passed by this wetland area many times, it's one of the places I go run with the dog. This particular morning, I saw the light hitting the tops of the trees on the left, and shining on the mostly bare branches of the trees on the other side.That's what "got me" and I grabbed the Guerrilla Paintbox and bushwhacked through the trees till I could get a good clear view. (ended up standing right at the water's edge, and had to bend down a few limbs out of the way) It was pretty cold, but I had brought a thermos of hot tea, and bundled up in several layers to paint. I went to work quickly, following my "20 min. field sketch" method, and then after blocking all the major shapes and values and colors in, I refined it enough to bring it to a nice conclusion. With a few minor tweaks back in the studio, it is done!
I'm really loving the Guerilla Paintbox that I recently purchased for plein air painting. It holds everything I need, will accommodate anything from a small 4x6 panel or canvas up to much larger sizes ( I recently painted on a 12x24 canvas, and just had to lean the canvas against the lid (which serves as the easel) The whole set up, including tripod and the paintbox, will fit in my large hiking backpack, and I can take it just about anywhere I can get to on foot.

Monday, November 3, 2008

My Quest

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God.
But only he who sees removes his shoes;
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Oh, what wonderful words! I read them again recently, and they "struck a chord" in my soul.
The entire reference is to the biblical story of Moses - while tending sheep in the desert, he sees a bush, ablaze with fire, but not consumed.
And then the voice of God speaks to him and Moses recognizes that this is a holy moment, and holy ground he is standing on, for the presence of God has made it so. Removing his shoes was a sign of his reverence and humility.
For the artist, the great challenge is to really SEE - learning to SEE sometimes requires unlearning a lifetime of preconceived ideas and a visual vocabulary that developed in our early days. For me, this learning to SEE is to grasp the wonders of God's creation, the incredible beauty and variety, the wisdom, the subtle or dramatic interplay of light and shadow, and sometimes just the simple loveliness of a flower petal. On those rare moments when I get a glimpse with understanding, I am infused with joy and energy to put that understanding on to a canvas with the humble tools of pigment and brush. It is a lifelong journey, and not always an easy task, because true art, like anything else worthwhile, comes from our whole self - our spirit, soul, mind, and body. And we are broken and in need of God's grace to put us all back together again so we can function rightly. How many times we simply miss it all, and "pick blackberries" while surrounded by such wonder. But that is the quest - and one that continually humbles me (I metaphorically take off my shoes !) To SEE with understanding, and to paint with joy.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Another Value Study

This painting, titled "Fence Rows" started out as just a demo of a typical 4-value landscape. It had a nice feel to it, so I finally got around to developing it a bit more and finished it in the studio at home. The mowing rows in the hayfield really draw the eye deep into the painting, and the light on that far field, and the one yellow tree become the focal point.
All our New Hampshire hillsides are covered in late fall foliage - the peak colors have faded and now it is a wonderful collage of purple/grays and russets and deep golds. It is actually my favorite time to paint fall foliage because it creates a perfect complementary color situation. The peak season is such a riot of color that it is difficult to portray without being gaudy. So I am happy when late October and November rolls around and most of the leaves have fallen, leaving bare branches poking through for interest.
Of course, the downside of all that is that most of those leaves are piled up in our yard, which apparently is some sort of "devil's triangle" for leaves - a vortex that pulls every fallen leaf within miles to land on our two acres. We have our work cut out for us!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Miracles happen

Meet Anthony, my newest grandson, born today.
A beautiful, healthy baby boy, 7 lbs. 4 oz.
Birth is always a miracle, but this one seems especially so. About a month ago, tests revealed some serious concerns about this little guy.
His "gestational age" was measured to be at 27 weeks, when he was actually 36 weeks. This kind of growth restriction is usually associated with a fatal abnormality in the umbilical cord or placenta. Further tests ruled out this particular
problem, but ultrasounds indicated irregular growth in his legs, and doctors were uncertain about what other issues might be going on with him.
So, we had to wait, with all indicators pointing to the likelihood of some very real problems. We prayed. We hoped. We waited. Two weeks ago, his gestational age had increased significantly, but that's all we knew.
So, today, little Anthony was born, and is completely healthy, normal, vigorous and alert and beautiful. We are rejoicing and thanking God. I personally think God heard our prayers and healed this little boy, because there is no explanation for why the abnormalities which were revealed in the ultrasounds are no longer evident. Whatever happened, he is here and we are so happy to finally welcome him to the family!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Painting with Friends

Painting is such a solitary activity that it's sometimes easy to slip into a sort of hermit mindset. So, when a good friend suggested that several of us meet together once a week at her studio and paint, it seemed like a wonderful idea. Friendship, conversation, and creativity - all good stuff!
The day dawned brilliant and clear, and we decided to head out for some plein air instead of staying in the studio. We were joined on this day by our friend Dave, a painter whose works I admire VERY much, and who is also just a really nice person and fun to be around. The view I was painting happened to be facing the direction where Dave had set up his easel, and when I grew frustrated with my painting, I scraped it down, and then saw a perfect opportunity to capture the artist in action. So, while this is a very quick sketch (less than an hour) and I never really developed the background, it was fun trying to paint Dave while he worked. There was an old apple tree right beside me, and I added a bit of shadow as an indication of it to help create a better viewing path into the painting.. The other work was a small, quick field sketch (about 30 min.) of a pond nearby done the next day. I was working on creating a pattern of light and dark, and this little scene was a good opportunity to do that. Enjoy!

Monday, October 20, 2008

weekend workshop

This weekend, I was happy to be able to lead a landscape workshop. The focus of the two days was to concentrate on how to get a "good start" on a painting by understanding some basic value relationships, and then using a 5 step approach to actually getting the major elements down on the canvas. Pictured here are some of the work from participants in the workshop, and I was very pleased with the great results these guys got. It is never easy to "do things differently" and they all tried very hard to follow the plan and "do it right". I think their works turned out really fine, especially since we had to work from photos due to our time and weather constraints.
It was really great fun spending a couple of days with these folks, most of whom are good friends already. I hope it was as valuable for them as it was for me, because as you know, the teacher always gains the most from the instruction.
We'll be doing another short workshop probably after the holidays and that one will likely focus on still life painting, with an emphasis on dramatic light effects and attention (again) to value relationships. What fun!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Studio

Just thought I would share a few images of the studio from the tour this weekend. I forgot to take pictures before we started, so this is after a few things sold, and there are some empty spaces.
Judy Driscoll is a ceramics artist and she had her
very lovely work on the tables and my paintings were on the walls. It was a great weekend.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Various exhibits

This weekend hosts several different venues to view art, and I found myself stretched by trying to get work ready for three different exhibits.
We have the Monadnock Arts/Friends of the Dublin Art Colony (try saying that 5 times fast)
Open Studio Tour, and I expect I'll see maybe 200 folks through the course of the weekend, coming by my house to see where I work, and to see the art itself. We had probably more than 100 yesterday, and about a half dozen paintings went out the door with happy buyers. Today is the last day of the tour. Foliage is at peak, the weather is beautiful, and it's a great opportunity to see some fine art while driving through the countryside.
At the same time, there is an exhibit of Tour Artists at the redmondbennet gallery in Dublin, NH. My largest piece went there and is the image that is now on the home page of my art website.
And then, there is the vessel show at the Jaffrey Civic Center, a combination 2 and 3-dimensional exhibit of "vessels" - there is some really fabulous creations at this show, and well worth going to. Both ceramic, metal, and blown glass 3 dimensional pieces are featured, as well as paintings all with a "vessel" theme.
The piece pictured above is in that show, and, while of necessity I had to work quite fast on it, (it was a last minute invitation from the director of the Center) I was pleased with its simplicity of design and flow of light. It is titled "Chinese Teapot and Rice Bowl".
Now, I guess I better get out of my pajamas and get ready for more company! (and refill the bowl of candy corn.. that was perhaps the biggest hit of all!)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Plein Air painting

Plein air painting simply means painting a scene outdoors, from life. Sounds nice, but the reality is often a bit grittier - bugs, either biting you, buzzing in your face, or, worse, landing in the wet painting and sticking there, wind, blowing your canvas or panel off the easel, or knocking over your supplies, sunburn, glare, rain, or, this time of year, freezing cold hands and feet. But there is nothing like it. Painting on location brings a totally different feel to the work... you hear the sounds, smell the smells, feel the weather, and it is a "whole body experience". I would rather be outside painting than working in the studio any day. Even in bad weather!
This little view is from a cow pasture on a friend's farm. And when I say "cow pasture" I mean it. It was an exercise in avoidance to keep from stepping on the cow patties, and, since I had my dog with me, to keep an eye on him to keep from rolling in them.. one of his favorite things to do.
The weather that day was clear, but cold, and the air was crisp and dry. I hope I captured that feeling with the rather cold light and fall colors beginning to peak.
The mountain is all muted reds and golds now, with the dark blue/green of the pines.. in about a week, the color will start to fade. And that is actually my favorite time to paint - bare trees create a sort of purplish gray color, interspersed with the russets andburnt orange shades of the oaks which hold their leaves, and you have a natural color compliment situation going on that works very well... It'll come soon enough. We've had hard frost and soon we'll be raking all those leaves!

Oh, and I thought I had managed to keep Tucker out of the cow manure, but after I brought him home, Steve said, "Why is the side of Tucker's neck all crusty?"... eeeuuuu.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Off the Wall a huge success!!!

Well, it's all over now, and I can tell you....
It was great! Folks turned out in record numbers, and enthusiastic buyers couldn't wait to be allowed upstairs to the gallery. Within the first 45 minutes, more than half of the 337 images were already sold. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and there were huge smiles as folks walked out with many little gems, and the best part is that the Civic Center raised close to $10,000 for operating funds! I have to fire my buyer though (husband Steve) as he was unable to grab ANY of the paintings I hoped to purchase - they were already gone by the time he reached them!!! But it was all good.
Three of the images in this photo are mine ( I can own them now that the event is over!) I was sort of sad to see the painting of the little children on the beach go, as I had so much fun with that one. We're all tired, but happy, and thankful for the generosity of so many artists who made the event a huge success, and for many volunteers who joined in the fray to make it all happen!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Off the Wall tomorrow!

Our long-awaited Off the Wall fundraiser is tomorrow night, Oct. 1, from 5:30-9pm. this event raises money for the Jaffrey Civic Center, a non profit organization that benefits the Jaffrey community in many ways. We're excited and look forward to a wild and crazy evening, with art being sold right "off the wall" all for the incredible price of only $60 each. We have approximtaly 300 images, and many different media, including oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, oil pastel, colored pencil, fiber, mixed media, encaustic, collage, and fine art photography. Over 120 artists in the region have generously donated works - without their enthusiastic support, we could not hold this event. It's a wonderful opportunity to pick up some fabulous little gems for an amazing price. And thanks to local frame shop owners, Roy and Nancy Stone, we will even have a limited number of frames for purchase at a discount that evening. In addition, we will have a "buy 3, get 1 free" incentive, so don't miss this event if you are local enough to get here!
Jaffrey Civic Center, 40 Main St., Jaffrey, NH Gonna be great!!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Room with a View

Okay, this has nothing to do with values again. Well, actually EVERY painting has quite a bit to do with values. And since I can't get a photo to illustrate a big mistake we can make in doing landscapes, lets just look at this one, titled "Room with a View" and see how the value structure works. Let's try this one in color for a change.
If you squint your eyes, it's easier to see the major values of this landscape. Sky, lightest value.
Pine trees and beaver lodge (also functions as an upright form) are the darkest. Disregarding the water, because it is composed mainly of reflections of either the dark trees or the light sky, look at the flat grassy areas. They are the next lightest area, as they should be. They give their full surface to the light of the sky. The receding hills are the medium dark, and they get lighter as they get further away. This is part of atmospheric perspective, and that's a topic for another day. All in all, I think this landscape, though it has many elements, stays within the boundaries of our four major value groups, so I will call it a success. That's a real scene, by the way, and there actually is a beaver lodge there. Location, location, location!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Open Studio invitation

I know, I know, I haven't posted again on values, but I had a problem with my camera, and just haven't been able to take the photos I wanted to use for illustration. So, while I'm working on that, I wanted to send out this invite to my Open Studio . This is part of the Monadnock Arts/Friends of the Dublin Art Colony's 13th annual Open Studio tour.
There are 57 artists, and 50 studios in the Monadnock region which will all be open to the public on the weekend of Oct. 11 and 12. I am sharing my studio space with a talented potter, Judy Driscoll, who will be displaying her works along with my paintings. So come and enjoy both two and three dimensional works, plus some light refreshments. (cookies, I'm sure there will be cookies!) This tour is a great opportunity to see where artists work and create, and most of the artists have special pricing just for this weekend, since no gallery commission has to be considered.
For more information on the entire tour, and to download a map of all the studio locations, visit
Monadnock Arts website
I would love to have you stop by and visit!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Values in a Landscape, part 2

So, did you find all four value groups? They are:
light - sky
medium light - the flat ground
medium dark - the sloping hills
dark - the upright trees.
This brings me to John F. Carlson, a 20th century landscape painter, and his "theory of angles". According to Carlson, and I think he's right, the amount of light any object receives is determined by the "angle" at which it sits in relation to the source of light. The sky, being the source of light, is of course the "lightest". The (more or less) flat ground plane sits basically perpendicular to the sky, giving all it's surface to the light, and thus it receives the most light. Sloping hills sit at a deeper angle to the sky, and so they receive a bit less light. But the upright tree shapes give the least amount of their surface directly to the sky, and so they end up being the "dark" element in a typical landscape.
Why does this help us as landscape painters? If we understand these four basic "planes of light", then we can simplify our approach to painting a landscape by grouping all of our elements into one of these four categories and painting them as a "mass". I can know from the very start that, AS A GROUP, trees will remain a "dark" and I should choose colors and values that remain "in the dark range." A simple value structure will make a stronger statement visually also. I like to look at a black and white image of my paintings now, because taking the color away makes it very obvious where I've failed to keep the planes of light correct. Look at the second image (an older painting). It's a little jumbled looking and doesn't read as well in the black and white version, simply because I've mixed the values too much. The sky looks as dark as the ground. Some of the tree shapes are lighter than the sky! The color version of this painting is much better, because the color helps clue the eye, but I can guarantee that it would have been a stronger, more visually engaging, work had I corrected these value "errors". Compare it to the first image and you can see the difference when the values are kept in their correct range.
Next time: one of the most common errors in painting a landscape.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Values in a Landscape, part 1

Value! It's a very important part of creating a strong statement in your painting.
What is value? Value is the "darkness" or "lightness" of a color. Here you'll see a value scale, and a simple landscape, which I've posted here in black and white to illustrate some points about value.
You'll see that the value scale is simply a graded rule, going from black,the "darkest dark" to white, the "lightest light". There are, of course, infinite gradations in between, but for ease of use, this scale has 10.
As you can see from the little landscape here, value alone, without color, can portray a believable image. We're all familiar with this concept in black and white photography.
For the next several posts, I'm going to talk a bit about value, and some good simple "rules" that can help to simplify our approach to painting a landscape, and help us to create good strong compositions.
For starters, let's break the value scale into four groups. Let's say, blocks 1 -2 for light, 3-4 for "medium light", 5-6 for "medium dark" and 7-10 for "dark". Now, let's break down the landscape into four major elements. We have sky, land, trees, and hills. For now, forget the cows! Look at the scale, and then at the painting.
Here's your homework. Comparing our value groups on the scale, and the painting, can you find the light, medium light, medium dark, and dark elements? I'll do the first one for you. The "light" element is the sky! Now, you do the rest!
Tomorrow: the "theory of angles" and four planes of light!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Painting time of day

I've been working lately, among other things, on paying close attention to the color of light at different times of day. Thanks to some wonderfully concise instruction from Elin Pendleton, (see her painting blog here) I've clarified my own understanding of how light changes from morning, to noon, to evening. Both the color of sunlit and shadow areas are affected by the time of day, and artists can communicate a feeling of morning or afternoon, or evening, or moonlight, by how they choose colors.
Here is a small (5x5) study of morning light. There's a bit of mist, so common here in New England early in the day, which gives a diffuse and soft quality to the distant objects.
Sheep are a favorite subject of mine, and I think they fit well in the mood I wanted to set in this early morning view. I hope you like it!

Painting Silver Objects

Here are two paintings, both of the same silver carafe. I simplified it a bit for the painting with the blue bowl. Painting silver gives me fits sometimes. It absorbs so much of the background color that sometimes it almost doesn't have a color of its own. Under the right lighting conditions, it can virtually disappear except for reflections. I am fortunate to have studied under the very gracious and knowledgable tutelage of Leah Lopez. You can see Leah's fabulous work on her website She reminded me recently (after I complained about painting silver) that it is usually best to paint silver either as a dark against a lighter background, or as a light against a darker background. So here I have done that. I modified the painting with the pears from a previous version to incorporate this idea.. it shows the carafe as a light against dark, and the second painting shows it as a dark against a light. Which do you like better?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Two New Paintings

I know, I know, I haven't posted for several weeks, and then two in two days! When it rains it pours!
These are two new small 5x7's that are slated for an upcoming event. I've actually painted quite a few small ones, but as I mentioned before, am not posting them here because of the "secrecy" factor of our fun show called "Off the Wall".
Any local readers of this blog should save Oct. 1 on your calendar... about 200 images from local artists, including some really top notch folks, will be sold unframed, right "off the wall" for the unbelieveable price of $60. This event is a fundraiser for our local civic center here in Jaffrey... Many of these works would see for 10 times that under normal conditions, so you can imagine it's going to be a wild night with folks jamming in to find their favorite artists' works first. Check out the Jaffrey Civic Center website and stay posted to this blog for more details. Oh, and these two are titled "Silver Carafe and Pear" and "The Red Cloth". I bet you can figure out which is which.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lilla, Content

Lilla is a Premarin rescue horse. Mares are used to produce the drug Premarin, and they are not always treated well. Lilla suffered abuse, but she now has a wonderful home, and is loved and cared for. I thought she just looked peaceful and content in the summer pasture.
Last week was a Paint Out for our local art association, and about a dozen farms and estates opened their properties for our artists to come and paint en plein air with a sale and reception at the end of the week. Lilla and her stable mate, Austin, a lovely paint gelding, both caught my eye at one of the farms. I didn't get a photo of the painting of Austin before the sale, but he was a very handsome boy and I enjoyed painting him as well.
I'm not doing the painting a day (obviously) but am busy in the studio with several projects.
This evening was an art auction fundraiser for a local early learning center, and I'm happy that the piece I donated was one of the highest bids of the evening - good to support a wonderful cause.
More paintings to post soon!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Catching up and hanging on

Where have I been lately? Since Hardrock,
we've come home to New Hampshire, I had two wonderful fun weeks with two of my grandchildren, and have gotten back in the studio to start painting away again.
I've actually finished quite a number of small "daily painting" size oils, but I haven't posted them here because they are part of a fundraiser for our Civic Center. Part of the uniqueness of this fundraiser, called "Off the Wall" is that paintings are signed only on the BACK, so buyers do not know whose work they are purchasing until after they buy it. So, just to keep the secrecy going, I'm not showing any of them here.
Another thing we're doing, besides trying to get some work done on the house, is to prepare for a wild and crazy 50K in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We drove up yesterday to try to check out a few sections of the route. Here I am on a rather steep descent. There is a very small ledge at the bottom, another very sheer drop, and another ladder. Unfortunately, we had to turn around here because we had our dog with us, and though he had managed the top two ladders with some help from us, these were impossible. This whole course is pretty incredible.
This week is the annual "Paint Out" for our local art association. Quite a few local farms and inns have opened their properties for artists to come and paint. Should be great, if only it would stop raining. Fat chance of that, evidently, as it has rained nearly every day since mid July. Torrential downpours today, more of the same predicted tomorrow.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hardrock 100 Mile Run

Well, here we are, doing some marking of the course a couple days ago. This shot is at the top of 14,000 foot Handies Peak.
The race starts tomorrow morning, and we have 48 hours to traverse all those mountains you see in the background, crossing rivers, streams, snowfields, cross-country treks, and in the process we'll summit 13 passes of 12,00o feet or higher, including this one on Handies peak. We'll walk along cliff edges, go through a tunnel, over a crazy metal grate bridge 300 feet over a canyon, and even walk a couple blocks of city streets. Radio operators will keep track of runners in and out of aid stations, hundreds of volunteers will give up their weekend to support us in remote mountain areas, supplying food and cheer in the middle of the night, through thunderstorms and hail, and even packing in food and water on foot several miles at high elevations so we can keep going. It's a massive undertaking. I was able to help cook food for the aid stations, and my small part had me and a friend cooking 100 pounds of potatoes and 50 p0unds of onions and celery into nice tasty soup for the runners. There will be all kinds of good food out there, even pumpkin pie (good for the stomach, and just tasty and easy to eat) So, tomorrow morning at 6am we begin our 48 hour trek. Pray for us, it's the hardest race in this country and I'll need all the help I can get!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Last panel for the Equine Mural

At the last minute, I took on the challenge of one more panel for the equine mural.
This panel arrived yesterday, and I needed to be done with it today, so I had to think fast, draw fast and paint fast! It was a very challenging panel, as you can see. And I might just add that the "before" image is an electronic copy I received for reference, and it is just slightly different from what appeared on the actual panel. So, if you compare the two and think I am way off, it's really not! I promise!
I had thought that a different panel was on it's way, and had been planning ahead for that one, so what a surprise to open the box and see this very difficult piece of the overall mural. I did not have time to stop and document the progress, so here is just the before and after. I titled it "At the Waterhole" and I think that it maintains the shapes and colors of the original. It will be fun to see the large mural image come together, so keep checking on it for updates.
None of the many artists involved know what the overall image is, so we are wondering and waiting right along with you!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ah... New Mexico

Haven't done any painting here yet, though I will try to get out today. I'm here to train for the Hardrock and need to focus on doing that.
This is a photo of Redondo Peak, taken while we were walking to the mailbox. It's a shame to have such views on your way to get the mail, isn't it?
But that's why we love it here so much.
Redondo is around 11,000 feet elevation, and I would love to go hike to the summit. Unfortunately, the top several hundred feet are sacred Indian land, and access is restricted. So, we just enjoy the view.

We're into a pattern of morning sun, afternoon thunderstorms, but supposed to go back to regular early summer weather, so hopefully this afternoon I can get some painting done.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Little Run In the Vermont Hills

This weekend Steve and I ran the Pittsfield Peaks 50-something mile race in the Green Mountains of Vermont.
The reason I say "50-something" is because nobody seemed to know for sure - and last minute course changes made the measurement even more problematic. Guestimates range from 51-54. Anyway, it was long.
And hot. And humid. See all the fog laying in the valleys - it was oppressively hot and hazy and humid all day. The kind of day where you are soaked with sweat from the start and your clothes are dripping with sweat. Hard to stay hydrated enough - you must watch the symptoms of dehydration very carefully so as not to get past the point of no return.
You can see all of Steve's photos here: Pittsfield Peaks.
My personal favorite is the one he took of himself right after puking on the trail. Ah... the reality of ultramarathon running!

It was a very tough run, 14K of climb and descent, lots of mud, steep climbs, and did I mention it was hot? But, well organized, and well marked. And really beautiful countryside.
Steve ran 12:55 for 25th place, and I was 30th place, and first of the "old ladies" in 13:18- faster than I anticipated, so I was pleased.
Tomorrow will be a whirlwind of cleaning, packing and errands before my trip out to New Mexico.
And I'm praying we don't end up covered in poison ivy, as quite a bit of that lush greenery was full of it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Finished!! "Distant Thunder - A Tribute to Man o' War"

I'm happy to report that it's finally finished! I really wanted to complete this before the weekend, so I could just let it dry and ship it off next week. It was going to be hard to pack this and it's shipping box on the airplane!
So, notice a few changes? The biggest change is the position of Man o' War's head. Looking at it, I just didn't think his profile was prominant enough with his head down like it was. So, I raised his head up, and really punched the highlights and his white blaze to show up more. After all, he is really the star of the show here. And since I actually put some detail into this one, here's a zoom view so you can see his face. He was a beautiful horse, big and muscular and full of life.
His nickname was "Big Red", 16 .2 hands tall, and a lovely sorrel color.
I have to go back and look up the names again, but the two figures on the left are his owner, and his groom, who took care of him until his death and called him "The mostest hoss that ever was."
I think I might agree. He won 20 out of his 21 races, and the one race he came in second (to a horse named "Upset", by the way, and that's the source of that sports term!) there was a mistake by the starter, and Man o' War was facing sideways and not in the gate when the starter released and this caused him to get boxed in on the rail once he did get going. If he'd had another few feet, he would have passed Upset, but he just ran out of track. He went on to beat Upset 6 more times, and even Upset's owner said he wished that defeat had never happened, as Man o' War deserved to go unbeaten. It is said he never even fully extended in a race, that he always had plenty left at the finish, and still he broke record after record. He only raced 2 years, because the handicap weight he was going to be carrying as a four year old was so great that his owner decided to retire him. He went on to sire many, many champions, including War Admiral and many more.
It was fun painting him, and I hope in some small way it does pay tribute to a truly great race horse.