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.