Saturday, December 4, 2010

Down-Time Begins

Although the sun is shining and the sky is bright blue, the wind is brisk, the temperature, 30 degrees.  Not a day for Painting Outside!  I don’t even have the heart to spend an hour sketching from the relative warmth of my car.  

I think I have to say that Painting Outside! is officially over for the season.  Let Down-time begin....

Many years ago, I worked in a Print Shop.  We were more than busy – pressured, stressed – for most of the year – except for immediately after Christmas until mid-February, which was known in that shop as ‘down-time’.  That’s when we spent most of our time cleaning, tidying, filing, checking inventory, making repairs, stream-lining systems....  I used to think of Fishermen, spending the good weather out at sea catching fish, hunkering down close to home in the off-season, repairing nets, equipment, boats –  dreaming of and preparing for Fishing Season and Spring through long winter nights and short days....  

I knew in my heart that down-time was coming 2 weeks ago when we walked to the top of the hill at the farm because it was too cold and windy to sit and paint.  My down-time plan is similar to how I imagine the fishermen.  I’m mending my metaphoric nets with some reading & painting experiments I’d like to do and some writing.  I have ideas to work on for next season.  I have technique to hone and sharpen/soften.  

At the moment we’re in the Holiday Season which to me is the down-est time of the year.  I’m working on honing technique by doing very small paintings from photos and sketches from the farm.  I want to learn my subject and experiment with ideas.  These paintings are very small, 3.5x5.5, which means I can do that many more experiments, create that many more to give as Christmas Gifts, gather that much more experience between hand and eye as I keep my interest alive in my overall project, which is to make sense of my commitment to do much of my work at the farm next to where I lived as a child – until mid-August ‘11.  

I’m ‘setting up camp’ in my kitchen for the winter.  I’ve put plastic film over the windows and outside door.  I’ve installed weather-stripping around the door and it’s now quite draft-free in here.  I’m keeping the kitchen warm with an oil-filled electric radiator.  My kitchen table is now my center and all my supplies are here on the table or nearby.  I’m cleaning and tidying, preparing me and my house for winter.  I’m beginning to enjoy down-time and thinking about Christmas projects and projects for ‘after the Holidays’.  I have much to occupy my mind and heart.  

Saturday, November 13, 2010

November 13, ‘10

Another Saturday with great weather.  The high today is 63, with little wind and clear blue skies.  More like Spring today than Fall.  We’ve been painting at the farm since early Aug and haven’t yet had a Saturday with bad weather.  What a gift these Saturdays have been.

We got to work this morning around 10 and sat close to the apple storage in a spot where we were sure to have sun for the few hours we were there.  It was heavenly just to be there.  As ususal, I feel tension easing away the minute I turn on the road to the farm and feel fully present in the Now by the time I arrive to where we plan to work that day.

I’m happy with this small sketch, approx 5 x 9.  I drew in my main elements using a brush and a thin mix of Indigo as my base or ‘mother’ color.  I’m liking the Indigo for this time of year because it best expresses cool earth and shadows for me.  I’m learning to use much more water and to my advantage.  I’m learning to plan my passages and work from my plan.  I’m keying my painting to the middle ground, like I learned in Tony Connor’s class in Vermont at the end of Sept.  I’m enjoying the process of the work and the child-like sense of freedom in the creation of a scene on paper.  I love to draw with a pencil or charcoal but am enjoying the freedom and simplicity of sketching in my basic elements with brush and thin paint.

I feel that my painting is changing, evolving –  and am a satisfied participant in the process.  I’m enjoying the memories of this morning that are incorporated into this small painting.  I’m enjoying that Painting Outside! is not yet over for this year.  Hopefully, we’ll have another great weather Saturday next week, too.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

November 6, ‘10

The way the morning was supposed to go: get up early, pack stuff, go to bank, go to credit union arrive at the farm between 9:30 and 10.

Here’s how the morning went: woke late because the alarm on my phone didn’t go off at 7.  The phone was still turned onto emergency mode after my call to 911 last night re: noise upstairs.  I opted to do the bank and credit union stuff on Monday.  Before I left the house I got a phone call from a good friend.  I told her that I finally got up the gumption to call the police regarding the people upstairs and the noise & how happy I was about taking that step, which was difficult and a step I wish I’d taken some months back. 

While I talked to my friend on the phone, I ran from room to room in search of my car keys.  They were nowhere and it was also 9:40 which meant I was 5 minutes short of running late.  We ended our conversation, I looked a little deeper for the keys and finally decided to get going, use the spare set attached to the strap of my bag.

From waking up so late and trying to get my head together and save what I could of the morning’s plan, I felt as if I were in a frantic attempt to run with my feet stuck in glue.

Stepping outside, smelling the air, feeling the warmth and seeing some very pretty clouds drifting across a deep blue sky lowered my heart rate, slowed down my thinking.  I enjoyed the scenery on the ride to Watertown and felt closer to a state of Tranquility by the time I reached the farm at 10:15.

D was already at work, and I unwound about my lateness as I set up my stuff.  Just before I sat down to work, I reached into my pocket for my gloves and heard something jingle.  When I put on the left glove, I heard it again and when I pushed up my sleeve , there were my lost keys. Attached to my arm the entire time I was frantically looking.    I’m chalking-up this brain-fart key-losing experience to stress, sleep-deprivation and tension from living with whatever is going on with the people upstairs as expressed through the excessive noise that affects me 24/7 for the past 10 months.

In the hour and a half  I worked on this painting, this is all I got done.  I like this painting, consider it a good exercise.  The angle from where we were sitting made doing the storage barn difficult.  There was also an overwhelming amount of subject matter all around us, new in a way, because we’re now into November and many changes since we started in Aug – hard to know where to start.   It was colder today than ever since we started in Aug. We were both comfortable in our outer clothing, blankets, hats and gloves.  Don’t know how many more Saturday mornings we can eke out but since we started this project in mid-August, there hasn’t been a Saturday when the weather’s been bad.  If this trend holds, maybe a few more sessions between now and Christmas.

As I settled into my chair and my work this morning and my mind settled to observing what was in my immediate vicinity & throughout the process of selecting or discarding one element or another, I could feel my tension melting and after a few minutes, the moment of taking a deep breath, giving it up to the gladness of being here now.  The hour and a half flew by as if 30 seconds.  D left a little before Noon.  I worked until I heard the noon whistle blow in town, 3 miles away.  I slowly packed up my stuff, took a few more photos and then went to mom’s for lunch.  She was just pulling into the driveway, back from her Saturday morning job at the library.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I'm Back!

I've decided to post here and on my website....

Last night was supposed to be the night of Killer Frost but it  was somehow delayed. Today dawned fair and mild and my garden plants were unscathed.  And from the news of frost and my own personal sense that it was in the air,  I expected today to be a day where painting outside would be cold but do-able, but never expected that it would be as fair and pretty a day as anyone could want.  I arrived at the farm  around 10:30 and this is all I got done by noon, when I quit and went to have lunch with my mother.  I painted alone this morning as D had business elsewhere.

I knew I could have gone painting at 9 but decided to deal with some household issues before I left and gave up the time I would have liked to have spent on the pleasure of doing a few drawings before I tried to paint a picture.

This painting is a 7.5x11 med grade wc paper.  I’d thought to enjoy the pleasure of drawing on my foundation with brush and paint but discovered to my horror that I’d forgotten to bring my Pringles canister filled with necessary tools which meant no painting unless I could find a stray brush somewhere in my backpack or car.  The possibility of a stray brush in either of those locations is highly probable so I looked on my forgetting my tools as some kind of ‘happy’ accident, some kind of message from the Universe and me willing to be flexible with my plan.

Minutes later, without having to remove my blanket and go to the car,  I found a decent brush in my closeby backpack, so was able to paint today.  It was a #10 round, and relatively unused, so a brush with a fine point & good luck for me.  As I realized I’d forgotten to pack the Pringles can, I also realized that I’d forgotten to bring the bowl of Kale Slaw I’d intended sharing with my mother.  Some days are like this....

I parked on the right side of the road just past F’s house where there is sun without shade as well as a great view.  My car shielded me from the wind and I had a spot in all sun and never a moment of shade from a passing cloud and felt blessed.  The moment I sat in my lawn chair and looked about I felt my worries melting, the way I sometimes do when I’m in church.  I felt grateful to be where I was – not only in that spot of sun but in my life – and thank you for bringing me all this way.  The hour and a half of joyful drawing & painting went by as if in a heartbeat.

I know I’ll probably work on this painting more, but not for awhile.  I’m going to keep it around where I come upon it often as if by chance & will be aware of any thoughts and feelings I may have about it when I do.


I’ve been reading Edgar Whitney’s Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting and enjoying it very much.  I’ve read it before, but never had the understanding to ‘get’ some of his advice and technique.  I’m finding his philosophy and his technique a harmonious blend of emotion and logic to which, quite often, I relate.  I’m going to be reading it more and will report any more findings.  My father studied from this book and referred to it frequently.  I inherited the book from him, read it and sold it on eBay.  Later, I wished I hadn’t but also felt it had served me well in that I think of Edgar Whitney quite often when I draw, as he’s very encouraging that way.  One of the reasons I was interested in learning from Tony Couch was that he’d studied for quite a few years with Edgar Whitney.  One of the things I found interesting about Tony Connor’s work is that he studied with Tony Couch, which was when I decided to see if I could locate an inexpensive copy and read it again and the beginning of an Edgar Whitney experience or ‘thread’ in my mind & thoughts.

I’m in the process of going through my art books and weaning out the ones I want to keep and the ones I’m going to offer for sale on eBay.  The pile is about 2 feet high.  I’m trying to winnow my art instruction books down to very few.  I’m planning to spend most of tomorrow listing my Quilting Books and many Craft books, too.  I’m looking forward to lightening my load and maybe getting a little cash for it, too.    


Saturday, October 16, 2010


Painting Outside is moving to www.

Oct 14, ‘10 -- Last Community Center Class

This last class at the Litchfield Community Center ended where it began, at our home base.  Our first class was held on the lawn outside but yesterday was windy & chilly with occasional spats of rain,  so we worked warm and dry in the shelter of the Activity Room.   This little tool shed tucked into a corner of the LCC property was our best available landscape from the windows of the Activity room.  Because there’s so much color in the foliage, it was a colorful gray day.

Because this little tool shed has been the subject of past paintings done from the Activity Room, I didn’t bother to do a preliminary sketch as I feel I ‘know the route’.  And because I’ve seen & been excited by a few watercolor paintings in recent weeks that included pen and ink, I decided to start my painting off with an Ultrafine Sharpie.

I actually didn’t work too much on my painting because I spent a lot of time with the 4 ladies in my class talking about their work.  Everyone in this class had a lot of talent and interest in painting & our discussions were of great interest and a lot of fun.  And as with every past class, I felt sad that this was our last day, glad that we had the time together.  I know I'll treasure the memories. 

This morning I decided to finish the painting from where I began yesterday.  I’d spent the most time in the middle ground so had that to ‘key’ from.  What I did today was to go over everything and intensify tone, heighten color.  I didn’t touch the front of the building or the ramp.  I’m satisfied that when I look at this painting in the future, I’ll re-experience the nature of the day and remember fondly the last few hours working in the Activity Room with these wonderful women.  As with all my past classes, I hope to see everyone in the future.


This will be my last entry in Painting Outside as I’ve decided to continue this blog on my website.  I just don’t have the time to manage 2 blogs, so am going to move Painting Outside to    Many thanks to my loyal followers for your continued support; I hope you’ll continue to follow me on my website.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bantam River, White's Woods

Today is chilly and cloudy & not a particularly inviting day to be outside but since I unexpectedly had the morning off, I decided to do a few things around the house and then have lunch and an hour or so of painting on the banks of the Bantam River at one of my favorite locations.  I think that I would have done better if I’d gone out to paint this morning and saved the household tasks until noon but that’s a case of hindsight being better than foresight.

I’d planned a more leisurely approach to my lunch and painting but around the time I set out, the weather was changing and not for the better.  I’d planned an ‘order out’ sandwich from a local restaurant but decided, as I drove to Litchfield, to grab a fast $2 sandwich from C*mb*rl*nd F*rms instead of waiting around for 15-20 mins for a sandwich at a local deli.

It felt great to be at my spot but not comfortable.  To keep warm while sitting in my lawn chair I wore a hat, wool scarf, windbreaker over my jacket & warm pants and a blanket wrapped around me, too.  I did a quick thumbnail as I ate as well as talked to a guy who was driving by & stopped to see what I was doing.  I wasn’t comfortable with the guy, either, so kept working & hoped if I didn’t give him much attention that he’d go away.  Which he finally did.  He was kind of creepy in that he had a penetrating stare and asked a lot of questions to keep me engaged.  Of all the days to have forgotten my cell phone.

Because today isn’t the kind of day to be sitting outside for very long, this is a very small painting done on a 5 ½ x 7 ½ pc of Strathmore student grade  watercolor paper.  I started drawing my design on the paper with a Sharpie fine-point but gave that up after a few lines and painted in the rest.  The trees with color and the area in front of the trees I called my middle ground and did those first, starting with a light density layer of UB into which I worked the tree colors in slightly thicker mix of color.  After that, I did the background in medium density & very wet UB and then worked thicker color and tree shape into that.  I used a much lighter wash of the background color to do the reflection of the trees in the foreground and a lighter version of the tree color into the wet reflection.  Then I did the sky in a washy bluish-gray made of UB and BS.  I used a tint of Prussian Blue in the little area of blue in the sky and added in a stronger bit of UB near the top of that patch of blue, just to strengthen the blue a bit.  After that, I flipped the paper and did the blue sky reflected in the water nearest me.  The blue in the reflection was pure blue, medium density and graded out to wet and white near the bank of the river where I dropped-in a mere tint of CY.

For me today, the cat tails were an achievement.  I like the way I got the underneath layer to take on the shape of the bank and then, after it was relatively dry, with heavier, more colorful paint, did the foreground leaves & cat tails, then using a grayed-down & thinner mix of the foreground leaves I put in the receding (& smaller) leaves.  I did the cat tails pretty much the same way. I used a grayed-down and thin mix of the middle ground of the leaf/cat tail section to do the reflections of the leaves in the water.  I’ve done this scene countless times but it’s the first time I’ve gotten the cat tails in to my satisfaction.

I think it didn’t hurt to hurry and that by doing so, I automatically discarded everything that wasn’t important.  In thinking fast and working fast, I got a painting that looks fresh,  spontaneous and that I really like.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday October 8, ‘10 -- Lourdes Shrine, Litchfield

Lourdes Shrine, Congregational Church Steeple
Our view

What a great Fall morning to be painting outside!  The class met this morning at Lourdes Shrine – a place of great serenity –  in Litchfield, CT.

A place close by for many years where I’ve never been.  Just driving up the driveway to the parking lot I spotted many great painting possibilities and felt greatly enthusiastic.  The sunshine enhanced my mood as we’ve had 6 days of cold, gray and rain and a heavy heart at the thought of daylight savings time being over and winter coming so soon.  When the class assembled, we strolled around a bit, trying to find a place of inspiration where we could sit in the sun, as it was cool and windy this morning.  We strolled in one direction, then another and finally settled on a place to sit and paint pretty much where we started from.  At the edge of the parking lot where we could see the spire of the Congregational Church poking out over the trees a little to the west of where we were.  Go figure....

I didn’t get too far on my painting because I was busy helping one of the ladies who was somewhat stuck.  I think she had a breakthrough, so we’re both happy.  I really like what I’ve done so far and will probably leave this painting alone and try for a more ‘complete’ painting in the future.

While we were working, a man wearing a clerical collar and workman’s clothing approached, introduced himself and welcomed us.  One of the priests representing the order that runs the shrine.  He also obliged and snapped a few photos of us with my camera and another woman’s camera.  I’ll bet he’s used to that.

It was a pleasant place to work for the views, the serenity, the welcoming priest and atmosphere in general.  The parking lot was almost full by 10am with cars and a few buses filled with schoolchildren.  Soon we heard the sound of Mass being held in the Grotto.  Mass outside, Painting outside – a lovely way to work and I’m not even Catholic.

I always leave a class feeling good but the feeling good today was over the top.  I like it when that happens.

Painting Outside! at Lourdes Shrine

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Oct 2, '10 at the farm

Oct 2, '10 -- sketch with paint and brush

It’s apparent today that Fall is in the air.  After 3 or 4 days of warm weather with high humidity and a lot of rain,  today is sunny and cool with a predicted high of 61-63 degrees.  There’s a lot of color in the changing leaves and the freshly harvested pumpkins displayed alongside the Storage and Sales building at the farm.  The grass was a vivid green having been well-watered & invigorated by the 3 days of rain.

Also, wind was a factor today.  The place we chose to sit was somewhat out of the wind as we were protected by the bulk of the apple storage facility close-by but wind was still a pesky factor to be dealt with.  I can’t recall how many times the wind blew down the stalks of corn leaning against the building and at one point, I had to retrieve my painting when it was blown out of my lap and landed a few yards away.  I wore shoes with socks, (no sandals today) and a warm vest over long-sleeve shirt and jeans and a windbreaker over all.  I also wrapped my small blanket across my lap and legs as I sat and painted.

Still, a great day to be out and engaged in capturing a moment in paint.

I got to the farm about 20 minutes before the others and had a little time to warm-up with a few thumbnail sketches that I did with a ball point pen because I couldn’t readily come up with a pencil.  By the time I sat down to paint, I felt confident that I could simplify my painting process by doing my initial drawing/value pattern on watercolor paper with brush and thin mix of Burnt Sienna.  Which I did and enjoyed the process.  I saw my middle ground (trees against the horizon, boxes for apples) as being cool and dark, which is why, in the original sketch I darkened those areas with Burnt Sienna.  When I was ready to paint in that area, I used some of the Burnt Sienna mixed with UB and CY and filled in that area with increasingly thicker mixes until the wetness of the area was covered and well saturated, which is my interpretation of something I learned in the class I took in North Bennington VT last weekend.  

Today’s painting is done on Arches 140# hot press, which is quite smooth.

As far as I've gotten by Noon....
I did the sky next and started out with a very wet tint of Cadmium Yellow, starting at the horizon and grading out the CY to the top of the paper.  I left most of the CY at the bottom.  Before that layer was dry, I started working a wash of UB from the top of the paper to the horizon, then worked in a thicker mix of UB into the top and let it blend into the layer I’d put down initially.  The area near the horizon was still quite wet, so I mixed a very thin mix of UB and Alizarin Crimson into the wet & yellow area near the horizon and lucked-out in that my thin mix was somewhat thicker than the water/paint in that area and blended in smoothly.  The UB and AC made a violet which, when blended into the yellow gave me a bluish-gray and settled the sky into the right plane.

I thinned (lightened) the mix I’d used in the middle ground to use in the fore-middle ground and ran it down into the foreground, adding lighter colored and more thickly mixed pigment to the foreground while the area was still wet.

I gave the storage barn a washy tint of orange mixed from CY and CR.  After it dried, the barn glowed a little more from the orange and in contrast with the blue of the sky.  When that wash was fairly dry, I used a darker (thicker) mix of the violet I’d mixed for the sky over the tree line in the shadow cast by the corn.  I used Burnt Sienna (BS) and the orange + some CY from the tint I’d mixed to indicate the shadow and light area of the pumpkins.   And BS and UB to heighten the color and shadow of the corn.  And that’s as far as I got before it was time to pack up and go.

It was a social morning not only between me and my 2 fellow painters but from people who’d come to buy Produce and stopped by to see what we were doing.   At one point, an apple customer called out my name and I was very surprised and pleased to be reunited with a woman who I’d known since a child – from school and the schoolbus and in later years as a fellow employee at a newspaper where we worked for a number of years.

This is week #8 for painting at the farm and we've had nothing but good weather every Saturday morning -- so far!   I've committed to another 6 weeks, which will be interesting.



Sunday, September 19, 2010

Painting Outside! Gustafson’s Farm, Sept 18, ‘10

Storage Barn, 091810

Storage Barn, de-saturated

The weather report promised a beautiful day, so I took it on faith and arrived at the farm around 8:30 where, except for a tiny sliver of blue sky in the distance, things didn’t appear quite as promising as the weather report.   It was gray and chilly and I wasn’t adequately dressed....

The exciting part about the somewhat gray and dismal weather that greeted me there was watching it change (for the better) moment by moment.  So much sky can be seen from the spot where I was parked.  Watching the dark and banked clouds slowly disperse and blue sky gradually emerging was almost as much a wonder as gazing out on the constant changes in Ocean.

For some reason, the peach trees against the storage barn have long reminded me of a painting by van Gogh that he did in Arles of an orchard of blossoming fruit trees.  I can’t remember if it was peaches, think perhaps the trees he painted may have been Flowering Almond, but whatever, the shapes of the trunks and the dressing of leaves have always reminded me of that painting and it’s another thing I’ve ‘always wanted to do.’  And when faced with actual doing, didn’t exactly understand how to go about it as I’d never imagined doing a painting of these trees in such weather conditions.  After my thumbnail sketch and a few minutes staring at the paper, decided to keep it simple and paint in a way I love to paint.  Which was to sketch in the simple shapes using thinned down paint (neutral gray because of the mood of the day) and then the sky with the gray on very wet paper.

I had a good time with the sky; tried to keep it simple and fast, as per Tony Couch, from memories of a class I took with him a few years ago.  I used up all the gray I’d mixed.  As the paper dried, I applied thicker layers of gray and before the gray was used-up, I mixed in a little yellow and/or red as I worked toward the top.

I wasn’t thrilled with the decisions I’d made as to composition as I feel that the focal point is too low.  I’d have liked less sky, more foreground....  I was able to change a bit of the composition by rubbing out (with a clean, wet brush) my original roof and making it a little higher.  I was able to make the foreground tree a little higher by heightening with darker paint the branch and leaves that stood out over the top of the building.

The little bit of blue sky I added at the horizon wasn’t actually there, as we were looking to the west and the little patch of blue was in the east.  But it works and is a good memory of the experience of that incredible sky and the clouds lifting and those few hours of painting.

Last week at the farm and this, I’ve had the sense that my paintings and style are regressing – that they seem to me to be more of my child self and technique than who I am now.  I think that’s a good thing and I’m not using the word ‘regress’ in a derogatory manner.  I’ll be interested to see what transpires in further paintings from this sense.

Next week, I’ll be in Bennington, Vermont where I’m taking a weekend outdoor painting class, so won’t be back at the farm until Oct 2.  I’m looking forward to this weekend class and the trip to Vermont.  Hoping to bring back a lot of good tips and experiences.

Painting Outside! Topsmead, Sept 17, ‘10

Version 1 -- Topsmead 091710

 I was up at 6:30 the morning of the 17th, watching the weather and debating with myself whether or not to head for Topsmead or call/email everyone to head to the Community Center for my class later in the morning.  The internet weather report said that the day was to be gradually clearing but with scattered showers in the morning.  At 8am, rain started to fall.   At 8:10, it was over and 15 minutes later the sky seemed to be clearing a bit.  Scattered showers over?  I hoped so and decided that Topsmead it was.  If it got bad, we could always shelter on the porch.

We all met in the parking lot and headed up toward the house.  As we entered the gate & beheld all the architectural and landscape wonders, we soon decided that we didn’t need to go much further for inspiration, so settled down in the lawn next to the front driveway across from this corner of the house.  

I hope my students had as good a morning of painting as I did.  One thing I love about being in a class is the conversational interchange between all the participants.  And how different our paintings are from one to the next.  To me, reading a painting is like reading what a person thought and wrote down – in their own distinctive and unique handwriting.  The paintings done by each person this morning, to me, were exciting, full of promise and memories – even one lady who expressed that she didn’t think she did so well.   I think that all these ladies have much promise and much to offer.

We started out a little cold, but as the morning went on, we were gradually warmed.

Had I been painting for 3 hours on my own, I likely would have somewhat finished this painting because I loved the fading, yellowing Wisteria, the sun on the smooth yellow surface of the house, the dark square of window with the cascading impatiens in the window box and the little bit of walled garden, distant pots of impatiens and the (by now) bright sky overhead.  I also enjoyed critiquing each student’s work and watching each painting grow,  so didn’t focus much on my own.  Version #1 is how it looked when I got home that day.

Version 2, Topsmead 091710
Version #2, is how it appears after a little bit of work while watching a movie last night.  I left-off where I did because the painting was full of memories and I felt it didn’t really need to go any further or to say much more.  And I wanted to go to sleep after a busy Saturday....  And to my students, what I did was to add a few layers of meaning (deeper tone, heightened color) using a smaller brush and paint mixed to a consistency so that it was easy to work, but slightly thicker than the thin and washy layers I applied as the base, working over -- applying paint -- on or over marks already established on the surface.  I didn't touch the sky at all, it's the way it was from the start.

One of the things I love about this painting is a sense of continuity.  This painting is the flip-side of a scene from the opposite side of the building I did with an earlier class 3 months ago, when the Wisteria was starting to sprout leaves and the beginnings of flowers.

Another thing I love, is that when I look at this painting now and later, is that it will bring back memories of a peaceful time in a place of tranquility with all the ladies in this class.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Painting Outside! Gustafson’s Farm, Saturday Sept 11, ‘10

I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to do this hill and Saturday morning was it.  This view caught my eye as I looked for a place to park close to where we’d previously decided to paint.  I’ve known and loved that wooded area on the hill since I was little.  I think of it as a copse – a small group of trees. When I was a kid, my sister or friends sometimes rode our horses through the field behind that copse where there was a pathway to use as a shortcut to get to Northfield Rd.  There was risk involved in that if King Irving had his cows in the field we needed to cross, we weren’t allowed to go through.  And then we had to go all the way back and all the way around, on the route we’d hoped to short-cut.

It was a dazzling morning on the edge of an apple orchard,  sunny but not too hot, with much to enjoy.  The golden or red apples on the trees were sparkling and colorful, the leaves on the trees turning olive and rustling in the breeze.  Before the others arrived I saw 3 bluebirds and many swallows.  While we painted, 4 or 5 hawks drifted overhead.  And the ubiquitous crows throughout.  I enjoyed the camaraderie of painting with J and D, watching hawks, telling stories, being read-to by J from a book of quotes by William Hunt, a famous teacher of the Barbizon School (outside Paris, ca 1830-1870)  where the artists all painted outside way before the Impressionists.  

I’m happy with my painting from 9/11/10, have decided to leave it alone.  I hope J and D are happy with theirs.  To me, it was a good experience and a good memory.


September 10,'10


View from the Community Center

 Painting Outside! – Litchfield Community Center,

The first Painting Outside! Class for Autumn and what a reminder of the coming Autumn it was.  We were happily settled and working in a chilly, pale-sun day when the sky grew dark and there was a little rain.  No one moved, we all kept working.  Five minutes later, patches of blue began appearing in the sky, especially behind the barn.  Do we know the weather around here or what!

The value pattern on this painting was established with a neutral mix of Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red and Cadmium Yellow.  The middle ground went down first, then the sky and the foreground last.  It was hard doing the sky because it was changing rapidly in front of us.  I got around to doing mine just as the blue patches began to appear.  We used more gray and darks in the middle ground, even with color, a little gray in the sky and a lot less gray in the foreground.

Small painting of the scene in photo
De-saturated version

I had a great time and enjoyed meeting and working with my new students.

Next week, Topsmead!


I copied from this sketch in washy burnt sienna on a 9"x7" pc of medium grade watercolor paper, taped to a board.  When I was satisfied that I’d sufficiently built up enough layers of my value pattern in BS, I started adding color using only the pigments Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red and Cadmium Yellow.  
Using washes of Burnt Sienna to build up value pattern
De-saturated copy, showing variety of grays....
With more color added, heightening or lowering values
De-saturated version

I added a few features from that morning that I’d photographed; the track in the field and the Birdwatcher.

Final Version

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Saturday September 4, ‘10

What a terrific day to be painting outside.  Summery; sunny and quite warm but with a tint of Fall in the cool morning air, longer and cooler shadows, goldenrod starting to blossom and show yellow everywhere and red apples burgeoning every tree I could see in the orchard to my right.


The trees were loaded with apples; so many, the trees glistened with them and appeared over-decorated.   Each tree seemed to be leaning in the same direction, somewhat bent with the load; we could imagine all those apples loosening and falling all at once, a deep river of apples streaming into the road at the bottom of the hill.

I enjoyed painting the distant view of the apple storage as a demonstration to J as to how I go about getting what I want from what appeals to me the most as a possible painting from my response to the scenery.  There was so much to see from our vantage point –  on the side of a hill that offers a 180degree view.  What appealed to me the most was the road going up the adjacent hill & the things at the top of the hill in the distance and all that view means to me personally.


A lot of memory has been written into that little painting.  Not only of the past, but of the painting session yesterday.

I like this painting.  So much that I’ve been carrying it around with me where it will catch my eye and I come up with a fresh thought about it.  I left the painting propped up against the wall last night, wanting to be mindful of my 1st thought when I woke this morning and spied it there.  The result was: I like it, but not quite sure why, so will carry it around for awhile and enjoy the thinking about it.

One of the things I’m liking is the way I did the beginning steps.  I drew in my main elements with very loose Burnt Sienna and small brush, then established the middle ground (back, middle, fore) with a few deeper layers of burnt sienna.  I tinted the area where sky met treeline with burnt sienna, graded it out to the top of the paper.  I left the greater part of the burnt sienna nearest the treeline.  This left the paper quite wet and I quickly mixed up a sky color using UB and a tiny amount of CY, mixing into what was left of the burnt sienna tint puddle on my pallet.  I started the blue wash at the top, graded it down into the burnt sienna part, mixed more UB and CY into the puddle.  This thickened the paint to the point where it, too would blend nicely into the wash I’d just begun.  I worked that layer downward and stopped where the 1st wash of blue was getting thin, mixed a little more UB/CY into the puddle and worked it into the top of the blue area.  The paper was just wet enough so that all the paint was worked in somewhat smoothly.

I’d forgotten I’d intended making 2 clouds.  Fortunately,  when J spotted my ommission, the sky area was still wet and I was able to scrub out the two little clouds in the areas of the painting that represent sky.  I used clean water in a semi-dry paint brush, kept rewetting it & going over the spot on the paper, almost scrubbing, until I was able to make those two areas appear as clouds.  The paper I’m using is very cheap and can’t take a lot of scrubbing before it starts to shred and break.   There were shreds after I scrubbed down the clouds so later, making sure the paper was quite dry, I erased the clinging shreds of broken paper, very lightly, with a regular pencil eraser.

I did the hill using a UB/CY =  Blue/Green, starting at the bottom and grading it out to a little before the top of the hill, then finished at the top of the hill with clear water.  I mixed another UB/CY= Yellow/Green, started mid-hill and worked that wash up into the light, adding a little more yellow each stroke until I got into the light part and added yellow only.

The road was done in a mix of UB/BS graded from the bottom of the paper to the top of the hill where I left it light.  I mixed a little yellow into the UB/BS mix, thinned it a little and graded it from mid-hill to the top of the hill.  Areas in the trees and the corn, were done with a mix of deep UB/CR/CY and painted on with a small brush.

I could have gone on and on but fortunately, especially with Painting Outside!, Noon rolls around, the morning shadows are gone, it’s hot, we’re tired and thinking more of lunch than any more painting for today.  The painting, by default, is done.



Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday Aug 28, ‘10

What a beautiful morning, this.

I arrived on the scene a little after 8:30.  After I parked & unloaded my stuff, I walked around a little, took some photos and listened to myself as to what angle of this fence appealed to me.   I found a place to sit down sketch – and think, look and listen and wait for J and D.  As I sat a few cars went by and a third vehicle, a truck, stopped.  The driver turned out to be the owner of the farm, driving by.  We shared that we enjoyed our work; that it kept us young.  He was off to cut hay.  I enjoyed our conversation (except I couldn’t help notice that he’s going a little deaf....) and I’m glad he stopped by to talk for a few minutes.

I’m happy with the painting I did this morning and have decided that now, upon reflection, that although I see more that could be done, I’m not going to do it as it has something I’ve been looking for but haven’t quite got.  So if I leave it as it is, I’ll remember more clearly what it is I’m going for.

A more comprehensive painting in half the time?  Something like that....

One thing I enjoyed about this painting is the way I began it.  I drew it in with thin paint and a small brush, pretty much copying the composition from the thumbnail.  As with the 3 paintings of the barn I did last week, I felt myself enjoying the action and results of drawing with a brush.

I did a complete underpainting with the Burnt Sienna, adding more layers of paint to the far background trees, to remind me where I wanted to paint dark, added a light application of burnt sienna to the foreground and graded it out to the edge of the paper; I added a bit of yellow to the foreground at the edge of the paper to distinguish foreground front from foreground back.  I gave the sky area directly over the tree line a light glazing, of burnt sienna, too.  The paper was very wet by then, so I let it dry a bit before I wet down the sky and then painted it with Ultramarine Blue and burnt sienna from the thin puddle of paint I had left over from the first application.  The application of paint was very thin, at first but as I worked upward, added more and more blue to the point where it felt to me a good representation of the color and tone of the sky as I saw it early that morning.  The next thing to do was the area that represents background trees, which I did with a mix of UB, CY and Burnt Sienna I’d mixed for the 1st layer.  Occasionally I added in a little CR to make different grays.  I mixed the paint thicker and thicker and worked it in until I felt I’d reached a point where the paper couldn’t take any more.  I let it dry as we sat and talked.

The last bit was done with a mix of UB and BS that was thick and dark and applied with a small brush in ‘dry’ brush style.  Which meant I used very little water other than what was in the brush when swiped with a paper towel or in the thick paint I’d just mixed.  With the first application, the paper was just wet enough so that the mixture dispersed.  I used it in the background trees and the fence.  In the background trees, I worked in a thickish mix of Blue/green over the dark I’d just dropped in.  The dark calligraphy mark at the top of the tallest tree in the far background was a mistake but I like the way it looks.

The best part of the painting session this morning is the sense of peace from being there, a sense of shared community from being there with the 2 women who are working with me, making a memory and coming home with a product that has made me so happy, hopeful and grateful.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

This posting is about the thumbnail sketch I did of the barn at the farm this past Saturday morning.

I was pleased with my sketch and felt that although simple, it contained much information for me to use further along the way.  I’m satisfied with the painting I did that morning but also felt a small grain of something missing, something I needed to check out so I decided to do an experiment with underpainting using my sketch for the subject matter and all the information I’d somehow saved in each penstroke.

What made me unhappy about the painting from this past Saturday is the sky.  I think it needs to be cooler, grayer but that’s the best I can do being limited to Ultramarine Blue.  The shadow makes me unhappy, too, as to me, it needs to be cooler, too.


I taped 3 small sheets of low-quality watercolor paper to a board and ran these tests.  Because of the simplicity of the sketch, I decided that I’d draw in the shapes with my brush using a thinned-down version of the pigment I intended to use for the base.

That was fun.  Kept it simple.


The first painting is done with a base of Burnt Sienna, the 2nd a base of Ultramarine Blue, the 3rd a base in Pthalo Blue.  On the Pthalo Blue (aka PB), I mixed my colors from Alizarin Crimson  (AC) and Aureolin Yellow (AY) and PB. 


Of the 3, I’m happiest with the painting done with a base of Burnt Sienna as it most represents my feelings inside & out when I consciously chose to make art of the corner of the barn, hills and sky and the feelings with my eyes as I stood there trying to remain open to taking it all in....  

There's things I'd change, do differently -- Next time.

I’m thinking to add Burnt Sienna to my limited pallette. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Painting Outside! at the Farm, Day Two

Saturday morning, Aug 21, J and I painted at Gustafson’s Farm.  It was a morning that started cool and ended warm at noon.  When I started this painting I was going for the cool but as the day progressed, I saw more warm colors so made it a warmer painting, especially on the barn.

#1 version is the way it looked when I brought it home. #2 version is after I worked on the sky and darkened the trees way up the hill, darkened the hill and the fields coming down to the barn.

#3 (top)  is after I strengthened, darkened, lightened, added a few details and cleaned up some of the light areas in the barn with Chinese White.

Which now makes this painting a ‘mixed media’ – or is that only if I used Acrylic or Latex white? Or White-out!  

I certainly enjoyed the going, being, doing there, but for some reason, I’m happy enough, Accepting of this painting but it also leaves me with a lot of questions as to why I’ m thinking and feeling that it’s not quite what I saw or wanted and what is it I need to do to ease the restlessness in my mind. ???

When we were done painting, J offered me the keys to her Prius and a test drive.  Wow, that was nice of her as I’ve had a lot of curiosity about driving/owning a Hybrid car.  It was sweet, I liked driving Clean and Quiet.  It had just as much pep as my ‘99 Corolla and the cargo capabilities were beyond my Corolla, so I think I could be happy with one.

After I win the Lottery....

I drove J in her car to the northern part of the farm, gave her a brief tour as we drove along.  I pointed out to her the bar- way where we plan to meet next week, turned around in the next driveway up and drove back to my car.  It was a pleasant interlude; I enjoyed our conversation, the tour and the test drive.

In my car, I went back over our tour except at the place we turned left, I took a right to the east and a winding country road going around a sharp curve and up a hill.  I wanted to see what was going on up there.

Basically, I wanted to see what had happened to King Irving’s farm.  The farmer’s name was really Irving King but I always thought of him as KING Irving, because that’s the way it was written on both sides of his mailbox that I saw it twice a day from the Schoolbus for 15 years.

I was sad to see how King Irving’s farm had been tamed down from somewhat rocky and stone wall lined fields to gentrified and manicured lawns around a few large McMansions.  His former hay fields and pastures were filled in with green carpet and all the wild things of Nature replaced with Rhododendrons and other Nursery plantings.  The wonderful view to the north west had been replaced with a wall of overgrowth, obscuring  another small farm (that's probably also not there anymore) on the hills toward Litchfield.  Nowhere was even a trace of windswept hill with corn stubble and cows lined up at the gate, waiting to be let into   the rickety barn across the road.  The road itself, recently tarred & graveled, a tidy double yellow line painted down the center, not covered with cowplops, hunks of dirt, puddles of mud, wandering ducks and geese, lined with rusting farm equipment – just trees, lawns and McMansions.  At the farthest border of what I remembered as King Irving’s farm, I turned around.  The old dirt lane that went way back into King Irving’s farthest fields is now the long and smooth driveway of a rich person and a Cul de Sac with a sign that says ‘Deer Run.’  I drove back and to mom’s for lunch.  I’d thought to go ‘around the block’ but feeling somewhat shaken at what had become of the farm-that-only-lives-in-the- memory-of-a- very-few, decided to save the rest of that part of the ‘hood’ for another day.  This one tiny foray down memory lane has brought on another surge of old memories from those days.  I think that around the block would have been overwhelming.


This is a Sunday morning with rain and I’m sitting on the edge of my bed, typing on my computer that’s on a table next to the night stand, sorting memories.  Albert is sleeping nearby.  We’re having a lazy Sunday morning in bed watching the rain fall, listening to all the sounds.  It’s a gentle rain and a sweet Sunday morning, memories and all.


Monday, August 16, 2010

The weather this morning was gray,  murky & around 75 degrees.  We had rain early this morning and things were still wet and dripping by the time I left home, a little after 8:30 am.  Heavy mist was in the air by the time I got to Linkfield Rd, so I found a place to work where I could sit in my car.  I chose this spot on the roadside heading north, at the top of the hill, next to an apple orchard.  I haven’t painted in this spot for many years, although at one time it was a favorite, especially in the winter.  Color was barely discernable here today;  the farther away trees and hills were obscured in mist.

I used my own mixture of Black to do the value pattern.  The paper started out sopping wet and as it dried, I worked in increasing heavier amounts of the dark pigment.  To keep the values low, to match the day and the value pattern on the painting, I mixed another gray – warmer, more colorful but still a low tone, using UB (Ultramarine Blue) and BS (Burnt Sienna).  I used this gray with a tiny bit more added UB to do the sky, used the UB/BS gray mixed with color to do the foreground tree, grass and roadway.

I’m not terribly happy with the painting, but am happy that I went there to do it, happy that I learned something new even if I’m not crazy about the result.  It was 2 hours that went by very quickly.  When I was done, I stepped out of the car to take a few video shots.  I’d shot some video scenes when I first got there and 2 hours later, a whole lot was more visible.  I saw the jogger come up from the top of the hill and heard him breathing somewhat heavily as he got closer but it wasn’t until he shouted out “Hey Lady, fancy running into you here!” that I recognized the jogger as my landlord.  He’s training for a half-K Marathon and apparently Linkfield Rd is part of his training territory.  It was fun running into him this way and nice to talk honestly to him about the problem we’re both having with one of his tenants.

So, like a day of fishing, not so exciting a fish – er, painting but glad I went and tried.  I enjoyed my time while I was working on it, enjoyed running into my landlord, enjoyed making a lot more videos of certain areas of the farm and had a really nice lunch time with my mother, so all in all, a good day.