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.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Painting Outside! at the Farm, Day One plus add-on

Painting Outside! at the farm.

Today’s opus in Blue Yellow Red is the Apple Storage building at the farm where I painted outside this morning with 2 students/companions.  It was a great day to be out.  Not too hot, not too cold, an idyllic late summer morning.  We found a nice shady spot to sit, observe, paint, talk...until the sun rose in the sky and it was almost noon and time to go.

The painting, as shown, is pretty much what I accomplished while teaching and talking.  After I got home, I strengthened the foreground shadow and the orange/green (fading peach trees) in the background and then left it alone.  I was thinking to do a 2nd layer on the sky and the background, but restrained myself.  One of my goals with this painting was to use it as a teaching tool and another was to do as much on the work as I could on the scene and very little after I got it home as it’s a teaching tool for me, too.


The paper I’m using is Arches 140# Hot Press, which is kid-finish smooth, as if pressed with a hot iron,  and not my favorite for watercolor painting.  It’s great for detail work and I use it for calligraphy projects.  Cold Press is my favorite for watercolor, especially for painting outside as it dries a little more slowly and I can work in more and more paint into the toothy texture before it does.  I wet this smooth-finish paper a few times but it still dried fast. 

(I must remember to stock-up on Watercolor paper....)

One of my students was using 350# Rough, which is somewhat coarse textured as compared to cold press, which is somewhat smooth and mildly toothy in comparison.  She reported that the paper seemed to be dry, no matter how she wet it, but her painting was quite nice; watery and loaded with color.  The other student observed for today.

Painting in this spot which was part of my childhood brought back many memories.  The spot where we sat under the pine trees is on the line that separates my mother’s land from the farm land.  When I was quite young, there was electric cattle fence on the boundary line closing-in 15-20 yearling heifers in the field where we sat today.  The youngest son from the farm, me and my younger sister had quite a few contests to see who could hold onto the electric wire the longest.  After we’d all received some pretty good jolts, we quit that game and reserved it for visiting friends or cousins, insisting one of us go first, to show how tough and brave we were.  By then, we’d all gotten smart enough to encircle the wire without actually touching it, in a circle between index finger and thumb, and give the appearance we were grasping it tight.

When I was very young, the farm was primarily a Dairy Farm with 100-150 milking cows and the calves and heifers.  The Apple Storage and Salesroom building was built when I was in my mid-teens,  to accommodate the growing Apple Orchard and Fresh Vegetable business the farmers ran along with the dairy business.  Prior to this, for years, the farmers sold apples and other produce from the ample dirt-floor cellar of their house.  Because of the shape of this ‘new’ building and because it’s so glaring white, it became an icon to me, easily seen from any of the north windows of my mother’s house.  

Painting Outside! this morning was another wonderful experience – in and of itself and from the companionship and interest in/dialogue about painting as well as some aspects of our lives in general shared between the 3 of us.   With this great weather and the scenery, who could ask for more?

I wasn’t going to ask any more from this painting after the class on Saturday except for the areas in the foreground but the more I looked at the painting the more disturbed I was about its final appearance.

One thing that bothered me was the sky.  My question was why did it look so pale and much washier than it did on the scene and what could I do about that in the future?

I watched a dvd yesterday about plein air painting and plein air painters demonstrating technique, talking theory, feelings etc etc and the answer to my question was soon found.  I painted the painting in strong sunshine which made the color I applied in that light seem to be electric, jarring –  but which appeared as wimpy, washy, vapid in light where I’d normally be looking at a painting.

A few of the painters I watched used some sort of sunshade over the paper or canvas; a wooden awning as part of a french easel, white umbrellas against the sun....  

Those two things answered my question and gave me an idea as to what I can do about this problem in the future.

I spent the past hour or so ‘finishing’ the painting begun Aug 15.  I’m much happier with the painting and ready to let it go, start another.

The first thing I did to begin the finishing process was to  wet down the sky.  I dropped in a bit of CY and graded it out a little more than half way up the sky area.  I then added a tiny bit of CR and finished the sky with that glaze.  It’s difficult to assess amounts of paint used – both washes were very thin.  Before I called that glaze complete, I dropped-in a bit more CY to the lowest part of the sky where water had beaded-up.  Before I glazed over it with the sky mix, before it dried lighter, it glowed yellow against the tree line.  I let the sky-area dry completely before I wet it down again and worked in the sky color.

I glazed a mix of CY and CR over the barn, was unhappy with that so mixed a grayed-down version (added UB) which made a very dull, brownish-red.  It was a very thin glaze but it did the trick – to my eye, anyhow.

The conduit crossing the barn in such an interesting pattern is pale UB underlined with pale dull brownish red that was still on the palette from the glaze for the barn.

The background trees are all mixed from a variety of mixes using UB, CR and CY, from Blue-Green to Green-Yellow and the consistency of a lacquer.   

By the time all that was done, the sky was completely dry so I wet it down and then quickly prepared my sky color, which was a medium consistency mix of mostly UB grayed-down with a bit of CY.  I started at the top and graded it down to the tree line, going around the cloud areas loosely and then softening the edges before they dried.  The bluest area of the sky was where I mixed in the strongest amount of UB/CY.  A little tweaking here and there using the variety of colored grays left on my pallette and I’m calling it done.

Matins 081010

August 10, '10

I decided last night that I’d get up early this morning, drive to this spot in White’s Woods and attempt to start a painting on ‘good’ paper instead of doing a journalistic sketch.  I chose this spot because it’s a place I love, a place I’ve been often but haven’t sat down to paint here in 3 years.  I was encouraged to paint here after my session from painting at the farm yesterday felt so positive and productive.

I painted almost exclusively at this spot the entire summer of ‘07.  My life was in a state of upheaval.  I’d spent the winter and spring readying a series of paintings for a NYC show and when the show was over, I felt in a state of mental exhaustion.   My life was very full at the time.  With my artist life and with my work life.  This spot is less than 3 minutes from where I was living so I used it as my pied-á-terre*, my hidey spot, my escape hatch....

*“A pied-à-terre (French, "foot on the ground") is a small living unit usually located in a large city some distance away from an individual's primary residence. It may be an apartment or condominium.

The term pied-à-terre implies usage as a temporary second residence, either for part of the year or part of the work week, by a person of some means.”  Wikipedia

When I painted here in the morning, I titled the painting a Matin (morning prayer) and the date as shown above, which I call a ‘star date’ -- my interpretation of a Star Trek label for a point in Time. When I painted in the afternoon or evening, I called the painting Vespers and whatever the date may have been.

We had rain last night but when I left here a little after 8, the sky seemed to be clearing.  On the 7 mile drive, rain drops spotted my windshield.  The entire time I painted at this spot, it was sprinkling very lightly and all the while, the sky still seemed to be clearing.  But, after an hour, the sprinkles were constant and ever heavier and when it started to actually rain, I packed up and went home.

A case in point of the best of plans going astray.  I’d expected more of the same from yesterday but the rain and sprinkles make it so much different.  I’d expected to start and finish this painting before noon as well as have a lot of time to just sit and think.  I did get the start of what I went for, and I did have some time to sit and think, it’s just that I had to work harder and get it faster.  

Now that I’ve been home for 45 minutes, the sky is seriously beginning to clear.  Oh well; I’m home until late afternoon and will attempt to work on this painting from the photo and the memory.

So far, I’ve done the drawing and applied 2 layers of what I’m calling under-painting or base coat.  Again, due to time-constraints, I did not do a thumbnail as I would have liked and always advocate to myself and my students.  I’ve done so many thumbnails and paintings of this motif in the past I feel that I know it well, felt safe in taking the shortcut.  I used the burnt sienna charcoal pencil to keep it simple.  If I use a BIC or 3B, I tend to attempt to insert more details than I need or want.  I’ve applied the base coat using thin, watery applications of paint.  The ‘key’ is medium to low.  The complementary colors I’m planning on using, to set the mood and tone, are Blue/Orange.  The 3 pigments I’m using in this painting are UB, CR and CY.

We shall see what we shall see....


August 14, '10

My thoughts on this painting is that I pushed the color; it needs more contrast/depth , less color throughout.  Other than that, I like it.  I also felt that with a few more hours work, it might have looked more the way I felt it that morning, but didn’t want to spend any more time on it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

2 Hour Sketching Session at the Farm.

Today is hot, brutally sunny and quite humid; not at all inviting but I’d commited to go paint at the farm this morning and have lunch with my mom after so after some procrastinating, I set off around 9:30 and was settled and starting the drawing by 10.  Instead of painting across from the barns, as I would’ve liked, I stopped by the bar-way at the northern boundary of the farm property and sat in the shade of a stand of pine trees that are close to the road.  It was the perfect place to sit because I had shade until 11:30.  There’s something about the strength of the sun on these  summer days that makes me feel I’d like to be in shade for 2 hours instead of trying to tough it out under beating-down sun and being flattened by heat.

I started with the drawing with a sepia charcoal pencil right on the watercolor sketch paper.  I took this short cut because of my wanting to ‘beat the heat.’  When I was done with the sketch, I wet the entire picture area & took the photo.


The water was drying fast, so I re-wet the area and then mixed paint for the first layer/underpainting.  When the paint was mixed, the paper had dried to a good point where the paint would be easy to apply in thin layers.  

I’m using Ultramarine Blue (UB), Cadmium Red (CR) and Cadmium Yellow (CY) in this demonstration.

The mix I started with was thin, mostly blue but enough of the other 2 colors to ‘gray’ it down.  The first layer of paint was applied to every thing except the sky and the fence.  A 2nd layer of the underpaint mix was added to denote darker areas in certain places as the paint dried.  In areas where there was more light, I added a bit of yellow to the underpaint mix.  I saw the scene as being Blue/Green, which is why I added the yellow, to set off lighter areas from dark.  
While the paint dried in the middle and foreground sections of the paper, I put down an underpainting for the sky.

I saw the sky as being milky; not bright and clear but a faded, misty blue and a pale yet color-full gray at the horizon.  I first wet the sky area and then worked in a thin layer (and I mean thin) of CR starting from the tree line on the horizon on the lh side of the picture.  I worked it up into the wetness about 1/3rd of the way up from the horizon.  Then I quickly picked up a little CY and worked it into the tree line at the horizon with the most of being in the light spot on the lh side where I started with the CR.  I then mixed a little blue into the CR/Cy tint on my palette and painted in the blue area starting from the top.  In the place where I wanted to depict ‘Cloud’ I wiped out with a dry brush after I’d completed the wash.  I then took another photo and let it dry for about 5 minutes. 


Break over, I mixed a wash for the sky using all 3 pigments.  Mostly blue, a little yellow, and then a tiny bit of CR.  It was a thin mix, but thicker than the underpainting mix for the sky.  I wet the sky area, but not extravagantly, before I applied the blue sky-wash.  I started at the top and graded it down to the horizon so that the layer over the lightest part of the horizon was quite thin, but enough of a layer to tone-down the tint to a kind of dull glow.  I went around the cloud area, as shown.  The wetness of the paper helped keep the lines smooth where I went around the clouds.


The finishing touches were done with a small brush (#3round) and were done with mixes of darks made with UB, CR and CY, at the strength shown in the swatch.  The darks I mixed were a)mostly blue, b) blue/green c) yellow/blue (d deep violet.  Every mix contains some CR, to some degree.  I applied paint with the small brush, as shown, some of it full strength and then in lighter washes by adding a little water.  The fence was painted using paint mixed from the deep violet+yellow and applied in very thin washes, building up form with darks and lights.


I’m happy with this painting, as a memory and as a practice piece.  I’m glad for the 2 hours I was able to get out and paint today and glad to get home to my air-conditioned bedroom.  


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Before Enlightenment; Chop Wood, Wash Dishes.  After Enlightenment; Chop Wood, Wash Dishes....
This is a zen statement I’ve always loved and which makes a lot of sense, to me.  The words come back to me at times when I’m feeling overwhelmed by drudgery and picky details.

A great deal of my time in recent days has been ‘chopping wood, washing dishes....’

Which goes along with another maxim I think of often;

‘An act of creation is 2% Inspiration, 98% Perspiration’.

So, a lot of ‘wood chopping, dishes washing and Perspiration’ in the form of taking stock of and organizing a series of many paintings done between May ‘95 into somewhere in ‘03; photograph/scan, enter into my computer, label, reduce the size of, upload and enter into my web site....  It was a lot of wood chopping in the form of approx 16-20 hours of Office Work.  But, after all is said and done, worth it and now, behind.

I enjoyed a lovely 2% inspiration moment this past Monday morning as I was sketching the above scene from my Painting Outside! lawn chair, parked across the road from these barns, between my mother’s house and the farm a little bit up the road.  I’m so grateful that I took the time from Office Work and made the effort to go to this place and do this sketch, to plan, dream, ponder, remember & enjoy the energy of the 2% moment.  For weeks I’ve been thinking about the possibility of teaching a class at this location and in my 2% moment, saw it as a Possible and made the decision that I would take the next steps to get it out there, allow it to happen.

I’m offering 2 sessions of 3 weeks each the first session to begin on Saturday morning Aug 14, Aug 21 and Aug 28.  Then a week off because of Labor Day.  Then a new session to begin on Saturday morning September 11 and September 18 skip the 25th and the last day on October 2.

Contact me for more information.

On the 25th and 26th of September I plan to be in Bennington, Vermont taking a Plain Air (Watercolor) class with an artist named Tony Conner, whose work I admire as I’ve seen a lot of it online.  I'm looking forward to the adventure of a trip and a new painting perspective.

Check it out his website.  I’d love to hear what you think about his paintings.

Time for lunch and more office work.  And later, maybe,  this evening when it's not quite so hot or humid, I'll  go out and sketch for awhile, encounter another 2% moment....