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.