Thursday, December 31, 2009

Twenty-eight Degrees

Twenty-eight Degrees (Frozen Pond), oils on canvas panel, 11" x 14." Contact artist for price.

Being off this week, I drove down to southern Maryland to spend a few days with my artist friends in Accokeek. They had a bit more snow down there than we had here in Columbia the previous weekend, and some of it still lingered in their shady preserve.

On my first afternoon there we went for a walk at Piscataway Park. It was bright and sunny, but the 25-30 mile-an-hour winds made the chill so extreme at the exposed river shore, that I was dissuaded from attempting anything outdoors. We set up a still life and painted in the studio instead. The weather was about the same the next day, so again we worked inside while another friend posed for us.

Although cloudy, by yesterday morning the wind had died down. My car's thermometer registered twenty-eight degrees, but I was determined to paint plein air--this would be a good test of my hardiness. I loaded up my palette and gear, bundled up and drove down to the beaver pond to paint at the place Patrise had indicated. I pulled the ear flaps of my Tilley hat down and trundled over a snow bank to this spot. I had a bit of trouble tying my apron with gloved hands, but managed without exposing any bare skin to the elements.

Two-thirds of the way into the painting, my hands had become so numb from the cold I had to take a break. Getting in the car, I took my gloves off and warmed my hands with my breath, lots of massage and clapping, then put the gloves back on to continue painting until I had the entire panel covered and the val-hues balanced.

By that time both my hands and feet were completely numb, so I deemed it prudent to pack up and go back to the house--frostbite is not something I want to deal with. It was a bit after noon and the temperature had risen to a balmy thirty-two. It took an hour and lots of hot tea and soup for my hands and feet to thaw out completely. Relying on memory (I'd forgotten my camera), I put the accents and finishing touches on the painting later, indoors.

Am I the only one that finds it amusing that a Cuban like me, better adapted to the tropics, would be motivated to paint in freezing weather while my two friends, raised in Michigan, stayed indoors? But alas, today I am paying for my madness with a case of the sniffles.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Our First American Christmas

Our family at my house celebrating last Christmas--we were a total of 26!

Whenever I think times are tough, I like to remember what our first Christmas in this country was like. My sisters Beatriz, Silvia and I had arrived in Miami as refugees from Cuba on March 29, 1961, under what later became known as Operation Pedro Pan. After a couple of weeks in a refugee camp we were sent to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to live with American foster families and I was separated from my two sisters.

A few days after we reached Albuquerque, the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion began, breaking all communications with the island. For a month we had no idea of whether our parents and family in Cuba were alive, or if we would ever see them again. After a month, calls were resumed and much to our relief, we learned that none in our family had been arrested and taken away, though there had been mass arrests throughout the island during that Week of Terror.

My mother and youngest sister Cecilia arrived in Miami at the end of August, leaving my father behind. For three months my mother looked for work and just as it seemed hopeless, a teacher at St. Vincent's Academy, where Bea and Silvia attended school, became too ill to finish the school term. My mother was hired as a susbtitute teacher and Catholic Charities sent two one-way plane tickets for her and Cecilia. They arrived in Alburquerque at the end of November, and moved into a tiny casita near Old Town that the local agency had found for them.

Catholic Charities had paid the rent for two months, but unfortunately they had expected my mother to arrive earlier and by the end of November, the second month's rent was almost used up. Mom had to pay December's rent and utilities with her first paycheck, leaving us with next to nothing to live on. Bea, Silvia and I were so anxious to be reunited with them we moved in right away.

It was hard for the five of us to fit in the ramshackle house we nicknamed "el gallinero" (the chicken coop). Silvia and I shared a double bed in the converted porch, so small there was just enough room to turn around between an armoire and the bed. Bea and Cecilia shared another double bed in a slightly larger back bedroom, and my mother slept in the fold-out couch in the living room. The house had only one heat vent located between the living and dining area while ice formed inside the windows of the rest. The bathroom had a broken window pane that let the icy air in, and there was no place to store most of our things. It was a huge step down compared to our comfortable, well-ordered house in Cuba.

Albuquerque's historic Old Town was a few blocks away so we could could walk down to see the old plaza and San Felipe Neri Church decorated with the traditional New Mexican luminarias. We looked at the beautiful displays in the windows, knowing we couldn't afford a single present, not even a string of lights, much less a tree.

Putting creativity to use, I made some silly drawings for my sisters as Christmas presents. And, applying my recently-learned sewing skills to a found scrap of fabric and a bit of black lace, I made a tiny coin purse for my mom. This little gift would turn out to be iconic--my mother kept it with her always. Many years later, she told me the irony was that at the time she had not so much as a dime to put in it.

In fact, had it not been for the kindness of our friends, there would have been no Christmas dinner or much food on the table those two weeks of Christmas break. The Davis family, Greek immigrants who helped us greatly during those days, gave us a Christmas basket full of staples and a small turkey, and the family of my classmate Pat Duran invited us to share their feast on Christmas day. But as the week before classes were to resume came to a close, the larder grew empty--we were down to the wire.

Mom thought to search her suitcase, hoping that perhaps she might find she'd dropped a quarter or two in there. There, in a pocket of the suitcase, was a twenty-dollar bill! She had forgotten that one of her friends in Miami had insisted on her taking the money just before she left for Albuquerque, in case of an emergency. Nena Segura, for that was the lady's name, to this day, is blessed in our family--her sacrifice, for she must have been having as hard a time as we, saved us.

It's been forty-eight years since that memorable Christmas but it's still very close to my heart.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Big Snow

Big Snow, oils on canvasboard, 12" x 9," $150 unframed.

Yesterday we had a big snowfall in our area. Herb and I had gone out to dinner in Frederick the night before (a rare treat for us thanks to a gift from our nephews & nieces). On the drive back tiny flakes started to come down and a number of snow plows were already on the road. By the time we reached Clarksville, the snow was starting to stick and the roads had become slippery. There were State Troopers near our house where someone had already run off the road.

By the time we got up in the morning, there were about eight to ten inches of very dry powder on the ground. Not a creature stirred outdoors, and no evidence of any plow on our street. It was a good day to hibernate and paint indoors.

The way the snow weighed down the branches of the firs and the evergreens around the porch was so lovely! I wanted my painting to give a sense of the depth and weight of this snow, so I chose a view of our street looking out the front door. It was too cold to keep the door open, of course. I took down the sheer drape of the sidelight and set up my easel in the foyer so I could peek out.

The composition was really hard to bring off, because the horizontal lines of the porch railing and snowy bushes in the foreground made it difficult for the eye to enter the painting. I eliminated the railing, but ended up reworking the big mound in the front repeatedly to get the shapes of the branches and shadows to work, keeping the eye moving. I had to pile on the paint in that area to cover up my numerous reworkings, but I think the thick brushstrokes add to the feeling of the massiveness of the snow.

I asked Herb to measure the snow on our deck in late afternoon for this photo (over sixteen inches here). By the time the snow ended later in the evening, about twenty inches had accumulated. With any luck, the snow will last long enough for us to have a white Christmas this year.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Snow from my Window

Snow from My Window, oils on canvasboard, 10"x 8," $100 unframed. SOLD

The first snow of the season came yesterday, loaded with big, wet flakes that stuck to the branches. There is always a bit of magic in every snowfall that thrills the child in us, particularly at this time of the year, when the strains of that old carol, White Christmas, are heard perhaps a tad too much.

Gobs of snow were sticking to the delicate branches of my Japanese maple, giving the effect of blossoms on the branches, while the dried leaves on the oaks beyond carried the only hints of color. It looked so lovely from my studio window that I decided to set up my easel right there to paint it. Darkness came too soon, obscuring my view.

After dark the sky cleared and a waning moon rose over the back yard, but by then the snow had dropped from most of the branches and this beautiful effect vanished. I went out on the deck with my tripod to take some photos anyway, in hopes of capturing the primal mystery of a moonrise in the snow.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Late November

Late November, oils on canvasboard, 9" x 12," contact artist for price.

We've had an unusually warm and wet fall this year, but now in late November, it's definitely getting colder. Yesterday's high was only 53 degrees and with the light breeze it felt colder. Bundled up in my thermal suit under several other layers and my winter favorite, a Tilley wool hat with ear and forehead flaps, I set out to explore a new place--the Daniels area of Patapsco Valley State Park a few miles north of my house.

This section of the park is at the bottom of a small valley behind a north-facing hillside and it was only a short distance from the parking area to the river bank for this view. It was surprising to see so many recreational users there: some with canoes or kayaks putting out on the water, a couple of fishermen in hip waders below a small dam, and a party of four on horseback riding down the hill.

After I laid out the paint on my palette, I put on an old pair of gloves to keep my hands warm. The glare from the sun off the water was blinding so I had to keep moving far back to be able to judge the balance of colors and values. A little after three in the afternoon the sun had sunk behind the hill, leaving the small valley in shadow, but my painting was finished and I had managed to stay warm enough to work for a couple of hours. It felt good to be out painting in plein air despite the chill; I think the water and reflections appear convincing.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

With the Leaves Down

With the Leaves Down, oils on canvasboard, 11" x 14," $300 unframed.

This week our class we went back at the horse farm on Joyce Lane. It's the same view I painted two weeks ago in "Brisk November Day," but now the leaves are down from the trees and what a difference that makes!

The day was sunny and actually warmer than on the previous outing, but pictorially it looks colder because of the leafless trees. There is much less color in nature this week, with blue sky showing through the bare crowns.

The horses were getting wormed--the owner and two helpers were in the paddock putting drops with the medicine in their noses using a plastic syringe. One yearling by the fence obviously didn't like the flavor and rolled back her lips to show more front teeth and gums than I've ever seen on a horse--it was so funny to watch, I wish I'd had my camera.

It was the last class of our session. With the approach of winter the outdoor painting season is rapidly coming to its end. I hope there may still be a few nice days left, but I'm eyeing the winter catalogs for warm layers I can wear during extreme weather painting.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rainy Day Still Life

Still Life with Blue Bowl, 12" x 9." Original, $100 unframed.

It was a rainy and blustery fall day so this week our class worked on a still life indoors. I hadn't painted a still life since last winter's classes, but by now I am familiar with our teacher's props, in particular the white stoneware pitcher and this blue bowl. I chose this angle because first of all, I found the shapes of the shadows the objects were casting on the tablecloth fascinating, but also the perspective on the pitcher from this angle was challenging to draw.

My drawing skills have improved a lot since I started following Lee Boynton's suggestion to use only straight lines to outline the basic shapes. By carefully observing the points of intersection and angle of the lines in the objects, accuracy comes more easily. I had not forgotten other proceedures: start with the brightest colors and work on "pairs" of colors--the lighted and shadowed portions of the same object until the white canvas is all covered, then adjust the val-hues before adding more detail. I had great fun painting this piece.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Brisk November Day

A Brisk November Day, oils on gessobord, 9" x 12." $200 unframed.

After being too sick to go to class last week, I was really looking forward to getting out to paint today. The November day was brisk but sunny; I bundled up under two layers of Polartec and my Tilley wool hat, and drove off to the Joyce Lane farm once again.

Lucky for me, one other student was also a bit late--we couldn't find Lee and the class at the usual place, so we drove farther down the road and eventually found them tucked between a bank covered with vegetation and the fence at the edge of the pasture. We lined up along the fence to paint. The foliage remaining on the trees glowed with burnt colors and the leaves on the vines behind us rattled in the breeze. Mars Violet seemed like the perfect color for the shadows and tree trunks on a day like today.

The morning passed in no time at all. Just as we were finishing our pieces, the horses came over to check us out and I couldn't resist putting a couple of them in my painting. They really add life to the scene.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

At Brown's Bridge

The View at Brown's Bridge, oils on canvasboard, 11" x 14."

After a very rainy weekend, it cleared up on Sunday, bringing out the full spectrum of fall color at its peak. I was dying to get out to paint, but the usual household chores had to be done, and on this day, Herb had an important business meeting so he wasn't here to help.

I finally managed to get out around the middle of the afternoon and headed to Browns Bridge, which spans the Patuxtent River, marking the boundary between Howard and Montgomery counties. There are small parking areas on either side of the bridge where one can pull off. The place gets some recreational users and on this beautiful day there were several kayakers and hikers. I tried both banks to see which view seemed better and decided upon the westerly one.

The hillside on the opposite bank was flaming with color, but now mostly in shadow, while the young Sycamore maples on my side were a-glow in the afternoon light. There were some Canada geese swimming near the bank, but they moved away before I had time to include them in my painting.

I think I handled the color in the distance well, but wish I had made a greater color distinction between the near and the far, and had kept the val-hue of the water lighter and more varied. The close-up color seems too subdued in relation to the distance. Still, what better way for a painter to spend a warm fall afternoon, than in practice?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Out to Pasture

Out to Pasture, oils on canvasboard, 9" x 12" SOLD

It was cloudy but rain was not expected until later in the afternoon, so this week our plein air class met at the horse farm again. Today's painting is essentially the same hillside I painted two weeks ago, but under so different a light, the colors are much more subdued.

Autumn is progressing and many trees along the way displayed brilliant colors, though in this atmosphere they don't appear as bright as they would on a sunny day. This time I included one of the Welsh mountain ponies grazing in the field. The farm has quite a number of ponies in all colors: gray, brown and roan, but this beautiful white mare really stood out. I wish the horses would all stay still for a long time so I could put more of them in my painting, but they love to run about.

Just as we were starting to pack up, I felt the first raindrops--perfect timing!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Who Knew?

While Jack Frost hasn't nipped our roses or noses yet, he has been working his yearly magic on the leaves. My saffron crocus is blooming once again. Since these days I don't get home until after dark, I put Herb in charge of harvesting the saffron, but he sometimes misses the flowers opening in the late afternoon, so yesterday when I got home I went out with a flashlight to check them myself. A fingernail-paring moon was rising.

Yes, there were about a dozen blossoms still half-open, stigmas ready for plucking. I reached out to pinch one off and immediately stopped--there was a big bumblebee curled up right in the middle! I inspected the flowers more closely and saw there were two other bumblebees inside the crocuses. I left the ones with bees alone and gathered the rest of the flowers. Of course, I had to get my camera to record this unusual sight.

Who knew this is where bees spend the night? If I were a bee, I would rather sleep in a bower of scented saffron than anywhere else. The slug in the lower photo probably felt the same way.

Friday, October 16, 2009

On Sunny Days

A Sunny Day, oils on canvasboard, 9" x 12." $200 unframed.

Last Friday was one of those beautiful sunny days we get to enjoy in our area in the fall--the crispness of the early morning warmed to Indian summer by mid-morning.

The painting class met again at the horse farm on Joyce Lane, but last week, much to my relief, instead of sketching and painting horses we focused on just the landscape. I'm not too good with the noble beasts; despite the fact that I lived next to a horse farm in Sandy Spring for 17 years I never drew or painted the horses next door. During this eight-week session, our class will be working with them, so eventually I hope to learn how to paint horses credibly, and perhaps other animals too. It doesn't hurt to inject such a subject into a painting.

I am pleased by the soft yellows and oranges of the foliage against the violet shadows in my painting... it gives a sense of the sun and warmth of that day. Such a difference from today, rainy and at least 30 degrees colder! If only we could arrange to have more sunny days on the weekends...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Olney Farmer's Market

Olney Farmer's Market, oils on canvasboard, 12" x 9." Contact artist for price.

Last Sunday was the final day of painting for the Olney Plein Air. I returned to the Olney Farmer's Market to finish the small painting I'd started the previous Sunday. Fortunately, the colorful vegetable stand operated by the two Mexican ladies was there and looked almost the same, with a new addition in the foreground: a nice variety of jalapenos, habaneros and tiny red hot peppers.

The day was sunnier than the previous Sunday, so I corrected the sky to make it bluer and added patches of sun behind the tent. Quite a number of people looked over my shoulder and stopped to chat as I painted. My painting was finished before the market ended, and I was able to shop for veggies too. I bought some luscious baby eggplant, snow peas and sweet peppers for a great price. From now until the market ends in November, I will be shopping here every Sunday--what a treat to buy the freshest produce right off the farm!

All of the paintings from the Olney Plein Air will be on display at various Olney area stores during the week of Oct. 11 -17 and then at the Sandy Spring Museum from Oct. 19-24. They will be auctioned on the evening of Oct. 24 at the Gala Reception and Auction. Please come by to see the paintings and support the artists, the Museum and the Olney Farmer's Market. The auction proceeds will benefit all of the above and you'll have a chance to acquire some wonderful original paintings at very reasonable prices.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Painting the Oakley Cabin

The Oakley Cabin, oils on canvasboard, 11" x 14." $300 framed with traditional style gold frame.

After painting at The French Confection in Sandy Spring in the morning, I went over to the Oakley Cabin on Brookeville Road. Built in the 1820's as a slave cabin, this well-preserved historic site is now operated as a museum by Montgomery County. They are open only two Saturdays a month and this wasn't one of them, so the place was locked up and very quiet.

The weather was glorious; the light and warmth of the afternoon invited one to linger in the rural setting. Alone, I could almost imagine myself back in the 19th Century, seeing the cabin's inhabitants... perhaps an African American woman was hanging out the wash on this fine autumn day, while her husband cut firewood in back and the children played... an illusion interrupted only by the occasional car driving by.

Seeing me there with my "Artist at Work" sign, two cars stopped briefly: a soldier in camouflage uniform commented favorably on my painting, and later a soccer mom chauffeuring two lively girls who were interested in art. By six, the shards of light had left the grass and only the tops of the trees were lit. My painting was finished and I headed home, feeling tired, but well-spent.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The French Confection in Sandy Spring

The French Confection Bakery, oils on canvasboard, 14" x 11." Contact artist for price.

Driving towards Olney for the second weekend of the Olney Plein Air the day was gorgeous: clear blue sky, a warm sun chasing away the morning chill. It was also the date of Highland Days, a festival at a tiny community along the way where Herb and I like to shop at Boarman's, an old-fashioned country grocery that has been there forever. Boarman's was decked out with a great display of pumpkins, mums and scarecrows on an old hay wagon--I wished I could paint it for the Olney Plein Air, but it was not one of our locations, so I stopped briefly to take some photos for future reference.

We lived in Sandy Spring for seventeen years, but in all those years I'd never painted anything of the town (I was not into plein air painting in those days), and I wanted to paint something of our old hometown. Part of the problem is, the place isn't exactly scenic: Sandy Spring consists of a post office and a collection of old storefronts, most of them very plain if not ramshackle.

Elena drawing in Sandy Spring

The French Confection is housed in what used to be the old Sandy Spring fire station. After the fire department moved to newer, larger quarters, the old building stood vacant for some time and then the bakery, originally in the Olney shopping center, moved here. They remodelled, installed an awning and created a small patio area in the front, embellishing it with potted plants, that gives the place a much-needed touch of charm.

The French Confection's creations have been favorites of ours for years. Since we had ordered a chocolate Chambord cake for Herb's birthday from them earlier in the week that we had agreed to pick up in the afternoon, what better location to paint?

The architecture was a challenge--I worked on the drawing for quite a while (Herb stopped by & took the photos of me while I was working). I started to paint, and after a while was so oblivious to everything else except my painting, that I never even noticed Herb walking by when he came back to pick up the cake! Afterwards I ate my lunch at one of the little tables in front and then went on to a different location for my afternoon painting.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Good Earth in Olney

The Good Earth, oils on canvas, 12" x 16." Contact artist for price.

Last Sunday, the second day of the Olney Plein Air, we were to touch base at the Olney Farmer's Market at the Towne Center. I got a rather late start that morning, and didn't have time to finish my painting of one of the produce stands before the vendors began to take down their stands at one o'clock. By that time the clouds had cleared and a warm, sunny afternoon lay ahead, or so it seemed.

The day before while scounting out locations I had driven by The Good Earth Produce and Garden Center, a long-established Olney business. It looked so attractive with colorful displays of mums and seasonal produce it struck me as a great subject to paint. I drove over and set up my easel by the garden entrance, out of the way of the parking lot traffic. From this angle the two gable ends with the afternoon shadows created an exciting composition.

A young lady from the store came out to look while I was drawing, and a number of shoppers stopped for a peek as the painting progressed. At one point the sky clouded up and it looked as if a deluge would strike. A few drops started to fall; I packed up my gear and drove back to the Towne Center to return my "Artist at Work" sign to Bobbie and Tara, the organizers. By the time I got there, the storm had passed over and sky was clearing, so I returned to The Good Earth to finish my painting.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Olney Plein Air

Silver Pond, oils on canvas board, 11" x 14." Contact artist for price.

On the first day of the Olney Plein Air it was very cloudy. It was supposed to start raining around noon, so I figured I'd have about two hours to paint in the morning. The leaden sky was lighter at the horizon--a view with some distance might present great opportunities for atmosphere. The ponds in back of the Olney Aquatic Center seemed the perfect place to paint on such a day--the light would reflect on the pond surface with beautiful, soft colors.

Setting up at the site, it was unseasonably chilly; I was glad I'd brought my three-season jacket along. Fortunately, the rain held off until about two, giving me a couple more hours to work. I needed the time. It was hard to find the right colors to convey the silvery, filtered light upon the lush vegetation, with the leaves of some trees turning slightly bronzy, but I think I managed to communicate the harmony of this place on this day.

The paintings created during the Olney Plein Air Arts Festival will be on exhibit at various local merchants from Oct 11-17, at the Sandy Spring Museum from Oct. 19-23 and will be auctioned off at the Evening Gala/Auction on the 24th.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Back in the Groove

Cloudy Morning on the Severn, oils on board, 9" x 12"

There was a light drizzle falling as I drove off for the first class of the fall session of Lee Boynton's plein air landscape class. I wondered if we would be able to find a dry spot from which to paint, but Lee knows his way around Annapolis so well, I figured he would have some alternative sites where we could stay dry.

As it turned out, by the time the class had convened at Maryland Hall and Lee went over the basics of equipment, palette and painting surfaces, the rain stopped. We caravanned over to Jonas Green Park to set up under the Naval Academy Bridge, where there is a view of the Severn that extends out over the Chesapeake Bay as far as Kent Island on the Eastern shore (the blue strokes at the horizon on the left).

The sky was clearing but there were still some dramatic clouds overhead so I composed my painting to feature the sky and picked one sailboat out of the many lining the shore as a focal point. Simple but elegant-- I am pleased with the result.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Paint Annapolis 2009

Annapolis Roofscape, oils on board, 12" x 9"

This year's Paint Annapolis weekend was grueling for this kid. I got there on Friday at noon just in time for my shift as a volunteer at the MAPAPA tent. During the shift a young man who owned a restaurant called "The Kitchen" came over and said he wanted an artist to paint his restaurant, so after my shift I set off to see if I could accommodate him, hoping to make a sale if my painting turned out well. I spent almost an hour sketching out the building but frankly, the facade was dismal. Even with a liberal dose of doctoring, it was impossible to infuse the composition with any charm, so after almost an hour I gave up on it and moved on. So much time wasted! I remembered there was a lovely garden and doorway on East Street, so I painted there until near sunset, when the mosquitoes started coming out in droves. My friend Sandy from Texas was flying in for a long weekend and her flight had just landed when I rang her.

Last year I'd picked my location well ahead of time for Saturday's Dueling Brushes competition and knew exactly what I would paint, but this year I wasn't that well-prepared. I drove off Saturday morning with no idea of where or what to paint. Approaching downtown, I figured the top level of the parking garage was as good a location as any for a roofscape of the city. There were three other painters set up there already. We all worked assiduously during the time allotted, then rushed off to put our paintings in frames and get them and our easels down to the city dock by noon. The painting above was the result--not very inspiring.

Was it my mood, or was the crowd at the city dock more subdued this year as well? The juror took a long time to make her decisions-- this year the artist awards were gift certificates for art supplies rather than cash prizes. By the time the awards were announced it was nearly two o'clock and the pool of buyers had vanished. The artists started to pack up their gear. As I was leaving a lady looked at my painting and its modest price tag. I looked her in the eye and told her I'd sell it for even less. She said she liked it, but really preferred another painting of the same view done by one of the other artists who had been at the garage with me. His painting was next to mine, but he too had disappeared. She asked for my contact information in case she could not find him and might settle for mine instead.

After wolfing my brown bag lunch I set out to do another painting--I still didn't have anything worthy of the members' show. The afternoon was gorgeous, but by this time I was in a bit of a funk--tired and discouraged. I went up on State Circle and started a new painting (always hoping that the next one will be the one). I wanted to hear Kenn Backhaus' lecture on plein air painting at St. John's at five, and time slipped by too quickly-- there wasn't time to finish. I would have to enter the doorway with the garden in the members' show or not show at all (in retrospect, this might have been a wiser choice).

Sunday morning I drove back to Annapolis to deliver my framed painting to Maryland Hall by ten, then swung around to Olney on the way back to pick up the artist registration packet for the Olney Plein Air coming up next weekend. Hopefully this event will be a little more relaxed, as it's closer to home and we have two weekends to paint, with another week to turn in the framed paintings.

Back at the house I had brunch with Herb (Sandy was off seeing other old friends) and then drove back to Annapolis at four for the reception at Maryland Hall. I was very pleased that my teacher, Lee Boynton, received second prize among the juried artists. There were some wonderful paintings here, but the red dots seemed sparser than last year.

To top off what turned out to be a lackluster weekend, on the way out I twisted my ankle on a step and fell on the concrete walk. A gentleman behind me kindly helped me back onto my feet. By evening the bruises and swelling were so painful I couldn't walk. Thank heaven I'd arranged to take today off from work--I need to recover.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Yellow Lady Slipper

Yellow Lady Slipper, watercolor, 14" x 10." $150 unframed.

A few springs ago my friend Linda and I explored the Thompson Wildlife Management Area in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. We were hoping to hike through the stands of 'Millions of Trilliums' that are unique to this particular location. As we trampled through woodlands transformed by the magic of spring, we were delighted to find several small stands of Yellow Lady Slipper (Cypriedum calceolus) and another unusual orchid, Showy Orchis (Orchis spectabilis) growing near the paths.

We returned the following spring to paint the Yellow Lady's Slipper from life, but my field sketch did not capture the graceful lines of the plant: its banded leaves, the spiral curling of the two upper petals. I put away my sketch for future reference.

This weekend I dug it out along with my photos and painted this watercolor as a companion piece to the Ghost Flowers. Accurate drawing of its complex shapes is essential to bring the plant to life.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Will to Create Returns

Ghost Flower, watercolor, 14" x 11." $150 unframed.

The will to create returned this weekend after weeks of illness. It was fun to finally paint these Ghost Flower plants (also known as Indian Pipe--Monotropa uniflora is the botanical name). Herb and I first found this unusual plant during a walk in the Rachel Carson Forest preserve near our old home in Sandy Spring a number of years ago. In those days I didn't have a digital camera so the best photos I could take were not close-up enough to reveal all the details of this fascinating plant that has no chlorophyl, but feeds on mycorhizal fungi growing on the roots of other forest trees.

That first time I actually picked one specimen to sketch back at the house and discovered that the plants turn black shortly after being picked, so the specimen became useless. The plant is only about 5-6 inches high, so it's not easy to spot. Over the years we've looked for them in early summer when they bloom, but had never found them growing as profusely as the first time we discovered them.

This year after a very wet late spring, we went out to look for them again and there were hundreds of them emerging from the forest floor! I had a marvelous time taking photos. This particular clump was so fresh and lush it just begged to be painted. I'm now hot on the trail to find other related species to photograph & paint.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Obligatory Maine Lighthouse

Hendricks Head Lighthouse, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12"

On the last day of the workshop I was still very sick but decided to go out for one more painting. Lee had selected a location on the east side of Southport where there was a wonderful view of this lighthouse. A map identifies it as Hendricks Head on the Sheepscot River. The light had two baffles that you can see at right angles to the lantern.

How could one be in Maine without painting a lighthouse? We artists set up along a tiny beach with these great exposed rocks and tidal pools. I set up my easel so I could sit down by the edge of the road, as close to my car as possible since I had little energy to go far. Others ventured farther out on the rocks to get a better view.

By noon fleecy clouds were gathering in the sky and the incoming tide was starting to cover the rocks. At one point while Lee was giving me suggestions another student yelled, "Look out, your easel is floating away!" Sure enough, the water was starting to cover the rocks where he had his set up.

We had a quick lunch break and continued painting while the sky took on a more threatening look. By one-thirty we packed up and managed to get our gear in the cars as the first raindrops fell. The rainstorm eventually passed and the sky cleared but it was a little late for another painting. We left early the next morning for the long drive back home. I hope I'll have another opportunity to paint in Maine when I am my usually healthy self.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Boothbay Harbor Workshop

Barret's Park, Boothbay Harbor, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12"

On the first day of Lee's workshop in Boothbay Harbor we went to this beautiful park by the water. We started with a black and white value study in the morning. It was quite foggy in the distance, but clear and sunny with a nice breeze.

In the afternoon, we worked the same painting in color. It was fascinating to see how much more extreme the tides are in Maine than here on the Chesapeake Bay. There was a much as an eight to nine foot difference between high and ebb tide. This painting was begun shortly after high tide, and by four thirty about one-third more of the rock and beach were exposed. The rocks become sun-bleached only where the water doesn't reach them, while the parts that are submerged stay dark in color and grow orangish seaweed. My rocks came out too dark and reddish in this painting; they were lighter in reality.

I was feeling awful but being a die-hard, I just took aspirin and tried to ignore my throbbing head while I kept on painting. By the end of the day I was totally drained. I had brought out my paintings to show our innkeeper Mary, and forgot that I placed the B&W study on top of my car while I put away this one. I was so out of it, I forgot I had the painting on top of the car and drove off to the grocery store to find some fruit for dinner (all I could manage to eat). Another student found my B&W painting in the street and brought it back, all pock-marked from falling face down on the gravel.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Feverish in Monhegan

Landing on Monhegan Island, Maine

View of White Head from Burnt Head, watercolor, 10" x 14." Contact artist for price.

I felt chilly on the boat ride from Boothbay Harbor and was glad I'd brought my three-season LL Bean jacket. The fog was just lifting as we landed on Monhegan Island for what promised to be a beautiful, clear day. But even with the day warming, I still felt chilled to the bone, and very tired. After we checked into Monhegan House, our hotel for the night, I lay down for a bit. I must have dozed off; when my roomie Linda came by, an hour had elapsed. She said the room was stifling, yet I still felt cold and dazed, so it was likely I had a fever. What a time to get sick!

Determined to not lose the opportunity I'd so carefully planned, I went out with Linda to get some lunch and afterwards, forced myself to put on my backpack and hike up the hill to Burnt Head, the nearest of the famous headlands where artists have painted on Monhegan for over a century. I had zero energy, and had to stop to rest several times as the trail ascended.

The trail wound past a number of lovely cottages as it rose, and then some meadows dotted with wild flowers until it opened onto a rocky plateau with magnificent views of the headlands and the ocean far below. This is the highest point on the island and in coastal Maine. It's no wonder artists have painted it so often--it's spectacular!

I could see a couple of other artists way down on the rocky shore with their rigs, but I had no energy to even think about going down. I set up my stool and sat down to paint right there, concentrating only on getting as much as possible done. After about two hours, I had this sketch completed and my back ached horribly, so I lay down on a sun-warmed rock trying to absorb its warmth while Linda sketched. We headed back as the sun was getting lower on the horizon and I went right back to bed. Linda brought me some soup up to the room for dinner later and I slept feverishly the rest of the evening and night.

I felt not much better the next morning and it was quite foggy, so after breakfast I just walked around the village and took some photographs. I saw a couple of artists painting by the swimming beach: sombre, uninspired artworks. It seemed to me they were not getting the idea of the fog--pictorially speaking, fog makes objects lighter the farther away they are from you, not darker--that much I've learned. After a while I left them to their paintings and went back to sit on the porch of Monhegan House to watch the world go by until it was time to board the boat back to Boothbay Harbor.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Easton Quick Draw

Elena at the Easton Quick Draw street sale.

Girl in a Garden, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12." Contact Artist for price.

I made plans to paint at the Easton Quick Draw on Saturday morning. I was lucky to find a lady who'd been in one of the same workshops and Lee's still life class last winter had a house in Cambridge, the next town below Easton on Maryland's eastern shore. Brande was so kind to host me for the night, and getting to know her was a real treat.

I had expected a modest country farm house, but her house turned out to be a beautiful historic waterfront estate. She and her husband had bought the run-down property about ten years ago and had lovingly restored it, turning it into a charming place. The house was built in the 1830's; the original farmstead dated from the 1700's. It had fireplaces in most of the rooms, was beautifully decorated with a mixture of antique and contemporary furnishings, all the modern conveniences and gorgeous views of the water.

I started out too late in the morning, reluctant to leave such a beautiful place and apprehensive about the competition, thus didn't arrive in Easton till after ten. I'd scouted out some locations the day before and was pretty sure my best bets were the Historic Society's Garden or a small park a block away (no buildings). The public parking was right next to the shady historic garden and it would be cool on what promised to be a hot day.

About ten other artists were there already, so it was hard to find an empty spot, but I found a corner next to a screeching AC unit. Best yet, another artist had posed a young girl on a bench in the middle of the garden within my field of view-- I had a model for free! Working furiously, I managed to finish a credible painting by twelve and ran back to my car to get the frame & wire, then lugged it all to the next block where the street sale and judging were held. By noon it was blisteringly hot and we had to endure this for the next two hours. After I walked around looking at all the other paintings I sat on the street curb to rest my tired feet.

A lady who had seen me while I painted was interested in buying my painting but she didn't want to pay the price (I thought it reasonable considering the 25% commission to Plein Air Easton); she wanted a bargain. I told her if I hadn't sold the painting toward the end of the event I'd reduce it a little. She returned a bit before two and I knocked off $50. She looked pleadingly at her husband, but he walked on, so I packed up my stuff and took it back to my car. I was surprised to see that many and better paintings by the juried artists didn't sell either.

Afterward I stopped at a small sandwich shop to pick up a cheap lunch and took it back to eat in the garden. At this hour the garden was deliciously quiet, a gentle breeze blowing through the crepe myrtles. I was the only person there and the food and relaxation revived me after the morning's pressure.

After lunch I walked over to the Easton Academy to see the juried artists' work and the award-winners. Many of the artists were different from last year and it seemed to me that some of these artists' work was not as strong. I wonder how this level of artists circulates around these plein air events, trying their luck one year here, another year there. I imagine the jurors don't pick the same artists year in and out, though the jurors are usually different too.

It was a bit after three when I finished there and remembered that master artist Kenn Backhaus was doing a portrait demo at the Troika Gallery from 3:00-5:30 PM. The demo was on the sidewalk in front of the gallery. Kenn had already toned his background and sketched out the model's face in pencil. He was just starting to put in the first darks: the eyes and areas around them, then the forehead shaded by the model's beret. It was miraculous how the features began to emerge right from the start. I propped myself against a conveniently located lampost--so worn out I literally needed the support. My feet were killing me but there were no seats available--I should have thought to bring my portable stool. Around five Kenn gave the model his second break and a couple who had been sitting in camping chairs got up--I asked if I might occupy one while they were gone and they kindly consented. As soon as I sat down I started to doze off, struggling to stay alert to watch as Kenn continued to transform his painting, stroke by stroke, into a lively likeness.

After the demo I walked to the South Street Gallery to see Camille Przewodek's show and hear her gallery talk on color. I liked her a lot. Over the years I've heard a good deal about Henry Hensche and read his book, but her take on him revealed yet another aspect of this great artist and teacher. I think I'll be ready for her workshop next year, God willing.

Thank heaven the traffic on the way home was light--I was so exhausted I could barely function. As I headed west on 32 I drove through a huge thunderstorm and got home only to find that there was no power at our house. Herb & I had to go out for dinner since we couldn't cook anything; I bathed by candlelight and turned in very early.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Londontowne in Spring

Londontowne in Spring, oils on canvas panel, 11" x 14." Contact artist for price.

It's high summer here in Maryland; we've been lucky to have cooler and less humid weather than usual so far. Still, I wasn't motivated to go outside to paint last weekend. My new 84-mile daily commute to my employer's Arlington office started the Monday before and by Thursday evening I was totally exhausted.

I'd been wanting to paint Londontowne Gardens so I dug out some of my photos taken this past spring when the gardens were at their most splendid. Voila! I love the the variety of greens of the foliage against the pinks and purples of the azaleas and bleeding hearts on this cloudy day.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Blue Heron Among the Waterlilies

Blue Heron Among Waterlilies, oils on canvas panel, 14" x 11." Contact artist for price.

My husband Herb kept urging me to paint something new and suggested I try birds. I told him it was impossible to paint birds in plein air. Birds rarely sit still for very long or let one get close enough to see any of the necessary details. That's why John J. Audubon had to kill his birds to paint them in such realistic detail. Thank heaven it's not necessary to kill the poor creatures anymore--we have cameras with zoom lenses to get our shots.

I took this photo at Centennial Park one morning last year and painted the beautiful blue heron from it in the studio yesterday. I love the graceful curves of the bird's pose, the setting among the waterlilies and the reflections on the water.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Waterlilies at Centennial Park

Waterlilies at Centennial Park, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12"

It was delightfully cool on this breezy morning as I headed to Centennial Park to paint the waterlilies. I've learned from experience that this variety of waterlily flower opens only in the morning hours--by early afternoon the flowers begin to close and they stay closed until the next dawn.

There were no waterlilies on the near bank of the lake, so I had to walk around to the far side to find this beautiful group of rafts. It was well worth the effort to paint this view. I'll try another painting of waterlilies soon, next time with a closer focus on the plants and flowers.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice at Brookside Gardens, oils on panel, 12" x 9" - $300

Last Saturday's clouds lifted in the afternoon, and then I was ready to paint. I had hoped to paint at Brighton Dam close by, but the azalea gardens had been locked up again. The only other nearby option was my old favorite, Brookside Gardens. No problem--I have a show scheduled for Sept 2011 at their Visitor Center, so it was a good opportunity for me.

I got there around four, when the light filtering through the trees was lovely and foot traffic was thinning out. The plants were lush from all the recent rain and a fresh breeze animated the branches overhead. I set up in one of the gazebos, surrounded by pink lace-cap hydrangeas, for this view of one of the ponds, and finished my painting after six. I invented a few orange daylilies that weren't there on the near bank for a bit more color.

If you are interested in buying the painting, please contact me at

Saturday, June 20, 2009

An Orchid in Bloom

No new painting this week. Last week I was in an accident on my way to painting class--fortunately no one was injured--but now my car is at the body shop. It's hard to get out to paint when you don't have wheels and the weather is rainy, so today's posting will be different.

My sister Bea gave me this orchid plant several years ago. It has bloomed several times since I've had it, but on its old stems. This is the first new blossoming stem it has put out and as you can see, the blossoms are an unusual greenish color suffused with pink. Several other orchids I've acquired since are also budding and will soon be in bloom.

I don't know why this spring seems to be particularly good for my orchids, though I have some theories. There is nothing so spectacular in the botanical world as an orchid in bloom!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mattawoman Paint Out

Clearing Sky Over Mattawoman Creek, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12"

The day was overcast but looked promising: it wasn't raining and a sunny afternoon had been predicted. The drive down to Indian Head was pleasant in the morning cool. I met the other six or eight artists at the Mattawoman Creek Art Center, and one of them, Barbara, suggested painting from the deck of a maintenance building a short walk from the MCAC--it was perfect, elevated enough to offer a panoramic view of the creek.

We shared this perch but painted entirely different subjects. She focused on the dock and boats in front of us while I chose a far view with the creek flowing around a point of land with a tiny island. The sky above was clearing with quite a bit of blue showing above the clouds, so this seemed a point of departure. In the critique afterwards someone pointed out my val-hue of the far bank of the Potomac is not right--its blue makes it appear like distant mountains rather than the opposite shore of the river, and I have to agree. I would also have liked to get a better color for the water, specially the shadows on the water should have been more greenish-brown. Still, in doing this I gained some useful practice for dealing with water using vertical and horizontal brushstrokes for a shimmery effect.

Mattawoman Creek Marsh, oils on canvas panel, 14" x 11"

After lunch and crits the majority of the artists left. Two others stayed to continue working on their paintings in the afternoon. I decided to set up near them and start on another painting of the marsh. The light changed gradually from overcast to sunny, so I tried to maintain an in-between color key.

It was almost five o'clock by the time I got my painting this far--all the others had left by then. In the afternoon heat after spending most of the day on my feet, I was exhausted and ready to call it a day. As I was packing up a fisherman with a most amusing umbrella hat walked by, and I asked him if he would consent to having his picture taken. He was kind enough to agree. I think this photo may make a wonderful painting.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mattawoman Paint Out: Getting There

Rain on the Severn, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12"

The weekend started with Friday morning class at the shelter on Winchester Beach. It had been raining steadily through the night and was still drizzling when I left the house. About two inches of water had accumulated on the ground under the picnic shelter, so we students lined up along the one dry edge and painted the view to either side. Above is another painting of the red clay cliff, with the subdued colors of the rainy day, trying to improve upon my previous composition (see 5/24 posting).

After class I ate my sandwich while driving up to the Riverview Gallery in Havre de Grace, where I have artwork on consignment. I'd agreed to take some new paintings and bring back the unsold ones. It's a 130-mile round trip from my house and entails crossing the Harbor Tunnel in Baltimore, a notorious traffic bottleneck, so I try to do this no more than a few times a year.

The traffic on I-95 was awful on the other side of Baltimore--the perpetual roadwork always brings the 70-mile an hour flow to a screeching halt for that wonderful Beltway two-step of rolling for two car lengths and braking, to roll and brake again for what seems endless miles... then resume normal speed as suddenly as it began. It was the same on the way back but this time the back-up was south of the city.

A quick stop at home to pick up my weekend bag, muck about shoes, and contributory groceries, then drive down to Accokeek where I planned to spend the weekend with my artist friends Patrise and Linda. MAPAPA had organized a paint out at Mattawoman Creek the next morning, and I wanted to be there on time. Staying with my friends in southern Maryland made it much easier--I wouldn't have to get up at the crack of dawn to drive seventy miles or so from my house. I didn't arrive in Accokeek till a bit after seven in the evening, having logged 215 miles in one day.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Barn at Belvoir/ Azaleas at Brookside

Barn at Belvoir, oils on canvas panel, 11" x 14"

This week the Friday morning class was to meet at Belvoir, the same place where we painted last fall. The weather looked chancy--it had rained most of the night, but it wasn't raining at the moment, so I headed out the usual route. It was very overcast and foggy driving there, at least we'd have some interesting atmospheric effects to paint.

Lee decided the class was ready to take on some architecture, and the old barn at Belvoir is a noble structure to paint. With a classic hip roof and a dirt road leading to it, it would be an interesting painting to compose along with a drawing lesson. Lee's explanation/demo of two-point perspective was elegant and simple for those with no background on the subject.

Still, it took a long time to draw our compositions. I had mine completely drawn, then realized the barn was exactly in the middle of my panel, so I erased it and repositioned the barn a bit off-center. It was after eleven-thirty when we started the painting, and by this time the clouds were thinning and a bit of sun was shining through, making the lush greens appear incredibly vibrant. Time just flew; I didn't have a chance to work on any details. I had just enough time to cover the panel and lay down the masses, trying to get the right val-hues from the start, yet the painting "reads." Lee pointed out how the light reflected from the grass made the shadowed face appear greenish in color and how this effect holds true for all shadows. We'll be back next week to try another painting of the barn.

* * *
The previous weekend I wanted to paint some azaleas before their season of glory was over. A visit to nearby Brighton Dam showed the Glendale varieties planted there in huge masses had finished blooming, so I went to Brookside Gardens hoping to catch a few plants still in bloom. I was not disappointed: the trails through the woods had a number of brightly-colored azaleas and rhododendrons. There are few other objects in nature with that beautiful pink-magenta color.

Trail Through the Woods at Brookside Gardens, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12," $300 unframed.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Back at Winchester Beach

Cliffs on the Severn, oils on canvasboard, 9" x 12"

Yesterday was Graduation Day for the Naval Academy, and the traffic is always bad around Annapolis on such occasions, so Lee called the night before to ask us to meet earlier, around 9 AM. He also suggested I take a different route, coming south on Route 2 through Severna Park to avoid the traffic, instead of my usual way. It was a beautiful clear morning, and the new route was a pleasant change from the routine. In fact, my odometer said it was shorter in mileage.

Back at Winchester Beach, there was a delightful breeze from the water. The class set up under the shelter, facing the opposite direction from the past two weeks for a different view. There is a large cliff that drops down to the water with the Route 50 bridge beyond (which we ignore for the painting). It was a struggle to get the right colors for the cliff and vegetation in shadow, but the unusual colors give a good impression of the play of light and shadow and the distances.

From Winchester Beach, oils on canvasboard, 9" x 12"

This is last week's painting which I hadn't had a chance to post. That morning was heavily overcast and the colors were quite different. Compare it to the previous week's painting of the same view on a sunny day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Solomons Paint the Town

Solomons Island Bridge, oils on canvasboard, 14" x 11" won "Best View of the Bridge" Award. On sale for $350 with a crackled gold plein air frame, a real deal!

Elena Maza of Columbia paints a small landscape of the boatbuilding shop at the Calvert Marine Museum Saturday for the Quick Draw art contest. (See article in The Recorder)

Last weekend after my painting class in Annapolis I wolfed down the sandwich I'd packed and rushed off to Solomons Island in southern MD for the Solomons Paint the Town sponsored by Solomons and MAPAPA. The Paint Out had started on Thursday morning, but since I couldn't get there until Friday afternoon I had made arrangements. The traffic was slow going south; I didn't get to the Anne Marie Garden for the check-in until four o'clock. They stamped the back of my canvas boards as proof that we artists did the paintings over the weekend. The garden closes at five, so I there was no time for me to paint there.

I located my weekend hosts' home around five, was there long enough for them to show me around (a lovely couple with a beautiful home) then drove off to join the other artists for a wine tasting at Vincenzo's Grill. There were only two artists when I arrived at 5:30; I chatted with them a bit, and found there was a nice painting location at the end of that road. After a couple of glasses of wine, I was ready to paint the sunset.

There were two other painters at the point already, so I set up nearby for a water view of Solomons Island across the Back Creek. I worked until it was too dark to see; I'd have to wait till the next day to judge the results. One of the other painters was packing up as I was finishing and she stopped by to introduce herself and ask if she might join me at dinner. Mutually grateful for company, Lynn and I drove back to Vincenzo's hoping they were still serving. As it turned out, a large group of artists was sitting at a long table still having dinner. I guessed the old gentleman was Bill Schmidt, our juror. After Lynn and I had ordered, a lady from the artist table came over and introduced herself as Carmen, of Carmen's Gallery, one of the event organizers who had arranged for our accomodations. Someone had told her I had been born in Cuba, and that interested her because she had just been there and had brought some art back. The gallery was hosting a reception for Bill Schmidt's show the following evening, so of course we agreed to attend.

The next morning was very overcast and I overslept. I debated whether to participate in the Quick Draw Competition at the Calvert Marine Museum or punt it, then thought: isn't this why I'm here? So I went to scout that location--the competition started at 10 AM and we had exactly two hours to turn in our work. It was a difficult site, with too much packed too close. I picked one small sloop moored in front of the boat building shed, but it wasn't a wise choice compositionally: too many horizontals. By the time I realized it, it was too late to start over. I carried on, with a brief interruption from the local newpaper's photographer, who had snapped me as I was painting and wanted my information (The article and photo above were published in The Recorder this past week).

My Quick Draw painting of the Boathouse on a Cloudy Day, 9" x 12." $300 framed.

By the time the Quick Draw was juried, the awards given out and all the artists out of the museum (there were no customers for the easel sale) it was 1:30, and we had been told to have our two paintings framed and ready to hang at Anne Marie by four o'clock for Sunday's show and sale. I looked at my sunset painting from the night before and it was a disaster--no way I'd want to hang that. I had to think fast. There were a number of cash awards and one was for "Best View of the Bridge." I figured if I could get a really exciting composition going, and manage to draw it impeccably, I might be able to snag an award--after all, not that many of the thirty plus artists were going to be painting such a subject.

The skies had cleared and it was beastly hot, but there was a nice breeze blowing from the Patuxtent River. The angle from under the bridge was perfect, making a lovely curve, but I needed complete brush control to maintain the lines. The breeze was so strong, it knocked my painting right off the easel. Like buttered toast, wet paintings always fall paint side down, but fortunately, this one wasn't very far along, so I repositioned my set-up quickly and sat on the ground to continue. This way I could keep out of the worst of the wind. I worked furiously until about a quarter to four, then packed up.

I've learned to bring along ready-made frames and my framer's gun so I can just pop the wet paintings in the frames. I got to Anne Marie Garden exactly at four, ready to hand in my work, feeling as if I'd just run a marathon. It took about an hour to have my turn filling out the paperwork. There were still artists bringing work in as I was leaving, but I was ready for a shower and some real relaxation. And they say painting is relaxing--hah!

Back at the house, I cleaned up, dressed in the best clothes I'd brought (a black T-shirt and my stretch chinos) and unwound with a glass of wine on my hosts' screened porch before going to the reception at Carmen's Gallery. I stayed there for about an hour, then left to get some dinner and call it a day.

It was raining on Sunday when I woke up--how lucky the rain had held off until now! My hosts were going out of town and leaving at 10 AM, so I packed up and left a little before that. The awards ceremony would be at Anne Marie Garden at 10:30, which gave me time to drive around Solomons for a bit--I hadn't had any time to see it and the other designated painting locations (with an eye to doing it again next year).

There were some very good paintings at the show, and the gallery at the Anne Marie Garden is a wonderful space to display art. I was really, really, surprised that my last-minute desperation painting won the "Best View of the Bridge' award! The winners got a check and a nice bottle of wine made in Calvert County. Thank you, Solomons Holiday Inn, for funding my award. It made all the hard work on this crazy weekend worthwhile.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Winchester Beach

Winchester Beach, B&W study, oils on canvasboard, 8" x 10"
Winchester Beach, oils on canvas, 9" x 12"

After a very rainy week, Friday dawned beautifully clear so I headed to a different location for my Friday morning class. We were to meet at a place new to me: on the eastern banks of the Severn River there is a small private area called Winchester Beach. From there you can see the Route 50-301 bridge over the river on one side and some cliffs. We painted the view looking upriver opposite from the bridge, where one gets a sense of depth and distance.

We students repeated last week's drill of painting an oil study in black and white using our three value range, and then doing another in full color. Lee's demo was very informative for me, specially in how to mix the colors of the water for an illusion of depth, and the orangey color of the cliffs. These are colors that usually elude me, so I felt great satisfaction being able to achieve them more accurately. I stayed after class to enjoy my lunch at Winchester Beach in the delightful breeze.

Afterwards I stopped at Gallery 1683 to change my stock of paintings there and found out the gallery is having a difficult time during this recession. If any of you readers or your friends are interested in collecting art, now may be the perfect time to buy; I urge you to stop by Gallery 1683 at 151 Main Street in Annapolis. They have many wonderful pieces at reasonable prices and the owners and I would really appreciate your business.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

From Black and White to Living Color

College Creek on a Cloudy Day, B & W study, oils on canvasboard, 8" x 10"

College Creek on a Cloudy Day, color study, oils on gessobord, 8" x 10"

For this week's class (same location as last week) we painted a black and white value study before we started our painting in color. It was a cloudy day, and at times a light drizzle fell, but we were lucky and didn't have to run for cover.

We followed the same proceedure as last week for our B&W study, analyzing the relationship of our three main values. With very different light, the sky and water values were markedly darker than last week, as well as the trees, with much less difference or contrast between the three values.

The fun starts as we go from B&W to full color. On a cloudy day the colors become very muted; though the sky may look gray there are shades of soft yellow and even orange coming through the clouds. Shadows are so soft it's hard to see them. Lee reminded us about Monet's saying that he wasn't painting fields and trees, but the veils of atmosphere between him and the fields and trees. That is the essence of impressionism.

I was very happy to hear my teacher comment he thought my painting was looking Monet-like. At this stage my painting is not fully developed yet, giving an impression of a much foggier day, but we were out of time. With a few more variations of color and detail it could look more realistic, but I have the color key down, which is the essence of the scene. Another breakthrough for me: I'm gaining a better sense of brushstroke texture and the rhythm this can give to a painting.