Sunday, April 26, 2009

Londontowne Paint Out

Londontowne Gardens, oils on canvasboard, 12" x 9"

I left the house very early yesterday to be at Londontowne by eight in the morning for the MAPAPA Paint Out. It was a bit overcast, but by the time I arrived it was clearing. The gardens were fresh with dew, and at their loveliest. I walked around, wanting a water view to paint behind the gardens, but the terraces overlooking the river didn't have many flowers or interesting plants, so I chose this long view towards one of the gazebos.

I didn't hit a homerun with this painting--the painting doesn't do justice to the gardens or the day. Compositionally, the placement of the gazebo is too central, perhaps too small, creating an unintended tunnel effect. The value of the trees in the background is not quite right in relation to the sky. I may yet repaint these parts and move the gazebo to see if that improves it.

Elements that work in the painting are the shapes and colors of the huge evergreens, and the bits of filtered sunlight on the grassy path. I'm getting a better grasp of how to mix greens and keep them within the light key of the day, which shows progress.

The best part of painting there was the wonderful fragrances wafting in the air, with a variety of viburnums in bloom near by: the classic Korean spice bush with its round white panicles, a low-growing variety with a hint of honey in its scent, and others I couldn't identify. Many visitors were there for the annual plant sale fundraiser, and everyone who passed by remarked on the fragrance. I hope to get back there to paint soon, while the flower display lasts. Perhaps I'll go back there next Friday after class. Next weekend MAPAPA is painting at Sherwood Gardens in Baltimore.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Back to Basics

College Creek in Black and White, oils 9" x 12"

The first day of the new landscape class turned out to be one of those rare days which we are lucky to get maybe one or two times a year: just gorgeous! I was itching to start with color right away--that fabulous spectrum of greens in the spring foliage doesn't last very long... but discipline is why I take this class, so I painted my value study in black and white like the rest.

This time Lee instructed us to leave a small border all around our painting to put our value swatches on the border. I must say, the process is getting easier for me this time around. I was able to settle on the composition right away, but nailing down the values is always tricky. Today the sun was so bright, that the water reflection was almost, but not quite, the same value as the sky. The piece of tidal flat in the foreground was close in value to the water. Once I got those in the correct relationship with my teacher's help, painting the three variations within the three main values was a breeze. I bought a visual aid from Lee--a small piece of plastic tinted red, similar to the kind of red filter photographers used for black and white work on film (how old-fashioned that seems!). Looking through the red filter really helps to see the values accurately by reducing the colors to a very limited range.

We got started on site a bit later than usual; I was the only student who developed my painting this far (it could have been taken further, but we were out of time). The other students are new to this method, and being unfamiliar with the process, most got only as far as the three main values. Even so, it was one-thirty before we finished. My heart soars like an eagle!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Galesville Paint Out, Day 2

On the Hard, oils on canvasboard, 14" x 11"
Galesville from White Stake Point, oils on canvasboard, 9" x 12"

It was a beautiful spring day for the second day in a row: perfect for Day Two of the Galesville Paint Out. I parked at Hartge's Boatyard to paint the colorful boats under repair and this group with its dynamic lines caught my eye. The hull shapes were very tough to render in this perspective. I struggled with them and the changing light longer than usual and stopped around two o'clock only because by then the the light and shadows had changed too much. I never noticed that my hands had got very sunburned until later.

After putting away the painting in my car and washing my hands I walked out to the point and sat in one of the Adirondack chairs under a huge old tree to enjoy my home-made lunch. Another MAPAPA artist, Eileen, was painting the view and I chatted with her for a bit. After a brief rest I went back to the car to bring my easel here. Eileen had finished her painting and was gone by then. The painting moved right along, my val-hues better than in the previous two, but by the time I finished and packed it was five. I drove back to River Gallery to see if I could leave my framed painting for the show (it's a ninety mile round trip from my house).

The gallery was closed, but I called Laura and she told me I could drop it off at her house. I had brought along my framer's gun to secure the painting to the frame, but try as I might, I couldn't manage to drive the eye screws in the back to secure the hanging wire. Laura found a nail and hammer to make small holes so I could get the screws in and I leave it ready to hang. I started back from Galesville around six, exhausted but feeling I'd accomplished a lot. My left hand will take a few days to recover from the severe sunburn.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Galesville Paint Out

Spring Day in Galesville, oils on canvasboard, 9" x 12"

This weekend MAPAPA members are painting in Galesville, a historic town on the West River just south of Annapolis. The owners of the River Gallery, housed in a quaint old building on Main Street, invited the members to bring their paintings to the gallery after the Paint Out, where they will be on exhibit for the next month.

I'd scouted out the place the weekend before and talked to Laura Dixon, one of the three owners of the River Gallery. She gave me a tourist map of the town and told me she lived right on the water across from Thursday's Steak and Crab House. The owners of the restaurant didn't like people parking in their lot; since it's small they prefer to reserve it for customers, but Laura said that we were welcome to come into her yard if we wanted to paint there. That day a chilly wind blew from the water, so I walked around and took things in, but decided to wait until the following weekend.

Today the morning was bright and sunny as I packed my gear and headed out to Galesville. I decided to take Laura up on her invitation and went to her house to paint the view form her back yard. Unfortunately, I had a doctor's appointment in the early afternoon, so my window of opportunity for painting was only about two hours. I'm afraid my painting did not turn out very exciting; I'll go back tomorrow to try for a better one to leave at the gallery. It was still a wonderful day to be out painting.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Riverbend Park

Riverbend Park, oils on canvasboard, 9" x 12," $300 unframed

My painting season started yesterday with a MAPAPA Paint Out Plus, beginning with a short talk by master artist John Bannon at Riverbend Park in Virginia. Riverbend is just above Great Falls Park and to get there I drove along Old Georgetown Pike, a winding scenic road that parallels the Potomac River through some of the most expensive real estate in the DC area.

The day was gorgeous: sunny and crisp, if a bit too windy. It was the first really lovely day of spring so far, with the cherry blossoms and pear trees in their full glory. The Virginia bluebells were starting to bloom along the park trails and countless other small woodland plants such as bloodroot and liverwort showed their leaves.

We painters scattered about the park to paint, agreeing to return around one o'clock for a critique. There are some very good painters in this group; my morning effort seemed so amateurish that I decided to stay and do another painting in the afternoon. The wind had died down a bit by then and it was warmer, but sudden gusts still blew off my hat a couple of times--lucky the wind was blowing from the river and not toward it. My second painting turned out much better, as you can see above.