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.