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.