Friday, July 30, 2010

Lavender Fields Again

Lavender Fields in Provence, oils on archival linen panel, 12" x 16." Contact artist for price.

I sold one of my remaining paintings of the lavender fields of Provence last week, and that made me wish I could go back to France right away, to paint some new ones on location. Since that was not possible--at least not this year--I went back to look at all the old photos from my two trips to the Luberon. Both of those trips (2002 and 2004) took place before I owned a digital camera, so the photos I have are limited in number, and not all are suitable for paintings.

This spot was one of the highlights of our trip, taken one afternoon when we went out painting with our artist friend from Rousillon, Francoise Valenti. The lavender in this field was not quite in full bloom yet, but a little imagination helped. I recall painting a watercolor there which sold very soon after our return.

The challenge here was to capture the spirit of plein air and apply all of the lessons about color to a work created from photos. I think my colors appear realistic, giving a good sense of depth and distance. Provence is such a lovely place... I wish I could paint there every year!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Red-Hot Bouquet

Red-Hot Bouquet, oils on canvas panel, 16" x 12."

Last weekend I went to the Olney Farmer's Market at its new location--Montgomery General Hospital's Thrift Shop--and the market was better than last year. The new location has some trees and grassy areas and there seemed to be more vendors, including a few new artist's booths. It's an improvement over the treeless parking lot of the Town Center where they used to convene.

I stocked up on farm-fresh veggies and fruits including corn. The sunflowers in particular were irresistible--splurging on these three and a stalk of peach-colored lilies, I set up this still-life in the dining room. The red background happens to be a wonderful scarf one of my nieces gave me a few years back, set against my company blue tablecloth.

The painting may be too bold a juxtaposition of colors, too fauvist (I need to start collecting cloths of interesting colors for backdrops, at the moment my stock is very limited), and I may knock back part of the background to a darker, more subdued shade later on. For now I'm enjoying experimenting with wild color, just to see what happens. Is the effect too disturbing, or just exciting enough?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Basignani's Vineyards

Basignani Vineyards, oils on canvas panel, 11" x 14." Contact artist for price.

I signed up for the Falls Road Plein Air sponsored by MAPAPA and St. Paul's Schools in suburban Baltimore. The designated painting locations lie along the Falls Road Scenic Byway, an area I am not too familiar with, so I thought to explore it this weekend. Friday was too muggy to make being outdoors bearable, but Saturday, although just as hot, seemed a little less humid--I loaded up my gear and set out in search of a good spot to paint.

There weren't many places to pull off along the road, but just as I was reaching the end of the designated limits, I saw a sign for Basignani Vineyards. I turned into the driveway and followed it up a hill where there was a house surrounded by several out-buildings. One of them was the winery and tasting room. Beyond one could see neatly laid out rows of vines rising over a hill where there were some trees for welcome shade. I walked up to check out the view and yes, it had the makings of a nice composition. There were only three other cars in the lot but no one immediately visible, so I went into the tasting room to ask permission to paint in the vineyards, which the owner granted.

I set up under the shade of a cherry tree--there was a bit of breeze but at four o'clock it was still quite hot. The sky became overcast--I thought I heard the distant rumble of thunder--would I get rained out again? I wasn't going to stop painting unless it became really threatening. After about an hour the clouds passed and the sun came out again. The effects of the light became more interesting as the shadows lengthened, and all that was necessary was to shift their lines in the composition to cover more of the foreground and the rows of vines.

The afternoon brought back pleasant memories of the vineyards on the shores of Lake Balaton in Hungary, where four years before I had spent a month as artist-in-residence. These grapevines were not as manicured as those in the vineyards of Provence, where vineyards are small family plots, but a real working vineyard in a surprising spot: Baltimore!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Blue Hydrangeas

Blue Hydrangeas: Homage to Margaret, oils on canvas panel, 12" x 9." Contact artist for price.

Last Sunday was the Fourth of July, and much too hot to be outside for any length of time. I wanted to paint a still life with a red-white-and-blue theme, but all I had on hand were the last of these blue hydrangeas from my garden: a lace-cap variety with deep blue flowers surrounding the foamy centers and an ever-blooming type with the classic light blue clusters.

Blue hydrangeas always bring to mind my mother-in-law Margaret--she used to have many bushes of this variety growing all around the shady yard of her house in DC. These hydrangea flowers vary in color from pink, deep purple to light-blue depending on the PH of the soil--the more acid the soil the bluer. Hers, growing under a blanket of leaves from the huge oak trees, were a lovely shade of sky-blue. She liked to cut the flowers to display in this graceful robin's-egg blue vase, where they made one feel cool in the wilting summer heat.

The yellow tablecloth, brought back from one of my trips in Provence, made a great backdrop for the flowers and vase--the colors just sizzle!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Summer Heat

Summer Heat, oils on canvas panel, 11" x 14." Contact artist for price.

We got a short break from the heat last week--all of a sudden the air cleared, and the temperatures and humidity dropped to more pleasant levels. On Saturday morning when I went out, the temperature was beginning to rise again. I decided on Brookside Gardens once more--there in the shady path behind the pond I could paint the same gazebo on the island from a different angle.

At this time of the year, the crape-myrtle with its rose-pink blossoms contrasts nicely with a purple beech and the vegetation in a wide range of greens. I started painting at eleven in the morning and finished around two-- you can almost feel the heat of high noon in this piece.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fay's Bloomers

Fay's Bloomers, oils on canvas panel, 14" x 11." Contact artist for price.

MAPAPA had announced an invitation to paint during an open house at a private garden in Davidsonville. As a garden lover, this seemed like a wonderful opportunity to me, but the day promised to be another scorcher--better get an early start. There were a few people set up in the driveway when I got there and buckets of tagged plants lined up. I gathered they were volunteers to help with plant sales, and  introduced myself as a MAPAPA member coming to paint.

Fay's Bloomers is designated as a display garden for the American Hemerocallis Society. The garden covers about 1.4 acres and is beautifully landscaped with hundreds of day-lilies of every imaginable variety and color, as well as many other unusual ornamental perennials. Well-placed statues of maidens made nice focal points for the flower beds, with whimsical ornaments like elves, iridescent birdbaths, and garden balls tucked in here and there for fun.

With so much beauty all around it was hard to choose what to paint. Eventually I found a shady spot on one side of the lot where the woods behind made a good backdrop for the riot of color in the flower beds. I wanted to give a sense of the expanse of the garden, so I exaggerated the rise of the slope a bit to make it more dramatic. The painting was finished around noon; I took it back to the car and got my lunch and another bottle of water out. It must have been over a hundred degrees inside the car parked in the sun--both were very warm.

I ate my lunch under an unusual Japanese maple shading the patio--was it "Palmatum Beni Kawa"?-- I forget. Fay and two other volunteers were sitting there and we chatted in between their attentions to the customers.

The heat and humidity were increasing but I wanted to make the most of this lovely garden, so I opted to stay for a second painting in the afternoon. I wanted to focus on just a few flowers, to treat them as a still life. I walked around looking for a variety that appealed to me the most and settled on 'Tom Wise'--one of the gentlemen there told me this was a relatively old variety hybridized in the 1980's.

'Tom Wise' Close Up, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12." Contact artist for price.

Its deep scarlet red overlaid with orange-yellow offered a wonderful opportunity to use my cadmium colors almost straight from the tube--but the plant was in a spot in the merciless sun. I worked as fast as I could, taking frequent breaks in the shade to cool off--the heat was unbearable--and managed to last long enough to come up with this. I left the garden around five, completely exhausted but happy with my day's work.