Friday, October 29, 2010

Jug Bay Paint Out

Jug Bay Wetlands, oils on canvas panel, 11" x 14." Contact artist for price.
Last Saturday the weather was beautiful for the MAPAPA Paint Out Plus at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary on the Patuxtent River.Thanks to MAPAPA President Gary Pendleton, our group had obtained access to River Farm, an area of the sanctuary not normally open to cars. Two master painters, Lee Boynton and Sam Robinson, would demonstrate and talk about their approach, offering helpful tips. Since I have not been in the plein air class this fall, I was really happy to have an opportunity to see Lee and some of the artists who have become my friends through his classes.

Lee Boynton's painting demo, early stage
By the time I got there Lee had started his demo and was holding forth about his favorite subjects: color and composition. He had chosen an old red barn with an inviting curve of road leading to it for his subject. His panel was almost covered with paint, but there were still some bare spots where I noticed  a deep Mars Violet tone showing. This was new for me--Lee usually recommends we start with white panels the better to judge color--so I asked him about it, and he shared that at one time he used to tone his panels, but several of his students would tone theirs in such garish colors, he decided it was better to recommend everyone start with plain white panels. Over the summer he had gone back to toning his panels and was enjoying the results. To tone or not to tone? That IS the question.

After watching Lee paint for a while, we all started our own paintings. I set up by a picnic table overlooking the river so I wouldn't have to bend down to the ground to set up my palette. I had a molar extracted two days earlier and was still hurting (my face was quite swollen); I didn't want to move around too much. A young lady I'd met at another paint out shared the table with me. Lee came around to offer advice. He asked me what the focal point of my painting was to be. Frankly, I hadn't figured it out. He suggested I try to place something where the lines of movement in the composition were leading. I decided to place a boat on the river, but I am not sure just how successful it is. I like the colors and the rest of the composition, but I think the boat may be too small for the desired effect.

While I was eating my sandwich, Sam arrived and set up his kit. I went over to watch--he was working with water media, but it was not transparent--it was gouache (I had thought he was a watercolor purist). He was working on a toned panel too--a mid-tone neutral brown--which served him well. He explained that gouache allowed him to work with a technique similar to oils, except that it dried so quickly he could build up layers of color for a loose, impressionist look. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to take photos of his work--fascinating!

Jug Bay Beach, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12."
In the afternoon I moved down from the hill where I'd been to a small beach on the river. Here the width of the river was more apparent, and the golden reflections of the trees on the water glowed. Despite the loveliness of the afternoon, I'm afraid this painting did not turn out very exciting--I was definitely not feeling my best and the painting shows it. Still, I was glad to get the practice and spend a wonderful day outdoors in this special place. I'd like to paint here again before the season ends.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Golden October Afternoon

Golden October Afternoon, oils on canvas panel, 12" x 9." Contact artist for price.
Last Saturday was a beautiful fall day, sunny and warmer than the day before. In the morning I had to run errands, among them picking up my paintings from the Ellicott City Paint It show (none of them sold). By afternoon the wind had died down and the temperature was delightful, so I went out to paint at my current favorite spot by the Patapsco River.

It's been so warm many trees are just starting to change color; this year the leaves are not as colorful as in other years due to our summer drought. Still, I wanted to paint the fall colors and the late afternoon light had set these trees at my favorite spot a-glow. I had just about two hours to do my painting--I didn't want to get caught here after dark should the park gates be closed at night.

Sometimes pressure can be a good thing: it forces one to focus and make decisions quickly. I managed to lay in blocks of foliage in yellow-orange tones in the background with warm shadows fairly fast. I knew the light would vanish soon, weaving the golden orange glow in the water into darker shades. I kept to the warm earth tones for the shadows throughout (Mars violet is a versatile pigment), and worked the greener foliage in the foreground with the branch details and the rocks last. I am pleased and feel the painting captures the wonderful light of that afternoon.

By the time I finished and packed up my gear, the sun had gone from all but the tops of the trees, and the air was getting chilly. The day hikers and picnickers had left, and a few campers were settling in for the night.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Cylburn Arboretum

Gazebo at Cylburn Arboretum, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12." Contact artist for price.
On Friday, the Howard County Plein Air group met at Cylburn Arboretum in Baltimore. I'd heard about the Cylburn for a number of years, but I'd never gotten around to visiting it. I was surprised to find how close and easy to find it was. The historic Cylburn Mansion was built right after the Civil War and has an incredible luxury of architectural details and interior furnishings such as wood carvings, plasterwork, mosaics and tapestries. The property is surrounded by over 200 acres of gardens and some very unusual trees.

The Cylburn Mansion
Fascinating as the house was, it would have been a two or three session painting to do it justice. Instead, I opted for a view of a gazebo in one of the gardens that was a bit sheltered from the wind (it was a bit chilly and quite windy). The sun lit the leaves of one tree from behind, turning them to gold. The contrast with the purple-mauve flowers in front was lovely. The plant was not labeled so I have no idea what it was. I looked up in my botanical books and sites to see if I could identify it, but my search was in vain.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Old Seneca Artisans Festival

Pumpkins at Rocklands Farm, oils on canvas panel, 11" x 14." Contact artist for price.
Last Saturday I participated in the Old Seneca Artisans Festival at Rocklands Farm in Poolesville, MD. I'd been invited by the organizers, three young college grads who work on the farm and whose brainchild was the festival. Rocklands Farm is a historic property with a unique house built around the early 1800's I'd guess, and a collection of interesting outbuildings in a beautiful setting.

 We artists had a choice of hanging space in the barn or setting up outdoors. Since I didn't want to take a chance on the weather, I paid the fee for the barn. The weather was great--very warm and sunny, so my precautions were not necessary, but the barn turned out to be a really neat space: our hosts had rigged spotlights to light the interior, but the light filtering in from the window slats was what gave it a special feel. I sold one painting and have a nibble on a couple more.

I'd brought my easel & panels to paint during the festival, but forgot to bring the bag with my brushes, solvents, etc. so I was very glad to find another artist, Evan Goldman, who had also brought his gear. Evan kindly loaned me a few brushes and let me dip into his bucket of solvent and oil medium so I could paint. We couldn't resist painting the fabulous display of colorful pumpkins on a truck right by the old silo. It was so much fun, I hope they'll do the festival again next year.

Evan Goldman painting the pumpkins.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Purple Asters

Purple Asters at Brookside, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12." SOLD.
This past Friday the Howard County Plein Air group painted at my favorite site, Brookside Gardens. I was the first to arrive and used the time to walk around and see what was blooming. I had hoped for a spectacular display of fall mums, but those plantings were barely budding. A small army of volunteers was working on putting up lights for the Christmas display, pruning and planting spring bulbs, and repairing the handicapped ramps. It reminded me of my visit to Giverny where troops of gardeners maneuver on Mondays, the day the gardens are closed to the public.

A clump of purple asters in one of the formal gardens reminded me of my mother's garden in the fall. She loved the icy lilac-blue of these asters against the rusts and yellows of the foliage, and I share her predilection. Looking at this particular scene, the shade of the shadows on the stone paving was so close in hue to the flowers, it was remarkable. The other plantings added interesting touches of unexpected color to the scene.

I tried to keep the painting as loose as possible, and think I managed it in the background, where there is just a hint of trees and wall. Now if I could dare to stay as loose in the nearer parts of the painting, I may yet achieve what I'm after. Each attempt brings me closer.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Howard County Conservancy Fall Festival

Goldenrod on the Hill, oils on canvas panel 12" x 9." Contact artist for price.

Late Afternoon Hills, oils on canvas panel, 11" x 14." Contact artist for price.
Yesterday the Howard County Conservancy was holding its Fall Festival. I had not known about this local organization, whose headquarters are in a 300-year old farm donated to our county by the last generation of its owners. The non-profit group's mission is to help preserve agricultural farmlands and unique historic sites in the county. The conservancy has built a community center on the site, the Gudelsky Center, which has an art gallery now exhibiting "Vanishing Howard County: A Collaborative Art Exhibit Pursuing the Themes of Conservation and Preservation in Howard County" (Whew, that's a long title for an art exhibit!).

The Howard County Plein Air Group had scheduled a paint-out during the festival and we couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day: the crisp early morning temperatures warmed to a delightful afternoon.
I met my two new pastel artist friends, Deborah and Maria. The morning dew was heavy on the grasses; the fields of goldenrod and dry grasses amid mown fields formed wonderful patterns. A few more painters joined us as the morning wore on, and lots of visitors stopped by to look as we worked on our paintings.

The Conservancy is quite close to my house, about fifteen minutes, so I decided to go home for lunch and return for another painting in the afternoon, though by that time all the other artists were gone. The the late afternoon light glowed on the dry grasses of these fields turning them red and gold. It's such a difficult color to capture! I set up amid the tall grass to avoid being in the path of the hay-ride wagon, and worked until about five-thirty. By then the hay rides were over and it was so quiet I could hear the cries of birds.

I kept thinking of Henry Hensche's dictum that every change in form is a change in color, wishing I had been able to make more of a distinction between the near and far grasses on the hills in the morning painting. The afternoon painting is more successful at giving a sense of the shape of the folds of the hills. Now that I know about the Howard County Conservancy, I will be going back there to paint soon--there are lots of trails to explore there.

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The Field at Tanglewood, oils on canvas panel, 11" x 14." Contact artist for price.

Above is one of the paintings from the Olney Plein Air that I hadn't photographed earlier (my painting of The Backyard Naturalist sold and I didn't get a photo of it). Interesting to note how the vibrant greens of summer vegetation have changed to the earthier yellow-greens of early autumn in a scant three weeks. The trees are starting to change, though fall color won't be at its peak for another few weeks.