Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Golden Beeches

Golden Beeches, pastel on Wallis paper, 12" x 9." Contact artist for price.

This is a vertical format painting of the golden beeches on Rock Creek Park, based on the same series of photos from the week before. There are subtle differences from the previous week's painting in the way I handled the colors. I wanted to cool down the foreground leaves a bit so I experimented with layering some lavender on top of the yellow-green.

Both paintings have something of that lovely effect of a magical moment in nature that is so fleeting. By now most of the leaves have come down; the few that are left on the trees have dried to a crisp straw color.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Beech Wood at Sunset

Beech Wood at Sunset, pastel on Wallis paper, 9" x 12." Contact artist for price.

Last Saturday as I was driving home from my plein air session on Rock Creek Park, a sight compelled me to stop at one of the pull-offs. I was on a steep slope deep in a wood of ancient beeches, with the sun sinking behind the hill. The leaves at the horizon were glowing with golden hues and the light reflected on the fallen leaves. The gray trunks of the beeches were blueish, a lovely effect. I had to capture this before it vanished.

A photographer had stopped there with his wife and young son in tow. We agreed this was a rare moment, and took as many pictures as possible. When I got home and downloaded my photos, I knew I had to paint this! Pastels, which I haven't worked with for some time, seemed like the most suitable medium for the piece. I happened to have a couple of pieces of Wallis paper prepared for such an occasion. Here it is--I'm working on a another image in vertical format which I'll probably finish this weekend.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Time Out of Time

Bridge Over Rock Creek, oils on canvas panel, 14" x 11." Contact artist for price.
In the city, with the temperature warmer than in suburbs, the trees usually turn later than where I live. Now that we've set our clocks back an hour, it's light enough in the early morning when I traverse Rock Creek Park on my way to work that I can see the colors of the foliage, and it seemed that last weekend would be the peak of color there.

Saturday was a rare day in a string of beautiful, sunny days we've enjoyed this fall. There was frost on the grass when I went out to get the morning paper, but it would soon be gone. I packed my gear and a sandwich, and set out late morning on my usual route to Rock Creek. On weekends and holidays, the main road through the park, Beach Drive, is closed to car traffic down to Blagden Road, about halfway downtown, so I had to take another road that parallels the creek high up on a steep hill.

A six-point stag scurried out of the way as my car started climbing up the hill. The beeches were golden and one could see bits of the creek way below peeking through the gaps in the foliage. I stopped to take photos along the way, and managed to find an empty place in the parking area across Blagden Road. The cyclists, joggers and nature-lovers were out in droves. I walked around looking for the best vantage point to paint the bridge on Beach Drive, and decided to have my lunch before starting to paint, to give the sun overhead some time to establish the direction of the afternoon shadows.

I put my easel in the middle of a thicket of vines, set back far enough from the bridge that the vines hanging from the trees framed the view nicely and painted all afternoon. Lost in my effort to get the right colors and shapes, I stopped only when the light had changed so much that the vines were now completely in shadow. I packed up my gear and walked back to my car. Surprisingly, it was only 3:30 PM--it seemed like so much more time had elapsed! How wonderful to feel for one brief afternoon as if one had stepped completely out of time. We would all be better people if once in a while we got some time out of time.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Glowing Embers

Autumn Pastoral, oils on canvas panel, 11" 14." Contact artist for price.

During the shorter days of November, an exquisite seasonal melancholy sets in that I relish. With the greens of summer gone, the orange-golds and crimson of October leaves burn to deeper shades, like glowing embers on the trees. The effect is particularly striking in the late afternoon when the sun's rays slant low, casting a reddish tint wherever the light lingers.

There is something wonderfully solemn about it, perhaps elegiac, in this light--I'm not the only artist who has felt it. I've been reading Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo, and in a recently memorable one, he writes: "don't let me leave before there is something of the autumnal evening in it, something mysterious, something important."

I started this painting late on Friday afternoon by Clarks' farm down the road. A flock of sheep was grazing on the hills across busy Route 108 while the shadows crept along. The traffic roared past with deafening noise while I raced to get the pastoral scene down on my panel before the light completely disappeared. The sun heated the bleached grasses as sunset approached. I managed to get my last strokes in as the sun's rays were leaving the tops of the trees. Packing my gear, it was amazing to see how quickly the colors and the sky had changed while I painted.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The View From Riverhill

The View from Riverhill, oils on canvas panel, 11" x 14."
Last weekend was gorgeous--perhaps the peak of color for this fall. Friday was quite windy, but I had too many errands to run so I couldn't get out to paint. By Saturday afternoon entire stands of trees had been denuded, but there was still lots of color left. I just needed to go out and find it.

I drove out Brown's Bridge Road towards the banks of the Middle Branch of the Patuxtent River, but there was nothing much there. Going back to my neighborhood along Route 108, I drove by our local garden center, Riverhill, a favorite of mine. The seasonal arrangements at their entrance are usually eye-catching and this one of mums and bales of hay with cornstalks was no exception. I pulled into their parking lot.

Across the road, fields of green beans grew over rolling hills that sloped down to distant pastures. I've been wanting to paint this view for some time because it looks so rural one would hardly believe it's actually in the middle of Howard County's plushest suburbs, but the fact that there is no place to stand out of the way of the traffic usually discourages me--cars drive by at an alarming speed on this stretch.

I set up my easel in a safe corner of the parking lot at Riverhill and started blocking in my painting. I hadn't expected it, but I attracted a lot of attention from shoppers coming and going. Several people who were painters stopped to chat, and a couple of families with children who liked art. I think my fields may be too green for the season, but I managed to get a good sense of the shapes of the trees and the rolling terrain in the afternoon light.