Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rock Creek Fantasy

Rock Creek Fantasy, pastel 11.5" x 7.5."

Just my luck that during my week off work it rained the whole time--last week we had more than nine inches! I was at my wit's end--studio painting was the only recourse. It was so dark and gloomy outside, I perused through my digital photo files for something inspiring to paint. I remembered the photos of Rock Creek Park last year, taken on a gorgeous early November day when the fall colors were at their peak, and came across one of a bridge on Beach Drive near Blagden Road. That bridge is all straight lines: the road bed parallels the water banked with stone piers, and the metal railings run parallel to the road.

About a mile upstream from that one is another bridge--a narrow old WPA-built stone bridge that curves over the creek in a graceful arch. It's so lovely I keep wanting to stop to paint it every time I drive over it, morning and evening, on my way to work. Perhaps I will get around to it this year--it's a difficult spot to get to, as the road bends in several tight S-curves where you can practically see your own tail-lights. There is no long view through the arch to the creek beyond, and places to pull off are farther up the road.

I decided to be creative and imagine the old stone bridge in this location, relying only on my memory of it, therefore turning the painting into fantasy. The rest of the landscape is an interpretation from the photo. I like the way the color effects turned out: lemony yellow and lilac in the distant trees seen through and behind the bridge. The back-lit middle distance presented the opportunity for rich colors among the dark trunks, and the reflections in the water open a path for the sky to flow down to the subdued foreground. There is something very satisfying about pastels for rendering these effects.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Soft Morning at Brookside Gardens

Tea House at Brookside Gardens, oils on canvas panel, 12" x 9"
The morning was overcast yet bright, what the Irish would call "a soft day," when I set out for Brookside Gardens to join the Howard County plein air painters for our weekly outing. After the recent rains from Hurricane Irene everything sparkled with fullness and bloom. The leaves of the dogwoods and maples were starting to show that bronzy color that signals the transition to fall.

I had walked around on Monday morning after hanging my show at the Visitors' Center to scout out the location for today's painting, and decided to focus on a view of the Japanese Tea House framed by the pink flower heads of fountain grasses--this view is so distinctive it's an icon for the gardens. Two other painters were already there, Rita and Brenda, but Brenda didn't feel well and left shortly after.

The skies began to darken before I'd even laid out the paint on my palette--we might have to work fast today if we hoped to get anything done. The first peal of thunder was distant, and we kept on working through the few drops that came. Then the sky brightened a bit, giving me hope it might clear up. The thing about working fast is how loose it forces one to be--I was slapping the paint on as fast as I could, trying to get the colors and shapes down.

Around eleven several more peals of thunder, this time close enough to be alarming, finally sent us packing. It began to rain before I had put everything away and raced to my car. Driving home, the rain let up but puddles indicated it had poured earlier. By the time I got home it had cleared and the rest of the day became sunny, but it was too late to go back. I finished he painting at home from memory, covering a few spots of blank canvas here and there and defining a few edges.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wooded Landscapes at Brookside Gardens

Golden October Afternoon, oils on canvas panel, 12" x 9."

My show at Brookside Gardens Visitors Center, titled Wooded Landscapes went up this past Monday August 29, and will be on view until Sunday October 16. 

There are fourteen paintings, most of them done en plein air, and some painted right there at Brookside. I chose my favorite painting from last year for the show image. If you happen to be in the vicinity, please stop by to see it and enjoy the beautiful gardens.

Brookside Gardens
1800 Glenallan Avenue
Wheaton, MD 20902

Friday, September 2, 2011

Laytonsville Paint Out

Laytonsville Fields before Hurricane Irene, oils on panel, 9" x 12."
Last Saturday Plein Air Olney's Laytonsville Paint-out was called off due to hurricane Irene, but I didn't read the Email in time, so I set out that morning. I had figured since the hurricane was not expected to make landfall on the North Carolina coast until early afternoon, there might be time to get some painting done in the morning before the weather deteriorated.

Tara and the organizers were at the Town Hall and gave the seven or eight of us who showed up the news. Since I was already there, I decided to try to get in some painting anyway. The fields around Laytonsville were lush with the late summer bounty, and the skies so dramatic! A light drizzle began to fall around eleven, but by that time I had most of my panel covered. I took some reference photos before packing up.

A pair of tiny goldfinches struggled in the wind at the edge of the soybean fields and I wondered where they would find shelter during the storm...