Monday, April 22, 2019

First Plein Air of the Year

Asian Garden at the Museum of Shenandoah Valley, watercolor, 10"h x 14"w.

The Outdoor Painters of the Shenandoah held its first plein air outing of the season last Wednesday at the gardens of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester. The gardens were filled with seasonal blooms: flowering Cherries, Magnolias and Redbud, with hundreds of flowers such as Bluebells, Bleeding Hearts, and Daffodils below the unfurling leaves. Ten of us artists were there to make the most of the day. It was an overcast day, but as it wore on it became brighter and warmer, and by afternoon, the sun was peeking in and out of the clouds.

The Museum gardens are fairly large, and after taking them in briefly, I decided that the pond at the Asian Garden, surrounded by stonework and flowers, with a tea house beyond, would afford the best subject. Choosing where to place myself was tough--someone else was already occupying the conveniently-placed bench at one end, and I didn't want to block the path from other visitors. Eventually, I settled on a large paving stone that jutted out a bit into the pond, surrounded by low evergreens, that gave me a few square feet to work in.

Photo of the Asian Garden

The composition was challenging, and needed some editing. I chose to place the large tree by the pond at the one-third mark of my paper to sculpt the curve of the pond, and balance it with the stone path on the right. I then rearranged some of the trees and compressed the area around the tea house to fit it in. The small Kwanzan Cherry by the path was edited to just a couple of blossoming branches entering the picture diagonally. While I worked, a pair of Mallard ducks hung around the pond, an ideal setting for a nest.

It would take the entire day to finish my painting, thus it was fortunate the soft light didn't offer much in the way of changing shadows to chase. Around noon, I took a break and walked back to the picnic area to join other artists for lunch. Back at my spot in the afternoon, I decided to add one of the ducks to my painting--such a lovely spring day!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Yellow Magnolia Blossoms

Yellow Magnolia 'Butterflies'

Finally, after waiting for three years, I've been able to enjoy my yellow Magnolia 'Butterflies' without having the flower buds blighted by frost. A few flowers that tried to open early on had their petals singed, but the majority of the buds held off. My tree is still fairly small, but it is such a lovely sight!

Yellow Magnolia in my yard.

Close-up of flowers.

Spring has really sprung this past week, and my front yard is full of daffodils and narcissi, with  patches of creeping phlox all in bloom. 'Mount Hood' and 'King Alfred' daffodils in the back yard are also blooming, and the grape hyacinths (Muscari armeriacum) seem to be cropping up in odd places as well as in the beds where I planted them. The squirrels like to dig these bulbs up and re-bury them as suits their fancy.

The front yard.

Back yard with daffodils, weather station on pole at right.

Mt Hood Daffodils.

The finches had emptied the feeder with the Nyjer seed, so I went to Lowe's and bought another mesh bag of seeds to hang from the cherry tree. This morning they were having a regular feast--I hadn't seen this many finches at any one time, and managed to snap a photo with seven of them!

Seven finches visit the feeder.

More finches came along after the first shift--they are ravenous, and at this rate the new bag will be soon be empty, but they are so much fun to watch! The goldfinches are just changing into their summer plumage. The cherry blossoms on the tree will soon open too--it will be beautiful.