Painting outside in not so random back yard

Some Back Yard!

Saturday I got out to paint with the New Hampshire Plein Air painters for only the fourth time this season.  There are two reasons for that rarity–first and primarily, Sharon, our leader, and my usual ride for these activities, was knocked low  for the season by precautionary chemo and radiation treatments; and second, I have been satisfying my painting urge with the twice-a-week life painting sessions.  (Last Saturday I got out, in my own car!, and painted two scenes in Portsmouth, part of the Art Festival paint out organized by the NH Art Association–but I left my paintings behind for a wet paint sale, without grabbing photos first.  No, they didn’t sell, and I will get them back eventually, and if they look as interesting as I remember, I will post photos of them then.)

So this Saturday we showed up at an Open House in Madison, NH (two and a half hour drive from Manchester) to decorate the grounds with our artistic activities.  The place would also make a great artist colony.  The realtor lured us with promises of food, drink, bathrooms, and good views.  She came through on all counts.  We’d like to buy the property, but it’s a little outside of our means.  So we are hoping it doesn’t sell quickly so she will have us back in the Fall.  There’s a view across the fields of a cluster of buildings, including a churchly steeple, that I have my eye on.  But the most compelling view was this one of the water and its reflections.

Back Yard photo

My position was dictated by the presence of a watercolorist working to my right, so the tree was smack in front of me.

I think it’s important to document all the discomfort a plein air artist has to put up with, after jostling for a decent view of the desired subject matter.  I had to peek around the sides of the tree to see what was going on in the margins.  I was on a hill– fortunately, facing downward.  Sideways would have been impossible.  Because I was on a hill, my sandals dug in between the toes.  So I did the sensible thing and went barefoot.  The flies of Madison apparently go gaga over bare feet.  Luckily I had my bug spray with me, and doused the feet.  (No more bug issues, which is amazing.  I suspect the realtor of debugging the property before we got there.)  I was standing to paint, so my back was hurting.  To give it respite and get a longer view of my painting, I had to get out from under the tree (see that branch in the foreground?), and climb uphill to my chair, whence I took the above photo.  Can you even see the painting from there?  Here is a better look at my work in progress.

Some Back Yard! WIP

The sight that attracted me to this painting was the dark and light reflections in the water.  You can see in this photo that I started by laying in the darks first.  By the way, to lay out  my composition, I was drawing with paint from my new tube of Michael Harding Red Umber.  Since I never heard of Red Umber before, I thought you too might be curious about it.  Then, after I got some beautiful reflections in, I allowed the leaves of the irises or lilies to obscure the water.  By that time, I had dragged my chair downhill and was dabbing away at the painting from a position below it.  Shocking?  There are no rules, damn it!  I regret not taking more WIP photos.  Could be that the painting was much better somewhere midway, before my back started to kill me.

Naturally, I still got in my two life painting sessions on Tuesday and Sunday.  Tuesday I experimented with more extreme colors mostly in one range–yellow to red.

Male Nude in Red and Yellow

Sunday’s painting is either unfinished or a study.  A lovely Sudanese refugee posed for us, her very first experience at modeling, in one of her native dresses.

We will have her again in the same pose next week, so I will have to decide whether to revisit what I started yesterday, or start over.


One factor:  I did yesterday’s work on a 20×16  piece of canvas, taped to a board.   Seems a waste to paint a study on something that large.

They (good artists) say that worrying about waste is something a good artist gets over in time.  Not there yet.

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery in Manchester; at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway;  at the Bedford Public Library, in Bedford; at the law offices at 41 Brook St in Manchester; and at her studio by appointment.

3 responses to “Painting outside in not so random back yard

  1. It is lovely to see your greens! I like the way you have highlighted the bright light green in the mid-ground. Very lively. You really suffered for your art that session! Think of all the ‘fun’ the water-colourist missed out on. Outdoor work has its trials doesn’t it?


    • That particular watercolorist was quite envious of the speed with which I got a picture on the canvas, and pretty much decided on the spot to give up on the watercolor and switch to oil. I encouraged her in that decision. Watercolor I find challenging. That is an understatement.