Faced with two conflicting imperative tasks this morning, I chose the more unpleasant one: unburden myself of excess items of apparel so as to unjam my closets and drawers and feel I could die without embarrassment. The accomplishment of such a task has such great rewards in terms of mood. I feel ever so virtuous, and lighter. More rewards in terms of delightful discoveries: By giving away half my wardrobe, I have unearthed a new wardrobe. With all that out of the way, perhaps I will be able to write a better blog, or at least a more cheerful one. (Finishing this blog post was the other imperative task.)
I have three new plein air paintings to discuss this week. Ummm, mostly plein air. I have made corrections in the studio to all of them. In cases 1 and 3 I had to eliminate exasperating details and in case 2 I actually added details that I could not see clearly on site.
Cases 1 and 2: Friday a small group of artists from the NH Plein Air group collected on the seacoast, morning in Hampton and afternoon in Rye. Our snowbird, Flo, joined us for the first time this season. Flo and I chose to paint the same scene, the rocky shoreline with a sliver of beach curving around to create a small cove. Instead of trying to describe it, here is a photo of it.
I reverted to my usual style, not trying to do anything but translate the scene to paint:
After a day of contemplating the above painting, I came to the conclusion that the houses ought to get smaller in the distance, and fuzzier. Godlike, I brought the sky down over the more distant buildings. Then, and only then, did I refer to the photograph above. Ouch. The painting was accurate before I tinkered with it. I got out the OMS and wiped out what I had just done.
The layer underneath was partially dried, so it stayed put. The buildings got fuzzier. Fuzzier was good. However, my current struggles to steer my subconscious artistic leanings in the direction of abstraction can claim only the smallest victory in the case of this painting.
Having got that impulse toward reality out of the way, I was ready to abstract when we set up at the Odiorne Park boat launching area. A thin strip of bright green caught my eye across the marsh–the golf course on New Castle island. The sky was intensely blue, which blue was reflected in a few pools of water in the marsh. The trees in the distance made dark bars against the green of the golf course. The pattern was pleasingly haphazard. Using a palette knife, I quickly moved paint onto my canvas to compose these abstract elements. But something else made a play for attention: a herring gull posed on a large isolated boulder in the middle of the marsh. He stayed there pretty much all afternoon, making short trips off to do whatever, once calling on his mate to join him for a few minutes, always facing in the generally westerly direction. We speculated that he was watching over a nest so carefully hidding in the marsh that we could not see it. For a member of the animal kingdom, he was a very good model. However, he was too far from me for me to capture more than his shape and shadows.
When I got back into the studio with my gull, I worried about some of the finer points, like, where should the eye be, how long is the beak really. Enlarging the photos I took weren’t helpful, so I studied all the images I could find online. Wouldn’t you know, none of them matched the position of my gull, but I was able to refine his eye.
I think it’s OK to abstract the background and refine the focal point in the foreground. I’m the artist and I can do what I want, even if rules get broken in the process.
Case 3 comes from a farm. Sharon and I drove (well, she drove) all the way out to Keene, west of Keene actually, to Stonewall Farm. We had been invited to paint there Sunday. Rain was in the forecast but we took a chance, and lucked out. Although we went hoping to improve on our cow-skills, we both ended up painting the horse yard and the Belgian horses–two brown and one light tan– in the yard. Here is what the horses and the yard looked like.
The tan (palomino?) horse was the one posing for me. One of the problems I had was the background–a large tan (straw-covered) surface upon which to paint tan-covered horse. I knew that wouldn’t work. I could have made the ground more of a dark brown, as if muddy, and kept my horse a light tan. Or the opposite, which is what I chose. Of course, the difficulty of getting the horse’s anatomy correct when his position would change every few minutes is painfully obvious. Plein air painters are taught not to chase the light, i.e., we don’t adjust the light and shadows just because the sun has moved. I tried not to change my horse’s leg positions just because he moved them. Then there was the bloody fence. At first, I welcomed the fence, thinking it would provide some interesting patterns. But getting it to cross my horse’s body where I wanted it to was proving impossible.
I was so unhappy with my painting that I couldn’t wait to tackle it at home. Unfortunately, in my zeal to get started deconstructing the painting I forgot to photograph it. Take my word for it, every element in the painting got sacrificed to abstraction and simplification.
My proudest moment was when I painted out the bloody fence. Now you have to imagine where it might have been. Now nothing comes between the viewer and the horse. Also, by blurring the edges of the horse, I imparted, I hope, a feeling of movement. More movement than in fact there was, but don’t tell anyone that!
Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:
At the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Bernerhof Inn in Glen; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; at the New Hampshire Antique Co-op in Milford; at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Manchester, part of the Healing with Art program; and at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester.
Please save the date of Wednesday, June 22 for a reception at Labelle Winery in Bedford of the Petals 2 Paint show whereat floral designers create live flower arrangements inspired by a painting by participating East Colony artists. This has been an annual event of the East Colony Fine Art artists for many years, but this 2016 show seems likely to be our last as a group. Since the flowers don’t last more than a couple of days, you might as well plan to come for the reception.
As usual, you may view paintings with prices and order prints, phone cases, pillows and the like at my Fine Art America page. If the painting you are interested in is not there, or if you prefer to bypass that experience, you may contact me by email to email@example.com.
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Your horse is chestnut with flaxen mane and tail. Most of the draft horses we see are Belgian or Belgian crosses and they are chestnut. Striding: The legs move diagonally, not parallel as your painting shows. It wasn’t understood until motion pictures were developed and slow motion showed the actual pattern. Prior to that all running horses were depicted as having front legs extended forward and back legs extended to the rear.
The color is good and you refined the head, effectively removing the draft characteristics.
My model did not move much at all. He shifted his weight, pawed at the straw, stuff like that. So not being real still for me. But the blur makes it look now like he is moving. Hoisted by my own petard! Thank you Sylvia.
Horse farms are rare Gulls maligned
Wish I could do what you do in color
In black and white
Lovely poem. You do ok in black and white!