Acadia: 14 paintings in 6 days

On October 6, I drove to Acadia National Park in Maine to take part in “Fall Color Week” (third annual) promoted by the publisher of Plein Air Magazine, Eric Rhoades.   I’d been feeling a little down, not wanting to get outside and paint, so when the invitation came, I decided it would be a Good Thing to Do.  Expensive,  but worth it in terms of the facilities.  At least I could drive my own car to get there.  Most of the 60 participants flew into Portland or Bangor airports from the West Coast, the South, the Midwest.  To those participants, the fall color foliage was particularly alluring.  For all of us, the idea of Acadia conjured up visions of Cadillac Mountain, Bar Harbor, Thunder Hole, and other visions of Mt. Desert Island memorialized by master artists.

Alas, I discovered when I got there that the section of Acadia National Park where we were was entirely separate from the section to be found on Mt. Desert Island.  We were on Schoodic Peninsula, housed in the Schoodic Research and Educational Institute.  Bar Harbor was an hour’s drive away, taking the short cut–more of which later.  Besides, Mt. Desert Island was overrun with tourists.  Big cruise ships were making calls there.  Busloads of visitors.   Schoodic was a much more desirable place to be, with easy access to fishing villages and other vistas, but  before reaching that conclusion, I would have to try to paint on Mt. Desert.

We arrived at the beginning of Columbus Day Weekends, the traditional peak of foliage season, planning to explore Schoodic for a few days waiting for the tourists to leave Mt. Desert.  The Peninsula offers a lot of rock, both along the road and extending out to sea.  Fir trees dominated all tree lines so there was less “foliage” there than back home.  My first stop was Blueberry Hill.  (Blueberry bushes do provide a large proportion of the red foliage  up there.)  At Blueberry Hill, I chose to look outward, at a fir-covered island while the sun struggled to break through a very clouded over sky.

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I spent a long time on this, my first painting of the week.  So often my first painting of a series turns out to be the best, and I gave it my all, dabbing away at the clouds and rippling waves until I was sure I had captured their variety within what was a relatively sedate range of colors.  As it now turns out, Blueberry Hill was indeed one of my more successful efforts.

After lunch (a bag lunch that I made up from stuff laid out for us at the dining hall), I went looking for some color along the Schoodic Loop Road.  I found a roadside brimming over with reds and yellows and greens, near the bike trail called Bunker Harbor.  Feeling inspired to make a masterpiece, I got out one of the bigger panels, 12×16.

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To top off the day, I set up on Schoodic Point, where roseate rocks spread way out into the sea.  Artists were sprinkled all over the landscape.  I had to set up at the edge of the road because my balance is not good enough to get me and my gear across such uneven surfaces.  I did not give this second effort as much attention.  Sketchy.  But I think you get the idea.

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I was proud that I had produced three paintings on the first day.  Better than most (only in terms of numbers–there were some very accomplished painters there).

The next day, Sunday, was extremely foggy.  Eric had suggested that we drive over to a fishing village called Corea.  About 45 minutes to drive there:  20 minutes to get off the Peninsula, turn right (North), then East again down another long arm into the ocean.  I got there early and could not find other artists, or any parking spots.  We had been warned about respecting “Private Property” and “No Trespassing” signs.  I drove around and around until finally I made a desperate move:  I turned into a dirt road that led to the harbor, despite the sign that said “Ivy’s Way Private Way”.  There were two wooden walkways into the water (docks?), surrounded by boats and fishing gear (lobster cages, in particular)–and a small cottage.  I knocked on the door with some trepidation.  The door was answered by a couple from Missouri (!) who have rented the cottage every summer for the past ten years.  The owner lives in a building across the main road, and quite the building that was.  Modern, large, industrial, Bauhaus in flavor.  The owners rent the water access to the fishermen and  “wouldn’t mind at all” if I set up to paint there.  The fog had lifted slightly and I was able to spot a white house way up on a hill that was solid rock, with a lobster boat moored below.  I had my composition.  The fog continued to lift until it was all gone by the time I was finished painting.  I left the background trees in the fog.

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I believe the next “assignment” was to be a lighthouse that was near Corea.  I went there and waited for some other artists to show up, but none did, and the wind was too fierce for me get out of my car.  I took a nap.  Then I returned to Schoodic, Frazer Point, and painted this little quickie.

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That night, after dinner, someone got one of the artists to volunteer to model for portrait.   I watched for a while, then realized my gear was just outside in the car and I should have brought it in to paint the portrait.  After all, I’d rather paint a figure than rocks any day.  I would be ready the next day.

Monday, Day Three, the day we hoped to paint on Mt. Desert Island.  I got set, started out early.  The shortcut required finding Mud Creek Road, which I had no trouble with.  But Mud Creek Road ended in a “T” intersection and, not knowing which way was correct, I chose left.  (No reception for cell phone meant my GPS was no help at all.)  I ended up on Marlboro Beach Road in or near a town named Lemoine, staring at a very special view of Mt. Desert Island.  I pulled over to get a good look, and was also able to get GPS there.   I was not on the correct route to Mt. Desert, so I backtracked and got to Thunder Hole, where we were supposed to gather, about 11 o’clock.  Almost the whole morning was spent driving around.

At Thunder Hole, I doped out a spot where I could set up to paint without getting out on the rocks, but to what end?  I could not see the Hole from there.  In fact, the Hole was pretty darned dry in not-high-tide.  So I went to the next recommended spot, Otter Point.  Parked and got my gear out of the car with a determination that, after all this driving around, I was going to produce a painting here no matter what.  I stopped on the side of the road looking down.  I painted until the rain started.  Something to do with hurricane Nate?

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I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the area by car, and drove back to Schoodic in time for dinner.  After dinner, our portrait model was Rick Wilson, a painter that Eric had recruited to keep us entertained by playing guitar and singing.  As a model, he was not trying to keep still for the portrait painters, but I didn’t mind.

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Tuesday, Day Four, another Mt. Desert attempt.  We were supposed to all be on top of Mt. Cadillac by three in order to be photographed en masse.  Meanwhile, I wanted to paint that scene I discovered on Marlboro Beach Road.  I invited others to join me, but there was a spot on Mud Creek Road that was pretty attractive, and nobody got past that.  (Nobody seemed anxious to go all the way to Mt. Desert.)  Anyway, I easily re-found Marlboro Beach Road and got permission from homeowner to set up and paint his view.  It went quickly, despite the fact that I used 12×16 panel.

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After Marlboro Beach, I headed for Jordan Pond on Mt. Desert.  Again, it was the suggested site for painting prior to Mt. Cadillac.  The Pond was downhill from the parking lot.  It took a lot of patience to snag a parking spot.  I had to lurk.  (There was no way I was leaving without getting a crack at the restroom!)

It was going to be hard to get my gear back up that hill but I was determined to paint there.  To reduce my burden, I left my chair in the car, hoping to find a suitable rock to sit on.  (My back does not allow me to stand long enough to complete a painting.)  Down by Pond’s edge, I found the perfect sitting rock, but I had to face up the hill, not at the pond.  Well, it was only water and rocks and trees anyway.  Uphill I had trees and shadows.  Another artist from the group, with his wife, showed up, but not painting.  Still it was nice to see a familiar face.  When I went to leave, I got halfway up the hill before a kind couple took pity on me and dragged my cart up to the top.

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At that point, I was looking forward to the top of Mt. Cadillac, but I never got there.  The Park Rangers had barricaded it because the parking lot at the top was full, and the line waiting to get into the parking lot had filled the road.  No room for anyone else.  Wow.  I headed back to Schoodic, glad I had at least got one painting done on the Island.

After dinner, I painted another portrait–this one of Vicki.  Vicki kept very still.

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Wednesday, Day Five:  Beautiful day.  Two of us shared a pullout in the Schoodic Loop Road–my companion looked out upon the water and a tiny fir-covered island; I was taken by the combination of rocks and shadows over the rocks and road.  This is probably my favorite painting from the week, 12×16, unretouched.  My experience was marred by voracious flies that bit right through my clothes.  (I added two more layers the next day.)

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After lunch, I went exploring the little fishing towns between us and Corea:  Prospect Harbor had a big regional lobster pound, very industrial-looking building.  I drove in and around and behind it where I had a view of a funny little lighthouse.  Remembering how awful the conditions were for that other lighthouse, I figured why not, it’s a lighthouse.  Why not is not a good reason.  It was my worst painting, even after I retouched it.  I’ll show you Before and After.

Before

Before

After

After

Thursday morning, six a.m.:  Sunrise scheduled to be 6:45 so I figured I had plenty of time to get out for a sunrise painting.  There was a good spot right at the entrance to our Institute buildings.  Eric was already there, said the best light had already gone by.  I didn’t believe him.  About six more artists were also clustered around easels.  Eric was using a little easel light.  I had not thought to bring one with me.  Didn’t matter, by the time I was set up. there was enough light to see sort of what I was doing.  Couldn’t really see it until I got indoors.

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Thursday was our sixth and last painting day.  I decided I needed more boats.  On the Loop Road, there was a restaurant called Bunkers Wharf, and it looked down on Bunkers Harbor.  There were already a few artists painting there and I had heard talk of some painting inside on one of those really bad days.  I joined the group outside–there were four of us.  Of course I had my usual bag lunch, but the others were ordering food and I could never resist steamed mussels.  Lunch was a lovely experience.  I went inside to order the mussels, but the young man  brought them out to me when they were ready, and later came back for the empties.  He told us of his plan to buy some real estate and put up condos to lease out to Acadia visitors.

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After Bunkers Wharf, I wandered around Winter Harbor but never felt the urge to set up and paint.  After dinner that night, we set all of our paintings out for everyone to view.   It was too much to absorb.  Incredible works of art all around me.  I felt exhausted.  And I feel exhausted all over again now.  Hope you enjoy!

Catching up–Bartlett Style

I have been not performing, blog-wise, up to the standards I set for myself this summer.  If I had met those standards, two topics would have been set before you already and the third would have been pulled together for today.  The problem, as often happens, is just when I gather my thoughts and my photo illustrations, I notice something in one of the paintings that I must, MUST fix.  Then after the fix, a new photo must be taken.  It has been a summer of revisions and regrets.

One topic was to have been:  best and worst plein air (marine) painting of the summer, covering  why I thought one was good and the other not–but wondering how I could have rescued the one that was awful.  A second topic was to have been the rest of the works resulting from the Stuart Ober course–you’ve seen the portrait of Sparkle, but I did a bunch of other stuff that never would have got started but for the impetus of taking a course called “Explorations in Oil Painting.”   One of them could have been a topic in itself, as I worked on a 12 by 36 of “Impressions of Manhattan from the Whitney Museum”, a complex skyline with streetscapes that can always be improved or added to.  I’m still adding.

This week, I hoped to be posting all the Figure in the Garden paintings from David Curtis’ garden, 2016 edition.  Those paintings are finished, but the last one still needs to be photographed.  I scaled up to 16×20, making the photographing more challenging.

And now, as topics pile up, I just got back from a workshop up North with Michael Chesley Johnson, for which blog I made promises.  I feel a little like Mickey Mouse must have felt in the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”.  (Disney movie “Fantasia”)

I am going to take the advice I always gave my tax delinquent clients:  do current returns first, then the past-due ones.  Therefore, today without further ado, without messing about, I am posting photos of the three plein air paintings from the last two days, showing what I can accomplish in the approximately two hours available for each, before stopped by lunch and/or rain.  Raw footage, as it were.

Excuse me while I go snap photos of each one with my iPhone.

.  .  .  .

Eight students gathered at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett NH to learn plein air painting from Michael Chesley Johnson, of Campobello and Sedona, for perhaps the shortest workshop ever–two days.  We were lucky with the weather, in that the rain held off Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning until I was able to get one painting each time close to completion.  I produced a third painting during the Wednesday rain. . .storm is too strong a word.  Rain Event. More of that later.

Tuesday morning MCJ opened with a demo of how to paint rocks.  We piled into a gazebo near the Jackson Historical Museum– it was shaded, just the right size for 8 students and a teacher, next to a rock-filled Wildcat River, and near our next stop: a preview of the museum’s upcoming show.  Then lunch at a local deli, then back to the Wildcat, a river responsible for the phenomenon known as Jackson Falls.  We got some sun, but mostly clouds, so we got experience with painting en plein air on overcast days.  How to find a “hook” when there are no lights and shadows to create drama?  Well, falling water is always interesting.  Unfortunately, New Hampshire has been suffering a record drought, so instead of impressive, thundering cataracts of water, we got meandering trickles.

(MCJ photographed me working at the Falls and posted it to Facebook, if you are interested.  I was wearing my usual distinctive hat, so everyone who knows me recognized me.  I could probably link to it, but I don’t have time to learn how to do that!  Got to get this post done.)

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Jackson Falls, v. 5 or 6

Day Two, or Wednesday as most people know it, we headed down into the Valley to experience the location of Albert Bierstadt’s  “Moat Mountain, Intervale, New Hampshire”.  That is why I have titled this painting Bierstadt Meadow.  Most of us chose to paint the ledges that are to the right of my scene, but I’ve a bee in my bonnet all summer about the pinky-purplish grass that shows up at this time of summer.  It is most prevalent along highways.  It was not present in this meadow, but there were other plants sporting colors in the same family, so I thought I would try to fake it.

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Bierstadt Meadow with Bluebird House

We were treated to very little sunlight, but the weather forecast did not include rain.  Nevertheless, Sharon (Sharon Allen, who organized this workshop and spends half her life painting around Mt. Washington Valley) “felt” it would rain and urged us to move to a sheltered location–under a bridge in Conway from which we could paint a red covered bridge from below and to the side.  When we got there, most of the river (Swift and Saco merge near here) was, well, absent.  We were going to get more practice painting rocks.  However, a puddle under the bridge reflected the red covered bridge, and I chose to make that the subject of my painting.

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Under the Bridge, of Another Bridge

All of my paintings were painted on the carton paper sold by Judson’s plein air supplier.  The paper slows me down a little because it absorbs paint, making it harder for me to cover the surface.  But once my surface is juicy with paint, I can go to town.  The geometric shape on the right is the stanchion [is that correct term?] of the overhead bridge.  When the rain blew in [is Sharon  a witch?], it disturbed the puddle and handicapped me.  Oh, well.  Had to fake it.

Since I probably will not get to the topic, best and worst marine painting, and I cannot NOT show you the best, I will now show the best.  Two “tall ships” came to the Portsmouth area.  August 12 was the day I chose to visit them.  One docked in Portsmouth for people to tour.  The other docked in New Castle for people to ride.  I would have bought a ticket to ride if my timing were better, but as it was, I had to wait for the “Harvey Gamache” to return to port before I could grab a photo of it.  Meanwhile, I painted its expected path from New Castle’s Grand Island Park.  In my studio at home, I added the sailing ship using my photo as reference.

Harvey Gamache passing into New Castle

The Harvey Gamache Passing into New Castle

I have some happy news:  two of my pet paintings will be part of a nationally juried exhibit in a museum!  The museum is the Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center in a place called Solomons, Maryland.  The Sculpture Garden is affiliated with the Smithsonian!  The two honored paintings are “Sparkle”, which had been sold but the owners have agreed to lend the painting for this exhibit; and “Partners in Crime”–the two tuxedo cats on a cat tree.  IMG_1568

Partners in Crime

Partners in Crime

 

 

 

 

 

The exhibit’s theme is “Fur, Feathers, and Fins–Our Faithful Pets”.   It will run from October 7 through January 29.

Other places where you can catch a few of my paintings are:

  • NH Antiques Coop in Milford NH
  • Ellis River Art Gallery in Jackson NH
  • Bartlett Inn in Bartlett NH
  • Red Jacket Resort in North Conway NH
  • Bernerhof Inn in Glen NH
  • Mesmer & Deleaut Law Firm in Manchester NH

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 alotter@mac.com.

If you want to add a public comment to this blog, go to the bottom of this page where it says “Leave a Reply”, and enter your comment in that box. I love to get public comments, so don’t be shy!

Abstracting the Landscape, Part 2

Having recently come off a weekend devoted to abstracting the landscape (see previous post), during which we painted from photograph, imagination, memory, music and purely abstract concepts, I resolved to apply my newly acquired abstracting skills to actual landscapes.  No, more correctly expressed:  I resolved to TRY to apply those abstracting skills to actual landscapes.  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.  The spread of nature’s delights is so seductive that it is almost impossible to reduce a painting to a few good non abstract ideas.

The photo on the left is the result of my painting for two hours at Upper Ammonoosuk Falls, getting sucked into the whole nature thing, trying to capture all the rocks and water rivulets.  Fighting with myself.  Until finally I heard myself remarking to another artist, by the way of encouragement, that depicting falls, boulders, etc. was hard because of the clutter.  Clutter.  Such an important non abstract concept.  I went back to my painting and swept the water down over all my clutter.  And it worked.  So what if the scene never looked quite like that!

This morning I went over all four of my weekend paintings to see if any adjustments were needed.  In the photo on the right you can maybe detect minor but important touches:  the large rock slab in the virtual center was grayed back so as not to compete with the white of the falling water; the indeterminate brown area in bottom right was darkened and sharpened so as to clarify that it sits higher and in front of the falling water.  I also added a few strokes of white water to the cascade, just to gild the lily.  (By the way, while spell-checking Ammonoosuk I discovered YouTube videos of this spot, featuring reckless youths diving into the pools.  Here is one of them.)

But did I really abstract my landscape?  I did a better job than usual in reducing details.  It’s a start.  Maybe I’ll do better on the next one?

The next one turned out to be a panorama of intensely green fields dotted with intensely  yellow dandelions, backed by periwinkle mountains, covered by gray clouds threatening rain.  Because of the high chance of rain, we had driven south to Conway, where there is a bridge overpass that could provide us shelter from the rain while giving us a river’s edge view of an old-fashioned covered bridge.  But we each of us got sucked in by the dandelions, and set about creating rain shelters within which to paint.  I was riding with Sharon, so we had to find two ways to create painting studios out of one SUV.  She had the tailgate.  She also had the bright idea of creating a shelter for me out of my big yellow poncho and the two doors of her vehicle.  Here’s a photo of me getting set up  under my yellow tent.  20160513_152644

The tent cast such a strong yellow light over my painting (but not my palette), that I thought I was losing my mind when every time I scooped up a big blob of white paint to use in the sky, it turned yellow as soon as it hit the sky.  The  yellow tent had to have affected the rest of my painting as well, but it was only obvious in the sky.  As a result, I had not much of a good idea of how my painting was coming along.  This is not a good situation to be in, for a painter.  However, I was trying to be abstract, so maybe, I thought, hue doesn’t matter.  I blocked in the elements I wanted:  the intense green pasture, the intense yellow dandelions, the intense blue mountains.  Added a few tree and shrub features.  Still a result not so abstract, but the important thing was, I was thinking abstractly.

The one on the left is the painting as it was on Friday afternoon; the one on the right received some help today.  It needed more  yellow in the dandelions since it no longer had the benefit of a yellow poncho glowing all over it.  I cleaned up the sky a bit.  The photos do not do justice to the yellows and greens.  Oh, well.  Just keep in mind ALWAYS–the original looks so much better than the photo.

For my third painting, I was fortunate to be able to pick the group’s subject of the morning, and paintings always go better when one is inspired by the subject.  There is a railroad that goes from North Conway north through Crawford Notch to a station near the base of the Cog Railway that climbs Mt. Washington.  To get through the Notch, the train must travel on rails cut into the granite sides of the pass, and in this particular place, also bridge a gap in the rock face.  Especially with the morning light casting a shadow of the rails onto the granite, the tracks create a pattern both arresting and intriguing.

On the left side is what I got done on site.  We were painting from a parking lot surrounded by growing things in various stages of greening (the trees budded out almost before our eyes–not just overnight but over lunch), so my view of the area below the trestle was obscured.  I had installed rough representations of that obscuring growth, but I was bothered by the fact that you could not tell how far away the trestle was, nor how high it sat on the side of the granite face.  So I scrubbed the growing things and tried to transform them into rock face.  At home, today, I tried to improve on that aspect, as well as the rock formations above the trestle.  I’m not convinced that my changes improved the perspective.

For our last outing, we chose a spot not far from our home base (the Bartlett Inn).  As before, I resolved to think abstractly, just capture the shapes and colors that represented the site.  The color for this one was blue.  Intensely blue sky, intensely blue water reflecting the sky.  A nice snaky curve in the waterway, good aerial effects for the more distant mountains.  Simple elements that I should be able to use for an abstract landscape.  Alas, the landscape had other ideas.

As an abstracted landscape, a pretty miserable failure.  But more than passable as a normal plein air landscape, so I forgive myself.  The changes I made this morning to the earlier version on the left were mostly in the light greens and the sandy shores.  I don’t understand why the blue of the water looks so different now.  I think there might have been too much contrast in the first photo.  You can tell I have played around with the photo’s color cast, trying to match up with the original painting.  The truth of the water lies somewhere between the two versions.

My companions for the weekend were my roommate, Betty Brown; chauffeur, Sharon Allen; colleague from Snow Camp, Suzanne  Lewis of Rhode Island; young artist Stephen S from Hooksett; new members Leslie and Paul, from Massachusetts, and of course, the esteemed organizer of this semi-annual Getaway Weekend, Byron Carr of Contoocook.  Some if not all of these people have websites where their paintings of the same scenes may or may not be posted.

If you are a regular reader, you have noticed I am employing a different format for the paired photos.  WordPress has added new options, and I am learning  how to use them.  You can click on the above photos to enlarge them and to read their captions.  Do you like this format?

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 alotter@mac.com.

If you want to add a public comment to this blog, go to the bottom of this page where it says “Leave a Reply”, and enter your comment in that box. I love to get public comments, so don’t be shy!

October 2015 Artists’ Getaway Weekend.

WordPress keeps track:  it has been 21 days since my last post.  Oh, dear!  I could look back at my calendar to nail down exactly what happened in these three weeks, but I know you’d rather not hear about physical therapy and closet cleanouts and yard sales.  Or mishaps with cars.  That last event will have long-lasting repercussions.  My auto insurance company does not want me as a customer anymore.  I feel humiliated.  I’ve had a bunch of smallish accidents–fender benders, we used to call them–followed recently by my backing out of my garage with the hatch back still in the upright position.  For safety reasons, cars crumple when they meet resistance, so the old-fashioned fender bender is now a very costly proposition.  I never used to have any kind of accidents; in fact for many years I went without auto insurance and I never had reason to regret it.  But now I am leasing a car and boy! that insurance coverage is a necessary resource.   I am now thinking I need to find a way to survive without the luxury of car ownership.  I won’t have to decide  until June.

Last weekend Sharon Allen was my ride.  She took me and my painting gear with her up to Bartlett for the Fall Artists’ Getaway Weekend.  Besides Sharon and me, and Byron Carr of course (he organizes the event), we were joined by Betty Brown (Wolfeboro), Michele Fennell (Kensington), Suzanne Lewis (Rhode Island), Morgan Murdough of Henniker, Sean Carroll, Elaine Farmer of Amherst, and Beverly Belanger with her husband Joe.  Our best day was the Thursday travel day.  We painted from overlooks first on the Kancamagus Highway and then Bear Notch Road, which is a shortcut to Bartlett when it is not closed for snow.  Sharon sold one right off her easel.  While she was working on her 6×12 vista view, I was working on a tall tree portrait on a 16×12 panel.  The blue peak in the far back is Mt. Chocorua:

Portrait of a Tree in Autumn

Portrait of a Tree in Autumn

Our next stop on Bear Notch Road produced this one from me, more of a vista on a smaller panel (9×12), very representative of my style.

Bear Notch Road overlook

Bear Notch Road overlook

Friday we spent the day at train stations, first the depot in Crawford Notch, then the big station in North Conway.  The weather was threatening rain all day, so we chose spots where we could seek shelter and still paint, ergo, train depots.  My morning painting never got finished, but it has potential.  Trees need skeletons to hold up those leaves.  Note the tiny hikers emerging from the path up Mt. Willard.

At Crawford Depot, WIP

At Crawford Depot, WIP

It was not finished because after only one hour, all of us agreed that it was simply too cold for us, and besides, we were hungry.  We returned to the Inn to eat leftovers from Thursday night’s dinner and get ourselves warmed up for the next round.

The weather seemed somewhat improved after lunch–the rain seemed to have ended and all we had to contend with was clouds and wind.  We did not need another train station for shelter, but for some reason, we ended up there.  Silly artists!  After the afternoon train pulled out of the station for its leisurely trip north to Crawford Notch–the very spot we had abandoned that morning–three of the four of us started a painting that depended on those tracks remaining clear of trains.  What were we thinking?  And I had deployed a 20×16 panel to work on–way too big to finish in an hour, which is about how much time we had before the train was back.  Not a good day in terms of results.  But did we learn anything?  Beware of tracks bearing trains.

Block-in; clouds over N. Conway

Block-in; clouds over N. Conway

Friday night most of us dined together at the Red Parka and returned to the Inn to drink wine and talk, talk, talk.  I held out until the end but it was getting pretty hard to keep the eyelids propped open.  It wasn’t even ten p.m. and I usually stay up past midnight.

Arriving late to join us was Ginny Barrett, an artist I know from the Manchester Artists Association.  Ginny is not a plein air painter.  She was there to do a story about plein air painters on her local access TV program.  Her videographer was to join her Saturday and they would be conducting an interview with each artist over the course of the day.

Saturday:  Interview Day.  To keep all of us in the same general area for the sake of the interviewers, we gathered at the meadow west of North Conway, via the road signed as “Balcony Seat View”.  Albert Bierstadt was somewhere near this spot when he painted “Moat Mountain”, a beautiful and accurate vista that hangs in the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester.  I learned something about the sun, my eyes, and the deceptions practiced upon me by both.  You see, I had discovered years ago that when the sun shines directly on the surface of my painting, I paint too dark.  So I avoid that situation, sometimes by using umbrellas to shade my work space, sometimes by turning my back to my subject matter and peeking over my shoulder.   And sometimes by facing the sun so that the panel creates its own shade.  Saturday morning I could have used an umbrella and faced White Horse Ledge, but I decided to face the opposite direction, and paint what I could see in that direction, which meant the third option:  I was looking right into  the sun.  Imagine my shock and horror when I later discovered that my painting was just as dark as if I had the sun shining directly on it, instead of into my eyes.  Michele said it probably had something to do with the narrowing of my pupils in the sun.  Here is the result–the painting looks like a nocturne (painting of night scene).

Accidental Nocturne

Accidental Nocturne

The cold and wind chased us out of that spot too, so the softest of us (that would include me) decided to try our luck at Glen House.  In January a few years ago, when Sharon and I tried to paint en plein air up north in the dead of winter, we had sought shelter at this oasis across from the Mt. Washington Auto Road, and they allowed us to paint inside, looking at the weather through their floor-to-ceiling windows.  This time we came in with four painters plus Ginny and Paul (the photographer), but we were again allowed to set up and paint inside.  Having already wasted two 16×20 panels, I wisely brought out a 9×12 to use for a modest painting of the clouds and peekaboo mountains.  It was snowing on top of Mt. Washington, and the clouds swirled in and out, obscuring then revealing first this ridge, then that one, and the sun occasionally found a hole in the clouds with which to torture us with brief glimpses of light.

The Start of Winter

The Start of Winter

This was a fun and rewarding project–from the inside, where we were warm and sheltered from the wind.  Outside there was rain, there was sleet, there was hail, and of course, some snow.  I’ve decided I paint much better when I am not totally miserable.  Must be age.  Used to be that a little misery took me out of myself and allowed purer artistic instincts to emerge.

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;  and at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester.   For the month of October I have two paintings in the Womens Club of Concord, part of a three-part 20th anniversary exhibit by the Womens Caucus for Art.  However, the hours during which the WCC is accessible to the public are unpredictable.  You can visit the other two parts of the 20th Anniversary exhibits at the Kimball Jenkins carriage house and the Concord Chamber of Commerce.

As usual, you may view paintings with prices and order prints, iPhone cases 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 alotter@mac.com.

If you want to add a public comment to this blog, go to the bottom of this page where it says “Leave a Reply”, and enter your comment in that box. I love to get public comments, so don’t be shy!

Fresh Air painting

We hit two locations last week: Wednesday at St. Gaudens National Park in Cornish, NH; and Sunday  near Mt. Washington and Crawford Notch.  Both times I was with Sharon Allen and Betty Brown, and on Sunday, Mary Crump and Jim O’Donnell joined us.  Sunday was Day Three of the annual International Plein Air Painters (IPAP) paintout.  I had to skip Days One and Two because of schedule conflicts.  I think that was a good thing–I was fresh and rarin’ to go on Sunday.

Augustus St. Gaudens was a sculptor.  His two most famous sculptures are the Shaw Memorial, which sits outside the State House in Boston; and Diana, the largest of which lives at the top of Madison Square Garden.  A small Diane graces the Currier Museum in Manchester, NH, and another large one is on display in St. Gaudens’ studio.  This is the view of her that I could get from the doorway; I was not allowed inside because of my canine companion, Justice.

St. Gaudens' Diana

St. Gaudens’ Diana

Justice was with me as a treat for him.  When I leave him at home, I have to lock him in the bathroom because nothing else seems to contain him when he gets the urge to defecate in the living room.  To the list of outdoor painting problems, therefore, I have to add the possibility that your dog will scare off strangers who might want to see (maybe buy?) what I am painting.  He was pretty good on Wednesday; only chose to bark at two people.  Nobody was interested in what I was doing anyway–they were there to see St. Gaudens.

The statuary found in the gardens outside his home were not his pieces.  However, he chose the statues to decorate his garden, so they must have enough artistic merit to justify a painting of them.  For my first painting at St. Gaudens, I followed Betty’s lead and painted a statue of Pan standing over a fountain of sorts and surrounded by plants with huge arrow-shaped leaves, similar to a house plant that I used to cultivate but whose name has slid out of reach in my memory.  Here is my photo of the statue, followed by my painting.

Pan's Garden

Pan’s Garden

Statue of Pan

Statue of Pan

Mind you, the light had changed between the time I took the photo and when I got to the point of lighting my composition.

For my second painting (usually I paint two in a day when we are out for the whole day), I wanted to include St. Gaudens’ house.  I also fell in love with the light hitting an ornamental grass that graced flower pots that line up to lead down from the house into a semi-secluded outdoor room.  Here is my first taste:

Line of ornamentals

Line of sun-struck grasses 

Just as I got set up to paint, a rain cloud arrived and slowly passed over.  I checked my iPhone, and as far as it was concerned, the sun was still shining.  So I sat tight, using two sun umbrellas to shelter in place.  Justice was not pleased.  I suggested to him that he could get under the chair I was sitting on for pretty good protection, but no, he had to rely on my easel/palette tray.

Here is what my subject looked like for about 20 minutes.

St. Gaudens home in the rain

St. Gaudens home in the rain

As a result of the rain shower, and perhaps also the complexity of my subject, I could not finish the painting of the house and garden.  I may use photo references of the grasses later to complete the floral grouping in the foreground.

St. Gaudens house and garden (WIP)

St. Gaudens house and garden (WIP)

Justice did not accompany me on Sunday to Crawford Notch.  On Saturday, a friend took him away to Massachusetts for sleepovers, but that left the Great Dane, Honey, all alone.  I lined up a few people to let her out periodically.

On our way up to Franconia Notch, the weather was concerning–cloudy, drizzly.  Then it perked right up as we continued north of the Notch, on past the Mt. Washington Hotel, which coincidentally was hosting a major art fundraiser for the northern forest.  We had to get to the Willey House because Betty and perhaps others would be meeting us there  for IPAP.  The weather deteriorated.  Clouds were very low, and it felt as if it might drizzle at any moment.  But it didn’t!  We stuck it out.  My painting seems to have darkened as it dried, which is odd.  If I had had sun lighting my canvas, I would have painted too dark, but I certainly had no sun that time.

Webster Mountain under cover

Webster Mountain under cover

The ducks were bobbing around back and forth all day, and whenever a new person approached the duck food (actually fish food but apparently good for ducks too) feeding station (25 cents a pop), they would swarm toward that person.  I had to have a few ducks in the painting.  Those white blobs represent the white feathers.  The rest of them–grays, browns– kind of get lost in the water.  Here is a different photo of the painting, a little too red but without that bleached out spot and better for discerning ducks:

Webster Mountain under cover

Webster Mountain under cover

After having lunch at the Willey House, we headed up to the Mt. Washington Hotel.  The sun was still shining on the Hotel, but the mountains were still obscured with clouds.  In addition to sun, this spot had wind.  Most of the artists who were there painting not for IPAP but for the fundraiser were set up on the leeward side of the wide veranda that encircles the hotel.  Betty and Mary joined them, while Sharon, Jim and I went in search of an angle from which to paint the horse that we had spotted as we drove into the hotel.  It wasn’t easy because of the distance the horses were from the road, and the impossibility of getting any closer.  That last line of defense for the horses were cattails, ergo wetlands.  The closer vegetation was probably infested with ticks.  Wimps we were.  And when I sat to paint (which is how I have to now), my line of sight on the horses did not include any legs.  Perhaps just as well. I have not painted many horses, and all I had to worry about was the body, neck and head.  Legs and feet can come later.

Horses under gray sky

Horses under gray sky

I painted the horses on a panel toned with cadmium red.  You can see hints of that red here and there. The sky was the last piece I put in.  I liked it with the bright red sky.  I hated the whitish gray sky.  So before it dried completely, I tried wiping out the whitish gray.

Horses with Pink Sky

Horses with Pink Sky

Red appealed to me I think because it is dark, and I wanted a dark value in the sky so as to increase the attention paid to the field.  It is hard to determine the value of red as juxtaposed to other colors.  I supposed I could make a dark blue sky.

So that is what came from two days of painting outdoors in the fresh air, sunny and cloudy and sometimes wet.  Before I close, I know that Bad Cat acquired some fans, so here is another shot of him in my bed.  His real name, by the way, is Blue.  Bad Cat Blue.

IMG_0804

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;  and at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester.

As usual, you may view paintings with prices and order prints, iPhone cases 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 alotter@mac.com.

If you want to add a public comment to this blog, go to the bottom of this page where it says “Leave a Reply”, and enter your comment in that box. I love to get public comments, so don’t be shy!

Practice, Practice, Practice!

This week I have hardly painted at all.  I’ve had three doctor appointments, several projects left over from when I was a tax lawyer (translation:  I’m still preparing tax returns for old clients), and various minor household emergencies to deal with.  Nevertheless, I do have something to put out there for your consideration.

I have been messing around with older paintings that never made the grade.  On two of them, I painted an abstract landscape over, and inspired by, the painting underneath.

Red Leaves against Early Snow

Red Leaves against Early Snow

Purple Mountain Majesty

Purple Mountain Majesty

On yet another, which had failed to excite because it was a party scene with no people in it, I set about inventing people.  Seems to me that I should be able to come up with a method for faking believable people in a loosely painted scene. I have looked at some of Sargent’s paintings of his friends logging about on picnics and such, and I observe that there are many spots in his paintings that are totally undefined.  Sargent could paint loosely with confidence.  I am thinking that if I start by just getting figures in the frame, I can worry about developing a confident style later, after I have the general technique down.  This attempt is actually my third; several years ago when I was on my-bike-race-up-Mt-Washington kick, I included crowds of people in the backgrounds of two paintings.  Both attempts were highly successful.  Both were largely abstract.  It should also be noted that I had photographic references for both.  I am pleased to show you:

Andy with bike

My son, the biker.

Fans

Fans

This, my third attempt, could not be abstract because the people are the foreground and the building in the background is pretty sharply delineated.  The buildings started out as the focal point, and now I’m trying to plop these figures in front of it and have it come out looking kind of reasonable. I made up my mind that this exercise did not have to result in a successful painting.

I started with an ocherish color on my brush, and painted in silhouettes of plausible figures.  I found it hard to invent animated gestures.  Maybe that will get easier with practice.  Then I painted other colors, representing clothes and hair, on the silhouettes.  I threw in a few floppy hats and one striped striped.  Here is the result:

Lawn Party at Exeter Inn

Lawn Party at Exeter Inn

I hate to admit this, but I also tinkered with a couple of paintings that I had deemed presentable enough to post on this blog as decent achievements.  With the tinkering I have spoiled them.  I would go back and restore what was obliterated, but I am afraid the paintings will never get back the freshness that made them so pleasing to begin with.  What can I say?  Lesson learned.  Oh, you want to see?  Here is the saddest one–I did have to fill in the background, which is what got me started with the tinkering.  First the original posted version, then today’s:

Natalie 2

Natalie 2

Natalie after Retouches

Natalie after Retouches

All I can say is, thank God I didn’t touch the hair.  But isn’t it curious that by toning down the natural redness of her cheek, chest and arms, I drained the life from her.  Surely that is another important lesson:  let the color chips fall where they will.

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

At the Library Arts Center in Newport, NH;  at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett;  at the Bernerhof Inn in Glen; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway;  at the Firefly American Bistro on 22 Concord Street, Manchester; and at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester.

As usual, you may view paintings with prices and order prints, iPhone cases 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 alotter@mac.com.

If you want to add a public comment to this blog, go to the bottom of this page where it says “Leave a Reply”, and enter your comment in that box. I love to get public comments, so don’t be shy!

July in New England–outdoors in the heat of the sun

I feel a little as if I have been running around without purpose, just answering one call after another to paint outdoors.  But now, looking over my output, I see  there must have been other things absorbing my  time and attention.  Nevertheless, you are not likely to want to see the entire three weeks’ of artworks, and I am in the happy position of picking my favorites to talk about.  I have painted in Manchester, Goffstown, Newport, Portsmouth, Rye, and Newington, all of New Hampshire, plus Gloucester, Massachusetts.  Here are the best of the lot:

Uncanoonuc Garden

Uncanoonuc Garden

This location is on the side of a hill called Uncanoonuc.  Actually, there are two hills by that name, next to each other, and even Wikipedia avers that they are “mountains” with impressive views of Manchester to the east, the Wapack range to the west, and on a good day, Boston to the south. From Manchester, the Uncanoonucs resemble the mounds of a woman’s breasts, and Uncanoonuc is a native American word meaning just that.  One Uncanoonuc boasts a road upwards.  Along the way is a retail plant nursery that has installed groupings of shrubs and flowers to show its customers how lovely is a good landscaping plan.  The blue spruce caught my eye, in part because much earlier in my painting career, I had recreated another Little Blue Spruce.

Little Blue Spruce

Little Blue Spruce–Putney VT 2008

Well, I don’t think I can say my blue spruce technique has improved at all since 2008!  The earlier blue spruce was growing at the studio of the “Putney Painters”, where I was taking a workshop with Albert Handell.  Albert liked my spruce but thought I had crowded it too much with the other trees.  I usually take the advice of masters to heart, but maybe 20 percent of the time, I stay true to my own original intent.  I see his point, but I also admire the pluckiness of the baby spruce staking its own territorial claim under less than ideal circumstances.  I’ll bet today it is crowding that building in the background.

In Newport, in the course of delivering and picking up a painting for the regional show at the Library Arts Center, I got myself invited to participate in the Garden Tour, as a painter.  They had about ten different gardens open for tour, each with different attributes.  I told them I cared only about the flowers, not interested in mountain vistas or water features, so they sent me to the site of an abandoned gravel pit.  The homeowners have been reclaiming the land patch by patch.  As each load of topsoil was dumped into a pile, stuff got planted . I chose to paint the pile devoted to the memory of a beloved dog who had passed the year before.

A Boy and His Dog . . .

A Boy and His Dog . . .

The message set forth on the rustic sign reads “A boy and his dog are joined at the hip and heart forever.”  So instead of flowers, I found myself focusing on hardscape elements of rocks and sculpture, so easily is the artist’s intention waylaid.  When I had finished A Boy, I made another stab at featuring flowers.  I went in search of a floral closeup.

Flower Box

Flower Box

I knew I was doomed to fail at the task of matching the glowing fuchsia reds of the petunias, but set out to try anyway.  The next day, after the paint had set up a little, I was able to add cleaner, brighter color here and there so as to convey the sense of color, even if the exact color remained elusive.  The  straw strands in the basket came mostly out of my head, or rather, out of my memory of my favorite painting by Jamie Wyeth–Hay Bale.

haybalejwyeth352-300x214

Isn’t that the most lovingly portrayed hay bale ever?  A living, almost breathing, hay bale.  Don’t you feel like you could stab it with a pitchfork right on your computer screen?  Just imagine how it looks in person, as I saw it on the wall of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts last year.

I have one more Exeter painting to show–it was painted “live” just before a lawn party at the Exeter Inn.  I painted another during the lawn party, but I don’t love it so much.

Exeter Inn

Exeter Inn

I was pleased with the flowers in this painting, and I hoped my handling of flowers in the landscape might be improving.

Portsmouth and its environs saw a lot of me the past few weeks.  And I saw just the tiniest fraction of paintable spots, so rich is Portsmouth in architecture and marine attractions.  I accumulated three favorites:

Inlet

Inlet, Boat ramp

Entering Prescott Park

Entering Prescott Park

The Zinnias are perhaps too carefully depicted.  Reality is my downfall.

Wentworth by the Sea

Wentworth by the Sea

The biggest challenge here was the shoreline–how to show the transparency of the water’s edge lapping on the rocky beach.

Again this year, David Curtis is giving his workshops on painting the figure in the landscape, in his garden.  Our model was dressed as a bride:

Bridal Portrait

Bridal Portrait

I’m growing weary of green!  Note that the landscape portion of this figure in the landscape is not much more than fuzzy suggestions of landscape.  I felt it had to be thus.

But not all work was done outdoors.  Our Monday life group met twice:

Natalie 2

Natalie 2

Sheridan

Sheridan

All in all, the lesson I have taken away from these three weeks of fairly intense painting is renewed awareness that I still suffer from a deficiency that has plagued me all along.  I’m not “loose” (messy) enough.  Is it that I’m so fast a painter that I end up wasting my time on “cleaning” and straightening and perfecting?  For example, the windows behind the window box were never “finished” because, thank the lord, I realized I could not improve on their rough state.  But examples of overpainting are too abundant.  When will I ever learn?

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

with the East Colony  artists for the rest of July at 163 (167) Water Street, Exeter, NH;  at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett;  at the Bernerhof Inn in Glen; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway;  at the Firefly American Bistro on 22 Concord Street, Manchester (reception August 3); and at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester.  Also, on July 23, from 5 to 8 p.m., the doors to all art galleries in Manchester are open and served by a old-time trolley.  I am participating as a member of the Manchester Artists Association in a one-day exhibit at the Rines Center, on the Trolley route.  It’s all free!  See the Open Doors Trolley Night website for more information and a list of venues that have a show going on that night.

As usual, you may view paintings with prices and order prints, iPhone cases 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 alotter@mac.com.

If you want to add a public comment to this blog, go to the bottom of this page where it says “Leave a Reply”, and enter your comment in that box. I love to get public comments, so don’t be shy!