On Photographing Oil Paintings

I have, from time to time, complained about fog or glare appearing in my photographs of artwork.  I tried to eliminate glare by cutting down on lighting, but it didn’t always work.  The larger the painting, the harder it was to eliminate glare.  When I started, I didn’t have a lot to photograph so I would take the artwork outdoors to a spot where the lighting was indirect.  As I accumulated piles of panels to photograph, I wanted to be able to run through them relatively quickly–indoors and at night.  I would flood the studio with full-spectrum artificial light.  Instead of aiming lights at the artwork, I would bounce light off the ceiling, through a mirror, etc.  I thought the only solution was to avoid the light that rakes across the surface of a painting.  Yet my research on the internet kept producing advice to set up lamps aimed at 90 degrees from the artwork.

The result of my low lighting solution to glare was unsatisfactory color capture.  I started using my iPhone instead of my once expensive, leading edge digital SLR Nikon D70.  But all that is in the process of changing, since I attended a short workshop at the NH Institute of Art, conducted by the chairman of its Photograpy Department, Gary Samson.  I learned a new concept:  polarization.  I’m no scientist, as Republican climate-change skeptics are so fond of saying, so the explanation that follows may read like a Mother Goose tale to someone who actually understands the physics of light.

Rays of light have direction, and bounce off surfaces like oil paintings.  To polarize these bounces is to neutralize them, or counteract them, with filters that somehow deflect the bounces before they reach the camera.  You need a filter for the camera lens.   You also need filters between the light source and the art object.

I started by acquiring a filtering lens for the Nikon, and rephotographing some recent works that had troubled me.  Despite the fact that I could not figure out exactly what I was supposed to see through my new circular filter, the photographs did improve.  Compare the original hazy image with the new polarized image.

John Brown as gardener

John Brown, posing as gardener or farmer (FOG FROM REFLECTED LIGHT)

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John the Gardener  (NO MORE FOG; COLOR ALSO MORE ACCURATE)

But then I tried to rephotograph a painting that I had varnished with a high gloss varnish.  I could not get rid of the glare.  So I rummaged around Amazon and then eBay until I found affordable gizmos to hang filters from the spotlights, and a large sheet of polarizing film from which to cut out sheets to hang from the gizmos.  I don’t think it mattered whether the film’s polarity was circular, as with the camera lens, or parallel.  Circularity was necessary for the camera so that the camera could still autofocus.  I take that on faith since I don’t understand it.

Alas, the filters for the spotlights did not solve the varnish issue.  I am so sad.

Two other advances in my photo technique have resulted from that workshop:  I set the Nikon to take the photos in RAW format.  That’s super-large format to accommodate enormous amounts of data for the purpose of manipulating the data in the finished version (jpeg) of the photo; and I bought a photo manipulating program better than “Photos”, which comes free with all my Apple devices.  Adobe Lightroom, about $145 from Amazon, compatible with Macs and IOS.  Headache!  Powerful software equals massive learning curve, and hey,  I hated learning how to operate the remote control on my DVR.

As a result of all this upheaval, my diligence with blogging faltered over the past couple of months.  I’m hoping that by the end of January, I’ll have all the bugs worked out.  Meanwhile, here is a decent photo of a 16×20 painting that I did over the summer–from a reference photo I took in my neighborhood.

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Russell Street Roofs

Reminder for folks in the Chesapeake Bay area: see two of my animal portraits at the Annmarie Sculpture Gardern and Art Center in Solomons, Maryland.   The exhibit’s theme is “Fur, Feathers, and Fins–Our Faithful Pets”.   It will run  through January 29.

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

  • NH Antiques Coop in Milford NH
  • Ellis River Art Gallery in Jackson NH  (in January 2017)
  • Bartlett Inn in Bartlett NH
  • Red Jacket Resort in North Conway NH
  • Bernerhof Inn in Glen NH
  • Mesmer & Deleault 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!

New Crop of “Figure in the Landscape”

For a third Summer in a row, I participated in the David Curtis offer of a model in his garden garnished with the light touches of his guidance and that of my fellow artists.  This year, we had July Sundays in addition to the August Sundays, plus an errant June Sunday to get us in the proper mindset.  We got rained out only once, giving me a total of eight Sundays, eight figures, eight paintings.   David’s home and garden is in Gloucester, an hour and a quarter drive from my home.  This year I had company on the trip.  I persuaded Cynthia Arieta to try it out; she prefers figurative painting too, and we met during Cameron Bennett’s Cornwall workshop a few summers ago.  She’s now as hooked as I am.

For models, we started with David’s wife Judy, dressed up as a Guitar-playing Gypsy.  This was the June Sunday.  The Rhododendrons were no longer in bloom, but David suggested I add blooms to the painting anyway, so of course, I did.

Judy with Guitar and Rhododendrons

Judy Curtis, wife of David Curtis, posing in their Gloucester garden

The order in which I painted the middle ones might not be accurate, but who cares about that, right?  I believe the second one was the Basketful of Flowers, featuring artist Marianne as our model.  For both of these first two paintings I used a 20×16 Raymar panel.  In the previous two summers, I had painted smaller, on 12×16 panels.  I had been easily able to complete those 12×16 paintings in the three hours allotted, so this year I thought I would challenge myself by going bigger.  As a result, the background of Basketful of Flowers was unfinished when I left that Sunday.  I worked on it at home and brought it back the next week for comments from the others.

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Basketful of Flowers

Not particularly happy with my first two paintings, I concluded that 20×16 was perhaps too large for me to complete in three hours, and I switched back to 12×16 for number three.  I call this one  Diamond Bracelet.  My titles are mostly hooks to remind me which painting I am talking about.  I could not use the dress color to identify this painting because, as you will see, another blue-green dress is coming up.

Diamond Bracelet

Diamond Bracelet

David objected to the downsizing idea:  As long as I was getting enough information on the larger canvas to finish at home, I should keep working in the 20×16 format.  Subsequently I also took pains to prepare the panels that I used with a dark ground.  Dark brown or rusty red were my usual choices for the ground color.  Without the pressure to cover up white grounds, I could get closer to completion each Sunday.  If I remember correctly, the ground for White Wicker Settee (number four) was close to black.

Reader on White Settee

White Wicker Settee

Our model, another artist,  for White Wicker furnished the settee herself and of course chose her costume.  David declares repeatedly, “Artists make the best models”, and surely their choices of accessories is a big component in their success.  He tried to recruit me to model next year, but I am reluctant to sacrifice my painting time.

Number five.  The next model is the daughter of one of us artists.  I had to fake the rhododendrons again.  From Gloucester to Manchester, we have been suffering from an extreme drought, and Judy Curtis, who is in charge of the garden, stands on principle in refusing to water her garden–ever.  So the rhododendron blooms would not be the only flowers we had to invent or exaggerate as the drought worsened over the summer.  Tablecloth and vase is the one of the eight that I am least satisfied with.

Reader at table with vase of flowers

Tablecloth and Vase

After the fact, I decided I should have filled the canvas with the figure instead of letting “figure in the landscape” govern my composition choices.  For future sessions, I resolved to get closer to the model and even, gasp, allow body parts to get cut off by the edge of the panel if necessary.  Meanwhile, David encouraged me to paint in the pattern on the tablecloth in order to create something interesting going on.  One of the most common praises he heaps upon me is that I “tell a story”.  I don’t really understand what he is talking about, but hope I can keep on doing it.

The next two paintings did not require me to cut off any limbs, but I did allow  major accessories to get cut off.  The first, George Martin, Painting (number six), started on a blackish ground.  Notice how his easel slides out of frame on the right?  The part I had the most trouble with was his eyeglasses.  The lenses caught quite a glare from the bright sun and sky above, but when I painted them like I saw them, it was too startling and distracting.

George Martin painting

George Martin, posing with his brush and easel

John Brown is a regular on Sundays and has posed in the past on Sundays when I could not be there.  I had envied the results I had seen, so was looking forward to his portrayal of Farmer John (number seven).  (Or should it be Gardener John?  Doesn’t have the right ring.)  I believe I can detect a red ground for this one.  His wheelbarrow leaves the frame on the right.  This painting was my favorite (and David’s favorite) up to that point, but there was one more week to go.  Could I top Farmer John?

John Brown as gardener

John Brown, posing as gardener or farmer

In this number eight, the last painting of the summer, the red adirondack chair makes its third appearance over the last two summers.  The model is engaged to marry David and Judy’s son.   Her names escapes me right now–so sorry.  But she also modeled for us last summer in a navy blue dress holding a red parasol–my least favorite painting from any of the summers.  So when she appeared again in navy blue, my heart sank.  I prepared myself for a disaster of a painting.  But surprise, Navy Blue with Red and White proved to be a winning combination!  And to celebrate, I cut off her feet!

Combining red chair with white parasol

Navy Blue, Red and White

A major contribution to the success of this painting is the shadow pattern on the parasol.  The sun and the tree gave me what I needed to tell that story, whereas the shadow pattern in Diamond Bracelet was, well, no pattern at all.  I may have to go back and fix that.

Reminder for folks in the Chesapeake Bay area, if any there are: see two of my animal portraits at the Annmarie Sculpture Gardern and Art Center in Solomons, Maryland.  Opening reception will be October 7, which I cannot attend.  Alas.  Maybe I will make it down there before the exhibit ends in late January.  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!

The Prodigal Cat Returns

In 2004, before I even started painting, I read an article in a cat magazine, while I was waiting in the veterinarian’s office, about what a great cat this newly recognized breed, the Pixie Cat, was.  Smart, friendly and almost dog-like in the way they connect to people, Pixie Bobs look like a small version of a wild bobcat:  short tails, spotted markings, tufted ears.  I was intrigued, and set about looking for a breeder in New Hampshire.  I found just one, and as luck would have it, she had a kitten with a “bad” tail that was in need of a good home.  The tail was bad because it was too long and ended in a crook.  I reimbursed her for her veterinarian fees and took title to the little fellow.  He was about 10 weeks old.  He had been named “Winchester” but we were not about to call him that.  My granddaughter decided his name should be “Freckles”, for the little spots on his muzzle.

Freckles as kitten

He came to me already microchipped.  We had at least two cats already, and there was a cat door available for free travel in and out.  The other cats weren’t much into going outside.  Freckles, however, was an adventurer.  Once, a neighbor, who happened to be a firefighter, had to climb up a tall pine tree to retrieve him.  Another time, he went missing for a whole week, so I posted laminated posters all over the neighborhood with his picture and a description of the crooked tail.  Almost immediately, I got a call from an ex-neighbor who had just come to check out the vacant property she had for sale–he was stuck on her roof! She was ready to take him to her new home when she noticed the poster.

Frequently he could be found chilling’ on the rocker on the porch of a house up the block; they wanted to claim him as theirs too, but fortunately he had already acquired a rep and most neighbors knew where he belonged, even if they didn’t know me.  He enjoyed car rides and would hop right into one without invitation.  But I figured he was safe, because of  his microchip.  Sadly, I now know that for a microchip to work, it has to be looked for.

Freckles was one of my very first attempts at a cat portrait, and that painting is still one of my most successful, if you measure success by how quickly viewers fell in love with the subject.  I had used that portrait as him Missing Cat poster photo.

Freckles_Cat - Version 2

Then in December of 2010, when Freckles was six years old, he got caught outside in a snowstorm.  I never saw him again–until last week.  All these years, I had hoped that he simply accepted a car ride with someone who decided not to check him for a microchip.  (Vets do not routinely scan new patients for microchips.  Asked why not, one vet answered that it would appear distrustful of the pet’s guardian.)  But I realized he more likely was dead.  I would look up at that portrait of him and feel my loss every time.  He was my most special cat, the only one I ever sought out to buy from a breeder.

Monday morning I got the news that someone had scanned a stray cat in Nashua (about 20 miles South) and come up with Freckles’ contact information.  None of my phone numbers was still good, but the fax number went to the firm I practiced law with–the firm that had often been visited by Freckles because I liked to take him everywhere with me.  By one p.m. the responsible cat owner who searched for his true owner, she’s my hero, Belinda, met me in a parking lot and turned over to me a somewhat confused Freckles.  He seemed content being with her and not very interested in coming home with me.  But being Freckles, he accepted it.  He did, after all, enjoy car rides.  Here is a photo that Belinda shared with me, of Freckles napping in her daughter’s bed.

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I had to quarantine him away from my other cats until we were sure he wasn’t carrying any contagious disease or parasites, but the vet declared him amazingly healthy for a senior cat on his own.  Actually, amazingly healthy for a cat of any age.  Even his teeth were good.  The cat door has not been openable from the outside ever since he disappeared six years ago, but he is getting enough stimulation from the four younger cats occupying my house.  He does seem to remember the house, not to mention the cat door, and he is warming up to me.  He seems to want to be in the same room with me.  The other four cats are showing him great respect, as is his due.  He has only to look at them, not even a stare, just a look, to claim his lofty position as No. 1.  His favorite perch, when we (my follower cat Milo and I) are in the TV room/art gallery is the top of a leather chair like the one that I sit in, so that we are on the same level.

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Note the painting hanging in the background.

Two more photos:  one to compare to his kitten photo and the other to mark his privileged occupation of my otherwise cat-free computer sanctuary.  He has found the printer-scanner-copier combo to be a good place to hang out.

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I’m not sure what all this has to do with my painting.  It’s just a tale I needed to tell.  A love note for my special cat.

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;  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, 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!

Portsmouth Paintings

Since my last post, I feel as though I have been feverishly busy, but most of the painting time has been studio time.  Not  many of my plein air landscapes have come inside without need for improvements.  I am enjoying the process of making improvements–well, I hope what I’m doing improves the paintings,–but worry about why the need.  Am I getting pickier?  Am I getting slower?  What’s up with all this tinkering, etc.?

I hope I’m getting smarter, that I see more ways to improve when I get the painting home and can assess its defects dispassionately, without being influenced by reality.  I suspect I am also getting a lot slower in painting, as in everything else I do.  I can’t even get dressed in the morning without straying off the rails into some distracting musing.  Maybe that’s late onset of attention deficit disorder, but when I am painting, I am able to keep my focus on the painting and the scene.

So, last weekend–oops, two weekends ago!–I participated in the annual Portsmouth paintout put on by the NH Art Association, which is a Portsmouth outfit.  I believe that makes the fourth year of my participation and I haven’t missed a year yet.  I couldn’t complete the event on Sunday because of my commitment to Sundays in the Gloucester garden of David Curtis, but I managed to produce three 12×16 paintings, which is pretty large for plein air.

The first painting took me from about ten in the morning until about two in the afternoon.  The heat was enervating.  I had a good concept for my painting:  under the drawbridge with the drawbridge raised to allow a tugboat to pass through.  My brain wasn’t working in top gear, however, so it took me a while to realize that if I took a photo of the raised drawbridge, I wouldn’t have to wait for it to be raised to see how that changed the elements.  The product as “finished” in those four hours (a pretty long time for me to need for a plein air painting) had good bones, but it was rough–very rough.  The sky paint did not even cover the gray ground.

The second painting was from the same vantage point but a different perspective–closer to being under that drawbridge, which is called Memorial Bridge, with a view of the other two bridges from Portsmouth to Maine:  another drawbridge and the elevated highway bridge even farther back.   Someone called me on the phone about one o’clock and commented that I did not sound well.  Interesting.  Did I mention it was very hot that day?  I told her I was fine.  As fine as someone who has become dehydrated without being aware of that fact.  It was a hint, and eventually I took it– I got the elements of those three bridges down in an hour and then quit.  As you would expect, with all those excuses, I had to do a lot of improving when I got the two back in my hands.  Here are the finished versions:

Comin' Through (Memorial Bridge, Portsmouth)

Comin’ Through

3 Bridges, Portsmouth

Three Bridges, Portsmouth NH

For my third Portsmouth painting, conditions were better.  I didn’t even try to get started before noon.  I spent only two hours.  I was in the shade.  There was a breeze.  For those reasons, perhaps, I have not felt the need to tinker with the painting produced at the Elks Club of Portsmouth:

At the Elks Club

At the Elks Club in Portsmouth

Just a few days ago, I went back to Cape Cod to pick up the painting that had been shown at the Addison Gallery’s show “Found my Park”, and to paint something new somewhere on the Cape.  The old painting looked better than I remembered it, so there’s another example of getting ‘er done outside, but it was 11×14, much smaller than the Portsmouth ones.  Here is what I’m talking about:

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View from Salt Pond Coast Guard Station

To find another good spot for painting, we watched for likely signs–to beaches or parks.  We chose to explore Nickerson State Park in Brewster.  An amazing and huge tract of wildness.  No ocean, no dunes anywhere, but glimpses of water.  I finally went online with my iPhone and found a map that got us to Cliff Pond and Fisherman’s Landing.  There was nobody there when I set up my easel, but soon we were inundated with children and dogs.  I had a dog with me myself.  It wasn’t a problem, but I did not feel inspired.  After I got home and had a chance to sleep on it, I knew what I had to do.  I had to add stronger dapples of shade and sunlight throughout, including on the figures of my companions.

Sun-Dappled Afternoon

Sun-Dappled Afternoon

I have to confess that my dappling in this painting may have been influenced by my recent trip to the Peabody Essex Museum’s exhibit of Childe Hassam’s Isle of Shoals paintings.

I want to thank all of my followers who took me up on the offer of free paintings.  I am grateful because can you imagine the humiliation if I couldn’t even give away my paintings?  Ouch!  But it’s just a drop in the bucket, so if you have been hesitating because of some reluctance to take advantage, the offer is still good.  I am limiting to paintings 11×14 or smaller, simply for ease in mailing.  The priority mailing cost is $12.00.  Stake your claim!

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;  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, 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!

A Spate of Painting Leads to Opportunities for Rescues

The clouds have lifted, the sun is shining, and I find myself back in the groove of painting. It’s a good feeling.  I’ve ordered in a huge supply of panels.  If I fill them all with paintings, my problem of finding homes for them is going to be exacerbated.  This problem is similar to the problem of cat and dog overpopulation.  On the one hand, puppies and kittens are so lovable.  On the other hand, dogs and cats take up space and require some minimal maintenance.  Curbing the reproduction of the animals via spay-neuter programs is the solution to that problem.  Will I have to curb my production of artworks?

I am painting for the joy of it, not expecting to make a living at it.  Once the painting is finished, my happiness does not depend on keeping it nearby.  In fact, I’m happiest when I find a loving forever home for my artworks.  If  you would like to give a home to one of my puppies, let me know.  I ask only that you pay for the shipping.  Of course, exceptions will have to be made for certain special projects, ones that I want to give to family members or submit to an exhibit or prize competition.

My latest crop (litter?) includes a bunch of plein air paintings and the still unfinished Manhattan Project, which I had hinted at in the last blog.  (Surely that term is not copyrighted after all these years.)  I’ll delay discussion of the Manhattan Project until it has been completed.  I just hope the final result justifies the suspense that I am building.  Suspense is building, right?

Continuing the practicing for a weekend paint out in Portsmouth, I painted this street scene, which truly was empty of people and cars most of the time:

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Bottom of Court Street, Portsmouth

I added the telephone wires after the painting had dried.  I discovered that if the brush left a glob of excess paint, I could pick it up with the brush and my medium (Gamsol), thereby thinning the line and keeping it wispy.  I won’t be able to do that during the paintout since the underlying paint will not be dry enough, so I’d better pick a different scene for the paintout.   This fact is disappointing because my other choice involves lots of little lines–bridges.  Maybe I can come up with another fine-line technique because once I get a subject into my head (inspiration strikes), nothing else will be good.

Last week, Sharon Allen, Betty Brown and I responded to a call for artists to paint the Cape Cod National Seashore in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the National Park System.  We found a charming B and B in Eastham to put us up two nights.  Of our three days on the Cape, only two halves were dedicated to serious painting.  The rest of the time we were reconnoitering.  And eating.  Good place to visit if you like seafood.  Duh!  Just before we headed up North homeward bound, we stopped to paint at a town landing which didn’t qualify for the national park paintout.  So I have a total of three paintings to show for the trip.  My “best” one got left there at the Addison Gallery for the big reception.  It was also the first one I painted:

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View from Salt Pond Coast Guard Station

My eye had been drawn to the drama of the light green sea grass (that’s what I am called the grass that grows in the dunes down there, and around the salt water pools) against the deep blue sea.  Add the interesting group of buildings perched (precariously, I am told) atop a high dune, and you’ve got solid inspiration.  I set up in a traffic island in front of the Coast Guard Station.  To my right and way down a hill (guess that’s obvious) there’s a beach full of people and umbrellas.  That was a second choice for a subject, despite the view  being severely limited.  Sharon nevertheless took it on.  Betty, meanwhile, climbed the fire escape and perched herself with her easel up there to create a semi-abstract rendering of marshes and pools.

My second serious painting portrays another Coast Guard Station, this one at Race Point.  The perspective bothered me so I tried to correct for it, but I’m still dubious.  I had intended the front of the building and all lines parallel to it to be level with the horizon, which is what appeared to be the case. But now I think I should have superimposed an imaginary vanishing point off to the left–that is what my eye was reaching for, demanding, despite the evidence of my level.

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Race Point Coast Guard Station

Here is a reference photo that I took of the same building, showing the way I really wanted to paint it.  I’ll do it too, but on a larger canvas:

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Doesn’t that evoke Hopper?  Edward Hopper lived on the Cape and painted many of the buildings.  I haven’t been able to find that he painted this building, but I’ll bet he did.  How could he resist?  Yes, I moved the flagpole.  Had to be done.

The little quickie I did on our way out of town owes its life entirely to the lavender color of the turned-over boat I spied.

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Orleans town landing: Readiness

The other thing that is going on here is the attempt to convey the peekaboo effect of the foreground tree, hanging over the two boats.  It’s not easy.  You can’t really paint each individual leaf, but you can’t mass them together too solidly either.  I’m not sure I got the balance correct here.  If only the sun had been coming in another direction, I could have had shadows of leaves on the boat.  That would have been cool!

The other thing I’ve got going on is Figure in the Landscape, like last year.  Every Sunday in David Curtis’ Gloucester garden.  I will wait until I have four accumulated and do a separate blog about them.  The trouble with painting a lot is it leads to writing a lot in the blog.  I coulda been paintin’ instead!

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.

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 3

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.

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Hampton Beach NH

I reverted to my usual style, not trying to do anything but translate the scene to paint:

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work in progress

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.

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Hampton Beach painting, final

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.

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the herring gull at Odiorne park

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.

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On Guard

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.

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Horse Yard, Stonewall Farm

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 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!