Art in the Park report–Ogunquit Paintings

Weather–fabulous. Traffic–high. People–diverse and appreciative. Effort–out of all proportion to sales. Sales–zero.

But nothing can spoil two good days spent outside in great company, with interested visitors, and best of all, two new paintings. Each day I started on a blank canvas, using as reference two photographs taken on an Ogunquit trip of a month ago. That makes three Ogunquit paintings, not counting the actual plein air painting done from Marginal Way, with which I am not happy and which you will not glimpse until I am happy with it.

My first Ogunquit painting-from-photograph depicts a view from a floating pier underneath the main action. I mention it now because I’ll probably not get a better chance to make it relevant to the discussion. It’s a bit on the abstract side.

Untitled, 11×14

Saturday’s painting is of a duck motoring out into center of a body of water that lets out into the ocean (Perkins Cove). I was looking down at her from the pedestrian drawbridge that spans that outlet (inlet?), mesmerized by the beautiful effect of the shapes of the eddies and reflections. (I just hope that oil leaks from the heavy boat traffic had nothing to do with creating the beauty.) Passersby kept telling me to stop working on the duck. . . the duck was perfect. . .and finally I agreed. Two people mentioned Van Gogh, and I happily agreed to that too. Very satisfying painting.

Perkins Cove Duck, 11×14

Sunday’s subject was roofs, also as seen from that pedestrian drawbridge. Since the sunlight is coming from the South, you can tell this scene was captured just before lunch. That building with the white globes hanging near the window might be a restaurant, but that’s not where we ate. Now I am wishing we had eaten there–makes a better story.

I’m thinking of adding more utility wires after the paint has set up a little. I like wires.

Ogunquit Oceanview, 12×16

These three paintings represent three very distinct and different takes on water. I hadn’t planned it that way, but isn’t it a fun way of thinking about these three? One really shouldn’t be surprised when water figures importantly in every view of a seaside resort like Ogunquit.

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Art in the Park this weekend, Aug 28 & 29

For the third straight year, I intend to show some paintings at the Manchester Art in the Park, and I sure hope that for the first time, we get to show for both Saturday and Sunday. Last year and in 2008, we had deluges on Saturday and very soggy ground on Sunday. Both of those Saturdays had to be cancelled. Can it happen again? Yes, it can.

Hours are ten to five each day. No entry fee. The Park is Veterans Park, between the Superior Courthouse and Elm Street across from the Center of New Hampshire (Radisson Inn).

This year I am trying to act a little smarter maybe. I have made a list of 20 paintings to show, and 19 of them will feature trees and foliage. Experts advise displaying just one type of art at these shows. If an artist shows more than one style, people are confused about who that artist is. (Unless the artist is Picasso, in which case it doesn’t matter.) I decided to go with the foliage because I think my rendering of foliage may be my most distinctive quality.

The one exception is the Point Judith Lighthouse, which still gives me a thrill whenever I gaze at it. I have given it the best, the widest frame I have, hoping to knock your socks off–if you come visit me this weekend at the show.

At the top of this page is the quintessential foliage painting from my collection. It has suffered through five or six name changes since its creation. I painted it from a photograph I took in 2008 while ignoring the overlook part of a scenic overlook on the Kancamangus Highway. What caught my eye was the slight suggestion of a path beckoning me into the forest. I was barely on my feet after a hip replacement, which maybe had something to do with my being drawn to this opening. Weeks later, I was attending a series of Saturday workshops by Peter Granucci on “Fresh Greens”, and he asked us to paint something as homework that used a lot of different greens. This painting was my effort. So its first name was “Green into Green” in recognition of its status as a workshop assignment. Later, I tried to identify the time of year with “The Greening of the Forest in May”. Now I want to focus the viewer’s attention on that opening, so I have been trying “Opening” and “Forest Portal”. Suggestions are definitely welcome.

Another of the chosen 19 is “Homage to Cezanne”, my copy of Cezanne’s “The Bridge at Maincy”. I looked for an image of the original to share with you, and found two different versions–same composition but radically different coloring. That took me back a bit. If anyone out there has seen the original hanging in Paris’ Musee D’Orsay, let me know. Meanwhile, first is a version nothing like mine, then one a little closer to the print I was copying, followed by my own version, the “Homage”.

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Learning How to Do Portraits

I am pressed for time, yet I want to stick to the schedule that has developed, whereunder I post a blog entry every Monday. It’s the writing and editing that takes the most time, so for now I am just going to post some photos of exercises that I have done for the class I am taking with Cameron Bennett: Drawing Portraits. Next to each of my drawings is the image that I was trying to replicate, unless there is no image next to my drawing, in which event, I drew that one from life. Hardest is drawing from life, next hardest is drawing from photo, then slightly less hard is replicating someone else’s drawing, but that’s not to say replication is easy. NOT. But it is excellent training for the eye and brain, which is necessary to get a life drawing close to accurate.

This last is my homework for this week, and it is still able to be corrected before I face the teacher.

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Long Shadows

Saturday I ran three pieces over to the Gallery at 100 Market Street in Portsmouth for a three-month exhibit that begins this week. “Shadows, Late and Long” was one of the three. I painted Shadows recently, using a photograph of a house in Bartlett, taken in 2008 when I was up there in August for a workshop. The house is still there, but it’s a different color (tan) and I no longer see the tree that had made the long shadows two years ago. So glad I got that photo in 2008.

How I know an image is a good one for painting: it remains fresh in my memory–the photograph is only a reminder of the initial impact that it made on me. Sometimes, after capturing an image on camera, I can hardly wait to get home before creating the painting, but usually the photos sit in my digital box until I rummage through them, looking for inspiration.

I have my gallery sitting duties at the Manchester Artists Association Gallery to thank for the rummaging effort. Whenever I go to gallery-sit, I take something with which to make a painting or a drawing, which usually means a couple of photographs for inspiration and the whole plein air kit (backpack with palette, tripod, paints, brushes, etc.) and at least two canvases on which to paint. “Shadows” was the product of one of those sitting sessions. The same session also resulted in the painting below, “Spring Runoff”, from a photo taken in 2009 in Kinsman Notch.

Spring Runoff 14×11

To come home with two such paintings in one six-hour session gives my spirits such a lift. The quality of all the wonderful paintings and photographs in the Gallery probably contributes to my inspiration while painting there. Not one painted in the Gallery has disappointed me.

You can catch me painting at the Gallery on most Saturdays, except that I have completed my scheduled duties for August already. In the Fall, my Saturday mornings at Life Drawing will resume, but chances are that I will be at the Gallery, painting, in the afternoon.

Receptions to be aware of:

Friday Aug. 13 in Portsmouth at the Gallery at 100 Market St: 5 to 7 p.m.

Saturday Aug. 14 in Boston at the Arnold Arboretum Visitors Center: 1 to 3 (includes talk by the artists–there are nine of us; I think we will just answer questions people may have about plein air painting in general or specific ones on exhibit).

Canterbury Shaker Village

Every year, the NH Plein Air group participates in the celebration of Mother Ann Day at the Canterbury Shaker Village in Canterbury, NH. Mother Ann was the founder of the Shaker way of life. We paint from whenever we get there, until three p.m., when the still-wet paintings go on sale. “Wet Paint Sale” as it is called. We can also bring framed paintings previously painted at CSV. I have about six of those but was not organized enough to get them framed for this year’s event, which took place yesterday on Sunday, August 1.

In past years, I have finished as many as three paintings in the single day of the wet paint sale, but this year I decided to try a complex subject and spend the whole day on it. Here is a photo of the “Farm Stand” area before I started on my painting.

Note that the big white barn door was closed and the umbrellas were folded–both would change when the farm stand opened for business. I tried to capture the shadows as they existed at this early hour, and I had to squeeze the composition in order to fit in all the elements that interested me. Here is a shot of the painting when it was more than halfway completed.

From there to finished product, it was only a matter of refinements and details.

CSV: Farm Stand 11×14

My painting did not sell. I put a price on it of $380, which maybe was the highest price there for an unframed painting. Usually I discount a wet painting by 25%, but usually I paint at least 2 in a day, so I thought it would be appropriate to leave the price at $380. I hope price was not a factor in its failing to sell. Or maybe I hope it was the price that kept it from selling.

It’s always hard to predict what will sell and what won’t, but one thing I have observed over my short experience: good paintings sell. (Unfortunately, that does not mean that ALL good paintings sell.) All of the paintings bought from me have been among my best, and I respect the intuitive judgement of the buying public. Hence, I am a little disappointed when Farm Stand was left on table. (Five paintings were sold, so there were at least five people there in the market for a painting.)

What I would like to know from my blog readers–is this painting any good? I can see a problem with perspective in one area, which I will now be able to fix, so that is a good thing. Does it have another flaw that I could correct? Or is the composition so awful that I should wipe it out and start over? Maybe I should have kept the wheelbarrow in, or added people. Could still do that.

Likely moral: For wet paint sales, keep it simple. I shall remember that in the future.

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Mysteries from Rhode Island

My Milestone Blog entry of July 12 reported on a 4-day painting trip to Narragansett, Rhode Island, but only discussed my two favorite paintings. Two others–all featuring the rocks on a beach in Narragansett– didn’t make it onto my previous RI blog because they required some touching up, which has now been accomplished. Both were painted from a single spot, which you can confirm by reference to the stone cairn that appears in both paintings. Artistic arrangements of stones have popped up all over this cove, created by person or persons unknown. We suspect a mysterious kayaker who glided by staring at us.

For some quirky reason unrelated to the actual etymology of the word, I think of these cairns as “totems”, so I have used “Totem” as the title of the second painting. The first painting was started when fog lay heavily on the sea; by the time I started the second, the sun had reached the horizon. I may have cheated when I put in the shadow of the totem in the first painting.

Rosa Rugosa 11×14

Totem 11×14
On the last day in Rhode Island, we painted at Beavertail State Park, which boasts a lighthouse with attendant buildings, old fortifications, and terrific surf. Terrifying surf. I had been so diligent a painter in the previous three days that I had remaining only two very small canvases on which to paint. I started with the 7×5 of the lighthouse, with which I opened this blog entry. Here it is again, for your convenience.

This little painting was harder to paint well than the 11×14 Pt. Judith Lighthouse because its composition is more complex (all the extra structures) and the space into which I had to cram my composition is much smaller. Look at the weathervane–it looks so out of scale on the top of the lighthouse. I don’t carry around the tiny 00 brushes because I can’t use them anyway on plein air paintings–to get a fine line on a surface already loaded up with wet oil paint, I will normally use a palette knife. Here, instead of trying the palette knife, I drew in the weathervane with a brush far too fat for the job, and I find myself unwilling to correct it now. I can’t explain why–for some reason (composition, perhaps?), I LIKE that oversized weathervane. If I ever get to be both dead AND famous, the critics/art school teachers will point that out smugly and everyone will feel really happy that I wasn’t perfect all the time.

With an hour left before we had to start back to New Hampshire, and with the teachings of Stapleton Kearns in mind, I thought I would try to construct a breaking wave or two on the even tinier 4×6 canvas. Not up to Frederick Waugh standards, for sure, but it is my first and I only spent 30 minutes on it. I may use it as a study and paint a larger version with refinements based on lessons taken from Waugh and Kearns. It was fun to do.

Surf 4×6

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About limitations on painting large

One of my Arboretum paintings slipped between the cracks last week, metaphorically speaking, so I thought I would keep to my weekly blogging schedule by discussing it. (And to be honest, I don’t yet have photos prepared for my other potential topics.) I call this one “Among the Japanese Maples”. Along with the Visitors Center painting that led off last week’s blog, it constitutes the largest size that I paint en plein air–16 by 20.

Ironically, my very first plein air painting was 20 x 24–that happened because I just didn’t know any better! It was in a Stan Mueller workshop, and eyebrows went up all around the field when I brought forth my canvas. Would you like to see the result?

York River Meander, 20×24
Not so bad for my first one? Of course, it was the only one I painted that whole day. Nowadays I often complete two paintings if I have both morning and afternoon to work.

If that original workshop had been with Stapleton Kearns, I would still be painting outdoors on the larger canvases. Stape argues that it is easier to paint large. I am a fast painter too, so I think it would have worked for me. But I did not have the right easel for it then, and still do not. For something this large, the best easel is a thing called the Gloucester easel, or a facsimile thereof. Think “teepee” and almost that big. The other two kinds of outdoor easels are the pochade box–basically a box containing paint and palette that sets up on a tripod with your canvas secured to the open lid–and the French or Julien easel, which is a bigger box with legs attached and an adjustable mast to secure large canvases. I have used both, and grew to prefer the pochade box because it is more lightweight and easier to set up.

I stretch occasionally to paint the 16 x 20 on my pochade box easel because (A) I need a large format for some reason–like the huge Arboretum exhibit room, or (B) I happen to have that size canvas on hand. It won’t fit on the lid of my pochade box–in fact it dwarfs the lid– so I have to clip it to one side, which is not very stable. But when you paint en plein air, you put up with a lot of unpleasantness–bugs, wind, cold, heat, sunburn . . . and wobble. I’m sure I am forgetting something else that belongs on that list.

Anyway, my Japanese Maple will be among the largest artworks in the Arboretum exhibit, and I just hope it shows up well in its frame on that wall.

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The Arboretum Project

Although I have mentioned before, and posted paintings intended for, the Arboretum project, the time has come for detail. The culmination of this project is fast approaching: an exhibit at the Arnold Arboretum from August 7 to September 19 of paintings painted on site by members of the NH Plein Air artists’ group. Pictured above is the Visitors Center at the Arnold Arboretum, which I painted mostly on site (I changed the color and value of the red brick when I got home). The exhibit will take place in the high-ceiling exhibit room whose tall curved windows you see on the right side of the building.

It all started more than a year ago, when I noticed a call for artists from the Arnold Arboretum to submit paintings inspired by the Arboretum–an annual exhibit known as “Jamaica Plain Open Studio”. I posted a suggestion on the NH Plein Air listserv that we, NH Plein Air artists, organize an outing to the Arboretum and enter our results to the jury for the JPOS exhibit. Several members were interested, so then I contacted the Arboretum to make arrangements for our visit–parking had to be negotiated to enable some of our mobilely challenged artists (that would include me) to get their gear into the park reasonably near where they wanted to paint. The Arboretum staff were pleased to welcome us– like most other public outdoor spaces, the sight of artists working at their easels enhances the experience for everyone. Even the dogs. (The Arboretum is a major dog-walking site–one of the collateral benefits of painting there is the variety of breeds of dogs you get to meet.)

Only one of our plein air paintings made it into the 2009 JPOS exhibit, but our collective submissions were impressive enough to lead to an invitation from the curator to make our own exhibit in 2010. We accepted with joy and alacrity. Over the next twelve months, individual members and groups of us have visited the Arboretum to create paintings for the upcoming exhibit. Not so many in the winter months, but we do have a few snow scenes. Our challenge was to fill those vast walls with paintings that, being rendered on site, tend to be rather small. I have my fingers crossed that our artwork doesn’t get swallowed up by the exhibit room. I hope you will go to view the exhibit to find out how we did. There will be a reception/artists’ talk (!) on Saturday August 14, at about 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. I went to the website to confirm this info and found one of my paintings used for the announcement–the one from “To Plein Air or Not to Plein Air”–the one I didn’t like but everyone else seems to like. Go here to see.

Because the history conferred on me some kind of ownership of the project, I visited the most times, and produced the most paintings–twelve in all. Some of my Arboretum paintings are already online: see my Blog on the winter visit here, and my Blog comparing a plein air painting to a studio painting from photograph of the same site here.

Here is my most recent painting from the Arboretum, a silver maple that has been at that location since 1887, I believe. The label on the tree identifies its official name, its common name, its native habitat, and the year it was acquired/planted by the Arboretum. The tree’s trunk is striking; it called out to me every time I visited over the past year, so I finally succumbed and painted this 14×11 portrait of a tree trunk. (Since photographing the painting two days ago, I made a few small improvements, so this image is one of a work in progress.)

The Arboretum, for those of you not already familiar with this Boston institution, is a living museum of trees and shrubs, collected from all over the world. Funded by a bequest, operated by Harvard University as a research and educational institution, and overseen by the City of Boston as part of the “Emerald Necklace”, the 265 acres are open without charge to the public. For more information about the Arboretum, visit the Arboretum’s website.

Here are a few more scenes represented by my paintings.

Spring! 11×14

Fall Around the Pond 11×14


Just another lighthouse painting, you may be thinking. Doesn’t even include any surf. Truly, I wasn’t very excited about painting these buildings at first. I explored the nearby Coast Guard station (Point Judith in Rhode Island) and tried other angles on the lighthouse, but there was no view of the sea that included the structures. So I selected the simplest view possible, and hoped to produce a restrained and elegant painting. I think I succeeded.

I began with a Lois Griffel underpainting in ocher, viridian, and burnt sienna; the sky started out bright pink. While I was messing about with the underpainting, a fog rolled in, but I stuck with the plan, keeping in mind the blue sky and shadowed planes as I originally found them.

Including the utility pole and wires was an essential element of the painting–it establishes the scale and distance and balances the composition. Getting the shapes and scale just right becomes critically important when there are only three objects in the painting. I had to do a lot of remeasuring and adjusting. My satisfaction, when I saw it was right, cannot be overstated–I felt like crowing like a rooster.

The most challenging elements were the darkest elements–the top of the lighthouse and the pole and wires. Successful painting is all about getting the right paint in the right spot. I wiped and scraped and covered up until I had those darks showing up where I wanted them and not elsewhere. Palette knife — invaluable!

In case you missed the point, I just love this painting. When it was complete exactly as I had intended, I felt as if I had graduated from whatever level I had been mucking about in, to a more rarefied level–”accomplished artist” perhaps?

However, I didn’t move in there permanently. The next few paintings I did during my recent Rhode Island sojourn tossed me back into the floundering, experimenting, discovering processes, whereby you start with an inspiration and a plan and you finish up with a painting quite different from inspiration. Could still be a good painting. For example:

“Mary’s Smoke Tree” had enticed me for days–it was such a gorgeous thing. I would not have chosen to include the difficult circular drive, but I had to plant my umbrella to the side and something of interest had to fill up that space on the lower left. So this painting, unlike the lighthouse, grew out my love for the subject, and the subject took control over the painting. I love this painting too, and it’s OK that I won’t always be able to control my results. Discovering the painting, when successful, is another kind of joy that sets my heart to crowing (see reference to rooster up above).


One of the hurdles for me blogging-wise has been the necessity of providing photographs of something interesting (usually that means a painting or two). Today, I have a bunch of new painting photographs to show off, and the problem has been to pick a subject. I am learning a lot about painting portraits, but there is so much more to learn–so I thought you might be curious about that kind of a groping process.

Like most painters, I don’t have a ready supply of models willing to sit still for hours while I paint their likenesses. That’s why artists have mirrors in their studios. The self-portrait up above is the latest one, the fastest one, and the most fun. Sure, it doesn’t look like me. I apparently look much younger when my face is animated and reacting to other people, or so I am told. But the face I see in the mirror is stern because I am concentrating so very hard on the shadows and contours and the precise placements of eyes, nose, mouth, and that pesky ear, which never seems to live exactly where it ought to. Anyway, I don’t really care if it is a faithful rendition of how I look, because it is really only an exercise.

I think I have been getting better. My first self-portrait was completed over two years ago, and took many hours under the tutelage of Adeline Goldminc-Tronzo. I can’t find a photograph of it–must have been so bad that I deleted it from my albums!

The second one was also forced upon me by Adeline a year later, but I quite like this one.

Finally, the most recent, done all by myself with no tutelage at all, here again in all its glory. Hmmm. Glory not quite the right word!

Painting a portrait from a photograph is hard. You do get an expression that is unforced and lively, but you also get harsh shadows perhaps (depending on the skill of the photographer) and no photograph can capture the delicate variations in skin tone. An expert portraitist can probably supply nuances from memory. If I ever get to be such an expert, I will let you know. In the meantime, here is an example of what I mean. I took a lovely photograph of my two granddaughters and tried to make a painting of it.

They both like the painting, so I succeeded in that way, but can’t you just tell it was painted from a photograph? You can probably also tell that I did not use any mechanical aids or grid to get placements correct. I am trying to train my brain to see correctly without help from a projector or even a ruler. Now for the first time, I see something a little “off” about the left eye on the lower face. What is it? (More than the shift in her gaze from photographer to her sister) Here is the photograph I was using:

Tabitha and Natalie, cavorting in Boston, 2010

For the first day of summer: cool, abstract

The snow painting up there is one of the largest paintings I ever tried–two feet by four feet. You can’t see the whole thing because my web program insists on a certain shape for the featured blog photo. So here it is again, this time with all 48 inches displayed:

I would not have bothered you with this effort but for two of my supporters, who surprised me with their enthusiasm for this unnamed work, which is hanging in the Pantano Gallery in the library of Southern NH University through the end of this month.

I worked on this painting over the winter of 09-10. I started by covering the entire canvas with a layer of “Flesh”, i.e., a light orangy pink that Winsor Newton produces presumably for the painting of flesh tones on white people. Instead of using it for people, I like it for sunsets. I wanted the painting to be suffused with orangy pink because my inspiration had been the sight of the setting sunlight glowing through brown autumn leaves in a twilight scene mostly covered by soft, fresh snow. The location is the view from my bedroom/studio–sort of. More than most, this painting was created from memory. So I was really interested when one of my supporters told me that she thought the painting was “abstract”.

Painters will often remark knowingly that all landscape paintings are abstract paintings. “Abstract” should signify nonrepresentational. So what is it about some landscapes (all landscapes?) that prompts us to call them “abstract”? I think one factor may a quality of “hide and seek”–one of the joys (for me) of this painting, as well as others that border on abstraction, is the ability to recognize familiar objects within the bounds of the painting. But unlike more conventional landscapes, the recognizable objects are not being offered as subjects of the painting.

The whole point of my painting up above is the orange orb, the representation of red sunlight filtered through the dried up brown leaves still clinging to their tree in the face of a heavy snowfall. Kudos to my friend who knew instinctively that this was an “abstract” painting!

Here is another of my paintings that I think may be classified toward the “abstract” end of the spectrum.

I call this one “Spirit Lake”. The photograph that inspired it may have been taken in Alberta Canada–I’m no longer sure. After studying that photograph, way back in 2006, I smeared the canvas (36 x 12) with the paint that you see above, thinking I was setting up an underpainting for the more elaborate version to come. But I stopped short because I liked it just the way it was. Even though this was a very early painting in my so short “career”, I never tire of looking at it, and recognizing with pleasure the suggestion of reeds in the water, the snow on the mountains, and the fir trees ruling the middle ground. Like the orange orb of the later painting, the white orb of the sky reflection in this early painting was the subject, and what could be more abstract than an empty, white orb?

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Last Friday, Sharon and I conspired to take the afternoon off from work and find somewhere to paint near Jaffrey. Sharon had to pick up some frames from an artist friend who is moving to New Mexico (and is inviting us down there to paint) and it seemed a shame to go that far (over an hour’s drive) without having a new painting to show for it.

The Monadnock area is full of fantastic painting locations, but sometimes the best choice is the obvious choice. I have known Monadnock for many years. Back in the sixties, when I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I spent the summer with his aunt on Snow Hill, and he would run from her house to the top of Monadnock every morning before breakfast. I so regret not trying to keep up with him in those days, but physical exertion was not in my repertory. In the eighties, to make up for my neglect, I would climb Mt. Monadnock at least once a summer. Now I have lost the ability even to do that. But I can paint Monadnock, and that gives the greatest pleasure of all.

This view of the mountain was from southwest on Route 124–near Perkins Pond, I think. The water was teeming with yellow water lilies, which became the big problem–how to represent them? I tried various techniques and wiped them all out. I ended up painting the water and streaking some masses of appropriate lily colors onto the water with a palette knife. The next day, after the paint had set up a bit, I smeared the edges. Since I was no longer in the presence of the real thing, I was satisfied with this result.

Most of my plein air paintings look better when I get them home, where I no longer have the original to compare the painting to. I can almost count on a happy surprise when I open up my wet painting container to view what I did on location. I say “surprise” because when this happens, it is always a gift, never to be taken for granted.

Nevertheless, I must acknowledge that my smear of lilies is no more than a token representation of the blanket of pads and buds that were present last Friday. If I am to paint the lily blanket, I will have to move my focus closer in, and leave out the mountain. Next year perhaps.

Monadnock is painted on an 11 x 14 panel.

Bartlett–Artists’ Getaway–10 New Paintings

I can’t believe it has been so long since my last blog entry! I have been doing a lot of painting, and the most intense period of painting was, naturally, the Bartlett Artists’ weekend of May 13-17. We faced some challenges from the weather, but rain was not our biggest problem. Wind was. In fact, at its worst, I would go so far as to opine that the wind made me more miserable than the subzero temps at the Sugar Hill snow camp.

Fewer artists attended the Weekend than usual, but we had the best time ever, and I personally had my most productive Bartlett Weekend ever. Byron Carr, who lives in Contoocook, is the guy we thank for organizing the weekend, and Miriam and Nick, the Innkeepers, are as much a part of our group as the painters themselves. In fact, Nick has become one of us painters. He has been taking classes in acrylics, and joined us up at Jackson Falls one afternoon.

Peter Granucci, from whom I have taken many workshops, joined us Saturday for his first Bartlett Weekend. Showing us he was no slouch, Peter produced a gigantic (24 by 30?) and brilliant painting on canvas of a Jackson Falls water-and-rocks scene. I was blown away, and I don’t think I was the only one. But the weekend was full of inspiration for me too. Unlike other weekends, I started painting as soon as I arrived on Thursday, and got up with the others, at 5 am Saturday morning–before breakfast–to catch the clouds breaking up over the valley in the scene above.

My roommates for the first night were my granddaughter Tabitha (I’ve mentioned her before) and her Great Dane, Honey (see her portrait here). They left on Friday, when Flo joined me for the rest of my stay. This was Flo’s first Bartlett weekend, and she painted some beautiful paintings, as she usually does.

Sharon Allen can always be counted on for a Bartlett weekend. For my first one, I followed her around like a little puppy dog. Sharon runs the NH Plein Air group, and we so love her for that work. I still follow her around, but less like a puppy dog now. We so often agree on what is worth painting, even though our interpretations diverge widely.

I only have photos of my own work, so here they are:

This was painted from the porch of Willey cabin, which was my assigned room at the Bartlett Inn, on the Thursday evening of my arrival. I am still putting perfecting touches on the road. 8×10

Friday morning, Sharon and I were inspired to paint the Notchland Inn from a parking area on the other side of Route 302. The North Conway Scenic Railroad passes this way enroute to the Crawford Notch Depot, and I made the crossing the focus of my painting. Sharon stayed farther away and left out the tracks. Conveniently, Tabitha and Honey stopped to say goodbye on their way home, and Flo saw us and stopped on her way to the Inn. 11×14

Friday afternoon: This is a part of Jackson Falls. The Falls go on and on, and provide an almost infinite variety of arrangements of water and rocks. After taking this image, I made some perfecting touches, but you get the idea. I used a lot of palette knife on this one. 11×14.

I finished up kind of quick on the painting above, and so I started this smaller one (8×10), looking up the Falls toward the bridge. Sharon and Flo were also painting nearby, and I believe Nick and Byron were there that day too. 8×10

Saturday: Sharon had found such a perfect spot for painting by following a street sign “Balcony Seat View”, figuring it had to mean something interesting. The street wasn’t paved, but it led to a huge meadow in Mt. Washington Valley where we could get fantastic views of White Horse ledge on the left and Cathedral Ledge on the right, with a patch of blindingly yellow flowers in the middle. The place was overrun by cocker spaniels and their owners in the midst of some big deal trials, but they didn’t get in our way and we stayed out of theirs. They came with a porta-potty! Doesn’t get much better than that for a plein air painter. The above is my capture of the ledges. 10×12

After finishing the Ledges above, I moved to a little wooden bridge that connected to the larger meadowlands, and captured this portrait of a fallen tree over the brook. 6×12

Saturday afternoon: Attracted by the redness in the waterline, Sharon, Flo and I tackled this pond from different angles. We were near the Inn, right on Route 302 again.

Saturday night: Like all Saturday nights in the past, we put all our paintings on display in the living room of the Inn, but unlike years past, Byron did not favor us with a demonstration of his watercolor painting. And this year was different in another important way: I sign the praises of Louise, Byron’s wife, who made lasagna for our dinner. It was scrumptious lasagna, and a vast improvement over the traditional pizza that we usually order in for Saturday night. If getting Louise’s lasagna is the price of giving up Byron’s demo, it’s OK by me.

Sunday: We checked out after breakfast, but Flo and I planned to paint before heading home together. The 6×12 painting above is my take on the railroad crossing in the center of Bartlett. Tracks not easy to do. I spent about a hour on location, but made some changes to it when I got it home. Not sure if it is a keeper, but interesting perspective, I guess. Could use feedback.

Sunday. View of Mt. Washington from meadow off Route 302, just inside the edge of the state park. Very, very windy. I set up behind a large boulder, hoping it would shelter me. Flo set up on the tailgate of her SUV, hoping the same. No. The sun was hard to manage too. I don’t paint with sun on my painting any more, not since I tried that once and the painting came out way too dark. This scene is the same as one I painted last fall. You can compare by going to this page where I have set the two side by side. 16×12

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I’m feeling pretty numb right about now. I accepted another invitation on short notice to exhibit my works, figuring ‘tis better to show than not to show. So, yes, another solo show running concurrently with the one in Concord, at the Conservation Center. For this new one, I decided to go big. Big would mean fewer paintings to prep and inventory. The largest is 24 by 48. Unlike the exhibit at the CC, I tried to include at least one animal portrait, one human portrait, and one each with boats and buildings as the principal subject.

Today, my invaluable granddaughter, Tabitha, hung 16 of the 18 prepped, on picture hooks hammered individually for each painting, in the Pantano Gallery of the library of the Southern NH University. If you ever need help with hanging paintings, I recommend her without reservation. I don’t know how she does it, but she can line them up by sight and without getting feedback from an observer.

My Pantano exhibit stays up until June 30. I titled the exhibit “Five Years of Evolution” and challenged the viewer to decide which paintings are more highly evolved than the others. This gallery is located in Southern New Hampshire University’s Shapiro Library and is open Mondays through Thursday from 8 a.m. until midnight, Fridays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., and Sundays from noon to midnight. You may call the Library at 603-645-9605 for more information about the Gallery. The University’s address is 2500 North River Road, Manchester, NH.

Yesterday (Sunday) I delivered seven of my plein air Florida paintings to the Manchester Art Association Gallery in Manchester, for its “Sunny Days” exhibit, which will run until the end of June. The day before yesterday (Saturday), I attended a reception at the Long River Gallery in Lyme, NH, where 3 of my works are part of an exhibit of the art of members of the Women’s Caucus for Art. I also have the usual three paintings on exhibit at the White Birch Gallery in Londonderry. That makes a total of 79 paintings and one charcoal drawing on display at the same time. I’m sure this will mark some kind of all-time high water mark for me.

And that’s why I feel a little numb today.

The painting up above has nothing to do with any of those exhibits. It has not been framed yet, and I may tinker with it some more. I painted it from a photograph that I took in the mangroves at the Ding Darling wildlife conservation area on Sanibel Island. I had recently seen two other artists’ paintings of just water, and wanted to emulate them. The rippling reflections and shadows make for a complex and abstract picture. I haven’t figured out whether I want to paint this quickly and intuitively, or slowly and carefully. Too late of course now for the former option, so I may start over anew and then have the two of them to compare to each other. But the one above wasn’t really planned out that carefully either, so that means a third done with painstakng precision. Now that I have no more exhibits to get ready for (and no tax returns except my own to prepare), I may just have the time to do that!

I will be gallery sitting at the MAA on the following Saturdays, all day: May 8 and 22; June 5, 12 and 26. I welcome distracting visitors, even though I will be painting intently–perhaps working on one of those aforementioned water portraits. All day at the MAA means 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the address is 1528 Elm Street, Manchester.

51 Paintings Hung

You may remember from last week, if you have been paying any attention at all, that I mentioned this exhibit that I was pulling together, my first solo show, at the Conservation Center in Concord. I prepped 51 paintings, figuring a few would have to be brought back home, but all of them found a spot in the gallery room. The gallery is actually the Center’s conference room, so if you plan to go there to take in the fantastic effect of 51 beauties in one dazzling array, call first to make sure the room will not be in use for a meeting. The number is (603) 224-9945. To find the Conservation Center, take Exit 16 off Route I-93 and follow the brown signs “Conservation Center”. Please let me know if you go.

The image above is the top portion of a small, 6 by 12, painting of Mt Washington that I completed “alla prima” (all at one fell swoop) last fall, when the autumn foliage was still glorious but an early snowfall had blanketed the tops of the mountains. This painting has been sold, but the owner graciously lent it to me for this exhibit. Giclee prints of the image, matted, will be available for purchase at the exhibit.

Florida, Part 3

It has been almost a month since my last entry. Sigh! I’ve got to give up this distracting tax law practice. But everyone’s return (except my own) has now been filed, and I am once again consumed with painting projects. Note that I said “projects” rather than simply “painting”. That’s because I have been busy pulling together an exhibit of 40-50 of my landscapes in a “one-man” (hoping that covers women too) show at the Conservation Center in Concord. It started weeks ago–choosing, varnishing, framing, labeling, inventorying, and packing. Almost ready. Tomorrow is Hanging Day. There is no reception, and the hours during which you may visit are limited to weekday business hours. But I hope you, faithful reader, will find an opportunity to visit the exhibit before I take it down on June 14. The address is 54 Portsmouth Rd, Concord, New Hampshire.

Florida has now become so long ago, it’s almost history. But I have a few more of paintings and bird photos to show off.

The lead photo up there is titled “Fish are Jumping” because they were. Not that any of them posed for me–I had to use a mental snapshot, and was kind of surprised that the fish turned out looking like a real jumping fish. Thus emboldened, I tried the same trick with the canoe and canoers. Harder.

The location was the Collier Seminole State Part, which is more famous as the home of the “Walking Dredge” that was used to build the road into the Everglades. I went there to paint the Dredge, but I couldn’t get far enough away from it, the thing is so huge! And I realized that once I had painted it, no one would know what the heck it was. Sort of a losing proposition, at least until I switch to abstract painting. So instead, here is a photo of the dredge. That is my friend, hostess, and fellow artist Mary Crawford there in the lower left. She dresses better than I do for painting outside.

This next painting is one of the last–boats again but it was the pilings and reflections of pilings that caught my interest.

And now to keep my promise of more birds–I’m not even going to show you any pelican photos. Pelicans are so common in Florida that you could say they are like our pigeons. Cuter though. No, I will show you only the rare birds–ones I had never seen before and whom I had to get help in identifying from the WhatBird website. Enjoy!

Black headed Gull

Pie-billed Grebes

Roseate Spoonbill (sleeping)

Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron


Tri-colored Heron?

Red-shouldered Hawk

Juvenile Great Blue Heron?

Emerald City

We worked two days in Everglades City, which was a 40-minute drive from Marco Island, painting and attending a wildlife demonstration. I haven’t mentioned yet that a third person was part of our little painting club. JE, as I shall refer to her since she is not a professional painter and thus probably not wild to see her name splashed all over the internet, started painting with us because she flew down from NH with me, and ran out of other ways to amuse herself while Mary and I were painting. Anyway, JE could not remember the name of Everglades City. She could remember the name of Emerald City, and it seemed to fit, so Everglades City became Emerald City for us.

Our first trip to Everglades City was on a day of dubious worth. The clouds were thick and depressing. But just when we started to set up, blue skies started to break through in such an interesting pattern that the sky became part of the focus of my painting, shown above. The nominal subject of this painting is a building called “Bank of Everglades Building”. Perhaps it did once house a Bank, when Everglades City had hopes of becoming the hub of southwest Florida, but no more. Its fate is uncertain at this time. The very tall palms surrounding it are Washington palms. This painting will not be officially finished until I scratch in the words “Bank of Everglades Building” up there near the top. I have to consult with my photographs to find out just where those words were.

The second painting is the City Hall of Everglades City. On that day, the sun was out in full force, but so were the winds, and we suffered mightily. Nearby was the Museum of Everglades City, which we gratefully used for bathroom breaks. At the end of our day, the docent commented on my camera, which is a pretty serious-looking SLR, and I explained that I used it mostly to capture references for painting. “Oh, are you the three artists that are painting in the oval?” Word had got around. We did kind of stick out, having taken our vehicle right up on the grass of the large oval, for ease of unloading. But there was a small utility building plus a large truck sharing our oval, and no foot traffic except for a few bold inquisitors, so we had no idea how conspicuous we really were in this small town.

Since you have stayed with me this far, I am rewarding you with the wild critters that we met earlier in the second painting day. The Museum had been celebrating some historical figure, and to dress up the occasion had put on a wildlife demonstration. With my telephoto lens in place, it was hard to keep from getting too close to take decent pictures. But here are some keepers in order of alligator and crocodile (both native to Florida)(babies, of course–so cute!), snake, python, iguana, tortoise (African), barn owl, white skunk, and leopard. (No panther because it was recovering from a spider bite–the brown recluse.)

Beach, Boats and Birds

I am finally getting to my report on the Florida trip. I stayed two weeks with my fellow artist friend, Mary Crawford Reining, at her home on Marco Island. The first painting stop we made was to the public beach known as Tiger Tail. Something to do with how the river bends around the land. Anyway, the weather was chilly and the sun was blinding, so we sought a sheltered spot to paint.

The painting is the one at the top. This was the toddler’s playground, and it was as deserted as I painted it. The ratio of toddlers to adults in this part of Florida must be very small. Later, some older kids came along and tried to use the equipment, but too late for me to capture. And if I had tried to insert them in the painting, they would have looked outsized.

I was attracted to this scene by the patterns made by the shadows on the ground. I did not succeed in making those shadows “pop” the way it happened for me on the scene, but my effort made for a good warmup exercise. I would be doing a lot more of the palm trees in the next 13 days, and every time, I would try a slightly different technique. I THINK they get better, but maybe not. I was also experimenting with fuzzing in a background to suggest activity without actually portraying it. You’ll notice some of that in the next painting too.

For our second painting foray, we sought out boats. At the Rose Marco Island Marina, Mary led me to her favorite boat–an orange catamaran crafted by hand. She had painted this boat from its other side several times in the past and talked to the owner/maker at least once. Since there is nothing like orange to dress a painting, I happily followed her lead.

By the time I left Florida 12 days later, I had painted another boat scene with the same kind of pilings, and was very glad that I had asked someone what the heck those posts were called anyway. It’s really hard to talk about something when you don’t have the right vocabulary for it.

While at the marina, I got some of the best bird close-ups of my life. I had put the long lens on my camera (and I kept it on the whole two weeks after that because of these birds) and discovered that it didn’t really matter that the focus was shaky. The light was good enough to capture a clear image despite the shakiness of my camera. The first bird shown below is some kind of plover–black-bellied in winter plumage, I think; the pink glow on his chin and belly are reflections from the red awning the bird is standing on.

After the plover, I spotted a cormorant hanging out by the orange catamaran. I always thought cormorants were black. Not so! Can you tell how reddish his neck is? The second picture shows it better.

While loitering around the marina office I was visited by this egret first on the red awning . . .

. . . and then the best of all, the incomparable vision of the wind tousling its feathers. So THAT’s why it is called the Snowy Egret!

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A lot can happen in a month

I have been soooo bad! For almost a whole month, I have made no entries in my blog. For 14 out of the past 19 days, at least, I have a good excuse for not blogging: I was on a painting vacation in Florida (Marco Island). This trip will be the subject of a couple of upcoming blog entries–but not this one. I am still finishing up and photographing the paintings, and have not even downloaded all of the 600 + photos I took while there. When I have finished all that prep work, I will have a lot of new material for the blog, including the best wildlife closeups I have ever photographed.

Just before leaving for Florida, I had to spend a lot of time in the office, making sure that I left everything shipshape there. That’s my excuse for the other 11 days of blog-neglect. But I completed some painterly tasks as well. I finished the Snow Camp painting that had been giving me fits, by modifying the snow wall and adding the foot tracks in the snow. The final result is shown above. Tentative title is “Looking South at Franconia Notch.” To see the penultimate version, link here to that blog entry. The original version was this:

The other two snow camp paintings are hanging in the Manchester Artists Association Gallery for its latest exhibit on the theme “Bright Ideas”: “Hammock in Winter” and “Plein Air Painters in Winter”. Perhaps a hammock and plein air painters in winter landscapes exemplify bright ideas only if you appreciate irony.

Because of complications from the power outage that NH suffered while I was in Florida, my granddaughter failed to deliver the two paintings to the Gallery on Sunday, when they were juried, but the director saved the space for me and hung them on the first day of the exhibit, which was last Wednesday. If you get there, look for them on the right as you enter the Gallery.

Earlier in February, the aforementioned trusty granddaughter had delivered three paintings to the Gallery at 100 Market Street in Portsmouth. The current exhibit there is a showcase for two very interesting abstract artists, so my three are helping to fill the walls on the third floor. Two are from the White Mountains/Bartlett weekend (link to that blog here)–Mt. Washington from Route 302 and the Humphreys Ledge view. The third painting in this exhibit is the large gallery-wrap one of the Arboretum pond, painted from photograph (blog link here).

Meanwhile, my gallery in Londonderry (White Birch) is exhibiting two large paintings of mine from past years. One I call “Sailor’s Delight” because it depicts a super-red sunset. See on this web page. The other is called “Cat Contemplating Winter”, a 12 by 36 painting almost monochromatically black (actually not black except for the cat) and white, depicting a close up of a freshly plowed street with a tuxedo cat in red collar looking it over. I don’t know why I chose to paint that picture, but I like it so much that for years I have refused to put it up for sale. You can find it on my website here.

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Snow Camp paintings redux

I wish I could be sure that “redux” is the proper grammatical form for a plural noun, but since my Latin has been long forgotten, let’s just ignore it. “Redux” is being used here in the sense of “revisited”. I have revisited the three paintings started at Sugar Hill in subzero temps to make adjustments in the warmth of my studio. Not only my fingers but my mind was numbed during the outside painting, and with the luxury of doing without mittens, some fine-tuning has been possible.

The first painting, which I called the Hammock, needed the least amount of adjustment. This did not surprise me. I often seem to take my best shot on day 1. I clarified the hammock a little but that’s all. It remains my favorite.

The second painting needed major work on the tree in the foreground. I added the bark detail. The figures were a little fuzzy, so I tried to sharpen their edges a little. (Painting while wearing mittens is like waxing a floor while wearing a train–as you work on one area you are smearing what you just finished in another area.)

The final painting, the big one, needed the most help, and it is still a work in progress. The foreground still fails to excite me and if I don’t come up with a solution for it, I may saw it off. Just kidding. I have some ideas, and look forward to experimenting with them. Foot tracks, boulders instead of wall, maybe some vegetation poking through (as it did in fact–you can see it in the second painting). I could try inserting a pair of skiers or the cat (“Topper”) who rules at the Sunset Hill Inn–but that would distract too much from the mountains, which must be the subject matter of this painting.

Stay tuned.

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Snow Camp with Stapleton Kearns

Yes, here I am, a survivor of below-zero degree temperatures (Fahrenheit) and harsh winds and forgotten down jacket to write this report of three days of plein air painting in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, from January 30 through February 1. The lead-in photo is Stape painting his demo painting on day 1. My camera died soon after that because the battery froze. It would come back for a few shots in the morning of each day, and then quit again.

Stape posted photos and reviews at the end of each day–he got some really amusing photos of himself and the artists, some of whom were unrecognizable behind their clothing barricades. You should check out his blog here. By mistake, I left my warm down jacket behind, so I had to wear every piece of fleece I had brought with me. I also wore three pieces of headwear–one to keep the ears warm, one for the whole head, and one for keeping the sun out of my eyes. I show up in two of Stape’s photographs. Look for the tan vest.

Apart from surviving, my strongest impression of the experience was the level of skill brought by the students. The workshop was full of really accomplished painters drawn to Stapleton’s persona and expertise. I was very happy to be in their company.

Not knowing what size painting I would be in the mood for in such harsh conditions, I brought an ample supply of 11 by 14’s, 12 by 16’s, and 16 by 20’s. The first two days, I kept with the smallest. Finally, on day 3 I boldly struck out with the 16 by 20, which won me an approving nod from Stape. He claims larger is easier because of the difficulty of squeezing a big scene onto the smaller canvas. But you can achieve a more finished result more quickly with a smaller canvas. Hence, my big one is not quite what I would wish for. Stape, however, advised me not to try to finish it but to keep it as a study document.

Knowing you are dying to see them, I hereby present the results of snow camp no. 1, in their order of creation.

Hammock in Winter 2010

Hammock in Winter 2010

The Hammock, 11 by 14

Plein Air Artists 2010

Plein Air Artists 2010

Nita, Renee and James hard at work, 11 by 14

Franconia Notch 2010

Franconia Notch 2010

Mt. Lafayette and Franconia Notch, 16 by 20

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Preparing for the Art @ Home Show

Saturday, January 23, the Manchester Artists Association is hosting a huge exhibit–actually a collection of individual exhibits–of the works of its members. I will be there, sharing the allotted 10 by 10 (feet) space with Kathy Tangney, who works mostly in watercolor. I don’t know how many other artists have opted to join us, but I do expect you will find a great variety of photographers and pastelists as well as oil and watercolor painters like me and Kathy. There will be a raffle (I am contributing a giclee print of one of my plein-air Mt. Washington scenes)–see photo below) and demonstrations. Since I have to give up the Saturday life drawing session for this, I think I may bring drawing materials to capture quick sketches of some clothed people for a change.

Kathy and I will be ably assisted by Kathy’s grandson Bradley and my granddaughter Tabitha. If nothing else, we intend to have fun. The photo above is part of the same crew working my shared booth with Kathy at the Art in the Park last August. The Great Dane will probably not be allowed in the Center of New Hampshire. Notwithstanding the expression on her face in the photo, she won’t be glad of that.

The specific details: Center of NH/ Radisson Hotel, 700 Elm Street, Manchester NH from 10 until 5.

Here is an image of the giclee print that I am offering up for the raffle. At 12 by 6, the image is full size, and the 2-inch archival mat is white with black core.

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Snow Painting

Next August, I plan to participate in a special exhibit at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, of paintings painted au plein air by members of the New Hampshire Plein Air group at the Arboretum. We are trying to cover all four seasons of the year. So we had to do winter. On January 7, the first group of us (about six in number) descended upon the Arboretum with our usual gear, plus all those things designed to keep us from freezing to death. I staked out a spot on the Willow Path, which is just inside the main gate, not far from the bathrooms in the visitor center. At least I had a bit of a hike to get to this spot. Others who shall remain nameless set up their work stations in the parking lot.


Willow Path in Winter

Willow Path in Winter

After finishing the painting above, I had a little extra time, so I produced a 6 by 12 panorama of a nearby culvert, which may seem a little weird to you. I chose it to seize the opportunity to include a richly dark area in my composition. Contrast creates drama.

Culvert in the Arboretum

Culvert in the Arboretum

To Plein Air or Not to Plein Air

OK, I do know that “plein air” is not a verb. “Plein air” refers to the process of painting a landscape outdoors, from nature, as opposed to painting a scene from memory, or from fantasy, or from a photograph. Today I offer for comparison two paintings inspired by the same spot. One I painted on/at the spot, “en plein air”. But I took a photograph of the scene and later, in my studio, I painted another version, this time from the photograph. One reason I did this was my dissatisfaction with the original. What had inspired me was more faithfully depicted in that photograph. But that is not a common occurrence. Usually the plein air painting does satisfy my vision better than any photo I may have taken of the same scene.

The advantage of a photo is its ability to confine the vision to the scene framed by the photo. Without that confinement, my eye tends to wander around, and my hand tries to capture little items of interest even as my brain struggles to restrict it. The disadvantage of a photo is the temptation it offers to the artist of over-inclusion of details contained within that frame. In both cases, the artist has to fend off a tendency to include too much in the painting, which distracts from the main inspiration.

So here for your comment is the photo, the painting from the photo, and the plein air painting. What think you?

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Color and Light Play

Nothing makes me happier than creating a picture that possesses that certain “je ne sais quoi” quality, a quality of worthiness or meaninfulness–or maybe it’s just something I love. This week what has made me happy is one of my drawings from the Saturday life group, again using my color sticks. Last night I propped it up on my west-facing window sill to enjoy it. This morning the rays of the sun coming through my south-facing window played across the drawing and just blew me away.

I’m not sure what I have now, with this digital image of the drawing plus the sunplay. A digital painting?

Just for the sake of comparison, here is how the drawing looks without the drama.

Waterfront Painting

I have been working sporadically on a largish (for me) painting of scene from Portsmouth that captured my fancy back in May, when I was trying to improve my watercolor technique with Dustan Knight. I took lots of photographs and decided to make the most interesting scene into a 16 by 20 oil painting. That was probably in June. Then as the weather and opportunities for painting outside improved, my Portsmouth waterfront painting waited on my studio easel, collecting dust. Here is what it looked like then:

There had been no boats in the picture because there had been no boats in the photograph on the day I was there. Working boats must have all been out working. My photo also had little drama because the day had been overcast. So I went back to try to catch a better angle, late in the day in August. Here is the photo from that visit:

Still no shadows, but at least I caught a boat. About this time, my painting had progressed to this point:

So last Saturday I put in the boat. I like it better with the boat. Without the boat, the painting is too static. With the boat, there is evidence of life. Here it is again with boat:

Is there enough life? I am wishing for some people, maybe a kid sitting on the pier. The windows of the houses need some more individuation and character.

When artists claim they have spent months or years on a painting, is this what they mean . . . dithering?

Let me know what you think.

Playing with Color

I am addicted to drawing live, nude humans. This addiction is not unusual. Every Saturday morning, when we could otherwise have been sleeping in, ten to twenty of similarly afflicted addicts meet at the NH Institute of Art to get our weekly fix. It’s rough when the sessions are suspended from April to September. But in May the weather becomes conducive to playing outside, when plein air painting fills my time.

Because of all those plein air activities, I did not get to the Saturday Life Group until late in October this year. October 24 I tried using compressed charcoal, with disappointing results. Harsh, undifferentiated black, impossible to erase. But I had lost my box of regular charcoal and didn’t realize what a big impact the compressed would have on my drawing. No photos of those results–sorry.

The October 31 SLG session starred my favorite model, Jonathan. For that reason perhaps, I was inspired to bring out my fat colored sticks–a cross between chalk, pastel, charcoal–made by Cretacolor in Austria. I also had a new charcoal sketchbook, with pages of varied different shades. I started on gray paper with a short pose of about 20 minutes, and perhaps I will go back to it someday to finish the background, clean up edges, etc. Here’s that one:

For the second, hour-long pose, I retreated to my comfort zone — just black charcoal — but added white shadings:

But the full glory of color found expression when I turned to a page of green paper for our second hour-long pose:

I’m still running about a month behind, and I’ll probably never catch up. Unless you are waiting with bated breath for each installment (really, is anyone out there doing that?), you don’t care, so I can forgive myself and stop worrying about being timely.

But as a reward for those reading to the end, here’s a bit of timely news: I just signed up for a workshop on painting au plein air in the SNOW, with Stapleton Kearns. Can’t wait for the snow now! Alas, I am giving up one of my Saturday life drawing sessions for this workshop.

October means fall foliage

The first October plein air painting expedition was to Tamworth, NH, at the Remick Country Doctor and Farm Museum. This was my third year participating in this annual fundraising event by the NH Plein Air painters for the benefit of the Museum. The museum is a working farm featuring lots of live animals, which is more fun than Canterbury Shaker Village. Alas, it rained all day. Only five or six artists had the persistence and fortitude to show up, and the wet paint sale at the end of the day drew few buyers.

The painting at the top of this page (“Rocky Pasture”) was painted from just inside the chicken barn, where gusts of wind would regularly splatter me with spray from the rain. The painting below (“Chicken Alley”) was more obviously painted inside the barn, looking down a hallway by rooms of chickens, who were also huddling inside, but you will have to take my word for that. That lovely sunlit opening at the end of the hallway? I lied.

The following Friday, we (NH Plein Air) headed to Holderness for a repeat visit to Tannenruh. Here is my take on Squam Lake from Tannenruh in the Fall.

Mid-October found us trekking up to Bartlett for the semi-annual Artists Getaway Weekend. My artist friend and high school classmate from Rhode Island and Florida, Mary Crawford Reining (still no website to link you to) bravely accompanied me. I say bravely, because the temperature was plummeting and the makings of a snowstorm were heading east. But given that forecast, we were very fortunate, and on our first day painting enjoyed the unusual vision of white-capped mountains rising out of brilliantly colored forests.

Above: View from the scenic overlook in Intervale–Mt. Washington Valley with Mt. Washington itself as the backdrop.

Above: Another view of Mt. Washington from a spot on Route 302 just inside Crawford Notch State Park, in a field where I have it on reliable authority lupines bloom in June. The purple flowers in bloom on this day are asters.

Above: Suspension bridge on Davis Path, off Route 302 in Crawford Notch.

Above: Another view from the Intervale scenic overlook. I believe that is Cathedral Ledge [now identified as Humphrey’s Ledge by more expert observers] in the upper left quadrant.

Above: View from Bear Notch Road overlooking the Route 302 valley. Mt. Washington is out of the frame to the left and the buildings of the town of Bartlett are behind the trees left of center. This small (6 by 12) painting was snatched from icy winds in only one hour–by far the worst conditions that we had to endure the whole weekend.

Before October would be over, I made two more painting trips to the Arboretum in Boston. More about the Arboretum project later.

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3 Days with Stapleton Kearns

Continuing with the tale of the marathon workshops, I had a very different experience with Stapleton Kearns, whose plein air landscapes embody classical techniques. I struggled to adjust, without surrendering my newfound Griffel sensibilities.

All three days we would be painting in the middle of a large field in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. On Day 1, I obediently brought out a 16 by 20 panel even though the few times I had painted en plein air on a 16 by 20 canvas I had been disappointed. My brushes aren’t big enough, my easel not big enough, my tubes of paint not big enough. I never finished that Day 1 opus, so I have not yet photographed it. Someday, maybe.

On Day 2, I abandoned the large format and reverted to 11 by 14. Life improved. The 11 by 14 is displayed above. Three silos. My original intention had been to focus on the tracks and shadow in the foreground, and keep the silos as background. But the silos and the shadow on one of them are so irresistibly interesting. (By the way, to use the bathroom on the farm, as we were invited to do, one had to follow those tracks back to a farmhouse that is not even visible on the horizon, negotiating two mysterious (to me) and heavy gates–I ended up slithering under them until I was shown how to unlatch them.)

In the afternoon I started a smaller painting on 12 by 9, one with a view of Mount Monadnock in the background because you can’t just ignore the presence of Mt. Monadnock. This time, though, I kept the focus off the mountain and I daresay you wouldn’t even notice it if I hadn’t told you.

My Day 3 inspiration was a distant view of farm buildings in a different direction, and I tried to translate that distant view into a closer one on an 11 b y 14. I am still fussing with it, and may eventually give up on it, or accept it and photograph it. But meanwhile, I had taken a close up photo of the original inspiration, on our way into the far away field, and from that photo I have recently, in studio, rendered a smaller reproduction of the vision in my head. Here that is:

Stape was incredibly energetic and devoted to us. We literally worked until the sun started to set. He gave long individual critiques, which took him hours because we were spread out all over the farm, long demonstrations, and at least one long formal lecture. He was so full of information, opinions, and advice, and so totally willing to give it all up for us, that I am sure we each were ready to give it all up for him at the end of those three days.

To get a feel for the man, visit his blog, which I try to visit each day. He is so diligent about posting every day that even during the workshop, when he had a long drive to get back home after eating dinner with us, he never missed a blog entry. In fact, if you go back to mid-September, you can read about us in his blog–his assessments of us for the public were consistent with what we heard on the farm. But I make him sound merely diligent, which would be so boring. NOT BORING! Go check it out.

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Five days with Lois Griffel

In early September, when I launched myself on my marathon of workshops (12 out of 13 days), I started with the 5-day workshop with Lois Griffel. Hard to sum up in a single phrase, but Lois finds shapes and values within competing colors. You MUST follow the link above to understand how exciting, how vibrant her paintings are.

This workshop was unlike any other I have ever taken (ok, I’m not exactly an authority) in that it was structured and progressive. On the first day, we were not to concern ourselves with composition, drawing or any other distracting details. And throughout the workshop we all (including Lois) painted the same scene (from slightly different angles, of course).

We started by laying in the general shapes in underlying colors (burnt sienna, yellow ochre, viridian, pink) that would glow through later. My painting of the tree above represented our first day. Then we practiced layering over without blending, and working in at the edges. Here is the shadowed path that resulted from the second day. (Both days were on Lake Massabesic in Manchester.)

By the third day, we were getting the hang of it. Slowly. Here is my take on the dam in Contoocook on a cloudy, gray day.

Day 4 we stayed in Contoocook but moved over to the gazebo. There were moments of sunshine, but in fact I had to fake the light in order to make this painting come alive. I also took liberties with the setting.

Our last day was a half day. We spent it at Tiffany Gardens, the same bed and breakfast in Londonderry that was a site for the International Plein Air Paintout just a week before. Lois split us into two groups because of the tight spaces, and the subject of my painting was actually the house next door, framed by the garden.

When I finished up at noon that Friday, my white house was a patchwork of bright yellow and blue, and the blues (shadows) were not convincing. Except for the too-light shadows, Lois liked this painting–then. Lois would not approve, but I later toned down the yellow and the blue, proving that I am a slow learner and not quite eligible for the label “impressionist painter”. In my blog tomorrow and subsequent days, I will be talking about the other workshops, and maybe producing a few paintings now and then that reflect what I learned from Lois Griffel.

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4 times 6 by 6

I belong to an organization called “Women’s Caucus for Art”, which doesn’t roll too comfortably off the tongue but which does bring me into contact with a whole new set of eclectic and individualistic artists. Annually, WCA presents an exhibition of works of art created on plaques that are 6 inches square. Each member is entitled to buy a set of four panels and decorate them for the exhibit. The panels are then exhibited together and offered for sale. The price of each panel is $66. This year’s exhibit is being hung now, at The Paper Tree in Manchester NH (865 Second Street–, and the reception takes place on Friday, November 13, from 5 to 7.

My four plaques, pictured above, are oil paintings from photographs that I took in Rhode Island at a lotus pond in Warwick, situated right on a busy highway–all the easier for people to stop and gawk and take photos. I wasn’t the only one doing so. The size and beauty of these plants was unusual. The leaves were particularly fascinating, and dominating, which may explain why my paintings are more about the leaves than the flowers.

I am hoping my 6 x 6’s will catch the eye of another lotus-lover and all four go together to their next home. This was a fun project for me–something new for me too. I can now add flowering plants to my list of favorite inspirations, right up there with dogs and cats and trees. Next thing you know, I will be succumbing to the challenge of painting oranges. (No, no, I won’t, I’m determined I won’t!)

On the Brink of Disaster (maybe)

I thought I had corrupted my entire website without having backed it up. A disaster! –Or a fresh start?

After seeking help from Apple in an online chat, a phone chat, and finally the person-to-person chat at the Genius Bar in Salem, I had to accept the grim verdict: Restore from backup, if any, or recreate the entire website.

I turned to my Time Machine (the program that saves stuff to an external disk) thinking it had been six months since I had backed up my computer. But my Mac had automatically saved everything on September 22, just a week after my last publications to the website, so the potential disaster that has been hanging over my head for the past few weeks just went “poof” and I feel pretty silly for trying so hard to avoid the “restoration from backup” solution. There’s a moral in there somewhere, but I haven’t quite worked out what it is.

Anyway, I have been so very preoccupied with goings on at my law business and my painting activities that I let slide every nonessential in my life. It feels good to have nonessentials that one can let slide!

Since my last blog entry, I participated in 12 days of workshops and 5 days of paintouts (group plein air painting events). That’s just too much to cover in one blog entry. Here’s one of my favorite paintings from this period.

I call it Changing Seasons. The location was a swampy woods on Kimball Pond, which is in or near Goffstown. The Gallery at 100 Market Street in Portsmouth will exhibit this painting along with two others of mine, for the months of November and December and January.

Responding to a theory about why my website files got corrupted, I am deleting a lot of old stuff to give the new stuff room to breathe. And I hope to be back blogging on a regular basis.

Oh, yes. I should explain the photo at top. That was taken on August 30 at Manchester’s Art in the Park. That’s me, receiving the red ribbon from Guy Lessard, President of Manchester Artists Association. My painting, Hardscape with Reflections, won second best oil painting in the show. It too will be in Portsmouth for the next three months. Here is Hardscape:

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International Plein Air Artists Paint-out

From Friday through today, plein air artists the country over were called to get out and paint in this annual event. The NH painters chose to get out and paint in Londonderry at two locations: a bed and breakfast called Tiffany Gardens and the orchards of Mack’s apples. Following the paint-out, today, the artists exhibited their wet paintings at the White Birch Fine Art Gallery in Londonderry. Since I have been too busy to blog or update my website, and my schedule is just getting crazier in the upcoming days, the above 11 by 14 painting from today’s session at Mack’s Apple Orchard is all I can offer at this time. I titled it “Ready for Picking”.

But I have 34 works of art out in exhibits all over New Hampshire right now: 5 in Portsmouth at the Gallery at 100 Market, 9 at Manchester City Hall, 9 in the Twilight exhibit at the Manchester Artists Association Gallery, 2 at Hatfield Gallery in Manchester, 3 at the White Birch Gallery in Londonderry, 1 in the auditorium of the Derryfield School in Manchester, and 5 in the Travers Restaurant in Goffstown.

Please try to come out for Trolley Night (Open Doors) in Manchester this Thursday, September 17, from 5 to 8, when you can visit City Hall, the MAA Gallery, and Hatfield’s, sample the food and drink, and enjoy the trolley ride to get from place to place.

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Archived July Comments

June and July I neglected my web pages in favor of creating new paintings. To make up for that neglect, I posted five categories of 14 new works, all but one painted au plein air:

(1) Wet and Wild Water Workshop with Peter Granucci–three successive Saturdays painting au plein air at a water location. We started on the first Saturday at Kimball Pond, in Dunbarton I believe. Then we discovered Griffin Mill park in Auburn, which gave us a variety of structures along with the water, so we spent two Saturday mornings there, and I stayed on in the afternoon to create two more paintings. Total water paintings: 5

(2) Arnold Arboretum in Boston Massachusetts–prompted by a call for art inspired by the Arboretum, a group of us from NH Plein Air made a day of it at the Arboretum, hoping for inclusion of our works in the upcoming exhibit. My choice was a small footbridge not too far from the road but tucked away behind the shrubs. In my studio, I also painted from a photograph by Stan Kelley, with his permission, a portrait of a Chinese Stewartia, a tree known for the painterly way it sheds its multi-colored bark.

(1) Canterbury Shaker Village–A perennial favorite of NH Plein Air artists. We will gather there en masse for Founders’ Day on August 2, painting and selling our wet paintings at the end of the day. CSV gets a percentage of all sales proceeds. Also on exhibit and for sale will be works painted au plein air, completed and framed, of CSV scenes. So I, and many of my colleagues, are working to complete some paintings that can be sold by August 2 dry and framed. (CSV will keep the wet and dry paintings for about a week after August 2 to accommodate potential buyers trying to make up their minds.)

(1) Moore State Park in Paxton, Massachusetts–A return trip to this enchanting place was definitely called for, but we didn’t get there in time for the big rhododendron bloom. That didn’t matter because there is so much there that inspires. I choose a prime lookout spot in order to paint the sawmill, and later tossed off a quick sketch of one of many rhododendron paths, adding the blooms we had missed.

(5) Tannenruh in Holderness, NH–A celebration of the fifth year of existence of the NH Plein Air painters brought nine of us to this private estate, once the site of artist Helen Nicolay’s studio. I spent most of my time depicting a corner of the house, combining porch, umbrellas, and birch trees. Late in the afternoon, I succumbed to the charm of the view of Squam Lake and painted the one I call “Helen’s Bench”.

Catching up–yet again

I have been so busy doing artful things this month that I hardly had time to get work done for my law clients. You are going to hear about only those artful things that relate to actual paintings. After the Canterbury Shaker Village paintout, there was a Goffstown “Uncommon Art on the Common” paintout, then a Portsmouth paintout followed by a wet painting exhibit at the Coolidge Art Center, managed by the McGowan Gallery of Concord. Then I took off for a week in Rhode Island to get my fill of surf and rocks, plus some other goodies. All these new paintings (the ten after Canterbury) will be posted on the Newest Additions page, as well as distributed to their permanent pages.

My Day 1 RI painting is posted above, and it may be my favorite of the seascapes. I went at it determined to be loose and not fret about the shapes of the individual rocks. You may notice, when you visit the grouping that includes all of my recent RI paintings, that as the week progressed, some of that determination slipped away. But be sure to check out my boats, which I did the last day. I think there will be a lot more boats in my future!

Adding to my busyness right now is the preparing for two, no, three new exhibits and for Manchester’s “Art in the Park” coming up this weekend. Saturday and Sunday you will find me in Veterans’ Park from opening time to five o’clock. Then at the Manchester Artists Association Gallery at 1528 Elm Street, the “Twilight” exhibit opens on Wednesday, September 2. Reception night coincides with Trolley Night, September 17 (Thursday) from 5 to 8.

That night (Sept. 17) I will be splitting my time between the MAA exhibit and two others–Manchester City Hall and the Hatfield Gallery, both also stops on Trolley Night tours. At the Hatfield Gallery, I will be showing two drawings from the Saturday Life Group. At City Hall I will show mostly local landscapes, including the popular Nutfield Lane cityscape. Both the City Hall and MAA exhibits run for the months of September and October.

Getting everything selected and fit to exhibit (framed and wired) is not a simple matter. I also have to prepare for Art in the Park, which will include a display of my pet portraits with probably a few of the canine models hanging about to demonstrate how admirably I captured their likenesses in oil. The cats have declined to participate. I would love to see you there!

Don’t forget to check out my paintings at the Gallery at 100 Market Street if you find yourself in Portsmouth. That exhibit runs through October 24th. At White Birch Gallery in Londonderry, I am exhibiting three paintings. And in Derryfield School’s auditorium, one of my paintings is part of the “Small Gems” exhibit of the Women’s Caucus for Art. Contact me if you need more information about any of those venues.

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Too Busy to Blog

Artists who keep up with their blogs must not have a day job. The only reason I have time to make this entry right now is that I am on hold waiting to talk to the IRS about a client’s problem. I even have a special “practitioner’s hotline” number to use, but it has been 20 minutes to reach the first voice, who apologized and forwarded me to a different department for another estimated wait of of 30 minutes.

All I really want to think about is my planned trip to Narragansett, Rhode Island, for a vacation of painting with high school friend Mary. I’m hoping the company and the surroundings will be as inspirational this year as they proved to be last year.

Meanwhile, my busyness overall has included a certain amount of painting. Unfortunately, the 3 products of last weekend’s paintings have not been photographed and are still in the hands of McGowan Fine Art at their summer satellite studio in Portsmouth (Wentworth Coolidge House). Sunday will be the last day of that exhibit.

The painting at the top of this entry is from August 2 at the Canterbury Shaker Village. The NH Plein Air artists converged on the site for its Founders’ Day and put our wet paintings up for sale at the end of the day. Here is my photo of the scene I decided to paint. .

Day 2–Can I really keep this up?

Probably not. But I managed to find an interesting (to me) photograph of that sawmill, taken earlier in the Spring. I struggled so much with getting the perspective correct as I painted the darn thing. Now I sit and stare at my painting, wondering “Where did I go wrong?” Then I found this photograph in which the sawmill seems to tilt slightly. Or is that the perspective? I think it could be tilting because only the one side has the solid foundation of stone. This is definitely a good reason to go back there and get to the bottom of it, no pun intended.

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First day of blogging

Not that I have time to kill, but it would be nice to archive all those newsy bits that I have entered on my Newest Additions page. A blog enables that. Another nice aspect will be the ability to include photos of artists at work or scenes slated for artistic renderings–the kind of thing that I haven’t wanted to spend time on because it seems so ephemeral.

So henceforth, this blog becomes a combination of Newest Additions and Current Activities. I dropped the Exhibit Calendar page along ago because of the difficulty of keeping up with the changes. Now I can just enter the news in my blog and not worry about deleting old and outdated information. At least, I hope that’s how this is going to work!

Now, drum roll, for the first time in — months, anyway– here is where you can find actual paintings of mine on exhibit for public examination.

White Birch Gallery, 8 Mohawk Drive in Londonderry, NH: I have an ongoing presence at this gallery, with about three paintings at a time, changing out every two months or so. The next opening reception is scheduled for Friday August 7, from 4 to 7 p.m. I expect to be there for an hour beginning at 5 p.m.

Gallery at 100 Market Street, Portsmouth, NH: Paintings exhibited at this location could be on any one of four different floors of the building. I had 9 paintings on the first floor (very desirable location) in an exhibit that just ended, but will have 5 different paintings in the next exhibit that opens on July 31–the reception will be from 5 to 7 that Friday evening. I expect to be there for the reception.

MAA Gallery, 1528 Elm Street, Manchester, NH. The current exhibit is all photography, but I do have some prints in the print bin. (MAA = Manchester Artists Association)

Bartlett Inn, Route 302, Bartlett, NH. I have three paintings on display in the main building or in one of the guest bedrooms. This place is full of paintings by the many artists who have stayed there for the semi-annual artists’ weekends.

Travers The Village Eatery, 13 Main Street, Goffstown, NH. My series of four paintings of Route 302 in Crawford Notch are on the wall here, along with a painting of the woodland garden called “Evergreen” on Summer Street in Goffstown. The owner of Evergreen, Robert Gillmore, opens up his garden for a free public tour every now and then. I painted from a photograph that I took on my visit.

My law firm–Lotter & Associates, P.C., at 41 Brook Street, Manchester NH–exhibits paintings by me as well as some impressive works by other artists, including James Aponovich, Roger Graham, and Vincent Van Gogh. (Is this what artists mean when they brag that their paintings are in corporate collections?)

NH Institute of Art is currently exhibiting the works of their continuing ed students. Since I took a course last year from Adeline Goldminc-Tronzo, I was entitled to show one of my paintings done in that class. I chose my self-portrait because Adeline said it was her favorite. This exhibit will run until August 15. I missed the reception, which was on July 18 because I was painting in Holderness at the time.