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!

Catching up–Bartlett Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

.  .  .  .

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

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

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

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Jackson Falls, v. 5 or 6

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

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Bierstadt Meadow with Bluebird House

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

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Under the Bridge, of Another Bridge

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

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

Harvey Gamache passing into New Castle

The Harvey Gamache Passing into New Castle

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

Partners in Crime

Partners in Crime

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

As usual, you may view paintings with prices and order prints, phone cases, pillows and the like at my Fine Art America page. If the painting you are interested in is not there, or if you prefer to bypass that experience, you may contact me by email to alotter@mac.com.

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

Dissatisfaction

Dissatisfaction seems to happen like depression–is it a result of some mysterious collision of hormones or synapses (I’m not a scientist!), or is it justified by perceived failure?  I am of course referring to my art.  I can look at a painting that I created and quite admire it if I pretend it’s not mine.  But knowing it is mine, and it is not completely successful in terms of what I had hoped to achieve, I am dissatisfied.  This is very discouraging.  The only way to escape discouragement is to find encouragement from the outside world.  The best encouragement–say the “ten” of encouragement–would be if multiple admirers were competing to purchase a painting.  A “one” on the encouragement scale would be sincere praise.  I don’t mean to devalue sincere praise, but let’s face it, like is not the same as love.

The search for encouragement is why artists exhibit and seek to sell their paintings.  (If they are looking to make a living, they teach, or pursue a career in illustration or graphic arts.)   I think encouragement is also a prime factor in artists taking workshops from other artists; sure, you go to learn, but what you hope to learn is how good you already are!  It’s as if we need a constant infusion of encouragement to keep us going.  I know there are hermit artists whose work sees the light of day only after they are gone (gone=dead or institutionalized), but I cannot imagine how they keep plugging away with little or no input from the outside world.  Such people must be so strong willed, propelled by such an inner vision, that they can only be compared to saints, as celebrated by the Catholic Church.  (I was brought up Catholic and was a pretty devout one until I got out in the Real World where, after two children, birth control became a necessity.)

All is this is a preamble to this week’s collection of recent paintings with which I am not satisfied, completely.  First, here is Margaret back again, after a three-session pose:

Margaret in Blue

Margaret in Blue

Three sessions is long enough to get it all right.  I had to repaint her leg and arm in the third session because I had the perspective so wrong that her leg looked as if, in the words of a fellow artist, it were coming out of her belly.  So it is correct.  But is it inspired?  After the first session, there was (I think) a freshness and spontaneity that is now lost.  How did Sargent manage to labor over his portraits and produce paintings that seem to have been painted casually albeit perfectly with the first stroke?

Two more figure in the landscape paintings have entered the world as the result of workshops in the garden of David Curtis in Gloucester.  First, the orange one:

Figure in Orange

Figure in Orange

She was holding a red parasol, the same  parasol that I painted last summer, but this time, we had sun flowing through it.  The two-piece dress is Indian, a saffron yellow-orange.  Do I have enough light?  No, it does not  pop like it should.  Is the green unrelenting?  Maybe, but it’s not the problem, is it?  Orange and green should produce quite an impact together.  Perhaps the figure should have been bigger.  So I resolve to go bigger with the next one:

Figures in White

Figures in White

This set up is similar to last summer’s red parasol.

Did you speak?

My angle on the figure is so similar, but this time I have more of the face.  Red has been replaced by white.  We are all thinking about Sorolla, who was especially admired for his whites.  The first impression of this painting is pretty good, I’m hoping, but I hate the little area where her right hand comes to rest.  And I wish the parasol sun dapples came across better.  Wish?  That’s what I’m reduced to, wishing it were better.  OMG!

That’s enough dissatisfaction for this week.  Last week, I enjoyed the highly encouraging turnout for my reception at the Firefly last week.  I didn’t count heads, but the place was full and I didn’t have any leftover food to take home.  Thank you, all who showed up and seemed to like it.  For those who didn’t quite get there Monday night, you can still view the paintings at Firefly before September 9, and I recommend you make a reservation to eat in the gallery room.  Their food is excellent!

This weekend there is an event in Essex, Massachusetts, that you should consider attending.  Saturday artists will be crawling all over the town making paintings, and Sunday these paintings will be displayed and offered for sale.  Essex Paint out and Auction Facebook page with all the details.  I am getting up extra early Saturday morning in order to drive down there and participate.

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

At the Library Arts Center in Newport, NH;  at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett;  at the Bernerhof Inn in Glen; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway;  at the Firefly American Bistro on 22 Concord Street, Manchester (reception August 3–5:30 to 7:30–all are welcome); and at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester.

As usual, you may view paintings with prices and order prints, iPhone cases and the like at my Fine Art America page. If the painting you are interested in is not there, or if you prefer to bypass that experience, you may contact me by email to alotter@mac.com.

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

New Subject Matter

Drum roll, please!  I hereby present my first floral painting*:

Floral Painting No. 1

Floral Painting No. 1

It represents nine hours of development under the tutelage of Deirdre Riley, whose own floral paintings are simply spectacular.  I went very slowly (for me) in order to grasp the all the points she wanted to get across to us, her “community education” students at the New Hampshire Institute of Art.

I am flying to Florida this Wednesday, there to paint daily en plein air, so I will miss the next setup in the floral class, but maybe they will still be working on it when I get back.

*Actually when I was much, much younger–between 18 and 20–I painted a still life with flower arrangement as a gift to my brother and sister-in-law.  I think most of it came out of my head.  At that time of my life, I had had zero experience at painting from life.  Everything was from imagination.  Then in my last year of college I signed up for a course in oil painting,  Painting from “life” yes, but all very still life–not even dried flowers, every object was dead.  Paper, wood, ceramic, and so on.  Then, in a later year, taking a night class at the Museum School in Boston,  for one session we had a live model.  I painted a very crude portrait on a very large panel, which panel had followed me around for the decades from Boston to Florida, back to Boston then Michigan, ending up in NH.  I finally reused that panel a few years ago to paint the abstract landscape that I call “Darkly“.  I like to suppose that the portrait underneath influenced the new layer of paint and the title, in that the portrait and the meaning of the new layer are hidden from casual view.

About this Floral Painting No. 1, I want you to be aware that the background and table top were covered with brown wrapping paper, Kraft paper I think it is called?, then the paper was draped with gauze to affect its hue.  The background gauze was lavender.  The table top gauze was lime green.  I chose to ignore the background lavender but did paint in the lime green gauze.

I enjoyed working on this painting.  It is actually a still life, one of my first in the last nine years.  The flowers were not alive, of course.  How could they be, and last for three weeks?  I believe they were silk.  I have never  been drawn to paint still lifes, but I have always enjoyed painting stuff into my figurative paintings.  Flowers may be the lure to suck me into the world of the still life.

Snow Camp 2015

I’ve been “absent” for a few weeks, in part because of Stapleton Kearns’ “Snow Camp 2015”, which took place at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett, NH.  Stapleton started with Snow Camp in 2010 and repeated it annually thereafter at the Sunset Hill Inn in Sugar Hill, NH.  But last year, Sunset Hill Inn closed its doors.   Stape booked the workshop at the Bartlett Inn, which a few of us had been urging upon him from the beginning as it is home base for the Great semi-annual Artists Getaway Weekend.  When I learned of the relocation, I jumped to sign up for it despite my 2012 decision not to spend any more workshop dollars on landscape painting.  Besides, “Have boots, will paint [outdoors in the winter].”  Meaning:  I spent the big bucks back in 2010 for my duck hunting boots and the only time I use them is when I am painting outdoors in the winter–a pretty rare occasion.  I was a little concerned by the fact that I am now five years older than I was when I first braved the conditions of frigid temps and difficult terrain underfoot.  Regardless of any other measure of the workshop, mere survival was this year going to equal success.

I did survive–maybe!  Four of our company had been nursing various cold-like symptoms, and Wednesday night after being back home, my own version of the ailment announced its arrival with a sore throat.  I have taken the previous three days off to rest and recuperate, getting nothing done.  Still no recuperation in sight, alas!   I still have a wretched sore throat, along with other miseries.  My resilience was probably compromised by those five years of aging, not to mention the daunting weather conditions we braved over the weekend:  temps in the minus column before calculating the wind chill; fierce wind gusts; and on the last day (Monday),  a new layer of snow falling gently.  I was very happy to stay over at the Inn an extra night.

Miriam and Nick (the Innkeepers) kept the kettle on all day for tea and cocoa and if the timing was right, an artist could go inside to find warm brownies or ginger cakes awaiting.  We stayed on the grounds of the Inn to paint, same as we had done in Sugar Hill.  Sunset Hill Inn had a spectacular view of Cannon Mountain and Franconia Notch, but at the Bartlett Inn we enjoyed a different kind of subject matter:  trees, buildings, roads, all covered in snow.  No vistas.  That suited me fine.

Snow as a painting subject is surprisingly complicated.  In earlier days, before I knew any better, I’d painted a lot of snow scenes from photographs, which doesn’t even get near the problem. My blog of 2010 and 2011 talked about some of the issues, but when I migrated that blog to this site, I never reposted the photographs of those paintings.  I am remedying that oversight now, but I’ll post those earlier paintings here too.  In chronological order:

Hammock in Winter 2010

Hammock in Winter 2010 (despite the title, it’s really about the shadows)  11×14

Plein Air Artists 2010

Plein Air Artists 2010  11×14

Franconia Notch 2010

Franconia Notch 2010 (footprints were inserted back at home, I think)  16×20

Alone on the Trail 2011

Alone on the Trail 2011 (yes, it snowed on our Snow Camp that year)  16×20

Franconia Notch 2011

Franconia Notch 2011  (what happened to the stone wall?) 16×20

Stape always does a demonstration painting in the morning.  It’s harder to deal with the cold when you are not absorbed in your own painting, but at least you can keep your hands warm.  I spent both afternoons of the first two days working on one scene.  The first afternoon was largely wasted:  I had “toned” my panel to cover up an old painting underneath, and the paint I had used refused to dry.  As a result the toning color (tan) was muddying up the new composition.  And it was so cold that I couldn’t even squeeze my white paint onto my palette.  Stape had to do that for me.  And the paint was so stiff that I couldn’t mix it or spread it.  Stape told me to wipe it down to get rid of the bad underpaint, then use a lot of Liquin to soften up and dry the new paint.  The next morning, I went straight to work, forgoing the demo.  Because of the conditions, I quit pretty early, about 2:30 in the afternoon that Sunday.  Today I cleaned up the faults still remaining in the painting, and this is the result:

Last Scrap of Light at the Bartlett Inn

Last Scrap of Light at the Bartlett Inn

Whereas the 2011 workshop had been about getting all the primary hues into the snow, this year the problem was getting the values right.  I had to make sure that no spot in the snow bank was as light as the lit edges, and I darkened all the shadows in the foreground so as to heighten the drama.  The scene is of the cottages next to the Inn itself.

The next day, it was snowing all day.  I watched Stape’s demo in the morning and started a smallish (12×16) painting in the afternoon.  Most of us felt limited to whatever we could grab as subject matter from the shelter of the porch; I was right on the edge of the cover.  Light, flaky snow accumulated on my palette during the course of the afternoon.  I didn’t worry about it though, because Michel (hearty and hardy Nova Scotian) set up down at the road with only an umbrella to shelter himself.  Here’s my view from the porch of the Inn:

Driveway into the Bartlett Inn

Driveway into the Bartlett Inn

In addition to Michel and the usual assortment of NH and Mass. artists, we had artists from Houston, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; and “an imposter” from Huntington, West Virginia.  “Imposter” because he was not a painter at all, but an author, engaged in research for his new novel featuring an artist.  You can buy his first novel, about a musician, from Amazon:  Song for Chance by John Van Kirk.  I downloaded it to my iPad but haven’t been up to reading it yet.

Snow Camp 15 - 31

In the background you can see the cottages that I featured in my first painting.  The tall guy in the orange hat is Stapleton Kearns.  It’s the same hat he was wearing in 2010.  The guy in the red hat is James, who has not missed a year of Snow Camp since it started.  The guy in the light gray parka is Byron Carr, who initiated the Artists’ Getaways as the Bartlett Inn–back in 2005, I think.  From left to right:  me; Michel; Jack; Jason; Gina Anderson (fellow artist at East Colony); James; Suzanne; Stape (in back) and Holly (in front); Gary; Dave Drinon (buddy from many classes at NHIA); Byron; John the Imposter, and Debbie (the organizer par excellence!).  Wonderful collection of people!

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the East Colony Fine Art Gallery in Manchester (Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett;  at the Bernerhof Inn in Glen; at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester; at the McGowan Gallery in Concord, NH.

As usual, you may view paintings with prices and order prints, iPhone cases and the like at my Fine Art America page. If the painting you are interested in is not there, or if you prefer to bypass that experience, you may contact me by email to alotter@mac.com.

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

 

Continuing the Garden Binge

Encouraged by the success of the red parasol painting, I returned to the David Curtis garden in Gloucester two more times.  I have provisionally titled these two by the most prominent prop–a reflecting ball and a black kimono, respectively.

The reflecting ball was, to me, an annoyance, but I had to deal with it.

The Reflecting Ball

The Reflecting Ball

David advised us to paint portraits rather than a figure in the landscape, but as you can see, I ignored his advice.  Two weeks prior, I had already committed to painting that tree in the background.  Plus, the less real estate I needed for the reflecting ball, the better.  David praised (I think it was intended as praise) it as telling a story.   Why does mine tells a story and the others not?   A women in gypsy outfit gazing at a reflecting ball?  Must be a story in that, right?  The answer lies in the fact that I painted a figure in the landscape, not a portrait.  To tell a story, you have to back off a bit, gain some perspective.

Last Sunday we gathered around our model decked out in a black kimono and holding a fan.

The Black Kimono

The Black Kimono

This one I enjoyed a lot, almost as much as the red parasol.  It was allegedly the easiest of the Curtis Garden Series.  Certainly it presented nothing as complicated as that red parasol and cupid statuette;  the fan? –not even close.  Then why, when I could complete the Red Parasol with 15 minutes to spare, am I dissatisfied with Black Kimono?  Something about her right arm doesn’t look correct.

Yes, our model actually held that fan up for twenty minutes at a time (she braced the elbow against her side), but her feet would fall asleep.  Whenever the timer signaled her break, she would forget that fact about the feet, try to take a step, and collapse in the grass.  Gracefully.

We all enjoyed ourselves very, very much–including David, I guess — he invited us back next Sunday.  Since Bea is going out of town for Labor Day weekend, I shall have to drive down alone.

The Ultimate Opportunity in figure painting  occurred on Monday, when our life group left the studio to meet with our model in the Lessard garden.

The White Floppy Hat

The White Floppy Hat

We will meet again next week to work on the same pose.  I could almost call the painting finished, but it would be a pretty rough finish.  I think I can do better:  The head is slightly too large.  Some of the spots of light on her could be more delicious–meaning more contrast between light and shadow on her.

All three of these garden paintings demonstrate the benefit of using a dark (mostly burnt umber) ground.  I’ve been using previously painted-on panels, having sanded them down first.  The ground helps to hide the remnants of the original painting, which might otherwise be distracting.  The darkest ground provides the best cover, but my real reason for choosing a dark ground is the lovely foliage depth that occurs so effortlessly.  I can leave the ground showing behind her in the whole upper right section.

All that help, still not “finished”.  What magic took over when I painted Red Parasol?  And how do I get that magic back???

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery and the East Colony Fine Art Gallery in Manchester (both are in Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett and the Bernerhof Inn in Glen; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester; at the Manchester office of Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter;   a single painting is on view for one more week at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester; at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Manchester; and at her studio by appointment (email: alotter@mac.com). You may also view paintings with prices and order prints 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 using the private feedback form below. 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!

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