Living Free in New Hampshire

This week’s obsession is a poster contest announced by our gem of a museum, the Currier Museum of Art, in Manchester.  First,  if you are not already familiar with New Hampshire’s notorious motto, here’s a little background.

State Emblem

“Live Free or Die.”  The motto achieved its national notoriety after the NH legislature determined that it must  be written on our license plates.  Some uppity commie liberal type objected to having such an inflammatory statement attached to his personal motor vehicle, and sued all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to get it removed.  Well, that’s the story my memory came up with, but I know better than to trust my memory anymore, so I looked it up on Wikipedia, and it seems the offended motorist was a Jehovah’s Witness, who reacted not by suing but by covering up the “or Die” portion of the motto because death for a political cause was unacceptable in his religion, and the Supreme Court got involved because he was prosecuted under a criminal statute for defacing the license plate.   His conviction was overturned under the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution–the State could not force him to express a sentiment with which he did not agree.

Although that was something of a slap down, the motto remains on the license plate.  I had to look to be sure.  NH licenseNew Hampshire does live by the motto:  seat belts are not mandated for adults; helmets are not required of motorcyclists; soda cans do not come with a refundable deposit; and taxes, at least those that would reach a broad segment of the population, are abhorrent.  Cigarettes, fireworks, gambling and liquor are encouraged.  They generate revenue.  When we say “free”, we don’t mean “tax-free”.  For a comedic take on New  Hampshire’s philosophy,  see Juston McKinney’s YouTube analysis.

In defense of free living, New Hampshire was an early adopter of same-sex marriage, thereby proving it is an independent thinker.  I believe there is also a law on the books to the effect that gun-toters must be allowed to enter courtrooms and legislative chambers with their guns on board.   In that last case, the death resulting from living free may not be that of the free liver lover.  So you see we have a lot of scope for comedy here.

Anyhoo, the Currier  has a contest going for the best poster on the theme of “live free AND _______”—you fill in the blank.   The idea is to describe or celebrate something wonderful about New Hampshire, where you may live free and also do some constructive things, things other than killing yourself on the highway.

I had an immediate super-brilliant idea and decided to compete, ignoring the fact that I have zero experience or training as a graphic artist.  I ordered ten poster boards from Dick Blick, mostly because you can’t order just one.  Extras would be good because I would surely mess up the first few attempts.  Then I explored the internet for some  hints on how to go about painting on poster board.   There wasn’t much out there to help me, but I did learn that applying oil paints directly to the board would not be advisable.

Luckily, I keep some acrylic paints on hand, so I planned to paint a base of acrylic, which would seal the surface and prepare it for the eventual painting in oil.  The base would coordinate with my background colors.  Once I got going, very confidently since I thought I was still just painting the base, the whole thing just sprang to life.  My first acrylic painting.  I was stunned.  And happy.

Then began the process of lettering.  OMG.  I proceeded with great care (and concern).  Again I conceived a plan:  The letters are to consist of their outlines only, because I wanted the background painting to show through.  I drew the my letters freehand.  I did not want mechanical-looking letters but I did some measuring.  I cut them out with an Exacto knife.  Not as easy as it sounds.  Hard, in fact.  I stuck them  onto my poster with museum putty to see how they looked.  I repositioned them.  I redid  “. . . and” to make that piece smaller than the “Live Free“.  I outlined them using a pen.  I painted around the outlines.  The unevenness bothered me.  I didn’t want it to look professional but I wasn’t going for sloppy either.   I tried blurring/bleeding edges with my medium (I was using oil paints at this point).  Kind of liked that.  Wiped out the word “Free” because letters were too crowded together.  Painted with acrylic paint over the wipe-out to create fresh, clean surface for next go ’round.

And that’s where I am.  Today I am researching the kinds and uses of stencils, vinyl lettering etc.  Should I give up on the outline plan?  Guess I am going to have to show you in order to get any feedback.

Image 3

The above is a close up or detail of the painting, showing paper letters positioned where I planned to outline them.  I wished I knew how to make the letters look as if they were actually hanging in front of the poster.

Image 4

Above is the whole thing, with all of the letters positioned; I must have corrected “HIKE”‘s position  before penning its outline in red ink.

Image 2

Above is the state of the poster before I darkened the upper outlines and before I whitened the “HIKE” outline, and yes, before I got up in the middle of the night to remove the crowded letters forming “Free”.  I like “HIKE” now, but am worried about “Live Free”.  All of my options for stenciling or applying letters involve letting go of the open outline design.  What do you think I should do?

As for the subject image, if you have been reading for a while (over a year). you will recognize it from a 9×12 study that I did for a Patrick McCay course at the Institute called “Explore, Express, Exploit”.  I published it in this blog from October 2011.  Here is the original inspiration:

The Lone Looker

The Lone Looker (photo)

I am well and truly exploiting that image of the guy on the rock outcrop that I photographed at 2011’s bike race up Mount Washington, thus fulfilling the promise of that course.

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery and the East Colony Fine Art Gallery in Manchester (Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway;  at Stella Blu , an American Tapas restaurant in Nashua; at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester; at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Manchester (part of the Healing with Art program) and at her studio by appointment.

Race up Mount Washington

I’m sharing with you this week a magnum opus WIP (work in progress) that has been in progress for over a year now.  It’s not that I’m lazy, at least I don’t think so.  Or that I have too many other projects going.    I just stopped working on it for many months, waiting for my desire to finish it to return.  I explained this in my blog of a few weeks ago, here if you want to read it.

Usually, I am fast to paint and perhaps too fast to declare my painting done.  I don’t have time to get bored or the scope to get intimidated.  But I almost always have one big painting in the works, and it usually takes me a month or two to work out the problems and declare it finished.  This one has been a totally different experience.  It has intimidated me with its scope, size and complexity.  I now have barely got all the canvas covered, and am only beginning to try to pull it all together as a whole.

Mt. Washington Phase 4

Mt. Washington Phase 4

No smart aleck mountaineer (my son) has yet asked, but perhaps I should make it clear that I am not going for accuracy in the configuration of the mountain ranges depicted.  The people are, however, based on real people whom I observed at the 2011 Race to the top of Mount Washington.  From the hundreds of photos that I took while waiting for my son to finish (33d–that’s really good!), I picked out some vignettes to incorporate in this panoramic scene.  I have drawn and/or painted most of them before I started on the present mammoth.  (OK, it’s 30×40, not really mammoth, but quite big for me.)  Here are my studies, in no particular order:

Fans

Fans

Awaiting the Stragglers

Awaiting the Stragglers (3-legged dog)

View of race with vista

View of race with vista

Whew!

Whew! (a top female finisher)

Andy with bike

A Very Special Guy

Bike Race spectator on Mt. Washington

Bike Race spectator on Mt. Washington (Find him in the magnum opus)

These small paintings are more faithful portraits of the mountains and the infrastructure at the finish line.  The two portraits are of my favorite cyclists, the ones I was there to cheer on.

Mount Washington is often referred to, fondly and respectfully, as “the Rockpile”;  if nothing else, my painting does give the viewer a sense of why that is.   Despite all my practice paintings, I’m still not satisfied with my technique for depicting rock piles.   I also intend to enliven my landscape with many more spectators and cyclists.  If you examine the distant road, you will see, you might see–some indistinct blobs of color;  they are supposed to suggest more cyclists on their way up with spectators along the route.

I would not want to leave you without a nude this week. For the past month or so, I had been sticking to 8×10 and 9×12 canvases for the Tuesday and Friday sessions with live models.  Last Tuesday, counting on having my model in her pose for two straight weeks, I brought a larger canvas to work on–16×20.   I was using a piece of oil-primed linen from a Centurion pad.  If I don’t like all of it when I am finished, I can always cut it down.  So I started large.

Figure in Turban and red drape WIP

Figure in Turban and red drape WIP

So far, so good.  I have high hopes for this one, but am a bit perplexed by the color of the background.  I think I would prefer something that more closely echoed the colors in the turban.  Or perhaps a much darker background to set off the figure and the turban.  Stay tuned!

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery in Manchester (Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway;  at Stella Blu American Tapas restaurant in Nashua; at her law offices at 41 Brook St in Manchester; and at her studio by appointment.

Aging

Well, it happened again.  I forgot to post Monday’s blog.  I was so pleased with myself Sunday for taking the photographs and uploading them to WordPress, that I must have subconsicously given myself credit for completing the job.  Or it’s age.  Twice in three weeks–not good!  Good thing I am wrapping up my law practice.

Yes, it’s official.  I will not be renewing my license to practice law in the state of New Hampshire at the end of our fiscal year.  As of July 1, my status will become “inactive”.  Of course it may take weeks after that to tend to my clients and sort through and dispose of the accumulations of 29 years.  Some of my clients I will continue to be able to serve (e.g., by preparing tax returns) but for those requiring the services of a member of the Bar, I will try to place them with new lawyers.  The tax clients will be the hardest to place–not many lawyers want to represent taxpayers in trouble with the IRS.  That’s because usually the trouble originated in some fault of the taxpayer–well, not “fault” exactly, but behavior.  When people get smacked down or just depressed, they can’t cope with taxes, and of course, to the IRS, it’s just another same old story.  Our system of income taxation confers upon the taxpayers great responsibility and great trust.  Alleviating that burden on the taxpayer is, in my opinion, the only decent argument in favor of a sales  or value added tax.  Thank God I won’t have to even think about this stuff in a few months (except, as I said before, a few tax return preparations).

So this week’s original topic was going to WIPs (works in progress),  WIP and RIP (rest in peace) are two possibilities existing simultaneously in a half-finished painting, like alternate universes.  RIP means I never return to finish the painting.  WIP is a hopeful designation.  Two unfinished paintings this week are, I hope, WIP and not RIP.

But let me show you first–three completed charcoal drawings from our Saturday Life Group.  I’m pretty psyched about them.  Our couple was back, and all of us were a little more at ease with each other and the whole concept of two entwined naked bodies.  For one 2-minute gesture pose, they even struck a kissing pose.  It dawned on me that I could not get more appropriate pieces for the McGowan Gallery‘s annual Valentine’s show,  “Love, Lust and Desire“, than these drawings.   And pieces in the show are limited in size to 8.5 by 11,  so when I decided to bring my 9×12 high-quality pastel paper to SLG that morning, Fate was with me.

I don’t quite remember (age again?) which poses were what length, but the range was 20 minutes to 50 minutes.

LL&D No. 1

LL&D No. 1

LL&D No. 2

LL&D No. 2

LL&D No. 3

LL&D No. 3

I started all three by smearing the paper with soft charcoal.  Then I deployed the kneaded eraser to bring out the lights.  The paper was not white, so I could have increased  the contrast by using white pastel, but for some reason, I felt that much contrast would be too intrusive.  Does that make any sense at all?

WIPs I have several, but the most important is my Mt. Washington Oeuvre.  I slapped some more paint on it, and it’s beginning to take shape.  I’m getting excited about it again,  as the background gets covered with paint.

Phase 3--Biking on Mt. Washington

Phase 3–Biking on Mt. Washington

I have to keep reminding myself that I conceptualized the mountains as semi-abstract.  I cannot allow myself to get hung up on painting realistic rocks.  For the figures, I need to resize them–the ones farther from the viewer need to shrink a bit.  I plan to refer to the original photo references for each figure, on my iPad if I can get it to stop  going to sleep.  Consistency in the direction of sunlight also needs some work.

The next work was a WIP yesterday, when I should have posted this entry, but when I got to Tuesday life group this morning, everyone else wanted to move on with a new pose.  So although I may need to tinker with shapes and values here and there, this is essentially a done deal.

Jon seated on stand wip

Jon seated on stand wip

By the way, I made up the background at home, thinking to get a head start on today’s session.  Head start, finish line, same thing almost.  One of my cohorts today commented that I had a nice touch with interiors, suggesting I should consider that as a specialty.  So watch out for that as a new theme, possibly.  I’m pretty opportunistic, like a leaf in a stream of water, just letting it carry me wherever.  So far, no interiors have presented themselves as likely candidates for painting subjects.  George Nick did some interiors that I admired greatly (many shown in his gallery of 2008-2010 paintings here), and Paul Ingbretson, just one floor below our studio, has an interior that would knock your socks off (see it here–called Warm and Cool).  And Van Gogh was very much into interiors.  Can you think of other examples?  Seems to me to be a pretty untapped seam.  Hope I’m not mixing metaphors there.

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery in Manchester (Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway;  at Stella Blu American Tapas restaurant in Nashua; at her law offices at 41 Brook St in Manchester; and at her studio by appointment.

Hello, Again

To those of you who noticed and cared that I did not post anything last week, I apologize.  To those who never noticed or cared, I don’t know what to say.  Really?  Your lives did not seem emptier?  Mine seemed peculiar.  I am so used to the follow up discussion among my friends that it was as if we had lost a piece of our conversation template.  Perhaps I have gotten spoiled, so it was a good thing to experience a little deprivation for a short time.  I have no excuse for missing a week, if that’s what you are waiting to hear.  I suddenly realized on Tuesday that I had never posted the Monday blog, or indeed even taken the photographs with which to illustrate it.  Instead of bending myself into a pretzel getting a late entry out, I decided to lie back and wait for complaints, if any.  Too few complaints were received.  Oh, well.

The upside is all the extra material I have for this week.  The headline news is progress on the painting that I started a year ago of bikers racing to the top of Mount Washington.  Here is a link to what it looked like last  year.  I brought it out to work on March 23 because of Peter Granucci.  He invited us to his studio in Gilsum (where?–middle of nowhere but close to Vermont) for a workshop on stalled projects.  I had the perfect candidate in the Mt. Washington painting.  He forced me to do exercises of value studies for the painting, six of them, and claimed that each was better than the one before, and only then was I allowed to apply those principles to my big canvas.  So annoying to have to apply real rules when all you want to do is follow your instinct.  But my instinct had dried up, I guess, and that’s why the canvas had seen stashed away for a whole year.  So now Phase 2, which will I hope lead to 3 sooner than a year from now:

Phase 2 of Mt Painting

Phase 2 of Mt Painting

Another feature from Figure Fridays with Peter Clive is this 2-session study of Fletch reclining on the ubiquitous brown leather sofa.   I had two hours remaining when I finished the figure study, so I started a portrait too.

Reclining Male on Brown Sofa

Reclining Male on Brown Sofa

 Portrait Fletch Mar 2013

Portrait Fletch Mar 2013

Compare the new portrait to this one from last month.  Am I getting better?

Fletch portrait on darker bkgrd

Fletch portrait on darker bkgrd

The Saturday group is back in business after two weeks off.  Here is the pick of that session.

Reading from back

Reading (Nook) from back

Finally perhaps my favorite of the group is this portrait of Grace.  I think I am finally getting the hang of something–the color of the skin, the modeling of the shoulder, and the light touch for the mouth.  I’m really fond of this one!

Portrait Grace Mar 2013

Portrait Grace Mar 2013

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery in Manchester (Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway;  at Stella Blu American Tapas restaurant in Nashua; at her law offices at 41 Brook St in Manchester; and at her studio by appointment.

Studies, Ending, Beginning

This is the last study for my large Mt. Washington Bike Race painting.  I numbered it “4” but in fact it is 5 if you count the two portraits in the series.  I have started on the big canvas, but the drawing is so rudimentary that I am saving it for a future post, when I hope I will have something of interest to display.

Meanwhile I would like to share with you a minor triumph–well, sort of a triumph and certainly a very minor one.  Last Summer (can’t believe it has been that long ago) in the Portraits course I was taking with Cameron Bennett, he crushed me with the observation that an eye was too low on a copy of a Serov portrait that he had assigned us as homework.  Here is a link to my report on that last effort.  Last week I finally got around to correcting that flaw.  I used a ruler.  I laid the ruler under the eyes of the original, then under the eyes of my copy.  I couldn’t find any discrepancy, yet I had to agree the there was something fishy about my eye.  Of course, the color was wrong, but could that obvious flaw have create the misimpression that the eye was too high or low?

Original, by Valentin Serov      

My copy of Serov portrait (A)

My copy, after retouching eye

Original Portrait by Valentin Serov

Finally, one more workshop piece, from our (NH Plein Air artists) most recent meeting of the Peter Granucci workshop series, which ironically, requires indoor practice from photographs.  The subject this month was snow.

 

Snow Shadows

Improvements

DSC_3049

Above is a new and improved version of the Rockport Harbor painting from last week.  I’m hoping you might be curious to see what can happen to a plein air painting after the artist gets to stare at it in the studio for a while.  It all started when I decided that the shape of the red fish house was not quite right.  Perspective errors are the worst–they haunt me forever unless I fix them.  And once I dive into a painting to make one correction, chances are pretty good that I will find other ways to improve on a painting, even a painting that started out not so bad.   (With a bad painting, I’m like a dog with a bone–I won’t give it up.)  So, after correcting the shape of the fish house, I made the following changes:

Sky:  horizon color–greener

Red fish house: adjusted values of lighted and shaded sides

Blue fish house: changed color of  roof

Boats:  added clean whites to sun-struck surfaces

Water:  brought up reflections of boats, toned down reflection of red fish house

Stone abutments:  eliminated highlights, contrast

Rockport Harbor WIP

After making those changes, I submitted the painting to Patrick McCay’s critical gaze in my EEE class, and, following his advice:

Foreground shrub: added darker shadows, to better compete with the dark in the middle boat

Middle boat:  inserted lighter shadows into the deck , so that the boat stopped attracting the eye

Red fish house: grayed down the red on the fish house–to comport with aerial perspective rules.

I think it’s done now.  Unless something else starts to bother me about it. But I am deep into more studies for the Mount Washington bike race painting and unlikely to give Rockport Harbor another going over.

Here are two Mt. Washington studies, one finished (maybe) and the other, not quite finished–hope you like them!

View of race with vista

At the Finish (WIP)

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Gallery at 100 Market Street in Portsmouth; at the Sage Gallery in Manchester; at the Hatfield Gallery in Manchester; at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; and at her studio by appointment.

Link to website:  www.paintingsbyaline.com

A Best Week

Some weeks are so full of reportable stuff that I have trouble choosing my topic.  Other weeks, I have trouble scaring up a single decent topic.  I could save up half of the good-week stuff for a dull week, but who wants to plan for dull weeks?  Not me.  On the other hand, I don’t want to bore you either, and really now, wouldn’t  you rather hear about struggles?  This week I can report on a bit of a struggle and its accompanying triumph so that’s what I lead with.

Part I.  Alpaca Love.  You remember the alpaca farm/ranch from last month?

Alpaca Farm v.1

Alpaca Farm in North Conway

This was the plein air painting from the Bartlett weekend, to which, I announced, I would be adding an alpaca closeup.  I had one good alpaca closeup, so I went with that, even though I’d have preferred the animal to be facing more towards the viewer.  My closeup did not include the legs either, so I was winging it with regard to the posture and thickness and general shape of the legs.

Alpaca Farm v.2

Alpaca Farm v.2

Pretty awful, right?.  I wouldn’t even show it to you before–I couldn’t let it sit out there as if finished when I was going to have to repaint the red alpaca closeup.  First, I had to find a better reference photograph.

As it turned out, when I got around to searching my own photographs, I had plenty of good alpaca poses.   Thanks to my powerful Nikon SLR camera, alpacas photographed in the way distance still gave me enough enlarged detail to paint a loveable blond alpaca in just the right pose, in just the right spot.

Alpaca Farm, v.3 (Final)

Part II:  Supercyclists. Earlier this evening, I delivered two paintings to my son in celebration of his birthday.  One of them  you have seen already.

Andy as Supercyclist

It depicts him right after finishing the race up to the top of the Rockpile (Mt. Washington).  Paint still wet on the second one delivered, is my painting of his friend Kori, from the same time, same place.

Whew!

I love the foreground in Kori’s painting.  Strange that where the focus of the painting is the figure of the cyclist, what I love most is how I painted the ground.  I would have liked to paint the face more expressively, but I didn’t really have room for that.  The two paintings are each 12×9, so the faces are quite small.  I wanted to get the likenesses as close as possible, so I had to be careful.  Andy’s worked out better because I had only light and shadow anyway, but Kori’s nose, mouth, eyebrows had to fall in the exact correct places, and no smearing please.

My major painting plan, for which these two 12x9s have served as studies, is still on, but the faces in the big one are not going to get any bigger since the plan is to encompass the entire rockpile.  I think I need to reuse this scene in a longer painting so as to include more of the shadow, and larger overall, so as to allow more of a slapdash face.

Part II:  Lovely Nudes.  Finally, for a change of pace, how about a collection of lovely nudes from Saturday Life Group?  My best from two weeks ago, and all three from this week:

Arrangement of elbow and knee   

Leg on Blue Draped Pillow

Right Side with bent elbow

The back from a left angle

I am wondering if I am getting too heavy-handed with the charcoal.  The “Leg on Blue Draped Pillow” has more charm to it, I think, because I had the pose for only 20 minutes and had to keep a light touch.  I would like to know if you agree.  Or disagree.  Either way, it was a good week.  Here’s hoping for another one coming up!

Tomorrow (Monday) I pick up my painting from The Rockport (Mass.) Art Association.  Unsold.  They invited me to apply for membership, and I thought I would if my painting sold, but it didn’t, so I didn’t.  A bit far to go for the sheer joy of exhibiting.  Although I do hope to get in a plein air painting day tomorrow, which makes a trip worthwhile.  Also tomorrow, paintings are being changed out at the Sage Gallery in Manchester, 70 Lowell Street.   Please visit this new gallery.

My old website, with multiple painting galleries yet to be transferred to this WordPress location, can be accessed at this address:  www.paintingsbyaline.com.  Also there are  all the images attached to earlier blog entries.  Eventually I will move everything here, but it takes a lot of time.