nonrepresentational / oil

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What am I doing here?IMG_2406

Is there any meaning to this?IMG_2407

Is that all I should do or should I do more?IMG_2408

Best answer to these questions wins.

sketch for swamp painting

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This is my previous sketch of a cypress knee transferred onto an 18 x 24 piece of charcoal paper with more knees and trees sketched in around it. It’s rough. I’m not sure you can make it out. The darker vertical lines are trees. The faint sketchy vertical lines are Spanish moss and the squiggles and shaded areas closer to the top are different types of foliage. I want some sky in the painting but it will be patchy.

I bought a 30 x 30 canvas for it. It’s easier for me to draw larger than smaller. There is room on a 30 x 30 for me to show more swamp water on the bottom, which is dark. The water isn’t actually black. You can see through it and peat is forming on the bottom because the water doesn’t have much oxygen in it so the fallen leaves decay into peat. I’ll also have room on the canvas to extend the view on the sides showing more swamp.

The foliage was bright orange when I was there a couple days ago. I don’t know how long that color will hang in there. We’re getting some rain and wind this weekend, a nor’easter. The storm is coming from the south but the wind wrapping around it is the nor’easter.  That’s ok. I need to sand and gesso my canvas a couple times before I tint it gray then wait a day or two for the tint to dry before I redraw this on it and finish  drawing more trees on either side of what I have here. So I don’t mind hanging around at home if it rains.

This is one of those paintings that could take a long time to finish because of the weather. Like a month or more. After I redraw it on the tinted canvas I want to do a thin underpainting. Then the plan is to paint on top of my underpainting when it’s dry like Matisse did by taping my paintbrushes onto yard sticks so I can stand way back from the canvas to work on it.  That’s a fun way to paint but the paint goes on thick so if I need to build up layers or make corrections I’ll have to wait longer for the paint to dry before I go over it again. When I paint thin glazes I only have to wait overnight for it to be dry enough for the next coat of paint.

If I paint the orange leaves then they fall down, it doesn’t matter. If they fall down before I get to paint them that doesn’t matter either. The swamp is most beautiful in the winter in my opinion.

 

wave / watercolor practice

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The ocean, it ain’t easy to paint. If I try about 100 more times maybe I’ll get it. That’s ok. This could take years. I won’t give up until I do my masterpiece, hopefully before I die. Until then, you might have to look at some bad art. hahahahahah  If you have any advice for me on technique that would be great.

It was nice out today. Not hot or cold, sunny with a nice breeze. Last time I went to First Landing State Park, by the time I left the parking lot was slam packed. I decided to try a watercolor sketch at Back Bay today because I thought it would be less crowded since it’s a holiday, and it was. I enjoyed sitting on a sand dune to paint this.

We might get some rain tomorrow and this week, so I wanted to get out today for a sketch.

I’ll keep all my bad attempts at painting waves. After I have a bunch of them I’ll take them all out with me and that will help me improve my technique if I can compare them to real live waves. It’s like figure drawing. I’ll keep at it but not constantly.  I go back to figure drawing again and again over the years, and I’m getting better at that. I might not do a figure drawing for a long time. but when you put an art down then pick it up years later, you can pick up where you left off. You don’t forget what you learned before. The hands have a memory and it doesn’t take much time to get back in your previous groove. It will be the same for me painting waves.

cypress knee / good news in the art world

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I’m on the Plein air email list put out by Eric Rhodes and I’m getting the info for plein air camps and contests, figure drawing seminars and practice etc. It’s all related to the Plein Air magazine founded by Eric Rhodes. This guy is a genius. I know the email gets sent to hundreds of people, but it seems like he’s talking to me.  Once I got an email headed “Chris, your paintings are good enough.” It was to enter the Plein air mag contest.

I don’t feel like entering. I entered a bunch of times over the years. I saw the winners in the magazine and knew I didn’t stand a chance because all the paintings were fuzzy and mine are sharp.

The first time the plein air week happened in Richmond I entered but didn’t get accepted. I was doing figure drawings back then from the sad stone angels in Hollywood Cemetery. I didn’t know why I didn’t get in. I could only guess.

Those are just a few of the hundreds of reasons why I gave up on spending money on the art world. I go alone to draw in plein air any time. My apathy gives me a feeling of freedom from the art world which I think is corrupt. This is all beside the point.

The money I spent was worth it for plein air camp at the Ghost Ranch. So I’m glad I’m getting the emails because I might go to another event like that. No teachers to follow, no contest, no drama.

Today I was happy to read the email from Streamline. It was addressed to plein air event planners. It talked about how the plein air movement has grown and needs to adapt. The seminar they’re organizing is to plan better  plein air events in the future. Eric said we shouldn’t sacrifice quality for speed. I was happy to read that because I’ve been complaining for years how plein air painters rush rush rush and I don’t want to paint like they do.  He also said that’s one reason why some good artists don’t go to the events.  Did he mean me?

I hope this is a sign of a change in the art world for the better. I could never make it happen. Eric Rhodes could do it.

I wonder if Eric or someone on his staff read my blog. I told my daughter I’m an influencer now. That’s funny because I don’t want anything to do with the real art world. Sarah said that’s the best kind of influencer, the apathetic kind. hahaha She would know, she’s the social media guru.

Yeah, I’m famous. I’ll be dead before the art world figures it out.

The sketch is my plan for a swamp painting. It’s real nice out today and cool. The fall colors look good over there. I might start the painting now instead of waiting for the freeze.  This is my favorite cypress knee from when I was in the swamp last year. I need to transfer this to a larger paper and draw the background trees with Spanish moss on both sides of this knee. I need a big canvas. This sketch will help me figure out what size canvas to buy.

That’s my composition method, find something beautiful, draw it, draw what’s around it.

 

Path Through Wildflowers

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This is watercolor with Inktense pencils. It seems like it took a long time to finish.  I went over to the garden 6 times including the times I sketched it, first on charcoal paper and then again on watercolor paper. Each time I stayed there for an hour or two and made some progress on it then came home and worked on it off and on for hours, so I think I have over 20 hours in the painting. I enjoyed working on it very much.

The weather was beautiful! It’s cooling down but not cold.  I didn’t turn the heat on in my apartment yet. It’s staying around 70 inside so far. I hate  turning the heat on for the first time every year because it blows dust around and I don’t want to catch a cold because of it.

The garden is still beautiful with a lot of flowers blooming. The roses are so sweet smelling and the breeze makes the scent follow you down the walk.

It looks like I have time to try another watercolor painting before we get a good freeze. I’m waiting for that refreshing arctic air from Canada. Then I’ll start on my long time in the planning winter swamp painting in oils. Until then, maybe I can try to get a watercolor done at Back Bay.

a plan for a watercolor / charcoal

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I didn’t finish this sketch because it started to rain. That’s one of the problems  of your plein air painter. There was a 10% chance of rain. I don’t know if you can make this out, but it’s a path through wildflowers with a few trees. All the little dots are bright yellow and orange flowers. There will be hundreds of them in the painting.

I need to do roughs like this before starting my painting so I can work out a good composition first. This helps me to decide things like, should I use a horizontal or vertical format for my painting. How many trees can I fit into the picture, how much of the sky and background trees will be seen, what part of the painting to start on first, if I need to eliminate trees, and so on.

If I want to get a finished looking painting I need to get a good plan for how to do the background, middle ground and foreground. When you don’t do a finished background it’s a less finished and more sketchy looking painting. If you figure out in advance things like where to make different textures or focal points there’s a better chance the painting will come out like you want it to. It’s a good idea to have less complicated areas in the painting too so the viewers eye has a place to rest, and to work on shadows so they’re interesting to the viewer.

This is the old school process that I learned long ago. Take the time, follow the steps and it will work out much better. It’s not a waste of time to figure out a good plan first.

Now I have to stretch a piece of watercolor paper and draw it again. Then I can start painting the bright flowers on the white paper and block them out with masking fluid so I can paint green foliage right over top of them and when I take the masking fluid off later the yellows and oranges will still be bright spots.

It’s warm here but it will cool down soon. We might not have any frost for a few more weeks though, so I have time to try another watercolor before I get into my big plan to paint the swamp this winter. I was happy to see the wildflowers in full bloom. I’ve wanted to do a painting of them for a couple years but missed the  chance  because I was into painting another scene at the time they were blooming.

cypress knees / charcoal and chalk

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When I was a young girl I fell in love with a beautiful swamp. I wished I could capture it and take it home. I took photos but they didn’t do it justice. Eventually I went through my boxes of photos and threw away the ones that didn’t have people in them. Over the years, I visited the swamp when I had a vacation at Virginia Beach.

When I started drawing in Plein air I thought about the swamp but it’s kind of a haul from Richmond, so I drew at other beautiful places. I never planned to retire to the beach until my daughter moved to Norfolk and told me she’s settling down. I’ve been here two years now and I often go to First Landing State Park to walk on the trails. I sketched there a few times and once tried to do a painting of the swamp but it didn’t work. I need a big canvas then I’m sure I can get it.

The swamp looks best in the dead of winter. Those tiny branches get a bright red glow in the winter sun. After a good frost the water looks clearer. It’s more reflective then. The black water will be a challenge to paint. I’m starting  to work out my plan now.  I’d like to get a big canvas and tape my brushes to a yard stick and stand back to paint it, like Matisse, because that’s fun, so I should probably do that at home. People would think I was really nuts if I took a big canvas out there and taped my brushes to a yardstick, when I am actually quite sane, hahahahaha. Not that I care what people think…..

marsh with egret / art theory

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This is watercolor with Inktense pencils in the grass. I’m not sure if I should work on the egret more or stop now.

When I see a beautiful place like this, I want to paint all of it. I wonder why the trend in art is to simplify. I need bigger paper so I can put more of the scene in the picture.

My theory is this, if an artist’s life is complicated they feel the need to simplify their art. Most peoples’ lives are complicated. My life is so extremely simple most people would die of boredom. That’s why I enjoy the complexity of nature so much.

I look at this scene and think about things like, that’s a great habitat for an egret but inhospitable for a human. How many snakes are down there? How many of those snakes are poisonous? Is the light better in the afternoon? Because the parking spot close to my little overlook will be full and I’ll have to walk a mile with my art supplies if I don’t get there early. Why did the trees die? An inlet is on the other side of that row of trees and the path floods. Did the marsh water get saltier, killing trees? Or did beetles do that? I might never know the answers to my questions but that’s the kind of things my mind goes to.

Since my life is so simple, I feel like my mind is more balanced, thinking about simple questions and not stressing about serious problems. It makes me look slow in comparison to other artists. I can’t call myself “prolific” because it takes a week to finish a watercolor. That’s ok. If I was an artist that felt compelled to make art in some type of frenzied state, (the other extreme)  that would be unbalanced for me.

As always, feel free to opine.

dead trees in marsh / sketch

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Nature is so beautiful when it’s stark and bleak, even a little spooky. Two of the trees have sloppy nests, probably egrets because I saw a couple today standing out in the sedge.

I need a bigger piece of paper so I can fit the marsh grass on the picture, but I had to get a few of the dead trees sketched first.

What else is spooky at First Landing State Park? Spanish moss. ooOOooOO And the cypress swamp! oooOOOooo I definitely want to paint both of those too.

I walked a long way on the trail from two different entry places and decided to go off it a little and sit on sand to sketch. I thought no one could see me, then a little beagle came up to me and we said hello. Then he went back to the path, so I guess his human was up there.

the world is a vampire

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This is for Inktober.

Do you remember a band called Smashing Pumpkins? They had a song I liked and the first lyrics were, “The world is a vampire.” I think about them every year in Oct.

Back then, a local radio station called the Buzz had a pumpkin carving contest and I entered. You had to put the word buzz somewhere on your pumpkin. I cut the bottom off the pumpkin and saved it to use as ears and tongue. I got a lush looking piece of moss out of the woods and put it on top of my pumpkin with toothpicks for hair. To make the face I carved off the orange color top layer of the pumpkin except for the lips and eyebrows which I left natural, dug out some eye sockets and stuck some google eyes in the holes. Then attached the tongue with buzz written on it in magic marker by sticking it in a little slot I cut open between the lips, and stuck the ears on with toothpicks. It was the winner! The D.J.s called it the Chia pumpkin. I got 2 free tickets to see the Smashing Pumpkins and took my daughter, Sarah.

It was a good concert, Sarah’s first concert ever. Billy Corgan was like a demon onstage.

In unrelated art news that guy who was so interested in buying my unfinished watercolor a few days ago, he’s a scammer. I’m sure of it. I’ll just keep the painting. For a while there, I didn’t get any robo calls. I should have listened to my instincts and not called him, but  he asked me to call him so he could buy the painting.  Now he has my number because I texted him the painting was finished if he wants to see it. Darn it, I got a robo call last night, but that’s not the only reason I think he’s a scammer. He was overly friendly.  First I tried to call him but he didn’t answer and his voice mail was full. Does that sound odd? Someone wants to buy a painting before it’s finished then when you try to call them they’re hard to get and you can only contact them by texting. Too bad a good looking and charming guy like that is a vampire and scammer.

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