Category Archives: First Landing State Park

cypress knee sketch w. swamp pix

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You can find all of my cypress knee models in the photos below.

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This is my latest place to hang around sketching. Look how tiny the knees are in this picture. I could never see them well enough to draw them if I had to copy a photo. Maybe if I was a better photographer…

You can see the pollen on the water but it’s not swirling so nicely any more since it rained. A slight breeze is keeping the pollen moving and changing designs all the time.

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. This is the tree I drew last but it was cloudy that day. If you compare this photo to my sketch you’ll see I didn’t draw all of the sticks around the base of the tree.

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I think this tree is pretty because it has Spanish moss in the branches and another kind of moss is going up the trunk.

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This photo shows a knee I didn’t sketch and pollen clumping up at the water’s edge.

Next week I might go back to the botanical garden to draw. I’m missing some spring  flowers. The knees will be the same all year.

This spring I have a new attitude. Every day I feel so lucky. I’m so thankful for my good health and every day I’m glad I ain’t dead yet. I used to take it all for granted. Does that mean I’m getting old or is this the new “normal”?

It seems so ironic to me that I’ve lived like a hermit for years and finally got used to it. Now, I wish I could help the society that rejected me. I can’t hurt it because there’s no one around for me to infect even if I was an unknowing carrier of a deadly virus, but I’m sure I’m not. Society rejected me. We don’t need to go into all that.  That’s why I’m an artist. It’s ironic because once I took a personality test that said I’m an  extrovert and here I am reclusive. I don’t see myself as an introvert or an extrovert but dead center between the two. I like people, I’m just not trying to be with them. That’s working out for me now.

ok.  enough philosophizing, back to the important job of moving.

cypress tree w. pollen swirling on water

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If I hadn’t told you that was pollen you might not guess. I’ll try to remember to take my camera along next time I sketch there. The pollen is making some interesting designs on top of the black water.

I think the swirly shapes on still water with the tree represents uncertain times and something not being affected. (me) And nature isn’t affected either but unlike the tree, I can easily uproot myself and getthehelloutofdodge if a situation becomes intolerable.  Since the crisis started my life hasn’t changed. I’m not joining the mass hysteria.  I’m not afraid to go out and last night on the news they showed some surfers and the anchor talked about how getting out and getting some exercise is a great stress buster. So that was encouraging. The state parks are open and busy. They’re not talking about martial law. It’ll never happen here. And I’m not going to catch corona. Stay tuned, you’ll see.

Cypress trees and knees / charcoal and chalk

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Is social distancing driving you crazy? I’m ok. That’s the story of my life. It’s not what I’d have chosen for myself because I enjoy the company of people who like to talk. It’s just the way it worked out and it took some time to get used to. Now I feel ok with isolation. It can be liberating. My daughter isn’t too far away and I see her some times.

I’m not worried about catching Corona.  I know it could kill me but I rarely ever catch a cold. Do I live a real healthy lifestyle? Nope. The thing that keeps me immune is my lack of exposure to viruses. The main thing I’m worried about is how this panic will affect the economy. That will recover too, but meanwhile a lot of people have serious problems because of it.

If isolation is getting you down the best thing you can do for yourself is go outside. Any activity you enjoy makes social distancing tolerable if you can get out in the fresh air and sunshine.

I really enjoyed sketching in the swamp today. The weather is great! It’s a good thing I got there when I did because when I left the parking lot was slam packed and cars were lined up at the gate to get in.

About the sketch : I decided to stop working on it and I didn’t do any reflections on the water. I might be able to use this sketch in a painting eventually but the reflections are a problem I don’t have to face until I actually get into the paint.

Spanish moss

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How’s this working as an abstract?

From far away it looks soft. Long ago I heard or read, I forget which, that one of the original British invaders of VA. saw this and thought it might make good stuffing for a mattress. That guy got a lot of bug bites. After that, no one tried to use it for mattress stuffing and they all headed upstream.

I used the magic of art and drew the invisible bugs. What are the bugs and how many are in this sketch?

A – 0

B – 1 to 10

C – 10 to 100

D – 100 to 1000

swamp painting in the swamp

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A lady walking on the trail behind me stopped to take this photo and emailed it to me. I think it’s better than my photos. My painting kind of blends in with the scene.

I’m so excited! It was nice out this morning and I made some good progress on it! I’m almost done! Just another week or so, after all this time! I think it was in Nov. I started drawing for the painting. And for so many years I wanted to capture the scene.

unfinished swamp painting / debriefing w details

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I got a start on painting the reflections. Now I feel better about it because that was a real hang up. I’d put some dark green in the reflections today, but it’s still smeary from yesterday, so, maybe later or tomorrow. That’s one reason I think amateur status is better for me than professional. There’s no reason for me to rush through something difficult. I imagine if I was a real pro and art paid the bills I’d hate it pretty quick, like a real job. hahaha I can’t take the pressure.IMG_2419

The sun was streaming into my apt when I took this photo. It’s showing the colors better. You can see some detail in the Spanish moss. I like to blob in some paint and scribble through it with my palette knife to make textures. The green needles on the left will get another glaze because that’s part of the foreground and still unfinished.IMG_2422

I like this section at the top left of the painting because it shows aerial perspective from far away and from close up it shows layers of glazes working. It’s a secondary focal point because orange and blue are complimentary colors. There’s a tint of orange in the leaves and that’s enough contrast with the blue to pull the viewers eye into that area to rest.IMG_2424

It’s fun when branches make windows and you can see the background between them. This is a way to give the painting more depth. The trees and branches are giving the painting rhythm. It could be a modern jazz rhythm because I can’t dance to it. (metaphorically speaking)

After I finally made some progress on the reflections I can visualize how to finish this painting  but it still needs a lot of work on the reflections and cypress knees in the foreground.

I feel like this painting reveals a lot about me if anyone can analyze it. It might look like realism to you but it’s not much like reality. I’ll see if I can get a photo of the swamp for you to compare to my painting when I finish it.

I think it’s not realism or impressionism. I sure didn’t capture a moment. I’m capturing a whole season. At no point in time did the swamp ever look like this. I’m trying to think what style or “ism” my painting fits into. would you call it contemporary classicism? abstract expressionism? I don’t want to sign my paintings any more. Anyone that knows my paintings will know this is mine.

swamp underpainting / oil

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This is a 30 x 30 canvas. I need to do a detailed underpainting because this is a complicated plan. So far, I have my sunlight and shadows blocked in. The underpainting is an important step because this is when I make the most decisions. I can tell that it’s close to correct perspective because I can fit the trees in with spacing that’s close to what I see there. And I decided how much Spanish moss will be in the painting, how much water, where I want the most contrast in order to make focal points, etc.

Now I  have to go over the whole painting again, maybe twice, starting with the sky and the background trees at the top and working my way down the canvas into the foreground with layers of glazes. I’ll brighten it up a lot and give it some depth. I want the grays in the trees to look pearly so I’ll use warm and cool grays together and try to keep the values from light to dark with the same contrast as I see in nature.

I think the water will be the hardest part and it’s the last thing to finish. I don’t have that figured out yet.

This is a start. I have over 10 hours in it so far, and 6 trips to the swamp. including the times I sketched. It could still take weeks to finish because of the weather. I want to get there early in the morning and leave around 10 when the light is different and the park gets crowded. I didn’t expect to make this much progress this fast on the painting, so I think I can finish it in Dec.

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.

 

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.

 

Chesapeake Bay Beach Cloudy Day

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This is all Intense pencils. It was cloudy the past few times I went to First Landing State Park to work on this. The water looked smooth. I didn’t see waves from where I was standing. I always think I see two colors in the water and texture.

I worked on the painting at home for a few hours from my sketch and color notes, and went back to the beach to check my colors and values against real life. Then I came home, made some corrections  and finished it.

I want to go to Pleasure House Point and try to get a sketch in between the  rain showers tomorrow if I can.