Category Archives: landscape

7 reasons why I like sculptures for figure drawing practice

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  1. They don’t move. There’s no need to worry about running out of your 20 minute time allowance before the model needs a break. The artist can take a break any time they want to and the model will be in the exact same pose. You can even go back any time any day and the model will be the same.
  2. I can finish a drawing. Don’t get me wrong on this, open studio figure drawing practice is necessary, the more the better, but I never could finish a drawing. I had lots of sketchbooks full of sketches that I threw away when I moved. When I looked back at my figure drawings from years ago I could see an improvement that came from the open studio. I work slowly though, and I do enjoy finishing a drawing, which I could never do in the 3 hour or so time of the open studio.
  3. Lighting isn’t a problem. Check it out and decide what time of day you like the light and go then. There is no getting stuck on the dark side of the model. You can’t beat natural light.
  4. The pose is good. Like to see a graceful model in an interesting pose? Statues are more likely for that than some nude sitting or standing around.
  5. They’re ideal figures. Easy on the eyes, in perfect classical proportion.
  6. It’s not crowded. Sometimes at open studio figure drawing, my view is blocked by another artist . When I go out to draw a statue, I get to pick the best side to draw from. No other artists are there drawing.
  7. Last but not least, THEY’RE FREE! Who needs to pay a model to do figure drawing?
  8. This sculpture is “Breaking Ground”  by Kathleen Farrell. It’s the WPA monument at Norfolk Botanical Garden. During the depression the government had this project where they hired 220 African Americans to dig gardens by hand. 200 were women and 20 were men. It looks like back breaking work, doesn’t it? And that’s not all, they had to watch out for snakes, and the weather made it even more difficult. This model probably saw something moving on the ground, because she’s not looking at her shovel, she’s looking to the side. Yikes!

Pleasure House Point / charcoal

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It’s so beautiful over there, I could get 4 paintings from this one spot.

There’s a canal on both sides of this sandy path and the path makes a turn, so there’s water in front of you too. It’s all divided up by tall red grass and various types of vegetation.

I’m priming an 18 x 24 canvas for this painting so I can show more of the water on both sides. I don’t want to crowd this beauty into a small canvas.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation owns this wildlife preserve. They have some nice trails going through it. It’s free and not too crowded, with enough space for me to stand up my easel.

Whitehurst Lake in Nov. / oil

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See the photos below, stripping off the layers of glazes all the way back to my underpainting.

As I was working on this, I read a science fiction story my daughter wrote. She had a real good idea, STOPPING TIME. That’s the illusion I’d like to put into my viewers’ heads.

I often think about modern Impressionists when I’m taking my sweet time finishing a painting. The Impressionists feel like they have to rush. Their goal is to capture a moment. To me, that sounds impossible. Like a Kodak moment, like the shutter on a camera. Click, and you have the image in an instant.

It’s true, they complain because the light changes so fast. They don’t take the time to work the paint by mixing colors with a palette knife. They squirt the paint out of the tube and stick the brush right in it, mixing the colors with the brush on the canvas. That is why they have to worry about muddy colors.

Impressionists, what’s the rush? You can go to your scene a little early for the best light and mix some colors to the shade you need. You can put a glaze on the painting thinking it’s close to right. Then when you go back the next day at the same time, the light will be the same as the day before, and you can easily make corrections since the paint has partially dried overnight. You can put another glaze right over top of the previous one without smudging the colors together creating mud. You can go warmer or cooler, lighter or darker so easily. Then the eye of the viewer blends the colors and you get depth in your shadows. And the lightest and brightest colors are on top in thicker paint.

Sometimes people tell me that what I’m doing looks like magic. They see me in the same place day after day with my painting slowly evolving. I always tell them, it’s not magic. It’s an illusion. I started thinking, maybe I can make the viewer think I can stop time.

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This is my painting with one layer of glazes covering the whole canvas.

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This is my underpainting in gray on a violet tinted canvas.

A  few years ago I bought a tube of violet so I could paint some purple flowers. The violet in a tube is brighter than a violet I can mix with any red and blue. But I rarely paint purple flowers so that tube didn’t get used. I decided to tint my canvas violet instead of gray, as I did before, just to use my violet paint before it dried up.

When I tint a canvas, I thin the paint with odorless Turpenoid so it’s like a wash. It makes the pigment not bind with the Gesso. The purple pigment is kind of powdery on the canvas and rubs off even when it’s dry.  When I do my underpainting, I’m using neutral grays but the violet lifts and changes the gray. Then, I get the feeling the paint is sitting a tiny fraction of an inch off the canvas. After I put some glazes on top of my underpainting, I think they are sitting on top too, like the violet makes everything lift, visually. So, the violet is kind of fun to work on.

The underpainting is a necessary first step in this way of painting. I estimated I had 8 hours in it at this point, because first I sketched it with charcoal on paper. Then I sketched it with charcoal on the violet canvas before I started to do the underpainting.

I have to take the time to do these steps. I doubt I’ll ever learn to paint fast. I have the time to go back to the beautiful place any day and stay as long as I like. So this way of painting that was pushed on me when I was young at York Academy of Art, actually suits me fine, now, but when I was in art school, I rebelled against the Academy. hahaha

Cypress Swamp with Spanish Moss / charcoal

 

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When I was working on my painting at the botanical garden, I met a lady who does plein air painting and she forwarded an invite to me from The Artists Gallery in Virginia Beach. It was a call to plein air painters to meet in First Landing State. Park today. I was so happy because for at least 30 years I wished I had the time to paint there. Now I do and also had the pleasure of meeting some other plein air painters.

I’ve always loved this swamp and came here when I was on vacation at the beach in years past. The water looks black because it’s forming peat on the bottom. I imagined the first settlers that came to VA from England, when they got off their boat at the mouth of the Chesapeake and went a little in off the beach, they ran into THIS! They probably decided to get back on the boat and go upstream. The moss is hanging like spooky draperies all around. It looks soft and breezy. A settler might think it would make good mattress stuffing, but it’s full of bugs. Funny, I haven’t got a single mosquito bite since I’ve been here, and I’ve been hanging around by the water a lot.

Someone told me once, this is the farthest north they call subtropical because Spanish moss is native here. It is a couple degrees warmer here than in Richmond, only 100 miles away.

Wow! was it ever beautiful over there this morning. I could never get tired of painting in there. I have a painting started at the botanical garden which might take me a couple weeks to finish, then I’m going back to First Landing to paint the swamp. I’m looking forward to seeing it again after the frost. I know it will look different after the leaves come down, but I also think winter might be the ideal time to paint it

Mirror Lake with Water Lilies / oil

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When I think I’m finished, I see something that needs touching up. Good thing I didn’t clean my brushes. hahahahahha

The Water Lilies are fading fast. They’re showing brown on the edges. I kind of like the brown, but I should try to paint them when they’re blooming next year. I’m not sure what month that is.

I hope this shows up ok on the computer, because I think I can see some depth showing as I look at it here in real life.. I built up a lot of layers of glazes. It took me 2 weeks of working on it almost every day for 2 or 3 hours at a time. It rained twice and I didn’t go out to work on it those days. Yesterday was kind of chilly, but I wore layers, so it wasn’t too bad.

I’m priming a canvas for another scene at Norfolk Botanical Gardens.  I think I have time to do one more painting before the leaves are down, since we haven’t had a frost yet. It’s another beautiful scene over water.

Mirror Lake with Water Lilies charcoal

IMG_1925This is my 2nd try. It was so nice to get out and sketch this morning after months of not sketching because I moved. My art supplies are some of the last things I’m unpacking.

I went over to Norfolk Botanical Garden thinking I wanted to draw the beautiful bronze figure, but I had a look at the lake first and it was so bright and beautiful in the sun. I said to myself, that statue will be the same all year, let me sketch this before  frost  wipes out the water lilies.

Now I have to unpack a box of canvases because tomorrow I’m going back to start a painting.

A Good View at Agecroft Hall / oil

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It’s the most zen place in town.  I’m not a follower of an Eastern religion, but it’s easy to pick up the vibe. That’s one of the benefits of painting in plein air. I have a reason to hang around under a tree like Buddha! hahahahahah

I started on this painting a month or so ago and finished it last week. The trees changed faster than I could paint them. I could keep going and going making corrections but decided not to because I’m starting on the next painting  now.

The banana trees were taken out of the garden before I finished painting them, but I had enough of a start that I could finish them at home. I liked them in the composition. They wouldn’t have lived through the frost. Now they’re in a greenhouse.img_1813

This is what the scene looked like to my camera when I got started. I drew it before I took the photo. The photo looks a lot different than what I drew, so I’m not sure if my perspective is right or if the camera’s perspective is better. I decided my painting doesn’t need the  hedge and close up fence that show in the photo. It might be too much darkness on the bottom of the canvas for a good composition.

The James River isn’t showing in the photo, but if you step 15 feet to the right you can see  it and I wanted to show it in my painting. I hoped after the frost I’d be able to see more of the river when leaves came down, so I mixed my colors for the river and painted it in, knowing I was going to cover it with trees and have small peaks of water showing. I used my artistic license there. If I copied the photo the river wouldn’t be in this painting.

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This is my underpainting in gray.

You can see where I stood my easel under a Magnolia tree and sat on the ground on an old beach towel to mix my colors. Cones were falling off the tree all around me but didn’t hit me or my painting. I kept my hat on just in case I got hit because those cones might hurt my head. It’s not as scary sitting under a Magnolia as it is being under a Walnut tree. I avoid the Walnuts trees! hahahahah  Trees dropping cones are a part of the life of your plein air artist. Is that a zen thing?

 

 

Gazebo With Fall Foliage oil

Painting in plein air is my therapy.
Painting in plein air is my therapy.

I enjoyed it so much, sitting on the thick root of an old Magnolia to work on this painting. It’s kind of a Zen thing for me.

I’d be more comfortable standing up to draw and paint, but I walked all around the gazebo and thought the best view was  more uphill from it, under the tree. A big branch was partially blocking my view so I had to move around  too see. I decided not to paint the branch that was in my way, but I also enjoyed the way the leaves glow when the sun shines through them. Have you ever noticed that? This painting wasn’t about the Magnolia, though.

If you look in the other direction from there, you can see the end of the Italian Garden, with a stone wall and roses. It smells sooooo sweet, even in the end of Oct. I’m going back to that tree next year.

What I don’t get is, why am I on this beautiful path alone?

Rose Garden ’15 / oil

2 important things I learned from gardeners without having to ask
2 important things I learned from gardeners without having to ask

#1   ”  We can only do this because we’re rich.”

#2    ” It’s not work if you don’t HAVE to do it.”

I though about it later. This is what happened.

When the Tulips wilted all at once , the volunteer gardeners at Lewis Ginter Botanical pulled them out and replaced them with Summer flowers so fast. I was amazed.  As I walked past them and saw the new plants going in, I said to the gardeners, ” OMG , You guys work fast! ” and “Nice work, you guys!”

They were all on the ground digging the dirt. A man said to me, “We can only do this because we’re rich.” I laughed and told him, “I’m in that club too!” hahahhaha

Then another day I was sitting in the shade mixing up my colors, and some guys were pruning the roses in the hot sun. One of the volunteer gardeners was very friendly and talking to people walking through. I heard him say, “It’s not work if you don’t HAVE to do it.”

Which answered one of my questions, because I can’t decide if art is “work” or not. I still don’t know. Do I HAVE to do art to keep my sanity? Does that make it ok for me to call it “work” even though it’s so much fun and it doesn’t pay?

We could debate that subject, but it sure looks like work to me what the gardeners do!