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
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.
This 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.
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.
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.
That’s Willow Oaks Country Club golf course on Southside.
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?
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?
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!
I liked this view in the garden but only a few little pansies were blooming when I did the painting. So I looked at the Blue Bells in Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and faked in the Blue Bells on this painting. This year I’m faking in a huge Wisteria on the other side of the wall.
It seems like it’s taking a long time for me to finish the new painting of Poe’s garden, but as a plein air painter, I wait for the sun to come out and go there to work on it. That only gives me one or two days a week. Then I only stay for a couple hours at a time because the light changes and my concentration fades.
Now I’m waiting for them to turn on the water in the fountain that I’m painting this year. Water is always a challenge for me to paint. I hope it works out. The paintings are due on April 18th for the show opening in the end of April. They’ll have “Unhappy Hour” that night.