Tag Archives: oil painting

Norfolk Port Authority / oil / feat oysters

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Does this look convincing to you? I can’t tell. I’ve looked at it too long, and I had a devil of a time trying to figure out how to paint this.  I was never there when it looked like this. I winged it on the sky, by observing bright sunsets from my balcony and mixing colors. I went over my sky again and again until I thought it was ok. Then I had no idea how to paint the water. I can’t even remember how many layers of paint I totally wiped off because later I thought,” meh. that’s not good.” I sometimes waited for my paint to dry and started over. In all, I figure this took me about 2 months to paint, so considering how much paint and time is in it, if it doesn’t look good, it’s an epic failure. (no halfass failures for me)  But if it worked out, I finally did 2 things I’ve wanted to do for years, a panoramic view and a bright winter sky.

This painting is going to the window of Jerry’s Artarama when it dries. I love Jerry’s for giving the free space to me and other artists, and not taking a commission if there’s a sale. Thanks for supporting artists, Jerry.IMG_1976

When I mixed my colors I sat on this bulkhead at the Hermitage, where you can see this beautiful view of the Port Authority. All along it are tons of oysters. My daughter, Sarah told me the Chesapeake Bay Foundation gives baby oysters to people who live next to the water. They come on a clump in a mesh bag. You drop it in the water and they grow up. They are natures little water filters. Sarah doubted they would be good to eat, but she told me the water is much less polluted than it was 20 years ago, so maybe. But, I’ll buy my oysters at the store, because they look real sharp. If I wanted to climb down there and get some, it wouldn’t be easy, and probably verboten anyway.

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how I rig up my taboret for plein air painting at the beach

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I looked at plein air easels in catalogs, and saw most of them don’t have spikes on the legs. They also have tiny pallets. I have an easel with spikes, It’s saved my painting from falling down in the wind a lot of times. I wonder why spikes aren’t always on plein air set ups. And why the tiny pallets? How’s an artist going to mix up colors and thin them down with turp for a glaze? I guess that might be one reason plein air impressionists don’t use a palette knife to mix paint, their pallets are too small. I usually spend a lot of time preparing my paint so I need a big enough palette to mix a few colors. I bought a palette for watercolor or acrylic and discarded the sponge it came with. I have a piece of glass with duct tape on the back to mix on. I can see my colors and values better on the gray duct tape than on a white background.

They make the plein air kits so it all fits in a box you have to lug out to your location. Maybe most plein air painters don’t go over sand dunes or down long trails. A few years ago I bought this beach cart with wide wheels. That’s how I can take all these heavy supplies down a sandy trail. I lay my cart on it’s side close to my easel on the left because I’m left handed, and put my palette on the side of my cart. It’s off the ground high enough that I can easily reach it, and it was windy this week but my palette stayed wedged in that spot and didn’t blow down. I had to keep a hand on my painting at all times, and when I stopped painting I had to take it off the easel and put it on the ground so it wouldn’t blow down. Even so, sand gets into my paint and sticks blow on it that I can brush off most of after the paint dries.IMG_1956

This is my camera’s perspective of the scene. It looks far away compared to my naked eye perspective, and the colors look more gray. It got a little cloudy so the shadows aren’t showing up in this photo. This is why I don’t use a photo to get my sketch.

Instead of starting my painting from the weak perspective of the camera, I hold up my sketchbook and try to imagine it’s transparent. I decide how much of the scene is covered by my sketchbook and measure my perspective by comparing nature to the size of my paper. I try to decide where I want my horizon line to be on my sketch and how far I can extend my sketch on each side. How many trees can I fit in the painting, how much sedge, water, etc.

Even though I am trying to match the colors and values of nature so that I can make the illusion of depth, I can’t copy nature exactly.

I recently read an article about a plein air painter who says don’t copy nature, just do your own interpretation of it. His paintings were monochromatic. What’s the point of going out to paint in plein air if you’re not trying to match the colors and values of nature? I can’t see anything more beautiful than nature as it is. My own interpretation comes through in the painting even though I am trying to copy the beauty of nature as I see it. That artist with the big write up in a magazine has a much larger ego than I do if he thinks his monochromatic fuzzy flat paintings are somehow better than real life.IMG_1954

This is my painting with one layer of glazes over the whole canvas. You can see the difference between my naked eye perspective and the camera’s. My perspective is up close and personal compared to my photo. So, what is real? It could be entirely something else from the naked eye or the camera.

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.

That’s Willow Oaks Country Club golf course on Southside.img_1814

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?

A Spray of Goldenrod by Charles Courtney Curran

At the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk VA.
At the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk VA.

It’s a great show of American Impressionists titled “The Artist’s Garden”. I drove to Norfolk yesterday to see it. The show ends in the beginning of Sept.

It’s exciting to see old Impressionism. There’s a lot of variations in the different artist’s styles. These artists had academic training. You can see it in the beautifully drawn female figures. An artist doesn’t get this kind of results by tracing a photo. This took years of figure drawing practice.

I wanted to see if the old Impressionists used glazes, and yes, I see layers of glazes in a lot of the paintings. Modern Impressionists don’t use glazes. This painting shows a lot of variation in the way the paint was applied. Some is glazes and some parts are painted thick.

The old Impressionists didn’t have a formula. I doubt this was finished in one day. They had inspiration. They were daring and groundbreaking. Modern Impressionists are in a big hurry to finish paintings because they think it makes them look “prolific”. They have a good level of successful paintings that are marketable because they have a formula, which they might call “streamlining” a painting, or “simplifying” or something like that. That’s why all modern Impressionists work looks the same. Modern Impressionists are on some kind of art treadmill. I want to paint like this guy, Curran.

The James River From The VA. War Memorial / oil

james river from war memorial

I was sitting on top of the hill there at the War Memorial to work on this painting. It’s more comfortable to stand up at an easel, but I was in plain sight of 1000s of commuters on 2 busy roads. Also, people working in tall buildings could see me there in the sun on the hill. Sitting down makes me feel less obtrusive in the scene.

When I did my 1st charcoal sketch for this painting, I drew a pile of logs in the river, then later decided to eliminate them from the painting. But, in reality, the logs are there in the river providing a habitat for all kinds of wildlife.

You can see the Southside floodwall and the pilings from the old bridges that got destroyed. Plus the Manchester Bridge and railroad bridge.

The Trio / oil

Is it just my imagination, or does it look like the Pitcher Plants are singing?
Is it just my imagination, or does it look like the Pitcher Plants are singing?

They’re standing in the hot sun on the edge of the pond. The 1st few days I worked on this painting, it was rainy and cloudy, which kept it from getting too hot. Now the weather seems to be going back to the hot and humid. I like to work on my painting in the morning before it gets too hot outside. I can find some shade to sit in and mix my colors, then I usually stand in the sun with the plants to paint. It helps me see if I have my colors and values close to what’s natural in sunlight. I’ll stand up to paint because it’s more comfortable than painting sitting down. After 45 minutes or so, I take a little break and look away from my painting for a few minutes. I can go back to it and get my concentration back for another 30 – 45 minutes. But when the temperature goes up to 85 or so, I’m done.

Now I’m looking for a place to sit and stand in the shade for my next painting.

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!

Old Barn Still Standing / oil

Here's a little story for you.
Here’s a little story for you.

This barn is at the Windemere Gallery in Mechanicsville VA. The man that owns the gallery is Robert Dugan. He’s a nice man and welcomed me to paint there. He told me the barn has a lot of history.

The 1st day I worked on my charcoal drawing on paper. I heard a noisy crow and looked away from my drawing. The crow was chasing a Red Tailed Hawk. Now, it’s not unusual to see birds doing funny things when you go out to the country to paint, so I didn’t think too much about that. I find that a lot of times, I’m alone and see something unusual and have no one there to say, “Did you see that!” or “What just happened!?”

This is the strange thing. One day I was working hard on my painting for a while and stepped back to look at it. I saw a TURTLE COMING STRAIGHT AT ME !!! It was walking slowly, but aiming for my feet. It didn’t look like it wanted to bite me. So I just stood there and watched it. It came over to my feet and looked up at me! I waited for it to say something, but it didn’t, so neither did I. hahahaha I thought it looked like it wanted me to give it food. All I had for a snack that day was some mini doughnuts that got smooshed in my art cart. I decided not to give it a doughnut because I thought that might make the turtle thirsty and it was kind of dry out there. After a minute or so, the turtle walked away, leaving me wondering. Of all the turtles I’ve seen in my life, this was the 1st that wanted to be my friend!  (or did it?)

When I was ready to go home, I went into the gallery and Robert was in. I told him I saw some wildlife. He asked me if I saw a groundhog, and I said yes, but the weird thing is, a turtle came over to my feet. He didn’t seem surprised. He told me there’s so many turtles out there, he has to watch out for them when he mows, and stop to move them out of the way so he doesn’t run over them with the mower. And sometimes he feeds them bread. So that explains it.

Isn’t that funny?!

Poe’s Enchanted Garden ’15

poe's enchanted garden 15

Do you like that wisteria? I made that up. hahahahhaha    They have a small vine on the other side of the wall. It’s not blooming yet.

The entries for this show, “Poe’s Enchanted Garden” are due this week, so I have to stop working on this painting and let it dry. I still want to make changes because I can see a lot of mistakes in my linear perspective that I could fix. Sometimes I just have to say, I’ll try again next year, and I hope no one will notice my mistakes. Opening night is April 23, 6:30 PM. They’re having “Unhappy Hour”.

Too many people talk about fear of failure. Maybe it was the way their parents raised them to think they can’t make mistakes. I don’t get it. But when I look at this painting, I can’t tell if it’s a success or a failure. A lot of times my paintings get rejected. They’ll probably hang this one, I guess. As an artist, you have to get over fear of failure and just don’t care too much. Apathy helps you in the art world, even though it’s a bad attitude.

.IMG_1412This is my underpainting in grisaille.