You can find all of my cypress knee models in the photos below.
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.
. 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.
I think this tree is pretty because it has Spanish moss in the branches and another kind of moss is going up the trunk.
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.
Yesterday was cloudy and cool. I was glad to get out and sketch because today it’s raining. There’s another great view of the swamp with a bench off the main trail where I’m planning to paint. The cypress knees have a lot of lichens and a lot of the knees look like fingers pointing up. This is only the first sketch. The painting might not happen until next winter, I don’t know. I also want to sketch Red Bud trees this spring and I’m packing to move. I’ll need around 30 cypress knees sketched in advance so I can arrange them in a swamp composition. This is only the first three. The chalk on this sketch is the lichens.
Every time I move, which is pretty often, I give away or throw away paintings that I’m tired of looking at. Last year I put a painting on the bench at the elevator in my building with a sticker on it that said “free”. I was glad to see the painting got grabbed up quick. Then another day I left the building and noticed a 6 pack of Corona with two missing sitting on the bench. I left the beers there because I’m not a drinker of alcoholic beverages. The beer was still there when I got back later and I wondered if the person that took my painting wanted me to take the beer, so I took it. I did drink a couple of the Coronas when I moved and enjoyed them. I mean, I can drink, I’m just not really into it.
A year went by and now I’m moving again because the apt complex is clearing everyone out for renovations. Oh well. I still have this one beer and funny, it’s a Corona because now the Corona virus is on the news all the time. So, if I drink this, I’ll be immune, right? (just kidding) Are you worried about catching the Corona virus? I don’t think I’ll get it. It seems like every year there’s some new health scare to worry us. I remember years ago when a lady at work got mad at me for saying there’s no chance I’d ever catch HIV. Then there was also bird flu, swine flu, SARS, Ebola, mad cow, etc. I don’t even get a flu vaccine, but I’m not exposed to many viruses, and only had a couple colds in the past 17 years.
Since I finished my magnolia painting, I’ve been treating myself to the foods I love as a reward. I bought this little chocolate dome at Wegmans. It was worth the $5. It’s chocolate mousse on top of a soft chocolate cookie and covered in soft dark chocolate icing with a chocolate curl. That thing was delicious.
This is rhubarb. My Dad used to make a great rhubarb custard pie that I always missed. Last year I found the recipe online and it was so good, way better than the rhubarb strawberry pies you can buy. Darn it, I’ve already packed my recipe box, but I think I can look it up again.
Some thoughts about how to capture moving light:
When I got there around 8AM, the trees in the background had that nice broken light but the cypress knees in the foreground were in the shade. I had to start with the background and by the time I worked my way across the painting marking in light and shadow areas it all changed and the knees had good light, so I could continue defining light and shadows in that area. The light wasn’t good on any area very long and I work slowly so this isn’t reality but kind of idealistic.
I hear so many Plein air painters talk about capturing a moment and I can’t do it. Instead, I like to think I’m stopping time. It’s not really magic but an illusion. It seems like if I had to capture a moment I’d have to paint fast. The way that works for me is to slow waaaay down. Keep going back to the same place at the same time of day and the light will be the same. You can have 50 hours of 9AM to 10AM over the course of weeks, or, in my case months. Imagine that! If I’m there for 50 hours off and on, I’ve collected 50 hours of me not moving much or working fast, but standing in that beautiful spot. It’s mine boggling. It’s like breaking the laws of time and art and getting away with it.
I say I’m breaking the laws of art because it’s obvious I spent the time on this painting and the overlords in the art world don’t like to see a painting “labored” over. They think art should be fast and fun not hard to do and time consuming. They don’t understand a labor of love. They don’t understand that it’s good for your self esteem to work hard on something and finish it.
Also, I’m using my small brushes. oh no.
This cypress knee is the star of the show. the other parts are back up singers and musicians. Darn, this photo looks a little blurry.
This clump is working as a secondary focal point. It’s good to have something happening in the shadows because the viewer’s eye likes to rest in a shadow then go back around to the brighter contrasts in the light.
There’s another great view in the swamp I’d like to try to paint. The cypress knees are half green because they’re covered with lichens.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I swear I will finish this. I have excuses for the delay. Holidays, weather, lethargy, etc. Plus, this is the hard part and I tend to slow down even more when faced with it.
I painted some Spanish moss then put the painting aside for a week or more. I went to the swamp to walk and observe the reflections but didn’t take the canvas. I’ll have to paint the reflections at home so I can make them look like a dim mirror of the trees. There’s no need to take all my gear out there. It took me weeks to think this through.
I decided to make the reflections exactly mirror the trees because the water is flat, no movement. They should have fuzzy edges and not be as bright as the trees. The reflections should be the trees upside down and in the right places directly under the trees. I tried to flip them using tracing paper and charcoal. The charcoal didn’t show up so I tried chalk and that worked. Now I can visualize the reflections on the canvas! It took hours.
The next big step that’s slowing me down is mixing the colors again. That could take hours. Then, painting the reflections will be slow because I want to go over the edges with my fan brush and slightly blend them.
After I get the reflections painted I’ll do another coat of glazes on the foreground and make it brighter. I can go back to the swamp to finish the painting. Painting at home is boring compared to painting in Plein air. There’s too many distractions here too.
Now I’m really going to finish this. For sure. I promise.
It’s real nice painting outside when it’s in the 40s F. (cool for my Celsius reading friends) Not too many people walk across the overlook distracting me. My attention span seems to last around 2 hours. When I can see I’ve made some progress I start to feel the cold. I’m wearing layers, but standing still, except to sit on a cold bench sometimes for a break.
I went there twice this week and stayed 2 hours each time and got the background under control and started on the trees on the right. Tomorrow they’re calling for cloudy weather. That’s ok, I’d like to wait a day or so for this paint to dry before I go over it again. Giving a layer of paint time to dry helps eliminate the problem of “muddy colors” because you can put a warmer glaze over a cooler one, cooler to warmer, lighter or darker, any direction you want it to go without mixing the paint on the canvas. Instead the viewers eye mixes the colors and sees a brighter gray, green, brown, orange, whatever. That’s one trick to avoid muddy colors.
Another trick to remember is not to mix the colors with your paintbrush. Mix the colors with a palette knife on the palette. Keeping the colors clean, even if they’re gray. For this you need a brush for each color. Mixing colors with a brush on the canvas causes muddy colors, though I think artists worry too much about mud. (mud is part of nature) Those two things make a difference to the eye of a trained art viewer.
We might get some rain next week. Hopefully, I can get back out there on Sat. or Sun. to work on this. If we get a few days of rain I’ll have to put this aside and find another project to amuse myself.
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.
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…..
It looks like Fairyland over there today with the ice melting on the swamp! The paths are clear, but the boardwalks still have melting snow on them. I saw a Great blue Heron walking on the ice and also heard a funny alto sounding chirp. ( if you know what I mean) I looked around and didn’t see any other birds, so maybe it was the heron making that sound.
I like this sketch more than the other one I did of the swamp. I might use this one for a painting. The bush on the right coming out of the knee has a lot of fine reddish branches that are all bright in the sun. And there’s a lot of Spanish moss dripping around the trees. I decided to do a close up landscape this time because when you’re in the swamp. you’re looking down at the water and cypress knees instead of looking up at the sky. Who needs sky. hahahahahah