Monday, June 29, 2009

Chasing The Sun, plein air

9"x12" oil on Belgian linen mounted on panel (Raymar)

" when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what."
- Harper Lee

Sunday I drove back down to Chester, CT to paint with Leif Nilsson again. This quote made me laugh when I found it, as this days painting left me wondering what I'd end up with! The day began sort of gray and overcast, so I chose a spot in the garden that had some interesting shapes of arched shrubs, stone walls & table & chairs. I really liked the basic lines of the composition & got set up....then the sun came out- even better! The light was so strong on the table & chair seat, & top of the stone steps. I started blocking things in as fast as I could...and the light changed again, (gone!). Back & forth the sun was in & about, behind the clouds. Half the afternoon was gone & I wondered how to proceed.

Well, at this point you can either start something new & come back to this another time if the light has changed drastically..OR go from memory & paint what really excited you about the scene to begin with. Knowing of course - that that could change again as the sun moved through the afternoon. Since I didn't have a second panel to start something new, I chose to "press on regardless" and go with what I had started. Another round of strong sun light illuminated the maples in the distance like some kind of colorful stained glass...I liked that so I added it. At this point, I realized I was "chasing the sun" and it certainly reinforced what I've been trying to do- get those major masses blocked in ASAP & the canvas covered. All other decisions are secondary to that. So there you have it- the challenges & lessons of painting outdoors- "Fiddle-dee-dee"...."tomorrow is another day"! Makes studio painting seem so easy!

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Oh, I'm off tomorrow with the family for a short trip northwards.....I'll be back in a few to continue the garden scenes! Thanks for following along.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Warm Sun on the Garden Wall, Artist's Garden series, plein air - sold

Click on the images to see the knife work close up!

9"x12" oil on Belgian linen mounted on board

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it."
- Helen Keller

Saturday there was sunshine here in CT! What a delight!! Who could resist being outdoors in it? I'm enjoying recording the development of our new garden- this will be on-going through the year!

So, what's this about a garden consultant?
Last summer when we moved in to our 'new digs' we found it a bit overwhelming to take on everything at once. We knew we wanted to put some real thought into our new place & make the outside as enjoyable as the inside. We had saved pictures from magazines of plantings we liked, ideas from books we had marked with tons of 'peel & stick' markers. After moving around every 2 to 3 years for the last 26 years, we had had our fill of thinking, "If this were our place, we would do.....(you name it)". Finally, after 26 years as a military family, we could stay in one place until (?).

We had definite ideas about what we wanted, our favorite colors...and even our favorite plants. But we didn't grow up in New England, we grew up in the south. Even though we've lived up here off & on for 12 years, we didn't know much at all about specific plant cultivars up here. We knew we wanted to put in hardy things that were right for the location, & soil, etc....did not want to fight a dying battle of sickly plants! Since we were starting from scratch, we had a strong feeling that we would want advice. Especially when we considered the scope of our front yard idea. It's not a big yard by any means, but it had a big sloping drop-off that made me feel like I was falling out the front door down-hill. What we really wanted was to level off the ground in a "room-sized" area, that was enclosed by a picket fence (been wanting one of them forever) and would have climbing roses on the picket fence...along with other varieties of our favorites. This would have to be done by putting in some kind of retaining wall first. We weren't sure if this could be done (we had certainly never tackled a problem of this size).

So we did hire a garden consultant! How did we find one? By word of mouth. My husband heard of this one through another fellow at work. We checked out her previous work on her web-site, and called to meet her. Luckily, it was like meeting a kindred spirit- I knew we had found someone that understood our ideas & could help us get our plans into action. At our first planning meeting last fall, we started talking about all our ideas, using the many magazine pictures of what we really loved as a starting point. As an artist, I wanted a variety of 'vignettes' within the landscaping that I could paint over & again through the seasons. We also talked about some ugly issues of problems we saw with the yard that needed help. The meeting covered a lot of territory - our conversation went on for ( I think) a couple of hours! I'll continue the story in my next blog post - it's late & I'm hoping to paint with a functional brain tomorrow!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

How Do You Do? Sheep at Culoo

Sharpie marker sketch & watercolor washes on cold press watercolor sketchbook paper

"Time sneaks up on you like a windshield on a bug."
- John Lithgow

Friday evening I was sketching with Sharpie markers a composition I plan on painting soon. I like to work out the design linearly, then take thick markers & mass in the darks. I was thinking about the various things that influence over the course of an artistic life time. I was remembering what fun it was working in watercolors .....I haven't gotten them out in a long time. So I put some washes over the inked in sketch. Sometimes it's a nice mental 'stretch' to get out some old supplies (or try new ones, if it's new to you).

While on my last trip to Ireland, my friend Barbara & I walked down to St. Brendan's well on Valentia Island. We continued on over to Culoo rock, where the anglers fish from the ledges on the rock face over Dingle Bay. We sat up on a high ridge of rocks to have a look around. I got up to gather a few interesting rocks, and a flock of sheep that had been wandering around started running toward me. I held out my arms to my sides, fingers stretched wide (as to drive them away)...and they all "put on the brakes". I snapped a few pictures before they turned & ran the other direction.

What are things that influence an artist (or any creative person)? The answer is everyday life, my friend.

Ten years ago we lived in San Diego, and I had joined the San Diego Watercolor Society. What a great opportunity for growth and learning. We had a group paintout every Wednesday of the entire year (yes, that's how great the weather is)! Many of the members at that time were retired Disney artists, in their 80s, who had worked as young men for THE Mr. Disney! They had so many great stories from their early life as young artists beginning their careers.

I'll never forget the one story that one of them told me about working on the animation for Dumbo. Real elephants were brought into the studio for them to draw from life. This fellow described his frustration with the Art Director at the time "for drawing over his 'perfect rendering' ", as the director wanted all these features exaggerated! "He drew over my perfect drawing"! Well, he eventually 'got it', and understood the lesson...and I appreciated the story.

They were generous with their time and information. We held a group critique at the end of each Weds. session - that was so valuable. After taking part in these critiques for about a year, (that these older fellows led), one Weds. I was asked to lead the critique. Wow, it was humbling and an honor at the same time. It truly made me think about every word that came out of my mouth. I still find an honest, constructive critique a valuable experience.

Art is a cumulative learning experience. Everything on your path will add to your knowledge and unfold in wonderful ways to help you become the 'you' that you are intended to be. About eight years ago I saw a painting in a gallery by Howard Behrens (a palette knife painter). This was a new & exciting thing for me to see - the thought of someone completing an entire painting with a knife & no brushes! I was living in Virginia at this point and on Wednesdays would get together with another painter friend, Faye Vanderveer. We would usually set up a still life and proceed to paint it. But on one particular session we set a challenge for ourselves to paint this one set-up using only a palette knife. It felt like the most clumsy, awkward thing I had ever done, yet there were certain passages that were so beautiful! I was still "slave to the brush" for a long while, not wanting to break out of my comfort zone. But I would tinker around with the palette knife once in a while on certain areas in some paintings. But a couple of years ago, something clicked yet again on one of my trips to Ireland. I really liked how I could simplify the shapes of these strong landscapes and not overmix the colors.

By this time I was living in CT again, and I realized I was not one to paint outdoors in winter. So I'd get flowers from the florist and bring them home to paint, setting up the whole thing on a table by the window in my studio. (I'm a big fan of backlit scenes). By this point using a palette knife had become a real joy for me. I was using it pretty much exclusively.

On my annual trek to Chincoteague, VA last September, I realized that I had no use for the brushes that I had brought along. I had been painting entirely with a knife for a long while. I'm continuing to find joy in the expressive qualities this tool brings about. Join along in this journey, follow my blog for more thoughts about painting, gardening, & finding the expressive creative qualities in your own life. Thanks for reading along!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

As Evening Progresses, The Artist's Garden plein air

6"x8" oil on Belgian linen on archival panel

"It's on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly."
- Claude Monet

I've been enjoying spending time with my daughters, chatting, taking walks, playing tourists...we took a walk down in Mystic to photograph boats today (after delivering paintings to the Post Office). It's been gloomy weather to say the least, but as afternoon rolled into early evening the sun came out at our house. As summer progresses the sun seems to turn the corner around the front of the house. As it lowers towards the horizon, it creeps further into my front garden. As evening progresses, it illuminates the day lilies which are almost ready to bloom, and warms the big blue pot of pink flowers. I'm not sure of the name of this perennial- it's one I got at a "Friends of Harkness" plant sale a couple years ago. We called them 'purple buddies' when I was growing up in FL. They have long pale sage green fuzzy stems & leaves, a bit more yellow green than lamb's ears (plants), with a pinky-purple bloom. Anyway, when I saw the sun warming up this part of the garden just outside my front door, dinner had to wait. There was painting to be done.

I'm re-reading some favorite old books about "favorite old painters" who painted their gardens. Monet, Renoir, & others....who grew gardens with the intent of painting either 'pieces' of them (floral cuttings when the weather is bad) or entire settings outdoors. This has been my intent ever since we began considering plans last year. More to come on how we put together these ideas....yes, I'll share my resources!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Inner Sanctum - plein air in the artist's garden

8"x10" oil on Belgian linen mounted on panel (Raymar)

"You have an inner voice that is overwhelmingly powerful, and you need to trust in what truly inspires you."
- Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

This afternoon I stopped to paint my front garden. This is it's first season. We just moved in last year, built these spaces and planted our favorite things. This space is like a little courtyard off of the front door. From the living room, it looks like another small room (the room with a view!). It gets early morning sun, then late after noon sun on one part of it. In the corner of the picket fence is a peegee hydrangea. I'm looking forward to this thing growing and maturing. These long fluffy white blossoms that eventually turn pinky mauve are going to be spectacular. We added a stone circle that fits our garden bench perfectly.

While standing out there painting, I discovered what a wildlife sanctuary this little garden is! A hummingbird buzzed be me & hovered close by before dunking into the pansies. Just after that a chipmunk dashed out from behind the fence across to the garage. Man he was fast! The goldfinches were chirping in the crab apple trees just beyond the fence in the yard below. It was a real "creature feature" going on! I think I'll be spending a lot of time painting in the various 'rooms' of our gardens this summer! It will be fun documenting in paint the progress of all the growth!

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Irish Cottage Lacey Window

6"x8" oil on Belgian linen mounted on gatorboard

"It is not death that man should fear, but never beginning to live."
- Marcus Aurelius, emperor

This is one of my favorite views of my friend's stone cottage in Ireland, straight on at the front door. The front of the house catches the morning sun - it lights up the stone walls in such warm tones - a nice contrast with the blue door. Ivy is starting to grow up the walls around the lace curtained windows. The garden is protected from the winds by a low stone wall and contains flowers of various kinds, herbs, and interesting stones collected from walks on the nearby beaches.

That's another favorite past-time of mine while visiting, beach-combing! We bring back some gorgeous sea-glass, shells, and these striped rocks like I've seen no where else. My husband thinks I should take some Connecticut rocks over to Ireland since I continue to bring theirs back here to the states!

I think I'm just about over the jet-lag, caught up with laundry, groceries and all that fun stuff. I love the traveling, but it's so good to be home again. .......I think my own garden is going to be a painterly place this year! Keep watch for the coming paintings this summer!

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Over the Water, plein air

8"x 10" oil on Belgian linen mounted on gatorboard

"The really idle man gets nowhere. The perpetually busy man does not get much further."
- Sir Heneage Ogilivie

From this vantage point, we were standing at a very rocky beach, looking at the back side of Doulus Head & Beginish Island. The colors reflecting from sky to water were magnificent.

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Dohilla, Making Hay While the Sun Shines (plein air)

8"x10" oil on Belgian linen mounted on gatorboard

"Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are."
- Bernice Johnson Reagon

Dohilla is an area on Valentia Island (Ireland) that is close to the lighthouse. There is an old ruin there, and in the nearby fields, large red tractors were cutting hay. It's such a pretty area, we tried to get a second painting in last Sunday while we were down in that area. It started out quite sunny and 'relatively' warm, but after a few hours, the wind picked up- blowing that chilly air off of the water. brrr. Plein air painting here, is a lot about managing the effects of weather! Not just for the light effects you capture on canvas, but for the painters comfort as well. There are times when the wind is so hard, you can barely hold your hand still enough for paint to reach the proper surface!

Life is starting to get back to normal. I came home late Monday. Tuesday morning I woke up at 3am with my body thinking it was 8am. ugh - jet-lag is like getting hit by a truck. So I spent most of Tuesday doing the mindless activity of laundry! Slowly but surely I'll get back to my routines again.

*****Painters Tip: a reader emailed me to ask about the surface/ & panels I use. I have used Raymar panels for years. I really like their oil-primed linen that is mounted on a hardboard/masonite panel. Visit their extensive website for more information: Recently though, I was looking for ways to cut the weight that I'd have to drag along on painting trips. Any time you fly somewhere with your equipment, you have to keep the weight down (of your supplies, etc). I came across a lighter weight panel used by another artist on Daily Painters: They also provide the oil primed linen but have it available mounted on gator-board which is strong but incredibly light weight. Using panels when painting outdoors makes it easier to see what you're working on....there's no light shining through as it would on regular stretched canvas. Very easy! very light in weight!

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Valentia Island Light House, Ireland - plein air

8"x10" oil on Belgian linen mounted on gatorboard

"May you always walk in sunshine. May you never want for more. May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door."
- Irish blessing

Monday was sunny & bright...and the day at least started somewhat warm. So we drove down to Dohilla (on the island), where the light house is. As we painted, the wind started picking up, but this is such a pretty area, not only the lighthouse is down there, but looking the other direction, there is an old ruin, hay fields being cut....and this year only occasional tourists walking by. We stayed for several hours - a stretch of time to just get two small paintings done before making our retreat up the hill to Knightstown for some hot tea & sandwiches.

I have managed to get my gear much easier to haul around on overseas trips like this one where weight matters (or anywhere for that matter). I'll be updating by website back at home after my trip to share travel tips with other artists.

Today as I write's Saturday morning (yes, even though Blogger says 'Friday'ugh), feels like gale force winds outdoors. This afternoon is our show/reception....hope these winds die down!

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Irish Cottage, Front Garden View to the North Atlantic; plein air

6"x8" oil on Belgian linen mounted on gatorboard

"Walls for the wind,
And a roof for the rain,
And drinks beside the fire -
Laughter to cheer you
And those you love near you,
And all that your heart may desire!"
- Irish blessing

Sunday started out warm & sunny - and early in the day, the light is on the front of my friend's cottage on Valentia Island here in Ireland. After I painted one view towards the summer garden, I turned to the left and painted the view over the wall towards Portmagee and out to the North Atlantic. It's incredible here in every season. But just in one summer day you will have every weather situation imaginable. It started out quite warm, then - even though the sun was out and quite warm, the wind picked up and blew in a stiff chill from the ocean. For a painter, it does teach you to make your decisions and go on with it. The front of this cottage in the sunlit morning is one of my favorite places, always something interesting to paint! You'll see it again from this week of paintings!

I'm finding I have quite a few days of paintings to write about. Some days are too busy to photograph the paintings, blog and mess with a computer.....there's hikes to be hiked, lunch or dinner with local friends, peat fire in the fire place to be maintained.....ahh. As I write this it's 8am here and 3am back home! No worry- I'll write about each one & the highlights of that day. Now, to decide the agenda for today......

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Irish Cottage View to the Summer Garden, plein air

6"x8" oil on Belgian linen mounted on gatorboard

"For an Irishman, talking is a dance."
- Deborah Love

Sunday started out warm & sunny - and early in the day, the light is on the front of my friend's cottage on Valentia Island here in Ireland. The original cottage, the small building on the right, is about 300 years old. The building on the left, which is now the main living area, is about 200 years old. The two are connected by a small wall & door from her front garden to the summer garden. The front walled garden is protected from north winds, which are particularly fierce in the winter. When things start coming up in spring, there are daisies, herbs, fuscia, montbresia, roses, and ivy as well. The summer garden is a small yard lined with fuscia on the edges, tough enough to survive winter gales. It has a direct view of the Dingle Bay and the North Atlantic.

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Skellig View, Valentia Island, Ireland, plein air

6"x8" oil on Belgian linen mounted on gatorboard

"May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light,
May good luck pursue you each morning and night."
- Irish blessing

Saturday brought chilly air again. Welcome to Irish summer, full of surprises. I painted from inside the studio, it has a great view of Skellig Michael & Little Skellig. In clear weather they appear very close. In fog or stormy weather, it looks as though they've left the area entirely. It was so nice to have the shelter from the chilly wind. Even though the sun was out, that wind off the Atlantic can be cold!

We had a 'date' for Saturday night! A neighbors son (all of 5 years old) - we treated him to hamburgers & chips at the "chip van" in Portmagee, and he treated us to candy at the store that he bought with his own money in his "spiderman" wallet! Then we went back to his parents house. He's a charming lad (too bad my daughters are way too old for him!)

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You can claim this one and I'll bring it home for you!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Row Boat at Waterville Lake, Ireland; plein-air

10" x 8" oil on Belgian linen mounted on gatorboard

"May God grant you many years to live.
For sure He must be knowing
The earth has angels all too few
And heaven is overflowing."
- Irish blessing

By Friday we were back at home at my friend's house on Valentia Island. We took a drive over to Waterville Lake. There's usually a couple of row boats tied up under the trees at the edge. I chose to stand at the roadside and look down into the boat here. Fishing is supposed to be quite the thing here- anglers from all over come here to catch "the big one". It was a misty drizzle when we started...and of course there was a cloud of 'midges' buzzing us. Yes, hard core plein air, dealing with the elements. Gradually though, the sun start to make an appearance. This does teach you to paint faster, making your decisions and place paint. No time for dilly-dallying. I've always admired these little boats every time I come down this particular road by the lake. Such a pretty shape to catch the light!

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You have 'first dibs' here on-line before our show. Claim it, and I'll bring it home for you.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Blasket Islands View, Dingle, Ireland; plein air

8"x10" oil on Belgian linen mounted on gatorboard

"Ireland is where strange tales begin and happy endings are possible."
- Charles Haughey

On Thursday morning while still in Dingle, we walked down the road from Slea Head Farm where we had stayed, to paint a morning view of the Blasket Islands. It is so interesting to see the light change in this beautiful place. That day the early morning light had some delicate pinks in the sky near the horizon. We had spent time walking on the beach the afternoon before & now were up high above it, looking across the ocean. The water is so clean and clear, you can peer into the kelp beds deep below and watch the waves gather in dark bands of energy approaching the shore.

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I'll bring it home for you!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Slea Head Evening, Dingle, Ireland plein air - sold

6"x8" oil on Belgian linen mounted on gatorboard

"Ireland is where strange tales begin and happy endings are possible."
- Charles Haughey

I arrived in Shannon on Wednesday at 6am! My friend Barbara picked me up and we made the drive up to Dingle peninsula. The weather this week has been the warmest, sunniest I've ever seen in Ireland! We HAD to stop at Inch Beach in Dingle on the way to our destination (Slea Head). Of course we stuck our feet in the water - it was delightful even though the water was VERY chilly, the air was soooo warm. But plenty of people were out swimming in the water. By the time we got to Slea Head it was late afternoon, early evening. But it stays light out until at least 10:30pm!
So we painted outside early evening, looking over Slea Head.

I'll continue to post as time allows!