Friday, December 31, 2010

Wind, Weather & Paint in Vermont's Green Mountains

High up in the Brandon Gap in the Green Mountains the loudest sound is cascading water.  An occasional car goes by on the road that follows streams that rush down the gap into the valleys on each side.  

This road is paved all the way through to the other side of the mountains. Some of the other routes that criss-cross the mountains are so steep and twisty that they are closed from first snow to last snow. With narrow hairpin turns its impossible to plow them.  

Near the top of the gap close to the AppalachianTrail I found a trail that went straight into the national forest. 

One of these rushing mountain streams flowed under this trail through a culvert.

The trees at top of the ridge were almost bare.  

It was heavenly. It was so quiet. 

 The weather was changing so I got as much vital information as I needed then moved on to my next location. 

The next morning when I woke up... of course it was raining.

My friend Andrew joined me for a day of painting so our plan was to set up in a spot near our cars so we could get out of the rain if need be.  

It was needed...

The start of my sketch of Liberty Hill Farm,  11x14 oil on canvas panel.

About midday the weather began to clear so we headed up into the gap.  Half way up there was a beautiful long view through a large meadow.  A lake nestled at the upper end of this valley .  We had typical mountain weather. Periods of sun and clouds moved through creating dramatic light. 

Sunny patches moved across the mountain range making great shadow patterns... Minutes later we'd be socked in clouds... 

 The wind was fierce as the weather cleared so we drove our cars on to the edge of the meadow and set up behind them to keep our easels from blowing down. 

We sketched fast as the light was changing ...

and the sun was setting !

Sketch ~ Cool Gray marker on 98 lb. paper.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Short Days, Long Nights

I painted outdoors for 5 years. I did not like painting in a studio once I painted en plein air. I knew I'd have to go back inside one day... so in preparation for that day I built a new studio. 

It is painted off white(including the floor) and has banks of 5,000 lumen lights overhead with a mixture of color balanced spot lighting.  These past few weeks I've been in the studio painting...I''m painting large paintings from sketches and field studies; both water color and oil .

I have a practice of doing sketches, watercolors and oils on location. 
Some are very rough.

I stand in one spot and keep recording what I am seeing.

I turn to my left and sketch and paint that view ...

...then turn to my right and do the same...

I will walk around and try to capture enough detail and a feeling of the place for me to be able to remember what was important to me at that time. 

I used the watercolor sketches to put together this oil painting. I'm trying for the essence of the place, the soul of the day...its not quite finished.

I do these very quick value/temperature studies to sample colors and see how much chroma the mood will bear.

I'll do a fast watercolor just to get the feel of the action. These clouds were racing out to sea after a thunder storm cleared out.

A  quick watercolor value study gives me a feel for the simple masses and the shape of things, like wandering with my mind through a place before I decide how I want to depict it. Its very liberating to do this. It helps me to get familiar and comfortable with a place.

On location I do rough sketches first, quick watercolors..then I often will do a series of quick 20 minute oil sketches back to back. Why?  I've found that if I paint like this I will often have something good from the lot that I can take home and work with.  I'm a real process painter. I do hundreds of starts, 5x7, 6x8, 8x10's on location.  So now I'm painting in the studio I have no shortage of reference material for these large paintings I'm working on. 

Water colors ~ 6x8's, 90 lb. sketch paper 6x10, 90 lb. sketch paper  8x12  300 lb. Arches rough 
Oils ~ 8x10 linen on panel, canvas on  panel

PAINT EAT SLEEP for more views of paintings.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tall Pines Late Light

I'm really beginning to think about why I paint en plein air... why, after 5 years of painting all most exclusively out doors its so hard to come back indoors... 

I get to be in the most awesome places... often with very few people around and with a great variety of wildlife. Once upon a time you only found fishermen and hunters in these places ... its clear to me that for them the "sport" aspect is only part of the attraction...

When I go out painting for a week or more, I don't bother with the news or internet. I call home daily to report on my travels and painting progress. If I'm not too tired, I read art books before I fall asleep.  I don't have a habit of watching TV.  Did I mention that I don't watch TV at home either? I don't miss it . Ever.

When I return home from a painting trip I can catch up on everything important in about 30 minutes...the bank crash of 2008 happened when I was out west in Idaho painting in the Teton Valley with Scott Christensen's advanced group... someone heard about it one night and told the rest of us the next day...

Did it affect our painting?  Can't say it did. We were totally immersed in painting the land and the challenge of doing it every day, trying to grow beyond our limitations...the world with all its information didn't disappear, it was waiting for us on our return home.

The perspective I gain from this process of entering and reentering the landscape is one that is a connection that lasts beyond the temporary...The earth is old. It was here before I was  and will be here after I'm gone, I'm visiting for a short while ... 

I am very lucky. I can leave my house, drive 10 or 20 minutes in several directions and arrive in a quiet place where nature dominates the landscape. I'm not saying I don't like painting in cities. I sometimes do. Its just that on life's journey I somehow ended up in this beautiful place called Maine.
And I'm glad I did.

The photos above are from my recent trip to Vinalhaven, an island off the coast of Rockland, Maine. The last twilight picture is a view from the west side of the island looking toward the mainland with the first lights coming on in Rockland, Maine. 

Tall Pines field sketch 11x14, oil on canvas panel.

More paintings at PAINT EAT SLEEP 

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Taste of Portsmouth & Sagamore Creek

Sagamore Creek is a great area for painting tidal water, islands, marshes, lobster boats, and historic houses...

Jane & I went for a walk around Creek Farm then headed next door to the Wentworth Cooldige  mansion where we set up... 

The house built in 1696 was the home for the first Royal governor of New Hampshire , Benning Wentworth. Its very odd looking as pieces were added on to the original structure.

The sun was warm... Jane set up on a bench on the lawn...

...with a  big view of the creek looking across to Newcastle.

Portsmouth harbor is tucked around the corner behind a piece of Newcastle that juts out into the creek.

I painted the island behind me...

....and had to set up facing the sun to keep the glare off my painting and palette or else when I get back inside the colors will be wrong...

I didn't notice it but this ship's anchor was huge!  Jane said "Look at the size of that anchor next to you !" I was busy painting (and keeping warm).

Since we had some daylight left we went promptly over to Prescott Park and the Portsmouth docks for another painting session.

There was loads to sketch and paint. The lobster boats were coming in for the day. 

The sun was setting behind the Strawberry Banke neighborhood.

Before it got too dark I started my sketch of the houses back lit by the yellow sky and Jane hurried to finish her sketch of the buildings on Marcy Street.  As the sun went down the temps started to drop really fast. We were happy to call it a day and head home to a nice hot dinner.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Weather Outside is Frightful...

 Who cares?  I've had way too many times when I questioned my judgement while heading out to paint on one of those gray, moody days with all kinds of things threatening ... then I saw the most amazing things!  So we packed lunch and headed out on a dark day to paint...

Parsons Beach treated us to some great frothy surf and big wind!

On the other side of the dunes the colors of the grasses and old drift wood were lucious.

Jane stopped right in the road and started to sketch.  

The tide was rolling in filling all the marshes around us. 

The wind picked up and the temperature really started to drop.  Jane's water colors froze ...BUT... the artist is the master of invention.. Jane put her paper and paint on the hood of her warm car and viola nice workable paints and a nice dryer to boot!   

With four hours of daylight left we went to a favorite spot on Pine Point. 

Nice, with summer over ....everyone is gone except the occasional painter and a few fishermen.

The harbormaster's office looked very quiet. 

The rain and the fog rolled in making for even a nicer mood. I was painting with my easel inside my car with the tailgate open.  Jane found a nice over hang on the deck of the Rising Tide that kept her out of the rain.  

The tide was now going out, fog was rolling over the marshes and the boats which were floating in the water when we arrived now rested on firm sand.

The wind changed direction. The rain started to blow. Jane moved into her car to paint...

...a cluster of boats moored off the dock.

Our last stop before we left was at the Pine Point Fisherman's Coop. They packed up a nice box of lobsters for Jane to take back home for all those family members longing for a taste of Maine... 

I love my neighborhood ! I can always count on the seacoast to offer color, mood and fast changing weather. Paintings from this trip to be posted soon on PAINT, EAT, SLEEP.