Saturday, December 27, 2008

View from Highland Forest, 9" x 12"

I finally got to work in my studio! Still no heater but dearest Santa really surprised me with something way better: a beautiful tiny laptop and a large monitor which I'll be setting in the studio so I can paint directly from my photos!

Today we have a "heat wave" (50F!) that will continue for a few days, so I better take advantage of it to do some more painting.

This one is from Highland Forest Park, looking north. The park is open year-round and it's only 20 miles SE of Syracuse. We used to go cross country skying with friends when the kids were young. The reference photo was taken 3 years ago, when my daughter and I tried snowshoeing for the first time--it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be but we had fun.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Stream at Leetonia, 13"x19"

No heater in my studio yet, but I got a nice soft mat to put under my easel, and today I bought thermal leggings. I'm gearing up to work in "the freezer". You'll see something new soon! In the meantime, another oldie, started last year and finished in March.

This stream flows through the property of friends of ours, who invite us and a bunch of other people to share their cabin during Memorial and Labor Day. The area is near Colton Point State Park in northern PA, where the Grand Canyon of the East is located. We've seen wild turkeys, black bears and coyotes outside the cabin's door! It's hard to believe that before the reforestation project by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1930 the area had been completely deforested.

While most of the guest relax or listen to music--there are really good musicians in the group, for me it's a great time for birdwatching, taking photos, and painting. And just in case you are wondering, I do take the time to socialize!

For this one I had the chance to do a 1 1/2 hour study on location before the rain forced me to quit. Months later, when I was ready to do a studio painting, I had to rely on my plein air study to do the background because that information had been lost in all the photos I'd taken. This taught me the importance of doing studies on location whenever possible.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Silhouettes , 8"x6"

I feel I'm cheating here. The main reason I started this blog was to force myself to paint during the winter, and here I am, posting another painting done a little while ago. You see, my studio is the entrance of our very old house, and in the winter time we reduce our quarters to conserve energy, so the studio area is basically closed. The only time it is used is to let visitors in or when I feel brave enough to do at least a few minutes of work at the easel. Why don't I move the easel to a warmer area?, you might be thinking. Sure I could, but the main reason I don't is because pastel dust can get everywhere. I think it's safer to keep it confined to one area. I'm hoping Santa will feel sorry for me and get me a nice heater for Christmas. That's all I ask. Really! Well, besides the new Gray set of Terry Ludwigs (my favorite pastels)...

Anyway, this is a scene from my backyard looking west. At the time, I was trying to get good pictures of the colors in the sky and clouds, but after printing the photo I found more interesting the back lit house and trees.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Oregon Coast

After working so hard to get ready for last Thursday's Fair I'm giving myself a very short break from painting. I wanted to post my most recent pastel but found a few things that needed fixing, so I'm posting instead this one which was painted this past spring.

I have to confess that I've never been in Oregon. The reference is from a photography- aficionado friend of mine, who often sends me pictures he thinks would be good for pastel paintings. Most of the time I use my own references but in this case, as soon as I saw the house (which it's actually a restaurant), I knew I had to paint it.

It took me several months to get the courage to start it, because I had to work with two photographs of the area taken at different angles. One emphasized the sea and the beach, and the other the cliff and house. One thing I've learned is that you have to be at least 90% sure of your composition before you start, for the painting to develop well. Small changes as you work are OK, but if you start changing the focal area, you're asking for a headache. So, I needed to be sure of the composition before applying the first stroke. I visualized myself walking along that beach in order to get believable angles. The rocks were the area I ended up changing several times. Rocks are my pet peeve! So far, it's one of my few large paintings (18"x26").

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

On the Hill, sold

Tomorrow Thursday, I'll be participating at the Newhouse Craft Fair, at Syracuse University. I was lucky that a potter friend of mine referred me to the organizer, so I'll be the only artist showing paintings. I'll run from 11:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. in the area of the Newhouse III building (Waverly Ave.).

This painting, which is 7 1/2" x 9 1/2", will be for sale at the event. It's based on a photo I took this summer from the Onondaga Community College area.

This is also my second painting that kind of "paints itself". I did not have any problems while executing it, and most important of all, I knew when to quit. Of course, it's a very simple composition, but I've ruined many paintings by overworking them.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

City Glow

Since some of you have commented or contacted me expressing interest in nighttime paintings, I decided to post this one (14" x18"), painted a year ago, and the second of this kind. At the time, I felt challenged by the idea of turning a daytime scene into a night one.

After looking at the reference photos I had, this one offered a lot of possibilities. By the time I was ready to sketch, I knew I wanted this painting to be about city lights behind the hill. I looked at Maxfield Parrish's landscapes for ideas about how to handle the sky, but ended up relying on my memory.
As I was finishing the painting, the large expanse of empty foreground became problematic -- which happens often when I don't plan a painting thoroughly. I thought about all the possible things I could add, but settled for these bales. Now that I look at it, I see so many things that need fixing, but I'm not touching it again. Some paintings are like stepping stones, leading us somewhere. The results aren't always what we expect but in trying we learn something. This piece helped me get rid of the apprehension involved in painting a night scene. Next year, when the weather is nice, I'm hoping to paint at least one entirely outdoors.
Share with me your thoughts on this subject or about something different you've tried, that made a difference to you.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who are reading this. I lucked out this time. I was going to invite a couple, friends of ours, to have dinner with us. She said "why don't we have it at our home instead?" I didn't give it a second thought! So, I've been painting instead of cleaning my house and toiling with a turkey. Yea!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

From the Porch, 8"x6" (Sold)

Ever since I saw Marc Hanson' nocturnes a year ago, I decided I had to try painting night scenes. This is the third of them so far. The sketching and note taking about colors and highlights was done from my porch, the rest was done in the studio.
I was so tempted to emphasize the catalpa seed pods on the top right but given the size of this painting I decided against it. I'll leave them to your imagination.

While taking notes I was wondering, why is it that night paintings represent a small percentage of what we see in galleries or online, when this time of day seems, at least to me, so full of magic, romance, and mystery? Is it that artists think there is not much color around at night, or is it a matter of not knowing how to go about it?

Go outside tonight and observe. You'll see colors even if there is no moon. They are there, just different. Look at something that is white in daylight and ask yourself what would you call that color now. Certainly painting becomes a challenge because we see larger masses, and composition might require more careful thought, but leaving this aspect aside, I'm inclined to think it's really a matter of not knowing how to proceed. My suggestion is to sketch and observe! Some artist use head lamps to paint outdoors. I haven't tried that yet, but in the mean time, I'll rely on observation.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Island Trees, 12"x14" (Sold)

Two years ago my family and I camped at 7th Lake, in the Adirondacks. I came back with lots of photos that eventually turned into a series of paintings. This scene was in my head for a long time. When I finally decided to paint it, it basically painted itself.

This is one of the ten pieces I currently have on display at Art Mart, City Hall Commons in downtown Syracuse. The place will be open till Dec. 24th from 11:00 PM to 4:00 PM, Mon-Sat.