Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Bathscape" oil 12" x 9"

I have a lot of favorite things that I use as props, and have built shelves into every nook of my cozy studio to hold many of them, always making room for the next consignment shop find.  We are exploring color this term in my painting class.  I have carried bags of rich chroma props, then neutral props, then props primarily red, blue, or yellow (pun intended), then colored glass props... all to the art center where I teach.  Soon, we'll be able to bring class outside to revel in the colors nature provides, but not yet. 

 Sometimes the props in my studio, even coupled with flowers or produce, just aren't doing it for me so I look elsewhere.  For this painting, I just opened the linen closet shelves for all those bath products that don't get used often.  Their pastel palette is very appealing, along with transparency, interesting labels, and bottle shapes provided a great bag of variety to take to class.  Rather than replacing them all on the shelves when I returned home, I recycled the older bottles.  Great still life props, some clean out accomplished, and shelf space gained.  Win, win, and win!

Monday, February 27, 2012

"Winter Garden" 12 x 12 oil

Here is my finished painting from the Boston Public Garden the other day. Interestingly, you can see how much the painting changed in the studio from my block in outside (see last post).  I wanted to keep the sense of an oasis in the city and was challenged by the mass of trees mid-ground.  My goal was to keep them in the middle, with the silhouette of the steeple beyond along with a hint of city buildings.

  I brought the painting home, did some reading, some research, and some thinking.. and pushed the church way back in value and color, diminishing its size as well; and built the tree masses with some very slight shifts in the sky holes closest to the branches to convey thinner branch masses.  I added the warmer trunks to the left, a little closer, to convey more depth in the middle ground.  Again, it was a great day... looking forward to the next sojourn.

"Winter Garden" in process 12 x 12 oil

It has been an oddly mild winter here in New England.  Last year, we were buried in snow repeatedly.  This winter has been mild, with only one snow of any substance (so far).  This week, school vacation, promised a couple of days in the 50's so I called my friend Nancy Sargent Howell and suggested painting in Boston.  We headed in to Boston's Public Garden after detouring to the Science Museum to drop a carload of teens at the Science Museum.   It was an interesting day, lovely purple grays, the promise of some sun peeking through.  However, we are living in New England and the adage "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a minute" certainly applied.  We set up, painted for about 1/2 hour.  It got darker.  Then darker.  Then a flake or two mixed with rain.  I stepped under the nearest tree, but realized, as the hail began, that there are no leaves!  It's winter!  The tree offered no cover, and the hail turned to torrents of rain.  Nancy had already scurried under the bridge; I scooped my rig and ran after her.  We stayed under the bridge 1/2 hour, hiding from the rain, meeting nice people, local and otherwise, and nibbling lunch.  Shortly, the sun peeked through momentarily.  We moved back into the light and began again.  The wind picked up, temperatures dropped... it was a great day!   
Here's the start of my painting, which I have finished in the studio and will post tomorrow. (Got caught up in the Oscars tonight and neglected to get a good photo).   I'm checking my calendar and scheduling any free weekdays for painting in the city.  We had a blast!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Gray Days

We live close to a scenic waterway that meets the ocean.  The North River is beautiful, broad, tidal, treacherous in parts, and alluring, even on its grayest of gray days.  This is a study I painted with my class during a gray spring morning.  I believe it rained eventually.  Our lesson was to discern the highest chroma/highest intensity passage in the painting, understanding that it would be far down the scale of intensity.  I suggested the students imagine a thermometer, visualizing the bottom third as the realm of color intensity for this subject.  Place that note down early, if not first, in the painting.  Every other mixture needs to be less intense than that note, easy to lose sight of when your eyes are wide open and you are hunting for slight distinctions in hue between similarly valued passages.  

  I am using this idea with the cityscape I began the other day in Boston Public Garden. The subject is much more complex, but I believe I am close to finished with my tweaking here in the studio.  Gray day, gray and bare trees, gray buildings, gray sky... lovely, subtle variety of grays.. almost there.  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fairbanks House - then and now

I surf the internet for images of paintings.  I suppose we all do, or most of us.  I look at artists, past and present, study their work, zoom in and out, isolate passages, ponder, wonder, revel.  I  begin most of my painting classes with a few minutes review of images that support the lesson, sometimes showing several side by side for comparison.  My students take notes of artists' names and titles and I encourage them to compile their own collection of images for study.  

Recently, while surfing through some painting images, this one caught my eye, not because of its wonderful light and design, brushwork, values, color harmony, but because the silhouette of the house resonated with a deep memory.  That roof line struck a chord.  

I thought I recognized the Fairbanks House in Dedham, MA.  I grew up near Dedham, and have driven past what is thought to be the oldest standing timber frame house in North America countless times, because it was the back road home from college, or the route to the dentist's, or the best way to avoid traffic on the perpetually congested Route 1.  As soon as my brain formulated the name "Fairbanks", I saw the title of Childe Hassam's wonderful painting, "The Old Fairbanks House".  The connection across centuries was thrilling, similar to looking at Edward Hopper's paintings of Monhegan Island and recognizing individual rocks from my own visits these past eight summers.

Hassam completed "The Old Fairbanks House" in 1884 when the house was already close to a quarter millenium old.  That is truly ancient history for New England.  I visited the Fairbanks House once, as a child.  I can't recall much of the inside, but its profile is etched in my brain.  I will visit again this spring, and will try to see as Childe Hassam might have seen.  I included an image of the house today.  You can learn more at 

Friday, February 24, 2012

"Scissors" 7" x 5" oil

$150 & $10 s&h
Here's another in a series of small paintings I have been doing.  I'm enjoying the top down view, and these everyday colorful objects on top of rectangles of color.   These are the scissors our daughter grew out of long ago.  I held on to them, sweet, colorful tools.
  Today I dropped a carload of teens at the Museum of Science then headed into the Boston Public Garden to paint with a good friend.  It has been an atypical winter here, almost no snow, and almost no freezing temperatures.  Predicted 50 degree temperatures with broken clouds seemed pretty irresistible... or so we thought.  

Details tomorrow when I post the painting after I spend a little more time with it in my studio.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Newbury at Night " in process 14 x 14 oil

Next stage of "Newbury at Night".  I have kept the glow, actually haven't touched the original wash in the sky.  It's been interesting working with the cool of distant neon lights, against the glowing sky.  I'm still moving around a few elements, have begun blocking in the pedestrians in the middle and foreground.  I've moved people a few times, and may again.  The light coming from an (unseen)  store window on the left is greenish so I'm wrestling with the small amount of light on the walkers, don't want them to appear green, but want to keep them less warm than the distance, and the lights. 

  I'm happy with the indication of street lights on the upper right, gives a sense of the cross street, actually, Mass Ave, without any other indication.  Stay tuned for the next iteration. Not much more to do in the painting, I'm proceeding very thoughtfully, not that I don't as a rule, but even more so, in unfamiliar territory... kind of an adventure.  I like adventures.