This last weekend was a very busy one. I attended a Colley Whisson workshop at Binder’s Art School in Buckhead. A sign that the economy is making a rebound was the fact that sixteen slots were filled for the three days as apposed to last year when Colley had only enough to fill one two day session. I met Colley two years ago while attending his Summer 2011 workshop. At the time I was just introduced to his work by Charley Parker’s Lines & Colors blog and a few of his You Tube videos I was surprised to find out that he was teaching the next week in Atlanta so I signed up for what must have been the last slot and really enjoyed the class. The first time around I was very enthusiastic and took quite a few notes and photos (see here) This time I was a bit more reserved and was able to paint more confidently.
After the first workshop I spent a few days driving Colley around Atlanta on business. Last year I hosted him for a few days before and after his workshop but did not attend, we even did a day of painting at Mountain Park. This year I decided to take the workshop again and see If it would give me a bit of boost.
Having come to know him quite well I offered him a place to stay whenever he needed and he took me up on the offer staying with us from Thursday thru last Monday morning. If you are not familiar with his work take the time to look at some of it on his site and on the web. His dad and uncle are very prominent Australian artists and along with being a great impressionist painter Colley has written several books about it and has a slew of DVDs available. He also happens to be a a very genuine nice guy, his old world family values and quick smile make him instantly likable. He is very generous with his time and advice — I can’t think of anyone that has had more effect on my work. I tried to pay extra attention to him this week. Advice from a true professional painter is hard to come by and I maximized my investment by spending as much time as I could with him. One evening we sat and looked at my whole years output —a tough thing to do with such a fine artist but tough love is what one needs to grow,
His teaching process is like copying an old master in quick time. He provides everyone with three photos of his paintings and takes you through his process as you copy them. He demos the rough in then takes a break while you do yours. He then does another session adjusting the values and adding in lights. The final session is devoted to his signature detailing and dramatic light effects. He really does very little true plein air but like most painters he develops a dark rough then works his lights over them. He uses a fast drying medium called Archival Oils Lean—it sets up very fast and allows nice pure lights to be brushed on without much problem. Although he most recognized for his dramatic light and color effects the core of his success comes from value control and composition. That’s a gross simplification but I think I was able to understand that much better this time around.
I was fortunate to be able to hang on to his demos and below are the three days work in order. The first a 9 x12′s and the second two both 12 x 18′s. His to the left and mine to the right—of course we worked much longer on our versions. I was able to do quite accurate rough ins but when it comes to the value control and the way he applied his lights, it was hard to keep up with him. I can honestly say that he painted much less on my work than any of the other classmates—mostly because I would not let him. The interior is perhaps the one exception to this. He was quick to brush in the light off the window before I could, grabbing all the fun—but also with much more finesse than I could. I wince with the thought of some people taking the work home and hanging it up saying “See what I did at the workshop this weekend” — they are going to pay some time in purgatory. I think a lot of people take workshops for the entertainment factor —my opinion is they should workshop less and paint more. It’s expensive and for me a trial to take time from my work and family. In the end you must get something out equal to the expenditure. This week I came away with the knowledge that I must concentrate on composition first—don’t try to do too much and include more than is needed. Secondly, practice my value control thru the painting of small still lifes as often as I can—both of these suggestions coming right from Colley himself. So far I’m off to a good a start
This last weekend was the Smith -Gilbert Gardens Spring Paint Out in Kennesaw, about a half hour from my home. It ran Thursday and Friday —days that I usually have some work to do so I tried to make some special arrangements. I woke up early Thursday and was the first to arrive —not to be over anxious but I needed to get back to work around noon. Friday I worked in the morning and got over to the gardens at about 1 PM. As it was I still had a few annoying problems with clients—also my phone and internet lines went dead about 10AM —it’s always something!
The gardens are quite lovely and this time of the year are usually full of blooming plants but due to a very cool Spring there was not an abundance of color and it was cloudy and cool both days. As I’ve stated before, I’m serious about competitions and try to do my very best so I’ve learned to be prepared. I have a collection of photos taken last time I was there so I used them to scout out possible locations. I did a few initial thubnail drawings to the proportions of my boards and this worked quite well. When I got there I went directly to my most promising location and set up—avoiding wondering around looking for spots. This view overlooks a large cypress tree with benches beneath right in the middle of the large rose garden.
On Friday after dealing with the phone problem I again used my scouting plan and went to second best idea and set up after I arrived around 1PM. I was a bit less enthusiastic about this view as the light was failing and rain was imminent. None-the-less the rain held off and I was able to finish up around 4 PM. I then framed up my two entries and went to the reception confident that I had at least one good entry.
I was delighted with the quality of other work and even though there were only about ten other artists involved, not overly confident that I’d even place. Dee Beard Brown was the judge and it was interesting to here about her background. She started Plein Air Painters of the SE—a group I would very much like to member of. She was well qualified and I was excited that Susan Schroeder, the organizer of the event was able to get her to participate—this is something that many such events lack. In the end I was pleased and fortunate to win second place for my —Rest in the Rose Garden.
Spring is in full bloom here in the South and I’ve tried to capture some of the color and excitement with several paintings of the flowering trees and azaleas so prevalent in this area. Last weekend was the first session of the Gwinnett Plein Air Challenge and we painted at Vines Gardens in Loganville. I did a large (for me) 18 x 20″ of one the lakeside pavilions and enjoyed visiting and painting with some of the other artists. We have three of four more sessions before the end of the summer leading up to a show at the Tannery Row Gallery and awards in September.
This week I worked on a view of a house I often notice as I walk my dog down the street from ours. It’s a beautiful charcoal painted two story with cream trim and a red door. The azaleas out front right now chime in with several large pine and poplars that cast shadows across the front in the afternoon. I worked two sessions on this view and am still messing with it —almost always a mistake. If I had the time I would start all over again with this one as a guide.
This last 9 x 12″ is a view of the wonderful dogwood that lives in my backyard. I’ve painted it many times before but I think I like this one the best. I call it—King of Spring.
This weekend was the Blue Ridge Paint Out. This three day event is held twice a year, both Spring and Fall and sponsored by the local arts association. Blue Ridge GA is a mountain town in Fannin county, famous for the wonderful TVA lake of the same name but the town is actually not on the lake it’s situated on a rail line that is now used by the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. This is the second time I’ve attended but after putting nearly 600 miles on my car last year with four trips up and back I decided to only go up Saturday and Sunday plus stay over at our home in Helen—about 40 miles SE of Blue Ridge.
With my Z loaded up with supplies, frames and an overnight bag I drove up 575 Saturday morning and checked in at about 9AM. I love the train but it only sticks around until about noon when it leaves with it’s passengers for a three hour trip to McCaysville, a town right on the Tennessee boarder. So I set up quick for my first painting on a deck of one of the near by buildings above the tracks. The store in front was closed for some reason so I was all alone with a great view. Last year I won third prize with a view of the front of the train near the station (see here). I did a few thumbs first, deciding on a vertical view that included the town in the background. I liked the way the shadows fell across the train from the line of building that parallel the tracks and I used this to highlight the train and some quickly rendered figures —including one of the conductors. I broke one of my rules and suffered because of it. Never try new techniques or equipment (except a brush) in a competition. I bought some Galkyd, a quick drying alkyd based medium because I was out of my Archival Oils Odourless Lean. This dried the paint so quickly that I had some trouble adjusting to it—mostly because it made a sticky mess on my palette. I like to work lights over a dark under painting and this is helped by having a slightly dry surface. But the Galkyd dries up much faster than I was use to and with a lot of gloss. No excuses, but it took me about an hour longer to get what I wanted and it still was not as tonal as some of my more recent work.
Horse Creek Stables
After overshooting my time limit on the first painting I went to lunch and decided to go out to a location east of Blue Ridge in Mineral Bluff up Hwy 60 — Horse Creek Stables. Marsha Hamby Savage—a friend and fellow artisit mentioned that a group of painters were planning on doing some sunset painting from this location around five in the afternoon. With not enough time before the designated rendezvous for another painting I decided to go out early and set up. Driving in my car with the top down on a beautiful Spring day in the mountains is no chore and the location was only about ten miles from town. I found Postell Rd. off Hwy 60 and drove in slowly on the gravel arriving in a nicely situated valley with views west toward the mountains. Horse Creek Stables is owned by Diane and Lester Aradi who have escaped to this idyllic location and set up a rescue center for animals. Several horses and a few llamas graze in verdant green pastures with nary a thought of the problems that they must have encountered in previous lives. Dianne and Lester keep busy taking care of them and occasionally guests who rent the comfortable getaway cottage situated right next to the farm house. I drove right up to the house and was greeted by Lester who was expecting us—perhaps not this early but still very graciously. Again I got out my gear and worked with my pencil searching for the right view that could take advantage of an eventual back light. It took a while but I ended up right in front of the house with a view of a distant ridge, pasture and the fence lined road in the distance. As I worked the animals came and introduced themselves. First the dogs, a big Golden and a Australian Shepard named Blue—both rescued but now living the good life. Then a cat that I felt against my back legs, finally a collection of chickens—one white, that insisted that I must have something good to eat in my pocket. In a while the rest of the painters showed up until there were five of us set up with easels —most on the front porch of the lovely double decked southern style home. A young couple staying in the cottage joined us for the fun. I kept an ear out for the conversation as the sun set and worked hard to capture the wonderful view. I enjoy things that make a place like this special— I’m not going to make it easy on myself by painting isolated objects even though I know it’s risks making a small painting busy. With this I included some of the horses and chickens that were so much a part of the experience—they thrive with obvious love and care and grace this magical landscape. Thanks to Diane and Lester for such wonderful and unexpected experience.
I was finished just as it got too dark to work and we all loaded up and headed our separate ways. I contemplated getting a room at a local hotel and avoiding a drive through the mountains but in the end felt like I had enough energy to finish the journey and keep with my original plan. The precarious corkscrew of a road ended up being mostly downhill of this I was thankful plus the weather was good with not much traffic either way. I drove into the driveway of our house near Unicoi Park at 10PM. The night was starlit and clear but I still needed the light of my phone to get all the locks open and after a few minutes I was asleep in big king size bed. In the morning I double checked my equipment loaded up once more and headed back to Blue Ridge for the last day of the event. The day was gray and the weather forecast was rain in the late afternoon. I decided to go to McCaysville to see if I could find a good spot. Honestly I would have been better off in Blue Ridge as I spent several hours looking for the perfect spot finally ending up on an interesting section of road that parallels the Scenic Railway tracks and the Taccoa River. I worked about an hour on one view and then switched to another ending up with a rather gray 12 x12″. With some light this might have been a winner, with out it was flat and a bit too academic for this event. At about 2:30 I packed up once more and headed for the art center in Blue Ridge. Most everyone was there ahead of me but I made it by the 3PM limit, got my work framed up and toured the gallery while the judge made her decisions. The results? Second place for my “Sunset at Horse Creek Stable”
Weekends like this show how much you can accomplish if you just give it a try—spending time outside in nature as a plein air painter is a joy —I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. Ad to that meeting new people and having new experiences and you have a pretty rewarding activity. Unlike many I like the competition too, it gets me working hard and thinking hard and in the end we’ll see where it takes me.
Saturday morning I drove up to check on our property near Helen and do some painting. I got up around noon and drove over near Mont Yonah where I painted this 12 x 12″. It was a glorious day and I enjoyed one heck of a view of this iconic mountain and surrounding area. I almost wished for a few clouds so I could get some shadows in. As it was, the scale might not be as big as it is in reality—those houses needed to be a bit smaller. The surrounding views are about as good as it gets with green hills and cattle plus the nice winding road. I dropped this one in the grass as I packed up and when I got back to the house spent a good hour with a knife picking it clean.
The second view was in the same spot— I just turned around to catch the late afternoon sun. It was near 7PM before I finished but no one was waiting for me so I took full advantage of all the light. A young gall came buy with her dog and I added her in, but she became a he as I brushed in the highlights.
After a Wendys’ dinner and Braves on the TV I hit the sack on a double dark North Georgia night. Up early I did some chores around the house and headed into Helen for a breakfast at my favorite place. I was a mess of paint and I kept my hat on rudely, but no one seamed to notice and after eggs over easy, home fries, sausage and two cups of coffee I was ready to paint. I thought about doing a view of Helen but I decided to avoid the crowds. As it was I stopped at the old Nora Mill and tried to get over on the other side of the river for a nice view of the dam and the mill but there were no trespassing signs everywhere so I decided to set up on the deck behind the building for this view.
I used some of the Gamblin Fast Matte paint for the rough in and I thought it worked quite well, drying up just a bit so as to leave me with a good surface for the highlights that I brushed in as I finished. I still got a lot of visitors but not too many— it’s still early. I was done around 2:30 or so and took a few minutes to feed the trout that grow enormous right below this spot. Also met the mill manager Tom who came out to take a look and relate some stories and local Helen gossip. All in all, I like this one the best of the weekend’s work—Nothing like a good old wooden building and some splashing water. Sometimes everything just falls into place.
After settling for third place in my local plein air paint out I was a bit dismayed but I have a tough skin and things were back to normal this weekend. I am so taken by the flowering trees this Spring and every chance I get I paint the latest to bloom. First was the Chinese Magnolia then the pear trees and now the cherry trees are going at it. Soon, my favorite dogwoods will be in their glory so you can expect a few more.
This weekend was Easter Sunday and I got up early to catch a flowering cherry tree down the hill here on my street. I’ve been experimenting with how to paint flowering trees and this one almost hit the mark. I went just a bit to far with it—none the less it’s a pleasing example of Spring color. It was cloudy and I had a few more hours before I had to leave for dinner at my daughter’s house so I set up in my garden looking South for this horizontal that include some of the jonquils—as they call them down here.
This final flowering tree was painted downtown Marietta on Saturday in bright light. I pushed this 11 x14 a bit and took it farther than normal—a sin I’m still guilty off too much, I think my attraction to complicated subjects is the problem. Victorian homes and flowering pear trees is a lot to cover in an afternoon and I had to knife in the final light on this because the paint just would not stick anymore.
Day 2 started with cold rain and as I drove over to the museum. I took a short detour to check on a location that I found on Google maps the other day. I like trains and I followed the tracks through Marietta on an overhead view and found a marshaling yard right outside of town off old Hwy 41. I was not sure I could find it, but after a few turns there it was. A large yard full of parked rail cars and the pot of gold—a few nice red diesel locomotives. So I decided to start the day here and finish at a beautiful pale yellow painted Victorian house on Church street that I noticed Saturday. I checked in at the museum and drove right back the marshaling yard.
I had to set up across the street because of the posted no trespassing signs but still had a good view. It was very cold and raining so I set up my shade umbrella and used that to protect the painting and palette. The composition just fell into place with a the big circle of a blue tank car and the engine branching out from the left to right. It was very gray but I did include some trees for the softer shapes. Immediately I got the idea of changing that tank car to green so it would compliment the red locomotive. I got there about 10:30 and things went together quickly but it grew colder as I stood and the rain got worse. I decided noon was the cut off point and packed it in and headed back towards the museum for number four.
I parked across the street from the intended victim at a church. It was just after noon and the deadline was 3 so I set up did a quick sketch and got to work. This wonderful Victorian really deserved a bigger board but I figured that I just did not have a the time for anything more than a 9×12″. this is a spot I’d like to get back too in the coming week as the flowering tree in front was spectacular. I was lucky that the rain abated but the sun never came out. In the end I forced in some shadows just to give it some dimension. With more time this could have shined up well. I was rushed but finished up by 3, got everything loaded up and headed for the museum.
This weekend was the first paint out of the season. It’s been unseasonably cold this Spring so far, but to me it’s better than 90 in March as it can be here occasionally. Still the forecast was for rain on both Saturday and Sunday. This is the second such event sponsored by the museum and they did a great job organizing it but not so great marketing it. I can’t complain too much unless I wish to go and volunteer—most likely not. I don’t have enough time and I need to paint every spare minute I get.
So after a short Friday night meeting I attended so I could assess the competition. I decide that that I had a good chance of a prize and at least a sporting chance of a win. I’m competitive and I like to win—as they say I’m it it to win it! So I scouted all the possible spots by Google maps and their cool street views. I decide the best thing to do Saturday was get in early and get my boards stamped then set up along the square so I could do a rainy street view with the reflections and umbrellas and all that. It worked out as planed as I found an unused store front right across from Shilling’s Pub—a Marietta icon. Great place for corn beef hash and poached eggs. It was dark though and had to look around a thick pole to get the view I wanted. I stayed dry and was finished before noon with number one. I bought a tube of raw umber the night before and I used it on this —might of stolen a bit of color but It certainly looks like a rainy day. It stopped about 10:30 and the light changed. I almost wish it didn’t as I think this could have used a bit more reflections on the street—should of put them in anyway.
After some lunch (should have gone for the hash but had questionable tacos) I found a spot over near the old train station for a 12 x12. I enjoy the abstract shapes in this—but I think I could have pushed the whole thing down and gotten a bit more of the roof in and less foreground. Even thought the light never came out I decided to force it and brushed in a soft yellow glow along the front of the building. I thought this worked pretty good and along with all the angles resulted in a nice painting. Confident, I took it to the Museum dropped it off with my boards and went home. Saturday night I collected up some of my frames and made sure they were ready. I guess this about the sixth such competition I’ve attended so I’m getting used to the procedures and pitfalls. Everything goes smooth if your prepared—usually. It’s much easier to mount boards in a plein air frames then mess with stretchers. All you need is glazier points to secure the boards in, no messing with screws just shove them in with a putty knife. You do need to have screwdriver for the hanger because you can’t be sure weather your going horizontal or vertical. I bought an awl and make two sets of starter holes in each frame so I can switch from on side to the other easily. I have about a dozen frames that I keep for these shows and use them over and over again—unless I get lucky and sell something.
I’m always commenting on the weather because it’s such an integral part of plein air painting—things a just easier when it’s a bit warmer and we have some light to work with. I’m a bit behind on this blog after a busy few weeks but this is a portrait of my neighbor’s Chinese Magnolia which is always first to bloom here. I just love the soft pink and apple green combination. It’s a true sign of things to come.
I started this on a sunless Sunday a few weekends ago and let it dry a bit before going out the next day when we had some sun to put in the light. It was about 5:30 in the afternoon and the shadows were long and the light was that lovely golden whiskey.
I know it’s corny but I’ve done quite few paintings of dams over the years and I still have fun with it. Saturday I had to drive out to Buford to the Tannery to pick up a painting that was in the Gwinnett Parks Plein Air show . Buford is a cool little rail side town, so typical of many here in GA. They were build right along the tracks and at one time were farming communities and small manufacturing hubs that prospered with the coming of the railroads.The Tannery is a community arts center just south of the old town and has about twenty studios with local painters and sculptors along with a gallery.
On the way home I drove up to Lake Lanier and stopped at the Buford Dam for this ominous view. I was just trying to capture the scale and power of this massive structure that holds back a 40 mile long lake and controls the Chattahoochee’s flow from here to Florida. The sun only came out for about five minutes revealing some shadows, otherwise this view flattens out a bit. I did some touch-up back in the studio on this from a photo.. The compositional choices were limited. I used the trees and roadway way up top to emphasize the scale.
Another damn painting—Sunday afternoon I drove over after lunch to Mountain Park one of my favorite spots and painted this view of the much smaller dam they have there. It was warm and wonderful and I was very careful setting this one up. As you can see from the photo I zeroed in on the spillway and spent most of my time working on that water and shadow below the bridge. Most painters would shy away from the fence in this sort of view but I have a method of painting in the darks and knocking out the lights that does a easy job of this sort of thing.I also painted the lights of the water in at the same time as the darks—against my usual methods. The figure and tree to the left were put in just at the last —I thought it needed a balance to the little mechanical shed. I did the thumbs with the trees to right but in the end realized they would cover up to much. I also used the knife for those thinner branches. It’s very light blue but actually has the feel of the day’s light and I did almost nothing to it afterward.