Nothing like going to the well once again for what you know works. I believe it’s a good idea to reinforce your strengths. Over the years I’ve developed techniques that work for me and I try to use them again and again. I also have my “go to” subjects and redbud trees in bloom fit into that category. The intense purple against the bright Spring green has a real wow factor that is hard to dislike.
This Saturday I wandered over to McFarlane Park —another go to, and spent the afternoon amidst the early Spring growth. In truth, the color is a bit early here but bright days without work to do are scarce so I was over with my viewfinder walking the paths of this delightful place looking for opportunities. Last year at about this time I was fortunate to catch a redbud in full bloom. When they have a bit of room around them they can get like a bright brush of crazy color and the painting was one of my more successful. This time the garden club that maintains the grounds decided to prune this purple monster back a bit so it was not as showy. But there were several others—a bit stringy, like they get in the undergrowth and I stacked them up with the stables in between for this square composition. Almost the same view as last years, just a bit closer in. The tree is back lit a and the shadows and branches reach out to the viewer. I like this approach with flowers, it tends to give you more of the feeling of being there —a trick almost. It wraps you in the color and emotion of the view.
Sunday was glorious too—but I had a date at the car show with my little grandsons, and that, apposed to a blooming tree only happens rarely. I will, of course be sneaking back to the park as much as I can as the season unfolds.
Issues with my web site and blog have finally been resolvedthanks to my daughter Jennifer, whom is my web rock star—Thanks, as always Jen. The new website is cleaner and html based so viewers (few) should not have any ipad issues ect.
This is the first week of Spring and I am always drawn to flowering trees like a bee. Monday afternoon I took the afternoon off and hiked down the hill for this early spring view of the small stream that crosses Running Fox Dr. I’ve painted here several times before—most with good results. I was attracted by, of course the water but also the chartruse glow of new growth in the light contrasted against the still faded pinks of the poplars. This doesn’t last too long and I was glad to record it before the green turns darker and the whole view changes in character. Plein air has that ability to capture fleeting moments like this and I believe that is why I’m so enamoured with it. Like poetry instead of a novel—in a few hours you can express the fleeting emotions of a view.
After the weeks work I was rewarded with another fine Spring day on Saturday. I drove to Roswell looking for a view with the blooming pear trees and was rewarded with this almost canned composition looking up one of the roads off Alpharetta Hwy. towards the First Baptist church on Mimosa Street. I kept the church high key with blues and purples as my darks and used only only a few darker tones up front on the trees to the right. I’m doing a lot of knife work on my painting as of late—certainly gives them a different look. Most likely it’s transitional as I get more comfortable using it. I drove home around three and had some time so I did a quick 9 x12 of a the Chinese Magnolia that grows across the cul-de-sac from my home. The blue sky had clouded over so there was no light. I might take this out for another go if the weather improves—must be soon though these magnolia blooms don’t last long.
The new website allows me to sell my work now and if you see something you like look for it there. If not just email me at email@example.com
The high point of a very busy October was a trip I made to New York. I was commissioned buy an old (she would shudder at me saying that) high school friend to paint the offices of the Henry Street Settlement a fantastic charitable organization with ties to the Lower East Side in Manhattan. Sue wanted me to paint from some photos but I suggested that I fly up visit my father in Trenton the same weekend and kill two birds with one stone. It worked out well and I was able to spend a few days in New York painting along with some time with my 89 year old father. All the preparation with equipment and supplies, weather, driving, flying—it can be extensive, expensive and exhausting. The pay off is having some thing real and meaningful—something hand made and human to record your travels and your wonders. I painted a picture of the East River and New York Bridges one morning from the window of a small apartment along the FDR. I spent an afternoon on a New York street with wonderful New Yorkers. Captured the afternoon light on New Jersey farm house. All in all, a great trip.
I’m catching up on work I did late d last year including a trip that I made up to Blue Ridge to retrieve my three paintings at the arts center there. It’s a beautiful area so I had no trouble on the way back I finding a good spot to paint. The weather was perfect and fall was at it’s best for these two 8 x 16’s that I did in the Walnut Mountain area. I small valley about ten miles south along 575 . As usual I ran into a few of the locals as I painted—the owner of the house I painted allowed me to scale on of the hills in his cow pasture where this view down the valley at the bottom was painted.
As soon as the weather cools off plein air starts to heat up again. Although this is still a very warm part of the year in Georgia there were two paint outs scheduled for the same weekend—everything or nothing. A defense for my rather poor showing in both competitions is that I was prepared to be hosting Colley Whisson here at the house while he was teaching a class downtown at Binder’s but at the last minute he had visa problems and had to cancel his trip. I was looking forward to his visit but at the same time I was a bit disappointed that I would miss the Blue Ridge event, especially after winning last year. So when I found out Colley would be a no show I quickly re-planed the weekend so that I could attend the Blue Ridge competition. It’s about 1oo miles north of my house and I usually do not stay over, so back and forth for three days will wear you out before you paint one picture. With that in mind and a one day paint out in Stone Mountain— a bit closer, I decided to go up Friday and paint in the afternoon, come home and go to Stone Mountain on Saturday. Then drive back north to Blue Ridge Sunday for some more painting and the final judging. Sounds crazy ?—yes a bit.
So Friday I finished up my work early and headed up 575 north to Blue Ridge. It’s a great drive up into the mountains and just before you get to Blue Ridge they fill the sky with endless purple. I also love the big blue Sceinic Railway train that is parked downtown, and always try to do one painting of it. I was interested in the way the town in is in a very sharp valley with hills on either side. When you are on one side or the other it has a stacked verticality like a m
iniature San Francisco. I parked near the train and hiked up one of the hills to a crossing street and set up in a yard , after asking permission. This gave me a view across the valley with the train horizontally at he bottom. Very patch work like and interesting. I spent about three hours but had trouble with my brushes, Just could not get a good edge. It took me another two weeks to admit that I needed a new brush. I use a medium size flat for almost everything and when it goes bad, everything goes with it. I usually buy a new one before any competition. I struggled through though and finished up with the sun casting shadows across the hill and the street across the valley left to right. I then packed up and drove the 100 miles home.
Saturday morning I jumped in the car and drove 60 miles east to Stone Mountain. I’ve lived here for almost twenty years and never been to this park—a big mistake. I had to register at the Art Place studio in town and luckily I found it quite quickly. I’m not a member so it cost me $45 for the entry fee but it was worth it, they had food and made everyone a lunch – that I forgot going out the door. I then drove into the park with a pass provided and parked next to the main entry to the mountain. Saturday is a big day there I guess and the lot was full of cars and people. All were dressed in shorts and tennis shoes for a hike up the mountain. I joined the fray and with all my gear and was amazed at the unusual characteristics of this granite out cropping. This side of the mountain rises gradually like a stair case of stone to the top. Some were running up for there weekly exercise. I looked like a martyr with my box and umbrella and tripod. But I found it beautiful and the higher I got the better the view. About half way up and decided to give it go. I found a good spot with a view across the rocks to the plains below. Very unusual for Georgia. I spent several hours painting and met many walkers and entire families hiking up and down the mountain.
Later in the day I toured the entire park in my car looking for another painting. I must have had too much sun because I got this idea of view of the monument with its mountain portraits of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis in the background and the backlit trees up front and to throw it in the cable car to the top, all on a 9 x12″. Ridiculous—I won’t even show you the mess. I spent more hours in the sun too. Being smart is such an important part of plein air—especially when you are in a competition.
So with one good one I went to the hall that they were using for the judging. I set up my one painting with the thought that it was not bad and had a chance for the $350 first prize. Wrong—not even an honorable mention! None-the-less I had a great day and I will make sure to get back to this amazing place soon.
Sunday I was a bit tired but up with the sun and out on the road to Blue Ridge again. I wanted to get a view of the mountains on a 12 x24″ board so I drove around for an hour back and forth looking for one of the designated areas. After no luck I found a spot on the Taccoa River (top or the post) with nice rapids and worked the long 24″ board. I had some problems again. I ran out of my titanium white so I use a tube of under painting white that I keep in my car for emergencies. I also ran out of ultramarine blue about half way using a pthalo blue that never use. All in all the painting worked out OK but a shade darker than it should have been An
other classic mistake that you can not afford during a competition. On the way back to Blue Ridge I stopped and worked on a quick view of a small house and garden—one of my “go to” subject matters when I need a good painting. I spent just more than and hour and arrived last for the judging. Another mistake. All in all the work was superior at this competition all around with about 40 good paintings on the wall. Again I was shut out but felt that the competition was very good and my work was perhaps not as good as it could have been. John Gurnesy won first place—one of my mentors.
So I drove home with my tail between my legs— and the thought that I broke many of my own rules for how to succee d in these competitions. I did sleep pretty well though that night.
Sometimes I just overdo it. You can can just get over excited and I find that my personality is a bit that way. This Saturday I pulled a three painting marathon on Saturday. I drove down and parked my car near the corner of Azalea Drive along the Chattahoochee. I’ve been up early so I can get out before it gets too hot and get more work done. I saw a spot close to this parking with a view of the river as it flattens out and floods a large area but when I got to the spot the light just did nothing and I decided to walk farther north to a park just about a mile down the road. I need the exercise so of I went with my box and pack and my umbrella case…
I set up for a view of the river looking north from the park and got to work right about 9AM. The river was covered with a low fog that I knew would burn off pretty quickly but I’m a sucker for the effects and rushed to paint the the cool green background before it changed. With a 12 x 24 you have a lot of ground to cover so I worked quickly and intensely to get some paint down. Composition is king and I thought that this long view was composed well with a lot of foreground to the left instead of sky and water. I was interested in the geese that are always here and they make there presence felt mostly in the shadows but I did stick one out in the light. I set up my umbrella mostly to shield my eyes from the glare. If you paint outside I think you should get one. Kind of a pain in the ass to lug around but it pays off in comfort, especially on a hot sunny day. Mostly it’s to keep the direct sunlight off your work but I sneak under that shade as much as I can.
Around noon I started another. A view of a big tree hanging over the river and a sky filled with clouds. The clouds in GA are pretty awesome and I should paint them more often. It’s not easy task though, they change minute to minute and you just have to get in the zone. Again, I should do just a few that are dedicated to all clouds—great practice. It was hot and getting hotter as I finished this up around 2:30. I was in a very busy area of the river with loads of rafters and scull boats rowing past but even thought the parking lot was full, not many people were in the park so I only talked to a few folks the whole time. I loaded up my equipment and headed out for the mile walk back to the car now with the addition of two wet paintings. I can get a few on the box if they are the same size but I had no place for the 11 x 14″ so I had to carry it like a waiters tray.
I was lucky there was no wind and I trounced off up the runners path toward the car. When I got back to the spot I passed up in the morning the sun had changed it into a glorious view. It was close to three in the afternoon and I was already worn out but I pushed it and set up once more. Again, I got out my umbrella more as a shield than anything else. The light was from the back now and everything was so well defined and simplified. I rushed to get the form in and the water reflections. While I was there quite few joggers stopped by along with a delightful young lady who lived across the street and told me that this spot was spectacular at sunset— especially in the Fall. Well I’m going back, no doubt about it.
Sunday I was longing for some house painting as I do on occasion so I drove to Mimosa Drive in Roswell, to paint a view of the house right next to the Scroggin’s Law office that I’ve painted before. A nice white southern charmer with great Victorian details. I was there right around church time and lucky to get a parking spot right next to the place I set up. This view, framed though the trees inspired me and I finished up the 11 x 14″ in just about three hours. I brought an 18 x24″ of the Bulloch house near bye that I started several months ago on a grey day. I thought I might just ad some light to it but as I drove up and parked near the house the skies clouded over and it started to rain. It was probably a good thing, I’d have worked another three hours and might have even started another. Sometimes nature just says—Enough!
I love Labor Day. It’s at the end of a usually hot summer with the thrill of a bit of color other than green down the road. It’s also a very relaxed holiday with no gifts to buy, parades to go to and minimal family commitments. It’s just a day off at the nicest time of the year.
Saturday morning I drove out to Ford Island State Park on the south shore of the Chattahoochee. It’s a nice park and has a lot clear views up and down the river. I’ve been mesmerized by the water lately —and I was really thinking about doing a house portrait but for some reason just could not get away from it this weekend. I hiked down from the lodge ( a potential painting) to the dock near the river and set up around 9AM – a bit too late as it turned out. The air was warming fast and the view lost all it’s atmosphere quickly. I’ve painted this view a few times so I decide to mix it up with a vertical. I’ve been having trouble with my lay ins being too wet so I brought some thinner with me and mixed an earth tone using the thinner I roughed the river and trees in did a toned drawing or grasile. The thinner dries up much quicker and after about twenty minutes I was ready to put in the color. I’ve been using a lot of purpled greens in the background and I continued in that fashion with this painting.The impasto built up maybe a bit too much and later at home I leveled out quite a bit with a knife. The reflections up front still ended up looking like rapids.
The spot where I set up got very busy as the day progressed with rafters and boat launches so I moved and set up above the landing and did a small 9 x12 of the dock. I think the angles and light on this one make it interesting. The boy on the dock and the orange canoe work as counters to all the greens. I finished up early around 2pm before it go too hot and headed home.
Sunday morning I was up early again and ended up at my go-to location Mountain Park. I really should find somewhere else but it’s so close and…there’s water there! So I did a flat on centered view of the fishing shack across the lake that I have done three times before. This time I was interested in the fog that enveloped the view and even though I knew it would not last I attempted to capture it as much as I could. I ended up working on this for several hours at home afterward to ad those greys back in that had vanished before I could get them down.
Later I did a view of the fishing deck w/fisherman in the bright light with a very dark shaded lake house behind. The figure worked pretty good here but again I had to simplify this quite a bit after the fact. Finally I did a small quick view across the lake on one of my mahogany boards.
As I sit at my computer I’m planning the weekend’s painting excursions, this week and for that mater the entire month has been busy with not only painting but work as well. I’m a graphic designer by trade—actually own a small advertising business and cater to car dealers. My father was a dealer and my grandfather too so I have a pretty good background. Over the years we have had a lot success that I am thankful for, but it takes most of my time during the week and I would rather be painting. I just can’t say no to fairly lucrative work that comes rather easy for me. I do feel that part timers like myself are a bit overlooked. In my case I’m spending 30—40 hours painting a week in addition to my other work. I have a tremendous advantage that I own my own business and that I work out of my basement. Without the time and effort of commuting and a boss telling me what to do I feel I can devote myself very well to both. I suppose I’ll do nearly 150 paintings this year—not bad. Sure would like to give full-time a go though! —enough said.
Last weekend I got up early Saturday for the sunrise up top from Mountain Park. In the afternoon I went to the High Museum for the Fantasy Car Show with good friend Dr. Munir Kapasi. I even made a little movie with my iphone. Sunday I spent the whole day on Vickery Creek in Roswell. This time I walked so
uth from the bridge to an area that I have not seen. It was beautiful, with rocks and a set of rapids. Almost too nice and I was overwhelmed. I had some trouble with the first painting —too much going on and then to top it off I did a 12 x24 in the afternoon. Both needed some studio work and Monday I spent most of the day working on them. The 12 x24 features a figure, actually it had two but Tuesday I took out the male figure and left a rather pensive looking female in. Not much reaction to these paintings from my group of “critics” so I did not post the first at all. The 12 x 24 is below. What do you think?
This last weekend I was up early both mornings to get out before family commitments. It work out very well with a few paintings that have that summer morning feel and a lot atmosphere. The first is a river scene painted over near a spot I’ve painted quite a bit before. Last time I noticed this view only a few hundred feet from the park entrance. I had to set up on the road so I was dodging cars while stepping back to get a look the whole time. The color here is very close to the real thing and the greens are a real challenge. Water and reflections are always impressive to viewers and I do an OK job on it. Over the years I’ve learned to go with the direct reflection of the view —just a mirror image and then ad some surface with objects or ripple reflections. I rough it in and then use a big brush to pull straight up or down. It’s a bit of a trick but when water is very calm it’s accurate. When the wind picks up though it reflects off the sky and this is much harder and less interesting as a rule. So I stick with the mirror image unless I’m painting the rough ocean. Again this sort of image is right in the majorities wheelhouse and I got a lot of good reactions from passer byes. In the end it’s the L shape composition and the distant levels that make this really work.
Sunday I was up early again and drove to and industrial park off old Highway 41 in Marietta. This is a spot that features a rail yard and the backs of old warehouses crowded with equipment and interesting junk. I like this sort of thing and I’ve been here twice in the last month. The first time I did a view of the rail yard that just did not work and another of a loading dock that I thought was dynamic but ended up with very little punch. This time I centered a view on the railroad crossing and the tree near it that because of the trimming had a very triangular shape—almost like a bookend. This worked well and enhanced the contrast of the early morning greens and the closer darker tree. I finished up with some power lines knifed in that reenforced the composition. After this I stopped a close-by diner for some lunch. Real southern food—not very good for you, but good! Chicken fried steak, coleslaw, collards, and corn bread. On my way out I spotted this old Chevy truck and a smoker they were using. So I set up and did a little portrait.
If painting were a sport I’d certainly be a true weekend warrior.In my mind standing up for eight hours at a time, back and forth hundreds of times to get a longer look just might qualify for exercise. I have to remind myself to take a break and drink some water or walk around a bit. This week I should have gone for dip in the lake while I was up at Allatoona on Saturday. It was a glorious day and all I had to do was take off my shirt and jump in.
I drove up HWY 92 out of Woodstock about twenty miles northwest and then straight north on Old Alabama Rd. to Lake Allatoona. This is the red headed step child to Lake Lanier, but it’s closer. After a search on Google I decided to give the dam a try but I never got that far. I found a day use beach and was lucky that I remembered to bring some cash because they charged me four bucks to get in—It was worth it though. The view was enhanced with sailboats from the near by yacht club. The first is a long view farther north through a channel up past a dock and a group of trees, I stuck some of the many kids in that were having a good time. Might have needed a second tree in the front—I thought the littl
e girl was enough but…
Afterward I walked back to the car with the first painting and noticed the abstract pattern of the lake behind the pine trees and the forest beyond. I found the best spot to take advantage of this and set up for a 12 x12″. This one went together quickly and again I just had to include some of the bathers and picnickers to give it the flavor that it had.
I was pleased with both and also with the new Centurion Linen that I used for the boards. I bought a 60 x 6 yard roll from Jerry’s on the web and it was delivered in four days—for free plus 25% off. Nice slick surface that I really like and for me makes all the difference. Let’s me slide the brush around and the oil primed surface is so much less absorbent than gesso. Let’s face it, this is not a cheep vocation so you must look for the best equipment at the best price. I’ve settled into making my own boards and this saves me a lot of money and I’m use to using canvas but I just love the look that the linen gives me. It’s a bit more but I think it’s worth it.
Sunday I headed to the river and ended up over near Willio Rd. in Roswell. I’ve been here quite a few times before and the reason is there is a good deck you can set up on with view up and down the river. You do have to put up with fisherman though—they think they own the place but in the end usually warm up to the weird guy painting. I did a view looking south with one of the scull boats very common and then I did a close in view of the woods directly across the river. This was a bit different for me without anything but the water and the trees. I had to work hard , but in the end I think it’s the best of the weekend.