Ed Cahill wins the 2018 Olmsted Quick Paint.
On Sunday 4/29/18 Ed Cahill won the Olmsted Plein Air Invitational Community Quick Paint. In its 4th year, the Olmsted Plein Air Invitational has become one of the most prestigious plein air painting competitions in the United States. The win brings with it an invitation to join the invited artists in 2019. The oil painting, 12 x 24″, entitled —Welcome to the Olmsted, features large trees shading the entrance to the park. Over 70 artists participated in the two hour competition.
This has been a cold winter here in Atlanta—and it’s not over yet!A month or so back we got the most snow that I’ve seen in Atlanta in twenty years. Everyone stayed shut up in the house waiting for it to melt but I was so excited to paint real honest to goodness snow that I spent two days walking up to Mabry Farm from my house in two feet of wet snow and painting as much as possible. The first painting is a small 8 x10″ of one of the trees in the lower pasture covered with snow. It was early and very cold and new snow was still blowing around when I set up it —wonderful! No one would ever suspect this image came from anyplace in Georgia. I used a very limited palette of White, Ocher, Ultramarine Blue and a special color —French Earth, a very warm grayish green. I’m not real fond of painting small paintings but I liked the way this one worked out and eventually used it for our Christmas card.
The next two paintings I painted on the same day concentrated on the horses, all dressed in coats for the weather. The larger, a view of Levada’s barn and the pine trees covered with snow. I did some work later to this painting in the studio—usually not a good idea.
The next day I was back over to do a view of the thawing driveway up to the Mabry’s tomato red barn. I was pleased by the composition and when I was done I broke everything down and headed back out to the pasture to see what I could do. Laying the fresh painting on the crusty snow to dry a bit I got busy on another—to my surprise when I turned back I noticed one of the horses licking the fresh paint off the board—A huge smudge right in the middle of the painting! Well, I chase him off and had no other choice but to break everything down again and return to the mornings spot and repaint it. Later in the day I found a fresh batch of virgin snow in the middle of the muscadine vineyard on the other side of the farm. By this time the light was perfect and I was able to capture those beautiful blue shadows as they cast off the vines and the small white house on this section of the property.
Everything quickly melted but it remained cold and after the new year I was back over to the river and pleasantly surprised to find ice and snow along the shores of the marsh and river. It’s very interesting in this one section because a small creek flows parallel to the main river and you can see through the trees—now devoid of leaves to the other side. So you get a nice background blue and several layers in front with trees and brush and more water. Of course I’ve done dozens of painting here but the snow and ice really changes things up and made it look all new. I just love this area for it’s constantly changing color and light.
2018 is here, with it the end of the holidays and the beginning of getting back to work.As a painter you must be completely self motivated, your own task master, marketing manager, financial officer —and well, everything. I’m set up to teach a class this spring at Kennesaw State and even though it’s just one class and part of their continuing education department, I’ve taken it very seriously and intend to do the best I can for my students. It’s a bit of experiment to see how I like teaching and how effective I can be. I hope to use it as a primer for teaching workshops in the future. If you have some interest and live in the area, look for my Oil Painting class in the Spring OLLI — Osher Lifelong Learning Institute catalog(http://ccpe.kennesaw.edu/olli/) —we will cover basics but I will have my eye out for some willing students who may wish to expand their learning and get out for some Plein Air. All in all it will be fun and affordable.
I’m always looking for a spark of info and sometimes a class or video can be just the trick. Recently I was given a gift of the Scott Christensen video, 3 Landscape Studies (http://lilipubsorders.com/CHRISTENSEN-Scott/products/20/) by my wife for Christmas. I love his work—mostly western mountain landscapes in the tradition of Edgar Payne. So many have been influenced by this painter that I was a bit shy to adapt too many of his techniques but I can honestly say that a few things he stressed hit home for me and might have improved my work.
He uses a very limited palette —Titanium white, Ultramarine blue, Permanent Red, and Lemon Yellow Cad.—ad to this two self mixed colors, a grey built out of those colors in somewhat equal amounts and a yellowish tan khaki —again mixed from those basic colors. I found this interesting and simple —a good thing, especially for me, as I tend to go off the deep end with my color. The big change is no Ocher and Alizarin Crimson and Cadmium Red or Orange —All very prominent colors on my palette. The red in not overly saturated —like Cadmium so it takes a bit more to warm things up and it’s not as dominant in a mix. This gets a bit more paint in —especially in darks, something everyone always runs short on. Darks shade either blue or red. I mix Ultramarine Blue—a somewhat de saturated color to begin with at 60-70%, to Alizarin at 30-40% and a bit of yellow (2%) to get my darkest dark. Permanent red —not being as saturated requires a bit more paint. but it’s easier to mix at about a 50/50 blue and red +the Yellow.
Another key aspect of his procedures is his pre mixing. Of course all of us have done this but I am not religious about it —well not until I saw this video and decided to give it a good honest try. I’ve been very pleased with the results.
I’m a sight size guy, so my view is pretty much transcribed onto my board at the same scale— I observe and mix the colors starting with the darkest dark. Then I work on picking out the other dominant colors and building them—I mimic Christensen here, mixing in some of that neutral gay into almost every mix—especially the greens. He says he mixes the gray before hand and tubes it up himself along with that khaki tan color—I have not tried this but certainly the gray is rather easy to obtain, if you paint as much as most of us you’ll have some left over from your last outing or on your studio palette—easy enough to transfer into your box before you go out. The khaki is another matter—you’re going to have to mix this purposely or perhaps buy a titanium buff—no big thing.
This method, although it slows you down to start actually improves your speed and gives you better cleaner color and in my case plenty of it so I can do the thicker applications that I prefer. Bring a full size palette knife because this will speed things up. It also helps you from over stroking —or petting as they say. You have plenty of paint so you just use it more directly instead of stretching it out. You can’t paint a good plein air painting with out the proper amount of paint. And again I found that I actually used less paint! You have the colors you need and you are better at mixing them all at the same time than you are on the fly. Often, deep into a painting I run out and find myself tired and just using any dark or any light just to keep at it.
The result is lively grays, less acidic greens and cleaner color. Nuff said…give it a try!
It’s been quite awhile since I’ve updated my blog. I don’t get a lot of response so it comes late on any list of to dos. It’s been a busy Spring with several competitions and a trip to Apalachicola, all dedicated to painting and selling as much as I can. I’m doing much less ad work and more painting —which is what I want but like much in my life I tend to back into things and this is no exception. I’ve had very little success in winning anything but I have sold quite a bit of work—weather it ads up to much money and replaces my graphic design work is questionable. I work hard at painting and little by little progress and improve —I hope. Like any skill of merit it take practice, practice and more practice. With painting it never ends—the more you know, the less you know.
Going back a few month is hard for me. The older I get the more I tend to file away my past into volumes in my dimly lit brain.
I’ll start with more work from Mabry Farm. This Spring I found out the the original farmhouse and the acreage around it has been sold to a developer. They have not done any clearing yet but plans include the demolition of the 1914 farmhouse that I am so fond of. Consequently I’ve been instilled with the idea of the getting the word out with the thought that someone may come to rescue! We’ll see…in the mean time I continue to paint it.
Lately I’ve spent a lot of time painting views of the the bee hive or apiary —as it’s called. My wife recently needed local honey for her ailments and I was amazed at the wonderful taste of local honey that I naturally acquired from the only source I know. I now wonder why I have not spent more time painting this rather interesting collection of boxes out in the light. I’m making up for it.
It’s inevitable, Spring can’t be stopped. And who would want to? But this winter was good for me in the marsh and on the boardwalk. Now things have changed and I’m looking in framilliar places for the things I love about Spring. Dogwoods, red buds, sunny grass reflecting on eves and longer warmer days to paint.
I’ve spent several weekends on Canton Street chasing blossoming trees and strong light. This first one is The Cat Clinic —nothing to do with cats but lots to do with green in all it’s variations. Right below a view of the Fickle Pickle—a very busy restaurant in an old mid
19th century home. The Stone House—another Canton Street landmark that I did just recently—more light than usual, it being on the bright side of the road. A small 9×12—Spring on Canton Street. featuring dogwoods and lots of reflective color. And the obligatory font on view of MacMagees—my favorite watering hole.
Over the last several weeks I have devoted my time to a smaller area of the Chattahoochee/Big Creek Estuary that I call the marsh. It’s right at the corner of Willeo and Azalea Roads. I worked on a large 20 x 20″ canvas to start with a view northeast and the sun rising, I call this Dawn. I didn’t want the high contrast of the morning light so I’ve been working mid morning and the light is rather flat but picks up the water as it goes back in steps perhaps a mile or so. It beautiful spot with marsh grasses in various states of growth from very green to a bleached out orange. There are several dead trees that decorate the area too. The Canadian Geese love this spot, so you’ll hear them the whole time you are there pronouncing their territory loudly to anyone who intrudes. This is the only area on this part of the river that has cattails and the they have an interest to me. I decided to paint a companion piece to Dawn the same size but later in the day. Of course I call this piece Dusk and it’s the same size. I started a few weekends ago looking for the right spot and ended about 50 yards north of the Dawn painting. I used a goose in each and the dusk version features later light and the bird standing one one leg with it’s head tucked in. It’s a very strong design element and I tried to place it so the direction would point back into the painting. I put another pass on this painting this weekend and have a bit more to but its pretty much set. I’m now shopping for frames that will look good with the thought that these paintings will hang on either side of a bed. I’m also considering making prints of these two paintings, there might be some interest in this bedroom art concept.
While in pursuit of the Dusk painting I used an upright element to the left of the painting. I thought that this might be a good spot for a cattail so I did a few smaller studies of a group I found out off running path on the other side of the marsh. It was a rainy day Saturday and I started both views—one in direct (gray) light and the other backlit by the afternoon sky. I got the first done and was rained on —I never have too much problem in the rain but my finished 9 x 12″ was so pelted with rain that it moved the paint around—so pretty much a wash! The second painting was going alright but I felt was getting a bit thick and the light was flat so I took a break. I reset up the other view, scraped it down and repainted it with much better results. Then I did the same on the other with a stronger but still cloudy sun setting.
Sunday I returned to finish off Dusk with the thought of using the cattail painting to help me paint the section I intended to use them in. Well—long story short I ended up just using the tall weeds that were there—thinking that the cattails would take away from the bird too much. I spent most of the day there, working on the mud in the fore ground —lots of darks, as most of it is in shadow in my version. I wanted to spend that hour or so at the end of the day sharpening up the lights but I had several hours to wait until sundown so I decided to do a small 11 x 14″ of Willeo Road as it trails up toward the Chattahoochee Nature Center. I noticed how it nice it was while working the first weekend here. So I set up right on the roadside and worked on this view—which quickly turned to a sunset. I took a break for about an hour to finish Dusk and then spent about another hour putting some final touchs to the road view.
Next weekend I’m going to work on a 18 x 36 canvas and see if I can get those banded colors of water and marsh that you can see from this vantage. I’m sure Spring will be the next big thing and I’m ready for it, but it’s been a wonderful winter painting here and I can say for the first time I’ll miss it’s light and subtle colors.
For the past few months I’ve been spending most of my plein air time at the Chattahoochee River. The #Roswell River Boardwalk, as I’ve explained is all new and a treasure for me and many others who live here. I often take a few finished pieces along with me selling several this way—I enjoy the extra cash but also it’s my wish that others may appreciate them.
There is one section of this area that I call the marsh. It’s right at the corner of Wellio Rd and Azalea Drive and is about a mile square on the river side. It’s dominated by clumped gasses and cattails. Right now it’s the favorite spot for Canadian gees to gather in pairs prerequisite to nesting as soon as the weather warms up. The contrast of the spikey grasses, reflective water and four to six foot cattails in interesting. The grass varies from a rich verideon to a red straw. I’t’s been predominately gray and overcast but last Saturday I caught one section on a 12 x24″ board filled with sunlight and the water reflecting the brilliant blue sky.
This has been my most productive winter since I began to paint plein air nearly six years ago now and I’m looking forward to another weekend of work starting Friday (2/10/17) attempting to capitalize of the marsh success with a larger 18 x36 canvas, It’s supposed to be nice weather Friday through Sunday so I’ll have a chance to put in a least two days on this panorama —hopping to finish off my salute to winter on the River.
I’ve lived here in Marietta nearly twenty years now. It’s actually my second tour of duty here in Georgia, so almost thirty years in this lovely warm spot. Over the years it’s grown more hectic and crazy on the roads, thank God I have avoided most of this by working out of my house the last fifteen years. When I started painting plein air in earnest five years back I knew it would take a lot of work—a lot of brush in the bush time to get to the point I could call myself a professional. This certainly has been the case,with some bravery and ingenuity I might have sped up the process by several decades! There are many young men and women who have taken on the challenge to be professional painters along with raising a family and made it work—I salute them. To those considering it—it’s all a matter of what you expect of yourself. Work hard, have a plan and I believe you can do it. It will take a while but you will learn the things you must do and you will will be happier and more successful in the long run.
Back to painting. You can go back many post and see that I’ve pretty much figured out the places I’m most comfortable painting in this area. It’s a process of exploration, and experience. I want to get painting as soon as possible —I want to be productive, so I look for places with nature and some place to park. The Chattahoochee near Roswell is great this time of the year—long views and plenty of atmosphere. And it just got considerably better. This last week they opened a mile long stretch of boardwalk that not only parallels the river but at one point cuts across through the flats area between Azalea Drive and Willeo Rd. I’ve heard that this cost well over a million dollars —money well spent! They did a wonderful job and with the way they build decks now —not with much wood, it aught to last a good long time. The only problem is parking, you must either park at the Nature Center or at the parking lot on Azalea Drive both of which are are not great. The Nature Center is not open all the time and the Azalea Drive parking lot is about a half mile from the boardwalk and is full most of the time. You can sneak into the St. Francis School parking lot at the corner but it’s also more than a half mile away from the entrance.
Complain, complain! Really nothing to complain about. It’s glorious and has view of the river on one side and the flats on the other. Hundreds of paintings here but not easy ones! The brush is dense even in the winter and you will have to edit a lot—again, nothing to complain about. For the next several months I will be spending lots of time there—you are welcome to join me. Not knowing of the opening I started a few weekends ago at the fishing park further up Willleo Rd., this is a spot I’ve painted many times before. A great place to catch the sunrise over the ridge and reflection off the river. I was up early and set up near 8AM on the hill behind the parking lot with a view across. The water level is way down so there was a very interesting shape to the mud flats as it winds out to the river. I wanted to catch that early light and color, but I also had in mind a big 18 x24″ for this view. I thought it might be a good idea to do a quick 9 x12″ first and then take my time on the larger one using the small one for color reference. So this first one is the 9 x12″ that I did Sunday morning 12/11.
The next is the 18 x24 that I worked on later and finished up the next weekend. I was not happy with all the excess Dioxide Purple. This a color that I tend to overdue when I have it on my palette. I should just eliminate it but I am always mixing purples and it just saves so much time! I also use Naples Yellow a bit too much—again, It’s just too easy to over use that lovely cool yellow and both are hard to disguise.
I’ve had some success working bigger lately. I like 18 x24 inches when I have everything thought out and the time. Sometimes they don’t even take any longer as with this view from Willeo Road looking North-East. I also used a branch hanging down in front to give me something in the foreground—it seems to work in this one. This was painted before we lost lost the leaves and is a great illustration of why this area is great to paint. You have some distance that you can work with—gradually blueing things as they go back.
This group of smaller paintings the first a 9×12 painted along the main stretch of boardwalk near the Wellio Rd. (top of page) the other around sunset looking southwest in early December and the third a 8 x16″ painted soon afterwords. The last two were painted perhaps only fifty feet apart—This shows you the diversity of views available here. I like the winter color in the 8 x16, and this view lent itself to the panoramic crop.
This last weekend was Christmas but I got a few good days in before and the weather was unseasonably warm. On the 22nd I got over a bit late in the afternoon to the boardwalk. I set up right at the elbow that start’s the walks section out over the flats. This crosses over a meandering swap like area with a treeline and the river behind it. I did a 12 x12 that day looking straight into the setting sun. I was pleased with it but I saw a potential for a bigger painting and the next day I brought over a 20 x 24″ that I had—with a nice pale red ground. I got in place around noon and worked until almost five—or sundown, this time of the year. The last hour was spectacular!
My plans are to do some closer in views next working with the brush and the muted winter colors.
A few more from the river last week. I met Allison Graham Doke, Shane McDonald and Anna Jones Ladefoged. for a session on Friday. It was cold but bright and everyone enjoyed themselves. I did a small bright 9 x12 first then set in on a 12 x16″ as the day progressed. Everyone else had things to do but I hung in and proceeded to frustrate myself a bit on this view of the marsh through a tree screen. It got a bit muddy and messy so I scraped most of it off and went back over the next day to finish it. A totally different experience on Saturday with no bright sun at all—again I worked hard to repaint and came up with this. Might still require a bit of work!
I’ve come to find a few people read this—so I should keep up . It was an extremely dry Fall here in North Georgia and even though I was worried about my shrubs dying it made for a very colorful and paintable season. All the usual suspects were visited at one time or another. Starting with Mabry Farm. While Colley Whisson visited last summer I took him on a tour of my favorite place to paint. He took loads of photos so you might see a Mabry Farm painting from him eventually. While giving the tour I noticed a small spot that had gone without my attention and a few weeks later I spent a nice quite few hours painting this working woodshed. Someone had been busy here and the ax was still in a log—although I moved it out into the light. This is 8 x16″.
I guess the next weekend was Halloween and on that Friday I was over again looking to catch a view North- one that I’ve painted before. My intention was to do a big 18 x 24″ but when I looked in my trunk all I found was a 12 x12 and a 8 x16 board so I walked around the pasture and finally centered on this view. I posted it on the En Plein Air Face Book page and a few days later Bob Barr from Plein Air Magazine emailed me about my “Halloween” painting. ?? Sorry Bob, I didn’t paint any ghosts or goblins. After a bit of a mix up we figured out he was talking about this 12 x 12. The story is here:
That same weekend I took some hours Sunday to revisit Mountain Park. As soon as I got there I was attracted to this view from the spillway of the poplars as bright orange as orange can be with a fantastic reflection and a nice contrasting cool blue background. This one almost painted itself. Mountain Park Fire 12 x16Just a few weeks ago on perhaps the last good color weekend I was back over to Mabry for this view—Mabry Oaks 12 x16, of the huge oaks behind the old farmhouse. This is another spot that I had not taken advantage of before and I found another view here —Red Oaks 12 x12 that I started and finished up a few days later. That same weekend I was driving around and noticed a Ginko tree on the side of the road. It reminded me of two giant examples that grow in the front yard of McFarlane farmhouse so I drove over and was delighted by this view I call Ginko Glow 12 x24″.
The rain finally came and with it no more leaves and a dramatic shift toward winter here. The light changes cold when there are no more leaves to filter it and the lower sun is brighter now. Time to shift again and look for views that take advantage of it.
Can’t say enough about the nice job Bob Bahr at OutdoorPainter.com did putting together a little story about my favorite place to paint— Mabry Farm. I’m fortunate to live so near this painter’s goldmine and also thankful that people are interested in the work I do there. There are places like Mabry just about everywhere, as plein air painters we have a way to experience and express their importance.