I spend so much time here that I have to occasionally update my work. Last week Cobb County announced that the construction of the access road back to a portion of the property that the county now owns will start. This is big news for the association that has been trying to raise money, but I think in the end the county had some funds from the SPLOST 1% tax increase and decided to use it here. I hope things go well. Spring is a wonderful thing at the farm and the weather has been cool and dry. The flowering trees—pear, peach, dogwood and bushes have been extra special this year. I’ve done several paintings of the original farmhouse this season and many other areas where the color shows the best. I’m getting better at plein air horses and I will not give up until I’m a master —any day now. Finally, I’m always inviting fellow painters to join me in the fun and this Spring my good friend Doctor Munir Kapasi along with visiting international plein air superstar Leon Holmes spent a some time here. With the access road construction the general public will have an opportunity to visit this little slice of rural Georgia that has kept it’s charm and beauty—all thanks to the Mabry family.
Easter at Mabry. 12 x24″ oil on Mahogany ply. Inquire. This view of the main pasture on Easter Saturday has all the pinks and yellow greens of an Easter basket. The horse named Cowboy is one of my favorites of the dozen or so that spend most of their time doing just what you see here. Peach trees of several different varieties bloom at different times and with varying colors. The Mabrys give me access to these spots and I take advantage as much as I can.
Peachtree 9×12 oil on linen. Inquire. I was amazed by the garish blooms of this tree. A dark but vivid pink with small dark, almost black centers. The day was cloudy and it helped me make some sense of it, centering on the contrast of the pink and the black branches.
Mabry House Spring 18 x 24″ oil on canvas board. Sold. This is a view I’ve done before but a bit bigger this time. The dogwoods in full bloom contrast against the charcoal siding and make for quite show. This house was built in 1919. All the Mabrys like this and it sold the day I painted it.
Mabry House Sunrise, 12 x16″ oil on linen. Available. After a swarm of interest from the Mabry family I did another small 12 x16 of the view a week later. You can tell the dogwoods are past their prime. Started in the afternoon, this was very dark and backlit but I came back over the next morning and revised it to this fresher and brighter front light version.
The Tomato Barn. 12 x12″ oil on linen. Available. I do a lot of paintings this size—the square forces me to go off center in composition. If you drive into Mabry Farm to buy tomatoes or honey in season this ware you go. It’s an honor system and in season they have an array of produce you can buy, but mostly good homegrown tomatoes. Mr. Mabry built this place himself and it’s an interesting patchwork of wood up front that has weathered differently. I caught it on a Spring afternoon with the dogwoods and shadows playing along with all that red.
Spring Pastures. 8 x 16″, oil on linen. Available. Mabry is all about the horses and they board a few dozen. This front pasture features and old utility building built about 50 years ago. One horse is hard to paint, two are easier! I painted this one afternoon when Leon Holmes was here, his version (above) has a lot of his characteristic knife work and electric color.
House & Garden 8 x16 oil on linen. Available. One of four houses on the farm, this is a typical 50’s rural bungalow with awnings over the windows and large garden—just taking hold here. A repaint of a painting that I did a year ago, didn’t like and sanded down to reuse. I hapen to have it in my pack while over working on the view of the other old farmhouse and decided to give it another crack. A good plan if you have a painting that for some reason does not work. All the bones were there and I just used it as a preliminary drawing. Second time was a charm.
View toward the Paddock, 12 x 16 oil on linen.Inquire. Summer has arrived and with it a green hell! You get used to it here and learn how to mix a wide variety of the color that dominates the landscape. As the season progresses it calms a bit with less yellow. Again here—two horses are better than one.
A Shady Rest, 11 x17″ Oil on canvas. Inquire. Unusual size and unusual canvas board for me (a gift from Leon) Also a play on a subject closer to the interest of another painter friend, Dave Boyd. This is the porch of the old farmhouse filled with interesting objects collected over the years. Lots of reflected light make those post nearly bright red at the top —the rusted red roof chimes in.
Along the Rim —Yavapai Pont. 8 x 16, oil on linen. This was painted on a day that I went out with Dario. Just about ten minutes from the lodge we were staying in. I started this plein air and finished it up in the studio. I got this idea the day before while walking along the rim and noticing these beautiful cedar trees and the interesting rocks that they have in this area to define the trail. I thought a wide format would work nice with this and I brought several 8×16’s along. The strong silhouette and the diagonal from top right to bottom left just worked themselves in with this. My wife says it reminds her of Art Nouveau, I guess it’s those sinuous cedars.
My good friend, Australian painter Leon Holmes has been places in the US that I have only dreamed about and this September he messaged me in FB to see if I would like to go with him to the Grand Canyon in the Spring—of course! A big red check off on my list of places to see and paint and one that all Americans should visit. We’ve all become so casual about the wonders right in our backyards, it took a bloke from Perth to put the bur under my butt and get to it. As we developed our plans Dario Falzon, another great painter from down under was added to the mix so a trio of us were destined for an adventure out west.
I did most of the planning because of my relative nearness and we decided to stay on the South Rim inside the park at the Yavapai Lodges. This was a cheaper alternative to to one of the classic lodges right on the rim and since we were to stay seven—revised to six days it was still a considerable cost for lodging. Splitting everything three ways, although complicated made it affordable for all of us. In a perfect world, or for an overnight you might splurge and stay at Bright Angel or the magnificent El Tovar Lodge right on the South rim. As it was, we spent quite a bit of time in that area and frequented the bar at El Tovar where the chili and beer are recommended!
Back to the start though. Dario and Leon were guest demonstrators at the Plein Air Convention in Tucson so I flew in there, rented a SUV and picked them up for the 400+ mile drive to northern Arizona and the canyon. I was too busy to attend the convention, but it certainly was in a great spot —The El Conquistador Hilton Resort just north of town. Tucson is famous for being hot, and it was that, plus the sprawling airplane graveyard at Davis Monathan AB, and the big, many armed Saguaro cactus. On the way out of town we stopped for an hour and ran around in the desert, looking at them and all the rest of the unusual plants. This was a first for me and I was enthralled by the look of the place and the landscape—I wish we could have taken a few hours for some painting but after a hour of photos and fun we got on I-10 and headed north. Catching up with Leon, watching the cactus and meeting Dario for the first time made the time and miles fly by. We got into the park after sundown and discovered that it was national park week so free of park fees!—almost like we planned it.
Next morning we were up before dawn and to the nearest rim location Mahler Point. What can you say? Just a look into that huge void with endless ridges, buttes, washes and a cascade of color from blue to vivid reds, oranges and pinks. It was my first introduction to what has become an intensifying quest to understand the geology and purpose for all that goes on thousands of feet below the rim. We set up right away and got to work. I brought a 12 x16 wet box with me full of linen boards plus about a half dozed 9 x 12s and a bunch of 8 x 16 mahogany ply boards—just in case! My idea was to tape of smaller sections on the 12 x16 to to different sizes but in the end I worked mostly in 12 x 16. Capturing a bit of the rim gives images some scale but a rimless view can be more majestic. The 9x12s were almost an afterthought but in the end they were good for quick oil sketches. Leon worked almost exclusively on 8 x16s the entire week and Dario did smaller square paintings featuring more of the rim. I leaped head first into the larger size and even though the proportion of the board are, to me a bit generic they suited the landscape well allowing me to get some foreground in most of my work along with a lot of the canyon. I’m used to being out by myself and working at my own pace. Not to say I’m slow, but the boys were quicker because they were working smaller so I felt a bit rushed. Leon and Dario are world class plein air painters and I was pleased to be in their company. I’m still working my way though issues I have with impressionism versus realism—I like the realism of Joe McGurl, Joe Paquet and others but my skills and spontaneity give my work more of an impressionist flair. Some days I’m fine with that, other days I’m searching for a more representational look and that takes time. Lets face it, the subject is beyond what most of us paint to the extreme and it takes a lot of resolve not to over paint and over explain what you are seeing. Virtually all my work, has been reworked —not unusual, but my best work I find is resolved before I leave the spot of inception. Only rarely do I achieve the results I’m going for with retouching in the studio.
The week is a bit of a blur to me now a month later but we were up early and painted until dusk nearly everyday so I have early and late light views from all around the south rim. We found that taking a siesta at mid day removed a lot of the flat light issues we were having and gave us energy in the afternoon. Most visitors are only at the canyon for a day or two but we had the advantage of six days of exploration—still we only scratched the surface of that fantastic place. On the day before we left I hiked down a few miles below the rim by myself. I followed the trail towards Horeshoe Mesa but never came close to getting there. It was a difficult hike with all my gear, jarring on the way down and brutal on the way back up. I did a small 9×12 about two miles below the rim that only slightly conveys the feeling of looking up at the rim instead of down from it. I wish we could have spent a few days down near the river but the time and effort is immense. As it was, I tested my 60 year old frame cumming back up — registering 47 floors on my iphone health app. All for one shot a trying to capture the feeling on a 9 x12 canvas board. As an American I felt responsible for achieving something significant artistically. That’s a lot of pressure and in a way it was entirely a wrong way of approaching it. Just go and see and paint like you would anything else—easy to say.
We cut our trip short so we could spend a lazy day driving to Las Vegas— a smart idea as it worked out. We drove West we stopped at several spots on Route 66 and the Hover dam before getting to the craziness of Vegas. Leon and I flew back to Atlanta while Dario returned home to Sidney. We attended the Olmsted Plein air the next weekend then he traveled on to Apalachicola for the Forgotten Coast gig. I stayed home and began my revisions on the work. After several weeks I’m still working my way thru, trying not to ruin the impressions but yet ad some of the drama and awe that I experienced.
Mather Point Sunrise. 12 x16″, oil on linen. This was the first painting I did. We set up right on the south rim from this famous, and probably most viewed part of the canyon. It’s right near the main park facility and only minutes from our lodge. We were up before dawn but I don’t think we got here until a few hours after. Leon did a wonderful 8×16 here that the tourist were paying a lot of attention to. This is almost straight plein air —very little was done to this in the studio. Most notably the background darks were blued and lighted a bit. I was working almost twice the size that the boys were and I’m a bit methodical as it is—I guess this was three hours. This is one of the few paintings I did with a tree in it—it’s called a “rim job” when you get a bit of the foreground in. The depth of a 12 x 16″ format pretty much coerced me into this formula throughout the week.
The Desert View Watchtower. 12 x 16″ oil on linen. is one of the coolest parts of the park— we drove out in the afternoon of the first day. About a week earlier I saw a Face Book post from a fellow painter with a photo of this tower in it and I freaked out—It’s just so cool! It’s was designed as a companion piece to the older lodges by Mary Colter. It’s pure fanatasy, sort of like the Palace of Westminster – looks old, but it’s not. Built in 1932 but ooks like something out of medieval Europe. It has and Native American theme to it inside but I’ve never seen anything like this. When we got there I was anticipating that the light would change dramatically and the top would darken but as the afternoon progressed the light went from left to shadows on the right. The original plein air was pretty good but I had such a vision of what this should be that I’ve eventually changed a lot. I’m still working on it—needs a bit more atmosphere up top and I put in the ravens because they were such a big part of the experience. Everything in my left side brain said —no, don’t do it! but I’ve just got to and still not to the point of satisfaction with it. This is at the far east end of the park and the cliffs and background, with the Painted Desert are spectacular—a “must visit” if you’re going.
Tanner Canyon. 9 x 12″ oil on linen. Just below the Wathchtower is an impressive view of the canyon and one of the few places you can actually see the Colorado. This was revised from a very rough version that I did in less than an hour. Scale is an issue with everything you paint at the canyon and those bushes help a bit making this rock look bigger than it did when I first painted it in. It’s about 40 feet tall.
View from Bright Angel. 12 x 16″, oil on linen. Next morning we were up early and over to the lodge area of the park. Here are the two oldest and nicest lodges in the park: The El Tovar and Bright Angel were built in the classic style with logs—post and beam. Both have that old lodge look and feel with the El Tovar—built in 1919, being the premier spot to stay on the rim. This painting—done right from the back of the Bright Angel lodge features the enormous sandstone escarpment to the left that has a yellow tint to it, right below the rocks change to a deep red. The sanstone band of lighter rock can be seen all around the canyon. Below is a fantastic view of the washes and mesas—somewhere behind and below that first ridge is the river. I really worked on this painting, the escarpment was too yellow at first and I had problems with the making the bushes look small—it throws the whole scale of it off if you get them in too big. In the background the way the cliffs wash out is typical of the canyon. Once you figure out how that works you can apply it to just about everything. It’s more of and erosion feature —each change in rock level has a different hardness and erodes more or less. Red and pink is the predominant color and the shadows are purple but look better if they are shifted to the blue side.
The Indian Garden. 9 x 12″, oil on linen. This is a view looking almost straight down from the rim onto the Indian Garden which is part of the Bright Angel Trail. I was obsessed with this mesa that is about a thousand feet below the rim and jets out toward the river. It has this trail that you can see —like a little ant trail. This is almost abstract and I was intrigued by the tonal variations of the hills and the grove of trees that follow a creek. I wanted to go down there but the hike takes four hours out and six back! This one of my favorites from the entire group of work.
Grandview Sunset. 12 x 16″, oil on linen. Later in the afternoon of the second day we drove out to what was supposed to have the best sunset in the park—Gandview Point. It was crowded as the sunset and I did the rather dramatic view with a very dark foreground.
Moonrise at the Canyon. 9 x 12″, oil on linen. Before we left Grandview I did a small 9 x 12 on a lark of the moon rising over a very oddly tilted rock formation. I can remember that Leon was excited by this splap’n dash impression but I scraped it down after letting it dry for a few days before we left. From the stain and a photo I was able to recreate it when I got back in the studio.
Bright Angel Sunset —12 x16 oil on linen. The next day Leon took ill and I went with Dario in the early afternoon to Yavapai for the painting at the top of the blog. Come evening, Leon felt better and we spent the time painting from the back of Bright Angel. This features the trail out to the end of the mesa and a rather unique rock outcropping that took a lot of our attention. The darker cast of this is actually accurate but the view is a bit of a mash up with actually little detail being visible below from this vantage point just north of Bright Angel Lodge. We had huge throngs of people watching us do these.
The trail from Hermit’s Rest— 12 x16 oil on linen. The next morning we were up early to catch the bus out to Hermit’s Rest at the far west of the Park. Hermits Rest is one of four Mary Jane Colter Buildings —and like the watchtower is made to look like an native North American Indian structure. We hardly looked! It was our intent to get down into the canyon for a view beneath the rim and this was supposed to be the best spot for this. We hiked down the trail and were greeted with a 40 mph wind! Wind and pochade boxes do not mix but we struggled on to a point we thought was shielded by a cliff to our right. To be truthful, I think it was worse. I set up and started, Dario got going but Leon, still a bit under the weather decided to just sit. Dario was up ahead of me and getting the worst of it so Leon actually held on to his rig for him while he painted. I was doing alright with a 50lb. rock in my ruck attached to me tripod but it was still shaky! I pushed the contrast between the dark foreground and the very washed out background to the max. Dario was right around the bend holding on for dear life!
The Start of It All. 8 x16″, Oil on mahogany ply. On the way back later in the afternoon we stopped at Mohave Point another of the view stops on that west side of the park. I did this tall view of the canyon and the Colorado far below. The light was rather flat but worked well in this and although it was refreshed in the studio, I believe it still has the look of the original and is one of mt favorite paintings of the trip.
Sunset from the El Tovar. 12 x 16′. oil on linen. That evening we spent a few nice hours hanging around the El Tovar bar drinking beer and eating chili. I did this sunset that evening with another crowd of on lookers. Most of the magic was put in in the studio weeks after. Leon even contributed that bit of hot orange to the front bolder that I think makes it.
Halfway to Horsehoe Mesa —9 x 12″, oil on linen. Little painting—huge effort! The last day there I spent most of it hiking down from Grandview Point towards Horsehoe Mesa. I say “towards” because I never made it! I packed this back up on my pochade box strapped to my but so I could use both hands crawling up the rocks. Canyon Condensed. 12 x16″, oil on linen. The final painting—the view off Yavapai point on the last day. A cold and windy day—the only one we had with poor weather and the only clouds we saw all week. It’s more of a graphic but explains a lot about the canyon’s colors and shapes.
Over the last several years I have spent quite a bit of timeon Sloan Street in Roswell. The road reaches back east towards Big Creek ( or Vickery Creek, as some call it) from Atlanta Rd. and is about a mile long. Many of the houses are original and date back to the 1850s —before the Civil war. I usually park at the mill and hike up the street looking for targets of opportunity.
On Valentines Day and I was up early and over to Roswell where I found myself in front of this older yellow home with this slouching metal roof. I’ve scouted this spot before so I wasted no time setting up. It backs up to the creek with the ridge behind it about a mile away. With the slight back light gave it a greenish tint against the blue behind. The dog in the painting started barking about 10 minutes in and kept it up for hours. I felt bad about the neighbors on a Sunday morning trying to relax but, I was as stubborn as the dog put it out my mind. Finally a guy came out, he said to me “just let him sniff you and he’ll settle down” So I went up to the mixed beagle and reached down reluctantly—he gave me sniff and scampered over to a tennis ball then came back and pushed it through an opening in the fence. I threw it a few times for him until he appeared to have enough. He sat by the fence for the next hour as I finished up but never barked again.
This last Sunday was cloudy and I found myself back over and in front of this classic bungalow. I had to watch that I kept the tone a shade or two under the brightness of the sky or it just would have no weight to it at all. This house features a curious post and beam fence only about a foot off the ground. I guess it’s all for show because it’s not stopping anyone or anything. I stuck with the straight on view to play up that symmetry, many times a rendering at three quarters is just too much like a real estate sales photo. I tried to find some information about this house online but found nothing. The two chimneys certainly date it to the last part or mid 19th century.
On the Mill side of the street near the corner with Atlanta Street are two rows of apartment style housing called the Bricks. They were built by Roswell King, the founder of the town in 1840 to house his textile mill workers. Supposedly these are the oldest style apartment homes in the South. They remind me of row hoses you might see in Philadelphia or Boston. Many have now been rebuilt into upscale expensive town homes. The two paintings here show the attractive warm white they have been painted—but I’m sure they were brick red at one time.
The mill, which is a block south of Sloan was burnt to the ground by Sherman. The Bricks and the houses on Sloan St. were spared and although most of the appear to be built a bit later they are none the less the oldest domestic homes in the area. Most are one story bungalow style, some still with metal roofs. The side streets too are populated with these hardy little homes that have seen generations grow up and grow old.
The paintings below were painted in 2013 and all are 9×12″, a size that for several years I painted almost exclusively. Since, I’ve found that it takes me no longer to do a 12 x16 so I do less this small size. I’ve been accused of “Fence Porn” and I admit I do love a good fence. The trick I have learned recently is to paint them a little more suggestively now. You don’t have to get every picket in there. Best to leave them a little out of focus too. Working on the shaded house porches is my favorite part—when you can get that sun off the roof working with the shade you really get a nice feeling of light. In plein air painting it’s about the most important element.
If you’d like to try your hand at a few houses I’ll give you a couple of more tips. Use a very large flat to start —heck use it for a good long time. It’s much easier to do straight box shapes like walls, windows and doors. The sharp edge of the brush is like a ruler. Colley Whisson taught me to cut a 2″ flat down from the ferrule with a single edge razor blade —just a bit both sides. This gives you a razor edge. He says it’s like customizing your brush for the work you do. Give it a try with and old brush first —be careful not cut yourself. Also, I spend a lot of time on the darks, basically the whole painting, other than the sky is dark. All the shadows, all the upright surfaces. I use a fast drying medium that sets up pretty quick with thin paint so when I go at it with my lights I can go right over them – no problem. Use some nice thick paint for the lights. The sun lighted sides of the houses, foliage and grass—mix a bunch up and break up the colors with several close shades, cool and warm. Finally, just about every house reflects tremendous light, white ones especially. Get those greens shinning under the eves and you’re on you way to a nice painting!
Some times in the heat of the summer I just use mineral spirits instead of a medium because your brushes can get stiff but other that Archival Oils Odorless Lean is all I use. A caveat would be that you must clean your brushes promptly. Go home at the end of the day use a brush washer and mineral spirits then I soap out and oil every bush that you use—you don’t want this medium drying in a good brush.
Other than the classic southern shotguns and dogtrots there are a few attractive colonial two story homes tucked in between like the two above. They too look mid 19th century but I have no information on them. As I mentioned, this area is very trendy now and unfortunately have, like the one in “Blue Backyard” below been completely updated and are unrecognizable from when I painted them just a short time ago. The house in the painting at the bottom with the dog on the porch burnt to the ground last year and has yet to be replaced. 19th century architecture in general is vanishing fast, so get out there and do your best to preserve some history!
House portraits can get you some work too, I’ve picked up several commissions from folks walking their dog or strolling by and noticing me. It’s way to pick up a little cash and get better at what you do. I’ve managed to get quite a portfolio of work that has some beauty and also some historical value. I suppose it’s not everyone’s cup of tea— but that’s what makes art and plein air painting so neat. Every painter has his own likes and interests.
As Big Creek meanders through Roswell GA in loops back on itself to form an oxbo. Oxbo Rd. intersects Atlanta Street and runs east along the creek for several miles. This is one of the older sections of town and has escaped the development that has affected most of Roswell—for now at least. I was drawn to the simple forms of old homes here, mostly two bedroom small bungalows looking like they were built in the 30s of 40s. There are a few parks in the area too and a month or so back I did a painting of this snag along a rain swollen area of the creek that almost resembles a canal. I started paintings of the houses in an area that is now being redeveloped right on Oxbo about 500 feet from the corner with Atlanta St. There is a small driveway on the right that you can pull over on and park. I took advantage of this to do two paintings of the these rather small but interesting houses. They have their own charm and both feature some color that makes them stand out.
This first house sits on Pleasant Hill Rd. an it’s painted a bright red. It has a huge oak tree beside it and the painting is about the tree as much as the house. I started this 12 x12” and put in several hours then returned and put in another few hours just finishing up last weekend. It’s bathed in sunset light and has a lot of shadows. The very blue winter sky as a backdrop was hard to control but instead of playing it down I played it up and it makes for quite a shocking red/blue color combination.
This other view across to Maple St. features two houses on 8 x 16 board. I spent a few hours on this early one Saturday morning on one of the coldest days of the year. I used the Zorn palette —black, white, yellow ocher and cad. red for this. It was a good idea at the time and only spent a few hours on it using the rest of the day on another project. When the painting dried it had very little life to it, so last weekend I decided to give it a few more hours. This time I use my full palette and worked on in the late afternoon. It’s almost directly opposite the red house so it was backlit with the sun picking up on the side of the houses, picket fence and some of bare trees. One house is a pale yellow and the other very dark so this gives it a nice contrast. While working I had a visitor —Mark Reed. Mark explained to me that he actually owned both of the houses in the painting—what’s the chance of that? We talked for a bit about the area and he then he left as I finished up. Later that day he texted me and said he wanted to buy the painting for his wife for Valentines Day.
Although not in the the Oxbo neighborhood I worked on few other paintings the last few weekends including another 8 x 16″ that features a very cool art deco gas station—Roswell Auto Tech on Atlanta Street about a block north. The owner is always parking vintage cars out front and a few weeks back I did a small 9 x 10 of a vintage red Mercury Marauder behind his shop. This last weekend I was attracted to a bright yellow old Ford F-100 parked on the North side. A few sessions and some careful work made for a few colorful paintings. The one with the truck with the center of interest to the far right—unusual.
I spend a lot of time in Roswell, perhaps one day I’ll find a gallery that will display my work. I’ve been to three so far with little interest but I’m going to keep at it. All I can say is that the local people are starting to take some notice.
I’m a bit of a fanatic and tend to do things to the extreme, good or bad. Of course painting is one of those things. My subject matter is not all that radical though—I like architecture. My first plein air classes were with John Guernsey, who lives here in Marietta and I consider him very skilled and I learned a lot from the sessions I had with him. One of his classes met at a park in Marietta and he had us paint views of the older southern houses on the road directly across the street. I have always been a big fan of Southern domestic architecture—classic proportions, simplified ornament. You might call this style Classical Revival and I’m drawn to them like a bee to honey and in this section of Atlanta they are plentiful.
Again, I tend to the extreme side of the board when it comes to subjects —I like the grand plantation homes! Here in Roswell there is an entire group of homes built by the founders and early farmers that settled this area. The old section of Roswell from the square down to Canton street is covered with fantastic examples. There are three large plantation homes , Bulloch Hall, Barrington Hall and the Smith Plantation.
I’ve painted Barrington Hall several times. It’s your classic Greek Revival plantation mansion designed by Willis Ball in 1839 with huge two story fluted columns on three sides—magnificent! And the grounds are nice too with a long and wide view of the front. Last year I did a view straight on 18 x24″. I’ve also done several vignettes. Of all the areas grand homes I like this the best. It’s right south of the square at the end of Mimosa Street in Roswell, you can park there and walk up the stairs to see it.
Bulloch Hall is about a block west and is famous for being the home of Theodore Roosevelt’s mother, Mittie Bulloch. Its on a wonderful property with outlying buildings and ample parking. You can tour all of these fine homes, honestly I have not—Too busy painting pictures of them. I’ve also painted Naylor Hall on Canton Street, a smaller but equally attractive home that has gone thru some changes from it’s original look and now is used as banquet facility.
Last Springl I spent the day on Bulloch Avenue and painted and a view of the Hall with blooming dogwood plus a smaller view of the lovely Mimosa Hall. This home is hard to see and is a private residence with a long stone drive that leads down to the home. It’s unique in having a sandstone veneer front, with the white trim and square columns. I did this early in the day and it’s 10 x11″, so small. It was cloudy so I forced the light a bit but I enjoyed working with the foliage on either side of the drive and the subtle shadows. The view of Bulloch is much grander and rendering this house was a challenge. It has two sets of columns, one inset into the front of the facade —interesting and unique. The huge fluted outside columns tower above and reflect the light and green grass of the large expansive lawn out front. I’ve painted here before but my skills were not enough that first time around, I hope I did a better job this time.
Just recently I spent a few days over at the Smith Plantation—it’s right next to city hall. Of the three it’s the most confined and is more like a farm house. I believe several of the outlying buildings, some of which are very interesting were moved nearer the main house at one point—I would guess to reduce the acreage, which is on prime property. I have just finished three views, one of the back of the main house, a smaller 9 x12 of the cookhouse and a 12 x12″ of the charming caretaker’s cottage.
All in all there is not a lot of room to get a good painter’s view of the front of the house—I’m still working out some ideas. As an update I’ve done the painting of the main house from the front just recently. It took two days and several hours in the studio to get it done and it benefited from the lack of foliage this time of the year.
The grounds are open and available to anyone who would like to visit these historic homes. I appreciate the dedication of the staffs and the community that supports them to keep these structures alive and healthy.
It’s Winter or stick season as we plein air painters call it. Trees are hard enough to paint let alone when they are just brown sticks in the sky. At least we have plenty of pines in Georgia to keep a haze of green in our paintings. I’m always perplexed as to where to go to paint this time of year but I think I’ve finally figured it out. The Chattahoochee near Roswell has an estuary, just like ones on the coast, a large flat flooded area where, in this case, Big Creek dumps out into the river. I paint Big creek —or Vickery Creek as some call it, a lot. In any case this area where the creek feeds into the river is wide and low and the river spills out into the surrounding flats with many small islands and flooded areas. Without any leaves this area is open and gives the painter long uninterrupted vistas that the light and atmosphere can have effect on.
I’ve had some luck over the last few weeks here and up the creek a bit. Water is always a good thing when the there is little sunlight and with all the rain lately it amplifies what little light there is. I started along Willeo Rd. at the park near the fishing platform and progressed north up the road near the Chattahoochee Nature Center. You can park in the nature center without paying a fee but you can not go onto the boardwalk there with out paying. If you have not been there, go ahead pay and check it out but the views are obstructed for the most part so you are better off along the road, just be careful to set up near an open view with enough space that you are not too close to the road. There are several “holes” where you can get a good view, one right near the center entrance. A few Saturdays back I parked at the corner of Azalea Dr. and Willeo in the St. Francis school parking lot there and hiked south towards the nature center. Just past the intersection is a great view North/East and I was able to catch a good sunrise on a small 8 x 10 board and then a longer 8×16 about an hour later.
The next Saturday I parked at the Willeo Rd. Park and sat on the hill behind the parking lot for this view of the sun rising over the ridge. Afterword I was fortunate to notice the sunlight showing off the view up the hill right across the road—two for one! Hey, if your around and want to paint just email me or call 404-702-3646. Happy painting.
It’s been an unfortunate Fall.Way too much rain, especially on the weekends. The leafs have just been washed off the trees and without some sunlight there is little to see. Saturation takes bright light and without it all you have is a two dimensional pattern of reds, grays, oranges and an occasional yellow. Still I need to paint, and on the few nice days during the last few weeks I managed to get may act together and get some work done.
Three weeks ago I had a free Friday afternoon so I gathered my kit together and drove over to Mabry Farm where I’m treated like family now. I park the Z and wonder off into the pasture unhooking the electric fence as if I owned it. I like this and I hope don’t abuse Levada and Jim’s relaxed hospitality. On that day I was freshly inspired by a few video demos by Phil Stark that I watched on his website. The subjects—working from photos (which I never do…) one on color, and another on atmospheric perspective were interesting to me but his pdf on Modern Masters was very good and the insights he brings are first rate and inspiring. So as I walked down the hill to the back of the pasture along the fence line —I was looking for a very defined separation of light and shadow that I could work with. I’ve been using my iphone camera a lot to frame up views —even though it’s only really worthwhile at a distance. The lens distorts too much up close. In combination with the Value Viewer app it can give you some helpful and time saving results. After just saying I don’t paint from photos too! I really see this as a tool—nothing else. I took about a dozen quick shots from 100 yards or so back and then reviewed them and picked the best. I then switched to Value Viewer and did a few quick tonal and notan conversions. Taking this I transferred the view onto board very roughly and got to work. This is quicker than thumbnails by a long shot and I still use a stick of vine charcoal to get the basics in—often wiping and redrawing. It gets you to the paint quicker and when light is moving that’s critical.
So this first Fall painting (9×12″ above) is all darks and lights, color and composition. It went together quickly and with out much reworking. The paint is good and thick and the color is pretty clean —a tip from Mr. Stark. I also used a bit of his reddish purple up front in the shadows. A few hours later I was hoofing back up the hill to my car. After a visit with Mr. and Mrs. Mabry I was home in time for early dinner.
Saturday was partly cloudy and I ventured over to McFarlane Nature Park to see if the Ginko trees had turned yellow yet…not yet. So I wandered around a bit and ended up with a view looking up the hill toward the old white barn they now use as a garage on the property. It has a nice stone foundation built from Sope Creek rocks, the same used to construct the two chimneys on the main farm house—more Sope Creek rocks later. The shadows were off and on and this 12 x12 was hard to wrestle into shape but I finally got the pattern pleasing and finished it up.
I spent another hour there working on a 8 x 16 view of the fence parallel with the wide format leading back to a group of trees that had turned a deep red. It was late in the afternoon and a huge shadow darken these trees in a very interesting way. I didn’t finish, so I took it home and put several more hours on the easel. I added a figure walking a dog and ended up with an interesting piece I call —No, this way
On Sunday the light was gone but I had an idea to go to Sope Creek and work up a large plein air version of the old paper mill that stands right on the creek. It was burned down during the Civil War and it has a very disturbingly cool vibe to it. I’ve painted it before and I stretched a 30 x 24 canvas a few weeks ago with the thought of starting a studio version from my prior plein airs. But with a very gray day I thought I might as well see if I could do anything with it to this size—the light was going to stay the same pretty much all day so it would give me time to work on the larger scale without shadows changing much. I use a big pochade box —Judsen’s French Resistance large and it has spring loaded easel arm that extends a good size. It’s one of the reasons I use this kit and what I take on in extra weight gives me the advantage of using a much larger range of sizes. Still, I had a good hike into this spot, but last time I was there I noticed a condominium complex much nearer to the creek than the parks parking lot. I found it on Google and by taking Columns Rd. in and parking in the complex I was able to cut down on the hike-in considerably—no problem.
Again, I did some prep work with my iphone but with less results this time, it was just too flat—with no light. Still, I was able to get everything pretty well proportioned and I got to work on a rough-in. Lately I’ve been using Old Holland red oxide for this work. It’s not as red as alizarin—in fact I hardly use alizarin at all now. I used a lot of cad. orange on the rough-in too—maybe a bit too much. I spend a lot of time on the darks now days—about 75% of the painting. It’s basically a tonal drawing that I gradually introduce mid tones to and then finish off with the light. On such a gray day is was hard to get much definition but the stream up front and a bit of fall color behind helped. Finally, I got it into shape and put in the lights and the leaves on the trees. I thought it looked pretty good and at the time my intention was to work off some of my initial photos and my previous plein airs and finish it in the studio. So I packed up and hiked back to the Z.
This is the painting above and I was pleased with it as it was but it did not have that ominous feeling that I first envisioned. The more I looked at it the more ambivalent I became—this painting just was not what I was looking for, to bright, not spooky enough! I thought I’d better give it a few days and ten take another look. Thursday evening I brought it out again and decided that “nothing wagered, nothing gained” so I mixed up some darks and really went over it good. At that point I thought I give it another few days to dry then scrape some of the thicker paint off and put in some lights.Truth was, I was still very iffy on it.
Friday I was invited to go with my wife and her cousin to Helen. They wanted to do some shopping and I have some property up there that needed checking on. I love North Georgia so I busted my but and got all my work out of the way so I could go up for the day. I put my kit in the car just in case but as Friday came the weather was still terrible—hardly a beam of sunlight. We drove up in rain and after checking on the property I had my wife drop me off in front of the Old Sautee Store. This valley is one of the prettiest areas anywhere with the Chattahoochee River flowing through it and views of Mt. Yonah in the background. As they left me to go shopping it was as if the Lord parted the clouds and out popped the sun! A cluster of newly built stores (Sautee Village) across the street from the store included one with wine tasting bar and a deck out the back. I asked if I could set up and they had no problem, so I got to it quickly. The view was petty perfect and the bright light saturated the fields in front of the distant blue mountain and back lighted the clouds. I had a great time and just as I was finishing up the clouds rolled in again.
Saturday I raked wet leaves and cleaned off my driveway—even a painter has chores. Sunday I woke up to a drizzle of rain and more gray skies. The heck with the Falcons —they stink this year anyway and off I went back to Sope creek with my supersize plein air to see what I could do. This day was even worse than the last foray—cold and rainy. Only the hardcore will paint in this weather. What can I say—I’m pretty hardcore. It was amazing how much the view had changed in a week. The rain had raised the level of the creek a foot and there were many less rocks, the water was darker, everything was darker…just as I envisioned it. So another three hours of plein air work got me to the version below. Am I done?
Anders Zorn, the famous 19th century Swedish painter is said to have painted most of his work with a very limited palette—ivory black, cadmium red, yellow ocher and white. Blue is the big missing ingredient and in my book it’s pretty important, but I’ve been looking for something to give me a fresh approach, so for the last month or so I’ve done several paintings using this formula. For rainy days it’s ideal, the overall grayness that comes with the use of black can really unify the look and color. I’m finding that ivory black is not as potent as I thought it might be and that the darks although a bit dull and colorless are easier to control. A few things that don’t work are large buildups of black by itself and just like any plein air work you must hold those darks back so you can use them up front otherwise you loose a lot of dimension.
This first painting is from Vickery Creek—a very nice spot here in Roswell GA, with a myriad of different subjects —one of my go to places. This was my first try and the greens here are all pretty much the same. More about that later. Here is an example of the darks getting a bit too dark in the background, mostly the the right of the tree.
This second view was painted during the recent Marietta/Cobb Museum Paint Out and is an alley about a block from the museum. It was the first painting I did that weekend and the most successful. It has good contrasts of cool and warm grays plus some notes of pure red and black that work. I was delighted to win the Mayor’s Prize with this 12 x12″.
These final two paintings were done just a week ago —10/3-4/15 on a very dark and rainy weekend. The first is a small 9 x12″ of the alley on Canton Street in Roswell and the second of the Irish pub Mac MaGee’s near by. The orange that I think helps the alley painting is the shellacked mahogany board showing though. The red painted pub was also a natural for this color combo. I intend to keep at it. I think it’s perfect for the right subject. I can’t say it’s really taught me anything other than I no longer fear using black—something painter’s will warn you of. Mars black might be a bit stronger hue wise, and certainly redder but ivory black shades down to an almost blue gray so you can substitute it for blue in many occasions. The range of greens is limited too—I’m pretty good at varying my green as a rule but with this set up the only thing you can do it mix ocher and black at varying degrees plus ad some red to dull them up. I can say that I do paint faster, just less choices and the work is more tonal —not a bad thing.
For the last month or more I have been busy with visitors and painting as much a possible.
The Olmsted Plein Air event was here for a week and I attened the Quick Paint on Sunday 4/26. They had a very impressive list of painters and I was able to spend some time with the few I know. Of all the recent competitions I wanted to do well here and after some prep work on the previous weekend I was set to preform. I did a 8×16″ and thought my work was good but in the end was not chosen. This perhaps was due to poor placement and some bad choices. I was little stunned but I did sell my painting and that helped my ego a bit.
Australian artist Leon Holmes and new wife Sara came to Atlanta on their way to the Forgotten Coast gig at the end of April. They have been touring and painting the West after attending the Plein Air Convention in California. I picked them up at the Atlanta Airport and after a day or so here we traveled down to Apalachicola for the event. On the way down we met up with fellow painter David Boyd for a painting session at junkyard filled with vintage 40’s Ford trucks and cars. While there I was stung by some kind of bug on my left foot and ended up limping around for most of my stay in Florida. I was not one of invited artist but I went down for the Quick Paint on Sat. 5/2. Leon and Sara stayed as guests and I rented a hotel room for the few days. I did several paintings in addition to the Quick Paint, sold one but did not finish in the money once again. Still, I had a great time. The weather was perfect – cool and breezy and the oysters were out of this world—fresh and tasty. I drove home Sunday 5/2 by myself.
The Forgotten Coast lasts for ten days and Leon did fantastic—after a huge success last year I was a bit fearful of a possible sophomore slump but again he kicked butt —pretty much selling out. We met back up afterward and they spent a few days here before renting a car and driving up to NYC for a brief stay before flying to London. One cannot but admire the energy they have maintained on their plein air adventure around the world.
Like writers, painters should paint what they know. Plein air painters should paint the places they live near. In my case, I have a wealth of interesting subjects just outside the door. So much in fact that I will leave out the mounds work that I do here on my own property for another post. Instead I’ll show you some of the paintings done just about a block from my neighborhood at Mabry Farm over on Wesley Chapel Rd.
There is a small group of homes and a few farms owned by the relatives of the Mabry family who have been in these parts for over 100 years and have had the forethought to keep their land as rural as they could considering the economic pressures. As you turn on to Wesley Chapel Rd. off Sandy Plains Rd. the entire area here —was once a large landholding of 220 acres. It’s on of the last farms in this part of the county and it’s still used an apiary and a horse pasture with boarding stables. It’s been subdivided here and there but there is still a large tract of pasture facing Wesley Chapel and another behind that with a pond and some forest. Cobb County recently purchased this property and Friends of Mabry are trying to raise enough funds to provide some access to it off Wesley Chapel. I’m not sold on this idea, but if they minimize the footprint then access will be easier and all will benefit. Right now you cannot get back to the pasture without trespassing on private property.
Over the years I’ve done about a dozen paintings here, mostly of the pasture and the original Mabry farmhouse (built 1910) that sits right off the road. I’ve gotten to know some of the family and thankfully they welcome my interest—what painter wouldn’t be enticed by the idyllic views of what once was common place but now is just a romantic reminder of times gone by.