Monday, December 10, 2018

Painting sunlight

"Falling Water" 18x24 Oil

Every season our family spends time in New Hampshire. As a child it was summers at the lake with friends and skiing on vacations and weekends. In 1978, I bought a timeshare and we now go up in the fall and spring as well. Activities have expanded over the years with painting becoming a favorite. Hiking the woods and White Mountains I have encountered so many new painting spots that I couldn't possibly paint them all. The one thing that always captures my attention is the light. It changes the landscape by the minute as it filters in in the morning, dances through the trees and across the snow, hills and water during the day,  creates dramatic skies at dusk and a calming darkness at night. Consistent in the woodland streams are rocky paths cut through the land by rushing water, downed branches that gather along the edges and transparent pools that reveal the bed of the streams concealed elsewhere by white foam and deep dark pools of water.
What attracted me here was the serpentine curve of the stream that created rhythmic patterns of light and dark. The reddish tone of the rocks, pine needles and reflected light compliments the greens of the lush woods. The birches are quintessential NH. This painting represents the feeling I get when walking through the wooded landscape of NH.
I began with an underpainting of transparent red oxide to establish values and  composition. I wanted  to give a warmth that could show through in the final painting. I used underpainting white to establish the flow of the water. After that dried, I blocked in large areas using local color establishing some dark transparent layers first. The painting was built up with a number of layers finding areas to suggest rock forms under the rushing water and illuminating other areas with bright light to bring the viewers eye through the woods and down the stream.

Romancing Capitola

Taking a break in Capitola 30x40 oil painting
After a co worker of my daughter's saw my paintings at her house in Aptos, she asked if I would create a painting of her with her husband as a surprise for their anniversary. I said I would. She texted me a photo to use.
At first I thought the shadows on the rocks were off, but when I enlarged the area I realized they were mussels, not shadows. The photo wasn't too clear, so I enlarged it and then delved into my photos of Capitola so I could get the background area as accurate as possible. The pastel colored homes along the beachfront are iconic as well as the pier and stream. The stream cuts through the beach to flow under a bridge between the yellow restaurant on the right and the pastel homes to it's left. Although the bridge isn't in the photo or painting, I  know it's an important landmark for the downtown. The small stream leading back toward that area is put in to ensure the bridge is acknowledged, although not seen.
I had never painted with florescent colors so had to order the paint. Creating shadows with the new paint were a challenge.  I tested out colors on a canvas pad trying shadows with blues and violets and until I determined what looked right.  Initially I was going to omit the bike on the lower right, but in the end decided to put it in. First, it confirms there are two riders, and second, it leads the viewer into the painting with a diagonal.  Eliminating most of the bicycle's detail prevents the  viewer from lingering there. Since the canvas was so large, I made the birds on the beach in the far left and the mussels prominent details. They are a big part of the sensory experience when visiting this beach. The gulls are always present, moving about in large groups, soaring, then resting and repeating the cycle all day long. The outgoing tide exposes the rocks many treasures then hides them again until the next tide cycle.
When I felt the painting was complete, I texted a photo for approval before shipping. She texted me back:
"IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT! I keep getting my phone to look at your artwork. Honestly, I've looked at about 20 times since you texted. It's breathtaking!"
The painting was challenging. It was large and both a landscape and informal portrait all in one. My daughter visited while I was working on it and told me the figures looked just like them.  I was encouraged. When I got the text, I was both relieved and very happy. The painting now resides in CA.

Remembering special moments

Grandfather's precious Moment 18x24 Oil

A friend of a friend referred Sarah to me. Sarah lives in Manhatten and was looking to commemorate a special moment between her father in law and her new baby. The grandfather met his new grandson at the family's vacation home in VT. Sarah had a photo of the two and wanted a painting setting it in their back yard at their VT home. Shortly after the photo was taken, the grandfather passed away. Sarah wanted to preserve the moment for her husband and son. She asked if I could combine some photos to set them in the yard with the family Burmese mountain dog. I looked forward to the challenge.  I did some preliminary sketches for her approval and she was excited with the ideas I showed her. 
The most difficult part was establishing a perspective that looked like the figures belonged in the setting; establishing the perspective and the light source. I removed boxes from the photos that were in the yard from unpacking adirondack chairs and included 2 chairs in the setting to give a sense of the scene she had described to me. Spending 24 years visiting my daughter and son when they lived in VT gave me a solid sense of what it felt like to sit surrounded by mountains and expansive views. I positioned the red leash to make a connection between the family and the landscape. The adirondack chairs provided a nice sunlit focal point to lead the viewer back into the landscape after pausing to take in the figures. The green expanse is warmed up to emphasize the feeling of the midday sun.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Surf's Up!

Roar of the Surf 30x40 Oil

     Visiting my daughter in CA always leads to a new painting. Her home at Seacliff in Aptos gives me constant access to the beautiful beach and surf. She works and I paint. When I get back to MA,  I use my photos and sketches to paint big. In this painting I wanted to portray a sense of the power of the waves as they crashed onto the shore. The surf, with it's multiple layers of waves and criss crossing currents, are fascinating to watch and they command a respect for the force they unleash. The sunlight provides a sculptural effect to the ephemeral forms as they roar in and transform into spindrift and then wash out again.  I used a limited palette with a cloudless sky so that the viewer would focus on the surf and the myriad subtleties of colors within the blues. I hope it evokes a sense of sound as one imagines the senses at this place and time.

A sign from above; painting a story

Show Me a Sign! 30x 40 oil

     When our  god-daughter got engaged, she called to tell me before posting it on social media. She wanted to be sure we knew first. She told me about the proposal and the magical evening at Cold Springs Resort in NH where they were staying.
Her fiance had lost his brother in a motorcycle accident the year before. She had lost her father to ALS at the age of 39. When they returned to the condo that night, they went out on the balcony to toast to their engagement and to tell Steven and Jimmy that they wished they could be there with them. They proclaimed their love to each other and to Steven and Jimmy saying" if you can hear us, give us a sign". At that moment a shooting star crossed the sky.
     I knew the view across the golf course from my many visits over the years. It was off season and night time. I painted the story as their wedding gift and look forward to presenting it to them as a reminder of a special night; and a tribute to 4 special people.


The Marginal Way

Take time to sit by the Sea 18x24 oil

One of my college friends has a summer place on the Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine. We are very fortunate to be invited up to stay with them and enjoy the beautiful coast and it's unique Marginal Way. The walkway runs from Big beach in town all along the coast to Perkins Cove. Plein air painting is a given when I visit. There are so many places to set up and the views are fantastic in any direction. My husband was sitting on the bench contemplating the sea and it was a scene repeated all up and down the miles of walkway as people soaked in the beauty of the ocean views. I liked that his back was to me and that the experience was a universal one. It is my wish that more people would value the wonders of nature and respect it. I hope these experiences are here for future generations. 

Fenway Park

Fenway Park 12x16 Oil
When i heard my nephew was getting married, I knew just what I wanted to paint for a wedding gift. Raised in New England, Kevin is an avid Red Sox fan. He was uprooted to Colorado many years ago as a child, but his passion for the Red Sox remains strong. For several years our son got tickets by 3rd base and we spent many a game sitting  by the Gulf sign. I set out to include the sign and the "green monster". The red fan attire and "green monster" established a perfect color harmony. Afternoon sun provided some nice shadow effects. The painting was really fun to paint and got a warm reception when presented. Kevin's wife has even taken to cheering for the Sox.