Friday, December 30, 2016

A Perfect Ending to the Day

"Day's End",Aptos, CA 12x16 oil

Visiting my daughter since she moved to California has opened up a new plethora of painting possibilities. Her location is perfect for me, a beach lover. While she is at work during the day I can load up my painting gear on her bike and head to different locations along the beach or high on the cliffs overlooking the beaches. Whether it is early morning or late in the day, the sky and water are always dramatic. During the day the beach visitors provide varied additional subject matter. No two days are ever the same and the beauty is always present. This view from Seacliff Beach looking towards Capitola provided an uncluttered composition to focus on the intensity of the experience as the sun went down. I tried to capture the water's movement and undulating colors while implying to the viewer the sounds and smells that accompanied my experience.

A Cape Cod Ritual

"Cape Cod Pastime"  16x20 oil
Every summer when we are at the Cape we pick different spots to watch nature at it's best. Depending where we are during the day, we have some spots we consider prime for this. Skaket Beach is one. Local people come with families and if the tide is low, the reflections of the sunset along with the silhouettes of watchers and their reflections create a dynamic and colorful scene. The little rivulets between the sandbars form patterns of color and shapes that are quite beautiful. In this painting the blue/orange colors help capture the intensity of the landscape. The silhouetted figures represent the various ways people reacted, some in small groups others strolling along the water's edge and some just alone and taking it all in. I was back from the crowd on a bench watching both the people and the sunset. Occasionally boats or birds would appear, but I decided to leave them out this time and make it more about the relationship between nature's palette and the watchers.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Man's Best Friend


 Dogs, dogs dogs!!
Dog lovers are a special group. The requests to paint dogs are more frequent than any other request. Being a dog lover myself, I enjoy doing them and love the expression of joy when people receive them. The hardest part is doing a dog from someone else's photo if the dog isn't accesible to me.  All of these were done from photos that others sent me. The challenge is to try to express something of their personality when I can only use my experience of various breeds to guess at how that might translate to these furry companions.

Hollyhocks Galore!

This past summer  hollyhocks lined the walkway to my back door. They greeted me when I went out and welcomed me when I returned. How could I resist painting them? When I was little, my mother always had hollyhocks planted in her summer gardens. These old fashioned flowers are one of my favorites and remind me of  our summers in Marshfield, MA and of our family summer home. I set up my easel and a small stool and quickly started blocking in the flowers. I decided to do a cluster of them, looking up to emphasize their 7 foot plus height. I eliminated the other flora in the scene to keep the focus on the hollyhocks and their rhythmic movement and red/green harmony. The result is fun and spontaneous as I had to work quickly to keep up with the fleeting light.

Painting the Still Life

Margarita Time 11x14 oil

Muffin top 11x14 oil
 Working with still life setups hones observational skills and keeps a focus on composition and color harmonies. Although I thought I would never do another after 36 years of teaching, I have come to appreciate how helpful they are in keeping me focused on the elements of design. I also enjoy painting objects that I have a connection to, often because of personal experiences or family connections. Is it hard for others to connect for these same reasons?
Still life with Starfish 11x14 oil

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Evening tide, Aptos, CA

"Evening Tide"  12x24/oil
My fascination with the ocean has been lifelong. Growing up on the beach, I listened to the waves crashing as I fell asleep at night, smelled the salt air as soon as we got close to home and had the Atlantic shore as my "backyard". I miss it every day, but never stop thinking about it and feel grateful that I was so blessed. I also learned to respect the ocean and it's power. The waves on the Aptos beach were large and loud and only seemed to quiet down when the day ended and the sun was setting. The birds gathered each evening along the shore and there was a kaleidoscope of  different colors each evening. In this painting I chose a blue orange harmony.  I used the water that pooled on the shore to lead the viewers eye through the gulls, back to the surf and beyond to the merging of sea and sky. The long horizontals of the clouds in the sky give a calming effect to contrast with the surf breaking the horizon line and the staccato movement of the birds as they gather on the shoreline. The patches of bright blue sky breaking through the clouds are reflected in the water to unify the painting.

Plein air painting

"On the Rocks"  9x12  oil/2016
 New England weather isn't always cooperative for plein air painting. Some days, however, are perfect and 4th of July was one of those days. There was a clear blue sky, little wind, and it was warm and sunny. We were heading up to North Woodstock, NH for fireworks so decided to go up early and do a little painting. With no clouds, I sought out a spot where there would be shade and shadow patterns. There is access there  to the Pemigewassit River with all of it's  massive rocks, birches and water patterns; just what I wanted. I set up to paint and my husband went over to sit on a rock and read while he waited for me. When I glanced over and saw him sitting there, I knew he would be my subject that day. The colors and composition worked really well without too many modifications. After a quick thumbnail, I worked fast blocking in the value patterns. I knew I would have to settle on a light pattern since the sun angle would be moving and changing while I worked.  I jotted that into my sketchbook. It was a really busy spot with a lot of people swimming in the river. I decided to leave them all out, although many of them came over to chat and watch me paint. So many young kids stood around me that I almost felt like I was back in my classroom giving a demo again. I spent two hours painting and then packed up to leave. My friend, who was downstream painting, came up and we discovered we had both been painting Stu that day. My friend's  painting was from the opposite bank, showing Stu from the back and in the distance. I plan to go back and paint the river another time. I love doing figures in the landscape, but don't often have a "model" willing to sit still for me. For me, getting outdoors to paint is really special and plein air is my favorite kind of painting. I love it!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Bluebirds of Happiness

Happiness 6x6

These bluebirds were part of a much larger photo reference which included other birds, a birdhouse, fence and greenery. I used two birds from the photo to compose a simple little painting with a blue/orange harmony. The pair brings memories from years ago when my Mom and I used to watch the bluebirds in the apple trees where we played tennis. I get bluebirds at the bird feeder here in winter if the winter is harsh. In the good weather they are fairly elusive since we cut down our apple trees. I love their color and the fact that they are associated with happiness. The world needs happy reminders sometimes. As an artist, I need direct and simple at times. I simplified the surroundings and their perch focusing only on the birds and their relationship to one another.  I did this in one quick session.

Pink Hydrangeas

The Pink Hydrangea 11x14

Pink Hydrangea with teapot 12x16
These pink hydrangeas stayed looking great for so long that I ended up painting them twice. Such is the advantage of a potted plant over cut flowers.The first painting I did with a simple pitcher  and focused on the plant and the lighting. I am a big fan of red and love the warmth and harmony of the set up. The second time I painted the hydrangea with more items concentrating  on the overall movement and color harmonies while still keeping the lighting a major element. The fluted and undulating surface of the teapot  added a challenge that the more simplified pitcher did not. The grapes withered half way through and had to be completed mostly from memory. I like the simplicity of the first, but enjoyed the challenge of the second.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Boston Public Garden Delights!

"Elo and the Ducklings" 24x30 oil
My 2 year old granddaughter, Elouise, lives near the Boston Public Garden. I think she thinks  of the Garden, the Common, and the Esplanade as her backyard. We have frequented the "Make Way for Ducklings" sculpture since she was born. Her first spring, summer and fall was spent sitting on the blanket and watching other children climb and play on the ducks. We would pose her on a duck for a photo now and then. By the following spring she was walking and couldn't wait to explore them by herself. I have loved them for a while, but have never spent so much time there until the past two years. The sculptor, Nancy Shon, has brought much delight, not just to children, but to adults too. Robert McCloskey's book delighted generations and inspired the sculpture. The book is a piece of my childhood, and it and many visits to the sculpture inspires me as an artist. My first painting of the ducklings was without  Elo, but now I am adding figures in to my landscapes and Elo is a favorite. I find the duckling compositions work from many different angles and the subject  matter has great appeal. The sunlit bronze reflects surrounding colors and is so tactile. I hope my painting inspires viewers to visit them too, or to recall a memory made there. They'll keep you forever young!

Aptos evening

"Aptos evening"  12x24 oil
My daughter recently moved to Aptos, CA. We drove cross country from VT to CA in January and after seeing many magnificent places along the way, we arrived at her place in Aptos. I felt she had about as perfect a view as anyone could have. The beach in front of her condo is magnificent from the moment the sun starts to rise in the morning until it sets at night. Rain and fog only add another mysterious dimension. Even in the dark the sounds and smells are a sensory delight. This painting is from our very first evening there. We walked to the bottom of the hill and watched the sun set towards Capitola. The birds were all lined up along the beach and the colors were vibrant and constantly changing. It was a different feeling than an Atlantic sunset, each with it's own special beauty. Each night after, the scene would repeat itself in one form or another and I will probably paint a few more while it is still fresh in my head.

It's Bird Park again

"Contemplation" 11x14 oil

Certain subjects will always be in my repertoire. Bird Park is one of them. No matter how often I go there and paint there, I never will be "done". I decided this time to try something a bit different from previous paintings of this bridge and put a figure in the landscape. I continue my relationship with using light as a compositional  and unifying element. When I had my friend pose on the bridge, I intentionally viewed her from the back. Most anyone can relate to having the sun on their shoulders, contemplating nature and listening to the sounds of summer. As someone who frequents the park,  there is a magical connection. I worked with analogous colors mainly-blue green, blue, and blue violet, using orange in the light for a harmonious effect.

Winston Flowers

"Winston Flowers"  11x14 oil

When my friend received these flowers, she pleaded, "You have to paint them!" I was a little resistant because I knew I would have to get it done that morning or they would be dead before I saw her (and them) again. But the petite bouquet was so perfect, and the packaging made such a statement, that I decided it would be worth giving it a try to see if I could do it justice. When studying the tiny little vase of flowers, all I could think was "Good things do come in small packages". It was such a perfect little arrangement! The flowers composed the painting by simply setting them in front of the gorgeous package they arrived in. Although the bag was very dark, I continued my efforts to make the light entice the viewer  and add movement. The tiny little fern like patterns in the greens and the meandering ribbon and cellophane added a nice rhythm to the piece.
Update 4/12/16-I just received news that this painting was awarded first place at the Foxboro show at the Gallery at Patriot Place. I am honored and happy I accepted the challenge!

Still life variations

"Havest Glow "

"Tea for Two"  11x14 oil
My focus recently has been to try to bring more exciting light into the painting. Moving the paint around, playing with edges, exaggerating colors and pushing the contrast has all been part of my experimenting. I am always drawn to reds and like the warm feeling it imparts.

Take me out to the ballgame....

"Buy me some Peanuts and Crackerjacks"  11x14 oil

Everyone is familiar with the springtime favorite; "take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the park, buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks...". Applicable to any team, the subject matter has universal appeal for the baseball crowd. It  appealed to the fan and the artist in me and was a really fun experience to paint. Because of the familiarity of the box, much of the design is suggested rather than detailed. The peanuts are used to lead the viewers eye into and around the composition. I made the baseball glow with warmth so the viewer wants to pick it up. The predominate reds may have a little Boston bias, but what can I say-? I am from Boston after all.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Belgian Shepherd

"Rich's buddy"

At the art gallery I sometimes see this beautiful dog. I discovered it belonged to the Winsmith Mill manager. It was my mission to get a photo of the dog and surprise him with a painting. I got it done just in time for Christmas and now he can always have his dog at work with him. He was both surprised and pleased.

Cape Cod's Red Boats

HERO  24x30
A favorite painting spot near us on the Cape has always had a red boat anchored. After painting it and discovering a second red boat the following year, I was compelled to paint it again. This time I did it larger. The second boat was named the Hero and I liked idea of it as a service boat headed out to help other boaters. When a couple really wanted the painting, but didn't like the name on the boat, I agreed to change it. I thought the whites were needed to carry the eye rhythmically back from one boat to the next and was afraid it might spoil that movement, but after removing it, the painting looked just fine and they were very pleased. I am glad I am not wedded to my work.

Still Life whites

"Ready to Relax" 11x14 oil

"Time will Tell" 11x14 oil
A few items grouped together can suggest a moment or a mood. Fresh fruit and flowers can be carefully combined with other objects to make an appealing composition and, at the same time, have a visual appeal that triggers a memory or desire that relates to a viewer. After deciding on a color harmony and the best  angle for viewing, I make a thumbnail sketch to familiarize myself with the values and relationships before blocking in. Next I block in my values and large masses. After that, I start to bring the shapes into a recognizable form before finally adding the details.

Christmas Creations

Holiday Skate 2015
 Every year I love decorating for the holidays and bringing some color and cheer to my walls. It is fun to change out paintings for a while and alter the feel of the spaces where we spend a lot of time with friends and family. Being together feels warm and cheerful and that is the mood I try to impart in the paintings. When deciding on colors, I warm them up and add a luminous effect with highlights and reflections. I have supplied the family each with a Christmas painting of their own, but will keep doing one  or two each year just for the sheer joy of painting them. I seem to be leaning toward some white motifs lately and enjoy exploring all the colors that are "white".
Glowing 2015