Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

"Fresh Snow (from the studio window)", oil on gessoed paper, 5 x 7

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays!  I had a great time with my family in Saratoga Springs NY and Ridgefield CT.  It's been a busy month traveling which partially accounts for my absence from the blog.  The main reason I have not posted very much is that I am starting to take my work in a different direction.  I took two classes in the past few months that have really impacted the way I create my artwork.  I will discuss these two classes and what I learned from them in more detail in subsequent posts.  I will devote more time in the coming year to doing the the preparatory work that goes into creating a piece of art:  drawing, design, conceptual refinement, color studies.  I am going to use my plein air pieces as real studies and not as just little copies of the scenes I happen to find wherever I may be at the time.  The bottom line is that I want to take my work to the next level in the coming year which will require a lot of hard work that doesn't necessarily result in something that can be posted on a blog everyday.  I will be working on ways to make this blog more interesting for those of you who like to look at art every day and those who create art every day!  I will keep you posted  .  .  .

See you next year!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tortola Palms

"Edge of Water", 6 x 6, oil on panel

I am currently in Nanny Cay Marina in Tortola (British Virgin Islands).  It is beautiful here right now.  Sunny and warm!  I know.  Life is tough sometimes!  I have been sketching the trees around the marina as part of the coursework for the design class I'm taking.  I like the colors in this little study.   The assignment was just to do black and white thumbnails but I had my paint bag with me and took the opportunity to do a little painting as well.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Masterwork Study

This is a 6 x 6 oil study of a Chauncy Ryder painting.  Copying a masterwork is a great way to learn about color, value and design.  I have done many of them in the past but am doing more these days as part of an online design class with Deborah Paris.  I will post more about the class later this week but so far it's been very educational.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Marsh and Dunes

"Provincetown Dunes",  6 x 6, oil on panel

I have been revisiting my Cape Cod pictures.  They remind me of summer.  The small paintings continue . . .

"Marsh at Twilight,"  6 x 6, oil on panel

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Oil Painting on Paper

"Newport Field Study", 6 x 6, oil on paper

I have been looking for an inexpensive surface to use for oil sketching.  I hate to use an expensive panel or piece of linen for "doodling"!  I hit upon the perfect solution this morning.  I took a piece of heavy etching paper and coated it with three layers of gesso.  The surface is smooth but there is enough texture from the brush marks to make it interesting.   This is basically the same process that I use for my homemade sanded pastel paper but without the addition of grit or marble dust.  I like this surface a lot - the paint kind of glides on in the first layer.  The downside, though, is that works on paper always have to be framed with glass which negates the cost saving aspect of using paper instead of linen!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Miniature Painting Season

"Saratoga Fields, 6 x 6, oil on wood

Nine small paintings and counting!  I don't know when it happened but the Christmas season is now the season of miniature paintings.   The galleries want to offer their clients a broad range of moderately priced artwork for the holiday buying season hence the current rash of "little paintings" everywhere.  I always paint small studies anyway to determine if I want to spend the time and effort on a larger version.  I actually would have kept a few of these minis for larger pieces but they had to get to the gallery.  You can see these paintings and a lot more at Sorelle Gallery in Albany.  The show opens Saturday so stop by if you are in town!

"Maine Cove", 6 x 6 , oil on wood

Sunday, November 4, 2012

New Oil Painting "Train Trestle"

"Train Trestle", 6 x 6, oil on panel

It may feel like Fall but it is actually Christmas painting season!  Yes, it's time to get all those small paintings done for the holiday shows.  I usually participate in two holiday shows:  the Sorelle Gallery Miniature Show in Albany and the Mark Twain Library Christmas Fundraiser in Connecticut.  So, lots of little paintings for the time being.  I really like the texture and color in the above painting.  As always, the color in the photo is a little off.  The trestle bridge is a more faded color than the saturated red you see in the jpeg.  One of these days I'm going to fix this jpeg problem . . . .

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New Pastels

"Dropping the Traps" Study, 6 x 8 pastel on sanded paper

Finally back in the studio!  Hurricane Sandy disrupted plans for our boat preparation but it all ended up OK and the boat is on its way to the Caribbean.  I hope everyone is safe and enjoying electricity at this point!  These are two new compositions in my Lobstermen series.  I like the diagonal energy of the top pastel but I am not convinced I like the color harmony.  I may need to do another color study for this one.  I also like the study below but may add a little more space around the main figure if I do a larger version.  It's nice to have all my pastels out again.  Unfortunately I can't paint on the boat with my pastels.  It's just too messy!

"Weighing the Catch" Study, 6 x 8 pastel on sanded paper

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Plein Air Painting in Annapolis

"Annapolis Sail", 6 x 8, oil on linen panel

On the move again!  I am in the Annapolis MD area for the next couple of weeks getting the boat ready to leave for the Caribbean.  I'll be back up North for the Fall.  I'm looking forward to some solid studio time for the next couple of months.  We are anchored off the Naval Academy here in Annapolis harbor.  Lots of military boats practicing their maneuvers sail past us all day.  We can also hear the morning calisthenic drill team at reveille!  I was able to quickly sketch a non-military boat this morning for this little study.  I like the soft colors and simplified composition in this.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Misty Paintings and Limited Palette

"Hauling in the Fog" study, 6 x 6, oil on panel

I am continuing with the lobster boat series while I am still in the New England area.  Once I get to the Caribbean I shift to more tropical themes!  I have several references and sketches that I have been playing with over the past couple of weeks.  I am exploring different ways to communicate a misty, moody atmosphere.  Both these studies use a limited palette of three colors to create neutral greys with just a couple spots of pure color.  The looser brushwork in the painting below also helps to create the misty quality of the painting.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Saratoga Battlefield Plein Air

"Saratoga Battlefield", 6 x 8, oil on panel

The photo gremlin strikes again.  I can't get the colors right so you will have to trust me when I say that the mountains are not electric purple in the original.  This was done last week while we were in Saratoga Springs NY.  This beautiful park celebrates the famous Battle of Saratoga which was a turning point in the American Revolution.  This was one of the lookouts where the Americans had set up camp.  The Hudson River lies just beyond the tree line.  It was a beautiful day and I hope to get back to the park and paint more this Fall before the snow falls!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fall Show at Sorelle Gallery

"Early September Marsh", oil on linen, 24 x 24

This painting will be exhibited at the Sorelle Gallery's "Reveal Fall" show starting Friday, September 28th.  The show runs through October 11th so please stop by if you are in the Albany area.  This painting has been on and off my easel for a long time.  I had done several studies in pastel before starting the oil version.  I finally resolved some of the issues that had been nagging me and I am happy with it now.  This piece is quite large for me and I really enjoyed painting larger.  Hopefully more to follow.

Monday, September 24, 2012

September at the Beach

"September at the Beach," 6 x 8 oil on linen panel

I can't believe it's been two weeks since my last post!  We've been traveling between Newport RI and Saratoga Springs NY so it's been busy.  The weather has been beautiful in both places and it is really starting to look and feel like Fall.  It's actually perfect plein air weather.  I like the brushwork in this little study.  I was trying to apply the paint in the same manner as my pastels which tend to be much looser than my oils.  It's something I am really trying to work on.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

End of Summer

"End of Summer", 6 x 8, oil on linen panel

We are taking care of boat things in a marina north of Newport RI.  There are a lot of boats hauled out awaiting their repairs or just hanging out for a while which makes for great plein air subject matter.  This old fishing trawler caught my eye right away.  I think it's one of the "hanging out" boats:  it's been sitting there a while.  The colors in this painting are a light brighter than my usual palette.  I grabbed my paint bag not realizing I had taken several tubes of paint out a few days ago.  I was left with cad yellow, yellow ochre, quinacridone red, transparent red oxide and prussian blue.  I rarely use prussian blue. It is a very strong pigment and can take over the entire palette if not used carefully.   I kind of like the pure color in this but I would like to do another version with my more complete palette to grey it down a bit. I'll post a second version if I get to it in the next day or so.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Plein Air Postcard Syndrome

"Rose Island Lighthouse", oil on linen, 6 x 6

For the life of me I can not get a decent photo of this painting.  I've tried every camera setting and photo editing fix and I can't get the color right.  It is also picking up strange accents like the orange in the sky which is much more subtle and the darks in the rocks which is also more subtle.  Weird.  Any and all photo suggestions are welcome.  Anyway, I did this study using only my sketches which is something I've been trying to practice more and more.  I want to free myself not only from photo references but also from what I call "plein air postcard syndrome."  I think many artists get caught up in the technical challenge of trying to capture a scene exactly as it appears at any given time of day when painting plein air.  I know I do.  While I may not have escaped the postcard aspect in this composition I deliberately focused on finding interesting patterns in the building and rocks while I was sketching.   I think a second pass at this scene would focus more on the rocks and and the front part of the lighthouse rather than trying to get the whole building into the composition.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hopper House Exhibition

"Rockland Lighthouse II", oil on panel, 6 x 6

The Hopper House in Nyack holds an annual national competition titled "Small Matters of Great Importance" which I have managed to miss every year.  This year I put the deadline down on my calendar!    Paintings are required to be smaller than 12 x 12 including frame.  This is a miniature oil version of a pastel painting I did several years ago titled "Lone Sentry" which I painted during a sailing trip to Maine.  It has always struck me as "Hopperesque."  It was interesting trying to recreate a smaller painting in oil from a larger pastel.  The biggest challenge was the composition.  I prefer the more elongated dimensions of the larger painting but I was limited here by the competition requirements (and my available frames)!

Monday, August 20, 2012

More Lobsterfellas

"Lobsters on the Dock", oil on panel, 6 x 6

I finally got a little painting time in today.  I have so many great sketches and references of all the lobster boats I've seen in the last few weeks.  I've spent quite a few afternoons at the Newport Shipyards where all the lobster and fishing boats are docked.  The overwhelming smell barely even bothers me any more!  This guy caught my eye with the bright yellow overalls against the dark hull of his boat.  Hopefully I'll have more to post tomorrow.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Caribbean Work On View

"Marigot Alley", oil on board 18 x 24

The past few weeks have been spent cooking and sailing with no time for painting.  We just finished working a charter for the New York Yacht Club's Summer Cruise which started in Newport and ended in Boston.  It was a long, hot week.  So, back to art.

I am pleased to announce that "Marigot Alley" has been accepted into the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club's 116th Annual Exhibition.  This is a prestigious show and I am honored to have my work included.  The painting will be on view at the National Arts Club in New York City starting October 2nd.

"Banana Seller", pastel on paper 16 x 20

I also have two pastels that will be included in the Degas Pastel Society's National Exhibition in New Orleans, Louisiana this Fall.  This painting and "Balthazar Waiter" will be on view at the St. Tammany Art Association at the end of August through October.  

Now back to painting . . .!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Plein Air Painting Bristol RI

"Bristol Greys", 6 x 8, oil on linen panel

I painted this a few days ago while we were in Bristol RI.  There are a lot of old buildings in this charming little town.  From the vantage point of the town dock (where I painted the last post) the old buildings looked like layers of colored greys stacked atop one another.  The jpeg came out a bit darker and more saturated despite my photoshop edits!  I guess I need to read the book.

Postscript: This painting has been revised since this post.  The above painting is the new version.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Plein Air Abstraction

Bristol Pier, 6 x 8 oil on linen panel

I am trying to find more interesting abstract patterns in my plein air work.  I loved the colors of this old fishing boat on the pier in Briston RI but it was the interesting shapes that initially caught my eye.  It is really the underlying value structure of a scene that will make or break a good painting.  I really like this one as the idea reminds me a little of Milton Avery, one of my favorite artists.  While it definitely does not look anything like an Avery I think I was trying to achieve a similar goal.  I found a great quote from Milton Avery on a terrific blog about art history :


 "I always take something out of my pictures, strip the designs to the essentials; the facts do not interest me so much as the essence of nature.  I never have any rules to follow.  I follow myself.  I began painting by myself  in the Connecticut countryside, always directly from nature . . . I have long been interested in trying to express on canvas a painting with a few, large, simplified spaces."  Milton Avery.

Love it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Value of Sketching Part 2

I am revisiting the topic of sketching in response to fellow artist Loriann Signori's recent post about sketchbooks.  She has asked people to submit posts about their sketching process along with examples.  She will compile all the submissions she gets which should be an interesting read.  I find it very interesting to see how other artists work.

I use different sketchbooks for different purposes.  I usually have three or four sketchbooks going at the same time.  I use a large sketchbook as shown in my last post to work out compositions from reference photos in preparation for larger paintings or when I have more time to sit and actually do some in depth drawing.  My little notebooks are used on site when I am painting plein air or if I just want to put something down as a reminder for a later idea.

I try to keep a small sketchbook and a 6B woodless graphite pencil and/or a ballpoint pen with me at all times.  I have three little sketchbooks because I am constantly misplacing one or all of them.   And I can never find the pen, the pencil or the pencil sharpener.  When I paint plein air I always spend ten or fifteen minutes (at least) doing thumbnails and notans.   (There is a lot of information on notans on the internet.  Loriann actually has some good posts on notan.)  Usually these sketches are just quick two value studies of various compositional ideas.  Sometimes they are just scribbles like the ones below. 

Most artists will tell you that sketching is an integral part of the painting process even if you are an abstract painter.  Drawing is a fundamental skill that will definitely improve your painting.  I highly recommend keeping a sketchbook with you and taking the time to do a few sketches a day even if they are just notes for yourself!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Series Continues

"Hot Day on the Docks"  8 x 10 oil on linen panel

I started this on site at the Newport Shipyard docks where all the big fishing trawlers and small boats are docked.   I couldn't stay long though as it was just too hot to stand in full sunshine with no shade.   I have an easel umbrella but it seems to only work in less than 5 or 10 knots of wind which is rare around here.  I like the colors in this.  The jpeg doesn't really pick up the subtle grays in the background but I like the soft effect in the further structures.   Things look a little busy in the lower right hand corner which I didn't intend but I will leave it for now.  If this ends up being a bigger piece I will soften that area so it doesn't draw so much attention.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Value of Sketching

Newport RI - 4th of July at dusk

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July!  I am back in Newport RI for the summer.  I love it here:  the boats, the light, the breeze.  I love it all.  I am eager to get out and paint and it looks like today will be a nice day for it.

In the meantime, I wanted to post a couple of pages from my old sketchbooks because I have been devoting a lot of time to sketching lately.   Sketchbooks are a great place to work out ideas, try different compositions and practice your value skills.  Sketching forces you to think in terms of value.  You can achieve the entire value range with a 6B pencil and an eraser.  I often sketch when I don't feel like painting or when the weather is too bad to go outside.  You can sketch from your reference photos or just sketch whatever is in front of you.  It's a great exercise to try to make a composition out of something simple or ordinary like a chair or a table with flowers.  The images here are a couple of sketches from an old sketchbook.  The sketch above was from a photo I took of our neighbor's little girl several years ago and the ones below are of simple scenes in and around the house.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

New Series and Good News

"Early Morning Catch", 6 x 8 oil on linen

I hope everyone likes lobstermen and lobster boats because that's what I am going to be painting for the rest of the summer!  I haven't really devoted myself to a single subject in a long time (since my Caribbean Market Women) and I think this one has a lot of possibilities.  I will be heading to Newport Rhode Island in a couple of days where there is still a small fleet of working fishing and lobster boats.  Some of these fishing vessels are huge.  The colors and shapes are wonderful and will provide lots of possibilities in terms of color and composition.  I'm really looking forward to working from life on the docks (though the smell can be overwhelming)!

I just received notice that my other little "Lobster Fellas" painting was accepted into the Salmagundi Club's national show this summer.  This is a prestigious show and I am very happy to have a piece accepted into the exhibit.   The National Arts Club in NYC, where the show is usually held, is undergoing renovations so the it will be held at a gallery in Chelsea.   There are lots of galleries in Chelsea so there will be more people able to view the exhibit.  I'll post details as we get closer.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Morning Sunlgiht in Oil and Pastel

"Back Alley Sunlight II", Pastel, 18 x 24 on Pastelboard

It's been a busy couple of weeks!  I had to drive from Maryland to Saratoga Springs last week which took all day because I ALWAYS get lost in Maryland!  I don't know why.  We had a short visit with my brother who flew up from Key West which was fun.  So, a long explanation for why I haven't painted or posted in a while.  I am working on a few things this week.  The above painting is a large pastel version of "Back Alley Sunlight" which I painted in oil a few weeks ago.  I wanted to see how I could portray that bright early morning light in another medium.  The blues are not as electric as they appear in the above jpeg but the darks ended up brighter and more saturated than I anticipated (even though I used mostly greyed down pastels).  I decided to go back again and try another version with less chroma and more emphasis on the light part of the composition:

"Back Alley Sunlgiht III", Pastel, 9 x 12 pastel on sanded paper

I prefer the composition in the version above.   Below is the original oil (9 x 12) which is really a combination of the top two!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Saratoga Arts Fest

"November Afternoon",  9 x 12,  pastel on sanded paper

This weekend is the Saratoga Arts Fest in beautiful Saratoga Springs NY.  There are a lot of events going on downtown throughout the weekend.  The above painting can be seen (and purchased) at the Mimosa Gallery which is hosting a fundraiser for the Arts Fest.  The opening is tonight from 4 to 7 p.m. so if you're town please stop by (unfortunately I can't make the opening but hopefully you can!).  I love the town of Saratoga.  There is so much going on and there are lots of beautiful places in the area to paint.  I will be teaching a weekend pastel plein air workshop through the Saratoga Arts Center in September.  I will post more info on the workshop later so stayed posted!

In the meantime, I am getting a little plein air time in while visiting the Chesapeake Bay.  This is an inn in a very small town in Maryland called Oxford.  I was so into my painting that I didn't see the huge black clouds approaching until the loud thunder made me drop my brush!  I had to pack up quickly and didn't have time to finish but I think I kind of like it where I left it.  I'll let it sit a while.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

And More Thick Paint

"Back Alley Sunshine", 9 x 12, oil on linen board

I have to say I really like working with the thick paint.  I like the texture and it is a lot more fun to push the paint around on the canvas.  I decided to work with a limited palette so that I could focus on just the brushwork in this painting.  I forgot how many grays you can get with  just a few colors plus black.  This was done with Cad Yellow Medium, Cad Red Light, Alizarin Permanent, Ultramarine and Mars Black.  A lot of painters do not use black and I think, for the most part, it is not necessary or helpful to use it when painting landscapes plein air.  If used as a low saturated blue, however, I think it helps create mood and atmosphere with a wider range of grays.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New Pastel: "Artisinal Waiter"

"Artisinal Waiter", 12 x 12, pastel on sanded paper

This is the fourth in a series of paintings based on a  trip to the restaurant "Artisinal" in NYC a couple of months ago.  I love this restaurant:  it has such a classic French bistro feel.  I am also working on some cityscapes and have decided to make the "New England Lobster Fellas" a series as well since I will be in Newport all summer.  I really focused on just the shapes in this painting.  I did a very abstract "notan" underpainting and used a fairly limited palette of pastels.  I'm pretty happy with it though the red violet of the curtains looks much more blue due to the contrast with the orange hues next to it.  I may go back in and push the red a bit more to keep the harmony.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Newport Lobsterman Again

"Newport Lobsterman II", oil on linen panel, 8 x10

The lobsterman paintings may become a series but I won't commit yet.  Two does not make a series!  There is so much material to paint from the New England lobster boats.  The boats are usually small and neutral colored but the bright gear that the men wear and the trap buoys create a colorful and appealing scene.  The challenge is to narrow down the elements to create a cohesive painting.  There is almost too much to work from.   In this painting, I focused on the center man in the orange gear.  I liked the positive and negative shapes created by the overlapping figures. There was actually a lot more going on here but I simplified the composition to focus on the main shapes and concentrate the brightest color around the focal area.   I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Revisiting Old Paintings

"Pears on a Pedestal", pastel on sanded paper, 8 x 10

I am sorting through all my plein air paintings, pastels and every other piece of paper or canvas I've been keeping for the last several years that are not framed or in a gallery.  I keep all of my unframed pastels paintings and sketches in a few large notebooks. I tape the paper onto a sheet of the notebook and cover with a piece of glassine.  It usually works well but I have been carrying these large notebooks with me everywhere for the past few years and some of the paintings are getting smudged.  In addition to the notebooks, I have two large plastic bins of all the oil plein airs that are not framed or should have been scraped off to begin with.  I have been pretty ruthless about sorting out the piles into the fixable and the non-fixable.  There were more non-fixables than I am ready to admit!  The oil panels will be covered with Gamblin Oil Ground which is a pain to do but results in a "like new" surface.  The Wallis paper will be brushed off and reused and the paintings on the homemade paper will be thrown away.  I have a pretty decent sized pile of fixables so it may take a while.  The above painting was done last summer when I was going through a "still life on bright colored fabric" phase (it didn't last long).  I was happy with the pears and the serving piece but I had placed the dish on a very bright green and purplish blue striped cloth.  It was very distracting from the main focal point:  the pears.  I used a few big soft pastels in analogous colors of blue green, blue and a slightly purplish gray blue to lightly cover the stripes.  I think it works much better now.  It has won a reprieve from the circular file . . . for now.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cape Cod Pastel Show 2012

"Lobsterman", 9 x 12 pastel on sanded paper

I'm pleased to announce that my pastel painting "Lobsterman" has been accepted into the Cape Cod Pastel Society's national juried show "For Pastels Only 2012".  The show runs for three weeks in July in Yarmouth.  I'll post more information on time and place as we get closer to the date.  There will be an opening on June 30th for those of you lucky enough to be on vacation in beautiful Cape Cod that week!

Monday, May 14, 2012

More Thick Paint

"Sunny Breakfast"  6 x 6, oil on linen

I continue with the thick paint experiment.  I really like the process of painting this way.  It's a lot more fun than having to worry about lines and layers.  I liked the way this little study came out but the question is how it would stand up to being painted much larger (30 x 30).   I tried a couple of rainy day cityscape studies today and the alla prima thick paint technique did not work out so well.  The reflections and wet surfaces require more transparency than I was able to achieve with a loaded brush so I scraped my board a couple of times and will try again tomorrow.