Friday, November 10, 2017

A New Seascape

This is a painting that I did with my student Nick at Lighthouse Point in East Haven, CT. It was a slightly windy day, but beautiful. Such a nice place to paint, especially when it is off season and there are few visitors. I had a lot of fun doing this with Nick, and I think that he enjoyed it too. 
New England has some beautiful shoreline scenery. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sunflower Painting

I was painting recently in North Branford in the middle of a beautiful acre of sunflowers when a wonderful photographer asked if he could take my picture. I said yes, then thought to ask him to email me a copy. Here it is. The photographer is Dennis Beaulieu. I love the photo, thanks, Dennis! Here are the two paintings that I did there, each on different days.
 They are both oil on canvas over panel, 9"x12".
The sunflowers were simply gorgeous this year, and the fields stopped traffic for quite a long time.
Sunflowers are fun to paint. The rich oranges and yellows really stand out against the cool green leaves and blue sky.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Augur Farm House in Spring

I painted this old farmhouse again in the Spring and sold it. It has so much character and it is a classic example of a New England farmhouse. The Spring leaves were just beginning to unfold at this point, which gave them a yellow green color, and the light was bright and warm.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Augur Farm House

I recently sold this painting from an exhibit that I had at the Edward Smith Library. It's a painting of the Augur Farm House. The house is an old 1930s farm house with barns in the back that store hay. It sits on several acres of old farm land, with the Farm River flowing behind it. The house is empty now and the property is owned by the town. I've had more inquiries about the painting since I sold it. There is something mystical about this house. Every time I pass by it, I find it so fascinating. I will go again in the spring and paint it. I think I may paint it several times. It pulls me to it, as if the ghosts of the family that lived there still inhabit it.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Commission of a 1780 House

This is a recent commission that I did of a house built in 1780 in the center of Northford, CT. It is a typical New England style house, though the structure is post and beam with horsehair plaster walls and wide plank floors. It has a large fireplace in the center that was once used for cooking and boiling water. Over the years, an addition was put on the rear of the house for a modern kitchen, though it's invisible from the front. I managed to paint this over a four day period just before the autumn leaves fell and winter set in. It was a joy to paint, which I did in oil. It's 16"x20".

Saturday, November 5, 2016

My Putz Houses

These are Putz houses. They are made out of cardboard, folded, and painted. Then, they are liberally doused with clear glitter. The one on the right was made using a pattern found on the Internet at Building Putz Houses. I took the basic design, shrank it down 65 percent and did not do cutouts or a large base with the fence. The small one and three others like it will go on a wreath with a Winter Wonderland theme. Each one is a different color scheme. They were fun to make and look cool with the shimmer of the clear glitter when it catches the light.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Painting and Writing: Made from the Same Cloth

I’m by my own admission a creative-minded person. I appreciate good art and especially good paintings. I marvel at the seeming ease of the artwork that I’m attracted to. I have a list of favorite artists and find myself returning repeatedly to see their work at exhibitions. I also love to read a good novel, and over the years, I tend to gravitate toward a certain type of writing that is uniquely descriptive and captivating. I have my favorite authors, those that both inspire me and help to fuel my imagination.

I love to paint. I love the feel of the oil pigments squishing around the bristles and hairs of my well-worn brushes as they glide across on the canvas. I love the blast of bright color as much as the subtle gradations of color. It’s fun to watch what the paint does when you place one shade next to another, the way that similar values complement one another, and opposing values make the canvas pop. Most of all, I love to see the picture in front of me that is so perfectly created by nature come to life on my canvas in my unique interpretation.  However, a successful painting does not happen without some effort, years of practice, and some good instruction.

I also love to write. I’ve been a technical writer for more than twenty years, but I’ve only been writing creatively, other than an occasional newspaper story, for eight months. It’s fun to watch my characters come to life on the page, their personalities developing as I write. It’s fun (and not easy!) to come up with distinctive descriptions that bring them to life. I love to interweave sharp turns and unexpected twists. I enjoy inserting surprises that grab the reader. It’s also satisfying to hear from my readers how much they like the story and, if it is a story under development, how they want to hear more about the characters. Just like with painting, I’ve had to learn a lot about how to create a good story. There’s a certain structure to it. I have to be on guard to “show,” not “tell.” Using the five senses to convey emotions and paint a picture really add body to a story. I’m getting some good instruction, both from experts in the field and from reading books.

I’ve been thinking, as I switch back and forth between the two creative processes, about how much alike both painting a picture and writing a story really is.

When I am ready to start a new painting, I begin by prepping my tools, including choosing my brushes, and selecting and laying out the paint colors and mediums on my palette. I begin the painting by laying an undercoating of thinned out color, effectively transforming the white canvas into a toned canvas. While that dries, I charcoal sketch a thumbnail of the scene in a small sketchbook that I always carry with me. My sketch reveals the values of the scene. I don’t put in a lot of details. Once I’m happy with the sketch, I put it aside and use it as a reference. I sketch the picture on my canvas with a brush, paying attention to composition, always aware of the focal point. I begin the underpainting, using thinned paint, blocking in the large areas of color until all areas in the picture are generally blocked out. For the second stage, I put in the darkest darks with thinned paint. As I do so, I measure and re-measure, making sure that all the shapes relate in size and shape. I progress to lighter and lighter shades, starting with largest shapes and gradually going smaller and smaller, until there’s nothing left but detail work. As I go lighter, my paint becomes thicker, until the lightest light is three dimensional. I review the painting over the next few days and adjust it. Finally, a critique by a fellow artist provides a subjective view of the overall structure, composition and coloring.
When I write, I also prepare my “canvas,” usually writing on the computer in a word processing program. I start with an idea, however small, and I begin to write it down. Usually there is a main character that emerges, and then secondary characters. If the story is historical, I begin to narrow down the era, and then I begin to do research on that time period. Like in painting, this is the drawing. I ask myself what the characters wearing, what are the social norms, what kind of transportation will they be using, and what types of work will they be doing. When I think about my main character, I need to know from the start what she/he wants and what the main obstacle will be.  I contemplate the ‘hook’– what will propel the reader forward through the story. This is the focus, the thing that pulls the reader’s attention, similar to a focal point of a painting. Then, I start writing, putting in an underpainting of the story, a stripped-down version of a story line and setting. The second stage incorporates the emotions and sensual descriptions of the actions, thoughts, and view of the characters and the setting. The detail work is in the editing, taking out unnecessary words, rearranging sections, deleting and rewriting, cleaning up spelling and punctuation. Having an editor review the final draft provides the subjective view of the writing. Sharing with writers that I trust to provide constructive feedback is also valuable.

Both painting and creative writing are fun, involve a lot of prep work, good instruction, and a whole lot of rolling up of the sleeves and digging in. They are both sometimes aggravating, and more often, truly rewarding. I feel pretty lucky that I don’t have to choose between the two. I can do one or the other, whenever I choose. And, I’m lucky to have a fantastic community of writers and artists to learn from, share my work with, and exchange information. What more can I ask for?