Sunday, December 30, 2012

Revisiting Old Paintings

Since it's been chilly outside and I don't much like painting when it's cold and drab, I decided to work on some older paintings that needed some attention or just needed some editing. One painting that I did a while back was of the Mark Twain estate in West Hartford. It is an interesting building, set up high on a hill. The painting was scratched from mishandling on my part, so I decided to fix it and try to renew it. I sprayed it with retouch varnish and it now looks very fresh. I feel pretty good about it now, so I will probably put it out for a showing this year.

Another painting that I decided needed some work was one of a horse stable, Carriage Farm. I felt the hills were too blurry and I didn't like the pine tree on the right side of the canvas, so I removed it. I hated the clouds, they didn't add anything so I removed them. Don Demers said that you shouldn't put clouds in if they don't add anything, and I now look at my landscapes differently. Sometimes clouds can add to the atmosphere, but sometimes they just detract from the scene. I textured the sky with color and it's much brighter now, but it doesn't take away from the subject. I also worked more on the trees behind the building and the fields. I'm much happier with the outcome.

I think that if you are not happy with a painting, you should consider reworking it. I don't like to give up on paintings, though there are those that just are not worth the trouble.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Favorite Bowls

"My Favorite Bowls," 20" x 32", Oil on Canvas.
I have an affinity for bright, crockery bowls, either old or new. I love interesting designs and shapes, and I love the weight of them. I also love the bright and subtle colors. I have a number of them now, and decided that a nice still life of bowls would be fun to do.I pulled out this table cloth, an old-fashioned floral design that was bright and cheery and incorporated some of the colors of the bowls.
I chose a large canvas for this one because I wanted the bowls to really stand out and show off their beauty.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Bench Painting Holds a Special Meaning

I was out in Wallingford one day painting a scene at the corner of Center Street and Main Street of Moran’s The Dressing Room and other shops along the street, when a young mother came by and admired my work. She asked for a card, which I provided, and she went on her way. I give out cards a lot and I enjoy talking with passers by. I forgot about it until a few weeks later when she called me up and reminded me of our acquaintance. She had thought about my art, visited my Website, and liked it. With Christmas coming up, she thought that a unique gift that she could give to her husband would be a painting- but not just any painting. The subject was a special one. She told me the story of how her and her husband used to meet during her high school days at the Wallingford Country Club, which was a halfway point between both her and his houses. Later on, they went their separate ways, she married another man, had a family, subsequently divorced, and then reconnected with her high school sweetheart. This time the relationship stuck. She fondly recalled that he proposed to her at the bench where they used to meet all those years ago. This was what she wanted me to paint. It was a totally romantic gesture and it will make a unique and personal gift. The young lady met me at the Wallingford Golf Course and we scoped out the bench.

Meanwhile, the head groundskeeper came by to check us out. Alas, I was not allowed to set up on the course to paint, but I could come back and take photos of the bench and the surrounding area. I returned when the fall colors were bright and colorful, took several photos and sent them to the young lady. She wrote back, apologizing that the bench that she had pointed out was not the correct one, but rather another bench further down that we had first looked at. This information was revealed to her when her husband pointed out to their child the exact bench where he proposed to his wife while driving by the golf course. A close call, just in the nick of time!

I returned to the golf course and photographed the correct bench, got go ahead approval, and proceeded to paint a large, gallery-wrapped painting of the scene with some autumn color.

I recently delivered the finished painting and I believe that the young lady was very pleased with the results. I thought that it was a great idea for a very unique and personal gift for someone special.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Strawberry Hollow Farm

A few weeks ago, I set up across the street from Strawberry Hollow Farm and painted a study for this picture. Autumn was in full bloom, and the pumpkins and mums were lined up outside of the cute little shop. From the study, I painted a 10"x20" painting, which really captured the panoramic view and the autumn warmth. I sold the study and the larger painting to the owner of the  farm yesterday. I could tell that he really liked it. It was a lot of fun to paint, and a terrific subject. The farmer has a lovely piece of property with a nice pond. He says in the Spring, the flowers are beautiful around the pond. I asked permission to come back to paint the pond area, and he said that I can come back any time, so I'm looking forward to painting there this Spring.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Art Show at the Woodbridge Town Library

My artwork is now on exhibit at the Woodbridge Town Library. It will stay up until November 30th. My show is this Saturday from noon until 3:00 PM. The public is invited. I hope that lots of people can come by and see the work in person. The paintings look so much better than my photographs.

I have a lot of new landscape paintings, a few seascapes, and some nice street scenes.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Visit to Olana

I visited Olana, Frederick Church's estate in Hudson, New York, over the weekend with friends. What a fabulous home! The architecture was inspired by their trip to the middle east in the 1800's. Church had a hand in every part of the design, including the laying out and colors of the tiles, bricks, and paint. The interior furnishing are eclectic, but are mostly decorated with 10,000 pieces of items collected during the family's travels to the middle east. It is considered one of his major works of art.
Frederick Church studied under Thomas Cole, who lived in a town nearby. He is one of the famous Hudson River Painters, known for his realistic style of landscape painting during the early 19th century. Many of his best works can be found in the Wadsworth Museum in Hartford, CT. The view from the front of the home overlooks the Hudson River. Church dug out land directly in front of the house down an embankment to create a pond in the shape of the river. He also planted trees and landscaped the property.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Large Sunflower Paintings

I have been wanting to do some large paintings of sunflowers for a while now. The flowers here were pieced together from photographs, which I don't normally do. It was the only way to get the look that I wanted, though. I also tried using gallery wrapped canvas, which is great fun. Both are large, 30" x 24".
I will be having a show at the Woodbridge Town Library on November 10th from 12:00 to 3:00 pm. These and sixteen other new paintings will be on exhibit. All are welcome. The exhibit will be on view throughout the month of November.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Baur Farm Paintout

I joined the Madison Art Society Wednesday plein air painters recently. The group paints in locations all around Madison, including the farms and rural areas of CT. Two weeks ago, the destination was Baur Farm, a beautiful old farm that is preserved for everyone to visit. There are interesting old barns and an old farm house, ponds, a covered bridge, and public garden spaces. It threatened to rain, but I went anyway and was the only one to risk it.

It didn't rain, and the light was steady and perfect. The leaf colors are beginning to change and you can see it in the background trees. A while after I started, the organizer of the group came by to see if anyone showed up. We talked for a good while and then I went on to paint in this beautiful quiet setting.

Painting: Covered Bridge, Bauer Farm, 9" x 12" Oil on Canvas over Panel.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Don Demers Workshop in Falmouth

Don Demers held a three-day workshop in Falmouth, Mass., which is on Cape Cod, in early September. I was one of twelve people who managed to get into the workshop, which is in high demand. As soon as I heard about it, I signed up. It was a wonderful three days of painting, with lots of information and great places to paint. The Falmouth Art Association hosted the event. They have a new building that has wonderful gallery and classroom space and is large, bright and airy. Don brought samples of his work, mostly small studies of different landscapes and seascapes. He uses these studies to expand his knowledge. He turns some into larger paintings. Don spent a little time in the mornings talking about his style of painting and some of the wisdom that he garnered over the years as an artist.
Each day, we drove to a different seaside location to paint. Don would do a demo, all the while explaining his methods as he paints. I found the charcoal three-value thumbnails a great way to look for values in a view and to plan a painting. There were some things that I had seen and heard before from other artists and in other workshops, but it was great to hear them again. It helped to reinforce my thinking. I was struck by how deliberate his planning was for each painting, including how important the composition and design was. He advocates using a viewfinder and really paying attention to shapes, patterns, and rhythms.
His ocean waves demo was captivating, though the wind was pretty intense that day. His deliberate interlacing of light and dark elements was fun to watch. I highly recommend attending one of his workshops if you can.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Winter Blues

I am doing my best to wait out winter. There's snow forcast for today, but the daffodils are getting ready to bloom and the snowdrops are already blooming. Mother nature is very confused.

Ollie, my ten-year-old boxer, loves to snuggle under the blankets, and he especially loves this afghan. Sometimes, he will bury himself completely under the blankets. Ceili, my female boxer, prefers to lay on top of the warm blankets.

Both dogs keep me company when I paint indoors. They only have compliments when they watch me work. What a great audience.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Don Demers Workshop in Falmouth, Mass.

I signed up for a workshop given by Don Demers, who is a professional landscape/seascape painter from New England. It's going to be at the Falmouth Artist Guild, in Falmouth, Mass. for three days in September. I'm really looking forward to this. Falmouth is in Cape Cod, and the workshop is the weekend after Labor Day. The summer crowds should be gone, but the weather should still be really nice. I'm hoping to pick up some great pointers about plein air painting. I share his appreciation for the painterly style of painting. His seascapes are amazing. He really knows how to paint waves. I signed up early for this, since his workshops sell out quickly. I may buy one of his DVDs from his Website.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Painting Beaches in New England

I love to paint beaches in and around New England. What's great about New England beaches is that they are all so different looking. Some are rocky and some are very sandy and white, while others are tan or a deep tawny rose, covered in seashells and old driftwood. There are beaches that are barely there while others stretch for miles. A number of them are lined in seaweed; others are interspersed with boardwalks, retaining walls, or even huge sand dunes. Here and there, you will see retaining walls with houses built right up to the edges. The views must be breath taking, but a little scary in a storm. Maine's beaches are interspersed with huge boulders that sport some great crashing waves, but if you go a little south to Cape Cod, you will see nothing but huge mounds of sand dunes all along the coast. The coast line of Connecticut is a mix of both rocks and sand, but it doesn't have the pristine beaches of the Caribbean. It does have interesting views of salt marshes, beach bungalows, and boat moorings. You can almost always find someone walking their dog, or children playing in the sand or water, even in the cooler months. It's often a surprise when I go beach hunting, so I keep an open mind, because it's always changing.

The above painting is in nearby Milford, CT, during high tide. I loved the way the sand wound its way out to sea, and the interesting blue-green rocks that lined the coast in one area. The area does have a tiny beach, which I will explore at a later date.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hockey Game

I set out to paint at a favorite spot hoping to catch a good snow scene. There's a really nice pond near where I live and I thought that the icy surface and the snow scenery around it would make a good picture. When I arrived, several young teenage boys were clearing the ice and getting ready for a fun neighborhood hockey game. I decided to set up and paint them. They were very nice about it and were quite curious about what I was doing. How lucky I was to have such a interesting diversion from my normal everyday landscapes. The players' clothes added a punch of bright warm color to the blues and purples of the winter snow. I am finding that I enjoy adding people to some of my paintings. I feel like they add life and enhance the surroundings.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Making My Own Panels

I like to make my own panels rather than buy them from an art store. I can control the quality and texture of the panels this way and I happen to like the canvas covered type the best. I started by making them with Masonite, but have lately been using lauan, which is a thin and light birch plywood. Lauan is cheap but it is also light and easier to cut. Making my own boards is time consuming, but it is a cheap way to stock up on boards of all sizes. I can make around twenty 6’x8’ boards or around ten 9”x12” boards with one panel. These are the sizes that I prefer. For larger than this, I use stretched canvas. When I’m ready to make my boards, I buy a 2’x4’sheet of lauan at Home Depot, though I believe you can get larger sizes. This size is easier for me to transport.
Using a pencil and a metal straight edge ruler, mark out your measurements for the panels in pencil and then cut them on a table saw. Cover the boards with canvas. I use a medium or portrait grade canvas and measure out a piece for each panel with about an inch margin all around. To attach the canvas to the panel, I lightly drizzle Elmer’s glue on one side of the panel, getting it all over the panel as best as possible. Turn it upside down and use a brayer and press and roll it on the canvas surface until it is smooth without any air bubbles. Stack a group of heavy books on the panels and leave them to dry overnight. I like to use paper or plastic between the books and the table so that the glue doesn’t leak out and adhere to the surface. I usually stack the panels with the wrong sides together as well. The next day, apply glue to the margins and fold the canvas around to the back, carefully folding the corners inward.
I use medium bulldog clips to help hold the glued edges in place for a few minutes until it is set. Remove the clips and then stack heavy books on the boards as before. Finish the surface of each board with one coat of PVC glue. This gives the surface a seal that keeps the gesso and paint on top of the canvas rather than soaking through it.
Thin the gesso with one part warm water to one part gesso. Using a small roller, apply a thin coat of gesso to each panel. Let dry at least an hour, preferably two or more. Using a fine grade sanding sponge, sand the surface lightly. Repeat this exercise with two more coats, letting them dry for two hours and sanding the surface in between each coat.
Turn the panels to the wrong side. Using leftover house paint (latex is fine), apply a thin layer of paint to the back side of the panels. This keeps out moisture and prevents warping.
This supply will usually last me about a year. The panels are great for short plein air paintouts, field sketches that can be used for larger paintings, and for small still life paintings.I also like to stretch my own canvas, and use those throughout the year. In a later post, I will include my instructions for preparing stretched canvases.