Saturday, December 28, 2013

Moving with the Weather

Wickford December, Oil on Canvas on Board, 12x12
  Plein-air painting in New England is certainly a challenge , particularly in winter.  This oil sketch (left) was accomplished two days after the "wintry mix" including a little snow had hit.  I fortunately found a muddy but sheltered spot behind the local library which boasts some of the most scenic views of Wickford I've seen.  On this partly sunny day I spent less than two hours before catching the chill that warns this painter to retreat.  The challenge of the composition was the frontal lighting.  As an impressionist painter I could have resorted to some of the techniques I learned at the Cape Cod School , techniques taught by Henry Hensche, but I was, after all , interested in a study , a study of the patchwork quilt presented by this scene.  Besides, the subject matter was a bit complex for me to employ impressionist techniques of the Cape Cod School effectively.

  The oil sketch to the left was done just yesterday at a small marsh in Wickford.  I tried to indicate the remnants of lingering snow , the cold that hung in the air, and the subdued coloring of winter.  Such a location deserves repeated visits to master its interpretation in any artistic medium.  I left when my fingers became numb on this breezy day.  But I'll be back!

Mums, Oil on Linen, 9x12
Finally when the plein-air artist is forced to remain inside, due to the weather acting up, there is always still life composition.  The same habits are required (squinting to ascertain value structure, comparing values and colors, noting temperature and intensity.)  The limitations are all in the light source.  If we are lucky enough to have north light on our studio subject, we can do the same visual/mental analyses we use when doing plein-air work.  If not, our work is harder.  In any case, it is good to exercise the skills a painter always needs -- such as basic drawing skills.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The New and the Old

The Park, O/C, 6 x 6
The small oil on the left was actually sketched on location at Goddard Park after a snow event last winter.  The scene was never shown to the public since, like most of my plein-air work, it is in need of correction and refinement.  Indoors and after the fact, I can view the work at my leisure to determine whether a "second pass" is in order.   I can see now that I waited too long for an opportunity to go back to this site and begin anew the process of refinement.  At my indoor easel I hope to correct some blunders that are apparent; for example, (1)  a sloping horizon line that is a unsettling to view and (2)  figures that could be better defined, placed, and integrated with the scene.  The danger of revisiting a plein-air scene is always the loss of the initial excitement .  So, even after obvious and not-so-obvious correction, I will need to keep it on the wall to be sure that the painting retains an element of interest before its eventual release to other and (perhaps more critical) eyes.

 This painting (to the left) is a 9x12 Oil on Canvas of the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace in North Kingstown.  Again, this work is a past oil sketch, never framed and shown to the public.  I also see the need for some (minor) corrections, but I do like to preserve the joy of this summer day .  The feeling of the painting is paramount and can only be squelched through overworking.  Incidentally, the Gilbert Stuart Museum includes this property and allows artists to paint any of the subjects on the grounds during an "Artist-in Residence" period each summer.  At the end of the summer the museum offers an art show which helps with funding.  Perhaps this piece may show up on the walls of this show next summer!

Pond by My Door, Oil on Wood, 8x10
And now for the "New".  The painting on the left is a brief (under one hour) oil sketch of the small pond outside my apartment door.  The snow was fresh but fast disappearing as the temperature rose.  The rough sketch shows in the middle ground a white birch reflecting weakly in the pond.  near the foreground there is a fallen tree that provides one edge to the pond.  The foreground shows a large tree adorned with several thick vines.  To add interest there are two geese in the water.  The spot gave me the feeling of a cozy hideaway, made more interesting by the new-fallen snow.  More finish needs to be brought to the distance, among other corrections/ refinements.  Indeed, the sketch is only a few days old and will need more time to "ferment" in the vat of the artist's mind.  Again, I would like to retain as much of the spontaneity as possible since that is part of the joy transmitted by this painting.