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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Grand Lake Weekend

While Julia and I were painting last weekend off of Hwy 34, a young man from the East coast stopped and asked if he could take our photos. We said, sure and I added, only if you send them to me! Today, the photos arrived. So here we are. What a great day it was, too. Below is the painting I did that afternoon.
This painting is 14x11. It was the second one of the day, on the first day and we started about 2 p.m. or so. I enjoyed painting this very much. I was fortunate, because when I started there were two "tractors" here. I picked this one, and about halfway through this painting, the other tractor was put to work. When I came back through this valley on my way home Sunday night, all the hay had been picked up.I liked the pattern of the silhouetted hay bales leading the eye to the haybaler, surrounded by the bright field.
The Haystack, 16x12 above, was the second painting on Saturday, and was started about 1 p.m. Again, I had a great time painting this. I was struck by the free form of this haystack, and its massive size. I loved the way the light was skipping across it from behind illuminating the planes with the contrasting blue mountain behind it. I still want to rework the sage along the fence. Certainly not looking very sage like. But other than that, I will leave it as is. I used a pencil to put in the woven wire fence in the wet paint. I took this painting in to Kevin's class this morning  for critique. Our assignment for this month had been to do an "expressive" painting and this is about expressive as I get. He said I did a great job, and he really liked this piece. He liked the Haybaler, too.
New Growth, 8x10, was painted Sunday morning. I had intended to paint the Colorado River, so I set up on a strip of land that came into the river to paint the river coming right at me. Then I saw this dark mass of evergreens with some light filtering through, with the beetle kill on one side and the new growth looking so vibrant in the front, I switched gears immediately. I am always amazed at how mother nature regenerates. Grand County is covered in beetle kill, and/or clear cutting where the dead trees have already been removed. But the flip side is now the contours of the landscape are visible, views are spectacular, and new growth is springing forth. If I were to do this again I would pay more attention to the filtering light. I made those areas too large. They should be carving out the evergreens in a more subtle way.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Box of Mangoes

Yesterday marked the start of this years annual Golden Triangle Museum District's (GTMD) paint out in downtown Denver. I decided to do a quick still life study to loosen myself up for painting on location. I took one of the 11"x14" boards I had prepped for this event and gave myself an hour to complete the piece. I figured I might as well use it for this month's Saturday assignment for Kevin's class, even if I don't manage to go to the critique. (The assignment is to do an expressive piece, ie brushwork!) I was quite happy I got this done in the prescribed time, but it did not prep me for painting downtown. I spent over an hour looking and even set up my easel once, but never quite felt the pull of inspiration to get me going. I don't know if it was the afternoon light, or just how quiet it was downtown, or the myriad of empty construction sites, but I left not accomplishing much. I went back on Sunday and  was confronted by a belligerent drunk before I even set up my easel. It just seemed like this was not the weekend to attempt painting alone in the GTMD. I will be going to Grand Lake this upcoming weekend for 2 full days of painting if the weather cooperates.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The ARTS triumph during adversity

Last Sunday night I stumbled on a PBS TV show called History Detectives. I have not seen this program before. One of the mysteries they were looking at was a copy of a portrait done of a woman's father while he was a prisoner of war during WWII.  The woman was interested in finding out about the artist. This took the host to her father's home where he had the original pencil drawing. The drawing showed a robust, healthy, clean young man, which of course he would not have been, protected all these years by a sheet of German toilet tissue.  Something I learned was that because of the Geneva Convention, the USO sent care packages to the POW's. This man, who the portrait was of, was a POW in Stalag 17B. The USO had sent Journals to the POW's and very few of these paper journals have survived. This man had kept his, mainly because of the portrait, but he had not remembered the artist's name correctly, which is something that was discovered. Anyway, what got me was they showed a number of pages out of this journal, and the pages showed drawings, memorials to their fallen comrades (mostly airmen), poetry or sketches/descriptions of what went on. ie like playbills announcing Christmas Carols, different plays they put on, and other forms of entertainment. What I am getting at is, this man said these activities, this portrait, is what kept them human and a form of defying the circumstances in which they found themselves.

Notice, it is the arts that kept them sane! The portrait was why he kept this journal as a memento; but the rest: poetry, the playbills of their "productions" and the memorial to the rest of his crew, (drawn as airmen's wings) were what kept them going. Pencils were hard to come by so that this book was filled, is another marvel.

To finish off the mystery, the host found out the correct name of the artist, located one of his sons, who positively identified the signature as his father's. The artist (Harold Rhodan) painted on the side, had done other portraits, but did not pursue it as a career. The airman had traded 2 onions and a potato to have his portrait done. He had gotten the vegetables by throwing 4 cigarettes in his sock over the barbed wire to a Russian POW, and the veggies came back in his sock. You can view this episode on PBS online.
In conclusion, the arts, no matter how much the powers that be cut them, will triumph!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Alley Series - #4

I originally did a plein air study of this painting last month. I decided to lower the horizon when going to the larger format (18"x24") and I did a quick block-in in my studio.  Then it sat stagnant. I didn't know what I wanted to do. SO, since this is "our" alley and it is so very convenient, I took the canvas outside with my French easel to see if I could become inspired outside before the hollyhocks were gone. This painting was done on-site standing in my neighbors driveway. I did go out three times (@11:30-1:00) and tried very hard to not chase the light as it moved. I don't consider it finished, but it is very close. I still need to add the telephone wires as I do have a shadow on one of the roofs that needs a wire to be casting one. Kevin always gets on me for too much detail so I have purposely not gotten into the amount of detail on the houses that I would normally do. When I did my first alley painting last fall (come to think of it I was standing in almost this exact spot, just turned 180 degrees and looking up the alley across the street) I had thought that the alleys would be boring in the summer because of all the green, but I am finding, though that is true to a degree, there is lots of interest if you change your perspective. I walked the alleys around the perimeter of Washington Park last weekend with a friend of mine and we made all kinds of discoveries.
I took this painting for critique along with the Pearl St Alley from the post two days ago. I think that might have been a mistake, but time will tell. Kevin liked this painting. He liked the freshness and the expressive brushwork. He did say I could push it further by redoing the alley concrete in layers, suggesting oranges and warmer colors as an under coating, and then going back over it with the lighter color. One of the others in the group suggested I take the ladder off the roof, which I was happy to do, as it always bothered me. So that has been done. Otherwise, it is good to go. He did comment on my restraint from too much detail...and said I handled it beautifully!
On the Pearl Street Alley, he suggested I put it away for a year and come back to it. That next to the painting above, it appeared to be a "drawing" vs a "painting." He softened that by saying if he saw it in a gallery down in Santa Fe, he would think it a darn good piece, but now knowing I can paint boldly and expressively, not just "draw" he wants to push me that direction. He also commented that everything was evenly balanced with the same level of completion, with no sense of what is the center of interest. ie the truck, the trailer and the ballons. He said in the painting above the center of interest was obvious (the Hollyhocks). And that is a valid comment, because although I don't think I gave everything the same attention, I can see why he would think so. Three people came up to me during break to tell me how much they liked the painting, despite what Kevin said, and one made the comment she doesn't usually like "tight" paintings, but that she loves my work. My friend, Jeannie, who helped me out of my ennui  commented that she thinks the changes I did to it totally changed the feel of it and she likes it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ira's Trailer-Pearl Street Alley

This painting has been posted as a Work in Progress (WIP) so it is not new to the blog. I think it is now ready for critique. I know Kevin will give me the feedback I need to take it that much further. I have discovered working on these alley's that I can only get so far and then I am "done" with them for awhile. I thought it was the size of them, but I have done two 18x24 alley's now, and I am running into the same problem on them.  I must need time to let them grow on me so I can take them further. I am usually very excited at the block in stage, then the drudgery sets in and I get bored. I had to "sit" on this one for almost a month before I figured out what was bugging me, and that was with the help of one of my friends. She suggested I lighten the roof on the right; that led me to the trees in the middle behind all the garages, which I also lightened. I darkened the house at the very end of the alley to let the brightness of the bush in front of it be in the light and to continue the eye flow. I know Kevin will tell me I have too much detail, although I did try to reign myself in. I will do a follow up post after class tomorrow if we get a chance to critique.

I had taken this painting back to alley where I took this photo reference to try and figure some of this out "on-site." I had intended to paint there, but this is a surprisingly busy alley and a narrow one as well. There was no way I could set up and do any painting and keep the same angle. I was up against the wall of a carriage house when I took this photo.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Annabelle Hydrangea's Makeover

Here is a rather large plein air painting I did 5 years ago. Amazingly I remember doing it in one afternoon session and when the light changed, I pulled out another canvas and did another large painting. Considering my skill level at the time, I was very pleased with the outcome of both of them and the fact that I did 2 larger pieces in one day. They both have continued to hang somewhere in my house.
This one, Annabelle, is 30" x 24." The background "lavendar" color was the street seen behind them at the time. It did look lavendar gray to me in the bright light of high noon. In the remake I decided to leave it, but with some modification; I darkened it and it now has a bit more variation within the color. My main focus on the "revision" was to give more definition to the flowers themselves but once I got going, the whole thing got tweaked.  I did spend two hot humid afternoons, about 1.5 hours each, working on this painting in approximately the same spot. I do like that the flowers have more shape and weight to them - I lightened those in the shadow from the original, as they appeared very light and the value just wasn't as dark as I had originally painted them. The leaves just seem to be more alive now, as I have learned to stay away from white to lighten a color, unless of course, it is required. I still want to add some bees - the past weekend the bush was beaten down by heavy rains and the bees weren't out, so I will continue to watch for another opportunity. Luckily, these flowers stay on the bush a long while, even if they do turn chartreuse as they age.