Monday, August 22, 2011

Following the setting sun

...everything is vague, confused, and Nature grows drowsy. The fresh evening air sighs among the leaves - the birds, these voices of the flowers are saying their evening prayer. Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
Shaker Village is even more special as the sun sets and the fields grow orange-golden. Plein air painting is even more demanding when the sun sinks so quickly. So today, I knew exactly where I wanted to set up and I knew what I wanted to capture, but doing that is always more difficult in reality then in my imagination.
This is a series of sketches that I hope to use as reference for a large pastel, however the more I study the images the more I think that trying to incorporate all will be too much information and not a clear focus. It may be best to develop 2 pastels, one of the sycamore and the other of the orange field.
"Sycamore and Fence" plein air sketch
"Chasing the setting sun1" plein air sketch
"Chasing the setting sun2" plein air sketch

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


"The best laid plans of mice and man." ??
I don't know who said that. It's such a common saying that the author has faded in the glare of an overused saying. But my point is that no matter how many times I tell my students, "Don't put the point of interest smack in the middle of the drawing" here it is, right in the middle. Using another overused saying "make lemonade out of lemons," I named this piece "Front and Center" to beat my critics to the punch. Yes, I know it's right in the middle, and I I still like it  :-)
Maybe some creative cropping would help?
"Front and Center" 12" x 8" plein air pastel on sanded paper

Let's try a square?The 2 hayrolls if viewed as a unit are still in the middle but the large one is more to the right side and in this version the hayrolls are unmistakenly the point of interest.
"Front and Center, Square Up" 
I like viewing the images small. I can see design flaws more easily, like the strong diagonal of the fence row needs to be counter balanced by a stronger angle to the blue mountains. I'll try some creative photoshopping.

Yes, I like that better, but now I have to get back to matting/framing for the Woodland Art Fair, in Woodland Park, Lexington, KY this weekend.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rectangle or square

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. " Pablo Picasso
I've drawn this little outbuilding before but from a photograph. This one was created en plein air this week. 
But what I want to talk about is how convenient working with pastels and pastel paper is compared to dealing with a stretched canvas.
While preparing this image for tonight's blog I accidently cropped it as a square and I like it much better. With pastel paper all I have to do is just cut the paper before matting and framing but if it was an oil painting on stretcher bars then it would just have to stay as is.
What do you think? Which format do you like better?
"Shaker Outbuilding" 12" x 8" pastel

"Shaker Outbuilding Two"  8" x 8" pastel

Monday, August 15, 2011

Shaker Light

"The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery." Francis Bacon
Shaker Village has a special feel that is almost beyond words. There's a quiet there, a feel of contemplation and safety.
The afternoon light was clear and bright as I headed to Shaker Village and while viewing the light and shadows on the buildings I felt like depicting them not with all the detail but to try to infuse the structure with a more ethereal feel without the pale colors typical of spirituality.
I may follow this series further. 
This one is going somewhere but not sure it's even 1/2 way there. I may try it again with other colors or try other structures. When leaving the area I spotted some barns and outbuildings that would be good in the morning sun.
"Shaker Light" 8" x 12" pastel on sanded paper

Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Mingo Flats Evening"

"If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint." Edward Hopper
This view always takes my breathe away. I'm looking to the west over Mingo Flats, West Virginia and it hasn't changed since I was a child.
Late in the evening, the golden hour, the mountains turn a dusty blue and the setting sun casts long shadows over the valley. I can hear a dog bark and wind in the grasses, maybe a tractor but that's about all. "There will be peace in the valley...." hymn.
"Mingo Flats Evening" plein air 8" x 12" pastel on Wallis sanded paper

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August 2011 Polarization

"Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye.. it also includes the inner pictures of the soul. "  Edvard Munch
Yesterday morning as I stared at the two barns on the hill I was struck at how opposite they were in color, size, and shape. They reminded me of the polarization in our world on all fronts....nobody is getting along with anybody.
"Polarization" is my artistic interpretation of the state of affairs for August 2011.
It's pretty homogenized but the barns are opposites that reside together on the same hilltop.
"August 2011 Polarization" 8" x 12" pastel on wallis sanded paper

Friday, August 12, 2011

"The Bridge"

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." Edgar Degas
Another day of beautiful summer weather and plein air painting on Frogtown Road - not a very pretty name for a place.
When painting from nature I'm always conflicted by "what makes a good painting and what makes a good plein air experience?" In other words, plein air for me is observing nature, being inspired by the light, or the color or contrast, the composition, movement of shapes as they descend towards the background. And how does an artist adjust all those things to create a striking piece without strongly altering what is observed?
One way is to create the piece while observing nature and then use the piece for inspiration when back in the studio with controlled conditions and space, both physical and mental, to change what needs to be changed.
Marc Chagall said, "Great art picks up where nature ends."
Something to ponder.
Meantime here's one of my pieces from today.
"Shadwell Farm Bridge-late afternoon" 12" x 8" pastel

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Joy's Drive"

"The hurrier I go the behinder I get" Amish saying
I've moved my studio at Artists' Attic which has taken 3 days of my creative time which I should be using to get ready for Woodland Fair, but I just want the new studio to be "right" so it feels good to work in and looks nice for visitors.
Which means I didn't get to work on any pastels again today.
This is "Joy's Drive 3" from my trip to West Virginia and yes, I've drawn Joy's drive before but this is farther up the road and my point of interest is the bright area at the end of the road before it bends to the right. That can be a tricky composition because I'm putting the point of interest in brighter colors in the background which is an area that should have atmospheric lighter bluer colors to make it fade away instead of hop forward. Do you think the drawing works? 
"Joy's Drive 3" 8" x 12" plein air pastel on Wallis Belgium Mist sanded paper

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Frogtown creek

"Good food, good wine, good friends and art - can't get much better than that." me
The Bluegrass Plein Air Painters met at Frogtown Road off Parker's Mill Road close to Versailles Road - in case you ever want to go there. (Oh yes, and after painting for 3 hours we met at Ramsey's for dinner--really fun evening.) The creek that runs along the road is beautiful - small, but with the cleanest water I've seen in Kentucky. The creek apparently runs through only horse farm fields because it has no mud or silt in it.
Today, we finally had a decent summer day without the horrid humidity that we've had all summer long and the sunshine was bright creating long dark bluish shadows as it set with golden light. 
This piece will probably get some touch up tomorrow after I'm away from it which always helps one see what really happens while working on it."The mountain is clearer from the plain." Kahil Gilbran
"Frogtown Road creek" 8" x 12" pastel on Wallis paper

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

VanMeter Road

No quote today. I had a follow up from cataract surgery laser procedure on my eye so I'm taking it a bit easy.
"VanMeter Road" was created in July as part of my prep sketching for the Run for the Bluegrass mini-marathon poster so it's technically not a "Pastel a Day".
I'll be drawing with the Plein Air Painters of the Bluegrass tomorrow night. Hopefully I'll have a piece completed that I can post.
"VanMeter Road 2" 20" x 9" pastel on textured pastel paper

Monday, August 8, 2011

Water house Shaker Village

"You are the sunshine of my life," Stevie Wonder
My daughter left today to work at the American School in Barcelona, Spain for 2 years. She's my sunshine and I'm going to miss her so much, but art is a great way to go someplace without leaving. So I go into my art and will seek the sunshine even more.
Here's the other piece that I created down at Shaker Village during the Plein Air Painters of the Bluegrass on the paint out.
I love this little water house building. It's the Shaker version of our modern water tower and inside was a large water storage tank that was supplied with fresh water from the pond below and the horses somehow by walking in a circle, hooked up to a wheel pumped the water up the hill and into the water tower. The funny little projectile coming out of the top of the building rises as the water rises. The Shakers were extremely cleaver especially for 1820.
"Water House" 8" x 12" pastel on Wallis sanded paper

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Shaker Village Plein Air

"Almost heaven West Virginia" John Denver
I've been on vacation to my favorite vacation spot, Mingo, West Virginia, but today's image is from a plein air paint out that the Bluegrass Plein Air Painters had today at Shaker Village. Early in the day the sky was gray and trying to rain. I couldn't get inspired by anything because my interest is light and shadow. Finally after lunch when the sun shone, I created one piece that I liked and then another late in the afternoon. Late afternoon is really the golden hour when light and shadow produce luscious colors.
I've painted this house before but each time I try to capture the essence of afternoon light on the limestone building.
"Shaker Home August Afternoon" 8" x 12" pastel on Wallis sanded paper
July  has been busily distracting but now it's time to get back to business with Woodland Fair August 20-21 and then 3 fairs back to back in late September and early October.
Last winter I produced a "Pastel a Day" for 60 days and that was a very productive time, so I've decided to try it again starting with today's image. I'll also post some of the pieces from my trip to WVA in July.