Friday, December 18, 2009

Why do you paint?

Freezing Point   9x12 Oil

It didn't take long to answer this question: it's because it's so much fun to be outside, in all seasons, enjoying the sites, finding new lakes, ponds, stream, forests and fields.  Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill outside Harrodsburg has probably thousands of acres to explore, and different in all seasons. One morning last week the ponds were in the process of freezing over.  Shadows on the ice were a deep blue, almost glowing, much darker than the sky. All kinds of reeds, species unknown to me, added an amazing texture to the scene. The sky was Kentucky baby pink and blue. So there you are.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Big Deal

At the Gravel Bar 9x14 Oil

I learned from Bill Fletcher, our Central Kentucky art teacher extraordinare, that focusing first on recognizing and painting, blocking-in, big shapes first allows us to create paintings with a simplicity and sense of distance. After practicing this and seeing results, I've also found it creates a sense of power in the painting. This view of the Kentucky River late in the afternoon this October caused me to stop in my tracks and say "Wow, look at those big shapes". If you squint at the image, they are even more evident.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tree Hugging

October 9x12 oil

Grey days are the rule the last few weeks, but cabin fever got me out of the house and to Lexington Cemetery, the premier arboretum location nearby. I looked for big value contrasts among the greenery and sat down and painted a small plein aire piece. This turned out to be "How not to paint this scene". But since time spent in front of the subject is worth many photos, I came back to the studio and used both to complete this painting.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Clear Creek Logjam
Casting about for something to paint this past week, I riffled through my boxes of photos. In the process, I remembered a photo I had taken of Clear Creek years ago. In the middle of the stream was an island with large sycamore against which was piled debris from the occasional floods. The scene, I thought, had potential. I never found the photo so I painted the scene from memory. This is a handy technique, I'm told, for avoiding extraneous detail, the bane of my painting.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dappled Light

"So near and yet so far". This scene is barely thirty feet from a very busy country road. Always on the lookout for streams and ravines which promise the possibility of a painting, I parked on a narrow shoulder as soon as possible and hiked back into this washout. In the middle of summer, there's not much water. Little pools reflect the trees and what sky is visible. There is such peace here in contrast to the fleeting traffic above. I'm reminded of friends who have a meditation room in their house, reserved only for that purpose.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Boone Creek Gorge

One of the virtues of kayaking is that you can poke into places only accessible by water. The Kentucky River and its tributaries provide a host of inspiring sites for plein aire painting, picniking or loafing away an afternoon (after you paddle there).

Monday, August 24, 2009

In Red River Gorge

There is no indication of scale in this drawing. The largest rock happens to be near 12 feet high. The Gorge is full of amazing landscapes and rockscapes. We're privileged to have this gem within an easy drive. Here the late afternoon light strikes diagonally in an otherwise dark scene dense with plants and soggy after months of weekly rain.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back to the Drawing Board

While I've been laid up recovering from knee surgery, I've lately been drawing on toned paper in the easy chair. For the drawing above, I used a Canson toned paper with a value of six on a scale of 1 (white) to 10 (Black). This works well for a predominantly dark scene. The lightest passages are painted with a off-white acrylic. All other passages in the sketch are either the toned paper or penciled-in. For a snow scene I use a paper with a value of two. This approach is so simple in terms of resources and setup, I plan to take it with me plein-aire painting when I am mobile, hopefully in a month or so.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cattle Crossing

The forecast was for temperatures about 90 degrees, so we settled in the shade on the edge of a stream on the farm. The band of sunlit bright green of the mowed field was very attractive to the eye. Cloud cover moved in and it was quite comfortable. Having done a very simple 8x10 study and taken reference photographs, I returned to the studio. I sketched a simplified version of the view from photos, then proceed to tone the canvas olive to represent the background trees. I used Viridian in the dark foreground trees to give them warmth and make them move forward.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rain, Akers Farm

After visiting a gallery, I was returning in a downpour and passed the Akers Farm outside Danville, Kentucky. I've always loved this farm for its expanse, presence of cattle and collection of buildings. I quickly pulled over, rolled down the window and snapped the shutter while passing cars passed in a spray of water. The clouded sky occluded most of the sunlight above the clouds, resulting in a dark land mass. a dramatic scene.

Back in the studio I adjusted the trees, simplified details, and herded some cows together!

Friday, June 12, 2009

On Jane's Farm

Finding a good composition on this extensive farm might have been a challenge, but a fellow artist pointed down the road and said there were barns there. Walking down the road, this scene appeared and needed no modifications to make it a good composition. I started working at about 9:30AM under overcast skies and around 11:00 a dark band was seen in the west. The rain started at about 11:45 and we threw everything in the car and headed off to lunch, bumping over cattle grates. It reminded me that "A bad day painting outdoors is still better than a good day in the office".

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Elk Lick Creek

I called the manager of the Floracliff Nature Preserve in Eastern Fayette County and they were gratious enough to give permission to visit the preserve, which harbors a multitude of rare and endangered species. An escort is required. We were led to Elk Lick Creek by Charlie the "CEO" and Deborah the preserve manager. It was a steep downhill walk on a very narrow trail.

Once at the creek we had permission to walk along it upstream and down and paint plein aire. I chose one spot which turned out to be a nightmare to paint plein aire but took photos, then walked downstream and got in an 8x10 study. Skies were overcast, but temperatures moderate, in the 50's. After 2 hours or so we ended our visit, happy to have quiet time and a peaceful, but spectacular setting.

Back in the studio I took the photos of the "nightmare" spot, and, working on a 12x16 canvasboard, did a full value painting to insure the result would convey the drama I wanted. I toned the canvas a midtone Burnt Umber, then wiped out the light passages down to the white canvas. After a couple of days making adjustments and letting it dry, I added color.