Sunrise at Tyler State Park

I went camping at Tyler State Park after a fun couple of days in Tyler with friends. It was about 40° and probably less by the lake, but the sunrise woke me up, shining on my tent screen. I jumped to it, grabbed my gear, coat and threw on my cowboy boots to catch the light. The far bank was lit up in an orange hue while the foreground trees were still mostly in shadow from the tall pines behind me. The camera failed to really catch the glow, so I flung that paint fast to get down the actual blues and orange colors that vibrate dramatically. After finishing the sketch, I used that to repaint it on a larger 12×16″ canvas. Sweet memory I’m blessed to have!

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Studio Work: Fall Colors on the Lower Swift River

This is a piece I’ve been working on for a while. I visited my brother and his family for about two and half months in Marblehead, and was lucky enough to find a break in the rains in later October to travel to the southeast White Mountains. The Lower Swift River flows near Conway, NH and at peak fall color has crowds lined up along the highway to go down to the river. Spectacular. I found a park where I could head down and explore the area. Up river about a quarter mile, where to people quit and turn around, I found a bend in the river perfect for a sketch to get careful notes of the area. I took those notes and a photo to paint this 18×24″ view. I wanted to get a good contrast between the light boulders and dark waters to invite the viewer into the scene. The main tree was actually some bare birches, so I look the liberty to “enhance” it with a vibrant maple also seen along the river. The sky was actually much more brilliant hues of blue, but it needed to be muted to showcase the main tree. After about a week, I couldn’t see anything else I could do, so I called it done.

Loved the journey! Onto the next.

Studio: “Into Reality” Mt. LeConte, NC

“Into Reality” acrylic 11×14″

My cousin Andy and his wife backpack to a lodge in Mt. Le Conte n the Appalachian Mountains. It has a special meaning to them as their getaway hike and he took a snapshot of his wife walking into view of the mountains. This painting will be a good “happy unbirthday” surprise. He’s been wanting this painting for some time and I finally felt ready to paint it. 

I’ve been learning about Impressionism and manipulating color, value, edge… all the aspect the affect the mood of the scene. When backpacking through the woods its been called the “long green tunnel”. After a few miles, it’s meditative as you listen your rhythmic footsteps, the sounds of the forest, your breathe and you fall into introspection of life. Then, BAM, bright light hits you and an overwhelming view of the mountains appears. It’s a sudden jolt internally to go from introspection to such awareness of life outside of you. Humbling. Everything thought about for miles snaps into proportion, so teeny-tiny in comparison. Appreciation. It’s no question that this life is a gift, and being a part of it, however infinitely small, is incredibly comforting. These are the words and feelings behind the painting that guided my decisions. Hope they like it! 

Studio Painting: “Countryside Bluebonnets”

This will be a quick post, but wanted to share the most recent work done in the studio. If it looks slightly familiar, it’s because it is from a couple of past plein air studies and a bit of inspiration from a Clyde Aspevig painting all smacked together. Nice when that works out! I added some thick paint in areas of the foreground bluebonnets and let the detail fade away as it went to the background. Hopefully this will feel inviting, like stepping into the scene. I had an email from someone asking to buy artwork in the range this would sell at. Crossing my fingers!

I’m at a paintout near Ennis, TX with the Outdoor Painter Society,  texting this in my tent. Hope to meet some great artists tomorrow!

Studio Work: Last Light

Acrylic, 20×24″, stretched canvas
This has been a long relationship sort of painting, working on it off and on over the past month. It started out with a few brush marks, noting colors in a sketchpad on the side of the road as the shadows rose to the top of the trees. I think they are either cottonwoods or elms, but the yellows and bronze colors of the leaves hit by the deep orange-pink light of the sun seemed to set them on fire. Just behind the trees the sky was bright with a slight green tint that made the reds, oranges and yellows of the trees pop out even more. In contrast, the area in the shadows seemed to loose all color with slight shades of green gray that brightened towards a blue-gray as it went back in the distance. Although there’s no road, it was needed to lead th eye towards the trees. Giving the soil a muted red gave just enough variety to the grasses without making it shout out for attention. I also remember the other mental notes I took there on the side of the road was the high contrast in the sunlight off the tree trunks that seemed to soften along the edges as they dippped into the shadow. Everything emphasized the explosion of color on the ridgline between shadow and light. 

There might be a few small changes as I set it aside for a while in order to look at it again later with fresh eyes. 

Plein Air: Columbus, TX

I did a bunch of sketches today. The day started with a hazy, overcast sky, which greyed down everything, but it also enhanced the appearance of trees in the background looking like they were miles off rather than just a few hundred feet. I drove up to a scene right outside of Weimar, TX and had some trouble with all the colors being so close to grey, but it was a good warm up:


I went and worked for a couple of hours and saw the lighting just get better by the minute. The Weather Channel app was calling for rain three days in a row starting tomorrow, so I went out to do some quick studies hoping I’ll have some good ones to enlarge tomorrow as an “artist in residence” in the Columbus Art Center. I drove just outside of the Columbus city limits along the highway and tuned off on a road that said “no outlet” and was full of cracked pavement with a lame attempt to fill it with gravel. Perfect. It led to a gate along a fence with a scene full of depth. Here’s a couple small studies from that area:


I like the dark shadows and more saturated greens of the close trees versus the blueish shadows and more muted greens in the distance.

That went much quicker than I thought, so I headed back to the highway, and somehow found myself in a Beason Park, in Columbus, a place I’ve painted before. Huge oaks! I set up to do the same thing with close up trees and distant trees, but I’d be in the oak grove with soft spotlights through the leaves on the green grass. When I checked the distant trees closer, I saw the tower of the famous courthouse poking through the tops of the trees like a postcard image. It was a no-brainer. After a 5 minute value sketch and a ten minute color study, I got out an 11×14″ canvas panel and tried my luck. It would be a perfect scene for tomorrow! After about 2 hours, here’s what I ended with:


“The Columbus, TX Courthouse Bell Tower” 11×14″, acrylic

It could use a bit of adjusting, but this will work! I’ll start a 16×20″ or larger of it tomorrow in oils. Another fun adventure.

Plein Air: Old Ranch House in Weimar, TX

Ol’ Ranch House at Sunset, acrylic, 8×10″ (Sold! Thanks, Sharon and Glynn!!)
 
I went out to paint close to sunset at an old ranch house surrounded by Live Oaks just down the road from me. In fact, it’s the same ranch with the barn I did a study on in an earlier post a week or two ago. What drew me to it was the bright white of the house lit up by the sun shining almost directly against it, in contrast to the dark live oaks. I had just enough time to slap down the color notes before the sun set and then took it home to finish it. I softened the edges of the trees and sky to give it a sense of mystery but maintain the peace you feel when viewing it. 

I was curious what else is down this street since I now have about ten paintings just from the first three miles, so tied on the jogging shoes and did the full loop (7+ miles). I saw at least three more paintings and have seriously sore calves. Worth it! 

Plein Air and Sudio: Live Oaks and an Old Barn (Weimar, TX)

 

An old barn and live oaks in Weimar, TX (5×7″ oil)
 
This is a scene of huge live oak trees surrounding a barn just outside of Weimar, TX. With about an hour and a half left of sunlight, I quickly sketched this scene. I really liked the way the oak trees curved up around the barn, sort of framing it. 

Here’s the five minute value sketch to organize my plan of highlighting the barn making it a focal point: 

 

value sketch
 
And here is the scene:

 

actual scene (reference pic)
 
As you can see, I decided to darken the sky and brighten up the right side of the barn. Doing the pre-sketch was hard since I was in a hurry, but past frustrations have taught me those five minutes spent with the gray markers will almost cut the painting time in half and save a lot of frustration. 

About half of the way through, a random dog came up to me out of nowhere, barked and pooped ten feet from me before taking off. So, I spent the remaining time with that fresh scent. About an hour in, a man pulled up and said he lived on the ranch across the street and invited me to check out his huge oak trees. I put in a final 10 minutes, packed up and met him at his house. On the way I saw the dog in the road to the house with what looked like a grin. Ha. Mr. Janeske drove me around his property and on top of the hill is a huge, spanning oak grove with distant hills and trees behind it. Amazing scene! I told him I’ll be back for sure when the weather is right (it’s going to rain for the next week). I’m excited! 

Update: I worked on the large scale version of this study yesterday at the New Ulm art festival and it sold before I left! Here’s an iPhone pic of the finished painting (I need to get a better pic later). 

“Ol’ Barn on Sedan St” oil, 16×20

Plein Air: Nolenville, TX with Oils!

 

“Roadside Daisies” 5×7″ oil
 
This will be a quick note, but I got so tired of fighting with the acrylics drying and fading yesterday, I decided to test out some water soluble oils with a simple subject. It’s a lot different, but I love not having to rush to get the paint smeared on only to return to a dried pile of mix. I may return to acrylics at some point when I need to, but it’s a nice break. It seems that the oil blends so much better, I may be able to reach another level of expression in the subtle variations of cool and warm grays. I found a way to store wet panels very cheaply, and will show this in the next post. Can’t wait to get back out and try again!!

Plein air: “Less is More” Harker Height, TX

  

The scene: is of a pasture in Harker Heights, TX in the springtime with a herd of cattle and a tree line in the distance. The sky was cloudy only letting in a few seconds of sunlight, highlighting the cows. I had to be fast and try to memorize what it looked like. 

The experience: I’d just had a chat with a good artist friend about the “less is more” theme in painting. A good composition, meaning the right design and technical aspects, can hold a painting together so that it just looks right, even without the details. If you are on Instagram, look up @jeremyduncan and you’ll see much better examples of this concept. In the process of building a painting, this simplified version of the scene is the foundation to build on, exactly like the framework of a house. If the foundation of the painting is bad, no amount of detail is going to improve it or translate the emotional sense of the scene. In fact, details on top of a poor foundation will look overworked and leave the viewer confused, asking, “What is this about?” or “What am supposed to feel?”. On the other hand, well placed detail on top of a solid foundation will leave a clear sense of what it feels like to actually be there. 

I’m really looking forward to doing many more, similar “less is more” sketches!