Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April Sky Study
 oil on panel  6" x 8"
  The thing about painting in the field, alla-prima, is the terrible battle between what is actual and what one is able to latch onto as everything changes. After all, we are trapped by gravity on a spinning ball of rock and dirt and water as it hurtles through the vast and cold space! The planet is spinning so fast we can't comprehend it and every living thing is struggling through its life cycle and straining to gain nourishment and warmth from the sun's light. It is a mess out there. The primary business of making a painting 'out there' is to try to grab a moment of the real during a process that takes an hour or two, or more - compressing that time and distill the essence of that time frame into that chosen moment. The stuff of physicists, philosophers, and poets - but in visual form having the capacity to delight and transcend. Wow! So, here is an attempt at such magic - just looking up on a glorious day and attempting the impossible.

Monday, April 25, 2011

  oil on canvas  14" x 18"

Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of 
haste.  It's what everything else isn't.  Theodore Roethke

Well, as often is the case, the poet has said it all. I haven't posted in a few days - we were up in Western Maryland last week and we went hiking around Swallows Falls. All along the hike there were these rock formations hanging above us - dramatic and fascinating. Here's the first in a series - hope they're what everything else isn't.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Afternoon Fields, April
  oil on panel  7" x 10"
Sometimes a day so wonderful just brings you to a sense of how lucky one is to be alive, in this time, in this place. On this glorious day, standing before my easel in the field, it was like living in the middle of Beethoven's 'Pastoral', what could be better?

April Creek
  oil on panel  7" x 9"
Got this one between rainy days and the sky just won't give over to a clear day. This little creek is one I have painted from several different spots over the years. We have had years when the whole thing just dries up and thin puddles of trapped water get stagnant while sand and rocks dry out in the sun. It seems that after this winter's snow and rain she's recovered (after four years) and the blue herons are back as well. Being aware of the rhythm of nature and the smallest changes are one of the benefits of being a landscape painter - everything is a possibility and so I'm always looking and imagining - makes for interesting driving on these dirt roads. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April 6th, On The Way To John's
 oil on panel 7" x 12 1/2"
On a chilly, breezy April day I found this spot on a back road just shy of the West Virginia line. When I was setting up my paint box in the bed of my truck the couple that farms this place drove up and stopped and asked me what I was up to. I told them it was so pretty there I was going to try and make a painting. They said OK and drove on down to the farm house. A little later a truck stopped on and the driver came over to see what I was up to and commented - he seemed to like it.  By that time the breeze had changed to a steady wind and I had to hold the paint box with my left hand to keep it steady while painting with my right. Just another joyous day outside trying to come to grips with a painting.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Early Spring Afternoon
 oil on panel 7 1/2" x 9 3/4"
I was heading out to the studio to gather up my kit and hike down our quiet dirt road, to find a spot from which to paint. I was taken by the yellow forsythia and my old aluminum row boat with its faded blue cover. That boat I will take out on the middle Potomac river and throw down my homemade anchors near the shade of a river island and work the shadow and light into some sort of paintings. In 1875, Monet had moved his growing family out of Paris up along to a rural village along the Seine. He made a series of paintings of the construction of a bridge; piles of lumber, the superstructure going up, the view downstream from under the bridge. Seeing a picture of Monet painting on the Seine in a small boat rigged up as a studio inspired me to buy this boat. In these early paintings, he wasn't yet the colorist painting the haystacks or the cathedral facade, in these works he worked boldly with slabs and shapes of paint in descriptive color and capturing the luminescence of the river in changing light. Though I've only seen these paintings once at a retrospective at the National Gallery, they remain my favorites, except perhaps the late, huge paintings of water reflections and lily pads. So, as I set up in the side yard and built this little spring painting, I kept the memory of those paintings in mind and maybe also my image of the artist himself, working along the river, reveling in the light and the paint.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Morning Sky, April First
  oil on panel  8" x 10"
The day started with patches of sharp blue peeking through big, wet clouds, so I strapped up and hiked down the road to a small turn-in along a farm field. As one tries to catch a swirling, moving sky, speed and memory and flexibility are most important. You can get set up and begin as the sky you loved stretches and runs and skitters away - but you can follow along with it and use visual clues to anchor down the first impression - even as the whole thing dissolves or (in this case) fills in. as I reached some kind of conclusion the sky covered over metal gray, the wind came up from a breeze to a stiff breeze and I realized it was only about 40 degrees out there - the pack up and hike back up the hill was made in record time.