Archive for the 'Painting' Category

15
Oct
13

Lichen!

Around Labor Day we made a brief excursion to the North Shore with some good friends. Our lovely cabin in Lutsen was right on Lake Superior’s rocky shoreline. One of the things about these rocks and boulders I find endlessly exciting is the beautiful lichen. I’m like a kid in a candy shop!

Lutsen lichen rock 1

I painted these using a small kit I’d put together for sketching, consisting of cigar box with duct tape hinge, small plastic spice jar used as water container, and some paint brushes with ends broken off to make them fit in my bag.

Companion animal: Least chipmunk

Lutsen lichen rock 2

 

 

14
Oct
13

Amazing tree

Fall has come very late to Minnesota this year, and we’ve have many days of warm weather and near-blinding sunlight. This has made most everyone very happy, including plein air painters!

In the parkland near my house, I have a favorite tree that I can see across the grassland during my regular walks. This tree continues to amaze me – its heartwood is absent, presumably scorched away by lightening and perhaps fire years ago. There is also a hole in its bark one can see right through. Yet the tree stands strong, alone on the hillside, always with a full, healthy display of leaves.

Here are a couple paintings I did over the past week featuring this tree, along with a quick sketch of the adjacent treeline and wetlands.

Companion animals: garter snake(s), deer ticks

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15
Aug
13

under Manitou bridge

I’m posting this painting largely because I wanted to share something about the experience of painting it.

Manitou Island lies in the middle of White Bear Lake, MN, and is connected by an old wooden bridge. When I was there with a painting class last week, I set up under the bridge partly to avoid the bright afternoon sunlight, and partly because I was drawn to the way that light cast a glow on the bridge’s foundation.

As I painted, I heard many kinds of bird calls. There were swallows flying about, but I also heard an unusual clacking sound I didn’t recognize. As the afternoon went on, the source of the sound became visible. A small bird I’d never seen before picked its way toward me through the grasses, and hopped from rock to rock in front of me. Her body was upright, with little in the way of wing or tail feathers – kind of like a partridge. As she moved about I soon saw that she was not alone – at least five fuzzy black chicks were hovering in the thicker reeds and grasses and following her down concealed trails. One bold chick came out into the open with his mom, right in front of me, following in her footsteps.

I was mystified as to what this bird could be, but after several days of searching, identified it as a Virginia rail – elusive birds that frequent marshes.

One of the reasons to paint outdoors is to experience things we wouldn’t otherwise. Standing in one place for hours at a time, Nature is always making itself known, and has a way of coming out to meet us. Most often this is through the intensity of the elements, or through insects that must be fended off. Or the evolution of clouds in the sky. Or sometimes it’s times  like this – animals never before seen. I love being surprised by what appears.
under Manitou Br

10
Aug
13

Hjørdis at dock

If you’ve ever been to Grand Marais, MN, you may have seen the schooner Hjørdis which sails out of the North House Folk School. Her green hull, sienna-color sails, and Old-World profile are distinctive as she traverses the harbor.

Last month when I was in Grand Marais painting during Todd Voss’ plein air class, we were down by the harbor near the Folk School. We’d seen the Hjørdis earlier in the day sailing about, and now she was safely back at dock. As a light rain passed through, I took cover under an overturned boat on a storage rack. (My paints are water-mixable oils so they start to run when it rains!) I set up a little 4 x 6 canvas, and painted the Hjørdis which was directly in front of me. Since I had to finish the painting later, it’s not an exact representation, but I hope it captures some of the feeling of the Hjørdis and its home.

Hjordis

20
Jul
13

under construction

As the lingering spring rains have given way to summer in Minnesota, I’ve been getting outdoors to paint. Trying to find my way around the canvas again, I’ve done a number of unremarkable paintings. Over the last week I had the opportunity to take painting classes with two great plein air painters which helped me get back on my feet again and move forward. For the second year in a row, I took another excellent weekend workshop with Todd Voss up in Grand Marais, and started a multi-week class with Christopher Copeland.

In yesterday’s class, the heat was so intense that our class decided to meet indoors at the new White Bear Center for the Arts building. Fortunately our room had a large window, so I was able to paint a view of the patio which is still under construction. Chris initially assumed that I would focus on the more “natural” vegetation in the distance, but I loved the odd assortment of building materials, with their varied colors, shapes and textures.

Christopher is quite a fluid, energetic painter, and I felt encouraged in my desire to be more loose and spontaneous with my own painting.

WBCA courtyard construction

One thing Chris said was that painters are most distinguished by their brushwork – it’s like handwriting. I’ve always loved to draw, but have had trouble translating that sense of ease and directness into painting. His statement really helped me experience my relationship to the brush in a different way.

20
Oct
12

Early fall at Tamarack Nature Center

Many of the leaves have already fallen now in Minnesota, but a few weeks ago when they were just beginning to turn, I went out to do some small sketches. Here’s one of the trees in my local park, in the afternoon light.

Tree at Tamarack in fall color

28
Aug
12

A look at the lake

There is a beautiful, shallow lake nearby my house, bordered on one side by a road which provides lovely views by car. A couple weeks ago I set out on my bike to find a spot from which to paint, knowing that might be difficult since the lake is surrounded by mostly private land. As it turned out, there was just ONE lake view I was able to find without trespassing, alongside the public boat launch. So be it.

01
Aug
12

Value study

When I was up in Grand Marais last weekend, I took a class in Outdoor Painting at the Grand Marais Art Colony taught by the landscape painter Neil Sherman. Neil taught us his variation of the Prismatic Palette and some formal, basics of developing paintings by blocking in dark values. I struggled mightily to overcome my fear of using black paint after years of being taught that it’s a no-no, and produced several clumsy attempts to emulate Neil’s process.

When I got home yesterday, I went over to Tamarack Nature Center down the street to practice. Given some time to sink into the process outside of class, I was feeling a lot more comfortable with a wider range of values by the end of the day.

01
Aug
12

Wood’s Creek

Last week I was up in Grand Marais vacationing. Everywhere one turns there is material for inspiration, including along the many hiking trails. Along the Superior Hiking Trail you can follow Wood’s Creek, a lovely, meandering stream that runs into Devil Track River. I did this painting there as the afternoon light was fading.

16
Jul
12

Onion river

This painting was done last month when I was up on the North Shore, following the plein air painting course I’d mentioned earlier. Even though I liked the painting, I wasn’t sure I was done with it, but the longer it sat, the more complete it felt.

I painted this along the Onion River, where there are some striking geological formations. It takes a fair amount of rock hopping to get around the riverbed, and the black flies were pretty fierce, but the magic of the river is worth it.




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