In the counties of the Upper Delaware Rive and Catstkill region of Pennsylvania and New York there are thousands os once productive farms lying idle. Some are abandoned. Some are still occupied yet unproductive. It's an evolving economic and demographic condition. In this painting I've tried to create an end of the day and season image the may also represent the end of an era. Where I grew up in Northeast Massachusetts there were a many farms that had survived from colonial times. Over the past 40 years they have been developed leaving little evidence of rural life. Sadly that phenomenon is accelerating in the region where I now live. But there still is great beauty in the land. And in the spector of those who loved and worked the lands.
I have never been a big landscape guy. I love landscapes. They've just always seemed so complicated. All those damn trees. How do you paint those damn trees. Recently a friend of mine convinced me to join her in a workshop with landscape artist Peter Fiore. It was an renewing experience. There was a lot of information passed around. Much extremely useful. But non more than the statement 'You are painting the light.' I have heard this many times since art school. Many of the my photographers friends talked about it. Painters told me that they owned their success to the moment that they discovered light. I accepted all of this as gospel and continued with my humorous illustration. Line and wash drawings where tone and value were at play but not necessarily light.
For years my painting were representations of accidental light. Random. Good luck. Bad luck. My encounters with light were totally accidental without the understanding that I was in control of my light. Not in the sense that I could move the sun about in the sky. But I could be in the right place at the right time by design.
At the same time I was preparing for Peters workshop there were a couple of news bits floating around about apps to help photographers 'chase the light'. One is an add on to an APP called The Photographers Ephemeris or TPE. Which offers as an optional 'add in' called Skyfire. These tools are supposed to help with finding light events related to sunrise, sunset, weather conditions and track the path of the sun. After the workshop I bought the TPE app and SkyFire add in. Heres some resulting work based of chase light based on information vs luck.
This was in the morning, not dawn but early light. I was bight enough to casta shadow but defuse. A very hilly river valley.
This is the first successful attempt at achieving light. When I say successful I mean that I understand the value structure. I may not have expressed it right but now I'm understanding it.
Needless to say that this 'new' awareness is helping with other challenging lighting situations.
Another result of chasing light with previous warning
I can't seem to stop this kitchen art thing. This little squash came out of our garden this year. All lumpy and bumpy. This is still officially a work in progress. I'll wait a few days before I call it finished. The old box it's sitting on has become my favorite platform. This single overhead light set up is really revealing in it's simplicity.
I've started a series of 'Wild Apples' paintings. The one is almost done just waiting for a little glazing. The idea came from Yanni's giving me a few of his tiny unmanaged Macintosh apples. I was intrigued with the little mis-shapen things. I decided to eat one ,after much carving found it was great. I looked at them and saw another piece of 'Kitchen Art'. Then I realized the there were hundred of apple trees within just a few miles of my house. I've run around and gathered and was giving a bunch of untamed apples. Northern Spy, Macintosh, Cortland, Green Delicious and a couple of undetermined fruit. I am in the process of photographing all of them, I can't possibly paint them all while they are still fresh, for a series of paintings on panel. 6 x 6, 6 x 8, 8 x 8 and 8 x 10s. Maybe even a few watercolors.
Lets start this rant with Wikipedia's definition of the Maker movement.
The maker culture is a contemporary culture or subculture representing a technology-based extension of DIY culture. Typical interests enjoyed by the maker culture include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of CNC tools, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and traditional arts and crafts. The subculture stresses a cut-and-paste approach to standardized hobbyist technologies, and encourages cookbook re-use of designs published on websites and maker-oriented publications. There is a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them to reference designs."...
For the complete wiki definition;
Why am I asking this? A couple of months ago a local artist called themselves a "maker". This artist is digitally illiterate. Not a bad thing just IIWII. Having made a living most of my life as a technology based commercial artist I let it pass. This week a group of artists I'm loosely connected to online stated labeling themselves as 'makers'. It started me thinking of how words and terms get co-opted for seemed marketing advantage. Digital creation techniques like 3-D printing which is the current high buzz thing is the prime example. 3-D printing which require some serious geeking skills, like 3-d modeling and the ability to trouble shoot digital and hardware issues.
So how do watercolor artists now define themselves in the 'maker' space? Because their work is presented digitally online? Or that they make giclee prints? The nerd in me says no no no. The old ad guy in me says maybe its worth a try. The skeptic in me says 'Whoa you're going to get lost in a market space that is terrier than arts and craft!"
Positioning oneself in fine art and craft market space is hard enough. To cloud the already foggy niche space you occupy seems unwise marketing.
Ok, so the reason this comes up now really is that I have just begun finishing a new 'original digital print' for my summer studio tour season. It is an extension of the 3-D modeling and Photoshop work I've been doing for the last 20 years. I includes to of my main interests and focuses. Computers, and trout fishing. Is this 'maker' work or is it art. A bit of both maybe but I think its art.
A work in progress of one of my favorite places. We spend a week there every August. One of my other favorite things is windows. I like these windows. I have a bit to do still. Waiting for some of the paint to 'tack-up' for glazing and detail.
SO I did the series of Soha posts earlier. A life sketch improved in the studio from a iPhone snap. The result was a burnt sienna under painter that was okay for painting over. The problem was that in fifty year of painting I'd never done that before. Oh well. So I printed the photon canvas from my epson printer. Put it un a drawer and forgot about it. I had a complex painting ready to go on the easel . I didn't want to be hung up for a week so I started putzing around an d found the print.. I taped it to a board and painted it. It's not done but I'm gonna sit on for couple of days to see if I can find any more boo boos. I like it but I have to give most of the credit to the model Soha.
For the second week I attempted an oil sketch. Soha was the model again. This is about 2 hours of work. The proportions and placement are good..ish. I have an iPhone photo that will use to tighten this pose up and hopefully add some color. The paint is applied using OMS (orderless solvent). It show stay open for a few days so I can adjust tones and shapes fairly easily. I'll let the thing go almost dry before adding the color sparingly. This intended as a sketch after all.
This life drawing thing is so important for me. Though it will be finished from a photo I know how the parts sit in space. There is an immediacy that forces decisions and a bit bolder approach.
The second thing I'm going to invent is a camera that takes an image from every point of view at once and lights each perfectly. That is of course after I invent the worm hole from Millanville to Honesdale.
Added some color in the studio using iPhone photo as reference. A nice sketch for a short time... for me at least..
This is a first at least since the 60s and art school. This is a brush drawing in burnt sienna oil paint. Oil and solvent. It was done starting last Sunday at Johan's Sunday 3 hour one pose drawing session. The model is an Egyptian art student spending some time here in the Catskills. I had an sketch after that and was going to let it lay. I had taken a shot with my phone just in case I might want to finish it in the studio. On Tuesday things were slow and I printed out a biggish print and continued with the sketch. I've spent about another hour and a half over 2 days and I'm happy with it overall.
I don't know where I was going with this when I started. It was a completely different approach for me. My initial sketch was pretty accurate in proportions so it didn't take a lot to 'finish' it. It it's real finished.
Once it drys hard i might quickly paint over it in color. But not before I get a good scan of it.
After a pleasant vacation on the rocky shores of Maine eating lobstahs and oystahs its back to the Upper Delaware valley. Back to the board and easel. I made a few vain attempts at 'plein air' painting I'm glad to be back at my easel.
We went to Rockland Maine and saw Colin Page's show (as hyped previously). I'm still seeing his beautiful paintings in my head. A plein air painter by the way. We walked the Boothbay Botanical Gardens which were gorgeous. But the most fun for me though was crawling around on the rocks shooting with my camera. I was lucky to capture some classic and some dramatic scenes. I now can fake a wave building and crashing in my warm dry studio.
Anyway here I am. The first thing I did was this color sketch of the Delaware River which is just about 800 feet from my house at the bottom of our road. There's a spot just as you start up the rise on River Road across from Bill's chickens that offers up this little scene. The river winding its way up to Skinners falls. Not really a falls but a ledge that creates a chute that I no longer want to navigate. The time of year, angle of the sun height and color of the water and number of rafters affect the picture. I've been stopping and looking at this for years. I'e even photographed it in magic light. I could never get it. I decided that I'd better give up the 'idea' of the perfect moment and just do it. Like I said I'm no outdoor painter so I did this quick sketch from a photo and I like it. As I painted it I imaging how a series of this scene in different conditions would be fun and a great study. So here we are Eel Weir number 1.
This rock stands at the end of the trail to Whitehead on Monhegan Island, ME. Not quite finished yet but in the next couple of days, maybe.
This is the most complicated painting I've attempted in a very long time. I love some parts of it and almost hate others. Only time will tell. The rock sort of looks like Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars. I painted this with thinned oils using Mark Carders medium formula (minus the clove). I'm happy with the technique. The exposure of the photo is a little soft. When it's done and oiled I'll shoot a better one.
I've been working on a couple of paintings over the past 2 weeks. This one and a landscape that isn't ready for public viewing yet. This piece, Free Bread, is for a Wayne County Arts Alliance fund raiser. An auction taking place in September. I had to get it done to dry so I Can hand it in next week. We're going to Maine at the end of the month and I wanted this out of the way. Anyway...
About 25 to 30 of the WCAA will be submitting works on the theme of texture. the only limitations are it has to be 16 x 20 and hang on a wall. So this meets those guidelines. It took about 4 days overall spread out over a week. Getting the bread, photographing, printing full size, mixing intermediate colors then painting which took about 10 hours so far. When it's dry I'll glaze some and finish the foreground. I like this painting. I wasn't intimidating and was as always a great study in mixing complementaries. There are a couple of simple compositional considerations working here but nothing fancy.
I was a little stressful what with the time crunch but that feeling went away when I decided I liked it. Just like the bread. BLB Rustic loaf is out of this world. Lisa Woods only makes her breads and pastries for the public on the weekend. The bakery is off on a country road. Lucky for us we live only about 3 miles away on an even more country country road.
This is an iPhone shot. When it's done I'll make a full frame of it and put it up.
I have never painted flowers. At least that I can remember. As the Peones were fading we cut the last of the batch and slammed them in a vase with some water. Not much thought. I brought them to my studio and set them up in front of the camera. Over 3 days I shot the set up sometimes with side light sometimes with top light. This photo is a combination of 2 shots 3 days apart. One top lite on side lite. In photoshop I masked and merge the images.
I built a relative proportion grid over the photo. Transferred the grid 1 to 1 onto a piece of Arches oil paper stained with DMP stain.
My intention here is to first see if I like painting flowers... they're pretty fussy thing. How I feel about the result will determine if I do a larger version more complete on line.
The real intriguing challenge here is the color matching. The subtle gray pinks cast with hints of green contorting with the purples and magentas. Oh boy.
I'm also doing this to show how important it is to sometimes spend the time and effort to solve problems before you commit to doing an expensive effort on linen. What I'll learn here will make doing a finished painting easier and quicker.
Today I start finding the formulas for all those delicious grays. Yummy.
Wish me luck.
I've mentioned how my studio is too airtight to paint with oils in the winter. Especially when the temps outside are hovering around zero most of the time. This winter I've been playing with watercolor, gouache and acrylic. Here is a work in progress using acrylic on a panel.
I haven't done an acrylic this big in years. Todays acrylics seem different. More like gouache in its flatness. My studio is so dry that I've had to spray the palette with water every 10 or 15 minutes. I'm happy-ish with it. About 70% done. It's a study in grays.
A real departure in composition style. More lyrical than boxy. Now I have to loose some edges. I only have 3 or 4 days that I can get at it before I trade in my knee.
Here is the finish as it is. I took a real different approach to the composition on this. The curves and arcs are the structure of the image. The arcs of the land and water mimic the arcs of the gunnels of the front boat. This was all carefully constructed as a photo comp over the past year. Though it's a representational or impressionistic reality it's certainly more of an illusion creating the real look. The colors are all grays created by mixing complimentary colors.
Overall as an project I think it's successful. I like it. Is it beautiful art. I don't know. Style wise it's similar to the acrylics that I did early in my career because of the medium. I do prefer Oil or watercolor.
The painting itself took about 10 to 12 hours. That on top of panel preparation, and building the image which actually stared several years ago. I do like that when you look at this from a distance it looks realistic. Up close its a mess.
A little explanation of the composition
I mentioned that this composition is different for me. Usually my compositions are based on rectangular relationships within the defined rectangle. This painting is based on arcs and diagonals. The picture rectangle was defined by the interlocking of the arced shapes.
This happened unintentionally during the process of cutting and pasting for the photo comp in photoshop. I used a couple of versions of the same shot. Moved boats around. Left out outboard motors. Forced some tonalities. Ending up with an image in the 26.5 by 22 scale.
The arc shapes are all base on arc A defined by the foreground boat's shape. It's an abstract where nature and objects blend. Add the strength of the diagonals and the fact that the objects are boats... how can I go wrong. Most of the time in the process I looked only at the subject matter. The lyrical base composition was difficult for me. I let it sit for a long time. I had distractions. I made a panel for it and let it sit some more. More distractions. frustrated by distractions I started painting. I used Acrylic for several reasons. Because I was unsure of how to handle the surface. Real or more representational? Acrylics can easily go either way. As I painted i realized the abstract nature of the painting.
It turned out to be a good painting. Not because of realistic detail but the inference of detail. Not real strong colors all grays. A lot of motion based on the above abstract but not so much that the eye escapes the frame. The main arc shapes support the natural arcs of the objects and nature.
Okay. This is the result of an unconscious process. Not an unknowing process. Because of many years of being a visual wrist in a lot of disciplines I have internalized many mechanisms. Developed an eye. I finally becoming happy with my eye.
In a later discussion I muse on the visual eye. How some people have to nurture it and others gifted with it.