I've posted these before, but have just added them to the Daily Paintworks gallery where my art is featured for sale. I am working on larger studio paintings from two of these now, using the cold wax medium with oil paints. Will post the results as they're finished. Cold wax is an extremely interesting medium that I am fully loving investigating. I'm painting on Baltic Birch cradled panels that have been sealed with PVA and two coats of acrylic polymer primer (mistakenly labeled and called 'gesso'). These pastels are on sanded pastel paper mounted to Pacific Mount self adhesive 3x mount board. They were done with a lot of exploration in mind to express an emotional concept, more than a specific location or subject.
This workshop is open to oil and pastel painters who are already comfortable with their media and have experience working outdoors. We will start with field work; gathering possible candidates to be used for larger paintings, followed by a few days of studio work enlarging the studies selected. There will be a demonstration to students the process from start to finish. Students should expect to get a good start on the final painting but may not finish it entirely. The goal is to get the student to see the value in creating accurate field work that can be used as a reference in the studio, to work up a concept from the field into a strong studio painting that has similarities to, but is not a copy of, the field work. We will use photography where necessary and discuss the benefits and disadvantages of using them together. Field and studio work. Critique, materials discussion and group conversation will be part of the week.
Yes, I'm sad this is over. What artist doesn't want a month to do Nothing but paint uninterrupted, with orders (from self) not to let Anything stop them? I feel very lucky that I was able to have a month like this. Painting isn't over, of course. But choosing when to paint is how I will be proceeding from here on out. And guess what? It won't be those perfect, blue bird days. I've come to enjoy the adversity that Nature throws at us. But I've always known that, and have never been a fan of 'perfect' days. 'Perfect'... is a matter of personal taste. Perfect is good for beach chairs and umbrella drinks, not for painting the moods of Mother Nature. The hardest days, like when I was a little under the weather and thought I was coming down with the full blown winter cold and flu, and had to out in the 40-55 mph winds, are the days when there is nothing going on out there except lot's of sun and blue skies. I will write more about all of this in time.
Today I went back to Sawhill Ponds near Gunbarrel. After being tossed out of it's sister wildlife area yesterday, I was eager to walk back into it to explore the ponds. These were all gravel pits at one time, now reclaimed as wildlife habitat. Since I've lived here, they have not been full of water, but are this year. And it's a real treat to be able to explore, observe and paint them. The ponds there are full to the brim and the reeds, weeds, trees and brush are all looking wonderfully wild and like perfect nesting habitat for the many species of waterfowl that are already there pairing up. Of course that means that hawks (evidence of a duck kill, a plucked duck, by a raptor greeted me first thing on the trail this morning), owls and other fur bearers, like the beavers, are having a nice life right now too.
I'm a BIG fan of wetlands, marshes, swamps and that kind of habitat. This area of Colorado is not overflowing with that kind of habitat. My favorite memories of fishing, hunting, exploring, and painting, during my years in Minnesota, are of plying my way around areas like the river bottoms between Wabasha, MN and Nelson, WI, on the lower Mississippi River in my canoe, or fishing boat. This is where the cradle of so much of the marvelous bird life we have to see is nurtured and raised. Everything, but a desert tortoise, loves wet, marshy lands. I'm no exception.
Knowing the complexity of all of that vegetation is, I decided to make it a pastel day. Reason is that with pastels I can really dive into all of the calligraphy, detail and textural qualities that is there. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning, no wind, some clouds, sun. The best laid plans...
About 3/4th's of the way through my first painting "Habitat 1", out of no where the freight train wind that barrels down the eastern slope of the foothills, hit me square in the back, sending my 'working' pastel palette and a pastel pencil container... flying! It almost took my entire pastel easel and set up over the edge of the bank I was painting near. The working palette, for those who don't know, is a separate palette that we use to put the pastels in that we are using on the painting of the moment. Mine this morning had about 25 or 30 small pieces of pastel in it. When the wind took it, it went into the weeds, where the pastels are perfectly camouflaged. I found about half of them, but many were lost. That's not as bad as having the entire pastel box blow over, but I was still pretty peeved. I finished up that painting and fought the wind for dominance while packing up my gear, then hiked back to the van.
Big No No... never take your oil painting gear out of your vehicle just because you're not using it... or think you won't! I left mine at home. Whew...! Drove back, picked it up, and went back to Sawhill for the rest of the day. The wind had died down by now, could have used the pastels. Murphy's Law firmly in place. It was still windy some, so I was glad not to have to worry about dumping pastels again.
I decided that I was going to stand in the same spot for the rest of the day, and paint portions of the wetland habitat that was in front of me. It's so beautiful this time of year, but SO complex... it's almost scary. Instead of trying to explain it all, that would be nearly impossible, and instead of taking the other approach and generically rendering it with big blobs of color, I really tried hard to pay attention to my 'impression' of what was in front of me, and to let my need to explain, leave me. I had a ball painting this way. Maybe, finally, on the final day, I have discovered something about myself and my painting that is going to make the entire month worthwhile! It's worthwhile for many more reasons than just that. But I feel like I had an epiphany today. I have to think more about that before I try to really write it out, but will.
I want to thank everyone who has been following me along this month. I know that there are many who I have not communicated with who are reading and looking in... Thank You! And to all of you who've commented, purchased the paintings, and been wonderfully supportive... Thank You! I'm not going to write much more right now, but will in the near future, about what I found out, what I learned, and more.
For now, it's been a fun way to spend February. I'm going to miss it... but am looking forward to a more relaxed March, like you wouldn't believe!
Wait...Clone today too! Truly a beautiful day in most every way. I took a drive down to Boulder to the South Boulder Creek trail area early. I think it was already nearly 40ºF by the time I arrived, with skies that were a mix of great clouds and blue sky, mostly clouds, but with a lot of open sky and sun shining on parts of the landscape. To me, this is the best kind of sky for painting. I love the mix of shadow and light on the land.
By lunch, however, the skies in that area had filled in, but I had 3 paintings done and was satisfied with the morning. After lunch, I wandered back towards Longmont, stopping at Sawhill Ponds, and then on next door to Walden Ponds. Walden Ponds was just perfect for painting today. So I grabbed the gear and started hiking into the park. There were ducks and other birds all over the place, spring is certainly getting close. To my delight, I found a wonderful wetland area, a pond created by beavers who were active very recently, judging by all of the downed trees. I noticed that park personnel have skirted the remaining trees with chicken wire to stave off the busy beavers. I saw paintings all over the place, and was eagerly anticipating spending the rest of the afternoon, until sundown, painting.
I started my 4th painting of the day, "Beaver Work", and was happily painting along, noticing bird watchers with spotting scopes all around the area. About 10 minutes into the painting, a sheriff deputy comes hiking in and walks up to me. I figured she was curious, wanted to see what I was painting, right? NO... She says that "Technically, you're trespassing!" I was shocked... I had walked around the lake from the main path, kind of on the heels of a lady with a spotting scope who was counting waterfowl. I'm a life long outdoor sportsman, and have NEVER trespassed while hunting or fishing. It's against my rules of behavior. It's closed because the flood blew out the walls of most all of the ponds, and the trails are all blown out too. So it's a danger issue, which I can understand.
Evidently, there are huge signs on the gates. I saw one of these gates and signs on the way out... a steel gate, propped up on a trail, no connecting fence, just a lone gate (funny looking) with a very large yellow "Park Closed" sign attached. She told me there were three of them I would have had to go past. I told her that I did not go past even one, I came in on the shore of the lake, off of the trail, that I now know was open, so did not pass any gates. Plus, there were at least 3 spotting scoped birdwatchers in there ahead of me. But, so be it. I had a nice talk with her about the park, looks like it won't be repaired for a year or more, at least. Pella Crossing near me in Hygiene, isn't even on the repair slate so far. The flood really wrecked havoc on the places that make this such a nice place to be able to experience the outdoors in.
I had barely blocked this painting in, about where it's still at, and was disappointed to have to quit. She told me that I could take 4 or 5 minutes to finish up, pack up and leave. I painted a few more minutes, took it to the point it's at here, all while she stood there and watched and talked, then packed up and she escorted me out. :)
It had a lot of possibilities... then it didn't happen. And it won't, unless become a covert plein air painter!!!
Wow! Today was a day to clone! I walked outside into slightly less than an inch of new snow on the ground, painted one painting before it was mostly gone. For my second painting, I found a few little shadow patches of it left. We nearly hit 50ºF today, and I hear tomorrow is going to beat that.
The first subject today caught my eye because of it's subtlety, close values with just slight shifts in color and temperature. It looked like a large Impressionist painting... maybe Twachtman or Monet. I did my Marc on it, but the scale of the it is barely honored by the size of canvases I'm painting on. It's one that would be nice to come back to. Which reminds me of something that I realized a couple of days ago. That is that I haven't taken any photographs of the actual scenes I've been painting all month! I could be regretting that, but I don't. One of my goals in time, is to remove myself from the use of photo reference as far as possible. It's been good to spend this month only painting from life.
Obviously, if I do work in the studio, I'll either have to use these studies or photos of the studies, if I don't have photo reference. As I approach the end of this month, something tells me that it's going to be very hard for me to spend much time in the studio from now on. While I've been razzed, in a friendly way, about choosing February, a less than 'nice' month weather wise, the benefit is that there isn't going to be much that is going to dissuade me from heading out to paint from now on. I HATE the wind, but was out there in it.
Painting in winter has been part of me since I started painting landscape from life, going all the way back to the mid 80's in Minnesota, but I wouldn't say that I 'eagerly' leap out into the cold with a big smile on my face when the mercury starts falling south.. not until after this month. I'm sad that the snow is probably gone for the rest of this month, maybe some on Friday. Why? Because it offers so many wonderful design opportunities, color and value contrasts... uh... when the sun is out. If it's a gray day, it still affords some nice patterning to paint, but... Frankly, I have realized that I prefer the sun. So many days have been painted in the grayness of the overcast in winter, with snow. I have boxes of them. While everything is worthy of painting if the artist has the eye to turn it into Art, I prefer not to paint it much anymore. It's offers such a limited range of color that I'm losing my interest. The uniqueness is over for me... give me SUN!!! But not clear blue skies... or other boring weather. The month has shown me that I love, and prefer, adversity in the weather when I'm out there painting. It's so much more interesting to work with, than beach chair weather.
Ok... I've hit the subject matter "recognition" wall. I started out eager to paint the sky this morning, thinking that would be good exercise for me to do, just paint clouds. We had a great sky before 9 a.m.. That's when I painted the first one. From then on, the atmosphere went slowly gray, ending in flurries.
Without sun for good light /shadow contrast, or snow for good patterning and value contrast, I was at a loss today to fill my quota. The over all flat grayness of the day was tough to tune into and find anything that excited me at all. I found three paintings, but it was a struggle to even find that many. I think I drove around more today than I have all month. Hopefully today was the wall and tomorrow I'll be on the other side.
I painted back out by my prairie dog buddies for the second painting, Prairie Dog Blues. I named it that because while painting, an absolutely stunning Golden eagle slowly drifted overhead, causing a flock of magpies, and the prairie dogs to go nuts! The eagle was fighting pretty good winds, yep, windy again. So it slowly wandered in lazy 8's, back and forth over us. For me it was a great experience. For the critters in the area, a nightmare. It floated off eventually as I watched it until out of sight about a half mile or more away.
The last one for today, That White Fence, was painted on the north half of 61st St. The road I paint a lot on, that was in the heart of the flood disaster. I picked a day when there was a solid train of large semis making their way down to the river to dump dirt. It made painting a little unnerving. It's a dirt/gravel road, it was a tight fit for us all. I see this place all of the time, with this very long white fence going around the property. I don't know what is in there, other than some farming, some trucking and who knows what else? I'm glad I painted it finally.
Thanks for looking in... Enjoy! (Snow falling now)
Today was an odd one. The morning started with us under a heavy fog, one that limited visibility where I am to 1/4 mile or less. As the sun began to make it's presence known, and the early morning temps dropped as they tend to do as it rises, hoar frost began to coat weeds and branches. Within an hour, enough sun was making it's way through the moisture near the ground to change the color of the frost and vegetation to a warmer palette. I began to see a neutral yellow/neutral purple complimentary color color scheme all around me. By the time I had finished the first two paintings, the winds had picked up, cleared out the fog, but left a ground haze that added measurably to the atmospheric perspective, which I really like to paint. That's when I painted "Haystack Wind", showing the view south from my studio, out past the 'goose pond' and Haystack Mountain and further on down the Front Range. Thank the wind for the dust particles and weed seeds in that one!
Then all of a sudden, the skies were fairly clear, the wind was gone, and I painted 'Afternoon Lull'... which didn't last long at all. The wind switch was thrown again, and the light became ultra dramatic in the afternoon. To the East the skies were a heavy slate blue-gray, the foreground to middle ground areas were a mix of areas in shadow, and areas being slammed by the western sun. I jumped into my van and raced off to a road not far from away where I knew I could get an overview for many miles, all of the way to Lyons to the NW, and all the way to the plains past Longmont to the east. While setting up, one of the bluffs north of Longmont was slammed with light while the rest of the landscape was pretty much in shadow. I had a piece of Arches 'Huile' (oil) painting paper ready to go and spent about half an hour trying to grab just the simple statement of that light effect. Normally, if I hadn't set the parameter for the 8"x10" size for this project, I would have grabbed a few 5x7 or 6x8 pieces of the paper and painted very fast color notes. It was astounding! BUT... the wind was being very nasty, knocking over my gear, getting sand in my eyes, and it was getting colder by the second. So I said, 'enough'... there's always tomorrow.
I was thinking about how I decide what to paint, how to paint it, what to paint on, and what medium to use, each day. Actually, I was beginning to wonder what the heck is wrong with me that I do that? I have no idea why, nor do I endorse this method, but I would get bored to death, especially painting this many paintings consecutively, if I only used one type of surface, only used one medium, Only used one approach to painting, and only painted from a scripted view point. There is something in me that won't allow me to do that. As you've noticed if you're reading this blog daily or frequently, some days I am zeroed in on small sections of the landscape, somedays I paint broad views, but loose, or more tightly controlled. Some days, some of the paintings I put up here are so much my interpretation that you couldn't go find the location, even though I could tell you exactly where I painted them. There are days when I feel that to keep my level of interest up, I have to only use a little slice of reality as a kick off for the paintings I do of the area. After all of the paintings this month, I am still discovering more to paint here, it's endless, in my little corner of Colorado. But, I am being very creative with how I choose to express it all. Even if I thought that was an odd way to be an artist, it's too late for me... :)