Some Things I've Never Seen

Huddle of Trees, oil, 18 x 18, available

Huddle of Trees, oil, 18 x 18, available

I can't begin to say how valuable it is to me as an artist to observe directly from nature. It's where I receive my main source of inspiration, insight into color and composition, and where I discover the element of authenticity in my work. But, there are scenes and places I want to paint where I can't go, places I've never been.  Then I'm left to my best efforts to create the right affect. This painting came from a sketch I did months ago. I just had the idea of a receding horizon, fading into a misty sky way out there. I'm sure I've seen a scene like it before, but it's not necessarily of a specific place.

Several years ago I painted many pieces with a similar theme. Those paintings stemmed from one initial piece, painted of a scene I captured forever in my memory as I flew over Holland on my way home to America...feeling like I was actually leaving home behind. It was a poignant moment, as I came home from a mission I was serving there. I'd been there for 18 months and had learned the language. In truth I felt a little Dutch. Flying over the colorful fields of early spring as I headed out toward the ocean made an indelible impression on me. One I would never forget, one that would work its way into my art time and time again. I still have that first painting of the aerial landscape fading off into pale blues and creams in the distance.

After perhaps a dozen paintings playing on that theme I left off and haven't really revisited it since. This is one of the first pieces I've done of the fading distant horizon, and I'm perhaps smitten all over again. So, are you game for more like this one?? I just may have another one or two up my sleeve. We'll see if inspiration strikes twice!

Detail

Detail

Art With My Boys

So, we are two for two with holding art class each week of our grand homeschool adventure this year so far! Last year I had great ambitions to have a little art class each week, but after some of our good friends and art buddies moved away with their entourage of little people we sort of let it slide a bit. Getting all those supplies corralled and having a creative idea in place and keeping the boys engaged was not always a success. But we still did plenty of unstructured art.

This year I've actually planned a few activities. We're only two weeks in, but I'm going to pat us on the back and hope that it continues! We are going through an overview of ancient world history this year, so we've had some fun ideas to throw around, like cave paintings and hieroglyphs.  We went rummaging in our fire pit for some homemade charcoal to make our own "cave paintings". We talked about how the people long ago would paint the things that were important to them in their everyday lives. So, the boys tried to think of things like that for them. Sam came up with some sort of flying saucer theme and Benjamin drew some crazy monsters. So, apparently my boys have daily interactions with aliens and monsters...hmmmmn. That project was fun and messy. We scribbled a bunch of charcoal onto paper, rubbed our hands in it, and made hand prints, too.

Today we painted our names in hieroglyphs. Well, I'm pretty sure we weren't using the hieroglyphs completely correctly, but we still had fun looking up different symbols and copying them down to make our names! Benny's were so perfectly in a four year old's handwriting. Sam worked on his shapes meticulously and then went on to do everyone's names in our family. I just sat alongside and drew out all our names, too. It was relaxing, engaging, and a nice practice in holding our hands steady...

Next week we will be doing paper mache as a way to think about the process of mummification. The boys have told me they want to see if they can make little sarcophaguses for their Lego mini figures.  Pictures to follow!

Trial and Error

Palmer River View, 24 x 24.5, oil on panel

Palmer River View, 24 x 24.5, oil on panel

This is the year I go big. I set a goal for myself to make a concerted effort to paint many larger paintings this year, and it's been going well. In addition to an experiment with composition, texture, and mood it's an experiment with pricing. It's not an exact science, this sticky pricing issue, so it comes down to me, the artist, to set the amount at a place I feel comfortable with. Because of that, I feel that some people get a bit priced out of buying my work. So, I continue to do smaller paintings, not only because they afford me greater instant satisfaction, but also because it makes more of my work accessible. Before beginning to sell my work I was often astonished at the high dollar amounts some artists could demand for their work, and I was equally amazed that anyone was buying! Now, I understand it all a little better, but I am still always grateful and a bit mystified when a new collector steps up to buy one of my more expensive paintings. 

So, while pricing is certainly a trial and error experience, I also feel that this go-big-or-go-home year is an experiment. I sometimes feel like I'm really just faking it as an artist. Exploring and studying art and artists I admire has a dual effect on me. In one vein I feel inspired and motivated. In the other I feel completely inadequate and so far from attaining that elusive goal of being able to convey on canvas what I see in my mind's eye, or what I see right in front of me! A painting can go through several iterations before making it to my camera and onto the website. And, even after making it there I often go back to the easel with my paintings, sometimes not only tweaking some things here and there, but doing a completely different painting over the old! So, I feel like a bit of a fraud at times, wondering why I can't work that magic the first time around. I don't know if more art training would change this or if it's just experience and lots of practice.

This most recent painting is 2 feet by 2 feet, and it started out as one thing and ended up as this. I am very happy with this painting now, so I'm learning that sometimes a painting has to have it's "spirit" painting done as a first layer before putting on it's outer clothing. Now, it's dressed and ready to stand tall...

The Coggeshall Project

View From Coggeshall, 8 x 10, oil on panel

View From Coggeshall, 8 x 10, oil on panel

Throughout the entire month of August, Coggeshall Farm in Bristol is hosting an Arts on the Farm month where they invite artists to come paint, draw, and get inspired by their historic working farm. It's such a beautiful location, overlooking the Narragansett Bay inlet in Colt State Park. Recently our family went to the farm to do a family photo shoot and I thought, "Hey! I'm gonna come and paint here!" So, when this opportunity presented itself it was a no brainer to take my easel and panels and get painting. I haven't taken the time to do much plein air painting over the last few years with our busy child-filled days, but this got me jump started to get organized. So, after pulling out my old french easel and making sure all it's joints and bones were still in working order I set out about a week ago to get my feet wet again.

The farm doesn't open until 10, and that's just not early enough for this girl. My little family is up and running by 7, and if I want to paint I just have to go do it first thing so it doesn't eat up our entire day!  Yesterday Peter had the day off from work so he could head up to New Hampshire in the afternoon for our church's girl's youth camp final night bonfire (lucky!!). He is the bishop of our local congregation, so he gets all these fun gigs. Well, since he'd be spending the night up there camping and I was to be flying solo the rest of the day and on till today I figured it wasn't too much to ask for a few hours in the morning to trudge out into nature with my paint supplies in tow.

I have yet to venture off the beaten path and paved roads. I have a feeling that if I'm going to find those really prime painting locations I'm going to have to find a way to hike myself to them carrying my load of stuff. That sounds like a very romantic thing to do,  and I want to try! But for now I'm trying to find some of those places that aren't too tough to get to and where I can set up pretty close to the truck. Yesterday I actually went over to the farm to look for a scene I could paint, and since they were still not open I chose a view looking out toward the bay from their land. I set up (a little quicker this time than last time) and got to work. Fewer people came by as I painted this time, as the road I was near is not a strictly pedestrian thoroughfare. The sky was overcast and there was electricity in the air, almost like the rain and storm were still hanging overhead. I was grateful for a slight breeze because the the humidity was thick. Just as I was finishing up the sun started to peek through and, with it, the heat. I was glad to pack up the truck and be on my way with the windows down toward home. 

Coming home to the hugs and smiles of my children and Peter always makes me grateful for what I have in my life.  I'll hopefully get this piece framed and submitted to the Harvest Fair taking place on the farm in September. If I have it in the fair I'll post info here!

Detail

Detail

Little Windows : A New Series

Tucker Lane, 5 x 5, oil on wood

Tucker Lane, 5 x 5, oil on wood

I've done this before, created a bunch of little landscape paintings and called it a series! Ha! Well, I love the idea of these small panels and canvases being transformed into small landscapes, like they are little windows peeking out into the world as I see it. Most of these small landscapes are done from my sketches I've done while out and about, at the park with my children, driving down the road (as a passenger, of course!), and anywhere else I happen to be with pencil and paper at hand. They are going to be around 5 x 5 or 6 x 6 in size, not bigger. I love to paint on these little panels with the routed edge...wooden plaques really. They look and feel like windows, and when you hold them in your hand and place them just so on the wall they are like looking into another space, peering through to another world. 

Another element I love about these, from the artist's perspective, is how quickly they paint up! I love how the paint goes on thick and builds up so nicely into blocks of color, texture, and vibrancy. It's so easy to obtain the qualities I love in a painting when I'm working so small. Bold brushstrokes, buttery texture, color breaks that just beg to be studied. So, in between the larger pieces I am hard at work to master I will be pouring these little pieces into my shop. I hope they get snatched quickly by any and all who would love a painting of their very own! 

End of Summer Clouds, 6 x 6, oil on canvas

End of Summer Clouds, 6 x 6, oil on canvas

The Colors of Childhood

It probably comes as no great surprise that art features pretty prominently around here. Since the boys were little they've often asked to paint alongside me. I usually try to answer in the affirmative right away, although this is not always easy to do! Painting and children are a messy and involved combination, so I've had to come up with some ways to streamline the process and make it more of an independent activity for them. 

We typically use acrylics or watercolors with the kiddos around here. Sam has requested playing around with oils once or twice, but that's not really in our art rotation right now. I've picked up a few old tablecloths from thrift stores over the years that we use when we are at the table with paints and markers and glue, etc... This has saved my table on more than one occasion! I give each boy a palette liner with their blobs of color to mix. They get the jar of paintbrushes to reach for and a jar of water for each boy along with some paper towels to dab and clean up. Then, they get to it.

Sam likes to draw his designs first before carefully mixing and selecting colors to use, and Benny just jumps in with huge swathes of color. I love to see how bright and happy their paintings are. Sam's rock arches actually may have made me get a little blurry eyed....I was bursting with pride! He has really shown a greater interest and a decidedly talented turn toward drawing and painting lately. It's not been his favorite mode of expression in the past, but it's amazing to see what his mind has going on, and to see it translated a bit into his art. Benjamin, on the other hand, wears all of his expressions on his sleeve and his art is no different. He has no fear, that boy! Just look at his palette and the canvas with its free composition and lack of fussiness, so spontaneous.

They inspire me!

Plein Air at Colt State Park

I headed out this morning to paint...plein air! This is such a rare occurrence for me, in fact it has only happened a handful of times. I have had an itch to get out though, so, today I threw on some clothes and escaped as soon as I could. With a three month old sweet baby this is no easy feat, but fortunately for me I have a husband who is tireless in his support and generosity. He said, "Get out of here!" So, I did just that.

I had planned originally to set up at Coggeshall Farm where they have a month long invitation to artists to come create and be inspired. However, they don't open to the public until 10:00, and I was out by 8:00, so I had to choose another spot.  I still want to get to the farm to paint, so I can enter a piece in their Harvest Fair in September. Today I found a nice spot at Colt State Park, which is really close to the farm anyway. After driving around a bit I settled on a view of the marsh. I parked the truck and walked a bit to set up. Since I'm quite the novice plein air painter I still feel a bit sheepish setting up my easel, arranging my palette, and getting down to business with all the passers-by and onlookers. But in the end I had a nice time and was able to keep focused. The painting from today worked out fine, and it was a good experience for me. Painting directly from nature allows me to really look at my colors, the textures, the depth of the painting and the composition as a whole. And, I feel that a bit more of the spirit of the place is settled into the finished piece.

So, I say get out and paint if you can!

Colt State Park Marsh at Summer's End, 8 x 10, oil on panel

Detail

Utah landscapes

I have a couple more of my small Utah landscapes to show! I'm enjoying going through my reference photos I took while we were there in May to adopt Ruth. It's been fun to remember the beautiful views we enjoyed and most likely took for granted while we drove up and down the canyons, I-15, and around the towns. It's just such an expanse of wonder, Utah...

Fog Over Maple Mountain, 6.25 x 9, oil on wood

Fog Over Maple Mountain, 6.25 x 9, oil on wood

The Grass Is Green, 6.25 x 9, oil on wood

The Grass Is Green, 6.25 x 9, oil on wood

Toward Springville, 6.25 x 9, oil on wood

Toward Springville, 6.25 x 9, oil on wood

In The Park

This is one of those paintings that, for some reason, has been quite difficult to photograph. There is a lot of texture and nuanced color (perhaps because the colors are quite bright and saturated in real life!), so getting the picture right has been a bit of a challenge. This is as close as I've been able to get and it still feels flat compared to the real painting. Perhaps I'll try again...

In The Park, 12 x 14, oil on wood

As I was starting out in painting I found it very insightful to hear about other artists' processes. I learned a lot from other artists, hearing about their techniques and color theory, etc... So, now and again I like to share something about my own process. I like to begin with a warm base, then I pencil in with charcoal my basic drawing. My drawings are very loose and simple. I don't draw in any small details, rather I focus on the main ideas and work to get the composition just how I want it. This sometimes changes later as I'm working on the piece, but more and more I find I'm able to stick to my initial drawing. I suppose practice creates greater confidence!

I then go over my pencil/charcoal drawing with a thin wash of burnt umber, cobalt blue pure, and yellow ochre. I like it to be fairly dark, to give depth to the different elements, especially to objects closer to the foreground. Often in the finished painting parts of this darker underpainting/outlining will peek through.

While I wait for the thin base coat to dry, once the underpainting/outlining is placed on I start to go for it. I love to paint wet in wet, so I like to work fast. This usually means I try to carve out as much time as possible to work on a piece, especially if it is a large painting. Obviously I am not able to complete an entire large painting in one session, but I like to get whole ideas into the painting before pausing.

I begin to lay down color. I often start at the horizon, working my way up and down from there. I work around objects in the foreground, leaving them to detail later on. I think in blocks of color, trying to get the tones right. Then, as I build up different layers of colors I begin to really work on the edges between objects, like the horizon or the space between sky and clouds, or the edges of the trees, the blending from foreground to background in the landscape, etc... this is my favorite part of painting and it feels like it's where the magic happens. Each painting is unique and sometimes there is just one particular brush stroke that creates just the right feeling in a painting. In the end it seems I usually know when it's finished, but sometimes that decision takes a while. If I leave it for the next day I can usually decide by then if it is really completed... This one is finished now!

Utah landscape series

Toward Springville, 6.25 x 9, oil on wood

When we were out in Utah to adopt our sweet little Ruth, I tried to fill up my camera's memory with photographs. Now, looking back at them, I see that I did fill up my camera's memory, but mostly with pictures of our children and especially one beautiful little girl in particular! But, I do have a healthy amount of images to work with for a new series of Utah landscape paintings. 

Peter's grandparents have a house in Springville, a small town in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountain Range, where we stayed while there. In there basement was a stack of old wooden plaques, just like the ones I often use for my paintings. I thought, I ought to take these home and do a series of Utah landscapes on them! And, so it begins! I had ample opportunities to snap pictures of the wide open landscape from the car as we drove all over Utah. We took several drives up into the nearby canyons. I have quite a few pictures of rainy and misty weather, as well. Plus, a few pictures of some spectacular white clouds against a backdrop of bright blue sky taken on the day we were able to bring Ruth home with us from the hospital! This is my first painting in the series and I hope to paint up the rest of those panels in the next few weeks, so keep your eyes open for these! I will post them on my website and in my Etsy shop as they become available. Plus, if you want to follow me on Facebook, I always post when I have new work to show. Enjoy!

Detail

Hush

Hush, 14 x 22, oil on canvas

I was looking at a painting hanging in our hallway, one I'd painted earlier this year. I had never been completely satisfied with it, but it hung there for me to walk by and inspect multiple times each day. Yesterday I pulled it off the shelf, removed it from my website, and set it up on my easel again. I didn't change the basic composition, besides painting out a sailboat that had been in the original. I wanted more texture, more mood, greater contrast, more movement. I am happy with this version of the painting and it's back up on my wall awaiting a new home when someone stumbles upon it! I wish a photograph could do this painting justice. Much of my work is becoming increasingly more textured and layered, which makes photographing with any accuracy a true challenge! But, for what you can sense from this piece, I hope you enjoy it!

Detail

Floating on the Horizon

Floating on the Horizon, 24 x 24.5, oil on panel

There is a bit of a back and forth that I go through in cycles. For a while I feel highly motivated and have loads of energy that I channel into making and preparing my own panels for painting. Sometimes I use birth plywood and sometimes I use masonite. I attach the panels to wood support frames so there is a nice finished side profile for the paintings. That way they can be hung as they are without the need for framing if that isn't desirable or possible for a while! A couple weeks ago I bought up some supplies to make four 24" x 24" masonite panels. After cutting everything down to size I realized that the panels actually measure 24" x 24.5"...oops. I don't have the energy or desire to fix that, so they will stay as they are! Close enough! Good thing I'm not a perfectionist in all things... However, after all that hard work to prep the panels I find myself wondering if it would just be simpler and a more efficient use of time to just buy panels already made. I don't mind prepping, like gessoing and priming, etc... The building part is just so time consuming. So, this week I did a run to Blick in Providence...bought up a few cradled wood panels. The boys begged for some larger canvas panels to do some paintings on, so I accommodated them. Yeesh, it's easy to drop a lot of hard earned cash in that place! After racking up my bill I had to say no to the boys' requests for little wooden figure models and tiny packets of modeling clay...I'm so mean! So, perhaps in another month or so I'll get the bug to build some more panels, but for now I'm going to work through the ones I've got and see where we are...

This painting is the first to be done on one of my own panels. I really don't usually like to praise my own paintings, but I really love this one. It's going to be a hard one to say goodbye to, when the time comes, and I hope it comes! The buttery textures and bold contrast in the waves, the rocks, the foreground, and the wispy clouds in the upper left...it all comes together to form the energy of this piece. I was a bit daunted by this painting initially. The panel felt huge for some reason, even though it is not the largest painting by far that I've ever done. I spent a few days working on it, and the brushes came away for the last time yesterday. I walked by my studio for the rest of the day without ever going in for a peak at it. I was a bit afraid of what I would think of it. So, I finally walked back in to see it in the evening, and it worked its magic on me. It's now available! Please take a look at the link above to see more images of this painting!

Detail

Boston Temple Commission

Boston Temple Study, 9 x 12, oil on wood

About a month ago I was approached to paint the Boston LDS Temple (from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) as a commissioned piece to be auctioned at an annual LDS Artists gallery night near Boston. I participated last year, and it was a huge success for me, opening some new doors and giving me lots of encouragement. This year the gallery night will be in November, and I need to have this painting finished by October. There will be prints made of the painting. I'm very happy to do it, but it will prove to be a challenge for me I believe! As you know if you've followed my art for any length of time, I am a landscape artist almost exclusively. Architecture is not my strength. But it has been good to stretch myself a little bit, to sketch more, to study and practice painting the straight lines and abrupt angles of the structure, to figure out a pleasing composition. In the end I feel my painting will most likely be a landscape painting that includes the temple...hopefully conveying the message that the temple is a beautiful and sacred place, a piece of heaven on earth. Also, hopefully my final composition will give the idea to the viewer that we need to keep our hearts steadfastly turned to the temple, as we travel through life. In my faith the temple is a place of peace, a place to make promises with God, a place where I can feel His presence and find clarity. It is a special place to all members of my faith! I feel honored to have the chance to do this painting. All of the images in this post are studies I've done. Perhaps one of these compositions will turn out to be the right one, but I still have some playing around to do before I know for sure. Once I choose one, I may list some of these studies in my shop, so if you are interested stay tuned!

Study, 4.75 x 6.75, oil on wood

Windswept

Windswept, 4.75 x 6.75, oil on wood

Another small painting. I wasn't sure about the more monochromatic vibe of this one, but now as I look at it I love the calm it invokes. I feel like I'm really looking out into the distant horizon. 

Currently there are several studies in progress in my studio. I've been commissioned to do a painting of the Boston LDS Temple. I'll tell more about it as I make some further progress. So far I have three different compositions I'm considering. Now, I just have to choose one and scale it a bit larger. Then, we'll see what the brushes and my hands can do!

Some little ones

Toward Serpentine, 4.75 x 6.75, oil on wood

Toward Serpentine, 4.75 x 6.75, oil on wood

As I am trying to paint larger paintings these days, I often need to take a little break and whip up a few little pieces. I have always been someone who loves results, sometimes more than the process, so these little paintings are usually nicely rewarding. At the end of a painting session I have something to hold in my hand that I can say is done! These two were completed this week. I love the ability to play with textures and colors in a big way on these small panels. It is easier to work in the wet paint to create a specific image. So often when painting large it's more difficult to convey the mood, simply because it is typically done over the course of several painting sessions. The grip on the brushes, the intensity of the colors, the scope of the imagination. They are all things that can shift from one session to the next, thus leaving me feeling a bit like I'm starting over again each time. Large paintings have many challenges that small ones do not. So, I always have some small panels lying around for me to work with!

Some Sheep, 4.75 x 6.75, oil on wood