Lake Anna, Et Cetera

Once again, I’m painting from other people’s photographs and I’m very thankful I have friends who are such good photographers. They provide me with much inspiration. Below is a painting I did from a photograph taken by my friend Chip Bumgardner. He has a house on Lake Anna in Virginia and he took this absolutely stunning photograph of the lakeshore during the snowstorm last winter.

The sky was a dark, almost midnight blue, which faded to white and eventually picked up the reflection of color from the shore. The sun was shining on the trees around the lake and they were red hue except for where they were covered with snow. There were a few visible snow covered boathouses. Then the entire scene was reflected on to the smooth, clear surface of the lake. I don’t know if Chip was lucky enough to get these colors straight from his camera, or if he adjusted them. Either way he deserves the artistic credit for the photo.

I don’t believe I did the photo justice, but I had fun painting it. My engineer’s brain struggles with composition because I am compelled to paint what is there. As I study and learn more about composition, I learn what makes a good arrangement, but still struggle with adapting the scene. The beauty of this photograph is that it’s perfect composition all by itself. The eye is drawn through the painting to the middle, most distant part of the shore. The contrasting colors cause the trees to stand out as the focal point of the picture.

My job was easy. I just copied what I saw. The tree colors in the reflection were slightly lighter and brighter and the water was darker and grayer. The boathouses were fun. I took a few liberties regarding their number and placement.

Below is the finished painting followed by Chip’s original photograph.

Lake Anna in Snow Chip B's Lake Anna Sunset

Continuing with photos from friends, I had not done a butterfly in a while and my friend Sharon Little took a very pretty picture of a Viceroy butterfly last summer. Below is a watercolor done from her photo.

EPSON MFP image

Pollo Mexicano

I had such fun with this one!  These paintings were done from a photo taken by Joan Wells, a long time friend and former owner of The Queen Victoria, an inn in Cape May, New Jersey. Bill and I visited Cape May and stayed at the QV most summers and other times for a span of about 20 years, and during that time we got to know Joan and her husband Dane quite well.  A few years back they sold the inn and now they are happily retired and traveling the world.  The rest of us are living vicariously through Joan’s posts on Facebook.

I used to only paint from my own photos.  I thought it was wrong to paint from a photo taken by someone else.  Recently I’ve broadened my perspective. I have friends who go to so many interesting places and are wonderful photographers. I’m now allowing myself to paint from some of those if they inspire me, but only if granted permission to do so.

A few months ago Joan and Dane were traveling in Mexico and Joan posted a beautiful photo of a rooster walking along the edge of a canyon with a backdrop of cliffs and rugged mountains.  I knew instantly I wanted to paint it and asked if she’d mind.  Thankfully she said she was fine with me doing that.

First I did a watercolor study.  I’m not crazy about the background in that painting.  I’m still honing my newfound watercolor skills.  I do like the chicken.  Doing the study allowed me to study the scene and become familiar with the details of the rooster.
Pollo Mexicano WC

Then I did the oil version.  This is a small painting – it is on a 12×9 Belgian linen panel.  I had the paint the background a couple of times to get the atmospheric depth.  The earlier version didn’t grasp the feeling of the canyon because I didn’t capture the distance of the mountains on the other side.  I now feel I’ve captured that feeling.  I also love the rooster.  The red sets off the painting.  His plumage is quite colorful as well.
Pollo Mexicano

Finally, here is Joan’s original photo. I hope I did it justice.
Joan Wells Chicken
Falls Church Arts has a show coming up in a few months called Whimsy. I’m not really sure what that means. I think I will enter this to see what happens.  After all, what’s more whimsical than a free ranging Mexican chicken?

Speaking of Falls Church arts, I’ve entered the painting below, Carmel Sea, in this years’ All-Member show.   The show opens Friday, April 1st.  Unfortunately I will miss the opening because we will be in the mountains.  I hope others can go.  The Falls Church Arts All-Member shows are always very nice.

17 Mile Drive

I Sold a Print!

We picked up the mail today and there was a check from Falls Church Arts.  I didn’t have anything in a show, so it could only be for one of my prints in the print bin they have in the lobby of Art Space.  It was!  Someone bought a print of Monarch on Yellow.  I’m pleased to know that someone liked one of my butterflies enough to buy it.

The original for this is hanging in my office.  It was done in gouache and ink.

EPSON MFP image

For anyone else who happens to be interested, my prints are also available for sale in my Etsy shop.

I had a great weekend painting in the mountains.  I even did a new butterfly — it’s been a while.  I also have something almost finished here in my studio in Northern VA.  I will be posting some new things soon!

Inspiration – Seeing Nature

Today my husband Bill and I ventured downtown DC to The Phillips Collection to see Seeing Nature, a visiting exhibit of landscape paintings from the collection of Paul G. Allen.  My techie friends will know Mr. Allen as a Microsoft founder.

When I first saw that this collection was coming to DC I declared it as a must-see event for me as an aspiring landscape artist.  It did not disappoint.  The show spanned five centuries of landscape painting.  I love the impressionists, but there were others both before and after the impressionists that I also loved.  Here are a few of my favorites.

This is Pierre-Jacques Volaire’s Eruption of Mount Vesuvius.  This dates to the 18th century when Vesuvius was very active.  Going out at night to see it was a popular activity.  We both really like the way he captured the light in the clouds and on the surface of the water.
Volaire

I really liked Rio San Trovaso by Henri Edmond Cross. Oddly, his name didn’t even appear on the list of artists in the advertising and handouts. This is a beautiful work. I’ve always liked pointillism. The reflections in the water are fabulous.
HenriCross

This is Tomas Moran’s Grand Canyon of Arizona at Sunset (1909).  I really like the colors and the clouds and shadows.  The realism in the foreground is beautiful.
ThomasMoran

This is a modern piece (2008) by April Gornik called lake Light. It almost looks like a photograph.  The rain clouds are fabulous.  I also love the contrasting colors of the sky, the blue mountain ridge and the green grass.
AprilGornik

Then there were the Monets. I saved the best for last.  This first one is called En Paysage dans I’île Saint-Martin.  I confess that I did not take this photo – I went through at the end taking pictures and somehow missed this one.  I still wanted to include it because it is an early Monet (1881) and the style is quite different from his later works. The brushwork was very detailed and the colors were bright and contrasting, characteristics that were unusual in a lot of his later work.
Monet SaintMartin

This is the Monet’s Waterloo Bridge which he painted many times. I didn’t get a date on this one but I think it’s from the early 1900s. This was Bill’s favorite. I also really like it.  I especially like the way he captured the yellow light under the bridge.
MonetWaterloo

This next Monet is La Palis Da Mula in Venice. I also didn’t get a date on this one but I believe it was also from the early 1900s.  I really liked the colors, especially the use of purple in the reflections on the water.
MonetVenice

Finally, This is Le bassin aux nymphéas (1919).  It’s very different from a lot of his water lily paintings in that there are more bright and contrasting colors.  I also thought the reflections were exquisite.
MonetLilies
I am now totally inspired. To my DC friends who are art lovers, I highly recommend finding time to see this show.  It runs through early May.

Three Ridges in Snow

It was time to finish the last season of three ridges. I’d done summer, spring and fall.  I actually did do winter but with ice on top and clouds in the valley. It is also stunning in the snow.  The photo I did this from was actually from a few years ago.  Unfortunately, we weren’t in the mountains for the spectacular storm we had a few weeks ago.  It doesn’t matter though.  More than about a foot of snow (which happens fairly often) and the mountains become a winter wonderland.

This painting shows a beautiful clear, dark blue sky in contrast to the white, new fallen snow. The mountains in the distance have snow, but also the dormant trees making them an icy purple color.  The trees in the foreground were very red on the top – the color of the twigs, but the larger branches were covered in snow.

The fence on the right challenged my engineer’s brain. I worked hard to paint the shapes and colors, and not to focus on the thing it was supposed to be. I hated it while I was painting it, but the result was quite good.  It shows the shadows and light and captures the illusion of the deep snow.

I also had fun with the shadows and light in the foreground snow. The seedlings and grasses poking out from beneath the snow helped add to the interest of the scene.

This painting is 24×12 on canvas. Now the four seasons are complete. Does that mean I will stop painting Three Ridges? No way! It looks different in the color and the light of each new day.  I need to branch out more, but I will never tire of painting Three Ridges.
Three Ridges in Snow

A New Painting for My Fireplace

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was working on a new version of Three Ridges in Cloud to hang over my fireplace in our mountain home.  I finished it this week and I thought I’d share it.

This was an interesting experience.  While I paint the same subjects a lot, Three Ridges being a favorite, I don’t usually try to duplicate paintings.  Sometimes I’ll do a study in watercolor and then an oil painting, but that’s different because there is no chance they’ll be the same.  In this case, I really liked the original painting, but I needed a bigger version of it because of the space where I wanted to hang it.  I thought about painting from the painting rather than the original photograph, but decided against it for a number of reasons, not the least of which I didn’t want to minimize my creativity.

During the process of painting I found myself not liking the new one as well.  First of all, my brush technique has changed quite a bit.  I painted the original in January and February of 2015, which wasn’t that long ago.  However, I’m still new at this, so I’m evolving quickly.   In the last year I’ve read and studied books and sites, and I’ve taken a few classes.  Now I dab more and make fewer long strokes.  This difference is very obvious in the clouds.  I also liked the muted colors in the original, but I’ve been experimenting more with bolder colors, so I captured more color in the sky and the trees in the foreground.  When I finished it on Tuesday (my birthday) I decided I liked it better.  The additional color gives it an added richness.  I still like them both a lot – mostly because it’s a very pretty scene and a nice photograph.  I was lucky to be there on the day I took it.

Below are both versions with the most recent one first.  The original is 36×18 and the new version is 48×24.   It will look nice above my fireplace – much better than the print left there by the previous owners.  I consider it a nice birthday gift to myself.

Three Ridges in Cloud 48x24 Oil on Canvas

Three Ridges in Cloud
48×24 Oil on Canvas

Three Ridges in Cloud 36x18 Oil on Canvas

Three Ridges in Cloud
36×18 Oil on Canvas

 

Three Ridges Overlook in Fall

This is my latest work created in my Northern Virginia studio. It is a familiar scene – Three Ridges.  This was painted from a photo taken in the Fall from the overlook at the top of Devil’s Knob.  I “enhanced” the fall color a bit.  I also included the fence, something I didn’t used to do but now that I’m practicing more man made objects I’ve been including it.  This painting is 16 x 12 Oil on canvas.
Three Ridges Overlook in Fall

I’m also working on a larger version of my earlier painting of Three Ridges in Cloud in my mountain studio.  I want to replace the picture over the fireplace in the mountain house and it needs something big. It’s interesting redoing something that you’ve done before.  The original impressionists did it all the time. I really like the first one I did so I want this one to be just as good.  There’s no doubt it will be different. It is 48×24, so it will be my largest painting.  It will be a while before it’s done, but I will post it when it is.  Below is the first one I did (36×18) which I covered in an earlier post.
Three Ridges in Cloud

Class with Christine Lashley

Last Thursday I played hooky from work and took a plein aire workshop with a local artist named Christine Lashely. I found her because she was one of the chosen artists for the Bath County Plein Aire Festival, which I’ve been following because there is some overlap with artists that I know from classes at Nimrod Hall. I liked her art and noticed that she was local to Northern Virginia, so I got on her mailing list.

The workshop was held at Ross Farm in Dickerson Maryland near Frederick. It was a lovely setting with a view of Sugarloaf Mountain and lovely barns and buildings. The leaves were pretty close to peak and it was a beautiful day.

We started off with a watercolor of Sugarloaf. My watercolor skills are improving, but still challenged, and I got frustrated and put it away to start on an oil painting. Christine got me to bring it back out and provided some very helpful critique.  One of the first things you learn about her is that she sees purple in everything, but she’s right! She got me to tone down the orange trees on the mountain with purple, which helped account for atmospheric distortion from the distance. She also got me to put on more layers of paint in general, making the work bolder and brighter and more complex. Below is the finished product.

Sugarloaf Watercolor

I say finished, but as it turns out plein aire painting doesn’t allow for perfect. That’s part of what makes it fun. You have to take what you get because you have a limited amount of time and the scene is always changing. Even with the challenges it has many advantages to painting from photos. You see colors that are much more vivid and the depth of the scene is not lost to the flatness of a photo.

After we finished our watercolors we moved out of the wind a little – which was blowing hard enough to blow easels over. I chose to paint the big red barn and the brilliant orange tree that was next to it. I don’t like the perspective of my painting, but once again, plein aire doesn’t allow for perfect.  I do like the colors and the rest of the scene. Once again, Christine provided critique that much improved the painting. Of course we added some purple which once again improved the scene more that I would imagine. She also helped with a new brush technique to smudge the paint in places.  Below is the result of the oil painting session.

Barn Oil

Even a bad day plein aire painting is better than any day at the office. I need to do this more often!