Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Easy Livin' (oil on canvas, 2010)

John Constable is one of my heroes. The first time I saw his "Hadleigh Castle, The Mouth of the Thames — Morning after a Stormy Night" at the Yale Center for British art in New Haven my knees gave out and I dropped to the floor and wept. Years later I read that Delacroix had a similar experience when he first saw Constable's "The Hay Wain" in the Louvre. Despite a relatively late start as an artist, meager sales and continually being rebuffed by the "established" artists of the Royal Academy (Constable wasn't voted in as an R.A. member until he was 52, at which point the president of the R.A. stopped by his house to inform him that he had received enough votes to finally be admitted, but that he, the president, had voted against him and felt that he didn't deserve the honor.) he continued with his studies of painting directly from nature, eventually becoming one of the most important of British artists and, either directly or indirectly, influencing every painter who has ever stood outside with a brush in hand and attempted to make art based on the natural landscape.

One thing that Constable was repeatedly criticized for by his contemporaries was his, in their opinion, over-use of the color green. There's a great story about Constable standing outside on a lawn discussing art with some other painters and one of them remarked the the best color for grass was the color of an old Cremona violin. Constable went into the house and returned with a violin and laid it on the grass at the speakers feet. Once, after he had become a meber of the Royal Academy, one of his paintings "Water Meadows Near Salisbury" was mistakenly put into the room filled with work by non-members that was to be juried in. Upon seeing it, the other R.A. members, not knowing that it was Constable's painting, were quite severe in their criticism, with one remarking "What is that nasty green thing?!" Constable picked up his painting and left.

This is a painting of the back of Fred and Inez's house. It has a lot of green in it (in case you were waiting for me to get to the point). I did a series of pastel drawings of this view, none of which I was completely satisfied with, and then did this painting based on everything I had learned from the drawings.

Five O'Clock Shadow (oil on canvas, 2010)

This is a view looking south down the Currier Road, which eventually becomes a dirt road when it crosses into Houlton. I found this view while out riding my bike recently and went back and did a couple of pastel drawings at different times of the day. This was based on one done in the late afternoon. I have a drawing done early in the morning, with the sun on the other side, which is completely different color-wise, and I may develop that into a painting as well. I imagine this will be a nice spot to work from once the snow arrives.

Clouds Moving In (oil on canvas, 2010)

(Private Collection)
I did this a couple of weeks ago during a plein air painting workshop that I had in back of my studio, This is the view looking north from the field behind the studio towards the McGuire's house and the back of the old School's barn, which I have drawn and painted numerous times. It started out as a very sunny day, clear blue skies and quite warm but by about 11:00, the clouds had begun to arrive en masse. It's always a challenge to keep up with the ever-changing weather when working outside. The pressure of having to work quickly can force some interesting pictorial solutions. The field between my property and the red barn is farmed by the Fosters and has had potatoes in it for the past few years, but this year they grew wheat instead. The field had just been harvested and tilled, leaving that strip of light brown which created a nice transition from the foreground to the buildings and trees in the distance. Of course, as soon as we finished the workshop, the sun came out again.

Shipping Container (oil on canvas, 2010)

(Private Collection)
I have been a little slow about posting images here, but I have actually been very busy working. This painting was done in mid-August and is based on a pastel drawing that I did from the field behind the shed that is in the painting "Height of Summer" below. I don't know what it is aout these hay bales, but I find them very interesting, especially during those times of day when the sun is low in the sky and they cast long shadows. This painting is bigger than any thing that I've done in a while, 28 x 42. I started working on it before going down to Ogunquit for a few days vacation, but wasn't able to resolve the picture before leaving. Upon my return, I felt that the field in the foreground was much too green. The paint had dried so I scumbled some oranges and yellow greens on top of the dried paint and was able to produce some interesting textures, especially where the original green color showed through.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Corner Fence (oil on canvas, 2010)

My wonderful neighbors, Fred and Inez, have a farm up on a hill where they raise sheep, along with some hens, cows and lots of hay. I have drawn and painted their barn from the bottom of the hill looking up. I have been wanting to get a look at the farm from the back so last Monday I went up there in the morning and they gave me (along with armloads of delicious squash from their garden and some fresh eggs!) permission to roam around their property with my paints and pastels. I headed way out back to do a view of the main group of attached barns from behind, and on the way I was struck by this solitary tree, which had a very strong presence all by itself surrounded by pastures and hay fields. It turns out that at 9:30 in the morning the view of the back of the barns meant that I'd be staring directly into the sun so I decided to focus on the tree instead. In spite of the intense heat (it was in the 90's!!) and spilling my jar of paint thinner all over my palette of colors, I was pretty pleased with this little painting. As I told Fred that morning, I could easily spend months up there and not run out of interesting things to paint. I spent the rest of the week doing pastel drawings of the view of the back of their house and the path leading to it from the back fields. I will try to post some of those soon.