Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Home Before the Monsters Come Out (oil on canvas, 2010)

This is the old Henderson barn, on the ITS trail where it crosses the Wiley Road. I've drawn and painted this subject several times over the years. I was out for a run one evening about 4 weeks ago and, having failed to anticipate how much shorter the days were getting, I found myself with three miles still to go before reaching home and darkness quickly approaching. (Since moving to northern Maine from suburban Massachusetts, I have developed a strong dislike for running in the dark - way too many wildlife encounters, including several skunks and a large bull moose!) As I approached this old barn, it was silhouetted by an amazing pink and orange sky. I never saw skies like these in Massachusetts. I've drawn the barn itself so many times that I could easily do it from memory. I did several unsuccessful color studies in pastel – I think the problem was that they had too many colors and the barn wasn't dark enough. Then, one evening last week, I was walking out to my studio from the house and looked out across the street and saw a similar pink and orange sky behind my neighbors field, with a row of trees in back. The trees were almost black and the field was barely discernable. I grabbed my pastels and a scrap of paper and did a quick little drawing, which became the impetus for the color scheme in this painting.

The Light Is On, But Nobody's Home (oil on canvas, 2010)

(Private Collection)
I was out walking on the trail that goes through the woods around Deep Lake, where I have been numerous times before. I ended up staying straight where the trail turned left to circumvent the lake and ended up at the base of Front Ridge. I climbed the steep ridge and came out across the street from this old house. I did several drawings and a couple of color studies in watercolor before embarking on this painting. I've driven by this house many. many times, but never noticed it. That's why I prefer to go out looking for subject matter on foot rather than in a car, which is the reason that most of the subjects of my paintings are within walking distance of my house. It's evident that nobody lives in this house (In reality, those reddish plants in front of the door extend all the way up the facade to the second story windows, but I "trimmed them back" for compositional reasons.) but, interestingly, that big light that sticks out from the top of the garage comes on every night when it gets dark.

We've Met Before (pastel, 2010)

We had some very nice weather towards the end of last week. Of course, it's been raining all day today and the weatherman is calling for temperatures in the 20's by the end of the week and maybe some snow on Saturday. If I had any sense, I'd have spent the weekend raking up all of the leaves in my yard instead of wandering around in the woods making pastel drawings.

Vacant House (pastel, 2010)

I would love to know the story behind this house. It's about 2.5 miles down the road from where I live. Last year a crew came and dug out beneath the entire house. I used to run by it sometimes and the house was up on cement blocks with a hole about 6 feet deep dug underneath the entire house. I thought maybe they were putting in a septic system or something. The hole got filled in, the construction vehicles left and the house has sat there empty ever since. I drive by this house almost every day and the section on the left always casts interesting shadow patterns on the section on the right. I've been wanting to draw it for a while, but it's right on US Hwy 1 and there's no place to park or set up an easel. Last Friday I stopped in at the house next door and the nice folks who live there were kind enough to let me set up on their property and make this drawing.

Mailbox (oil on canvas, 2010)

(Private Collection)
Some paintings come together fairly quickly; when I'm working outside from direct observation, they have to. Not this one. I started this back in early October. I went out to paint on the first day, but it was too windy and cold to set up, so I sat in my car and did a pencil drawing and then a pastel. I went back the following day, in similar high winds, armed with several plastic shopping bags with big rocks in them that I used to anchor my easel and the little folding table that I set my palette on. It was bitterly cold and very windy, I but proceeded to work anyway, blocking in my composition and then mixing some colors. I turned around for a second and the wind lifted my palette, covered with piles of paint, right off the table and sent it flying over the fence to my right, eventually landing about 15 feet away, face down of course, in the horse pasture. I capitulated and packed my stuff up and brought everything back to the studio where I proceeded to labor over this painting for the next two weeks, making several trips back to the site. I was trying to capture an interesting sort of diffused light as the sky was mostly overcast with small pockets of light poking through a few small holes in the pervasive cloud cover. This gave everything a distinctive glow, with very few strong areas of light and shadow.