Saturday, February 26, 2011

Nice Day for a Walk (oil on canvas, 2011)

Working from landscape motifs in the brutally cold weather of northern Maine presents a myriad of challenges. The strong, bitter, icy winds make setting an easel up outside almost impossible and I am usually forced to work quickly, standing with a sketchbook in one hand and a pencil or pastel stick in the other. Working without gloves on is very difficult, but sometime a necessity, but drawing with gloves on can force one to work more loosely, which isn't a bad thing. I've noticed that the colors are more apt to change, both throughout the course of a single day as well as from day to day. I think this is because all of the intense, saturated colors have been drained from the landscape and the many neutral grays and the white of the snow are more apt to appear different colors depending on the position of the sun. In the absence of the vivid greens of spring and summer, the sky takes on a greenish tint, having no stronger greens to compete with it. This painting is based on a view looking south on the Currier Road here in Littleton, where the big hills of Danforth and Orient, 50 or so miles away, are visible in the distance. I did a painting called "Mailbox" a few months ago looking back down this road from the opposite direction. I worked this out in my studio from about half a dozen pencil and pastel sketches that were done over the past few weeks, out in the freezing cold, clutching my drawing materials between purplish-blue, semi-numb fingertips.

Leaving Russell Rock (oil on canvas, 2011)

I took my kids sledding about three weeks ago. We initially went to the big hill behind the Wellington School, which offered some great sledding. My son Damien talked me into going down with him on his sled and I reluctantly agreed. I enjoy sledding, but wasn't dressed for it. I had been out in my studio all day and was wearing my "painting" jeans, unlike my kids who had water-resistant winter coveralls on. So, of course, the sled turned around half way down the hill and we ended up crashing backwards into 18 inches of powdered snow and I ended up with quite a bit of it up under the back of my shirt and down the back of my jeans, giving me more than a bit of a chill. The kids wanted to continue sledding so I told them I was going to wait in the car and warm up. We left about 15 minutes later. I was ready to go home, but they wanted to check out the hill on the road to Russell Rock, which we had heard offered good sledding as well. I agreed to drive over and just have a look, but once we got there, they begged me to let them take a run down the sled trails. I conceded that they could take one quick run down while I turned the car around. As soon as I turned the car around, I found myself looking at this view. Having a sketch book and pencils on the passenger seat, I yelled out to the kids to sled as much as they wanted and then proceeded to draw. I finished this painting a couple of weeks ago, but had some difficulties photographing it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Homecoming (oil on canvas, 2011)

(Private Collection)
I spent all day a week ago this past Saturday working – finishing up another painting (I had intended to post it before this one, but the photos came out very grainy for some reason), doing some drawings out on the Currier Road for the painting that I'm working on now, and stretching and priming a canvas. At the end of the day I went for a much-needed run and saw this view on the way back home, on the corner of the Framingham Road and the Shaw Road. I hurried back to the studio and did a quick pastel sketch of the color scheme from memory and then I went back to the location the next day and did a pencil drawing to work out the composition and the structures of the buildings before heading back to the studio and doing this small (10 x 12) painting. I spent about an hour and a half mixing the colors but once I started painting, it came together very quickly. I wanted to avoid over-working the cloud shapes while maintaining a sense of their transparency and I found the solution was to just slap the paint on and push it around a little. The little pastel sketch that I had done the day before, although done very quickly (a minute or so) and very abstract, was quite effective and I wanted to maintain the same type of energy in this painting.