Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Still Nobody Home (oil on canvas, 2012)

I've spent a lot of time this year drawing this old, empty house and the three barns next to it up on the ridge on the Framingham Road, right near the Canadian border. I've drawn it so many times, in fact, that I could probably draw it blindfolded! The house has been vacant for a long time, but there were some people living in it a couple of years ago, squatters or illegal aliens, I suppose. It's sealed up now and the electricity has been disconnected. It's falling into squalor, which is a shame because it's in a prime location with potato fields on both sides and behind it, with a copse of trees in back to the right and across the street is a spectacular view over the Meduxnekeag River valley and New Brunswick beyond. Anyway, it's been a very fertile subject matter and has given me a wealth of shape and color relationships from which to mine images and I'm sure that I will continue to make the most of it for some time to come.

Cat o' Nine Tails (pastel, 2012)

This is a view looking to the west of the old railroad trail that runs from Houlton to Fort Kent, about a quarter mile south of where it crosses the Carmichael Road. I run by here all the time and I've always wanted to draw this view looking through the trees and across the field towards the blue house in the distance. At this time of year, it reminds me of the artwork on the cover of the first Black Sabbath album and I sometimes half expect to see a green woman in a long, black cloak looking at me through the trees.

October Woods (pastel, 2012)

I know that a lot of people in New England love the colors of the foliage in the fall, as do I, but I also love the colors at this time of year when all of the leaves have fallen to the ground and the forests all become a mixture of purplish-browns and orange-browns, punctuated by the warm greens of grass and the cool greens of the pine trees.

Age, Squalor and Dilapidation (oil on canvas, 2012)

(Private Collection)
Another variation on the old Wiley Road potato house (see below), this time in purples and pinks.

Dark Forest (pastel, 2012)

I found a new trail/farm road behind my house, right on the Canadian border and I went exploring there a couple of weeks ago with my son and my pastel gear. I was quite intrigued by this mysterious, dark forest at the far side of a recently mowed hay field with the young pines, basking in the sun to the left providing a stark contrast to the impenetrable, almost black forest in the distance.

Green Manalishi (oil on canvas, 2012)

(Private Collection)
The old, closed up potato house on the Wiley Road, that I've made numerous drawings and paintings of, from just about every possible view, over the past 5 years. It offers a great combination of geometry and wild organic growth and catches the light in marvelous ways throughout the day. I'm much more interested in creating images that communicate personal, emotional ideas through combinations of colors, shapes and textures than I am in merely describing what things look like and I find that once I've drawn or painted a particular subject several times it becomes a lot easier to transcend objective description and focus on the elements that are most important to me.

Impressionist Barns (pastel, 2012)

Looking Up (oil on canvas, 2012)

I did a series of 6 or 7 pastel drawings from the field across the street from my neighbor's sheep farm during some very nice weather back in July. This painting was developed from my favorite elements of all of the drawings.

Hay Bales (pastel 2012)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Soon I Will Be Gone (2012, oil on canvas)

(Private Collection)
This image is based on an empty house about a mile and a half up the road from where I live. I was working on this last winter just before my exhibition at the University of Maine; it was actually still wet when I delivered it to the gallery to be hung. I had originally painted the sky a pale yellow color as I was trying to intentionally flatten the space, give it an overall warm tonality, and consciously avoid the impulse to automatically paint the sky blue. When I got the painting back to my studio, however, I was bothered by the feeling that something wasn't right about it. My first feeling was that the windows were too dark and I kept looking at it and thinking that they seemed too dark in the context of the painting, but they really weren't painted very dark at all. I did a series of pastel color studies and eventually decided to repaint the sky with a darker and cooler color, which really helped to create a sense of eerie light on the face of the house and made the windows recede back into the space, lightening their value by comparison to the sky. The title is lifted from one of my favorite Free songs and is a reference to the phenomenon that a lot of the old, empty buildings around here that I've used as subjects for my drawings and paintings over the past six years are no longer standing.

Quiet Side (2012, oil on canvas)

This big painting (34 x 40) is based on a drawing that I did last summer on Mount Desert Island. This was one of those paintings that took a very long time to bring to completion. I worked on it, off and on, for months, continually adjusting the colors of the trees, sky, road and houses, without referring back to the original drawing but focusing instead on the internal relationships of the painting itself. The painting has quite a dense surface, from the many layers of paint build up. I brought it up to the University of Maine in Presque Isle for an exhibition of my work back in February, mostly just to get it out of the studio so I'd stop messing with it. Of course, after I'd left it there, I kept having these compulsions to get it back so I could work on it some more. However, once the show was hung and I was able to see it in the Reed Gallery at the University, which is a very large room that allowed me to see the painting from a much greater distance than my studio space allows, an important consideration for a painting this size, I was happy with it. I really like the contradiction between the sense of space receding into the image caused by the use of perspective and the insistence on the surface of the canvas by the build up of thick, textural paint.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lunch Hour (pastel, 2012)

These are the three barns behind the old, empty house on the Framingham Road where I have been spending a lot of time drawing over the past few months. This was done mid-day late last week from the north side, right behind the house. I only had about 20 minutes to work on it because I had to get home to meet my son's school bus and I wasn't completely happy with it when I got it back to the studio. I hung it up on the wall (with a bunch of other drawings that I'm not completely satisfied with) and have been studying it all week. I found the problem was that the grass was a bit too green and the roof tops too purple and they were fighting with each other. I took some light yellow ochre and scumbled over the grass and the roof tops and it all came together.

Garage in the Woods (pastel, 2012)

I've often noticed this garage at the edge of the woods beyond a big meadow behind the Littleton potato house. You can just barely make it out from the old railroad trail that runs between the Station Road and Wiley Road. I was out walking around with my backpack full of pastels a couple of weeks ago and decided to trudge through the 1/4 mile or so of brambles and thorns (and hidden streams!) in order to get a closer look. I'd love to know what the story is with this structure as there is no path or road leading up to it from anywhere. Maybe there was a house there once that burned down and then the trees just grew up around the garage. There's an old camper parked about 30 feet to the right of it, obscured by the trees from where I was standing. Anyway, this odd little structure surrounded by dense forest and set back from me by an overgrown meadow made for an interesting subject for a drawing.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Three of a Kind (oil on canvas, 2012)

There's a great line in one of my favorite David Lynch movies, "Lost Highway", spoken by Bill Pulman's character when he says, "I like to remember things my own way...the way I remember them, not necessarily the way they happened." I do a great deal of paintings based on memory. Sometimes I will come back to my studio with a very loose, gestural sketch which I will develop into a painting based on my memory of looking at the subject. Also, I find that even when I am looking directly at a subject and working, memories, especially from my childhood, will enter into the image. A scene will remind me of a place or time from when I was young and I will, through choices of color, composition, etc., paint the scene to look like my memory rather than an objective representation of the subject. This painting was done in my studio based on a sketch that I did last summer of these old barns near the Wiley Road here in Littleton, which I have drawn many times over the past few years.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Framingham Road (oil on canvas, 2012)

I painted this canvas from a view of the Framingham Road here in Littleton on Sunday afternoon (which was bitterly cold and windy) for the upcoming 10x10 auction at the Wintergreen Art Center in Presque Isle. The three barns in the previous two pictures are behind this house and were to my left as I worked on this. This painting, along with 10" x 10" paintings by 50 or so other artists will be auctioned off this coming Friday at the Wintergreen Art Center between 6:00 and 8:30. More info here.

A Certain Unease in the Air (pastel, 2012)

Same barns as the previous painting, this was done about three weeks ago, during a brief warm spell when most of the snow had melted.

Three's a Crowd (oil on canvas, 2012)

This was painted in February. These three barns sit behind an old, empty house on the Framingham Road here in Littleton and I have been spending a lot of time over the past five or six months up there making drawings based on the various buildings on the property. I did quite a few drawings and paintings of this property from the other (north) side during the first year that I lived here, but at the time, the house was occupied and I didn't feel comfortable roaming around the property with my easel. The house has been empty for a few years now and there was a For Sale sign in front of it last fall.