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The Green Monster

December 21, 2013
Stage Fort Park, Gloucester MA
Oil on Canvas covered canvasboard, 18 x 24 in

Although it was not ideal weather as far as my winter instincts are concerned, it was a great day to be out painting.  The overcast sky was pretty ideal, considering it was the shortest day of the year.  If it had been sunny the light would have been far too fleeting to paint, but as it was, I had a five hour window to work within.  When I arrived the sky was orange like that, though it was gone within an hour.  The snow was scarce but I caught what I could and enjoyed a peaceful day of painting.

December 17th 2013
Backyard, Massachusetts

Well there has been so much snow, I really couldn't stand not painting it.  Today there's a snow storm, which was just beginning as I went out with my palette, canvas and knife to capture the world around me.  Well not capture, really; I take no prisoners.  'Commune with' is a better way of putting it.  The photo above is the painting when I had run out of white and had to stop.  All those really artistic and beautifully placed snowflakes are, of course, snowflakes, not paint. There is a finished version that someone is making me feel insecure about so it may or may not really be done - but the exercise, of painting out in the snow and the 14 degree weather, was delightful.  I love winter!
Final Photo:

November 30th, 2013
Half Moon Beach, Gloucester MA
12 x 16 in,
Oil on Canvas

As usual the day after a painting day, this is a lousy photo taken in low light.  Saturday was a cold day, and my perch on top a big granite boulder in the ocean wind did nothing to remedy the fact.  I painted until my hands were so cold I could no longer hold my knife.  The view that had taken me when I arrived was of the dark shore & boulder offset by a few brilliant twinkles of sunlight on the water, but as the day wore on the sun went in and the colors came out.  I decided to try and key it back to when the sun was out and the land was in shadow, but there are a few things I still need to fix.  The next two weeks I may not post (though I hope I do) as I'll be manning my "open studio" all weekend long, Dec 7 - 8 and Dec 14 - 15.

This is November 23'ds as it stands on the afternoon of the 24th.  The difference in tone (between how it looks above and how it looks below) is only due to a lack of sunlight / presence of electric light in the room the photo was taken. 

November 23, 2013
Stage Fort Park, Gloucester MA
Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24 in

I am still transfixed by the beauty of light shining through dead and dying leaves; they look like jewels to me, much more captivating even than flowers at their peak.  I'm still trying to achieve the effect that besots me.  In this photo, the canvas is blocking the rocks that explain the blue/greens in the painting.  I'm heading out shortly to finish this, I hope it gets better not worse.

November 16th (and counting)
Half Moon Beach, Gloucester MA
Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20 in

Not done yet. On Saturday, I was moving with all the elan and brio of a comatose slug swimming upstream through a sea of frozen molasses.  I got to Gloucester late, and once I had set up I realized I had forgotten paper towel - without which I really can't paint.  So rather than return all the way to the car, which seemed like oceans, decades, lightyears away I found a pencil and decided I would just draw.  Luckily David Curtis showed up with his generous good nature and brought me some.  It was beautiful there as it always is and the colors are always the best part.  I focused on the foreground and water while I was there, and mixed the colors for but did not complete the opposite shore and sky.  I filled in what I could in the studio the next day.

November 9th 2013
Stage Fort Park, Gloucester, MA
Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24in

I keep being dazzled by how the sun shines through the fall leaves making them glow like precious gem stones with an inherent light source.  I keep attempting to paint what I see, and I keep not quite getting it.  I don't know if I'll change this one much or not. I think it's fairly attractive, as it is, though just doesn't come close to what I was seeing.

November 6th & 7th
Between two fronts
Oil on Canvas, 24 x 36 in

 Technically, this is not a plein air, as I painted it indoors with reference to a photo, and memory of the day this summer it was taken - on Lake of the Woods.  The foreground is volcanic rock.  So as not to have my images stolen / used without permission, I keep the files I post small.  This is one I wish I could post large enough that you could see the detail of the color and texture. This photo is taken in daylight, and is completely un-doctored.

Sunday, October 27th 2013
Boreas Sanctus Gallery and Studio
Studio 105
122 Western Avenue
Lowell, Massach

Although I did paint on Saturday, my mind and heart weren't really in it, and my paintings always know when I'm insincere - and punish me by being ugly.  I may try to fix it, but decided to spend today working to set up the gallery.  It is looking great, and I hope that everyone will come on November 2nd, 2013 - any time between 12 - 5pm - to see me and my work in person. (Go up the wheelchair ramp on the left of the loading dock,* enter, walk straight ahead past the elevator, take a left down the ramp and walk a long way until you find #105 on the right!) There will be paintings for sale in all price ranges (some even under $100!)  I really hope to see you there.  And I look forward to November 3rd, when I can return my energy and focus to creating new things.
* - The door that's in color (below) is the one you go in to get to my studio!

Unfinished - Finished below.
Saturday, October 19th 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24

When I began this painting, the sky was bright blue and the sun was high - as a result, the bleached log was blue (as in the painting) from reflecting the sky.  As the day wore on, the sky changed as did all the colors.  I had the same struggle I keep having - I'm painting with the conscious intention of making it look fairly real, but I've chosen the scene because I love the rhythm I see in the design.  You can't serve two masters, as they say, and I keep getting torn between the literal and the ornamental - and making a mess.  I was happy, though, taking this picture on site, that the color of the leaves (oak) is so well matched you can hardly tell where the painting ends and the ground begins.  I've decided I may do 10 mins of work on it tomorrow, maximum. The worst thing I can do is overwork these things (see last week's.) 

NB- It is now Sunday, and I've decided to leave it as is.  Yesterday David Curtis told me it was better than I thought, and that I should go home, get something to eat, get some sleep, and look at it again in the morning.  I did, and I like it enough to not want to take the risk of "improving' it.

October 14th, 2013 & Thereafter
Western Avenue Studios,
Lowell, Massachusetts

I don't know if anyone has noticed that a lot of my paintings this year involved very little in the way of horizon, and a lot in the way of confusion, commotion, constrictiveness.  Like I'm perennially trying to make sense of thousands of different elements crammed into a small, often enclosed space. 
It's all proof that there is no hiding what's going on in one's mind when one paints.  I've been feeling increasingly captive, increasingly stuck - to a large degree, simply because I have had nowhere to paint (except outdoors) since I realized the basement has been making me sick.  I've been very stressed out, every week adding to my collection of work that is building up in the attic, and predominately going unseen.  Hence the overflowing tight spaces in my paintings.
However, I have terrific news!  I now have a studio where I can both work and show.  It's in Lowell, MA - where the town motto is "Art is the handmaid of human good." There are open studios the first Saturday of every month, and viewing can also be arranged by appointment.  I feel liberated and very excited to get to work and show my work in my own space.  I'm also expecting this revitalized attitude to impact and hopefully improve my work.  I will be putting up a new "News & Events" page, with more details on where and when I'll be showing shortly.

October 12, 2013
Sumac Attack
Oil on Canvasboard, 16 x 20 in
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA

This painting needs a little settling down, but I'm posting it as it stands for the time being.  It was a dark, overcast day and the sumac was festive among the bare bushes it grew in.  I was looking through the leaves and branches to a stone bench nestled within.

October 5th, 2013
Lake, Ipswich MA
Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24 in

I was driving to the usual place this morning, and came across this pond I've seen and wanted to paint many times.  It was all lit up and aglow with fall, and I had to paint it.  It was an overcast day which really gives the colors life, and I tried, as usual, to communicate my experience of that spectacular riot of color. Once I had the piece home to finish, away from the location of the scene (the canvas was fully covered, it was just a matter of finishing / settling) the focus was on balance of color, line and motion.  This photo doesn't do it justice, I will retake when the weather / light is better.

Last week of September, 2013
Work in Progress
A Dog Named Baxter

The weekend of the 27th I was in Maryland and DC, attending my 15 yr college reunion and visiting friends.  The week leading up to it I was working on this, a portrait of a friend's dog, RIP.  It's a bit of a challenge as a commission as the extant photos are not ideal - as you can see in the upper left, the photo shows his face in dark shadow, which just won't do for a portrait.  I've been extrapolating from other photos and pictures of similar dogs (Rhodesian Ridgebacks, liver nosed) to get a better handle on the dog's coloring.  It's kind of nice to use a brush again, after all these years.  Anyway as you can see, there's still quite a bit of work to be done here. 

Sept 21, 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex Massachusetts
Oil on Canvas, 12 x 16 in

This is a "before" picture - parts of the painting are ok, parts have to be fixed. It was a beautiful day out, hopefully in time the painting will be a better testament to the fact. Update - Added a bit of vegetation in the foreground I had missed initially.  It helps temper the color of the water which was accurate but seemed unlikely when the violet tone (a result of the clouds directly above which are invisible in the painting) was the dominant note. 

September 15, 2013
I decided at least momentarily to leave both versions up - though I'm surprised after a morning of retooling how similar the two photos look.  Certainly need to take a new photo of the new version, as it was taken in full sun which makes glare a problem in the mid-ground.  I realized while I was painting that my problem yesterday was a case of not being able to see the trees for the forest.  I was so dazzled by the harmony of various facets of the landscape that I wasn't able to focus well enough on the parts to reproduce the whole I was seeing.  In the finished painting, as a compromise, I decided to focus on the impression individual players made on the whole.

September 14th 2013
Oil on Canvas, 20 x 24 in
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA

This is a long way from done, but I am posting it as it stands right now because I left the field today just teeming with shame and frustration, I thought the painting was so horrible that I couldn't do anything but race to my car and try to drive away and forget.  I took its picture (in a dark driveway, so don't take the colours and light too literally) as a sort of punishment to myself, so I could look at it all night on my phone and brood about my failure.  But when I looked at it on my phone, prepared for the weeping and gnashing of teeth these things generally warrant, I just thought "Oh. Huh. Well, that's actually a little pretty. Maybe I overreacted." There is still plenty I can see to improve.  But it's nice to be free of some of the drama I had bound myself in.

September 7, 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA
Oil on Canvasboard, 16 x 20 in

This painting is a testament to how comfortable I can be with chaos.  I believe that ultimately order will emerge, and in the meantime, I'm content to sit within the friction between tones.  There's a rhythm to this painting.  I was looking into a tangle of vines, there was a stunning cluster of glowing red leaves.  The sun filtering into the bush resulted in some pretty incredible jewel tones. It's the surprise of that incredible glow that struck me, and I think that's why I'm not interested in making that firey centre look more literal.  I captured the surprise.  I captured what happens when I look into a tangle of such beauty as this - the devolution of form to the intrusion of glorious light. I have yet to get a really good photo of it, I'll keep trying and update. NB - Just added this to "Matching Scene to Painting"

September 3, 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 12 x 16 inches

My spot this time was predicated on the painting that was being done of me as I painted.  The colors at the marsh this time of year are surreal, and lovely.

August 31, 2013
Oil on Canvasboard, 16 x 20 in
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA

I chose my spot this Saturday based on the fact that it began to pour almost as soon as I got out to hike around looking for a spot.  The scrub sumacs I stood under at first were poor shelter, but a tall and dense elm (?) I came to kept me relatively dry.  Therefore, this was the view from that elm. 

August 24th 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24 in

It was a day of multiple missed connections, in the human sphere, but I communed cheerfully with the woods around me.  

Essex Town Hall / Library, Essex MA
August 17, 2013
Paint Essex - Wet Paint Auction

I just typed three paragraphs about this which my browser decided to delete so I'm a bit too miffed to patiently set it all down again.  In a nutshell, I went into this event planning to paint what I know - the marsh - and adorn the piece with all the bells & whistles in order to dazzle my way to being able to afford the veterinary work my cat needs done.

But then I saw this crazy building, Essex Town Hall, and I was too intrigued by it to even thing about painting any thing else, even though I have never in my life (to my recollection) completed a painting of a building. Curiosity trumps commercial pandering every time with me, unfortunately.  Here is a slide show of the process. As I said before, there are things I would fix about the painting now that I'm seeing it with refreshed eyes.  However, I like it.  And as a first building, a very complex building at that, I think that it's pretty darn good.

August 16th, 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20 in

This was painted in the afternoon, while the sun was gradually weakening and the colors of the marsh were glowing. I know I say this all the time, but I really need to retake this photo. The sky looks so washed out in the picture but in reality it's one of the best parts of the painting.  I did this just as a sort of palette cleanser, or an exercise in the familiar, to practice a little before the "wet paint" event the next day.

August 8th, 2013
The Old Granite Pier, Rockport MA
16 x 20 in, Oil on Canvas

Again, working on rocks.  There were some dazzlingly beautiful weeds growing around the rocks. This photo looks a lot more "blah" than I think the painting looks in fact - will retake another day.

August 7, 2013
16 x 20 in, Oil on Canvasboard
Halibut Point Quarry, Rockport MA

There's some reflection in this photo that dulls the subtlety of the clouds and sky, which is unfortunate as they really set the tone for the entire painting.  Will retake.  However, this is another step in the right direction.  After being at my beautiful lake, then coming back to what feels like captivity, with all these trees everywhere hemming me in, I felt a lot of pathos for that still, deep green quarry pool - sitting so close and yet so far away from the wild wide ocean beyond.

August 6th, 2013
Bass Rocks, Gloucester MA
22 x 28 in, Oil on Canvas
I need to retake this one when the light is better (I took this today in the rain, so it's blurry.)  Working on rocks, literally and figuratively.

First week in August, 2013
24 x 36, Oil (about 30 gallons of it) on Canvas

Sometimes when you try something difficult you are rewarded with spectacular success - but more frequently, you crash and burn.  This is a story of the latter.  I am posting it regardless. 
I need to understand water better.  In case it isn't clear, this painting is of the lake - the foreground is looking in to the water, and from there as you work back gradually the part of the water that you can't see into, that's reflecting the sky. 
I want to be able to "see" water better.  I am stupefied every time I look into it by its incredible beauty, unfathomable complexity, and utterly bewildering symmetry.  I am trying to understand translucency - as told through colour, my medium - as opposed to through light, it's medium.  I have a long way to go. But I suppose I'm one step closer to understanding.

18 x 24 in
Oil on Canvas

16 x 20 in, Oil on Canvasboard
July 28th, 2013

I'm back.  I managed two sketches, both of which were executed with a lot of frustration. What I failed to achieve due to my colour malfunction I sought to recover with colourful language I hope my niece and nephews didn't hear.  I took a great deal of tonal notation however, while there, and many pictures.  I plan to produce a great deal in the weeks to come with help of those.  The two above I struggled with but post in the interest of transparency.  I seem to struggle with every painting, but these, like most of the them, in time I came to appreciate. I think I'm always surprised by how much of my own emotion and interpretation goes into each painting I produce.

ADDED on August 18th, 2013 - Proof of the change in my paint. They say for the better, I say for the worse:

July 14th - 26th:
I'm in Canada, on Lake of the Woods, and having trouble painting because they apparently changed the recipe of the blue I've been using for 25 years.  Since all of my colours are mixed from the three primaries and white, this overly opaque, overly bright blue is throwing off my entire palette.  There is no place in town one can buy oil paints, so for the time being, I am thwarted.  However, painting this, my favorite of all places, may be as frought with complications as a surgeon operating on their parent.

July 11, 2013

July 12, 2013
Rocky Neck, Gloucester MA
24 x 30 in, Oil on Canvas

The workshop was on buildings and boats - I had done two boats already, so I opted to try a building.  I had only two canvases left - a very small one, or a large one.  I thought I'd opt for the large, since it's difficult to get much detail on a small space with the knife.  Downside of course is that there's much more space to cover on a large canvas.  This is as far as I got.  However, I left the parts I hadn't time for completely blank.  This means that I can return to the site one day and finish it.  With palette knife you can't paint over dried paint - or I think one shouldn't (for various reasons.) The only part where I would have to do so would be putting in the dozens of windows that thread along the pier building.

July 11, 2013
Rocky Neck, Gloucester MA
12 x 16, Oil on Canvas

Day two of the workshop on buildings and boats.  I painted and scraped off two separate compositions this morning before finally settling on this one.  I sat and worked on it through a mild thunderstorm and a decent amount of rain.  It was a really lovely boat. I may yet tweak a thing or two on this piece, I may not.

July 10, 2013
18 x 24 in, Oil on Canvas
St Peter's Square, Gloucest

I am having trouble getting a good photo of this painting. I did this on location at the docks in Gloucester, day one of a workshop on buildings and boats.  You may have noticed how carefully I avoid painting man-made structures.  That is mostly due to my disdain for the careless and destructive ways of humankind, but also somewhat due to my inability to make a straight line.  This is the first boat I've ever painted (in my adulthood.) I had several offers to buy it while I was working on it - which boosted my morale quite notably. Next time I may have the sense to hand off the painting in exchange for the cash right there on the spot. More than one lesson learned on this day.

July 6th, 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 12 x 16 in

It was a 95 degree in the shade day, and the first day (that I had experienced this year) of Greenfly season.  I had a small canvas so wanted to find something I could focus into, also wanted to find something in the shade. It was an exercise not only in painting but in self control - staring at ripe wild blackberries for hours without eating any.  That much I succeeded in - maintaining my pacific, live and let live attitude to all living things - that suffered in the onslaught of greenflies who combine their extraordinary nastiness with remarkable stupidity - so a warning swat too easily becomes a mortal blow. 
I haven't touched this, except to scratch my mark into the corner, since painting it, and I won't.

July 2, 2013
The Breezeway
Rocky Neck, Gloucester MA
Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24 in

We've had a tumultuous weather system hanging above us for about a week - overcast with sunny breaks, occasional rain, occasional thunderstorm, occasional tornado warning.  I need to re-take this photo.

June 29th, 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt
Essex, MA
Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20 in

Well, on Friday the thing I've been dreading for two years finally happened - namely, my two favorite players were traded from the Celtics to the Nets.  So all of Friday I was in a funk.  Saturday, however, I felt about 60lbs lighter.  I had no idea how heavily that imminent threat had been weighing on me! My mind was clearer and calmer than it had been in a long time.  I felt great and was able to give all of my attention to the task at hand, and enjoyed every minute of it. 
There's a small stick that blew into my sky above the tree on the far left which I will extract when it's dry. It felt great to be painting, and I think it turned out fairly well.  Meanwhile I continue to develop my piebald sunburn, as an effect of the uneven application of sunscreen.  That's becoming a work of art in its own right.
I took pictures of this painting as I went - a slide show of it as it developed is here.

June 22, 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA
12 x 16, Oil on Canvas

I only had a small canvas, and I wanted to find a subject to do in a close up / study (rather than a big vista on a small scale.)  Also I wanted to paint sitting down, and didn't have a chair. Conveniently I found these flowers growing low to the ground.  I settled in to paint. It went especially well in the beginning. After a little repair this morning  (23rd) I think it's done. Colours are nice and rich.

June 19th - 23
Half Moon Beach, Gloucester MA
(January 15th revisited.)
Oil on Canvas, 22 x 28 in

I tried painting this water in January and was not pleased with the result, so I tried again this week - and I'm not overly pleased with the result.  However, I have learned a thing or two - so maybe the third time will be the charm.  In another six months or so.  Light reflecting in water is sinuous, smooth and flawless - I think the knife (palette knife) is just an imperfect tool for painting it, or I have yet to find the way to make it work.  I resorted to a brush for some of this one.

June 15th 2013
Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20in
Gloucester, MA

This is still not finished.  I don't intend to make it more polished, exactly - I won't be adding more detail to the figure, I don't imagine... this was an exercise painting a figure in the garden and attempting to depict the light as it falls through the trees - warm against cold. 

Saturday June 8th, 2013
Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24 in
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA

The plein air group (led by my favorite living American artist, David P. Curtis) (favorite living Canadian artist is John Smith) that I normally go out with had cancelled the day's painting in favor of Sunday, which promised better weather.  I work on Sundays, so went out to Essex regardless.  It didn't rain, in spite of the forecast, and I enjoyed a very peaceful day of painting.  As you can see, there was a lot of springtime debris in the air that made it onto my canvas.  I still have to tweak a few things but on the whole, this one's done.
Incidentally, this is the same view I painted the day I learned Ray Allen had opted for the Heat over the Celtics.  There is a cedar tree that stands at the edge of the cluster of trees on the right. In my earlier painting (July 8th? 2012?) that solitary cedar, sitting at a crossroads between meadow and marsh, represented Ray Allen to me - and it has stuck, I can't see the tree without thinking of him.

In my mind, Ray Allen's choice to leave the Celtics was justified when I realized had he been here, he and his kids would very likely have been at the finish line of the Boston Marathon at the time the first bomb went off, cheering on his wife and his mother who would have been running.  It's horrible as it is with the number of victims and devastation we had, to add him and his young family to the list would be awful. So I made my peace with it then.  However, this past week Ray was in the news saying that for him, the fact that his team is in the Finals justifies his choice. This just - dropped him in my esteem.  Completely irrelevant though it is to him, I'm ignoring Ray.  Hence my exclusion of the tree from the picture.
Yes, I know I'm nuts.

June 3, 2013
Oil on Canvas, 12 x 16 in
Lake of the Woods, Memory

Without realizing it, I did something just like this exactly a year ago. This one - I can't seem to take a picture of it without a distracting glare that ill affects the balance of the painting.  It's a moody kind of scene, from a moody kind of day. 

May 25th 2013: IN PROGRESS
18 x 24 in, Oil on Canvas
Backyard, Massachusetts

It's been raining all day and I resent it; Saturday is supposed to be painting day.  So I put on my warmest hat and winter coat, and went out back and sat in the rain for three or four hours, painting this.  Oil paint, I found, is not adversely affected by water - and in fact, with the knife it can produce some really interesting effects.  However the volume of water that accumulated on the canvas, palette, and on my person eventually made it extraordinarily difficult to see what I was doing.  So I stopped, will revisit tomorrow. It bothers me that the green of the flowers' leaves is obviously very different from how it looks in the photo. I'll have to look into that tomorrow.

May 19th 2013
Cox Reservation - Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20  in

I wanted to paint the river at low tide because I liked the reflection of the sky in the puddles on the mudflats - so I hurried at the beginning to get my sky and water in (because they obviously have to match.)  By the time I had nearly finished all the rest of it, I was frustrated by how different my painting looked from what was in front of me - at that point, a swollen tidal river at high tide.  However, both halves were accurate to the space / time they were painted in, and they are very harmonious in tone as the light was consistent throughout the day as I looked northward.  It was a beautiful day for painting and being outside.  I loved the sinuous riverbed and its echo in the footpath, I think I conveyed this adequately too.

May 8 - May 12 2013
My backyard, Massachusetts

This is the painting as it stands, about 6/7ths of the way complete. 
I was captivated earlier this spring by the fresh cool bloom of spring leaves and flowers, as they lit up in the warm glow of sunset.  I took pictures, then didn't get out to paint it quickly enough, and the whole aspect of the plant had changed.
  I worked outside on location with the picture in hand to reconstruct what I had seen, and use the real trees and surroundings to inform my coloration.  I did not go to Essex today.  The weatherman said it would be raining and stormy, and I knew if I went, trusting in my star, it would pour.  So I stayed here to finish this, and ensure by my absence the day would be clement for my friends out in the Greenbelt today.  

May 4th 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas 16 x 20
This photo is a little askew, and it doesn't do the texture justice - will retake. Had a better painting day than the previous few.

April 27th 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 20 x 24?

I hate this painting.  I had a dreadful time trying to do it.  I deemed this one unworthy even of the "Disasters" page.  Then eventually I decided to fess up, partially.  This is a small tolerable segment.  Maybe when I'm done having wounded pride I'll post the whole thing on Disasters.

April 20th 2013
Pencil Sketch, 16 x 20 in
Cox Reservation, Essex MA

Though I carried all my painting gear around the Greenbelt for at least an hour in search of something to paint, nothing "spoke to me."  Whatever's been dogging me these past months, Lyme or otherwise, flared up again this weekend.  I almost went home in defeat - but instead remembered I had a pad of paper in the car. I sat myself down in front of this tree and started drawing.  What was nice about this was that with a pencil I can get all those tiny details that my knife is too clumsy for.  I really needed to focus on something outside of myself and this was a very good way for me to do that.  I stopped when the light had changed too much - I am undecided as to whether to try and finish it or leave it as is. 

April 15th - 19th
Felt tip pen on paper
16 x 20 in(?)
Larger Image Here

One of the reasons I love Plein Air is that it turns my attention out of my thoughts and anchors them into the world around me.  This week there's been no escaping the world around me. I've been inundated with images and information of horrific events, and as it surely is for all in Massachusetts or with ties to Boston - and to those to whom this sort of violence is routine - it's been overwhelming.  The goodness of people is overwhelming too, but I think in this stream of consciousness doodle you see more of the darker side. 

April 13th, 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24 in

I've painted in this same spot several times - most recently, January 19th (though standing in the same spot, that time I was looking to my right.) I am excited that some of the dingy grey grasses are beginning to take on new life and new colour!  I see a few things I want to change in this painting, will go do so - but on the whole it was not too bad of a day's work.

April 8th - 9th
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 16 x 22 (?)

This is the penultimate picture of the painting - I've changed a few things since I took this, will re take soon.  Yesterday was a beautiful warm day, I had a few hours in the afternoon to paint.  I stood by a cluster of trees that caught my eye with their strange, shaggy bark.  I have since learned they are Shaggy Bark, or Shagbark Hemlocks. I liked them because they reminded me somehow of the Muppets.

April 6th, 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20

After the frustration of last week, which I realize was caused by my painting a scene in the worst possible direction sunlight-wise (SW I think - changes quickly over a short period of time), my goal this weekend was to paint a scene due North. I liked the way this tenacious oak retained its dead leaves through the winter, and the drama of their orangey tone against the gorgeous clear sky.  I don't think the photo does it justice; because although this painting is by no means perfect, I did succeed, in my own eyes, here and there, in reproducing the dazzling effect of the leaves against the sky.

March 30th, 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24 in

I can't tell you how angry I was with this stupid painting yesterday.  I ducked and tiptoed my way back to the car with it in hand, lest some other painter might ask to see it.  When they did - in spite of my precautions - it was only the life-long, iron-clad habit of stifling my impulses that kept me from kicking them in the shins and running away.  Today, I can see that some of it is ok.  Yesterday was such a stunningly beautiful day, unless I were the angel of John Singer Sargeant and painting with light and not paint could I really have done it justice.  I can do a few things to this painting to make it a little better, but I'm pretty sure every time I look at it I'll still feel the urge to growl and kick people.

Saturday, March 23rd 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 12 x 16

It was a very windy day, and the wind was cold - so I chose a painting spot not because of great inspiration from the subject matter but because it was out of the wind and in the sun.  Maybe the perfunctory manner with which I settled on a subject prejudiced me against my work - I left after several (comfortable) hours pretty angry with what I'd done.  Today I can see some redeeming qualities. In any case I look forward to the next one.

March 16, 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 12 x 16 in
I decided to focus on a tree trunk and paint it.  I ran out of white last weekend and am still waiting for the new batch to arrive.  In the meantime, I had only "underpainting white" to work with - a very different texture to what I'm used to.  I wasn't expecting this painting to come to much, was just doing a study - but it turned out surprisingly well.  I post it here first on its own, then in context. It was a bit of a revelation to me, this painting - one of the very few paintings I've done outdoors with no sky or water.  There's a limited range of mute values in the objects I painted, and it's amazing that you can still have a very tangible form, foreground and background within such a small gradient of tones. It was amazing to me, in any case.  I learned something - for that reason I count this one of my very best.  I reckon I produce one that I consider "great" (to me) about once every eight months. The previous "great," IMO, was the July 4th 2012. 

March 9th 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20 in

This was a wonderful weekend to be out painting, as we had had a huge snow fall on Thursday and Friday, but on Saturday the temperature had warmed almost to 50 in the sun.  So it looked like winter but felt like spring, and I felt great and excited to be out in the fresh air painting. The downside was that I had run out of white paint, which is pretty amazing considering the quantity I had not to long ago.  I go through a lot of paint.  I did what you see above while I was outside - and I stopped when I had absolutely no white left.  By the time I got more, the parts of the painting I wanted to work on (adding branches in the sky and foreground, working on the rocks on the left) had dried.  You really can't work on a dry painting with a pallet knife. So it will remain as it is.

Saturday, March 2 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex MA
16 x 20 in

I wanted to paint snow, but there was not a lot left - so I had to trudge to the coldest, shadiest corner to find a decent sized patch.  It meant I had to paint deciduous trees which I tend to avoid if I can.  The colors this time of year are all dank and grim, I think I captured them adequately.  I confess, I'm looking forward to spring.

February 24 - 25th
Oil on Canvas, 24 x 32in

This leaf, this scene reminded me of Shakespeare's 73 sonnet, which is why I painted it.  In person it has, to me, a rather evocative atmosphere, I'm not sure if it translates to the picture. 
This is the sonnet:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

February 8-10
Oil on Canvas, 24x36in

Painted this weekend while contemplating one of the warmest, most compassionate people I know who very recently suffered a devastating loss. The warmth of the sun playing on the cold of the snow... And the whole time I was painting, a line from a song (it's the only line I know from that song) kept looping through my brain "We found love in a hopeless place."  The person in mind and the person they lost are both the type of people who can flood a room, building, community - with hope, with love. 

  February 2, 2013
Cox Reservation, Essex MA
12 x 16 in Oil on Canvas

It was cold out, though beautiful - I decided to do something small and simple.  I did, the sky I was under was magnificent - couldn't quite recreate the awe factor, but I got the blue anyway.

24 x 32 in, Oil on Canvas
Last week in January, 2013

January 19th, 2013
Banners Flying - Cox Reservation, Essex MA
15 x 30 in, Oil on Canvas

Plein air painting is a totally different animal than your controlled environment type painting.  I am sure I'm a broken record about this, but I drive myself nuts trying to keep up with the subtle changes of tone that occur throughout the day - and at a much higher rate in winter, mind you, than summer.  The light is constantly in flux, and wind - there was a lot of it when I painted this, the grasses were waving and so was my entire canvas, rattling in the wind.  So, motion everywhere, and I'm like the hamster in the wheel, trying to stay in motion so I maintain some semblance of a chance of capturing some essence of what I see.  It's about honing my relationship with the present moment, that fleeting little s.o.b.  Sometimes I feel I achieve it better than others.  Guess how I feel about this one.

January 12th, 2013
Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20
Cox Reservation, Essex MA

There was a stunningly high tide today, and since I was wearing my tall rubber boots I decided to wade in a little to find a good spot to paint.  It was then I learned that my rubber boots are full of holes.  I stayed anyway, but confess that dreams of warm and dry feet were my main focus, the painting probably suffered as a result. I may tweak this one a bit, but am inclined to leave it as it stands for the most part.


January 5th, 2013
Work in Progress
Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24 in

This is only the second time since I began Plein air in 2011 that I've been fortunate enough to paint snow - and what we had was disappearing, so I chose to sit in the shade where there was more of it.  However, I'm just recovering after a bout with the new flu - so got rather cold rather quickly.  I might try to finish this, or I might leave it as is, as a study.