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The Green Monster


Moonrise over Channel Island
Kenora, Ontario
December 14 & 15, 2014
Oil on Canvasboard, 16 x 20 in

Another painted in studio from a photo / from memory during last week's Open Studios.  Thanks to all who have come out and supported me and my work this year!  Happy Holidays to all.

Sunset over Canoe Channel
Kenora, Ontario
December 6, 2014
Oil on Canvasboard, 12 x 16 in

My absence all this while has been due to a sudden and terminal illness in the family.  I hope I can get back to painting regularly soon.  Recently I had two weekends of Open Studios - the 6th of December and the following weekend, the 13th and 14th.  Capitalizing on the hours I got to spend in my studio space, I painted this and the one above from memory & photo while I was there.
PS - if it looks familiar, it's because I did a painting from the same photo not too long ago.  I hadn't brought any new ones into the studio, just decided on the spot to paint so had to make do with what was there.  Also the previous one got ruined by an ill-timed car-door slam. The sky in this one, at least, is better than the previous (Feb. 11th. Wait for the re-take of this in better light to finalize your own conclusions on the matter!)

Stormy Weather, Lake of the Woods
November 16, 2014
Oil on Canvasboard, 16 x 20 in

For the past month I've been sick, I'm finally on the mend.  I didn't get out this weekend to paint, but I did some studio painting on Sunday. This is from a photo and a memory I have of a very stormy day on the lake this summer.  I took this indoors and on a dark day, when the weather is better I'll get a better photo of it. I should be back up posting regularly from now on.

Red Auerbach
October, 2014
Pencil, 16 x 20 in (?)

This is just one of the sketches I've done as practice for a portrait I'll be doing soon. It's not plein air and it's not from life, obviously - but because I've been sick I've been stuck inside and would like to show I've not been totally idle.

October 25 & 26, 2014
Marsh in Tewksbury
Watercolour, 12 x 16in

I have some kind of infection in my chest so was not too fit to go out this weekend, instead I stayed in with my watercolors and worked on this. I never use black but I did in this, not as much as it looks like in the photo mind you I think the contrast is too high - anyway it was a nice peaceful activity, enjoyed the change.  I may or may not finish it - not sure yet.

(Unfinished as yet) October 20th, 2014
South Natick, MA
Watercolour, 12 x 16 in

I went to visit & paint with a friend in the Newton area. I had all my paints with me but felt me and oils needed a bit of a break, at least for the day - so I opted initially just to sketch, but then I realized I had watercolours with me and I thought, why not?? It's been a while, but I enjoyed the drawing and the brush for a change.

October 19 2014
Oil on Canvas, 20 x 24
Cox Reservation, Essex MA / Newfane, Vermont...

Well, longtime no paint.  I went to Vermont earlier this week but didn't have enough time while there to paint - then was busy all week. Got to the Greenbelt nice and early on Saturday, was bedazzled by the beauty... I stayed there later than anyone else, laboring, laboring, swearing over this painting that just would not be tamed.  I brought it to the studio and labored on it more this morning, and when it did not come to life, I got mad and scraped it all off.  Then I decided to try and paint the old sugar shack I had seen on my trip to Vermont, though I was too frustrated to really rein in. This is the result - I think a picture in better light could show it to greater advantage but even so, NEXT!

ps - I have been working on sketching some portraits in preparation for a commission I have upcoming, which is half the reason I've been AWOL. The other half is just being busy and I hope that things have settled down. I may post a photo of the drawings I've done, eventually.

River and Leaves - Andover, MA
September 30th, 2014
16 x 20 in, Oil on Canvas

I didn't get to paint this weekend but a friend and I went yesterday (Tuesday the 30th) to paint the turning leaves.  It was a cool day of rain cleverly disguised as "heavy mist." The darkness of the atmosphere showcased the luminous beauty of the early fall colors.  The weather today is darker still and today's rain is explicit - poor conditions for photographing paintings in natural light.  It is a dark painting, but not quite so dark as I think it looks here.
I liked the different casts of color in the water - the centre of the river looked green and the edges were an inky purple with some faint reflections coming through.  It was a good painting day.

Tidal River and the Sea
September 23rd, 2014
Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester MA
18 x 24 in, Oil on Canvas

This was a glorious day - one last little "Hurrah" of summer before the inevitable fall.  It was warm, the sky was cloudless, and the parking was both legal and free!  As usual I was captivated by the water and worked on painting it as I saw it.  I had intended to put in another outcropping of shoreline and maybe even the grand house that sits high atop the rocky shore - but by the time I got to work on it (Thursday, it had been painted on Tuesday) it was mostly dry.  As a result, there was little I could do but polish a few edges here and there and let it be.  I couldn't even scratch my name into the bottom as usual!  The only drawback of warm weather is the accelerated drying time.  However, I might have overdone it had I tried to put extra things in.  As it is, the painting is peaceful and open. 

September 20 & 21st, 2014
Cox Reservation, Essex MA
18 x 24 in, Oil on Canvas

This was a "late light" painting day, and I was facing west watching ornamental grasses blowing as the clouds and sun sporadically light up and cast shadows over the land.  When the light shone through the leaves and grasses, their colors gleamed like gemstones on the tarnished silver of the dying reeds. I enjoyed the day's work on Saturday but did not consider the painting finished.  On Sunday, I returned to the painting having left the scene and rather than plumb the depths of my memory for all the details of the land, I followed the play of colors that had evolved on my canvas.  It's no longer exactly accurate, but I like the way parts of it turned out. 

September 12, 2014
18 x 24in, Oil on Canvas

I had gone to The Old Granite Pier in Rockport last Tuesday to paint, but I was not - it was just not working for me that day.  I spent hours and used a lot of paint, and at the end of the day I scraped it all off the canvas in disdain. I do not believe in wasting paint, especially not my favorite new paint - so I decided to look for a photo in my midst that would work tonally with the paint I needed to recycle.  I came across one from this past summer of a loon, and worked from it.  I will retake this photo in better light.

September 7, 2014
24 x 30in, Oil on Canvas

On Thursday, without warning, my Uncle's and my incredibly fit and healthy dog suddenly died. Apparently there had been a large tumor all around his heart, and it burst - and he passed away.  He never had to be sick, never had to be old, lived with all his favorite things (water, balls, and affection) in constant supply.  I know he had a wonderfully happy life. I'm so grateful to have gotten to share his life, he is deeply missed. Saturday I had an Open Studio. It was hot, I was sad - I decided I would paint, so I wouldn't need to think or feel too much.  I had a photo from the Island this summer I decided I'd work on, and set to it.  I left out the buildings, left out the bridge - just set my sights on the warmth and beauty of the light.

August 29, 2014
Old Granite Pier, Rockport MA
16 x 20 in, Oil on Canvas

I felt like I'd been a bit of a wimp, leaving out all those buildings, boats and piers in my previous painting so reluctantly I decided to include a sampling of houses in this one. I think my degree of interest and sincerity in portraying them is evident in their execution*, unfortunately. So now I will quote a poem to deflect attention from something I feel I do poorly:

Man's ingenuity was good.
He saw it plainly where he stood
Yet found it easy to resist.

(Robert Frost)

(* - They were permanently executed this morning, September 1st, and I'm much happier with the painting now.  There's still one distant house on the far peninsula, for those who like that sort of thing.)

August 22 & 23, 2014
Kittery Point, Maine
18 x 24 inches, Oil on Canvas

This day began as a partly cloudy day, with nice big stretches of blue sky... but over the course of the 4 hours I was there painting, it gradually became overcast, and then gradually the silver clouds became steely.  I got caught following the steady course of change, keying and rekeying my water to match the sky.  I - it was an odd day and I personally was feeling off key - perhaps why I was so ready to abandon all attention to the piers and houses along the shore and instead just scramble to stay in tune with the water.  When I had it back here to complete yesterday, I could have used one of the photos I took to fill in all the details I had ignored - several houses along the shore, a long pier with a few stray boats, seagulls.  I could have stuck something - anything - there on the right to balance it all out.  But it had nearly dried, and there wasn't much I could do but fill in the blanks and polish the edges and call it a day.

Completed August 23, 2014
Sun Dappled Woods
Oil on Masonite, 8in x 10 in.

 Because of the size of it, this painting looks to me like a paint-by-numbers type product.  I worked from a photo of the path to the boathouse on the island. I wanted to get the feel of motion through the patches of light on the ground of sun dappled pine needles. Those gems of light dance as the branches sway and shimmy in the wind.  

August 16, 2014
16 x 20 in, Oil on Canvas
Cox Reservation, Essex MA

If you look closely, you can see a yellow leaf stuck to the surface of the painting.  I was not quite in the mood for literal representations, and riding a light breeze of abstraction when that leaf fell into to my painting and brought it to life.  Not sure what will happen in a few weeks or months when the leaf has succumbed to further decomposition, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Dappled Light, August 9, 2014
Cox Reservation, Essex MA
16 x 20 in, Oil on Canvas

I've been busy teaching and posing for figure classes and have had no time to paint, so I was happy to finally get to Essex for a day of painting.  I stood in the shade and looked up the path that initially was in full sun but eventually settled into a nice pattern of shadow and light which I tried to capture.  Pleased with the way it came out, after what felt like a long hiatus.

Some day at the end of July I was too distracted to paint 2014
Rocky Neck, Gloucester MA
Oil on Masonite, 8 x 10 inches

I was distracted.  There were boats in the water but I never got around to putting them there.  Did I mention I was distracted?

July 22, 2014
Near Christmas Cove, Maine
20 x 16 in, Oil on Canvasboard

Once again, there is too much glare on the painting to get a good photo - I'll keep trying.  Although I generally avoid painting backlight like the plague, this day I saw it as a challenge.  the fact that the scene was so beautiful was all the motivation I needed.  It was the water especially that caught my eye.  Although I see a spot or two I would like to tweak to improve the painting, on the whole I felt it was another successful painting unfortunately executed on a poor quality canvasboard.  Once this and the one below have dried, I'll carefully remove the canvas from the bent up boards and restretch them.  I was very happy with the way the water turned out in this one.

Monday July 21, 2014
Damariscotta, ME
20 x 16 in, Oil on (crumpled) Canvasboard

I was fortunate enough to spend a few days on a painting trip to Maine with David Curtis and Tom Heinsohn, where we were joined in painting by Bill Curtis and a few of his artist friends. Inspired by some true but disparaging remarks by David about my work of late, I was determined to get back on track.  There is too much glare on the photo to show the painting to its greatest advantage, I will retake as soon as I can. Regardless, in spite of the extremely junky board I was painting on, I was pretty pleased with the result. 

Loon at Sunset
Saturday July 19th, 2014
(Painted in MA as a value study using a photo I took at the Lake of the Woods)
8 x 10 in, Oil on Gessoboard
This is my second uncharacteristically small painting. Although I could not get all the details as effectively as I wanted to, I felt pretty good about the effect of light on water at that time of day which was the aim of this value study.

July 11th 2014 PM
North Shore Arts Association, Gloucester MA
Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24 in

Well this was a better day and I was charmed by the skeleton of the old pier, their reflections in the lazily waving water and the cormorants that perched atop them (not pictured.)  I was perfectly willing to leave out all the buildings of Gloucester harbor but I suppose as the day wore on and my stubborn brain grew more and more addled by continuous sunlight I decided to drop a few in.  I enjoyed the water as always and trying to recreate the clumps of seaweed floating just below the surface. As much as I loved the cormorants in life, in art they just were not working for me. I suppose I could add one or two after it dries, but I doubt I will.  I think it works as it is.

July 11 2014 AM
North Shore Art Association, Gloucester MA
Oil on Canvasboard, 9 x 12 in

Day three of the boats and buildings workshops, my eye is arrested by a white morning glory blooming quietly in the lush shade.  I set up and jumped in.  The story lay in the play of warm against cool - the leaves reflecting the cool morning sky color, and the few all lit up by the strong summer sun. 

July 10, 2014
Rocky Neck, Gloucester MA
Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24 in

Well, there were many more boats moored in the harbor than are here pictured, but it was only by a late afternoon spark of optimism that I put any in at all.  First thing that morning, as I was setting up, I met an older woman who was walking an older dog.  The dog walked with difficulty and I knelt down to greet it.  She put her forehead to mine and stood there, letting me shower her with all my affection (which for dogs in general, and her in particular, is sky high.) While I hugged and pet her, I noticed she had a tumor on the back of her left hind leg the size (shape and color) of a cherry.  The skin on the front of the same foot had been scratched or gnawed off - as if she were trying to get rid of the pain by chewing off her own foot.  Then I noticed she had another tumor on the back of her neck.  She continued to stand leaning into me, soaking up everything I had to give her.  I asked her walker about the sores, and she told me the dog isn't hers, it belongs to her neighbor who doesn't take good care of her.  The neighbor is strange, and the walker is afraid if she confronts them about the dog's health, they will stop letting her walk the dog - and the daily walks she gives her are all the dog has to look forward to in life.

They passed on. I was so bewildered at the story that it didn't occur to me until later that I could have tried to do something to help. I felt that poor, beautiful dog's quiet long-suffering yearning for relief and affection all day long and I do still. My painting - I stared at the water and tried to paint it because I love water and looking at/painting it usually soothes my mind.  The very last thing I added was that orange buoy, after a suggestion from David to try and relieve the big bare swath of water on the right. It was his opinion, after I had, that it didn't work.  In my opinion, it did - completed the story of what had sent my mind to water in the first place - a glaring, throbbing round and cancerous sore that should not be there - but is.

July 9th 2014 PM
St Peter's Square, Gloucester MA
Oil on Canvas, 12 x 16 in

Already feeling more like myself in this one, though everything is not strictly perfect, I like the way this one turned out.

July 9 2014 - AM
St. Peter's Square, Gloucester MA
Oil on Canvas, 12 x 16 in

I ought to retake this photo in milder light - this was middday and the shadows from the texture along with the glare do it no favors - but don't really lie, either.  This was the first morning of a three day workshop on Buildings and Boats - and although I desperately wanted to knock each of these out of the park, the truth is, I was still working out the rust & kinks. 

July 5th, 2014
Oil on Canvas, 24 x 30 in

Well, at the island a combination of bad weather and flooding high waters kept me from my initial plan of doing tons of painting.  Three days drive there and back and all the business that needs attending to when you've been away a month have also kept me from my preferred mode of work.  So I was anxious to paint, and I figured the Open Studio (which I had heard is pretty dead in the summer) would be a nice long stretch of time I could use for that purpose, even if it meant painting indoors and not out.  Tons of pictures from Canada I would love to work from.  So I decided to do this giant cloud, and my dock with a boat I pulled onto it and filled up with water, to prevent it from floating away.  

I do not have the ability to tune things out, and there were several conversations going on in several studios around me that in spite of my lack of interest therein - oh well I'll curtail my excuses.  Wasn't very focused, and was working out the rust. 

In progress
Monday, June 9 2014
Kenora, Ontario
16 x 20 in, Oil on Canvasboard

When I look at this photo, what I see is the difference in tone in the real clouds and the painted clouds.  I can account for it partly by the photo having been taken about 2hrs after the clouds were painted, and by the fact that I was wearing sunglasses.  The amount of light bouncing all around me rendered painting without protection for my eyes unfeasible.  It was a glorious day to be out and painting. Even my sunglasses can attest to that.

Sunday, June 8th 2014
Kenora, Ontario
Oil on Canvasboard, 12 x 9 in

While in my previous post I may have been whining somewhat about all the variables that arise that can occasionally make painting outdoors pretty damn infuriating, I neglected to mention that in reality, I like the chaos.  Maybe not as much as I had yesterday and today, but in general, working alongside all these things that are completely out of my control - the wind, the clouds, the light, the blanketing swarms of mosquitos... you have to hit the ground running and never look back. Sometimes you get someplace magical, sometimes you slip, but you are never, never bored.  And you are learning ALL THE TIME. 

Saturday, June 7th
Kenora, Ontario
16 x 20 in, Oil on Canvasboard

Conditions were not ideal. The number of times it blew off the canvas, got splashed by a rogue wave, became the final resting place of dozens of unfortunate insects, got scraped by twigs - etc - was excessive and even a less fiery nature than mine would have revolted. There are drops of water in the sky as you can see. Plein Air up here is just a notch or two more intense, and I'd say this is a decent start to what I hope will be a good few weeks of work. 

May 26th 2014
14 x 18, Oil on Canvasboard
Chestnut Tree, Cox Reservation, Essex MA

It was overcast and I tried to focus on the blossoms on this chestnut tree. I can't get a great photo of it as of yet, there's too much glare.  Some days I show up to paint worrying about many non-paint related things. Sometimes I can shut these out and focus outside of my brain in in my eyes, sometimes I can't.  If I can't resolve my thinking I strain to resolve the painting.  On to the next.

May 19 -21st
Bass Rocks, Gloucester MA
24 x 30 in, Oil on Canvas

Monday was a beautiful day, the weather was bright and sunny, with squalls of rain and storm passing through. To match my state of mind, I stuck with the squalls. I am still frustrated about what I can't achieve with the knife in the way of spray and effervescent wave action.

Sunset over ASC
Tuesday, May 13th 2014
5 x 7 (or8?) inches, Oil on Canvasboard

I have never painted anything this small in oils. A company marketing their canvasboard gave me a free one in a paint order, and I was going to give it away when I decided "What the hell" and dove in.  Technically, this is not plein air - as I worked from a photo and did so inside, because the hot weekend weather has retreated in embarassment after having gotten too carried away this weekend.  I thought I was going to have to paint with a brush, in fact I thought I wanted to - but as usual, the knife just did a better job - or I did a better job with the knife than the brush.  There's glare on the left and I might need to level off the horizon a bit but all in all, a good day's exercise.

May 8 - 12 2014
Lake of the Woods, Ontario
24 x 30 in, Oil on Canvas

I began this on a Thursday afternoon, getting the sky and treeline in I think - then I was too busy with teaching all day Friday to work.  Because it's been so warm, the paint was drying quickly so I had to bring it with me to Essex and work on it there, or waste the canvas. So I brought it and worked there, but had so many little things go wrong that I was seething mad at everything.  When a fellow painter came up to make a kind observation about my work, I growled at him.  Literally.  This is what comes of spending more time with dogs than people.  Anyway - Saturday I labored over the water, got the beach in - I worked all day Sunday and again Monday, several portions I had to scrape off and re paint because they had dried (with the knife, you can't paint over dry paint - at least, I can't / won't.)  I worked on it Tuesday too, when finally my shipment of paint arrived and I could scrape off the strange, marshmallow-fluff like new-low-standard white paint from Georgian and replace it with quality.  Although I believe this is pleasing to the eye, it is not my favorite.  I like my work best when in flows in uninterrupted bursts of energy.  This one felt way too labored.  Hopefully in a few weeks I'll be there in person, and have a whole new slew of reasons to kvetch about the state of my painting! 

Tuesday May 6, 2014
Wingaersheek Beach, Gloucester MA
16 x 20 in, Oil on Canvasboard

This Saturday was an Open Studio so I had to miss my day of painting, fortunately the "posse" were meeting today so I joined them. The days that one can park at an empty beach with impunity are numbered, and I did my best to make good use of the day.  I plan to post a mini slideshow of this day's work, but not today.

April 28, 2014
Wingaersheek Beach, Gloucester MA
16 x 20 in, Oil on Canvasboard

When I went to the beach to paint with the posse the plan was to paint the dunes - but as it happens, if I am anywhere near water, I have to be looking at the water.  Painting dunes won't do.  Plus, there were two huge Grand Pyrenees and five Huskies and several other dogs - and they were hanging out at the beach.  I always want to be where the dogs are. So I painted this - when I arrived the sun was out and the sky was mostly blue - but over the course of the three hours I was there, the clouds came and covered up the blue. When it's sunny on Cape Ann there's this rosy light - which is why my sand is pinker than the sand in the photo.  Photo sand was after the sun went in.  A few things I'll tweak but on the whole, a much better day than yesterday and I'll take it.

April 27, 2014
Haggett's Pond, Andover MA
18 x 24 in, Oil on Canvas

I can go about my business thinking all is fine, until I go painting and find myself choosing a subject of such dense, convoluted complexity as this. The weekend at Essex was rained out, so I decided to try a lake I love to visit. I found a nice spot with a great view of the lake, but found my mind arrested by this pond / swamp beside it instead.  From the very beginning it was a disaster, but I pushed through for six hours because sometimes you just have to be brave and push through all the ugly to something truly beautiful.  I didn't get there on Sunday by a longshot, but the next few days of rain will be spent trying to make good of this unweeded garden of my mind and painting alike.

Emily, April 20 2014
Pencil, approx. 8 x 10 in

My niece is a remarkable artist, and one morning while we were both visiting her grandparents for Easter we decided to draw each other's portraits. She was working very hard, hence the serious expression and downcast eyes.  When not looking so studious, she's bright eyed and full of spunk.

April 18, 2014
Class Demo on Sarah's Birthday
Oil on Canvas, 12 x 16 in

I have been teaching an oil painting class in Wilmington Friday mornings and this morning I brought in flowers for my students to paint in still lives. One of them asked if I would be doing a demonstration at some point in the course, and I decided there's no time like the present - so I got my canvas, easel and paints and got to work. I have never painted for an audience and did not think I would do too well, since I'm such an introvert. Luckily they put up with my "show, don't tell" philosophy and this was the result. Oh - Sarah is my best friend from childhood who I haven't seen in too long.  I've been thinking about her all day, enriched by knowing her most all of my life.

April 14, 2014
Bass Rocks, Gloucester MA
20 x 30 in, Oil on Canvas

I got to spend a glorious day yesterday sitting in the sun and wind at Bass Rocks painting and chatting with David Curtis.  I had the canvas covered by the end of the day but a few kinks to work out - such as the curvy horizon - and a few details to add (the rocks in the foreground, the crashing spray of a wave, the glint of the sun on the water, and a building or two up on the rock near the horizon on the right.)  Because it was such a lovely warm day, I was not prepared for how quickly my paint would dry - which made working on it today (when it was already tacky, and dry in some spots) imperative.  Well, today there's a very strong and gusty wind blowing rain and water all over the place.  Since I've accepted the fact I just don't like painting indoors, I went into the back yard into the gazebo that doesn't (didn't used to) leak and got to work.  So many disasters, canvas blowing over a few times, paint blowing upside down, - one thing after another.  I am hoping the rain that's intermingled with my paint will keep it wet just one more day, so I can fix the water in the foreground, and quiet just a portion of the highlighted wave.  And add the stupid buildings.
* April 17th - Have done most of what I can do while it's still wet. Will take a better picture though.

April 9, 2014
Ipswich River at Willowdale, Topsfield MA
18 x 24 in(?), Oil on Canvasboard

It was another beautiful spring day, and I met up with "the posse" to paint on Wednesday.  I couldn't finish, however, as I had to go do some teaching - and the rest of the week was very hectic.  I managed to get a few more hours' work done on Thursday, but the weather's so mild that even by then certain parts of the painting were already drying.  I managed to finish on Friday, mostly, though as usual I see a few things to tweak. You can't paint over dried paint with a palette knife though you can with a brush.  As usual, I was fixated on the water, and how it went from being reflective, to transparent, to (beyond the shelf of shallows) deep, and green. 

April 5, 2014
Cox Reservation, Essex MA
9 x 12 in, Oil on Canvasboard

It was a beautiful day but very windy, and I was not in the mood to paint. I only had an enormous canvas and I spent the first hour and a half just ambling around looking for something that would strike a chord and wake me up to painting. The search was confined to a very small area, because it was so windy most of the area was unfit for painting, especially with a canvas as big as mine, and an easel as light.  Ultimately, I decided to give up the hunt - when a kind fellow painter offered to lend me a small board to paint on. I'd sooner ruin a small canvas than a large one, so I focused on the only thing that seemed interesting to me - the tiny blue flowers _ Squill or Scilla - that had valiantly shoved themselves up among all the dead leaves and grasses, and strove towards the sky.  Small scale is difficult with the knife, it's a study / sketch - on to the next.

April 2 2014
Willowdale, on Ipswich River, Topsfield
Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24 in

It was a glorious day to be out painting - quite mild, the river was swollen and beautiful, and the sky was just overcast enough for the color of everything to come out.  I had a lot of trouble photographing this - truly, it looks awful in this photo but not as much in person - lots of glare and texture shadows - and there are a few little changes I'd like to make, but on the whole, a day well spent.

March 29, 2014
Cox Reservation, Essex MA
18 x 24, Oil on Canvas

It was one of those early spring days the forecaster suggests could get almost as high as 50 degrees, so you don't bother to bring a jacket, or wear an underlayer, and go out ecstatic to start soaking in the balmy spring.  Except you chose a spot to paint that cleverly exposes you to an icy ocean wind from all sides, and though the temperature in sheltered spots gets as high as 42, where you have chosen to stand might just be cresting 34 - and you, clothed in ill-informed enthusiasm and little else to warm you, do your very best to cover all 482 square inches of canvas, but the amount of shivering and dancing you have to do to try and stay just this side of hypothermic eventually render painting impossible, with about 6 square inches to go. 

(Final, as of March 24 2014.)

March 22, 2014
Cox Reservation, Essex MA
16 x 20 in, Oil on Canvas

SUNDAY: The frustration of yesterday has been fruitful and multiplied.  I'm posting a detail of a section that I like, though it may no longer look like that. One fusses. Again, I went to work on it outside in the sun, and within half an hour it was overcast again, and everything looks so dank and dingy in the dregs of smothered out sunlight we're left when clouds decide to assert themselves.  I'm in A Mood.

SATURDAY: I posted these two photos (below) from different stages of my painting to illustrate how drastically the color of everything can change when the light changes.  In the second (above) photo, I highlighted the area I was focused on to paint.  I began by laying in all the dingy undertones and was looking forward to laying in* the warmth and light - but the sky clouded over, a wind came up, and the rain came. I was really miffed when that stupid rain came and stayed. I really felt like this was going to come alive.  I'll try to finish it tomorrow, but I fear it won't be the same. The more finished painting above is still only about 1/3 done in my eyes.
 ( *I mean "laying in" like "slapping on" - though I would probably have been amenable to if not an actual nap at least a good read on a dock in the sun if I had the choice which I did not.)


March 15, 2014
Great Marsh, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20 in

It was a beautiful day, warm (50 deg.) and bright.  The sky was overcast when I got there and started painted but was magnificently moody late in the day. My intention was to learn how to paint these stands of reeds without using all lines.  I can't get an even or narrow line with the knife, and I don't think that we focus on clusters of lines anyway, but instead the shapes that they create out of the surrounding masses of snow or land. There's some reflection on the surface so the colors look duller than they are, I think. Will retake tomorrow.  Incidentally, the scene behind the painting is not what I was painting, but a view off to the left.

March 10, 2014
Ipswich River - Topsfield / Ipswich MA
Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20 in

I had a great day with the "posse" painting in a new and lovely.  Again, there was snow on the ground but the temperature was very mild - high 40s.  The river was mostly frozen when I arrived but it thawed along the perimeter considerably throughout the day.  I feel there's something I need to do to make this better, I just hope it occurs to me just what that is before the paint is dry.

Saturday, March 8th 2014
Cox Reservation, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24in

Not only was it a balmy 50 degrees, but the sun was out, there was almost no wind, and there was still lots of snow. An ideal day to paint.  I went to a part of the reservation I'd never before been - the area that abuts PT Farnham's and rt 133. Initially I had chosen to paint the landmark grey farmhouse, but after filling about 1/4 of my canvas with that, I decided I was painting the wrong thing and instead looked north (?) towards the great marsh. (There are a few things to tweak on this but on the whole it's done - and if you think I'm exaggerating the color of the shadows on the snow, look in the top right hand corner of the photo at the shadows on the snow in the background.  Same color. ---March 9, 2014 - tweaked, done.)

March 6th, 2014
As you can see, I'm working from a photo, this is clearly not Plein Air. For various reasons, I haven't been able to get out to paint in about three weeks.  It's been frustrating, but at the same time, I think I'm undergoing one of those metamorphoses I occasionally go through - hopefully from this dry spell I'll emerge with a new perspective.  In the meantime, I have been trying to finish Baxter.  I can't tell you how many hours I could spend on this, or how many I have, trying to get it just so.  In another 5 hours I hope, maybe 8, I will be done.  I haven't worked on the feet yet, and there are a few adjustments I have to make to his eyes and face.  I know he looks like a dog - but I want him to look EXACTLY like one very specific dog, and I don't think he does yet. 

February 11, 2014
12 x 16 in, Oil on Canvas

In a hurry, in a mood, I did this. I'm in CT this weekend and can't get out to paint.  I did this before leaving and there are things I would like to fix, but it will be dry by the time I get to it. So, although I hate tautologies, it is what it is.

 February 8th 2014
Cox Reservation, Essex MA
16 x 20, Oil on canvasboard

This was taken from a distance, obviously. Your eyes get tired quickly from staring at snow a long time, even if you carefully chose a predominantly shady vista.  There was so much reflected light bouncing around towards the end of my time there I really couldn't see the painting clearly. I think I'll revisit it tomorrow, when I can see better, and when I have restored my fine motor skills, which the cold had overwhelmed. NB - Revisited it today. All I did was tidy up some lines I couldn't control in the field and incorporate the afternoon light which was a little more lively than the even morning light.

January 25, 2014
Cox Reservation Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 12 x 16 in

I'm pretty sure I did roughly this exact same view around this same time last year.  The reason is not that I am captivated by the scene particularly, so much as that there is a nice wooden bench there, out of the wind.  Sitting on a wooden bench is much warmer than standing on ice or a freezing rock for hours at a time.  It was cold and there were a lot of branches and there was a lot of wind. If the term "tone poem" weren't so repugnant, I might suggest this is more in the nature of one of those than an attempt to get all the linear details exactly right.  I riffed on the colors and lines, and while I could still walk I called it a day.  I've changed a little bit since (this photo was taken before last revision) but on the whole, this is what it is.

January 22, 2014
Not Plein Air.

This was just a sketch I did this week.  I had Robert Frost's "Come In" running through my head, and also a parable a friend's mother once told me.  I may type out the parable later, but the poem is this:

As I came to the edge of the woods,
Thrush music -- hark-
Now if it was dusk outside,
Inside it was dark.

Too dark in the woods for a bird
By sleight of wing
To better its perch for the night,
Though it still could sing.

The last of the light of the sun
That faded in the west
Still lived for one song more
In a thrush's breast.

Far along the pillared dark
Thrush music went --
Almost like a call to come in
To the dark and lament.

But no, I was out for stars;
I would not come in.
I meant not even if asked;
And I hadn't been.

January 20, 2014
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex, MA
Oil on Canvasboard 16 x 20 in

I was fortunate to be able to join up with 'The Posse' and paint today.  The earlier part of the day (when I did the ice) the sun was much brighter so there was a lot more contrast. As you can see, the atmosphere moved in and make my foreground seem darker than the foreground it's supposed to resemble.  I stopped simply because I was too damn cold.  I was standing for a few hours on ice, in a stiff cold wind. I'll examine my results tomorrow and either fix it or take a proper picture of it and move on. (NB- Jan 21 - have taken a better picture, though still consider it unfinished.)

January 18th & 19th - No painting!
Saturday there was too much snow falling to paint, and Sunday I had to run all the errands I couldn't get to because I was shut in on Saturday.  Hope to paint early this week. (Photo is from a lovely dog walk on Saturday.)

January 13th, 2014
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt
Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20 inches

It was a bright, mild day (though not as mild as I had dressed for - just because it's above freezing does not necessarily mean you can go without a jacket.)  David had been to the Sargent exhibit at the MFA, and noted that only rarely did Sargent paint sky.  I was thinking of all the paintings of his I've seen, where you know what kind of day it was by the reflections of the sky you see on the leaves, buildings and clothing of people in the painting.  The snow is kind of a "painting without sky for dummies" tool - because wherever the yellow light of the sun is cut off by a lump of snow, there lies a nearly perfect reflection of the sky color directly above it.  You can achieve balance by including the reflections throughout the piece, which do in fact occur, if less perfectly, in shadows on stone and branches. 
I decided not to change much from what I had in the first picture.  Was painted with a lot of gusto - decided to keep the energetic feel of it rather than strain to make every detail perfect.

January 11, 2014
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt
Essex, MA
Oil on Canvasboard, 16 x 20 in

It was a mild but wet day, so much "heavy mist" (or "rain" as most people refer to it) that my paint, liberally imbued with "mist" (i.e., water) would not stick to the board, because the board too was wet and oil and water make a career out of not mixing. 
Plus when I got there, the overall impression the fields and marsh gave me was "ick.'  All but the filthiest layer of snow had melted, all there was to see was dirty wet snow, dead grass and melting ice.

However, once I started trying to paint it, I started to see so much beauty in all of it - no doubt thanks to the stark contrast between it and the sludgefest that was puking it's way into being on my canvas. This was clearly going to be one of those paintings where I just have to slog and slog through ugly, trusting in the unlikely possibility that in due course I would come out on the other side (beauty.) I stopped here, due to being cold and wet, when the colors were matched but no details (grasses, birdhouse) or highlights had been laid in.  I'll try to finish it off, one way or another, this afternoon.
p.s: If you look closely, you'll see my easel is actively, literally falling apart!  My teacher has had the same easel for 30 years, I'm lucky if mine last a year.  I have a replacement that will hopefully work, I just have to build a shelf into it for my palette before I can use it.