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The Green Monster

 Plein Air 2016

December 12 2016
(In Studio - from a photo I took of my Uncle's Pond)
Oil on Panel, 16 x 20 in

I've been doing more teaching - which means that while my student paints, I can too.  It means I do things I'm not used to doing - such as painting from a picture.  I lived with this beautiful water garden in my backyard for more than 15 years, never painted it (from life) once.  That was dumb of me. I did take good pictures, however, and this one made a decent painting. 

December 5th 2016
12 x 16 in, Oil on Panel

My mother reminded me of a photo I had taken and of one of my Uncle's flowers.  She suggested I make cards of it. I printed the photo, and then found myself trying to paint it.  I'm not even sure if this is what she meant, because this is a dahlia and she said it wasn't a dahlia - but regardless. A fun exercise and an ideal subject for my medium.

December 2, 2016
16 x 20 in, Oil on Panel

I've been living in Rockport since May and I suppose it was inevitable that I try my hand at this eventually (Motif #1.) I was actually out giving a private lesson at the time, so hadn't entirely planned to paint much myself. I hadn't been out in so long painting felt clumsy and awkward. Still, not a disaster.

December 1, 2016
Loon at Sunset Reprise
12 x 16 in, Oil on Panel

Again, trying to work out the gleaming light of sunset in puddles on the water.

Thursday October 27th 2016
Cogswell's Grant, Essex MA
Oil on un-primed canvas, 12 x 16 in

I was at Cogswell's Grant to lead the workshop that high winds had curtailed on Sunday. The weather was not windy but rain was imminent and as a result, very few people could make it.  As a result of THAT, I got to spend some time painting.  I didn't have any canvas with me, until I remembered a little painting I had done as a demo a week before. I decided to paint on the inside/back, the unprimed side of the canvas.  I have struggled with fall paintings in the past, and I wanted to try again.  
The paint quickly was absorbed by the cotton duck, which meant I couldn't get much texture out of the paint - but I worked with the circumstances I had. I layered colors until the fabric had saturated, and then skimmed what I could on the surface.  It was liberating to work with a different surface, and I enjoyed the process very much.  The product I'm happy with too. They call them fall "tones," which is right, because on quiet grey days you can hear the purity of color ringing brightly against the muddied, muffled drone of dying leaves.

Loon Phoenix Rising
October 18 & 19 2016
Oil on Canvas, 24 x 30 in

Not a Plein Air!  I worked on this one rainy day and one sunny day.  I attempted a similar painting a year ago and I was not pleased with the result.  There's something about the light and water my mind needed to work out, so I tried it again.  Again my focus has to do with creating the illusion of glowing light. If you use a paint brush, the dynamic is a lot easier to create because you can blend and grade your highlights & shadows gradually.  With the knife I'm working with planes and slashes and daubs of paint. The starkest contrast you can get on a canvas or a piece of paper is between black and white - but in spite of their being polar opposites, white on it's own & in contrast with black doesn't look expressly like "LIGHT."  Even in an Ansel Adams photo, you have the precipice of contrast but no sense of RADIANT LIGHT.  The qualities of warmth, grace, beauty, benediction, life-force, joy - to me, those and countless other dazzling adjectives are what I see in light.  That's what I'm trying to paint. The secret and the key I know lie in colour, but also in the energy and motion of a moment.  

Incidentally, I do see this as a sort of phoenix, and identify with it as such - particularly as this phoenix is rising up out of water and light rather than ash and fire. 

October 4th 2016
Oil on Canvasboard, 18 x 24 in
Magnolia, Massachusetts

Finally got to go painting today, beautiful weather, a new location, good company.  At the edge of the beach were a pile of boats, and I thought to myself "I'm going to try something a little different today, I'm going to paint those boats!  But first, the background!"  Well, when I started the tide was low.  I began, as one does, with the sky, then worked my way down to the land and distant water, taking some time to be attentive to the tree.  Well, to make a long story short, the heaps of smelly seaweed and the water inadvertently became my subject, because I have a bit of a water fixation, especially if I haven't painted in a while.  The boats weren't super interesting anyway. Maybe another time.  Despite omitting the intended subject of the painting, I'd say it went pretty well.

September 9th 2016
Kenora, Ontario Canada
Oil on Canvasboard, 18 x 24 in (I think)

I painted this, though I was not intending to fess up about it any time soon.  I like the water on the left especially, I am angry about the trees. In real life, there is a bridge where lies that straight of sand.  The right hand side is a still bay, while the left is subject to currents and a lot of boat wakes as it bears the brunt of welcome channel traffic ("Welcome" is a term I will use with extremely limited sincerity until the date silent, wakeless, environmentally protective boat technology is the law and custom on the lake.)  Where was I?  Ah.  Well, I'm still mad at myself for what I didn't think went right with the trees. Maybe next year when the memory of what it isn't has faded, I'll appreciate it for what it is.

August 22, 2016
Twin Island, Lake of the Woods, Ontario
Oil on Canvasboard, 16 x 20 in

August 18 & 19th 2016
Kenora Ontario, Canada
Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24 in

Wednesday August 17th 2016
Oil on Canvasboard, 16 x 20 in

August 15th 2016
"Towards Back Bay"
Oil on Canvasboard, 12 x 16

Sunday August 14th 2016
Kenora Ontario, Canada
Oil on Canvasboard, 12 x 16 in

The Breezeway, Rocky Neck Gloucester
July 15 2016
Oil on Masonite, 12 x 16in

Great thing about the breezeway is it's 10 - 15 degrees cooler than any other spot in Gloucester on any given day - but the downside is that there's really only one view I'm interested in trying to paint - to the end that every time I go I paint the same thing.  Tends to turn out pretty well, though- no doubt from all the practice!

Lane's Cove, Gloucester
July 12, 2016
Oil on Canvasboard, 16 x 20 in

It was a very hot, humid day and I had brought my dog with me this morning to paint. I was taken by the reflections in the water and the subtle shift from water to hazy sky. The two rock piers make for an awkward composition by any angle, I think- I tried to alleviate the symmetry with the left pulling diagonal of the buoys and boat.

St Peter's Square, Gloucester MA
Monday July 11th, 2016
Oil on Masonite, 16 x 20 in

When I began this painting it was a heavy grey day and I was focusing on a fishing boat in the foreground as the subject of my painting. And then, in one fell swoop, the sky cleared and the boat left.  I decided to change the painting to match the day it had become.  There are people who see a foreground with nothing but water and think "this painting has no subject or interest in the bottom left!" But I am a person who can stare at water for hours at a time, riveted - so the bottom left works for me.  However, as a concession, I scribbled my insignia all big in the "empty space" for those who need an  anchor.

Canada Day, July 1 2016
Oil on Canvas, 24 x 36in

Having trouble with my website, and also with getting myself to post paintings.  I have done more than I've posted, hopefully both I and the site will be functioning more efficiently presently.

June 28th 2016
Lily Pads, Rockport Quarry
Oil on Canvasboard, 18 x 24 in

Monday May 16th 2016
Folly Cove, Gloucester MA
18 x 24in, Oil on Gessoboard

Thankfully this spot was full of compact and heavy rocks with which I could weigh down my easel and defy the wild and gusty winds. It was a good day painting!

Puffer's Sunset
March 29 - 31st 2016
Oil on Canvas, 24 x 36 inches

I was supposed to go painting on Tuesday but the wind was way too strong so I decided to stay in and try to work out a sunset.  So because I found one of the photos I took this summer of one of the incredible sunsets on Lake of the Woods and tried to make it come to life.  As I was finishing it up this morning, I got a solemn phone call from my brother in law and two nephews alerting me that my Cockatiel Puffer, who they had taken in in May when I had to leave my Uncle's, had passed away.  I know that his last years of life were his happiest, and am so grateful for the loving attention and care they lavished upon him and Bird (his bereaved cage mate.)  He was a wonderful guy. RIP.

March 17, 2016
Half Moon Beach, Stage Fort Park
Gloucester MA
Oil on Canvasboard 18 x 24 in

I decided against the trees. The day started out clear and then a front began to move in, I decided to follow the change and I think it was a good decision. The composition bugs me but I think it works all the same.  Brought my dog with me for this one, he was very happy to be out and very patient for the four hours I stood there. A nice day.

March 8th 2016
Half Moon Beach, Stage Fort Park
Gloucester MA
Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24 in

As you can see by scrolling down a bit, this is the third time in recent history I've painted more or less the same view. There is something so magical about that water and I have yet to get every gorgeous element I see quite as I'd wish. However, I'm getting there. It was a glorious day to be out painting. People often ask me how long a painting takes. In this case, it was about three hours. The tide had just reversed from high and was rapidly on its way out so as usual, water first! Ten sky, land, rocks. 

February 27th 2016
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt, Essex MA
Oil on Canvasboard, 18 x 24 in

I was still not particularly "inspired" by the landscape, but I wanted to paint. I chose a subject that was of some interest, and jumped in. It's funny because what I chose to paint was the birdhouse, but for the first three hours of my painting day, though ultimately the canvas was covered, there was no birdhouse in sight. Background comes first!  By the time I was ready to lay in the birdhouse, the frigid wind had picked up and was blowing in force. I was freezing and didn't have much control over my hand or the easel that kept lurching in the wind and threatening to blow away. So I got the gist in, then went home to warm up. Then, on Sunday (the 28th) I spent about 45 mins getting the birdhouse in there and fixing the foreground. 
I remembered, in the process, that sometimes work is just work - and regardless of whether you feel "inspired" at the outset, you will always find things to be excited about... be it in the beauty of blending paints, the satisfaction of a color well matched, or a little highlight that ties seemingly disparate planes of color together. Always something worthwhile in the process.

February 22 2016
Half Moon Beach, Stage Fort Park
Gloucester MA
Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20 in

Began painting just after high tide, stopped just an hour short of low tide. I tried to do the water first, knowing it would soon be gone, and as usual got a little stuck trying to capture an effect I was seeing of light in water. I will probably leave this more or less as is, though I might try to make the division between land and water a little clearer. I can see that the colors of sea and sky in the background differ from those in the painting. The light had changed, which is why I took the picture and packed up at that point.

February 21, 2016
Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20 in
Painted in Gloucester MA, of Lake of the Woods.

I went to Essex to paint today, and according to my phone I walked 1.35 miles with my 30lb paint bag, easel and palette box and found not one thing that was strong enough to pull me out of a storm cloud in my head. This time of year, when there is no snow, is my least favorite time to paint.  I don't like the colors of all the masses of naked deciduous trees huddled against one another in the cold, the pale dead grass, the dirt and sand every where and even the cedars a strange burntout orange-green. The problem with being a painter, or perhaps the problem with being me, is that whatever I am feeling inside is often all I see outside. I have been able to overcome this sort of mood at other times by focusing on the light - because no matter how dreary and dead the husks of exhausted vegetation appear, one stray shaft of light in the right place or moment can make everything come to an almost beatific life. I didn't find it today outside. So I made my way home in frustration. I made myself paint anyway, choosing a favorite subject (doubly, 1.water 2.Lake of the Woods) and Cracked ON until it was done. Tomorrow when my fog has cleared I might try to straighten the wobbly horizon but in the meantime, it's a good example of what I'm starting to think of as expressive impressionism, where what I'm looking at is both a reflection of the place and the emotional state of the person painting it at that moment in time.

January 30, 2016
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt
Essex, MA
12 x 16 in, Oil on Canvasboard

I had only very small canvases and very large canvases. Having to walk the dog before I go painting and after I come back cuts into the number of daylight hours I can spend out painting, so I opted for the small. It was an overcast, mellow day and these feathery grasses (an invasive species) caught my eye again as they often do. I've painted them from a distance, as a body, but I thought I'd try a bit more of a close up. A huge part of the experience of these grasses is the sight of them shimmering in the breezes. The challenge is to show the breeze. I don't know if I did, but I like the colors - subtle and serene. A good day's work.

January 25th 2016
Rocks & Sea at Half Moon Beach
Stage Fort Park, Gloucester MA
Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20 in

It was a beautiful day to go painting. While the snow was the most logical subject, being a temporary treasure for an outdoor painter, water is my catnip. Particularly at Half Moon Beach, the colors of the water contrasts so beautifully with the color of the stone. It was a good day and I'm not displeased with the painting, though there are a few little patches to tend to tomorrow. I learned a pro-tip for winter Plein air painters - standing in one place in the snow for a number of hours will result in the snow turning to ice. If, (inspired by a recently circulating meme perhaps) seeking to emulate the mountain goat and opt to perch yourself on a pitch or angle, the inevitable and unenviable result is that you will slide ever further away from your work at that point when you most wish to be near it. A helpful trio of passing boys suggested cleats - real metal snow cleats, "Not the ones for soccer" as a solution to my difficulty. Wise beyond their years.

January 9th 2016
Cox Reservation, Essex Greenbelt
Essex MA
Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20 in

It was a dense communion of colors I was taken by, so it was a dense communion of colors I painted. It definitely has an abstracted feel - I was not worried about having a linear subject, only a true patchwork of tone which I think I achieved. I stopped when my hand was too cold to hold my knife, which is always the cue in winter that a painting is done. So, on to the next! 

January 7 & 8 2016
Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester MA
Oil on Canvas, 24 x 30 in

Well you can see, I hope, that this is a fall painting, painted in winter primarily from a photo I took.
I walk this beach at least once a day, and have spent time studying the colors so I think it 
counts as ALMOST a proper Plein Air. 
Again it was the clouds I was focused on. Getting there.