2008 in Review

2008 was a great year for me and my art. I entered the year desiring to take chances personally. With the mantra to respond more with a yes than a no, I was able to grow many ways as a person and an artist.

Not a good winter painter because I prefer working outdoors, the year started off slowly. From this, I've learned how important it is for me to be engaged in a class through the cold months. Choices need to be made in the coming weeks, choices which include, gasp, working from a photograph. Humbled, I feel like I am bragging when I say how very exciting it is actually have choices in pastel classes!

Getting back on track in the Spring, I took a Sara Linda Poly en plein air workshop; I worked one day in soft pastels and one in oils. Manufacturing opportunities to drive in the mountains, I painted diligently all Summer and into the Fall. To keep me busy as the weather cooled, I took the nude figure pastel class with Ginger White Hergenroeder at Workhouse Art Center, a place near to my heart, literally three miles away. Her style is unique and expanded my tool kit for painting.

Also in the Fall, I began my blog, backfilling paintings in to reflect the days they were created. I also began framing my work instead of "painting to a pile," which I'd done for years. Although I consistently felt serious as an artist, I'd never before felt the desire to share it or do anything with it. Now I'm interested in the community it brings as well, me joining six art organizations this Fall. The level of support and activity in this area is tremendous and I treasure it.

This year I worked from a trusty French Companion, a French Easel, a Mabef lightweight easel, a Sketch Box, an aluminum table easel, a Roz Bag, and, drum roll, now I have purchased an EasyL Pro, which is in transit. You'll be the first to know when I put it to use. I think I can declare my house completely full of art (and camping) supplies when it arrives.

A shutter bug, I also have over 125 folders of pictures I've taken this year, each having one to 2000 photos in them. Besides having a growing son to document, I love having the references even if I do not use them traditionally.

My goal for 2009 is to continue painting the Lorton area, both in pastels and oils. In addition to this Pohick River reflection from last week, I've painted the Barrett House Meadow locally. These are just a few of the places I've pictured and mapped for en plein air locations in this area. Specifically, I will paint the Workhouse and other prison grounds, Occoquan Regional Park, and the Gunston peninsula. And I want to do them in each medium.

I have two trips planned for the year which will help my Roz Bag earn more frequent flyer miles. I look forward to the misty Northwest and the naturally air conditioned MI Upper Peninsula.

One very personal goal involves extolling the beauty of pastels, an often under recognized medium. I believe that the Commonwealth of Virginia is much too large an area to not have a single formal or recognized pastel society. If you believe that as well, please write here or email me. Of course, I do not intend to take away from any other nearby pastel society, as they are healthy and well established. My sincere desire is to promote pastels in Virginia in galleries, with pastel educational and en plein air opportunities, with pastel exhibitions, and for pastel artists themselves.

All my best for you in the New Year. I appreciate your visits and support.


Reworking the Outdoors In

The bulk of my paintings subscribe to a simple truism: what happens outside stays outside.

Sometimes, there is an exception.

I was so taken by the Redwoods along the Avenue of the Giants that I knew I must paint the area in my sketchbook. Being more of the big sky, vista type, I knew that close in paintings of tree trunks would smother me and drive me mad. We found a rest area with a view in Humboldt Redwoods State Park near where "the" 211 meets "the" 101 at the Eel River fork. I liked the foggy softness of the distance, the silhouette of the tall trees which were made smaller, and the primitive road perched on the edge of the mountain.

Frustrated, I could not convey the gray of the day, which went along with the gray of the week, with the pastels I had. After coming home and using just the new Maggie Price grays from Terry Ludwig, I was able to drastically bring down the key (brightness/saturation) to match the overcast day.

Near the Eel River Fork
5x8.5" on Wallis Belgian Mist

It went from garish to subtle, although some of the original brights peek through pleasingly.

Pastels can be blended to a degree, but they are not like oils, acrylics, or watercolors where they can be toned down easily. With tubed paints, for example, if the blue is too bright, you add a little something from the orange family (its compliment on the color wheel) to gray it out; it is my habit to do that with almost every blue I mix. With pastels, sometimes you can juxtapose the blue and orange next to each other or on top of each other to tone them down, but sometimes that won't work either.

I love the pure, vibrant color of pastels and it is wonderful to now have more tools in my chest to keep the key balanced. Pastels use exactly the same pigments as tubed paints and the trick is in being able to apply them effectively despite their non-fluid state. Pastelists make the powder work for them. And there's always another set to be had. This Maggie Price/Terry Ludwig one is a must have which would have improved this whole series of paintings under overcast skies.


Central California Sketch

We're sadly on our way home by this time. It was exactly one week ago, the day after Thanksgiving.

This piece was created right where Northern California meets Southern California, so I suppose that makes it Central California.

We were cruising this cloudy day back toward LAX, but I squeezed in a painting of the beautiful view from the rest stop at Westley, which is near San Jose on "the" 5. I loved the rugged undulations of the mountains which had bumpy gray-blue skies to match.

I'm not sure if this one or the one of Monterey Wharf is my favorite from the week. Which from this collection is your preferred painting?

View from Westley, CA
5x8.5 Art Spectrum ColorFix in taupe

One more painting from up near the Redwoods is due to be posted here, but I have decided to work on it a bit in order to get the key more accurately. And I'm pleased I'll be able to do that with my new Maggie Price set of 30 grays from Terry Ludwig, one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received.


Lost Coast Sketches in Northern California

It was a winding 23 mile trek over King Mountain to arrive at Shelter Cove from Route 101 (or as Californians call roads, "the" 101) and the Avenue of the Giants. Shelter Cove is true to its name, a Lost Coast haven which seemed to favor campers who enjoyed their perch between a mountain and a cliff. We'd literally traversed into the light after having been in overcast conditions for two days.

After walking a little on the black sand beach, I went back up the stairs to paint at a handy picnic table near the Cape Mendocino Lighthouse, a beacon which looked short according to East Coast standards, but when added to the cliff below equaled one of East Coast stature according to the plaque. I painted less than an hour, decided I was happy with the sketch, and opted to go for a stroke limited sketch considering the appropriate pastels were still out and accessible, also considering I wasn't being beckoned back to the car just yet.

I guess my approach going from more complex to less was bassackwards, but it was fun to do. I enjoy challenging muscle memory and the second one is clearly done after the first with confident and distinct strokes. I'd begun with the idea of doing 20 strokes, then was laughed at by my companions in good natured fashion when I actually stopped counting. Regardless, it took less than five minutes. They were on to me for being sneaky and getting in a second painting, so it was time to head out.

Shelter Cove
5x8.5" White Wallis

Shelter Cove in Limited Number of Strokes
5x8.5" White Wallis


Two from Southern California

We began our trip out west with a drive into the Mojave so we could tour Goldstone and see Ft. Irwin up close and personal, the latter a place which impacted our family many times over.

We arrived early for our 1pm Deep Space Network tour, so I took the chance to paint my first visions of the desert right at the Goldstone gate. Of any work attempted for the week, I wish I'd had more time for this one. I could have spent the week (or a lifetime!) here. The skies were unusually dark that day, but we did briefly get a peek of blue here and there.

Goldstone Crests
5x8.5" Wallis Belgian Mist

The next day, we trekked up to Eureka, stopping in Monterey for dinner on Fisherman's Wharf. We went to a lovely restaurant, Old Fisherman's Grotto, near dusk, as I was coming to the realization that painting trips in the winter with light fading by 5pm are not my preferred future. I was, however, able to sit at a table with a beautiful view. I guess this means it wasn't done en plein air? Oh my. Regardless, I enjoyed capturing dusk in a dusky day.

From Monterey Fisherman's Wharf
5x8.5" Cream Art Spectrum ColorFix