Thursday, July 30, 2015

July Fieldwork

After a spell of poor weather for hay-making and equipment breakdowns, it's good to see the stacks of square bales growing taller and wider, and a few herds* of round bales scattered across the fields. Here are three of them:
Three in the Field, 9 x 12" oil on linen/hardboard.

And today I worked on these two studies of a soybean field in Wisconsin. Soybeans are not something grown on my home farm, though some neighboring farms often have them. I'm not as familiar with them so this was a good opportunity to admire the green rows through a stand of poplar trees. 
Bean Field Study 1, 8 x 6" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
There was a nice strong breeze, which rustled in the poplar leaves, rippled across the rows of bean plants, and blew occasional cloud shadows over the fields.

Bean Field Study 2, 6 x 8" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

*Not a technical farming term. But come on, it works!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Do you ever wonder who's behind these paintings?

You might be surprised:

My smallest painting buddy.
Trying to paint figures again. This time two jolly little girls who joined me on a short jaunt to the woods. Drawing or painting people from life is, I think, always challenging. With children, it's pretty much always a quick pose. There just aren't enough goldfish crackers in the world to keep that youngest one still! Besides that, there was her friend's hair to "braid" (she's probably still working those knots out) and a toad to follow, and a few improvements to add to Auntie's painting (there should be pink in more places, and Auntie should use much bolder strokes!) 
 Paintings don't always turn out how I want them to, but there's always something gained.

Picnic in Mosquito-Land, 9 x 12" plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Red Wing Plein Air 2015

It's that time of year again!
 Monday: I drove up to Red Wing through pouring rain. It was good to see some familiar faces as well as some new ones at the welcome breakfast, where we were given more information about the week ahead, a schedule, maps, etc. The rain stopped, but then came the wind, whipping the trees outside the depot. It did not look like a good day for painting!
Wind and Wires, 12 x 9 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
 I was also running on very little sleep. Good thing Jim Turner, my painting companion for the day, has twice the energy and enthusiasm of most people and it's a little bit contagious. We drove out toward the country, turning down a long gravel drive that led to a farm. There were a couple of views that caught my interest, but I settled on this little red building that looked like it had seen many years go by. The day was looking sunny and bright at this point, and I commented on the nice breeze to keep the mosquitoes at bay. I had to eat my words when the clouds moved in again and I had to hang onto my easel in the gusts of wind.

South of the Tracks, 8 x 10 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
Later in the day, I found Jim again, this time painting near the railroad - one of the industrial working scenes he captures so well in watercolor. I looked across the tracks and had a go at the patterns of sunshine and shadow. The many lines of the structures in this area of railroad and river work are very difficult for me when painting wet into wet oils. I keep trying to figure out the best way to do it, but it's a work in progress!

Down the Dock, 12 x 9 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
In the evening we had a group event, open to the public, over on the Wisconsin side of the river at the Harbor Bar. Many of us painted until I, at least, was mighty close to being a starving artist, and then we got to enjoy sandwiches or burgers at the restaurant and watch the sunset. After walking around for a while, I sat right at the corner end of this dock. I liked the perspective of the lines of the boards, and that red boat was sure eye-catching. I wonder just how many of us painted it that night!

Tuesday morning I ended up out on winding country roads, exploring. I "wasted" a lot of time and most of the nice morning light! But I found some really cool places I wouldn't have otherwise seen, and saw turkey, deer, groundhogs, and one narrow gravel road that was literally covered in tiny butterflies. Amazing.
 In the afternoon I painting this downtown street. I painted this same street a few years ago, but it's such a pretty one, and I had a different perspective this time. I love the style of these old buildings. The many windows and architectural details on their faces are so challenging to portray or imply in wet paint. Trying to accomplish this, I also appreciate those details even more.
Downtown Tuesday, 9 x 12 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.
 In the evening I went back to one of the places I'd discovered on my morning drive: this farm on top of the hills. Reminds me of home, and just look at the shape of that hay field!
 I'm not always successful, but I do love to paint hay. I love the smell of it, and the subtle colors of the stubble between the rows of cut grass, alfalfa, clover. Part way through painting, I saw a tractor coming over the hill. The field I was next to, and almost in, was being raked! The farmer was so kind and I was able to stay put, finish painting, and have a more interesting foreground as the hay was turned up to dry.
The Intricate Land, 11 x 14 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

Wednesday the location of the day was Old Frontenac. What a find. I'd read about it previously (though my memory of the history had faded) and it was lovely to walk around the quiet streets of the historic little town on the river and see some of its wonderful old buildings and beautiful gardens. This white barn caught my eye the first time I made the rounds exploring. Its face, the grapevines that covered the near fence, all the various greens surrounding it. I painted the shadows in while the sun was out, but it didn't stay out. It came and went, and I took my time with this painting, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Met a few of the residents, which was really lovely, and heard some more anecdotes about the place.

Quiet Day on Manypenny Ave, 9 x 12 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

 After a pretty laid-back Wednesday, I was anxious to get out and get painting right away on Thursday. More exploring in Old Frontenac! I ended up down by the river, watching cloud shadows on the bluffs across the river, and their reflections in the water. This is a rather "quiet" painting, but it was nice to take in the scene of the sky and clouds, the currents in the river, the shadows cast by the tree I took shelter under, and a little sand castle left on the beach.
Mississippi Moment, 12 x 9 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

Just after the first one, I turned my easel and painted another looking downriver. More shadows and reflections; the fish weren't biting, but it was a good day for dogs.

Old Man River, 9 x 12 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

Late in the afternoon I went back to my new favorite farm fields to check on the hay. Nice plump round bales stood in the field that had been raked while I had painted previously. The clouds were building, and I painted until I saw rain moving in and heard thunder roll. The evening was spent framing.
Hill-Valley Hay, 14 x 11 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

 Friday was the day to turn in 3 of the paintings done during the week. In the evening was the annual riverfront reception- a chance to be the first to see the show, and the price of the ticket could go toward the purchase of a painting. Good food, and nice to relax a little and visit with people there, including the wonderful volunteers who put it all together. It's really nice to catch up with some of the other artists and see what they found and painted during the week. This year's judge was the talented Mike Rada. First place went to Jim Turner, second to Lisa Stauffer, third to Laura Frykman, and Best Downtown to Ivan Zassavitski. I was very happy to receive an Honorable Mention for my Manypenny Ave painting!
My corner of the gallery on Friday night.

 I had set myself a goal to complete ten paintings this week. Not to focus on cranking out a certain number, but because getting a week away to paint is such a great opportunity and I wanted to take full advantage of that, and experience and learn what I could during a pretty intense time of observation and painting. Saturday morning's 2-hour "quick-paint" met my goal.

Arrived early to scope out my spot before the 9am start time.

Wet painting framed and on display outside the Depot.

Some of the other quick paints.
There were many beautiful paintings done in the two hours allotted for the quick paint. The public and artists voted for the best one - it was hard to choose! This year's winner was Dan Mondloch who had a great little painting of the boat houses.

Ropes and Pilings, 8 x 10 inch plein air oil on linen/hardboard.

This was my fifth year doing this event, and every year I discover new places and, I hope, grow as an artist.
 The show runs through the third week of August. If you're in the Red Wing area, check it out! Info at