I painted this from a series of photos I took along a favorite walk in northwest Connecticut. It had been sunny and these enormous end-of-the-world looking clouds came out of nowhere. It was a spectacular show. One of the things I hoped to achieve with this one was to show that the clouds have volume. I also grayed down the color of the sky and the landscape so the clouds were the star of the painting.
I painted this in Rocky Mountain National Park. I had set up intended to paint a classic mountain scene, but this quiet little stream kept drawing my attention so I turned my easel around and painted it. I particularly liked the elegant way in which the water snaked through the rocks, and also the way the relatively dark woods set off the rocks and water. Loads of fun to paint.
A favorite Cape Cod motif. There were a couple of clear challenges here: first, to capture the subtle variations in the greens in the marsh; and second, to show depth into the picture plane in what is a pretty simple composition. I tried to enhance the feeling of distance by making the brushstrokes in the foreground larger and more obvious, and those in the background smaller and more subtle.
This is a bit of a departure in that I did the entire painting with a palette knife. Well, almost. I laid in the composition with a brush, but after that initial application all the paint was applied with a knife. Why? Not sure. Guess it must have seemed like a good idea at the time...
12" x 12" | Oil on canvas
This is a Cape Cod marsh, although I took a few liberties with the composition, most notably with the path. Which isn't there in reality. I hadn't planned on putting it in, but as the painting progressed I decided I wanted a diagonal to lead me into the picture plane, and also to echo the diagonal line in the sky. I laid it in with a palette knife and pretty much left it alone. Another favorite spot to paint.
What interested me here was the brilliant light on the sand against the deep blue sky - it was so bright I could hardly open my eyes when I first arrived. I exaggerated the contrast (just a little) to heighten this effect and and changed the shape of the dunes a bit to simplify the composition. I've been doing that a lot lately: composing with just three or four major shapes and making sure those shapes are the right color, value and shape, and relate to one another correctly.
A favorite section of dunes. The glare off the sand is so bright that it makes value judgments difficult on location. I almost always have to make adjustments back in the studio.
After I finished, I realized I had way too many hard edges, so I went over the surface (selectively) with a brayer. It softened the edges as intended, and also dragged paint between adjacent areas in a kind of random way; I knew it would do this, I just didn't know how exactly. I liked the effect so much that I left some of the marks in the finished painting. For me, they have a kind of unifying effect on the work as a whole.
This is more (truly) Impressionistic than I usually paint, but the subject just begged to be handled in that manner. I used a pretty big brush for the entire painting, resisting the urge to refine it. In fact, the longer I worked on it, the simpler and less defined it became. One of the things I've always appreciated about Impressionism is the sense of unity that the broken color lends to the painting (that's what I was going for, anyway). So the brushwork is pretty uniform throughout. It was a lot of fun to paint.
This is another class demonstration that I continued to work on back in the studio. I took a lot of "artistic license" with this one: I worked from a couple of photos, combining the foreground of one with the middle/background of the other. Then I did a pencil sketch to help nail down the composition. So, this view doesn't actually exist... but I've had a couple people tell me it's one of their favorite spots!
A favorite Cape Cod painting spot, about a quarter mile from the Bay (just to the right). The far side of this marsh teems with tourists in the summer; this side, not so much, which is part of the reason I like it so much.
This is a pretty simple composition, with most of the activity confined to the triangular-shaped clump of trees and brush. There was an intense blue shadow in the foreground, which I painted out because it weakened the design (there are still traces of blue peeking through the grass). Also, the cast shadow on the marsh grass to the left seemed too blue until I put in the patch of blue sky.
This started as a demonstration for one of my painting classes. When I got it home, I realized I'd missed the boat and decided I had nothing to lose by re-painting it. So I did, with virtually no idea where I was going with it. I kept painting and scraping away and it finally started to take shape. The finished result is nothing like I'd planned, but has a quality to it - a feeling of mood and atmosphere - that I like.
For me, there's nothing quite like driving down an unfamiliar (and hopefully unnamed) dirt road. They're all over Cape Cod, these roads, and sometimes lead to great, out-of-the-way painting spots. I found this one as a result of taking a wrong turn or two (sometimes referred to as "getting lost") in Wellfleet. This particular road meandered through thick woods for a half mile or so with no real painting prospects. I was looking for a place to turn around when the view suddenly opened up... to this.
Some subjects require a great deal of creative license, but not this one. It was a no-brainer, so perfectly composed that I couldn't get to work fast enough... or pray hard enough that I wouldn't screw it up. I threw a shadow across the foreground and played around with the angles of the path a little (I love diagonals leading into a painting) but that was about it. I painted everything else as it appeared. Pure fun.
I saw my first orange tree at the age of 22 when I drove to Arizona from Chicago (on a whim) to visit a friend. Now I live in Southern California and they're all over the place. Acres and acres of them. Still, for someone who grew up in the Midwest, there's something mildly exotic about them. This was a lot of fun to paint. Part of the challenge was to suggest enough detail in the leaves without getting pedantic about it. I'm definitely going to be doing a larger version of this one...
I love Cape Cod, especially the Outer Cape (which is also known as the Lower Cape despite the fact that it's north of the Upper Cape. Go figure.) Much of it is like this: Rugged and unmanicured and unspoiled. If you get up early and chose a less-travelled path you can find solitude even in the height of the summer tourist season. Here, I particularly loved the way the clouds swept across the top of this hillside. And of course I had to trudge up to the top of the hill to see what was on the other side...
This was really fun, one of those paintings that just kind of... happened. It's pretty thinly painted with the exception of the clouds, which I laid on with a palette knife. With small paintings in particular, I try to keep the big shapes clean and uncluttered so they read well from a distance. I also lost the edge between the tree line and its reflection to simplify the shapes even more, and to help the trees recede into the middle distance.
This is a demo I did for a painting class. I really liked the variety of greens in the landscape, and thought it provided a good opportunity to show distance into the picture plane, which can be difficult
with a high horizon. I painting this very quickly. Lots of fun.
I was prompted to paint this by the simple, quiet elegance of the shapes and the harmony of the colors: The muted greens and golds in the grass, the elegant gray-blue treelike, the pale rose in the sky. My teacher drummed it into our heads to keep the big shapes simple and uncluttered, so that was also foremost in my mind. Just a great spot to paint.
The challenge of painting in summer in New England lies in dealing with all the green. It's everywhere, and it can be daunting. I found greens so baffling and frustrating when I first started painting en plain air that I took green off my palette (actually flung a tube of viridian as far as I could). It was one of the best (painting) decisions I ever made, because it forced me to mix all my own greens and thus pay closer attention to the subtle changes in value and temperature. Now I have a real appreciation for greens, and find subjects such as this a real pleasure to paint.