Thursday, February 28, 2013

Anniversary Waltz

An Anniversary, sort of

We have no February 29th in 2013, so Chauncey Ryder doesn't have a birthday this year.

Last February 29th I made my first post on this blog, a birthday card to Chauncey (see that post). 

In the 365 days since then, I've made 84 posts, and have had just under 20,000 pageviews.

The 20,000 pageviews have occasioned 278 comments---though some of those are my replies.

The greatest number of pageviews, by far, was for the "Plein Air in the Studio" post, 27 July 2012 (see it here). 

In second place, was the blog post about the book (here).

The countries of the visitors are of interest. This is how the first year played out.

United States
United Kingdom

So that's how it is after the first year. Now that it's neatly tied up with a bow, I can begin to think about whether or not to continue. 
It's been fun, but it's a lot of time.

To finish up, here's a not-so-hot image of a 1995 painting, taken from a snap shot. The painting is 30"x 60", and is called  St. Quentin: The Fallow Field.

Even in this poor image, it remains a favorite of mine.  With it, I've included the drawing on which it was based. The drawing is about 3" x 6", so the painting is 100 times larger than the drawing. You'll notice that when I drew the field---I was attracted most by that swinging line----I failed to leave enough room. The best-laid plans....




Sunday, February 24, 2013

From the Archive, Part Two

Still Digging

Here are fourteen more of the 1993-9 crop of 8 x 12" wee paintings. These are all oil on canvas, both plein air and studio.

As in yesterday's post, I apologize for the quality of the reproductions which are based on twenty-year old snapshots. 

For my students: I hope these small canvases will encourage you think about all sorts of different subjects. 

The scanning and squaring up of these images takes a long time. So I particularly value and appreciate your comments on these posts.


An Evening Anchorage, 8x12, 1994

Rockbound, 8x12, 1993

An Upland Farm, 8x12, 1993

A Solitary Tree, 8x12, 1994

Czech Village, 8x12, 1994

Bad Schandau, 8x12, 1994

An Unfrequented Pond, 8x12, 1994

Meadow in Moonlight, 8x12, 1993

Road Through a Copse, 8x12, 1994

A Spring Requiem, 8x12, 1993

Evening Shadows, 8x12, 1994

Octet, 8x12, 1993

December Dusk, 8x12, 1994

Auigust Vespers, 8x12, 1994

A Quiet Sunday, 8x12, 1993

Sundown Through a Wood, 8x12, 1994

Saturday, February 23, 2013

From The Archive

Digging in the Archive

Today a few gathered in my studio for a bit of book-signing and I showed a few photos of some paintings from earlier in my career.

This got me thinking about digging through the archive to find some images to share on the blog. I decided to focus on 8 x 12" paintings, oil on canvas. A bit more than half are plein air paintings.

I hope you enjoy these fourteen wee paintings, all from 1993.

An Evening Walk, o/c, 8x12", 1993

November Fields, 8x12, 1993

Winter Barn, 8x12, 1993

A Berkshire Elegy, 8x12, 1993

A Secret Spot, 8x12, 1993

A Still Reach of the Housatonic, 8x12, 1993

A Splendid Evening, 812, 1993

A March Thaw, 8x12, 1993

The Estuary, 8x12, 1993

On the Green River, 8x12, 1993

A Souvenir of Summer, 8x12, 1993

On the Housatonic, 8x12, 1993

Summer Glory, 8x12, 1993

Evening on the River, 8x12, 1993

The quality of these images varies a lot since they are from casual film snapshots.

My apologies.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Perils of Architecture III

A Possible Solution

Thanks for all the suggestions and for the reasons.

Methinks the final solution will be something like this. It is currently drawn in on the actual canvas. But it's not fixed. Nothing's ever immutable in my work. Still, I'm definitely leaning toward this.

Tomorrow, at noon, I have a number of students and friends coming to my studio to have me autograph their copies of my drawing book. It will be great to see them, but I have no idea what to write in each book.

In any event, I'm sure there will be lots of opinions broached about what to put in the loft door. Those of you who won't be at the studio tomorrow can just send me a note, or comment below, with your valued advice. I won't necessarily listen, but I always like to know what you think.

In this charcoal, I decided to have a long, long, spatial recession, ultimately ending in a range of hills/mountains. I guess I was thinking about New England.

By the way, there's a link about the book on the top right of this page, or you can visit

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Perils of Architecture, Pt II

Filling in the Blank

This morning, when I got back into the studio, I set about reinforcing yesterday's grisaille. I used a combination of brownish madder, burnt umber, and ultramarine. Note that these three colors are essentially transparent when they are thinly applied. My intention is to build up the forms with only transparent color as long as possible, adhering to the old dictum that one should keep the darks transparent and load the lights. Here's where it stood at the end of the afternoon, wearing its eventual frame.

Even though I've nowhere near completed the interior of the barn, my thoughts are pondering that big white square in the middle. What sort of view do I want to have? Summer, winter, etc.? Sunny, foggy, moonlight? There are a lot of possible choices.

To get a sense of what sort of thing I might choose, I inserted an old 10x12 oil sketch into the opening. Et voila!

That's certainly a late-summer choice.

Another less-complicated idea might be this 24 x 30" Jurney painting, dependent on its light effect.

Of course I couldn't resist cooling down the grisaille, below, to go with a detail from a 36" x 54" painting, titled AWOL. Yup, that's a Charolais.

Ultimately, though, I settled on a farmhouse that everyone knows. 

Sometimes it's hard when you're given, or give yourself, too much latitude. How will I ever decide what to put outside the barn? 

Your ideas, and your votes, would be great to hear---especially in the comments section, below. If Google+ intimidates you, please get over it and sign up.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Perils of Architecture

When it's time for architecture, grisaille is your best friend

Since we returned from the Savannah Workshop (about which I'll post when all the photos are in), I've been working on a couple of my plein-air Georgia starts. The most time-consuming one so far is one of a casemate (at Fort Pulaski), its embrasure, and the cannon. Bricks, bricks, bricks...and some very unusual angles. The cannon's not drawn correctly. There should be a good deal more taper in the barrel. I hope to correct that.

At Fort Pulaski, 16x20

This painting has been good practice for a 36x28" vertical landscape that has been requested. For me, upright landscapes are always a challenge, and I don't paint many of them. It's not for nothing that your computer and printer describe a horizontal rectangle as landscape format. But, ever the obliging servant, I said yes.

The challenge was to make a vertical that minimized its apparent verticality. 

I chose to revisit an idea that resulted in an 8x12" painting in about 1994. The view was from the hayloft of a gambrel-roofed barn I owned in the Berkshires. As I recall, the interior of the loft was excessively dark in the painting. This time I'll flood the loft with light, both direct and reflected.

First, I did a reasonably careful drawing of some basic framing, indicating the main timbers, and the purlin and rafters. (Because my last grown-up job, in 1979, was in a lumber yard, I have a basic understanding of wooden buildings. This helps). Just to be sure, I trundled the canvas down the hall of the mill building where my studio is located, to the offices of some friendly architects. They gave me a general certificate of suitability after commenting that the purlin (the top-most horizontal beam) ought to be beefed up. This I did.

Because the landscape, though not yet determined in subject, will probably depict a hot, hazy, summer's day, I knew that most of the upper part of the painting, under the roof, would be in quite low light. Thus I had a bit more latitude in my architecture.

I've been paying a good bit of attention to George Clausen (British, 1852-1944) recently, and I want the loft to have some of the hazy, golden light of his barn interiors, though I don't suppose I'll have his threshers and winnowers.

Many of the planes in this grisaille will get much darker in relation to others, and the floor, for example, will be brighter near the loft opening. I'll probably include some incidental objects within the loft, as well as some hay sparkling in the light. Haylofts, of course, lend themselves to all sorts of ribald jokes, but I'm going to dispense with odd bits of clothing scattered on the floor. This is how I pretend to be an adult.
One of the students on the Savannah workshop has written that among the takeaways from the trip was a strengthened understanding of the benefits of an initial grisaille. In the present case a careful drawing, and an initial grisaille in values, create a framework on which I may now paint more loosely, confident that the larger issues of the architecture are in order.

In setting the frame for the view---for that's the actual function of the loft in this painting---I'll seek to find a balance between its complexity and the eventual simplicity of the landscape, a view more about heat and haze than about specific features.

Remember, the more problems you work out in drawing or in grisaille the more freedom you afford yourself when the real painting begins.

Paint well!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Palette Talk

Color, Color, Everywhere!

Our old garden, en  Brionnais, with a double rainbow

 Students are always asking me about my palette. It is largely unconventional, and doesn't contain cadmium colors, or phthalo colors. It certainly contains more colors than any self-respecting plein air painter would ever allow anywhere near her own palette.
In practice, I never have all these colors on my own, but I always have them near at hand. I've discovered that I'd rather be painting than be spending inordinate amounts of time taming shouting cadmium colors, or trying to get phthalo blue to behave. But that's just my choice. You may well enjoy trying to find a correspondence between Mother Nature and that electric cadmium orange in your paintbox. 

I don't.

Here's a link from a blog post (diatribe) last year on this subject.

The colors marked with an # are the basic colors I usually have on the palette. Those marked ### are colors that I require my students to have.

Palette (from left to right):

Old Holland Ivory Black Extra 074 #
Old Holland Mixed White No. 2 (A5) #
Maimeri Classico Brilliant Yellow Deep 076
Maimeri Puro Naples Yellow Reddish 106
Becker Naples Yellow Deep (605) (or the Remb. mixture below #)
Rembrandt Trans. Yellow Oxide 265
Blockx Pyrrolo Vermillion #
Winsor Newton Yellow Ochre 744 #
Rembrandt Brownish-Madder 324 ###
Rembrandt Burnt Umber 409 #
Rembrandt Ultramarine Deep 506 #
Winsor Newton Alizarin Crimson Perm. 004 #
Winsor Newton Cerulean Blue 137 #
Old Holland Ultramarine Violet B199
Old Holland Violet Gray 208
Blockx Mixed Green Light 463
Holbein Compose Green H284#
Holbein Green Gray H372#
Rembrandt Cinnabar Green Green Light 626 #
Old Holland Cadmium Green Light D44 #
Rembrandt Sap Green 623 #
Winsor Newton Prussian Green 540 ###

For tinting canvases, I use Old Holland transparent red oxide or Blockx Capucine yellow light (426)
Sometimes I don't tint. I also have used yellow ochre, transparent yellow oxide, and a mixture of ultramarine and black, as in this blog post (9 December 2012).
On the palette found on the workshop website, you'll see
Rembrandt Naples Yellow Deep (223) and Rembrandt Yellow Ochre
Light (228). Mixing these two, one can approximate the hard-to-get "Secret Yellow" (Becker 605 Naples Yellow deep)