As a beautiful week weather-wise glides into the holiday weekend, I am finishing up several canvases and, in some cases, deciding whether to paint over them to start something else. In the painting above, I set out to capture the look of some people remote-control sailing their little boats, as they do every Sunday morning at this spot in northern Virginia.
It’s amazing to me that, even around the busiest metropolitan centers, wonderful hideaways still exist that transport you far away from the strip malls, busy intersections and shopping centers that dominate our modern landscape. These days you can get a news update almost anywhere, but in these little hideaways you’ll find that the natural beauty captures your attention, and you won’t be checking your phone!
Sometimes these jewels are right in our own neighborhood, or at least not far as the crow flies. One such place in Northern Virginia is a small state park, Colvin Run Mill, which has a still-functioning circa-1900 General Store and still working mill grinding wheat and corn today. I have driven past this very spot for more than 20 years without stopping–until now.
Many of us hurry by without much choice, for years, without noticing therefore our surroundings.
These days, however, the new greens of spring make one want to take one’s paint kit outside more often—how to capture that beautiful light? What greens work best? I’ve been finding that Winsor & Newton Transparent Yellow helps to give some bright greens.
Indanthrone Blue and Quinacridone Gold (either the old or the new) gives some great, more olive, shades of green. And you can always use a sap green, which comes in many different colors, actually. Happy painting!
While something self-induced and self-defeating (where have we seen this before?) hurtles toward this nation, it’s been an escape to join others to learn how to paint with oils.
We tackle with brushes and paints all kinds of planes, or surfaces, under all kinds of light with usually limited palettes. For the unfinished painting here the colors were titanium white, yellow ochre, ultramarine blue, and burnt sienna (on a raw umber underpainting).
It’s great to lose oneself in such challenges if only for an evening. It’s also great to be with 15 other people similarly motivated to learn oil painting under the guidance of a great teacher.
Later with a drizzly day providing an excuse to stay inside, I touched up the painting done originally in class. In the process, I used some linseed oil for the first time, to help draw some narrow lines and also to experiment with creating a sheen.
Spring is struggling to make itself known this year. There’s a chill in the air. Cold breezes vied with bright sunshine in Central Park this weekend. Color and light caught your eye after taking in some artworks inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. From the top of the museum, the Manhattan skyline edged the tops of the furthest trees. One can imagine spring settling in here soon.
As the weather improves, the spring cleaning bug hits many of us. Eventually the “art room” must be tackled, always a hazardous undertaking because of the many unexpected finds tucked here and there. So many unfinished pieces of work, and so many memories about what was going on in my life when the work was undertaken. It is difficult to complete cleaning tasks because so many projects (pastels, watercolors, and even an oil painting) still beckon to be completed now or, at least, that a decision be made about them. Doodles and sketches abound, mostly made during embarrassingly many hours ‘wasted’ watching the evening news over the past nail-biting sort of year. Frames and matts need to be sorted through…and books continue to pile up despite mostly having no connection to the art efforts at least not so far. (How to connect democracy, climate change and other readings to art…that is another unfinished project?)
The vision of more space in the room–still just a vision–and the notion that greater work can be done with less clutter spurs me on. It helps that the weather outside is glorious and beckons… and it will be possible to go enjoy it once this is done.
Practicing with a limited palette of Raw Umber, Ultramarine Blue, and Titanium White, my subject for this oil painting exercise are the rooftops–which actually are various shades of orange and red–of Tübingen, as seen from the window of a fourth floor walkup attic apartment in a house dating from the 1500s. Far below in the thicket of roofs and small balconies are narrow streets that wind their way through this ancient university town on the Neckar River in Germany. I will attempt to do a wider landscape scene of the rooftops in a more realistic palette quite soon. There is a great view of the city from the castle just up the street from this house–a castle which houses the humanities department of the University of Tübingen, which itself was founded in 1477.
‘Tis the time for bountiful cherry blossom trees decorating the Tidal Basin in the heart of Washington, D.C.
When the trees–which were a gift from Japan in 1912–are at their peak, people visit from all over the world, pushing baby strollers and carrying long camera tripods. Whole families with grandparents and toddlers make their way to this glorious spot. Amidst the calm chaos of thousands of people walking underneath the beautiful blossoms are picnickers, and couples positioning themselves for that perfect photo with the Jefferson Memorial in the background. Every language in the world can be heard at this time. Women in traditional Japanese costumes pose for photos between the trees. Buddhist monks in flowing orange robes bike past some of the crowds. Even on a cloudy day it’s a beautiful scene.