oil painting, Uncategorized

My Younger Brother’s Birthdays & Shenandoah Colors

It was beautiful along Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park this past weekend.  A precious and crisp light made everything seem celebratory.  And, indeed, we were there to remember and celebrate the birthday of my younger brother, who passed away last year shortly before his 56th birthday.  His love of the outdoors means that we mark his birthday by continuing his tradition along with his wife and daughter of going camping on his birthday weekend.  This time, though, instead of in tents, we were in a lovely house on a ridge overlooking wetlands on the edge of Strasburg, Va.  It was a wonderful time despite the painful loss we all still feel. Shenandoah 1

Illustration: “Shenandoah,”  20″ x 34″ oil on canvas by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

A Birthday Note:  “Me at 43”

Soon after we returned home, Andy’s wife shared with us a note she had found in an old desk she was about to discard, a note written by Andy on his 43d birthday. I’ll share it here because, in our social media-frazzled times, it’s wonderful to peer into a brilliant mind capable of sitting down and reflecting on things–and not needing to show his thoughts instantly to all the world.

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Photo: Andy with his older brother and sister in the 1960s

Andy, who it is still hard to believe is not here, had a great sense of humor, quick wit, and enormous reservoirs of empathy–all traits we’re missing today in our national daily discourse. He made friends all over the world and was an avid explorer from the islands of Comoros off the east coast of Africa to the islands of the Caribbean and even islands along the coast of Washington state.  (He was expert on sustainable tourism for island economies.) He also traveled across Argentina, Spain, Germany, England, Israel, Australia and Africa.  Andy was a voracious reader especially about indigenous peoples and colonial expeditions and settlements.  He was a nature lover and enjoyed hiking in remote places. Andy indeed never really took to social media though, in fact, he was tweeting about America’s desperate times on the day he died, without warning, on 26 July 2017 from complications of a seizure.  (He was greatly troubled by what was happening to our nation but his seizures were an unexpected side effect of surgery he’d had in 2014.)

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Photo: Andy as a baby, smiling

Andy wrote the following in 2004 and apparently never showed it to anyone.  If he had, we might have questioned his memory of his birth weight being “over 10 pounds.”  (His birth weight was 7 lbs. 12 oz.) I am showing it here as a way of remembering and sharing a little bit of my younger brother, who loved life and made the most of it.

AndyBdayLetter

 

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oil painting, Uncategorized

Memorial Day Weekend

Lazy Sunday

Illustration: “Lazy Sunday”, oil on canvas approximately 12″ x 20″ (2018)

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.

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oil painting, Uncategorized

Studio Practice in Oil 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.

Stack of Books

Illustration: “Studio practice,” Oil on canvas by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

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).

Studio setup

Illustration:  Studio still life setup

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.

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Illustration: “Stack of Books”, oil on canvas by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

 

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oil painting, Uncategorized

Rooftops of Tübingen

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.

Illustration: “Rooftops of Tübingen”, oil on canvas by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

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oil painting, Uncategorized

Oil Painting Class #1

I’ve had my first oil painting class this week, along with 15 other students.  It’s exciting to finally learn the processes involved in using this medium, including the proper positioning of one’s easel. There’s simply no alternative to learning the basics.  I have dabbled before but knew I was missing some key information not to mention also a lifetime of experience.  It’s wonderful to learn about underpainting canvases, using a palette knife to mix colors, creating different values, and so forth.  So very different from watercolor, but it’s going to be fun to keep up with both types of painting.  One of my older experiments on wood panel accompanies this post. More to come…

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Illustration: “Mainau Insel” (oil on board) by Black Elephant Blog author (2017)

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oil painting, Uncategorized

Bouquet Painting on Christmas Eve Day

Today with all the last-minute Santa things to do, there was time to keep working on a painting I started this weekend.  Perhaps it will be dry in time to fit into a wooden frame and be wrapped to go under the tree too.

Bouquet 3

Illustration: “Wedding Bouquet,” Oil on canvas, 16″ x 20″ by Black Elephant Blog author (2017)

Painting in oil is still a challenge for me, mainly because of the brushes which become gooey, and sometimes even clumpy, pretty quickly. There’s also the problem of what to do with the gooey water mixed with solvent when cleaning the brushes. There’s still so much to learn but I do know that watercolor is quite a bit simpler, at least in terms of equipment.

Speaking of which, my Christmas present to myself arrived last week, and it’s a great addition to my collection of watercolor palettes.  This one, called the “Portable Painter“, shows what a clever design-oriented mind can achieve when taking time to really study how people are trying to use existing tools (in this case other palettes meant for watercolor painting in small formats outside). This palette is so well-thought out it is amazing.  I say this as someone who has used about 20 different alternatives in the past three years.  It comes with a small brush (with a smaller brush inserted into the handle) but neither brush is really suitable for most painting, and that’s the only negative I can see in this little kit.

This palette is perfect for the outdoor watercolor sketcher and I’ve already put some of my favorite paints into the pans.  Further description of this fantastic discovery will have to wait, as it’s time now to get some presents wrapped!  Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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