So much is happening in the garden: two new hives of bees, new bee fodder (phacelia!), new green manure mixtures, and a foray into next-gen gardening with Bio-Char. I want to write about all of it but there’s still life material growing out there too. The Ruby-Gold ornamental quince put out flowering branches for the first time this year; combined with a new thrift store tablecloth it made an excellent color study.
Quince in a Tan Vase, 24 x 18, oil on panel
Three weeks ago I looked out on the ocean of yellow “lion’s-tooth” flowers in our front yard and thought, I ought to paint some of those. This is the study, but there will be more (MANY MORE) coming soon.
Dandelions in a Blue Glass, oil on panel, 20 x 16
I have four new blog entries started and material just keeps coming; the title of this blog was never more apropos than the bees and art in spring 2014. It’s all very exciting but very little is actually being posted. To remedy that, here’s a quick look at a study for a larger painting now on the easel of Frenchboro Harbor. Done from studies and photos taken last August, this study represents a departure for me in terms of image and paint application.
Frenchboro Harbor Study; Big Trees 16″ x 20″, oil on panel
Here’s a detail of the paint: applied without medium a la Cezanne, “a short stroke representing only the brush exploring the form”.
Working on a colored ground (a glaze of pigment over the otherwise white board) is helping me to keep my paint loose, my brushstrokes more fluid, and making it easier to concentrate on the form. I generally use a uniform gray, but after reading about the working habits of Giotto and van Eyck, I decided to try a selection of very bright primary colors. This is the first painting in this series:
18 x 24″, oil on board
The set-up is heavy on bright greens and dark red, balanced by the off-white muslin drapery and tarnished silver pieces. The yellow ground should brighten the darks and influence the lighter colors – we’ll see! Here is a detail of crabapples on the salver:
Our new studio space allows me to work on more that one piece at once. I like having drawings stacked against the wall, and the ability to switch pieces out to let the paint set up on one while mixing a whole new palette of colors for the next. It is immensely satisfying to have inventory! (I know I’m coming to this late, folks, really late.)
Right now I have a painting of a milk-glass vase with zinnias and asters in full swing, but I can also look at the previous oil sketch (same composition) and the charcoal and ink-wash drawing (slightly different viewpoint) for reference. AND, the painting is just so much easier having worked out my issues with aster construction in a previous piece. Not that the asters are smooth sailing even now – it’s rather too bad they grow so well in my garden because they are incredibly complicated.
This is the oil sketch: ivory black on tinted ground, 24 x 18 inches:
Here’s a detail. Asters are complicated!
And this is the wash drawing on Bristol paper, 20 x 17, slightly different view of the setup:
It has been a long three months of working through the idea of painting a background. My still life set-up area is not ideal; the hoop house walls are a plastic film that distorts colors and images behind it and my drapery arrangements are fixed as to height and weight. I’m getting more accomplished at setting up objects that relate to the structures they’re sitting on, but it’s all new to me – I’ve always been a big fan of “dump the oranges on to the table-top and paint them as they lay”. That philosophy (or lack of same) just isn’t working for me any more. I either need to move into Cezanne’s kitchen – where every view seems to be a paintable one – or I need to pay attention and integrate all the information available. The second choice seems more sustainable, but I’m not totally discounting the move to Paris.
New work under the new idiom, just dipping my toes in and painting the green and slippery tones that were really behind the set-up. Oil on board, 16″ x 20″, Roses in a Spanish Cup:
Oil painting on shellac-coated rag paper of quince and wild apples in the noonday sun, 18 x 24.
I’ve been doing studies for larger, or more involved works later on. This piece is on rag paper coated with bull’s eye shellac. It makes a beautifully smooth, toned surface that holds up well over time.
Quince and Wild Apples, 20 x 28″, oil on shellacked paper.
Last summer I was able to spend a week painting on Great Spruce Head Island. This is a small piece based on studies and photos of a rock at the end of the Double Beaches: 12″ x 16″, oil on panel.
Now is the rare time when the garden is completely spent and it’s too early to start seedlings under lights down cellar, and I spend almost every night painting.
This is a drawing study of the rock at the end of Double Beaches on Great Spruce Head Island. 12″ x 16″, oil on panel: