Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Experiential painting

I traveled to the Portland Museum of Art this past Sunday to view the exhibition, "John Marin, Modernism at Midcentury".
Anyone who is drawn to the intense forces at work along Maine's rugged coastline, this is the painter for you. Just name a few adjectives to describe the coastline i.e., turbulent, frothy, excitement, choppy, clashing and these words are expressed in Marin's paintings. Marin's interest lays in all things that clash, the push and pull, the calm and energized or as he collectively names it, 'modernist dissonance'. His expressive brushwork and color vitality offers the viewer an emotional and descriptive, symbolic experience of the sea and coastline.
While contemplating the exhibit, I recalled a summer course I had taken, given by Natalie Alper at the Museum School. I enrolled in hopes of strengthening my plein air painting. After showing her a few samples of my work, she told me to forget about them. "Tomorrow, bring with you a bigger palette a larger substrate and big, big brushes like house painting brushes". She instructed me to paint what I knew and BIG.
Water became my theme. And what came pouring out on paper was a wellspring of personal experience: beaver dams, rushing streams, tree shadows on a frozen tundra, waterfalls. The images I called forth with my large brushes were numerous and captured a joyous celebration of nature. Because there was no need for photographic references or to be physically placed in open air surrounded by Nature herself, this type of painting experience was liberating.
Viewing John Marin's paintings, I too can feel his experiential excitement as he painted the waters as he knew them.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

on the streets of Newburyport

submitted and published in the Newburyport Daily News, 9/2/11

To the Editor:

Hey Paradise!

Time to put up a parking garage? Things are getting kind of tight out there on the streets of Newburyport, and it's not just the parking.

A group of local plein air painters, known as the Newburyport Ten, were in town to paint scenes of the port city and to talk up their recent show at the Newburyport Art Association with the good people they meet while painting outdoors.

I was one such painter on Green Street to capture the fabulous view of the Mission Oak Grill's church steeple, City Hall, and the waterfront with sailboats afloat on the river.

At 8:40 a.m., I set up my easel and canvas on the street while standing close to the front of my parked car. What a great morning to be slapping oil paint on my canvas while enjoying chats with passers-by. Then, while working on the final strokes, a most unfriendly comment was rudely hurled at me by a man who indignantly strolled by and entered the nearby Green Street Executive Offices building..."With the shortage of parking spaces in this city, I suggest you not be set up there."

As I looked around at the empty parking space ahead of me, another behind me and yet another across the street, I had to wonder what would motivate such a remark. It clearly was not parking that was tight.

Sorry buddy, I got this space.


Open Air at Appleton Farms, Hamilton, MA

This past Saturday morning with plenty of warm and brilliant sunshine warming the air, I welcomed autumn by painting at Appleton Farms.
With the commencement of summer greens turning into honey color, I'm in palette paradise. Favorite paint combo is phalo-green and cadmium orange which equals ochre(s) galore. My outdoor palette is slim-trimmed to the use of cad yellow, cad orange, cad red, alizarin red, cobalt blue, French ultra-marine blue, viridian, phalo-green and a mountain of titanium white.
I couldn't resist setting up my gear near this over-sized barn with cooing pigeons atop and the fresh manure being discharged by a conveyor belt to the awaiting pick-up truck outside.
Appleton Farms is a land trust and is the oldest operating farm in the country... a rural gem to savor and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Be Prepared

...Who's bringing the umbrellas, tarps, ponchos, towels, wellies, even a clear shower curtain?
Fellow painters Dan Shaw, John Kerwin, Jacob Towle, Mary Altieri, Betsy Lewis and I traveled to Jeffersonville, Vermont for some pre-autumn painting knowing full well the foreboding weather forecast for our four day visit.
Two weeks earlier Hurricane Irene dumped as much as 12 inches of rain in Vermont, overflowing river banks, crippling roads and knocking out bridges and power. And now the large swirling mass of Hurricane Katia was out in the Atlantic bringing in more moisture to the water-logged state. Calling the lodge owners at Sterling Ridge Resort in a panic, their re-assuring response was..."Come on up, everything is fine here!"
Fortunately, the daily view from our cabin's back porch included slow moving bovines munching their way through a pasture and a mist-shrouded Mt. Mansfield in the distance. Some painters took full advantage of the protected space and painted. Others undeterred by the rain, packed up gear and drove their vehicles to paint the lower valley along the Lamoille River as well as the small cascades on the Brewster River at the Grist Mill Bridge and further up on Canyon Road, a beautiful waterfall. Just be aware of fast rising rivers and seek higher ground the weather forecasters and locals told us!
There were successful paintings created during our trip and not all from under the shelter of a porch but from under umbrellas and car hatches.
NOTE: To increase painting success in damp weather, be prepared to make large piles of paint on palette to slap on the canvass. Using paint sparingly in such conditions will cause the paint not to adhere properly to canvass...Remember! Oil and water do not mix. Be prepared.