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New School Year

School is back in session. The past three weeks have been pretty hectic and I’ve barely had any time to draw, paint, or write. Hopefully these two paintings will hold y’all over until I have more free time.

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Now that I think about it, I’ve been working on and off again on the above painting for the past ten months. Whenever I felt an urge to paint, I sat down and focused on a particular section of the still life (which has been collecting dust in the corner of our spare bedroom). It’s not the most cohesive painting but I’ve been using it as practice. It kept my painter’s brain exercise over the winter so I wasn’t rusty when summer came and I was back outside to paint. Though it’s a sketch and I’ll likely never finish it, I thought I’d post it because it’s unique in that it shows a painting in flux. Some of my favorite paintings in museums are unfinished works. They have more energy. And they also show how the artist worked. Here you can see how I struggled with the jar on the left and resorted to redrawing it several times, which has left a blue outline around the entire thing. You can also see how I didn’t spend us much time on the black and gold vase or the orange box. They just didn’t interest me as much as the left side of the painting.

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On Labor Day I had some time and I decided to paint my girlfriend’s new succulents. I had to work quick in the dying sunlight. I was able to work for about 2.5 hours. Originally I wanted to focus solely on the pyramid succulent planter, but I decided to include the entire window space, including the glass table beneath the planter, the curtain, and the hanging plant. It was fun to push my colors away from earthy tones and towards purples and pinks.

That’s it for tonight. Hopefully I’ll sneak in a few more plein air paintings before it grows too cold.

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Adams Point

Today I drove over to Adams Point in Durham to meet with the NHAA plein air group. On my way from the car I heard some loud screeching and looked up to see a red tail hawk sitting in a tree. It was unbelievably large. After taking a grainy video of the bird I wandered until I found an area to paint.

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Adams Point is a large bay off a tidal river connected to the ocean. This means the water is still salty and has tides. It was high tide when I got there and I climbed down the bank to stand on the rocky shore and paint the bay. I was glad I wore hiking shoes because of the terrain.

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Above you can see the perspective I was working with.

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The painting is only 8 x 10″ and since it’s not too large I was able to finish it in two hours.  I like how the coastline I was standing on curves like an S and is mirrored by the land in the distance. I think it works well from a composition standpoint. Hopefully I can get a couple more plein air paintings done before I am back in school and teaching!

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Halfway There

Less than a month to go until the end of summer and I’m back in school. I know it’ll go fast. So I have to be as productive as possible with my remaining time. Speaking of which,  I just finished up making my third wheel of cheese. Though while I was waiting I cleaned up my makeshift cheese cave (a mini-fridge) and brushed down the other two wheels and found out I had to toss my second wheel. The first is still doing fine, but the second got too dry and was cracking and breaking. Good news is that I felt the least lost making cheese this time. Still gonna be a couple more tries before I can do it without mistakes.

I’ve still been going to plein air painting sessions on Wednesdays and have two more paintings to show from those sessions. I’m thinking I might set up the GoPro one of these times and do a timelapse. I usually finish a painting within three hours so I should be able to do it in one take. Anyway, here are the paintings:
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Last Wednesday we went to Wagon Hill Farm in Durham. The farmhouse was under construction and it was hot in the gardens so I followed the walking trails out towards the water and painted a tidal inlet.

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Yesterday we went to the Coppal House Farm which has a massive field of sunflowers. Again it was hot. And again I couldn’t find inspiration where I thought I’d find it. I wandered around the flowers but wound up back near the farm buildings looking at the different tractors. One of the owners told me that the beast above is used to harvest the sunflowers and grain.

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I only spent two hours on the painting because they had to use the tractor at noon. I think in the amount of time I had I did a good job of capturing the different edges and corners. It was a fun painting to do.

 

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Wet Paint Out Weekend 2017

Today is my birthday! I’m sitting in the local Barnes & Noble sipping at an iced coffee and organizing photos of my art. Still recovering from a year of not updating social media. And to make matters worse, I just spent the last few days painting like crazy. I guess that doesn’t really make things worse, but it does mean I have even more to organize. And tomorrow is a plein air meetup day and figure drawing night. At least I’m taking advantage of the summer.

Over the weekend the New Hampshire Art Association had its annual Portsmouth plein air competition: Wet Paint Out Weekend. This was my third year participating. Still can’t believe that. In 2015, when I first participated, I had only done plein air painting a handful of times. I did it in Italy during my study abroad semester and I did it a couple times in the weeks before the competition in order to practice. Now three years later I’ve done quite a bit of plein air painting. I’d say I usually go 10-15 times a summer. Looking back on my previous years I can definitely see the improvement. Maybe in a couple of months, when I have a lull in productivity, I’ll do a retrospective.

Last year I was unable to take full advantage of the three days of the competition due to my job. This year I made sure to get into Portsmouth every day between 7 and 8 and I didn’t leave before 5. I’m still recovering physically. It’s odd how tasking standing in the sun can be. Even when I was in the shade I was constantly moving on my feet. I went to bed every night with a loud sigh as my muscles and bones relaxed.

On Friday I began in beautiful Prescott Park.

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About an hour into my painting one of the gardeners came over and told me that they were about to water the flowers and I would get drenched if I remained. It was already incredibly hot out and I weighted the pros and cons and decided I’d sit out for the 45 minutes it would take to water. While I waited I did a pen and ink sketch of another section of the garden. I’m thinking that as I finish up my sketchbooks I’ll do sketchbook tour videos so that I don’t bog down the blog with a bunch of tiny drawings. I’ve been watching different sketchbook tours on youtube and they offer interesting behind the scene views of the artistic process. I find the mistakes and failures just as intriguing as the successes.

Anyway, the above painting took about four hours and offers a cross garden view towards the entry gate. I’ve been thinking more consciously about composition while plein air painting and for this weekend I was specifically focusing on making my paintings contain some sort of window or frame device. So in this painting I used the dark foreground frame of the flowers and trees to create a doorway or window in the distance where the viewer can see a square of sky coming through.

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In the afternoon I walked into town and began painting the buildings. The last two years I spent most of my time doing cityscapes and as I worked this year I realized that I am growing tired of painting the red brick. I’ve just done it too much. The painting didn’t turn out too bad, but I wasn’t excited by it. I spent a few hours on it and called it the end of the day.

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Saturday I woke up and it was muggy and sunny and I wanted to take advantage of the nice lighting so I walked past Prescott Park and headed towards Peirce Island. Yes, it’s spelled peirce not pierce. Across from Peirce Island is Four Tree Island and I set up on the walkway out. As I blocked in the basic shapes the clouds rolled in and the day became gray. It stayed that way all morning long.

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I think the final painting does a nice job of capturing the atmosphere of the morning. Again, I used the foreground to create a frame for the background. I also used the snaking water to lead the viewers eyes to the bridge.

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In the afternoon I settled back into Prescott Park and did a small painting. I popped my easel down right next to the flowers and tried a top down view. I was thinking of Cezanne’s close up still lifes as I worked. The painting turned out quite abstract and challenged me to mix a variety of greens, which is something I really struggled with in my early plein air paintings.

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Sunday was the final day of the competition and I had until noon to work and then submissions were due. It was a cold and windy morning. I wandered for a little bit and decided I would try another bridge painting since the early morning light was bouncing some nice greens and blues off the steel. As I wandered I walked behind another artist’s van and knew that was what I needed to paint. The back of the van was glowing and I wanted to try to capture its contrast with the surroundings.

I think the final painting is interesting but not the best compositionally. I’m not a fan of the way the trees in the background run into the van and I don’t think I quite captured the entirety of the van’s glow. But because of how cold it was in the wind I finished fast and then went off to submit.

I walked around with my family and my girlfriend and her brother (who also participated in the competition) and we got some food and waited for the final results.

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I wound up winning an Honorable Mention for the painting I did that morning! That makes it the third year in a row with an Honorable Mention! Not too shabby I suppose. I keep thinking it would be nice to actually place, but I can’t complain too much. If I’ve been noteworthy to three different jurors I must be doing something right.

Alright, I’m on my second coffee and I’ve been here at Barnes & Noble for a while and I’m starting to get hungry. Time to get birthday pizza or something.

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A Year Gone By

It’s been basically a year since I last posted. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been painting or drawing though. I managed to squeeze in a few things. So here, let me walk you quickly through everything that’s happened since last summer.

If you follow my Facebook page then you probably saw me post some progress shots of a self-portrait. Well, I finally finished it.
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I wanted to create a portrait that was earthy and gave me practice with my reds and skin tones.

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I took a reference photo and made my life a little difficult with the angle of my head. It’s slightly cocked and it was difficult making sure everything worked to properly show that angle.

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You can see in these early shots how my glasses are ridiculously askew.

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I went too detailed with the face from the beginning and should’ve spent more time focusing on proportions before worrying about tone variations.

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I enjoyed painting the checkered shirt and mixing up the differences in values between the lit and the dark sides.

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The hat was the thing that gave me the most trouble at the end. It’s a straw hat but I didn’t want to put too much detail into it and take away from the focus of the face.

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Here’s the final version. I’m gonna have to retake this photo due to glare.

It took me a few months to finish the portrait working on it off and on when I got a little time. While I was working on that at home I was out doing plein air painting as well. When my friend invited a bunch of us to Star Island for his proposal to his girlfriend I went early and spent the morning painting the buildings on the island.

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The annual plein air competition hosted by the New Hampshire Art Association came up shortly after and I spent the whole weekend running around Portsmouth painting buildings.

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This first painting is of the main downtown area. I got halfway through it and wasn’t happy with the way it was turning out. I used it as a learning experience and moved on to a different location.

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I moved down one of the side streets and decided to paint the cars parked in front of all the old buildings.

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I painted it over the course of two mornings and I feel like I did a good job of capturing that early light. My favorite part of the painting is the right side where I experimented with different greens for two trees leaning out over the sidewalk.

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For my last painting of the competition, I went to the residential area and painted a house. While I was working the owners came out and were kind enough to talk to me about their house and even offered me the opportunity to come and paint their backyard garden whenever I wanted.

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I finished the house up and had just a few minutes to spare before the deadline. There is one more painting I haven’t included here, because almost a year later I sold it and forgot to photograph it first. It was the painting I won an honorable mention for. I’ll see if I can get a photo from the owners.

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After the competition I continued painting outside and spent one weekday in Newburyport painting a junk heap.

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There it is in the background in all its glory.

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I particularly enjoyed the jumble of this painting and having to pick out what shapes to paint.

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Later that summer I joined a plein air group to paint the tall ship that had docked in Portsmouth.

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I was playing around with a new canvas board and the painting came out very soft. Again, I will try to get a better quality photo.

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There she is!

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At the tail end of last summer I joined my friends for a beach trip and painted the coastline of Hampton. Just a quick sketch and study of the rocks. I was trying to be as simple as possible with my shapes.

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During the winter I went with my girlfriend to Boston and while she went to the Museum of Science with a friend I went over to the Museum of Fine Arts and found a sculpture to draw. It was Nydia, the Blind Girl of Pompeii by Randolph Rogers.

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In the spring I had a booth at an art show in Exeter alongside my girlfriend’s brother. We both wound up selling a good amount! It was a positive experience though a lot of work. While at the show I painted a small rose bush I’d bought.

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Finally, last Wednesday I returned to joining the plein air group. I met them at Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth and painted an old boat lying beside a house. I really focused on composition in this painting. I attempted to use the darks of the foreground to frame the lights of the background. I think it was decently successful.

That’s all for now. I have a couple other things to share from my sketchbooks, but I’m pressed for time. Tonight I’m going down to Lowell for an open figure drawing session. Hopefully now that my first year of teaching is out of the way I can be more consistent with this blog.

Oh! I’ve also made some more cheese recently. I’ll have to post about that. And my trips to Paris and NYC. Guess I still have a lot more to write about. Stay tuned.

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The Muted Tones of Cupcakes

The cupcake in today’s painting lasted over a month in my still life set-up. Yeah, that’s a little gross to think about. But it was great for my art. I first painted it in gouache for Tilted Cupcake and noticed it was still holding up, so I put it together with a coffee mug. I wanted to focus on the purples and pinks while keeping everything fairly muted.

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I started with a blue-gray background and tried to keep the colors tonally similar to that starting gray. From there I was able to deviate into darks and lights.

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I spent a good amount of time rendering the cupcake and its frosting swirls. It became the basis for my lights. Nothing could be brighter than it.

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Muted Cupcake

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With the cupcake started I could branch out tonally and with color. My goal was variety from that point on. I introduced complementary colors into the shadows. You’ll notice that the perspective is also from my other still-life set-ups and that was because this was my last one before I moved. I wanted to try something new before I had to put together a new studio space.

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Digitizing Presidents

The last couple of days I’ve been messing around in Photoshop and painting some presidents. I have quite a few oil paintings that I’ve completed and worked on since last I posted, but I’ve been moving and haven’t had the time or space to photograph them properly. They’ll be up as soon as possible.

Digital painting is not something I particularly excel at. Every time I give it a go I’m disappointed the work did not come out as well as my traditional pieces. However, I feel as though I’m getting better and learning the techniques that will help make my digital paintings look more like oil paintings.

If you’ve been following this blog you’ve noticed all the ink sketches I’ve done of presidents. I decided it would be nice to throw some color on them and eventually make a large poster of all the presidents. I started with George Washington (obviously) and tried to film my process as well. Unfortunately the program did not work as planned. I still got the painting done, but I had no video to demonstrate the process. Thankfully I was able to remedy that for John Adams. Not only did I make a narrated YouTube video of my painting, but I also streamed it live on Facebook as I worked. If you’re interested in watching me every time I stream, go ahead and follow my Facebook page. It’s also the best page to follow if you’re interested in progress shots, unfinished works, competition updates, and showings.

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George Washington Bust

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John Adams Bust

And if you’d like to watch the video of my painting, click below! I tried to narrate everything I was doing and explain the process.

 

Oh! Also, here are links to all my other social media sites:

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