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Mount Lafayette

Towards the end of break I hiked Mount Lafayette with a few friends. It took us a good portion of the day, but it was a decent temperature and sunny. Along the way I took a bunch of photos to practice my winter painting. It still hasn’t snowed too much here in southern New Hampshire and winter painting isn’t quite the same when all you’re doing is freezing and not painting snow.

Over the summer I tried to do a plein air painting in Kennebunkport, Maine, but time did not allow me to complete it. So I used it as an underpainting. You can still see the bumps and lines from the previous painting, which isn’t the greatest, but it’s a practice piece.

I spent two sessions on the piece for a total of about 3-4 hours. My goal was to test out atmospheric perspective with the mountains, but I think it reads a little better in person. The closer mountains got turned too green by the camera and lost their blues.

Hoping it snows soon so I can get out and paint a winter landscape for real.

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Winter Plein Air Painting

Merry Christmas! Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays. I usually start off these blog posts by mentioning how busy I’ve been and this one will be no exception. I have been working on applications for an MFA in Creative Writing. All my free time efforts have been going to that and so my art and this blog have unfortunately fallen by the wayside.

This year I promised I would have no grading to do over the holiday break. Somehow I managed to keep that promise. Which means I have been able to dedicate time to things I enjoy. Like reading. I’ve got so much reading to do. The last few years I’ve been steadily increasing the number of books I read, but I’m not going to reach my goal this year. Don Delillo’s Underworld absorbed too much of my time.

And since I’ve had some free time, I went outside for my first true winter plein air experience.

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Though we got hit with some back to back snowstorms a month or so ago, we’ve had little snow since, so the we wound up with quite a brown Christmas. Last year we got the opposite. We had a mini blizzard on Christmas day.

Snow is the main draw of winter plein air and without it I had to turn to the second best thing. Ice. It’s been cold enough for that at least.

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I drove a couple towns over to Durham and did some reminiscing as I went through the UNH campus. They’ve added some large buildings since I graduated, but it still feels like home. I parked at Durham Landing and walked along the Oyster River until I found a spot that intrigued me. I was very excited. The view offered rocks, ice, and flowing water. I’m thinking of doing quite a few studies of that spot as the winter progresses. When the snow comes, I’m sure it will be beautiful. Maybe one of my New Year’s resolutions should be to turn those studies into a larger painting. Man I should’ve jumped on the Michael’s Black Friday deal and bought the 5 foot canvas for $33. 

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I wanted to try a new palette because my last few plein air paintings have felt too consistent. Maybe that’s not the right word. Basically, I want to try to vary my color. 

I dug through a box of my unused paints (ones that my mom gave me or came free with orders from Dick Blick) and found some interesting options. I settled on: Sap Green, Transparent Oxide-Red Lake, Prussian Blue, Raw Sienna, Old Holland Yellow Light, Permalba White, Torrit Grey, and Ivory Black. Using the Yellow Light as my white, my hope was that everything would be a little dulled down since it is an off-white color. Then at the end I could come in with the Permalba White and make the lights pop. I especially wanted to try this strategy on the snow. 

But I waited too long and the Permalba White froze and wouldn’t come out of its tube. Which is fine, but definitely disappointing. I learned a few things from this session that I will carry forward to the next. Like: bring a lighter so that you can warm up the ends of the paints and get the caps off easily. Had to use my teeth. Which is something my dentist dad probably doesn’t want to hear. Also, getting carcinogens anywhere near my permeable membranes is not usually on my to do list. 

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The block in stage was quite enjoyable. Time has flown by and I definitely missed painting. I even talked to myself as I worked, getting hyped for my decisions. That’s not weird. Promise. But as the day went, I got colder and colder. It was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit in the sun and I was in the shade. My feet and toes got the worst of it. The rest of my body was fine. Even with both gloves and mittens on, my fingers turned red. The problem is that the palette hand simply stays in one position the entire time and the painting hand needs to be mostly free for mobility. 

Some hand and toe warmers will fix those issues I think. And if not, well we’ll see how much I paint outdoors this winter and if it warrants getting some nice winter boots. I’m planning on doing a lot of hiking this winter as well, so perhaps boots would be a good investment. 

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Though I didn’t include the bridge in this study, I’m planning on adding it in the next. With the bridge in view, I believe the shadows and light will make more sense.

I’m thinking each study will examine different perspectives of this view and also try different palettes. Then I can use them to rough in a large canvas before bringing it on location. 

I’ve been searching for videos that go over plein air painting rivers, but have found few resources. If anyone has some suggestions, please send them my way!

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I was listening to Steve Atkinson talk about plein air painting yesterday and he said that honest painters will admit they fail all the time. It’s part of the learning process. I’m not saying this study was a complete failure, but it sure did challenge me on many levels. Looking at the painting now, I can see that I lost the organization of my values. Everything seems to be all mushed together and there’s little separation between the different planes of the picture. Definitely something to keep in mind next time. That said, I believe this study reads the best from afar. So go ahead and take a few steps back from the screen. Does it come together? Is it easier to understand the relationships of the shapes? If not, I think the on-site photo does a good job of distancing the painting. 

I’m considering it a decent success and I’m excited to go back and do another.

See you next time!

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Sketchbook Tour and Painting Rye

Yesterday I was out at Rye Beach getting ready to paint and I came to the realization that I’ve spent almost every morning this summer outside. I painted a decent amount last summer, but I feel that being closer to the seacoast has encouraged me to plein air paint more. I also focused more on writing last summer, so I spent most mornings at my computer.

My summer break is now halfway through and I feel like I’ve accomplished a good amount, so I’m hoping to keep the pace for the rest of the summer.

Last Tuesday I went with the NHAA plein air painting group to Rye Harbor State Park. When I left our apartment it was sunny and warm, but the ground was wet from some overnight storms. As I got closer to the coast a heavy fog set in and it was hard to see more than 100 yards away.

I was excited to set up and paint the boats in the marina next to the park, but I didn’t want to fight the fog, so I chose a different view.

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You can see how foggy it was in this first photo. The tide was out and forming large pools in the rocks and I was attracted to the variety of grays.

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Around the time I wrapped up, the sun was sneaking through the clouds and changing the lighting. I spent only 2 hours on the painting and called it quits. Though after I’d packed and went around to look at the other artists’ work, the fog settled back down and the sun disappeared. I suppose I could’ve kept working.

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This was a leftover 8×10″ panel, so a little smaller than the 9×12″s I’ve been working with lately. I’m gonna have to look up more paintings of shorelines, waves, and rocks. I need to see how other artists have tackled those subjects.

In between plein air paintings, I’ve been drawing in my sketchbooks. I’m slowly getting better at using watercolors.

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One afternoon I sat down and drew my cup of tea. This was a break through illustration. I finally figured out how to tackle the combination of ink and watercolors.

A couple days after my birthday I traveled down to Boston for the day for a free entry promotion at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. On my way in I stopped in Harvard and sketched Memorial Hall.

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I think limiting the size of my sketches has helped me develop an understanding of watercolors. I can fill in the entire drawing quickly and practice mixing colors and see how they interact on the page.

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At the Isabella Stewart Gardner I sketched the courtyard. Since it was free entry, it was incredibly busy, but I was able to find a bench to hangout on as I drew. You can see this sketch and all the others from my first two sketchbooks in my first sketchbook tour video.

I’m now on my third sketchbook and I’ve already finished a few drawings in it.

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Above I sat with Sarah in Portsmouth and did a sketch of her. It came out nicely and I’m excited to fill this next sketchbook up and show it off.

This Tuesday I went out again with the plein air group. The meeting point was Odiorne Point boat launch, but I’ve already painted there this summer so I decided to go down the road a bit to a spot I’d seen the day before.

Near Rye Beach is a tidal inlet that snakes past some houses and tall patches of grass. The composition is ready made.

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I wanted to include the water, the houses, and the boat, so I had to really pull my perspective out and draw things smaller than I was seeing them. Painting on a 9×12″ board forces decision making.

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It wound up being a two day painting. I reworked the water twice on the first day and then twice again the next. I’m still not entirely satisfied with it. If I had backed the perspective up even more I would’ve been able to include some darker parts of the river and I think that would’ve helped make the water convincing. As I’ve painted water this summer, I’ve discovered that the reflections are often much darker than I originally expected. I’ll have to keep that in mind for the next ocean painting.

My paintings this summer have felt very cohesive in their colors, but I’m afraid they’re becoming a bit stagnant and my paintings are appearing more illustrative than realistic. They’re much more saturated than paintings I’ve done in the past. For my next couple of paintings I’m gonna mix up the colors I use. I’m really still painting with the palette that was prescribed to all students in my UNH art classes. I think it’s time to branch out.

While I was working on this painting, several of the people that live in the houses came out and talked to me. One nice couple later invited me inside to show me other paintings they had of the same perspective. One was a winter scene and the other a summer scene and it was interesting to see how the shoreline has changed throughout the years. Apparently there used to be an old barge that was parked against the left hand shore. It’s now gone and nothing remains to indicate it had ever been there.

 

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Wet Paint Out Weekend 2018

Summer is here! I’ve finally had time to go out and do some plein air painting. It feels good to wake up early, slather up in sunscreen, and paint until my whole body is tired. I did quite a bit of that last week and I would’ve started even earlier if I wasn’t in Peru. The day school was out, I was on a plane down to South America. It was an incredible 10 days. Here are a few pictures to summarize our trip:

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We stayed in Cusco for a few days, went on a 5-day hike to Machu Picchu, and then returned to the city before flying back to the US. It was unlike any other trip I’ve ever taken. I’ll talk more about the trip in a later post about some small watercolor sketches I did while I was there. I’ve almost filled up another sketchbook, so I’m going to do a video tour of that once I’m finished.

After getting back from Peru, it was a few days before the chores were done, the house was clean, and I had time to paint. On the Thursday before the annual NHAA Wet Paint Out competition, I went to Odiorne Point and parked my easel on the rocky shore. Across Little Harbor I could see the Wentworth by the Sea Hotel, but I decided to paint the coastline.wetpaintout2018 - 7.jpg

You can see Jaffrey Point on the left and then behind it is Kittery, Maine. I spent about 3 hours working and I definitely moved much slower than I wanted to. But it was a warm up painting. I knew the Wet Paint Out was one week away and I needed to get ready. So the next day I drove two towns over into Exeter.

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I walked all over town before settling on a view of the Squamscott River. I was really sold on the view because it was initially low-tide and I could paint the muddy banks contrasting with the water and grass. However, the tide quickly came in. I don’t have a lot of experience painting water, so I’m working on that this summer. Not too happy with this painting, but it was a learning experience.

Over the weekend, Sarah and I went up to her parents’ place in Kennebunk. I walked down to the port to do a painting of the boats on Sunday morning, but had limited time. I took some pictures and hope to finish it up this week since it’s going to be rainy and I’ll probably be stuck indoors.

Tuesday I went into Portsmouth to scout out some potential painting areas. I’ve painted around town so many times that I’m trying to keep it fresh and new. Thankfully I found a perfect spot and did a small watercolor sketch to prep. The sketch will be in my forthcoming sketchbook tour video.

On Friday I woke up early and drove into Portsmouth. It was the first day of the competition. I boogied on over to the spot I’d found and got going by 7am.

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Along the Piscataqua river is the Granite State Minerals company. It is impossible to miss their big tarped piles of salt as you drive into Portsmouth. They also have a couple cranes along the water and one of them stayed stock still for me the entire weekend as I painted it.

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The end result netted me third place in the competition! I was unable to attend the ceremony on Sunday (had to go to Boston to see Aladdin), but I was told the juror, Brett Gamache, liked my work. I spent two mornings on the painting. If you look in the background you can see I also caught the silhouettes of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard cranes.

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I don’t usually paint people when doing a plein air painting because it’s difficult. People move. Anatomy is hard. And most importantly: If you’re painting people, then you’re in an area with people, and people are going to watch you paint and judge how well you’re painting people. But I gave it a try that day because I was beginning to feel a little stale. I moved quick and tried not to spend too much time on it. Still, I worked at it for probably 3 hours.

Then on Saturday, after I finished up “The Crane,” I was inspired to do another industrial painting. Pleasant Street is under construction for the summer, but it was the weekend, and so the excavators and backhoes were parked and ready to be painted.

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Here you can see I started very rough. I didn’t even try to get the right shape of the backhoe. I just put in the yellow and black in the general area. I came back later and sharpened it up.

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I spent four hours on this guy, but I definitely could’ve spent more. There are some perspective issues I noticed towards the end but left in. Plein air painting isn’t perfect and I was tired and ready to call it quits. As a side note, all the paintings in this post were done on 9×12″ panels. They were primed with gesso, but I didn’t tone them.

That’s all I have for now. More blog posts to come! I’ll be doing lots of painting this summer.

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The Onion Chronicles

We keep our onions in a box and safe from the mice. The mice are all dead now. We trapped them in the early days of spring. But still we keep out one trap (just in case). And still we keep our onions in a box. Some nights they stay out on the counter. And some times they spend weeks in the dark cabinet sitting atop my boxes of homebrew. In that darkness they grow and sprout green and white shoots. We can no longer cook with them, but they’re perfect for painting.

A month and a half ago I found two of these onion sprouts and pulled them from their box and placed them on the dinner table in the warm window light. They needed to be painted. I chopped up an old cardboard box to craft a makeshift backdrop. And going back to the way I painted a few years ago, I sketched out the onions in pencil on an 8×10″ panel and then inked over the pencil with a Sharpie.

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In the first session of painting, I focused on covering all of the white. Now that summer is approaching and I’ll be doing more painting, I must spend some time prepping panels with washes of color. That way I won’t have to worry about white spots peeking through.

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Originally I tried to match the background colors with the actual color of the cardboard backdrop, but quickly gave that up. I focused more on incorporating purples and yellows to match the onions. Eventually this lead to what my college professors would call a “meaty” background.

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Once the entire surface was covered I really honed in on the front onion. I wanted to render the peeling skin.

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Unfortunately, because I took too long between painting sessions, the background onion began to rot and dissolve. I had to change the painting around and wound up not being able to put as much time into it as the foreground onion. Still, it came out decent. It makes me want to do some more vegetable paintings this summer.

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A Portrait of a Friend

Last year I started my first teaching job. I met Matt a couple weeks before school began at a faculty party. I’m not a particularly extroverted guy and I was keeping mostly quiet as my girlfriend talked to some of the other teachers. I remember Matt saying, “I like that you’re quiet. I think we’ll get along well.” I wasn’t too sure of what to make of the comment at the time and it took a couple more months of knowing him to figure out it had probably been sincere.

Several months into the year I began stopping by Matt’s room in the morning before the kids got in. The rest of the building would be dark and he’d be there with an energy drink or coffee in hand, staring into his computer and planning out a lesson. Sometimes we talked about teaching, sometimes we talked about writing, sometimes we just talked.

Over the summer Matt and I started a two person book club. He’d always wanted to read Underworld by Don DeLillo, so we picked up two copies and met every couple of weeks at a Starbucks to talk about DeLillo’s genius lines. The book is massive and we made slow and steady progress. Eventually school started back up and we had less time to read. But at least we got to hang out in those quiet morning hours again.

On December 10, 2017, Matt passed away. I remember every moment of that day. To recover, I took the next day off and spent some time writing and thinking. Matt was a musician and loved being creative. I’m not a musician, but I decided I would honor him with a painting. Below is the step-by-step process.

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The painting is 8 x 10″. I worked on it off and on for a couple months. It’s not perfect, but it was time spent with Matt.

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Holiday Update

I’m brewing beer on the kitchen stove and it smells wonderful. It’s my third batch and I think I’ve found a new hobby. As I’m bringing the wort to a boil, it’s time to update the blog with the art I’ve been working on over the past couple months.

Early in the fall I went down to Newbury Street in Boston with my parents and Sarah. We were walking around and looking for a place to eat when I decided to stop in one of the art galleries. Since taking the painting class with the Pulidos in 2013 (gosh it’s been over four years) I have been looking for their art in Boston. I knew they showed in one of the galleries and I finally found them.

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I really enjoyed Shirley Pulido’s small painting above. There was not much information provided, but my mother and I could easily identify Numael in the background. So we assumed that is Shirley at the table. The style of the painting is loose and blocky and I love its contrast to Numael’s refined and smooth style.

I apologize for the bad photos here. I was a little nervous the gallery attendant would yell at me for taking pictures.

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The gallery was having a competition and Numael Pulido’s above painting won first place. It’s such a wonderfully constructed painting. While I’m not usually one for smoothed features, Numael’s paintings always balance smoothness with firmer brushstrokes. My favorite sections are the crossed forearms and face. It makes me want to do two things.

  1. Take another class with the Pulidos.
  2. Practice portrait painting this coming year. Sarah and I are moving into a new apartment and there are going to be bare walls, so why not cover them?

Anyway, it’s time to move on to the work that I’ve done.

Around Halloween I went out and bought a bunch of gourds and set up a still life in the spare bedroom. Due to space constraints I kept the gourds pretty small but that didn’t stop me from finding some great variety.

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I set a drawing board down flat on top of some wire shelving and that served as the base surface. Then I popped off a wooden tray from my art cart (yes, Mom I know it’s your art cart) and used that as a second level to give the still life height. Above you can see the setup along with my burnt umber block in. In the background, right above the easel, you can see the bottom portion of a painting by Sarah’s brother, Matthew Pearsall. Find his art on his Instagram.

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After the initial sketch, I put in some color. I was thinking about Van Gogh and Cezanne at this point. The blue shadows and complementary colors felt like Van Gogh and the firm outlines on the gourds reminded me of Cezanne. I really loved the simplicity at this point of the painting.

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Next I went through and worked a couple gourds at a time. i didn’t want to focus on one gourd and lose the fluidity of the painting, therefore I picked two and painted them and the area between them and around them. The first two I picked were the red and green gourds on the upper level.

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The shape was hard to get on the green gourd and it wasn’t until later that I realized it all depended on the placement of the brown bellybutton (stump? base?).

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Above is a zoomed out view after working on the red and green gourds.

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I moved to the bottom two gourds afterwards and had fun playing with oranges, yellows, and greens. It never fails to interest me how darker yellows turn green.

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The final painting was finalized when I went to paint one day and some of the gourds were rotting. Still, I think I reached a good completion point. The black gourd was especially fun to work on. Though it was also challenging. Its pitted stem brought good variety to the painting.

I struggled with keeping my painting and palette lit throughout the painting, so afterwards I bought a clip on lamp. It helped with the next paining.

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Halloween and Thanksgiving went and it grew close to Christmas and I was not sure what I wanted to give Sarah’s parents. I knew I was giving her dad some homebrewed beer (also, finished my beer and now it’s the next day and it’s fermenting away in my closet) but I wasn’t too sure what to give her mother. A couple weeks before Christmas weekend I decided I would do a painting for them both. Her mom likes pear paintings, so I had my subject matter. Unfortunately, I’ve had a lot of papers to grade for school and I was unable to get time to paint until the day before we went up to their house. Because of how wet the paint was, the above photo has a bit of a glare. I will get a better photo next time I’m up at their house.

I set up my GoPro on timelapse to film the painting, but when I viewed the footage afterwards I found that the camera had refocused on every shot and thus the video was jarring. Next time I will have to do a full video.

Finally, here is another presidential sketch that I almost forgot to include.

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