By the Lake in Webster

This past weekend Sarah and I went to Webster, New Hampshire and stayed at a cabin for a night. Her aunt and uncle had rented a place on Lake Winnepocket and invited us up. It was a cute town on a nice, quiet lake. We got there around 8 on Friday night and spent a few hours playing games and sitting by the fire. In the morning I woke up to paint.

The sun wasn’t above the tree line yet and it was hard to find a subject that wasn’t entirely in shadow. I decided to paint the neighbor’s cabin, knowing the direction the sun was heading and hoping I would get some interesting lighting. I worked for around an hour and realized there was some heavy cloud cover above. Everyone was up at that point and getting ready to check out the local flea market. I set the painting aside and joined them.

Halfway through our excursion the sun burst through the clouds and the day took a positive turn. We got back to the cabin and I was able to work the painting to a point that I was satisfied. The lake was calling. It was time to go swimming.

Lake Winnepocket Lodge 8:1:15 (1)

Lake Winnepocket Lodge 9″ x 12″

The lack of sun was tricky, but even worse I was also dealing with an ungessoed, smooth panel as my painting surface. I’m used to the texture of canvas. My brushes did not act as they normally do. I wanted to try the panel because I sometimes don’t like the repetitive woven texture that shows through cotton canvas paintings. The panel painting only began acting as I’d hoped after I’d painted several layers and I was starting to paint over semi-dried paint. I also noticed that my brush was much more likely to pull paint away from the panel. The tackiness of semi-dried paint played a much larger role on panel. Perhaps I’ll try linen or some sort other sort of smooth, woven canvas.

Like this painting? Buy it for only $150! Email me at: thewritingmann@gmail.com!


Roadtrip to New Orleans

Thirty something hours later and I’m back in New Hampshire. My butt is flat and I have a persistent crick in the left side of my neck. This past week some friends and I ventured down to New Orleans and we drove both ways. It’s a long ride. Two long rides really. Next time I’ll bring a super comfy cushion and a neck pillow.

Before I left though, I managed to get a few more paintings done in College Woods. If you remember in my last post I said I’d finished a painting, but was waiting to post it.

Woods 5:17:15

There are many bridges that arch over the wetlands of College Woods and this particular one crosses over Oyster River. I think the painting came out decent, though it was hard to paint the path receding into the woods and climbing up around a bend. I’ve found that I’m not very adept at constructing convincingly deep backgrounds. You’ll also notice that the camera picked up the lines of the rough, underneath gesso layer. I wanted the gesso to give me a nice texture, which would have been fine if I was painting with thick strokes. Those days are behind me though and I tend to thin out my paints more now. I didn’t realize how noticeable the gesso was going to be underneath.

This painting was done on another one of my 5″ x 7″ canvas panels. They’re okay, though not exactly uniform in shape and they tend to warp when drying. The warp can be fixed however, and since I’m still basically practicing, the non-straight edges are not that much of a problem.

A few days later I got back out into the woods, exploring an unfamiliar entrance. It didn’t take me long to find my subject matter. 

Woods 5:20:15

This old tree was the perfect variety of color. The bleached-white, exposed wood was a great contrast to the grays in the branches and trunk. I had a lot of fun mixing colors and figuring out if they should be warm or cool. I got lost in the painting and I think that’s what makes it my best piece in a while.

The next day I went out looking for a similar subject.

5:21:15InProgressI remembered to take an on-site picture this time. You can see how I was once again attracted to the variety in color.

Woods 5:21:15I’m afraid that I once again floundered with the background. But I’m not sure. Sometimes I look at it and it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. A couple days later we were off to New Orleans.

The ride down took us 34 hours, while the estimated time was 24. We didn’t take extra long bathroom breaks. We didn’t stuff ourselves constantly at the roadside Waffle Houses and Popeye’s. We didn’t purposefully waste time. We broke down and spent an afternoon being towed and waiting for a new radiator to be located and installed. Everyone we met was so incredibly nice and hospitable. All the customers who came into the shop asked us where we were going and then gave us suggestions on what to do. The main clerk let us spread out in the waiting room and eat a lunch bought at the Winn Dixie next door. It was an experience. Eventually we got fixed up and drove the last two hours into New Orleans.

The next morning I woke up early and wandered around looking for a place to paint. It started to rain, so I wound up back on our apartment’s porch.

GnomeOnSite1The little house we stayed in had a wonderful amount of quirks. The kitchen wall was an underwater mural decorated with iron and wood painted silhouettes of fish and nailed-on fishing lures. The living room had a wooden throne and an antique artillery round. And all over were gnomes. I found one on the porch and moved him to a more agreeable area for painting.

GnomeAll my paintings have been drying dark. I think it’s because my palette has consisted of mostly earth tones. I also think that since I’ve been working alla prima I haven’t had a chance to really punch out the lights and darks in multiple paint-throughs.

Later in the week we drove out of the city to see a plantation and take a swamp tour. On our way out we passed by all the city’s beautiful cemeteries. I returned to one  the next day.

CemeteryOnSite2Since most of New Orleans sits at or below sea level the residents have many issues with the water table. One issue is that they can’t bury their dead in the ground. Either plots of land are raised up and walled in, mausoleums are used, or the dead are given small stone houses to rest in.

CemeteryOnSite1We had lunch reservations for 1 and I didn’t pick out a spot in Greenwood Cemetery until 9. I hurried along as fast as I could, keeping my shapes large and only working in finer details in the last 30 mins before noon.

CemeteryThough the painting is unrefined, my mind seems to combine the masses and make the gravestones clear. I was really going for the repetition of shapes and chose the spot because of the abundance of tall crosses.

On our final day I went with my girlfriend Sarah to the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park. I saw a lot of art I liked, but there was one painting I spent a good amount of time studying.

TheToiletOfPsycheThe Toilet of Psyche by Charles Joseph Natoire is a rather large painting full of life-size figures. But what caught my attention was the drapery at the bottom.

TheToiletOfPsycheThe piece of cloth is a strong example of how using complementary colors can make something pop. The red shadows work well with the yellow and blue greens in the rest of the cloth. The whole painting is extraordinary to see in person, but I spent most of my time staring at the cloth. I need to give the effect a try.

I like going to a museum every week. I might pop down to the Currier Museum in Manchester, NH next. Saturday mornings are free for NH residents!


Painting in College Woods

At last I am done with the semester. First year of grad school out of the way! To celebrate I headed out into UNH’s College Woods to do some plein air painting. Well, first I bought some 5″x7″ canvas boards, gessoed, and toned them and then I went out.

Woods 5:14:15

Last Thursday was my first real free day and so I got up at six and headed to the woods. Campus was dead, even though graduation was just two days away. It was cold, the sun was barely up, and I bundled up in two layers of sweatshirts. After walking around a bit I finally picked a spot. The lighting was nice and creating a network of interlocking shadows on the tree trunks and ground. I spent about three hours working before the mosquitos drove me away. I met quite a few runners and dogs that morning.

Woods 5:15:15The next day I got up again, though a little later. I made it into the forest by 7:30 and found my spot by 8:00. I parked at a different entrance than last time and found myself on the far side of a pond. I picked a shady spot next to the water and painted the rising trail path. It was a bit more difficult of a painting than the first one. And once again I got driven away by mosquitos. They were horrible. Of course, I’d picked a bad spot as well. But I went out and bought bug spray on Sunday and it was a different story when I went out to paint that afternoon. (I’ll have Sunday’s painting up in the next blog post.)

On Monday the girlfriend and I traveled down to Boston to check out the Leonardo da Vinci drawing exhibit. The da Vinci drawings were mesmerizing and they were juxtaposed with drawings from his contemporaries, like Michelangelo. It was fun to try to compare the artists and see what their differences were. Unfortunately it was a short exhibit. But fortunately there was another major exhibit in the museum, a Hokusai show, so we headed right over to that.

Hokusai was a Japanese artist now known primarily for his print of The Great Wave off Kanagawa. The exhibit was an exhaustive collection of his works, and though it was interesting to see The Great Wave and the other views of Mt. Fuji, my favorite prints were the ones he did of waterfalls and bridges. Here are my three favorite:


One Hundred Bridges in a Single View


The Hanging Cloud Bridge at Mount Gyodo near Ashikaga


The Falling Mist Waterfall at Mount Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province

There’s a mystical quality about the prints that I absolutely love. While the latter two are from real locations, the first print was concocted after Hokusai had a dream of the place. I’ve been into comics a lot lately and it was interesting to see how graphic and similar Japanese prints are to traditional comics.

After the Hokusai show we wandered around the museum and I decided to do a sketch of Max Klinger’s marble bust of Beethoven.


I tend to gravitate towards sculptures when I’m looking to draw in a museum. It’s hard to replicate a painting through pencil, pen, and white pastel.

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And when I’ve been given the chance, I’ve turned to doing some imaginary sketching. Here’s a recent doodle that started when I accidentally sketched out the outline of the bunny’s head. I was going for a sea lion, but my pencil had other ideas.

I’m gonna try to squeeze in another blog post before the end of the week. We’ll see what happens. I’m headed off on a road trip to New Orleans on Saturday. I’ll be bringing my easel along!