Blue Ridge Village

Blue Ridge Village, 16 x 16, UART 400

Blue Ridge Village, 16 x 16, UART 400



Initial stage

Initial stage

I decided to do one studio painting before we head off to the Hamptons and New England next week. This is from one of the photos I took on my trip to Syria, VA several weeks ago. This is the small town of Criglersville, which has a large number of white buildings, all with green roofs.  This being May, there was a great preponderance of green!  I could have changed the roof color, I guess, but I wanted to represent it as it was.  Instead, I decided to work from a black and white photo and do a colorful underpainting.

Compositionally, I had to decide whether to have more background and sky or foreground as I didn’t want the row of buildings to be right in the middle. I decided that the foreground was more interesting and placed them about an inch up from the halfway mark.

I used blues and blue greens for the background mountain and a combination of aqua and very light yellow for the sky. I actually started the background hill lighter than it is, as you can see in the partially completed painting. When I came in today, I decided that the difference between the background mountain and foreground trees was too great. So I had to carefully darken it.  I used a Girault blue and blue green and kept it very soft and impressionistic.

I used warm and cool greens for the trees, but kept them to the more grayed varieties (Unisons, primarily).  For the buildings, I used a number of tinted whites.  The buildings at left were done with yellow, the house in middle with pink, and the barn with some very light blues.  I wanted the house at left to be the primary building and I liked the way the progression of fence posts leads the eye to the house.

I tried to leave some of the undercolor showing in the trees, mountain and grasses. But when I was done, I felt the need for more color. I used a warm red violet to add richer color to the shadowed area of grasses in the lower left, and added some of it to the fence posts.  Then I used a fairly dark red orange Girault to add some small specks of color in the evergreen tree and posts and added more orange to the foreground grasses.  Small changes, but I felt that it really needed it. And I signed my name in red orange!

I don’t expect to do much painting again until Aug. However, next week we will be spending 5 nights in the Hamptons, and I realized this week that I’ll be staying in the Shinnecock Hills region. This is the place painted so often by one of my favorite painters, William Merritt Chase, who just so happens to have a show at the Phillips Gallery in DC.  I hope to get there before we go, and I plan to take some paper and my very small Heilmann box in the hopes of doing a few small paintings. Of course, I doubt that the area is going to bear much resemblance to Chase’s paintings–particularly no women with parasols walking through the fields!  But I can dream.

Hopefully, I ll have something to show for my time when I get back, as well as a report on the Hamptons show.


Plein Air Paintings, Before and After, Pt. 2

Evergreens Study, 16 x 12 Pastelbord

Evergreens Study, 16 x 12 Pastelbord

For the second painting of day 2, I decided to do a study of two evergreens. The subtlety of light on them was lovely.  I began the drawing of the trees with charcoal, finding it easier to work with for this type of subject matter.  I began the sky with a very warm blue green, then brushed some blue violet on over and worked in some clouds.  This is the other painting for which I don’t have a before image.  In the studio, I did very little. I added a little green to the distant hills, which were too flat. I added some lighter color to the trees in a few places, and I added more detail in the grasses.

Stream Study--Before, 11 x 14, UART

Stream Study–Before, 11 x 14, UART

Stream Study--After, 11 x 14, UART

Stream Study–After, 11 x 14, UART

Day 3 was another beautiful sunny day. We decided to start the day painting the Rose River, which flows under the driveway leading up to Graves Mt. Lodge (and there was an amazing amount of traffic!!!).  I was going to do a vertical of the river with sky and trees, but decided the point of the painting should be to paint the water and rocks, with small rapids.  The biggest challenge of the picture was that the values were so close. The only darks and lights were in the rocks and water ripples.  I tried to minimize the background by using Giraults and keeping down any detail.  I decided to make the clump of bushes and rocks coming from the mid-left at the center of interest.  With this in mind, I tried to add as much light to it as possible. But, in the studio, it still seemed dull. The answer was to use soft pastels–Schminckes, Great American and Blue Earth to both the the bush and clump of grass in the lower right.  The pictures don’t look very different, but I do think that the additions improved it.

Graves Mountain View--Before

Graves Mountain View–Before

Graves Mountain View, 16 x 12, Pastel Premiere "Italian clay"

Graves Mountain View, 16 x 12, Pastel Premiere “Italian clay”

The final painting was done on the porch of our motel unit looking out over the fields to the distant mountains. There was a barn with silo that I particularly liked.  For this painting, I used Pastel Premier, Italian clay and used direct application of pastel with no underpainting.  It was fun to just brush on the color, particularly for the distant hills and I left a little of the paper showing in the upper right.  The primary challenge of this painting was the large amount of green!  It was quite overwhelming.  I began the distant hills with blues and some blue greens, then added light greens over, using nothing but Giraults.  I had to simplify the foreground, removing a large tennis court and adding green grass instead.  When looking at the painting in the studio, the foreground trees look blotchy and the sunlit areas looked like holes! The color was too similar to that of the grassy field. So I focused on the foreground trees, adding more greens and also lightening the grass and adding orange to it.  I’ve also added more green to the distant hills, which were too blue.

And now to politics!  While we were there, my husband wrote to tell me that Syria and Graves Mt. Lodge was featured on the front page of the Washington Post.  Jimmy Graves was interviewed on why he was supporting Donald Trump in a town called “Syria”. Most distressing!  I like the place and the people are very nice. They were also very generous in giving us free use of the common room that had a refrigerator in it.  One of their big fears is ISIS!  But without cell phone or GPS service there, I doubt that ISIS will find them!!!  So, I will forget about Jimmy and remember the wonderful time I had with painting friends.

Plein Air Before and After from Syria, VA, Pt. 1

Last week I spent 3 days painting in the Blue Ridge Mountains with three pastel friends. We had lovely weather in between cold rain and hot and hazy, so we planned it just right!  This past week I spent a day in the studio working on the six paintings that I’d done. I tried to remember to film them before I started working on them, but I wasn’t always successful. So I have 4 of them with before/after images, but I’ll share them all with you. I’ll do this in two postings.

This was my first chance at plein air this year, so none of these is particularly good.  Unlike some people, I rarely consider a plein air piece done until I’ve viewed it in the studio and made some changes. Invariably more light has to be added, or a building needs to be straightened. I do not consider these, or even more serious changes to be a problem in calling them plein air paintings. (But then, I never was a purist!)  My purpose in showing these to you is primarily to explain the changes I made inside.

House in the Woods--Before

House in the Woods–Before

House in the Woods--After, 11 x 14, UART

House in the Woods–After, 11 x 14, UART

Our first day it was partly cloudy with sun coming and going. We decided to stay on the grounds and I kept looking at a driveway leading to a dark house in the woods. The light was hitting the roof, and as the morning went on, it lit part of the drive and a second roof as well. So it got more interesting as time went on!  Unfortunately, my “before” picture is fuzzy, but you can still see the dark puddles that were in the lane.  I decided that these either had to be lightened or removed. Given that I had added blue sky into the picture (which was really much higher up!), I decided that the puddles should be removed. I also added some light yellow greens to the bushes to the right of the house. No other changes were made to this painting.  When we looked at the paintings on the first day, I was pleased with the values in the painting the strength of the contrasts, so I didn’t want to ruin that.




Afternoon Shower, 14 x 11, UART 400

Afternoon Shower, 14 x 11, UART 400

The second painting of the day was done after a shower.  (Unfortunately, this is one I forgot to film before changing.) We found a covered platform behind a church with a great view of the fields and hills.  I chose to paint a barn and farm buildings, with mown grasses leading to it and hills beyond.  This was one of those times when the sun kept coming out and going in, and the light was constantly changing–the biggest challenge of plein air. When I got into the studio, there were three things that really bothered me about the painting. First was that I had made the right hand side too light-filled.  Secondly, I had a large bush or tree to the right of the horizontal building and it looked like 3 things in a row of equal size.  The third problem was with the mowed grasses at lower right. They were two one-dimensional. My first action was to cool off the field and tree on the right and blur the group of trees at the top of the hill. Then I brushed off the tree in the middle of the picture and added two trees, one in back of the building.  Next, I added more darks and lights to the mowed grasses and lots of squiggly strokes to indicate mowed hay.  I was quite happy with it then. This is probably my favorite of the group.

Farm on Poorhouse Road--Before

Farm on Poorhouse Road–Before

Farm on Poorhouse Road--After, 14 x 18, UART 400

Farm on Poorhouse Road–After, 14 x 18, UART 400

The first painting of the second day was done on Poorhouse Road!  I chose a farm building with light hitting the roof and house behind it.  There were two huge trees on either side of equal size.  I decided to make one tree smaller and also to simplify the composition into color shapes.  But it was a struggle!  My initial feeling about this painting was that it was hopeless!  But I decided to see what I could do with it in the studio.  I forgot to film this until after I had brushed the drab green color off of the purple hill in the background. It suddenly became much better and I never touched it again!  Next I worked on the sky, which was rather washed out in the initial version. I added several blues and then added light clouds into it. I started liking the picture more. I then decided that two “lollypop” trees was not a good thing. So I made the one on the left much larger, going off the page and added sky holes.  I added more light to the yellow bush to the left of the forebuilding.  I brushed off the roof of the house and decided to lower it. I also added a cast shadow from the tree, which I never really saw, but which I liked a whole lot!  Then I brushed off some of the many layers on the little red roofed building and simplified it.  I also deleted the two backlit bushes, which didn’t add anything to the picture. Lastly, I added a lot of oranges and pinks in the grasses to warm up the foreground and give more pattern to it.  This is still not great, but it’s better than it was!