2012 is a good year to…

December 31, 2011
Carriage, study for a larger painting, pastel, about 6x9 in.

Carriage, studio study for a larger painting, pastel, about 6x9 in.

Instead of resolutions, I prefer to make plans! In 2012, my focus will be on plein air painting that goes beyond traditional plein air.  I want to use the process of painting on location to inject more abstraction into my urban landscapes. I plan to:

  • paint on location in New York and Philadelphia, have an exhibit of the paintings in both cities
  • conduct a plein air demo in NYC at the Salmagundi Club
  • develop a plein air course for the summer at the Visual Arts Center of NJ
  • lay the groundwork for a workshop and an exhibit in Europe or the UK
  • further meld reality and abstraction in my paintings, take my studio painting in a new direction based on plein air studies
  • continue to experiment with new media, including digital plein air
  • turn this blog into a WEEKLY publication that is updated every Monday, consistency and deadlines are a good thing!

So what are your plans for 2012? Whatever they are, I wish you much health and happiness in the New Year!

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Happy Holidays

December 25, 2011

King Street, Oldwick, NJ - plein air acrylic, 7x10 in.

Wishing you a happy holiday season! Thank you to all my students and collectors, this was a great year and I’m looking forward to 2012 with new ideas for workshops, classes and of course paintings. Have a great day with friends and family, make sure you take some time to do something you totally love!

All the best, Anne


If you want to be a better painter, practice your drawing skills

December 21, 2011

Cokesbury Road in the Rain - plein air greyscale pastel on grey PastelMat

To be a good representational painter–regardless of your style, photorealist, impressionist, semi-abstract–you need to have good drawing skills. When you can draw, you are in control. You’ll start out with a strong image, that you enhance with color. You won’t be struggling to “try” to get it right, you’ll confidently block it in and then move to color.

So many artists are so impatient to get to the color. Before you can effectively work in color, you have to have a firm understanding of the concepts of drawing: form, value, proportion and perspective. Without these, just getting your composition onto canvas can be a struggle.

Also, as painters, our definition of drawing needs to be flexible. Most people think of drawing as something you do only with a pencil. I never draw in pencil. I draw with the side of the charcoal or pastel, or I draw in ink or acrylic with a flat brush. Doing so allows you to block in forms rather than outlines, this enables you to really focus on values, carving out the forms with the various dark, middle and light tones. This is what gives the illusion of dimension, not detail, all the detail in the world will not make something that is drawn incorrectly look right.

Depending on how you want your painting to look, add in as much or as little detail as you feel is necessary. I prefer a semi-abstract look, where details are merely suggested, but the subject is immediately recognizable. Remember to block in the big shapes first, get the proportion and perspective right, and map in your values. Do this with a simple sketch everyday in charcoal and you’ll see the difference in your paintings very quickly!


Composition is Key

December 18, 2011

Church Street, Oldwick, NJ - plein air pastel, about 9x12 in.

Composition is a key element to any successful painting. The painting has to work as a whole, no matter how great the rendering or use of media, if it doesn’t hold together with a balanced composition, it won’t work.

When painting plein air, you must work out your composition before you start putting anything down on paper. To start, you have to have something to draw the viewer in–anything with a strong sense of perspective, particularly one point perspective, will do this. Think of streams, roadways, telegraph poles and wires, trees, anything that defines the space with perspective will draw the viewer into the painting. Once there, the eye needs connecting points in order to be motivated to explore the painting. Repeating shapes and colors are great for this. It also presents the artist with an opportunity to be creative and expressive–if you need a bit of yellow in the upper right to balance the yellow elsewhere, put it in whether it is there or not in real life.

Think of the format of your painting as space that needs to be divided geometrically. Look for alpha forms such as “Z”‘s or “L”s to create a strong division of space and movement. Forget about “what” you are painting and look purely at forms made by light, shadow, color and values. Rather than painting trees, block in shapes that are created from a mass of leaves.

The painting above was done in pastel, which is a great medium for plein air. I first block in the comp monochromatically with a hard pastel, then I lay in the values with that same color. Once I have the comp and values blocked in, I go to color working from dark to light.

This piece was done in about an hour. Working plein air trains your eye to see things quickly and accurately. The light WILL change while you are working, that is why blocking in the values and staying loose is so crucial to plein air. You can’t noodle around with your drawing, be very gestural and get in the big shapes, you can put in as much or as little detail as you feel is needed once you have the big picture laid out.


“You’re So Prolific!”…ummm no, I’m not

December 16, 2011

Rockaway Road Barns, Tewksbury, NJ, plein air pastel, 9x12 in.

I hear this all the time. But I’m not prolific, I just practice a lot, the same as any artist needs to do if they are painting professionally. I don’t offer every sketch I do for exhibit or sale, but I need to sketch, paint or draw EVERY DAY in order to keep my technical skills where they need to be.

Just because I post a sketch here or on my Facebook page, it doesn’t mean it’s a formal painting that will go to a gallery. In fact, most of the studies I post are just that–ideas being worked out for future paintings, or experiments in color and form. Many of them end up just hanging around my studio until they get worn out looking and I have to get rid of them. Others (the nicer ones that are in good condition) I will give to collectors who purchase my larger works.  It’s nice for the collector to have the study along with the final painting.

If you want to build your confidence and skill, practice is the only way to do it. I have to paint in front of students all semester long, I wouldn’t be able to do my demos if I didn’t practice and have confidence in my approach to drawing and painting. So, while I might appear to be prolific, I am really just doing what it takes to stay in top form, it’s just like going to the gym. 🙂


Come to Philly on Friday, Dec. 16

December 13, 2011

Philadelphia - oil on canvas, 8x10 in.

If you are in Philadelphia this Friday, Dec. 16, be sure to stop in at JAG Fine Art  for their holiday party from 6 – 9 pm. I’ll have a few new small paintings of Philly (such as the one above) plus large urban landscapes of NYC.  JAG is located at 1538 Pine Street, Center City Philadelphia.

While I’m in town, I hope to do some plein air sketches for some new large works.  Hopefully the weather will cooperate! 🙂


More Plein Air

December 11, 2011

Green house on curved hill, plein air pastel, 6x9 in.

Drove around a bit today looking for something interesting to paint. I liked the exaggerated perspective the curves and hillside presented, as well as the shadows and the unusual color of the house. I have to have something more than trees and other natural elements in my work, something structural to give things scale and perspective as well as geometric form.