Plein Air: Just can’t get enough!!!

November 27, 2012

Springside Farmhouse, plein air pastel, 8×12 in.

Springside Barn & Silo, plein air pastel, 9×12 in.

It’s November in northern New Jersey, not exactly the time of year when plein air comes to mind. However, the Thanksgiving weekend gave me an opportunity to paint (with no one watching) for 5 days in a row, three of which were warm enough to get in some plein air!

I found a wonderful place to paint just a couple miles from home–very secluded, almost impossible to find unless you know it’s there. I spent the first 2 days of my Thanksgiving holiday painting the barns and farmhouse. In addition to these 2 small pastels, I also did numerous sketches in ink wash and charcoal. The light on the old structures was just amazing, such texture on the dried grasses and rough siding of the collapsing barns. And that orange oil tank by the farmhouse was an opportunity not to be passed up!

Although I only spent about 3 hours each day at this location, I felt I really got to know it very well. I plan to go back in the winter, hopefully when there is some snow on the ground, and then paint it in oil. I’m determined not to let the cold weather stop me from getting out there this year. I don’t like being cold, but I find if I dress in layers and wear fingerless gloves, I can manage it as long as it is not windy or below freezing. Of course, there is always the option to paint in my car (I mean mobile studio)! 🙂

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One, Two, Three…Perspective!

November 19, 2012

Pastel demo, 6th Avenue & 23rd Street – perspective is not difficult, it just takes an understanding of a few simple concepts and consistent practice!

Perspective is a concept hat seems to scare a lot of artists. It’s one of those things that needs to be right otherwise a drawing falls apart, so it does deserves to be treated with respect, but there is no need to be fearful of it.

Some of the myths of correct perspective include the idea that in order to “get it right” you have to use tools like triangles, t-squares and rulers. If you are an engineer or an architect, that may be the case, but if you are painter, you really just need a basic understanding of how it works, and more importantly, the ability to see it. The best way to develop your “seeing” skills is to practice–paint on location as frequently as you can, work from life with simple still lifes and if you have the opportunity, live models.

In January, I will be offering a new course at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey called “One, Two, Three…Perspective!”. The class is designed primarily for landscape painters who need a better understanding of one, two and three point perspective so that they can apply it in their work. I will teach the course using a specific demonstrations of each type of perspective from a painter’s point of view–in other words, a non-technical, user-friendly approach that simplifies the concepts so that they may be easily implemented. In addition to one, two and three point perspective, I will also cover atmospheric perspective, the use of color and it’s role in creating a sense of depth and space and working with figures in the landscape. I can promise that anyone who takes this course will leave with a complete understanding of perspective that they can apply with confidence in their paintings!

The course will be held on Monday mornings from 9:30 to noon. We will work in charcoal and acrylic on SPECIFIC EXERCISE (not individual painting projects). For a full description of this and all my other winter course offerings at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, click here. (This course is listed at the end of page 2 of my course listings, so you’ll have to go to page 2 and scroll down!) Register online at the link above or call the art center at 908-273-9121.


The Geometry of the Farmscape

November 13, 2012

Mountainview Farm, plein air, oil on panel, 9×12 in.

Hill & Dale Farm, plein air pastel, 9×12 in.

I have somehow evolved into primarily a plein air painter. This was not a conscious decision derived from a need to be a purist, it just seems to be the manner of painting that interests me the most these days. I don’t have a heated studio so if I am going to be cold I might as well be cold on location, or paint in my car and be warm. Since I currently live in a rural area, it makes sense to explore the outdoor painting opportunities that abound in the surrounding countryside.

Recently, I’ve been focusing on farmscapes in the towns near to where I live. There are many rambling, hillside farms that present a great opportunity for capturing atmospheric perspective and a change of pace from the urban elements I am used to painting. However, the rural farmscape is not that different from the urban landscape. Fields, fences, barns and yes, telegraph wires and poles, all offer the same geometric forms that are so perfect for carving up the space into a dynamic composition.

I have been taking my standard approach of doing pastel studies followed by paintings in oil–sometimes of the same view, other times of different views of the same location. I find working this way allows me to determine if there is enough “there” to warrant a painting in oil. I also work out color and compositional issues in the pastel, often using the pastel as a guide on location the way I might use it in my studio.

I’ve become fascinated with the farms as subject matter. I plan to create a small series of plein air farmscapes of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties. I hope to show them locally but need to find a venue–although I have representation in NYC, Philadelphia, Florida and Pennsylvania, I am somehow without a gallery here in New Jersey! 🙂

Mountainview Farm with Cows, plein air oil on panel, 9×12 in.

Hill & Dale Barns, plein air, oil on panel, 9×12 in.