Plein air season is here, and as I head into this year’s events I’m thrilled to be getting out of the studio and into the wild. I never know who I’ll meet—animal or human—or what I’ll be painting, and that process of discovery is almost like being a child again, with the world open to possibility. Each day is exhilarating and exhausting. What could be better?
It’s a good thing spring takes a while to get revved up here in the Adirondacks, as I don’t feel guilty for spending time painting in the studio, rather than painting outside.
You might wonder what the life of an artist is like—how do you get known, how is your work recognized or how does it gain merit? There are a number of paths to this, and like the old Q & A about getting to Carnegie Hall, all of it requires practice and work. Social media and the internet has allowed artists to have more of a following, but we are always working to get our paintings into galleries, into regional shows, and to earn awards or professional recognition from arts organizations or societies. In addition, some of us are active in our communities to further the arts, which brings visitors and tourist dollars, and can go a long way into revitalizing towns.
For most of this year I ‘ve been working on my July show for NorthWind Fine Arts Gallery, titled “Farm to Table.” It’s been a wonderful exploratory process, bringing me back to doing still life paintings as well as some landscapes (please see my events page). There will be approximately a dozen new pastel pieces on exhibit for that show, and a couple of oil paintings for good measure.
In juried show news, I was very honored to have my pastel painting “Our Little Town” take 1st place at the Adirondack Artists Guild Annual Juried Show among a large field of mixed media pieces. My piece, “Sunset on Heron Marsh Pond” has been accepted into View Arts Center’s Northeast National Pastel Exhibition as well, and I’m waiting on news of other juried shows.
The summer and fall will have me at four different plein air events, and bringing my work for numerous exhibits. By November I’m going to be ready for a bit of a vacation!
Depending upon where you live, spring may already be making itself known. People in shirtsleeves on warm days, the ecstasy of shedding their winter jackets written all over their faces, and in their movements. Children are out at the playground, and pansies are at the hardware stores.
Elsewhere, winter comes more slowly, with a long, sometimes interrupted thawing, ice, mud, and heavy minor snowfalls. The rivers are running, near flood stage, as the snow leaves, snow is still in 5’ piles at the ends of driveways.
As an artist, I’m giddy about the coming spring buds, the unfurling of bright new leaves, and the first flowers bursting into life as the sun warms their little world. I haven’t lost my “age of wonder” but keep it alive. It nurtures me as much as I nurture it, and I thrill to the songbirds notes, and the luminous light hitting the ground, or the tree trunks. Sap is running, the evening light is longer, and I’ll soon be outside again, with my portable easel, pastels, paper towels, canvases, and my “painting shoes” taking up the back of my car.
Today is the last day of the Finger Lakes Plein Air Festival, which culminates in a show and sale at the Sonnenberg Gardens historic site in Canandaigua, NY.
It's been a very busy 7 days, with 7 paintings done, including a quick-draw. Ontario County and Canandaigua Lake are beautiful. There is rolling farmland, cows, scenic views, and sublime nooks and crannies everywhere. My favorite day was painting the white barn and the cows. While talking to the farmer who owns it, I learned that the farm has been in his family for eight generations. They have an amazing connection to and love for the land. He calls the three adorable running and bumbling about calves "cheap entertainment!" It was a pleasure to paint there.
Next on the summer schedule is the Keeseville Plein Air Festival, and the View's pastel exhibit opening!
My countdown to spring tells me we have 27 days to go. The photo tells the story of how I've spent the winter. The number of pastels out and available draw an enormous contrast to the little pochade I take with me while plein air painting.
I've also had a wonderful time doing some oil painting this winter, restoring a Frank W. Benson reproduction. It's made me think about taking 10 tubes of paint outdoors instead of more than 100 pastels! We'll see.
This is the redux of the Frank W. Benson reproduction of "Eleanor." The thing had turned blue over 20 years, so rather than throw it out, I decided to glaze new oil colors over the blued out canvas. It's not quite done yet, but it certainly has new life. I used the RISD online image as my guide to his colors. Love his palette! Much more to do on her dress.
As the studio took shape during the construction project, it was hard to know how it would feel to paint there. Big space, big expectations...! I'm happy to have my first painting off the easel and ready to frame.
Two more seasons have flown by, and moving house, building an addition (still), taking some writing classes, and ordering frames and art supplies have been bookended by painting. The 9th annual Adirondack Plein Air Festival was this past August. The nearly week-long event was spectacular again this year. The photos below, are from a couple of days of painting at the event. Now that I live in the Adirondacks year-round, painting here is even more wonderful than it was before. It would be easy to think I'd take it for granted, but seeing the daily changes without the effort of traveling back and forth to another home as made it so much more accessible and enjoyable.
The Adirondack Pastel Society has had a number of workshops and events this summer as well. I was honored to be given an award at their 3rd Annual National Pastel Exhibition for my painting "Milkweed," and I was thrilled to take a portrait workshop with Corey Pitkin. I'm hoping to do more portraits, I find them challenging and intriguing.
My new studio will soon be open--and I need to get to work in it! Picture of the finished studio to follow (when it's done!), but here's a "getting there" photo. The plastic "curtains" on the window--I'm not sure I'll be able to live w/o them once the insulators take them down! Ha. I'm looking forward to enjoying the natural light in there this winter.
Spring comes slowly to the Adirondacks. Mid-way through the second week of May we watched the snow fall on the trees whose leaves were still (wisely) too timid to come out. Now we have a riot of greenery, and lilacs, while just a few hours south in the Northeastern Corridor, the lilacs have had their day, and the lilies are going to be in their glory.
While all this is going on, I'm planning a farmhouse/apple blossom painting, and working on a blown milkweed painting--out of season, yes, but I don't question my muse. It's about color, form, and value. Somehow I've been drawn to subjects with a wealth of chaotic grasses behind them. They are challenging. You don't want to tell too much, yet be authentic. It would be easy to be messily impressionistic, but the textures, and the direction of the background grass tells part of the story. In addition, it is in such contrast to the frothy, showoff-milkweed that more detail is warranted--at least to my eye.
This is being worked on a charcoal-colored sheet of Pastel Premiere, one of my favorite surfaces to work on, and I'm using Terry Ludwig soft pastels, with (in the early stages), some fixative, a few paint brushes, and a hairdryer.
Today was the Holiday Stroll in Lake Placid and I was invited to spend the day at the LPCA Main St. Gallery. Can you say cold???? With the temperatures not rising out of the teens it was a good day to stay active--a ewe "came to life" while I was there! Definitely a reference photo painting day. Lots of people were in town for the skiing. With all of the powder that's fallen in the last two weeks it had to be glorious. Thanks to John Eldridge for taking the photos and giving me permission to use them.
Today's a "sitting" day for me at NorthWind Fine Arts, so I brought my little plein air pochade box to the gallery and completed the winter scene, above. This is a view from my deck of McKenzie Mountain in New York State's Adirondack Mountains. In the morning the sun rises behind McKenzie, and the colors can be very dramatic. Sometimes these warm hues, sometimes mist, sometimes it's just a brilliant blue sky with the peak lit up with white snow. The painting that I did last week (Winter Awakening, in "Landscapes) shows a stand of trees looking like they are illuminated, a product of the rising sun hitting their frosty branches from behind. The colors don't look quite "believable" but they are as painted! The sun in this painting is a few minutes away from that bit of illumination, making the painting much more subtle where the trees are concerned--the sun isn't quite hitting them yet. The story is in the sky, and in the cool beauty of the snow and rich colors of the blue Adirondack Mountains. Some of the paper, a sanded red/grey PastelMat, shows through the strokes. I used Holbein soft pastels (they populate my pochade box)--a limited palette, on archival paper.