Thursday, December 19, 2013

Austin On My Mind

This past weekend I spent three very enjoyable days in Austin, Texas. I've been to Austin twice, and both times in the same season. I don't know what Austin looks like in spring and summer but in winter the contrast of dried grass fields against dark green trees is a visual treat. On any bit of land that hasn't been developed, there are fields of tall grass in red and gold tones.
November Meadow - oil on canvas - 11x14
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 Traveling down the highway, the colors mix together into a rose gold sea of rippling grass tipped with white where the suns rays hit. Dark green oaks stand anchored in this sea of gold, looking like stewards of the land. I am always reminded whenever I travel of how much I enjoy viewing an unfamiliar landscape and trying to figure out how to describe it's colors and textures with paint.

Riverbed  - Perdenales State Park - oil 11x14
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Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Favorite Time of Year

Late fall is such is such a beautiful time in the Florida Panhandle. Fall brings relief from the heat and humidity, and just when you think you can't bring yourself to make another green and white painting, the landscape changes to gold, red and purple browns. Even now at the beginning of December the hickory trees are still full of golden leaves and the dunes are covered with deep yellow flowers.

It's my favorite time to paint outdoors. Recently I participated in two paint-outs. This unfinished sketch is from a paint-out on Grayton Beach.

Oil Painters of America Paint Out - Grayton Beach Florida

The Florida Panhandle has mostly evergreen live oaks and pines so it doesn't get the flaming fall colors that the North enjoys, but there's a surprising amount of interesting color in the marsh areas. Each year I'm treated to a few weeks of painting these colors, before the landscape turns to a faded tan whipped by winter wind.

Winter Marsh oil- 30x36
contact me here if interested in this painting

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Changing Direction

The comment I hear the most often about my art is" I love the color and the texture!". I really appreciate these positive responses from my collectors so I hope I'm not going to alarm any of you with this post.

I love color too. I like it a lot. That's why there's so much of it in my paintings. I like texture too. I like the way it mimics the aliveness pulsing through all of nature. I've used these tools for years to give my paintings a look and style distinctly my own. But lately I've become restless. I have a nagging feeling that I'm depending too much on one means to achieve the effects I'm after. It's become too easy. It's become a habit. 

I'm trying out a different working method and a different palette. More about that in a later post. If it all works out in the way I'm envisioning, the color will stand out even more than it does now. I'm not sure yet what I will do with the texture. I have faith that it will serve me as I need. 

Today I went out not intending to do a painting, but rather to gather information and keep my eye in practice. It's kind of like what a musician does with their daily practice when they're not playing the polished piece on stage. It was a very overcast day here in the Florida panhandle. I set up by a shallow twisting little waterway. It's such a quiet meditative little spot that I can't understand why the town fathers saw fit to run a piece of the Frisbee course right through it. But hey, I've had worse distractions.

I had been there a little more than an hour, moving aside every now and then so the Frisbee players could play through. I was in the zone, paying attention to warm and cool tones and about to tackle the reflection of the fallen tree when a young boy came by. He paused for a moment and looked then went on his way. I could see the curious intelligence in his eyes. He struck me as the kind of kid who takes the time to really be a part of his world rather than rushing through it. Five minutes later he was back poling a little boat through the water. From there on the pond was his since it was now too rippled to have any reflections. It was turning cold anyway and I headed home satisfied with the impressions of the day .

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lessons From Monet

I just finished reading  Monet's Landscapes by Vivian Russell. The book was lent to me by my artist friend Jill Berry whose beautiful paintings remind me of Monet. The surprising information in the book was also exactly what I needed to read now. Thank you Jill!

There are plenty of books on Monet out there. I've read a lot of them. I've read stories indicating that he felt no guilt, at least in his youth, about living beyond his means. There's the story of how in his student days he insisted on wearing fancy cuffs on his sleeves. When his tailor pleaded with him to settle his bill, Monet declared that if the tailor continued to harass him, he would "withdraw his favor". There are the stories of poverty,and how he and his family were forced to flee leaving his paintings behind when he was unable to pay his rent bill. Most books also point out Monet's business savvy. I've never heard of any other artist who sold his works outright to a dealer and then collected a percentage in addition when they sold. This was exactly the arrangement he had with dealer Theo Van Gogh. Most of the accumulated stories seem to point out a sense almost of entitlement on Monet's part.

I love this painting! Look how Monet painted greys and oranges into the back- lit rock. A lesser skilled artist would probably have painted it black or nearly black.

Monet's Landscapes by Vivian Russell approaches the story of Monet from a different angle and shows a very different side of Monet. The book concentrates on Monet's letters to his second wife, Alice. What stood out the most to me as I read, was how much Monet struggled with his paintings, and how often he was dissatisfied with the results. This excerpt of a letter quoted in the book is from a letter Monet wrote when he was already established and successful.  
I am becoming so slow in my work it is despairing, but the more I go on the more I see that one has to work a lot to arrive at rendering what I am looking for; instanaiety...the same enveloping light that is spread everywhere, and now more than ever, easy things done in one go disgust me.   (Monet's Landscapes by Vivian Russell)

It's interesting to make the contrast between Monet's concept of what was necessary to turn out a good painting, and the conviction of so many of today's painters who work outdoors as Monet did. The prevailing attitude among plein air "purists" is that a plein air painting needs to be executed quickly, and entirely outdoors to be valid. There are countless week-long plein air events built around this idea. The fact seems to have become lost that the purpose for speed is to nail down  values. The rest of the painting can be done later. Monet routinely finished his outdoor canvasses in the studio and he took as much time as he felt he needed to finish them. 

Another point that stood out to me as I read, was how hard Monet worked. A painting day to him wasn't two hours at his easel here and there sandwiched in between other activities and only when inspiration hit. His painting day was more often eight hours long and consisted of the endless battle between the man and his canvasses to capture the effect he was after as the light changed around him. He tirelessly painted the same subject again and again in the effort to understand his subject and express his vision.

Haystacks End of Summer Morning

Monet typically spent weeks or even months on location away from home working on his motif. Often his efforts didn't meet his standards. Sometimes the results weren't commercially successful. According to Russell, Monet's haystack series sold out almost immediately. Yet when his cathedral series were first exhibited, none of them sold. This next quote from Russell's book is Monet's reply to one of  Alice's letters urging him to abandon a location that was giving him trouble.
I'm not sure that what I bring back will be to everyone's taste but what I do know is that this is the side of it I am passionate about... one should try everything and it's for exactly this reason that I congratulate myself for what I am doing. (Monet's Landscapes by Vivian Russell)

So what lessons can be taken away from Monet's example?

1) Work Hard. Work really hard and don't accept something that is less than what you are striving for.
2) When the demons of negative voices tell you you're an incompetent painter, or that you'll never get it, realize that you're not experiencing anything different than other artists, even the greats.
3) Paint for what you yourself are trying to accomplish or express. No one else can tell you what this is.
4) Not all paintings work. So don't expect them to and don't give up.

Now, get back to your studio or out in the field, and keep working it!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What Are Three Things Bagdad Florida Is Famous For?

Bubba Watson. Golf professional and winner of the 2012 Masters, Bubba Watson was born in Bagdad Florida and Bagdad is justifiably proud of it's native son.

Yellow Pine. The manufacture of yellow pine lumber began in the early 1800's and continued until the 1930's. Bagdad had at times in it's lumbering history, the largest lumber operation in the country.

The Third Annual Bagdad Paintout! Come join the fun this Saturday October 26th. Plein air painters will be painting at locations throughout Bagdad in the morning. Paintings will be available for purchase in the afternoon at Dragonfly Gallery in nearby Milton. Watch the artists at work, then take home a painting of historic Bagdad!

Spanish Moss - 3rd place prize 1st Annual Bagdad Paintout

Monday, September 9, 2013

About Salvatore Joseph Grillo

No matter how long the lifetime, it's never a  long enough time to share life with the people we love. For the second time in less than three months, I've lost a family member. My loving, sweet, funny and smart Dad, passed away last Saturday two weeks short of his 95th birthday. He was so kind and took so much enjoyment in the people in his life that he was well liked by everyone who knew him, from friends to the employees behind the counter at the stores he frequented.

 Ten years ago, my parents invited me to live with them in Florida after the death of my first husband. My Dad was 85 at the time and his energy was incredible. He was a very perceptive man who keenly felt my pain and did everything he could to help me adapt to my new home. Always ready to help, he drove me all around town showing me good places to paint. When I was looking for a gallery to show in, he took me to all the area galleries, even the ones an hour and a half away.

 He was a man of many talents and interests, a chemical engineer by trade, but  also an inventor, a business owner, an avid photographer and an incredible cook. When I needed frames for an upcoming show, he bought lengths of molding then scoured the internet for the exact hardware to make precisely the right frames. He had the perfect tool for every minute task whether in the garage or the kitchen. This painting was one of the ones he framed and one that he liked.

Little Sabine Bay

About 15 or so years ago, my Dad sent me a photo he had taken in the Naval Live Oaks Preserve in Gulf Breeze Florida. I was living in New Jersey at the time and had never visited Florida but I painted this scene from his photo and gave it to my parents.

These flowers are another painting that became part of his collection when he admired the finished result.

I'll miss my Dad's very personal and unique presence on this earth and the warmth of his love for those of us fortunate to be his family. He was the only one who could with complete naturalness call me honeybunch, punkin, or sweetheart.

Salvatore Joseph Grillo - 9/13/'18 - 8/31/'13

Saturday, August 17, 2013

3rd Time's the Charm

Here's a spot is Pensacola that I've known about since I moved here ten years ago. My dad showed it to me when I was looking for places to paint in my new home. Jo Patti's is a family owned seafood market on the water that fishing boats with their fresh catch pull up to daily. Anyone one else would have seen the possibilities immediately. Open air and water, blue herons perched on pilings, and picturesque shrimp boats. But I ignored it until recently. Maybe it was some kind of cosmic payback for my initial lack of appreciation, that instead of finishing this painting in one go, I had to return three times to complete it.
On the first trip out, I couldn't find the Plein Air Painters of Pensacola who I was painting with that day. When I finally found them, I'd lost a good part of the morning and the Florida heat had become intense. I was barely able to get more than a loose sketch.

On the second painting day, the weather had completely changed and a boat was partially obscuring my subject. I went ahead anyway but when I got home I saw that the painting had become dark and murky and the boat was too large. I scraped it down.

I was determined to make something of my efforts, so, I went out a third time. Finally success! It still needs a bit of cleaning up on the building on the right, but it's basically done and will be in the Annual Show of the Plein Air Painters of Pensacola opening on September 6 at the Wright Place Gallery in Pensacola. Please stop by for the opening reception from 5 until 7 o├žlock. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Revisiting Old Friends

I once read that Degas would rework finished paintings until he was happy with them, even taking them off clients walls after they had been sold. I've been reworking some of my larger pieces that I wasn't entirely happy with. This 30x40 of a place in Big Sur, is one of them. It needed some simplification and a greater sense of distance on the rock outcropping out in the water. It's better now but I still want to study it for a few days to see if it needs anything else.

Looking West
Thought the color was too bright in it's original version, it's a bit washed out in this iPhone photo. I'll have to photograph it with a real camera before adding it back to my website.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Inner Life of Tomorrow's Artists

I was talking to a friend today while we watched her nine year old, Sophie, who was glued to her iPad. It struck me how vastly different that child's nine year old world of self amusement is, compared to my own when I was nine. Anyone who has children knows how easily kids take to technology and how ordinary and commonplace it all is to them. I could see myself through my memory as a nine year and suddenly, I felt very sorry for Sophie. My childhood was lived primarily outdoors and my world moved at such a leisurely pace that I had time to observe and absorb everything my senses encountered just by going about the day to day business of play. Maybe my world moved exceptionally slowly.That was after all the period in my life that I got labeled with the nickname Terry the Turtle. Yet all the beauty I saw and felt, fills a deep reservoir and is precisely the pool that I draw from today whenever I pick up my brush.

I wonder, what kind of inner life will today's kids, the artists of tomorrow, have?

Sun Drenched Dunes - 11 x 14 - oil on canvas
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Thursday, June 27, 2013

For My Sister

To my readers I send my apologies for not following through on my my promise to write about my California trip and the conservation efforts for Mission San Antonio de Padua. The truth is I  lost a sister this month who was very dear to me. Andrea's death was unexpected and has created such a hole in my world that I don't have the desire to continue with" business as usual". I feel a need for reflection rather than words. This will be my last post for a while.
Throughout her too short life  and her heroic 45 year battle with the effects of childhood diabetes, my sister Andrea always maintained her own brand of fierce love for the people in her life and a genuine enjoyment of everything of life that I could not have mustered if I was in her shoes. She was and will always be my loving big sister, my protector, my friend. 
White peonies were her favorite flower. I dedicate this painting to her memory.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Still One of My Favorites!

This painting is of a spot in my neighborhood overlooking Pensacola Bay. I had just seen such an incredible sunset that I stood still to watch it, immersed in a shifting sea of orange and gold that filled my entire field of vision.When I painted the scene the next day I placed it within that sunset. I painted everything else with the sharp shimmer of intense light that had surrounded everything the night before. The painting was displayed briefly a few years ago. It has been in my studio since. It's still one of my favorites and is still available.

Sunset Over the Bayou - oil on birch panel - 30x40
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On the Coast

What an amazing week on the central coast of California! It was hotter and dryer than past spring trips, so for the first time I saw the golden hillsides covered in yellow flowers and blue lupine that are in so many of the paintings by the California impressionists.
In between working on property maintenance and taking care of business, I painted. By the end of the week I had five new paintings that will need  finishing. This one was painted from an orchard in Templeton looking across neighboring ranches towards the Santa Lucia mountains.

I didn't block in the foreground because I needed to stop to think whether the painting needed the orchard trees that were actually there. It doesn't. And it doesn't need a lot of the other details that were there either. Already unfinished it has the feeling of restful peacefulness of an earlier time that I always feel when I'm in this part of California.
I found some great painting places on this trip that I didn't know about before. I also revisited Mission San Antonio de Padua. I'll be using my art to help in the preservation efforts of that mission. You can help too! More about that later. In fact, there is so much to share about this past trip, that I'm starting a special Thursday feature with posts specifically about the central coast. Please don't be shy about adding your own comments or questions!

Monday, April 15, 2013

California Bound!

A week from today I will be in my absolute favorite place to be - the central California coast! l'm excited to be returning to a place I feel I truly belong. I haven't decided on my painting spots yet because the possibilities are so numerous and my time there so short. 
There is some kind of magic to the land there. The sights and scents and light of even the most mundane scenes, remains imprinted in my memory like a series of movie stills. These encapsulated images float into my mind frequently with such detail and clarity that if I closed my eyes I'd swear I was right there. In all my travels, I've never experienced this phenomena anywhere else. There's something else too I haven't seen since early childhood. The images from my earliest memory of what I saw around me when I was outdoors, are filled with a soft hazy golden light. The air hasn't looked like that to me since my pre-school years. I thought my eyes had changed. But on my first trip to the central coast three years ago, I was amazed to see that light again! It's there all the time. I haven't been able to capture it yet,but I dream of being able to spend my days wandering the rocky coast and mountains chasing that golden light in paint.

Cayucos Sunset - oil on canvas panel - 12x16
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Eucalyptus Trees - Oil on canvas panel - 11x14
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Monday, April 8, 2013

The Language of Artists

Today I was talking to a woman about painting. She is not an artist but she's always wanted to learn to paint. As we talked about colors and brushwork and different styles of expression, her eyes lit up and she grew animated. We were speaking the same language even though she had never painted! It occurred to me how important it is to spend time with people who speak your language. They Get it. Painting is such a solitary profession. Even though I'm surrounded by supportive family and friends, I usually see their eyes glaze over when I'm enthusing about some great art observation or discovery. They don't hear or see the same language.
It's interesting that the French Impressionists who were friends with each other in youth and even painted the same scenes side by side, worked in isolation as they got older. Monet even asked his dealer at one point to not reveal to Renoir where he was going on a painting trip so that he could work alone. Yet they still would get together in Paris from time to time to hang out and talk about art and artists. I suspect that they left these dinners renewed and re energized and ready to get back to work. 

April Rain in the Valley of the Oaks
Do you want to help keep this beautiful mission open? It will be closed unless funds can be raised to do an earthquake retro-fit. Purchase a print of this image and 20% will go towards the conservation project. Click here for information.  Click here to purchase a print. Thanks for helping!

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Season of Renewal

Soon I'll be returning home after a year's absence. In this past year of  visiting home only infrequently, I've come to realize that I truly do like my Florida life. I'm excited to be getting back to painting and to the teaching I had put aside.

Little Sabine Bay - oil on canvas - 18x28
This painting, Little Sabine Bay, represents an earlier new start in my life that is also centered around Florida. It was the first painting I did in Pensacola, where I moved ten years ago after the loss of my life companion and painting partner. We had painted together for years often working on the same canvas. After his passing, I knew he didn't want me to stop painting, but I just couldn't pick my brushes up. Finally, a year later, I was ready. I felt like he was painting right through me as I worked. Effects appeared under my brush that I couldn't have produced for trying. Little Sabine Bay was both the first painting I did in Pensacola and the first painting I did with the  Plein Air Painters of Pensacola. I've never wanted to sell it.
Now I'm about to embark on a fresh start again with a renewed appreciation for my home and life and for this art life I've been gifted with. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Problem Solved

I've been away for the past couple of weeks enjoying my bi-monthly visit with my husband in this most crazy of years. The weather in Florida was constant torrential rain and painting my beloved dunes was impossible.
I came back home to this painting, that I thought was finished two weeks ago but still wasn't satisfying me.

I had been studying it trying to figure out why it didn't have the sense of immenseness I felt when I hiked the trail that spectacular day. Somehow the canyon seemed miniaturized. Also, the glowing red rocks which were the inspiration for the painting, had lost their significance.
I thought a cropping might be in order. Look what happens when the sky is cropped out.

Now the walls rise around the viewer as they did in reality and the red rocks and path have prominence again. Here is another cropped option.

It's not quite as radical but I didn't like the shape on the top left. Then I noticed the pale color of the sky just above the rocks on the right and a light bulb went off.  The value of the sky was wrong!  And the bright blue color was competing with the red rocks. Here is the final painting that just barely escaped the knife. I'm happy now. What do you think?

On Kaibab Trail - oil on canvas - 16x20
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Friday, February 15, 2013

Still Quietly Working

It's been two weeks since the end of January's painting challenge. As much as I'd like to adhere to my goal of 3 to 4 paintings a week, family obligations have closed around me again. I've been buried in paperwork rather than paint and brushes. Still, I have 2 paintings nearly completed. This one is from a photo reference in the Grand Canyon. The first photo shows the block in. The second one is two painting sessions later. I thought it was finished but I didn't like the space between the tree and the right hand cliff face. After some more work today, I think it's finished. I'll photograph and post it tomorrow.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Over? Really?

I can't believe I did it! If someone had told me I could finish 23 paintings in a month, I'd have said you've got to be kidding! But  I did it and the feeling of accomplishment is really good. And this is no time to rest. I'm using the momentum to set myself a new challenge. 4 paintings a week in a larger size .The challenge will be to not get bogged down in each but continue working quickly, with an openness to discovery and keeping my self out of the process as much as possible. Can I do it? We'll see.

All of these paintings are available for purchase directly from my website . Thanks for looking!

From the Back Burner - Day 30 - 30 Paintings in 30 Days

Today's painting is the last one I'll be posting for Leslie Saeta's painting challenge. It's been an amazing and productive month. I met a lot of fellow artists and discovered that I can work faster and looser. I still prefer to work larger but this was such a valuable experience that I'm going to continue making small works along with the larger ones. My new goal is 4 paintings a week and I'll continue posting them, and talking about them.
I'd love to go outdoors to paint but it's been too cold here in New Jersey. The photo I chose to work from is from the Grand Canyon. I was like a crazy woman with the camera so there are many I could have chosen, but I really liked the abstract shapes the canyon rocks made in this photo and their blue and orange colors. I originally had it blocked as a completely abstract design. I could have left it that way but I wanted to see what I could make of it. Hope you like it!

Canyon Rocks - 9x12 - oil on linen panel
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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

From the Back Burner - Day 29 - 30 Paintings in 30 Days

Among the stacks of photo reference that I've been meaning to get to, are bunches of photos of the Grand Canyon. A quick stop there was part of my cross country trip 3 years ago. Though it was May first, it was snowing as we set up the camper. This was the inaugural trip for the camper. We had gone from summertime heat in Texas to high wind and snow at the Grand Canyon. On the first night in the canyon, it was 28 degrees, and the heater broke. Ah well. What's a trip without a little adventure? It was pretty hard to get out of that nice warm sleeping bag the next morning but I had never seen the Grand Canyon and I was ready to hike! I spent the next day and a half absorbing as much of the incredible scenery as I could.
This is a little painting of trees on the South Rim, a short walk from my campsite.

Trees on the Rim - oil on linen panel - 9x12
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From the Back Burner -Day 28 - 30 Paintings in 30 Days

 I might need to change the title of this post since I'm not going to make it to 30 paintings. This painting actually took 3 days to complete. I felt like working on something a little bit larger so, this one is 14x18.
The place I painted is almost magical to me. It's of Mission San Antonio de Padua. We took a back road to reach it on a rainy April day. From highway one in Big Sur - my favorite place to be - my husband and I traveled up a road that led over the coastal mountain range. What an amazing drive! You climb ever higher on a narrow dirt road with no guardrails, until the ocean and the highway are small and far below. I envy that lucky person whose home we passed high in those hills nestled between mountain tops. As we reached the summit of the range, it began snowing.  It's hard to describe the sensation of standing mountain-top in snow and swirling clouds, watching as bits of jewel blue ocean appear and disappear in the mist. It's so quiet up there!

As soon as we crossed over the top, it was full spring time in the valley on the other side.Trees were in flower and everything was a soft green.The mission itself sits on such a pristine piece of land, that I could really feel the sense of walking the same ground and seeing the same mission and mountains as the people who lived and worked there long ago.

April Rain in the Valley of the Oaks - oil on canvas panel - 14x18
click here to purchase print and help preserve this mission

Friday, January 25, 2013

From the Back Burner - Day 24 - 30 Paintings in 30 Days

Well, on challenge day 24, I have just 20 paintings. But I'm not going to beat myself up too badly. That's 20 I didn't have a month ago. Participating in this challenge is one of the best things I've done for my art  in a while.
 Today's painting is from a spot in my neighborhood. In fact, it's right on the other side of my backyard. The house that overlooked this view, was destroyed in a hurricane. For years the lot stood vacant and was a routine stop on my evening run. The sunset over the bay can be spectacular! The painting below the challenge painting is one from the same spot that I painted a few years ago. The challenge painting is a tiny 6x8. The other one is 30x40.

A Quiet Evening - oil on canvas panel - 6x8
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Sunset Over the Bayou - oil on birch panel - 30x40
please contact me if interested in this painting

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

From the Back Burner Day 22 - 30 Paintings in 30 Days

My challenge painting today is again from the California Coast. Every time I visit, I take a drive on highway one through Big Sur. I like to leave early to make the most of the day outdoors. The road is very winding and hilly and around each bend is a vista more beautiful than the one before. In the morning a dense fog hangs over the coastline and roadway. Gradually the light becomes brighter and finally you're rewarded with a glimpse through the fog of an impossibly blue sea far below sparkling like crushed jewels. By noon the fog is gone and the views are a painter's paradise. I could spend years looking at the ocean from these mountainside perches and never grow tired of it.

Morning Fog - oil on linen panel - 9x12
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From the Back Burner - Day 11 - 30 Paintings in 30 Days

The gymnastics I went through today to photograph my challenge paintings, would have done Bela Karolyi proud. The light has been throwing so much glare on the paintings that the colors don't show up properly. Today I found myself balancing atop a chair, while clutching the tripod and trying to shoot the work flat on the ground. Still no luck. So until I set up a new photography station, I won't be posting these paintings on my web page.
For today's challenge painting, I chose a photo from my absolute favorite place to be - the central California coast. It's a different experience for my east coast eyes, to see the sun set over the ocean. Another thing that fascinates me is the way the waves come in from way far out with a lot of space between them and over such a far reaching expanse of sand, that you can walk way out and still be only ankle deep in water. At sunset, the show is especially spectacular. It's like walking through liquid jewels in a dazzling light. Magical! What I would give to be able to spend months out there!

West Coast Sunset - oil on canvas panel - 11x14
Here is yesterday's challenge piece. Please contact me if you are interested in either piece.

Afternoon Shadows - oil on canvas panel - 7x9
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Monday, January 21, 2013

From the Back Burner - Day 20 - 30 Paintings in 30 Days

For today's painting, I chose another photo from Perdenales State Park. The basin that the Perdenales River runs through is wide and full of the most amazing rock formations. I spent hours climbing over huge boulders, and discovering little ponds and waterfalls among the rocks. There are warning signs posted telling people to leave quickly in stormy weather, because flash flooding can fill the basin in minutes. I've never seen a flash flood but the pictures of this very wide and deep basin completely filled with rushing river water are dramatic. Later on while hiking a trail in the campground,  I was amazed to see flood debris high overhead in the trees. On this sunny warm day, the weather couldn't have been more perfect.

River Basin - oil on canvas panel - 11x14
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Sunday, January 20, 2013

From the Back Burner - Day 18/19 - 30 Paintings in 30 Days

 This challenge painting took two days to finish. It's a painting I've had in mind for a while.Two years ago, I had just made my first and so far, only trip to Monterey and Carmel. After a day of touring these two spots, my husband and I had just enough time to stop briefly in Pacific Grove. This beautiful town has stayed vividly in my mind ever since. The waterfront is a painters dream with rocks, jewel-toned water and carpets of flowers everywhere. Craft style houses, my favorite architectural style, line the coastal roadway. The late afternoon light on that day was warm and inviting. Another California Paradise!

Pacific Grove - oil on canvas panel - 12x16
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Friday, January 18, 2013

From the Back Burner - Day 17 - 30 Paintings in 30 Days

One of the many things I like about central California is the eucalyptus trees. They're unlike any tree on the east coast. They look green, silver and red all at the same time and the rustle they make in the wind is almost musical. I discovered that there are a few different kinds. My favorite have long oval leaves like the ones at William Hurst Memorial Beach which inspired this painting. As soon as I got out of the car there, I asked what is that amazing scent? They have an unusual scent as fresh as the ocean. I wanted to take a piece of that home with me to Florida so I went to a plant store to try to buy one. I could have spent all day there wandering among the flowers and plants that don't exist in Florida. When I found the plant expert and asked about buying a eucalyptus tree, he laughed and said they grow like weeds. No one buys them. I carried some cut branches home with me to paint but away from their home, the magic was gone.

Eucalyptus Trees - oil on canvas panel - 11x14
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

From the Back Burner - Day 16 - 30 Paintings in 30 Days

Three years ago, My husband and I drove from Florida to California.This trip gave me my first view of California and my first drive through the western states. I couldn't believe  how much space there was out there and I promised myself my next home will be somewhere in the western third of the country. I saw types of land I so different from what I was accustomed to that I took a zillion pictures to try to remember it.
 We left the Florida Panhandle at the end of April, which is already beach weather there. We didn't pack any winter clothes thinking we wouldn't need them in sunny California, but once we'd passed western Texas it became so cold and fiercely windy that I had to stop to buy a winter jacket .Somewhere between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon it began snowing so thickly you couldn't see through it. Snow on May first! I loved it! This little painting is from the shots I took that day.

High Desert Snowstorm - oil on linen panel - 6"x 8"
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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

From the Back Burner - Day 15 - 30 Paintings in 30 Days

Here in the northeast, I haven't seen the sun for more than two weeks. Maybe that's why I'm dreaming of sunny California. Today's painting , A Piece of the Rock, is from a photo I took in Morro Bay. There's a huge rock there sometimes referred to as the Gibraltar of the West. You can see it from miles away. In fact, I frequently stop at a high point on the way back to Templeton, to see Morro Rock in the distance bathed in mist and the pink light of sunset beyond ridges of green hills. But that's another painting waiting to be made. As large as Morro Rock is - my painting shows only a tiny piece of it - It's actually the relatively small plug of an ancient volcano. The remnants of part of that volcano form the shape of the coastline of Morro Bay. At one time, the rock was quarried. Now it's a sanctuary for sea birds. A narrow drive goes about three quarters of the way around the rock. It's amazing to look high above and see hundreds of birds perched on ledges like people on the balconies of a luxury high-rise. 

A Piece of the Rock - oil on linen panel - 9x12
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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

From the Back Burner - Day 14 - 30 Paintings in 30 Days

It's day 14 of the challenge and for the first time, I've fallen behind. I finally crashed after 13 days of painting til dawn. I made it to 3 AM and with my painting only half done, I went to sleep.
Managing my time is turning out to be for me the most difficult part of this challenge.
I'm still playing with the store-bought linen and canvas panels that I was getting ready to throw in the garbage early in the challenge. I won't buy them again but I have found that they are much easier to work with by using soft sable brushes instead of bristle brushes.
Today, it was dark and grey as ever, but I made an interesting discovery. I took day 13's painting outside to photograph it, and was surprised to find that the colors showed up as well as on a clear day. So, here it is. The photo reference is from the town of Cayucos. Every chance I get to visit the family house in Templeton, I make sure to include a visit to Cayucos and Morro Bay. Have I said how much I like it there? - I'd have moved to the coast yesterday if I had no ties or duties.

Cayucos Sunset - oil on canvas panel - 12x16
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Monday, January 14, 2013

From the Back Burner - Day 13 - 30 Paintings in 30 Days

Day 13.  Different day, same story. I couldn't photograph my work. It was so dark and grey today that I've had lights on inside all day. I've never lived in a place that is grey and overcast the majority of the time. No wonder everyone here is on vitamin D. I miss my Florida sunshine!
 For day 13, I did another painting of the west coast. I chose a scene with buildings, a feature I don't paint very often. Also different in this painting is that I used a sable brush for a lot of the painting rather than the usual bristle brush. The soft brush glides over the surface in a really nice way  but It doesn't create the same textural effects that a bristle brush does. The surface is definitely flatter. Hopefully I'll get enough light to shoot the painting tomorrow.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

From the Back Burner - Day 12 - 30 Paintings in 30 Days

Day 12 found me with very little time to work. Managing time is turning out to be the biggest hurdle of this challenge. I did have a tiny canvas on hand though that I haven't used because it  seemed too small for anything. Last night it was the perfect size.
This little scene of a pond in an old neighborhood near my Florida home, is a spot I've brought my students to. They painted in the morning light of a tropical summer day while I snapped a few photos of reeds and waterlilies.

Reeds and Lilies - oil on canvas - 6"x6"
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Friday, January 11, 2013

From the Back Burner - Day 10 - 30 Paintings in 30 Days

Today was one of those brown and grey winter days in the north. In the country, a day like this can be beautiful  with the shapes of bare trees silhouetted  along hill tops. But in suburbia, it's just plain dreary. It's been so dark all day, that there wasn't even a chance of photographing my day 10 painting. For day 10 of this challenge I headed out yesterday to a nearby park to work plein air. My usual method for plein air work is to work large, getting as much of the scene down as I can and returning as often as I need. Then I finish it to my satisfaction in the studio. It's a method that has worked for me since I first began plein air painting many years ago. But lately I've become dis-satisfied with the amount of time it takes to finish a work. Sometimes I even lose enthusiasm for whatever it was that inspired me in the first place. So I've started to work  more quickly entirely on site even if that means having to work smaller.There's truly no substitute for working from life. Everything is different. There are subtleties of color and light and shape that photos just don't capture. My painting which hopefully I can post tomorrow,  is a study of trees on a lake edge in the late afternoon light. The water kept changing every two minutes and each change was more interesting than the last. I finally had to choose just one option and stick with it. 

Afternoon Shadows - oil on canvas panel - 7"x 9"
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Thursday, January 10, 2013

From the Back Burner - Day 9 - 30 Paintings in 30 Days

A couple of years ago I visited  Fairmount  Park just outside of Philadelphia. It's a hilly, wild park with rocks, woods and ravines and a landscape vastly different from where I live in Florida.  At the entrance to the park were 3 or 4 small buildings set back a bit from the roadway. They sat  quietly in the winter day like dignified relics of a time long gone. I began to read about them and sure enough the buildings were what was left of a tiny settlement dating back to the early 1700's, and are the site where the country's first paper mill was built. The woods had grown so thick around them that it was impossible to get back far enough to get an unobstructed  photo with all the buildings in it. Even so, the photo interested me enough to try it as a painting with the quiet feel of a winter day and a time past.

An Old Homestead - oil on canvas panel - 14x11
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The past two days have been difficult for photography. Both this painting and the one below from yesterday, have some interfering glare. I've posted them anyway to keep up with the challenge. When the weather permits, I'll re-shoot them. The scene below is another one from Perdenales State Park.

Winter Meadow - oil on canvas panel - 11x14
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