Monday, October 18, 2010


painting right before our easels were toppled by the persistent winds

The two days of painting outdoors on this beautiful farm in Newtown, PA were challenging. The workshop was run by Valerie Craig, a wonderful plein air artist from the Philadelphia area. I had been looking for a workshop to attend and Valerie was recommended to me by a high school friend, also an artist.

The setting and scenery were perfect. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the autumn colors were glowing. BUT, the temperature was cold and there were gale force winds blowing non-stop. Easels were toppling everywhere. I lost all my turp. Luckily ,Valeri had some to spare. In spite of the constant pressure of holding my easel in place. I managed to do 3 paintings. There were at least 12 of us, and the teacher made several trips around the area to comment on individual paintings and to demonstrate. I got a few tips from her.

One was to mix my colors with a knife and not the brush. In that way, you can place a dab of the color on the canvas to check it against another color. If it's too warm or cool or too dark or light, you can more easily remove it. She also encourages you to mix a lot of a color, so as not to run out of it. Trying to match a mixed color is difficult.

I approach a painting observing light and darks. She suggested determining the warm and cool colors as well. I wish there had been more of a discussion about color palettes and composition.

At the request of workshop participants, we reviewed and critiqued each other's paintings. These critiques would be more beneficial if the teacher and students were not so afraid to offend. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience and look forward to painting en pleine aire again, hopefully without the gale strength winds.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


acrylic on canvas
This plein air paint session started out about 9:00 with my selecting the No Parking side of Market Street in Camp Hill. What that meant was that there was parking on the other side of the street. I chose what I wanted to paint--one of the charming stores in Camp Hill; but the by the time I finished setting up my easel and squeezing out my colors, the cars and delivery trucks began to park their vehicles right in front of my subject matter. Reluctant to pack up and move, I fixed my eyes on some rooftops, where no cars would get in the way.
I consider myself a closet abstract painter. I love non-representational art of all ilks--abstract expressionism, geometric, color field. I admire artists who can create beautiful works without relying on representation. I've tried it, but I am still in love with the real things around me, so once in a while I attempt to simplify or abstract objects by emphasizing their geometric shape.
In this painting, I have focused on the almost flat geometric shapes of the cut-off buildings, their rooftops, umbrellas, signs and pole. Strong sunshine and shadows and minimal modeling of these shapes helped me to do this.. Also, the overlapping and arrangement of these shapes helped me to create an "almost" abstract painting.