Sunday, December 4, 2011




Inspired by a story in our Harrisburg Patriot newspaper about a local Vietnam veterans group becoming caretakers of the Historical Lincoln Colored Cemetery, I sought out the cemetery. It containes the remains of about 80 Afro-Americans, some veterans of the Civil War. I got permission from the owners of the property for a group of plein air painters and I to paint there . It's in a very small and carefully tended area, surrounded by serene, beautiful farmland. Its peaceful setting and clusters of trees reminded me of some of the Gettysburg battlefield settings, but its simple tombstones and small size made it much more humble.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011




The most mundane settings , like this bank parking lot, become gloriously beautiful in the fall. Trees that I would ordinarily pass by without a second look in the summer just " stopped me in my tracks" this fall season. It took forever to arrive, but when the fall did come around, the colors seemed to be very intense and too extraordinary to ignore.

Saturday, November 5, 2011




I found this idyllic spot while driving around one morning looking for an "idyllic" spot to paint. It was about 18 minutes from my home-a home I have lived in since 1969-and I had never seen it before-been out much, Cecelia? I came back the next 3 afternoons- three rare, warmish , rainfree afternoons and painted it.

Saturday, October 29, 2011




Squeezed between a cold, rainy day on Thursday and a cold, snowy day on Saturday was a cold, partially sunny day on Friday. Our plein air group decided to seize that day and we headed for Willow Park. I shivered for most of the time we were there, but we managed to find a spot of color by the creek and, once again it was so nice to be out painting with friends.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Lately my "head has been in the clouds." Clouds make such beautiful, interesting paintings. Sunrises and sunsets are much more dramatic when there are clouds in the sky. And there have been so many cloud-filled days this summer and fall; it has been difficult to avoid them, when painting outdoors.

It is a challenge to paint shifting, moving clouds en plein aire. Not only are their shapes rapidly changing, but also the varying lights and shadows that their movement produces is difficult to capture. For those reasons, most of my paintings of clouds have been done in studio-all from photos I have taken. It helps not to have to deal with lights and darks changing throughout the painting, while attempting to see and record the different values and colors in the clouds themselves. I try to keep my brushwork loose in order to convey those fleeting and changing shapes. I also attempt to convey the sense of cloud movement across the sky.

The skies in the paintings above were in the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida, and Arizonia.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


oil on panels


9 x12

Claire Carnell, however, made it easier to produce greens by demonstrating, in her Green Workshop, how to mix many shades and tints of greens used in landscape painting. Creating the dreaded color charts, Claire showed us how to mix marvelous greens using ultramarine and thalo blue, cad yellow medium, cad lemon yellow, cad red light, alizarin crimsen and white.
After mixing the greens, we painted from 2 photos that Claire knew contained the greens we had been mixing. We painted those scenes and compared and critiqued each other's works. It was 2 days of learning, painting, accomplishing, and fun.

Friday, September 23, 2011




Our plein air paintout at the Felicita Resort in Harrisburg proved to be very challenging. Our first date was rained out. Our rainout date was forcasted to be rained out also. We sneaked in the paintout on a Monday with rain predicted for the rest of week.

The Italian Gardens is one of several different landscapes at Felicita. It is quite large consisting of 3 large tiers of fomal landscaping, reflecting pools with statues and fountains, pottery, arbors, walks, nooks and crannies. I chose these two figures, with the flowers and greenery and the large planter-like bowl. It was difficult and I did not finish it that morning. I was going to return with others in a couple of days, but an unfortunate event prevented me from doing so. I finished it in studio from the photos I took that day. I did a lot of work on it in studio, so I can not classify it as a plein air painting.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011




This August, I spent a few days in Annapolis, helping my daughter after her hip replacement. I did not bring my paints, but luckily I brought my camera. Sitting on her deck, overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, where the South River empties, I witnessed the most glorious sunset. I was so delighted to catch its color changes and fleeting cloud formations. There would have been no chance of my painting that supreme moment on the spot. So with the memory and awe of that scene still with me, I painted it in my studio from my photo.

Sunday, July 24, 2011




A recent spell of oppressively hot weather and an upcoming art exhibit with a "Red Hot" theme motivated me to revisit the photos I took of these truly amazing sunrises on the Florida coast a past winter. The sky kept rapidly changing and the sun soon appeared on the horizon, so I felt fortunate that I was able to capture so many different color changes. There seemed be a beautiful sunrise almost every morning we were there. Two months of mornings provided me with scores of photos. Also, I am an early riser, otherwise I would have missed all of this.

Any of the paintings I did of these sunrises were done from my photos.Plein air was out of the question for me--too dark and the sky was changing too quickly. I must confess that I might have thought the colors were phony, if I had not seen the sunrises myself. I'm looking forward to returning to Florida this winter--for more dramatic skies.

Monday, July 18, 2011


oil on stretched canvas

This brick building, bright red in the brilliant sunshine, is the home to The Rosemary House, a fresh herb and spice business that has been in Mechanicsburg, on the same street for decades. I painted this from a photo I took around the 80's. I loved the warm color of the brick and the arched passageway, which reminded me so much of the brick arched passageways in many Dutch genre paintings.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


oil on stretched canvas


The weather forecast called for warm temperatures in the 90's. Our group was heading out for the Dickinson College Farm in Boiling Springs. I was a little relunctant to go because, I imagined myself sitting in a sun drenched field with no shade, inhaling ripe farm aromas and swatting buzzing insects. Thes are not the pleasures of plein air painting, but I had not been out much this month, so I dressed in white, light-weight clothing, and armed myself with a really high number sun lotion, a can of deep woods"bug spray and bottled water.

When I arrived, I noticed that Claire had on heavy jeans. I learned that she was trying to protect herself from ticks and poison ivy. I was tempted to bolt. I am highly susceptible to poison ivy and the thought of a tick boring itself in my leg grossed me out.

I stayed and we drove our cars up a bumpy, narrow tractor path to get a better view of the beautiful mountains, tilled fields and trees.

We found a perfect spot in the shade overlooking the fields and mountains. The serene setting coupled with a gentle breeze that kept us comfortable for nearly 3 hours made this a very pleasant paintout. I was working on a small canvas, so by the time the sun found me, I was ready to leave. I packed up everything, climbed in my air-condtioned car and drove home.

Friday, June 17, 2011


oil on linen


This is the first portrait I've been commissioned to do in forty years. It was done from an excellent photograph by the toddler's aunt. I enlarged the photo and "gridded" it. The enlarging and gridding distorted the photo a bit, but it still kept me on track and helped with placement of the features, colors, values, etc.

Besides rendering a decent likeness, I was concerned with depicting a soft, baby-like skin and complexion. I wanted to show some sculptural forms and planes without harsh lines or strong contrasts. I vividly recalled the paintings of early artists, whose children have elderly heads on childlike bodies.

I worked long and hard on achieving this baby look, making constant observations and corrections. Even when I thought I had finished, I kept looking at the painting on the easel, hoping I would not see another area for improvement. I kept noticing other faults. I even got up at 4 A.M. one morning to check on something and started painting again. I derided myself for obsessing and finally turned the easel around so I could not see the painting.

As soon as it dries, I'll bring it to the gallery, and hopefully, the aunt will like it.


Debra Kreiger said...
Awesome Cecelia! You've captured the wonderful innocence of youth.

June 18, 2011 10:11 AM

Taryn Day said...
You did a really nice job! Wonderful expression and very youthful!

June 18, 2011 11:54 AM

Bertie Brown said...
I think you have achieved your goals..your client should be well pleased!

June 18, 2011 3:24 PM

AutumnLeaves said...
This is absolutely stunning and that is one gorgeous little man!

June 19, 2011 8:11 AM

Claire Beadon Carnell said...
You've done a phenomenal job on this, Cecelia! Please let us know the response of your client - I know they are going to LOVE it.

June 19, 2011 8:36 PM

Ron Donoughe said...
Yes, very warm and sincere. Nice job. I liked how you described getting it right.

June 20, 2011 1:08 PM


Sunday, June 12, 2011


I have added some acrylic underpainting--need to adjust the eyes

--am waiting for some new oils to arrive--

Saturday, June 11, 2011


I'm starting to add an acrylic underpainting. The painting will be finished in oils, but acrylics are more accommodating in these initial stages, because they dry rapidily and corrections can be made immediately. I still have drawing adjustments to make


Today I started a commissioned portrait of an adorable 18 month old boy. I began by copying the photo I will be working from, printing and gridding it to ensure the right proportions and placement on the canvas. I always find things that need correcting when I photograph and view my work on the computer. It's all a part of studying your work in progress in different ways --looking at it upside down or in the mirror--just unusual ways to really see your work. There is still much correcting and drawing to do on this, before I begin painting it.

Friday, May 6, 2011



at the Camp Hill Plein Air Event

on a perfect early spring day


Plein Air Oil on Linen

[ painted on a cloudy day]

I have been grousing about the weather this spring since we returned North in March. At first I know I was comparing my plein air outings here with those in Florida, which were rainfree, with beautiful skies and warm pleasant weather. But it is May now, and with temperatures below normal and endless rainy days and cloudy skies all March and April, my weekly plein air ventures have been most uncomfortable. My last straw occured this past Thursday, May 5th. I had arranged for a paintout at my neighbor's beautiful yard. The overnight rain had stopped and the sun was shining; and with clear blue skies, it looked like a perfect day for outdoor painting. Until you stepped outside. The wind was blustering and the temperature very cool. I stupidily chose a spot in the shade, thinking the sun might desert a warmer area and would start shinning down on me later in the morning. It never did.

The wind kept blowing. My hands got icy cold. I began to shiver--the kind of shivering that starts deep inside you and is hard to control. I put on gloves, trying to keep my arthritic hands warm. After three hours of this, I came to a momentous decision. As much as I love painting outdoors, I am, from now on, only attending paintouts in friendlier, more comfortable weather. Having turned 70 this past February, I am keenly aware of my physical limitations and of time rapidly slipping away. For that reason, I will not be "biting the bullet"for the sake of painting plein air. I will not spend another moment of my precious time on earth, being miserable while I am painting. I paint out only when there is no threat of rain and when the weather warms up, but not too hot. There are so many amazing benefits to painting up close, enjoying the feel and smells of your surroundings, seeing all the colors and values, the shapes and textures. But the comfort factor has now weighed heavily in my decision. And you can not beat the comforts of home.


Saturday, April 16, 2011


oil on stretched canvas

The 150th anniversary of the Civil War has begun. A war that took 600,00 American lives, mostof them killed on American soil. Soon famous battle re-enactments will take place on battlefields such Gettysburg and Antietam , where 23,00 men were lost in a single day. Re-enactments, where men will pretend to be killed by fake cannon explosions and Civil War souvenirs will be hawked to the crowds.

Although I live close, it took me many years to finally get to the battlefield. It took only a few somber seconds of overlooking the battlefield to feel the misery suffered there. I have come to feel that the re-enactments and the commercial hoopla every year keep the resentment between many from the north and the south alive. Why should this horrid period in our history be relived year after year? For commercial reasons? For remembering? The Harrisburg Patriot in an editorial, echoing my sentiments on this very thing, asked," do we make sure that we're not just watching a period costume drama, but instead remembering blood spilled and spilled and spilled again. How do we make sure that all the anniversary events over the next four years are not just about nostalgia, but about war?"

This was my first trip to the battlefield and will be my last. I will honor the lives lost by not visiting the monuments of past generals or reading plagues, describing who died where, by not marvelling at the re-enactments of men dying on the batllefield. I have only to read the daily newspaper or to watch a newscast to be reminded of people's pain and sacrifices in the here and now.

A fellow artist, Ron Donooughe, when he saw my painting and read my sentiments on the DPP blog said; "That's an interesting comment about not wanting to paint there. But something about this painting speaks to me. I wonder if that tree placed right in the middle is symbolic of the civil war. It is almost a mirror image, divided down the center. Maybe it's because I just visited the battlefield last summer for the first time and I was shocked by the effect. It appears you had a positively moving experience that is reflected in this painting. To me you captured how it felt. That is what makes this painting special."

I mulled over his words for a couple weeks and decided his observation expressed my feelings and was inspired to retitle this work.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


oil on stretched canvas


I paid my first visit to the battlefield at Gettysburg this past Thursday. I had passed by it many times on my way to visit my cousin who lived nearby. I went there to paint with my fellow plein air painters, but I did not get much work done. Armed with my camera, I was just like the many tourists there that morning, snapping one photo after the other.

It was a cloudy, chilly morning, which lent itself well to the somber setting. Many have told me what a beautiful , serene landscape it is--how spiritual and peaceful it is, worthy of great reverence. I felt all of these things and yet I also felt profound sadness. The Civil War has always been, to me, the saddest of wars. Six hundred thousand Americans dead in battle, from poorly treated wounds or from disease. Americans fighting Americans and still the Civil War continues in today's politics and in the reenactments of the violence of the North against the South.

I finally settled on the Copse of Trees to paint, learning about its significance later. They are aged, but still standing, protected and revered as living witnesses of the violence that took place there. My depiction of the trees was determined upon learning of the fierce and bloody hand to hand combat that took place around them in July, 1863. Also my son, who was watching me begin the painting, commented that he had read of the great amount blood spilled there . My canvas had a red underpainting, which had bled through. I then decided not to surround the old trees in a peaceful , quiet setting but, to show them as writhing, twisting and agitated and to depict the violence by using more red in the sky and ground. I felt this rendering more closely expressed my feelings about the Civil War and all wars.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


oil on stretched canvas


What a sight to see bright green foliage growing on bushes and trees in February. By the time we left Florida in early March, blossoms were on trees and flowers were blooming. I am remembering fondly those sights as I, and others, wait for winter to depart here in PA.

Monday, March 28, 2011


oil on canvas board


This is another FLA landscape, done from a photo, while I wait for the weather to warm up. It's nearly April and the temperatures are below freezing here in PA. Plein air painting for this 70 year old is not "on the table."

Saturday, March 26, 2011


oil on stretched canvas


I remember my mother saying that she did not like Florida--it was too hot, too flat-she would say-and not that interesting. I guess I grew up with that image of the state of Florida--hot, flat and boring. It took my getting old, getting sick of winter, and retirement to finally experience the state of Florida for more than a week or two.

For the past 2 winters, my husband and I have spent January and February on the ocean in Fort Pierce, Florida. I have discovered that Florida is warm, not hot, flat, and not boring. In traveling across the State, I have seen beautiful scenery, interesting tree formations, gorgeous colors of sunrises, sunsets and the ocean.

I have joined a group of Florida plein air painters and have been to many interesting locations to paint. Next year we hope to go to one of the many cattle ranches in the area. I'm looking forward to that.

This painting was not done plein air, but from one of several photos I took on the way to the University of Florida in Gainesville. Our granddaughter was playing in a lacrosse game that afternoon, 3 hours away from Fort Pierce, where we were staying. So we did not stop. I just kept clicking away, at 70 miles per hour, at all the potential paintings I saw in front of me. Happily, most of them came out unblurred. I will paint one or two more.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Back from Florida as of March 8, I'd been hibernating inside, my tan fading, waiting for some warm weather. Today we got it- beautiful sunshine, pleasant temperatures. So several of our plein air group happily took our paints to Wildwood Park. After some cheery hellos and conversation, I started my first PA outdoors painting of the year. I had packed several shades of green, but found I did not really need them. My eyes searched, but could not detect any new growth. I did add a touch of green oxide to the foreground grasses just for some hint of spring. For the most part, it felt good to be back painting in PA with friends.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

DINING IN By Cecelia Lyden

acrylic on stretched canvas

The weather was sunny and warm, but the wind was so strong that everyone at this Vero Beach restaurant in Florida opted to eat lunch indoors. My eyes were drawn from the darkened interior to the light outdoors. I loved the strong contrasts between the near sihouetted inside against the bright outside and the orange umbrellas against the blue water and sky . Luckily, I had my camera and took a few photos.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I've been slowly gathering things , getting ready for our trip back to PA. I had used all my canvases and I, frankly, was getting tired of painting on small supports. So, I packed away all my painting supplies. Silly me. After a few days of observing the many different skies above the ocean without a brush or even paper and pencil, I finally abandoned my notion of preparing ahead of time to travel home. I unpacked all the painting supplies, chose a canvas to paint over and set everything up on the terrace, where they will stay till we actually leave.

Saturday, February 26, 2011




Florida Palm Tree by Cecelia Lyden Acrylic ~ 8 x 10
It is always gratifying when you feel that you have grown or learned something new. For me, our time in Florida has forced me to look carefully at palm trees and to appreciate their gracefulness and beauty. Perhaps because I am a northeast born and raised woman who was not familiar the South, I never liked paintings with palm trees, especially when those trees were situated on a beach and silhouetted against garish sunsets or sunrises. They always appeared phony, over-colored and cliche, painted assembly line-like.
Last winter and this, we rented a place for two months right on the ocean in Fort Pierce, Florida, the Sunrise City. The streets are lined with different palms and there are palms in my view from our terrace. I joined a plein air group and everywhere we went, palm tree fronds were blowing gently in the wind. I had no choice. I had to paint them. I didn't want to rely on the stylized version of a palm tree. The one, as a child, I painted with palm branches radiating from the center, usually with coconuts, like a wheel. So I forced myself to really look at them. The more I looked, the more I grew to appreciate how they looked-on sunny, calm or breezy days, on stormy days with the wind whipping the branches, on the shores of the Indian River, or the city streets, casting graceful shadows on buildings.
Next year we will be back and I will be observing and learning more about these trees. As for those "garish" sunrises and sunsets, "they're real and they're spectacular."

Friday, February 11, 2011


acrylic on stretched canvas


A century and a half ago, the more than 180,000 African-American soldiers from 25 states who participated in the Civil War, were excluded from the 1865 Grand Review Military parade in Washington D.C. When they were not asked to join the celebratory parade, Harrisburg's Garnet Equal Rights League organized its own U.S. Colored Troops Grand Review.

This summer the first re-enactment of the parade took place in Harrisburg. My husband and I attended. I found ithe music, When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again, The Battle Hymm of the Republic and the colors of the flags and uniforms emotional and stirring. I took lots of pictures and began painting this scene. I just finished it today.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


The first time I saw Fort Pierce, I was struck with how beautiful its palm trees were and how clean the streets looked. My immediate second impression was how empty those streets were. As we drove towards our vacation destination on North Hutchinsin Island, I could see blocks of empty storefronts and I realized that we were in yet, another forlorned town. My husband and I had owned a second home in Milford, Delaware, just off RT 1 and about a half an hour from the Delaware beaches. We liked it because it was close to the shore, but not as busy as Rehoboth or Lewes. But Milford, too, has experienced a loss of business, empty stores and empty streets.
But this is Florida, warm and sunny. Fort Pierce is a sweet little town on the Treasure Coast. Where have all the people gone? To the north is Vero Beach teeming with tourists and stores, opened for business. To the south is Port St. Lucie, with large malls and customers. And then there is Fort Pierce with its beautiful renovated downtown area and, except for Saturday,when the farmers' market is here, its near empty streets and empty stores. Its a mystery and the town officials are trying to solve it. There have been setbacks, hurricanes, that have destroyed some of their palm trees, which they have replanted. There has been loss of businesses and large unemployment numbers. Foreclosures have hit the realty business all up and down the Treasure Coast, but the town officials keep coming up with suggestions to bring Fort Pierce back to life.
In the meantime, keeping up appearances, by replanting those lost palm trees and maintaining clean streets may eventually help to keep Fort Pierce alive.