My failure to post for the past two days hasn’t meant I’ve not been painting. Ah, but I have! I’ve mentioned the commission I’ve been working on over the past week, and that has taken up a lot of my time and concentration. My dailies were quicker studies because of it. On Sunday I worked on the finishing touches for the background of the commission and tackled the ferns. Remember my fern study earlier last week? Well, here they are in final form. Yesterday I spent the day painting the two kids. There’s a lot of themes and repetition going on with them — the downward loop of their hoods and her pocket flaps match the downward swoop of her bandana. And then the biggest swooping curves are their arms around each other. The two of them walking together, almost touching, mimic the parade of double trees in the background.
Sometime compositions like this simply fall in your lap. This one came from a former colleague and friend who wanted this as a painting for her son and daughter-in-law. The children are theirs and my friend’s grandkids. It certainly helps that the mom, who took the picture, happens to be a photographer. So there’s all that wonderful light and the composition framed just right. It’ll go out this week or next once it’s framed. Here’s hoping they like it as much as I do.
We took so many great pictures from our Amelia Island trip that I can’t seem to let go of it quite yet. I’ve let them languish for so long with the idea that I’d paint them “some day.” This surely is the perfect opportunity.
That final day was so atmospheric. The clouds rolled in and threatened rain. We drove to Jacksonville and then along the coast north. This is the harbor at one of the little towns, though I’ve long forgotten the name. These boats sat brooding at anchor, waiting for developments. The caution buoy seems to say it all.
The clouds were stacked up across to the horizon the second day we were at Amelia Island. I can even now remember the stillness and the quiet in spite of the wind. We were awash in grasses of honeys, greens, grays, and lavenders, bending wave upon wave making their own current in the morning air. The herons and egrets kept watch with us, though they for their breakfast and we for our soul. A person gets hungry for this kind of magnificence.
I’m making progress on my commission and this afforded another quick study to do in under an hour. This is an exercise in muted colors and a limited palate of about 5 colors all working together to create one harmonious composition.
I started painting my commission today so I needed something quicker than the images I’d chosen of scenes from Singapore. The guy on a bicycle cart will have to wait until I have a little more time for that complex composition. For today, I’ve pulled out an image from northern Florida, taken from the grasslands of Amelia Island a few years ago. Such a lovely place. We took lots of pictures of those marshlands with their endless sea of grass. There were egrets and great blue herons patrolling, ghost-like spirits silently sweeping through the clouds. Aren’t his shadows great against that dramatic sky?
Clouds are a little more challenging than they look. Lots of wet on wet and then layering subtle colors as they begin to dry. A little dab here and there with a dry paper towel to pick up color helps to lighten and soften areas to make the clouds have more dimension and character.
I’m starting a commission of a charming scene with two small children walking through a wooded area along a path. From the picture I can tell it’s Spring with leaves freshly green, moss poking through the forest floor and a patch of glorious ferns in the foreground. The kids have light sweatshirts on and short pants so there might be just a bit of chill in the air.
Today’s painting is a bit of detail from the commission in preparation of the actual painting to be started in a day or so. I’ve sketched everything out on paper to begin, but before I do I wanted one go at the ferns to make sure of my approach. The last thing I needed was to start on the painting and get a green fussy blob in the right corner instead of loose, free ferns. They don’t need to be frond for frond like the photo, just a close enough likeness for the viewer to get the idea of leafy ferns bobbing along the path. So this is my study for the painting, and I have to say I’m reasonably happy with the result. It’s a nice, loose rendition of what’s going on in the photo. Now if I can just replicate this when I need to…..
Assisi is an easy day trip from Perugia where we’d chosen to stay in central Italy after leaving Florence. So we took the train there to pay homage to the patron saint of animals, St. Francis. Because of his favor among Catholics and others the city is filled with tourists, there to walk the streets that he did and see the Assisi Cathedral where he first preached.
I wasn’t at my best the day we made our trip so my feelings about it are somewhat dampered because of that. I remember a lot of kitschy souvenirs everywhere and tours parading about. But I had to admit that it was a quaint little town, nonetheless, filled with history. There were also more peaceful places like the little deli we found for lunch — some bread, cheese, and oranges — and the nearby park bench to rest and eat. And then just before climbing on the bus to take us down the hill to the train, we found this cavernous alley, deep in shadows and mystery beyond that corner in the back. And it will remain a mystery for now as I was anxious to be back at our hostel in Perugia for a quiet dinner and evening.
Whenever you travel you can’t help but notice other people out on the road with you, cameras slung around their neck, that vaguely lost appearance, and the map or guide in hand trying to figure out where to go or what to do next. Sometimes you meet some really interesting people that way. I met three women on Windjammer cruises back in 1986 and 1989 who are among my closest friends today and are like sisters to me. Other times the people you see simply make up part of the interesting backdrop of where you are. And I love to people watch.
This lady, reading a guide or maybe a map, we saw in Perugia, Italy resting in the square just outside the university. It was a beautiful day in March and one of the warmest we’d experienced since coming to Europe from the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia. Students were basking on the stairs of a nearby building and everyone seemed to be enjoying this early Spring day. I cannot say what she might have been doing or looking for. Maybe waiting for someone. Perhaps on a tour on her own. We were happy to rest with her in the sun along with our other fellow travelers, gathering energy for the second half of our world trip that extended through southern Europe, culminating in Morocco.
Yesterday was jam packed with activities and distractions and so I got off schedule. Only got halfway through today’s painting before Dave and I headed north to Mt. Vernon for his exhibition reception. A quality show at the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts. Check it out through mid October.
Part of our neighbors in Mexico are various herds of farm animals. We see them every morning and evening as they make their way to the pond just to the north of our place. Cows, horses, sheep, goats. Dogs and their masters guide their charges for a brief drink before heading out to mountain pastures for the day or back to paddocks to bed down for the night. Among them are a few billies, lording their dominion of the ladies over lesser creatures among them. Theirs is an envied position and their powerful stature gives presence to the herds. Love those curved graceful horns and that beatnik beard. He definitely has a swagger to make these girls not stray too far.
Okay, so I promise this is the last Christmas image until next year. I’m painting these because Lower Town is having an artist competition for a promotional image, so I guess mine aren’t secrets anymore.
I’ve had this idea about pinecones in my head for a while and wanted to see what might come of it. It’s not the image that I had in my head, but then few of my paintings ever are. You learn to live with that if you’re to be successful. At least that’s my feeling. I wanted something that showed pinecones in a different way and gave them even more of a Christmasy holiday feel. The colors do that and I like the background wash.
Mexico is filled with interesting doorways. Some are skillfully made intricate wooden doors, others simple corrugated metal. As in today’s painting, some you really don’t quite understand. But I think of doorways and entryways when I visualize Mexico. Many houses are hidden behind walls so it’s the doors you notice and that give character to walled streets and alleys that would otherwise feel like mazes.
This particular dwelling caught my eye not only because of the doors, which weren’t so fabulous, but because of the overturned earthen bowls or pots on the roof above them. These are cooking vessels used over an open fire, which many women still cook on out in the farm villages like Alcocer where we live. Why these bowls are on the roof remains a mystery.