A little early morning plein air painting with my friends Diane and Karoline; the three of us will be exhibiting our plein air paintings in mid-August.
We went to Poverty Beach, at the northern end of Cape May, a beach with lovely dunes and rough surf!
Diane and Karoline has both just gotten back from painting trips, to France and Tilghman Island, respectively, so we had a lot to talk about ... and also managed to get in a good hour or so of painting.
Once again my main shrub, a bayberry that had a wonky northward-leaning shape, came out looking like a Christmas tree. Really need to pay more attention!
I took a photo of this young woman leaving the beach last summer. (For once, I didn't get caught!) There was a bike rack and several more bikes, which I left out.
The underbrush was so dark, that's what made the image appeal to me ... but I think it needs to be darker yet, and less "green." Floating in more intense color on prewet paper may help me get the effect I'm envisioning. There's still too much anxiety in my attempt to hold on to edges: My ideal watercolor looks like it just happened!
I did kind of manage the effect I want in the spokes on the bikes: I didn't mask, just painted quickly and loosely, and didn't try to adjust or correct.
My plein air class decided to meet indoors yesterday afternoon because the forecast called for thunderstorms, so I decided to stay home and finish this.
Still working on finding my way with the dune grasses and fences--though this is the best fence I've done to date! I feel I have a way to go with the grasses; while these aren't bad, I want to find a balance between making each clump discrete and letting them run together more, letting color or value, rather than shape, delineate them.
I signed up for a six-week plein air class that meets Tuesday afternoons at Burcham's Farm, about half hour north of me, on the Maurice River. It's a beautiful property, lots of green, though so it'll be a little challenging for me.
The instructor paints in gouache and the other students are oil painters.
I started with the 8x8 above to try to reduce the overwhelming to something manageable!
I took just a little piece and tried to just concentrate on values.
Prior to class tomorrow I hope to study a few watercolors by Edward Hopper, who had such a lovely, unfussy way of painting grasses!
We, and our paintings, got rained on a bit, but we kept on painting. In my case, the raindrops added texture to the rusting hull of the Alexandra L.
In Bill's case the rain dappled the light in his sky! Bill always paints on a full sheet; while I usually use quarter sheets--or smaller. I usually finish or even overwork my paintings; he takes his home to finish later.(You can see Bill's paintings here.)
William Yerkes, 22x30
A little painting of the muddy low tide shore that I started to keep myself from picking at my boat painting.
Above I cropped out the part of the painting that I didn't like (and so didn't finish): the red boat really got away from me ... made a couple of bad decisions, which is okay, especially when painting on location, where I never expect to come away with a painting I like; it's more about the experience, and hopefully finding a subject I might revisit.
I revisited this subject the very next day, on location again ... Still not entirely happy.
Next time: 1) nothing on the horizon and 2) no black rigging! I initially liked the black rigging because I wouldn't have to do more negative painting, but it just looks flat and messy to me. Maybe a midtone gray next time.
More little tries at beach grass and brush. I like the analogous colors.
Hoping that--even though I won't be spending 10,000 hours on them--a steady practice of trying to render beach grass will lead me to a way that satisfies me.
Below are two paintings I did on location about ten years ago in a workshop with Charles Reid when he came to Cape May. (The very next week I had a workshop in DE with Ted Nuttall--a good two weeks!)
Of course, I had all his books and a few of his videos.
I loved watching him draw; it was like you were watching his mind work, and I guess you were.
It's remarkable to see all the artists across so many different platforms paying tribute to him. He really changed the game.
Finished. Although, as I often do, I see I neglected to go out to the edge on the roof ... I'll fix that later! And maybe try to vary the wash on the roof a bit; it's too same same.
Below is a photo of the painting when I first thought it was done, then I noticed the three dark tree shapes--all evenly spaced! Not good. So I added a few small darks to connect them a bit; I think it's an improvement.
Took a bike ride along the bay yesterday--each time I do I ask myself, Why don't I do this everyday? (Answer: Earning a living is very time-consuming ... ).
Stopped to do a little plein air sketching.
My dune grasses need some work--there's a balance to be struck in there somewhere!
Also, I want to stop being so "casual" about my evergreens, especially since they are often the anchor in a composition like this: I think the painting would be better if I was more observant about the tree's silhouette.
In my town every street ends in access to the bay and most have a thoughtfully placed bench.
The first time I drew this, when I started painting I found the paper was defective. So I drew over it in black marker anad traced it onto a new sheet of paper ... which seems defect-free.
This is an iconic 1889 Cape May Point building, St Mary's by the Sea, a retreat for Philadelphia's Sisters of St Joseph. Recently the nuns decided that after 2021 the building would be demolished and the land--a nice piece of beachfront!--protected from development and left to return to nature.
Amen, sisters! And thank you.
Speaking of defective paper: I haven't been setting aside time to paint recently so I thought the least I could do would be to work on sorting out my paper situation a little each evening.
I started with the pile of smallish blocks I have on my shelf: I just play around putting colors on the top sheet and mix them and move them around. Did have to discard a few old blocks.
With the blocks the area that seems to cause the most trouble is the "top" edge (the edge where the cover is attached) of the block--you can see the mottling at the top of this painting of a jetty. Maybe they use a different glue here?
So far though, the blocks are in good shape. On to the sheets.
For the last week, whenever I took a break from my hideous workload, I was out in the yard weeding and putting down mulch. I got 3 cubic yards delivered last Monday and have been working away at it for a couple of hours a day ... Down to, I think, about another 3-4 hours till I run out: should've got 4 cubic yards though as one side of the yard isn't going to get mulched. Just as well--it needs a lot more work.
The summer people have arrived here at the Jersey shore. They don't really bother me--except for the noise, and the traffic, and the lines at the supermarket ... other than that, no problem!
Since the winds have finally dies down a bit, instead of mulching this a.m. I decided to take a bike ride.
Took a little painting kit and made this quick sketch of a scene along my route.
This is what my Sansa does when she wants me to pet her: jumps into her box and shows me her belly.
I continue to, sporadically, toy with my idea for a series of paintings of the shells seen in my header, above.
I always get stuck at about this stage!
Trying, first, to find the right colors ... grays, blues, but also touches sienna and other colors I haven't really identified yet!
Again, especially in the one above, I had a problem with my paper! (You can see if you enlarge the photo--the colors sink.) I think the prolonged period of extreme heat and humidity we had here last summer has, I don't know, ruined the sizing? made the paper moldy?
In any case, I have a good number of full sheets I have stockpiled that I think now I'll have to dispose of; it's just not worth the frustration. From here on: buying paper as needed!
Saturday afternoon my friends Diane, Karoline, and I went to a farm in West Cape May for our first plein air outing of the season.
I wish I could have kept more of this painting wet as I painted--the sun and wind made the paint dry quick. But I always try to think of my plein air paintings as practice ... it's really about going out, looking at new locations and possible subjects, and spending time with friends.
I like the subject and will try it again in the comfort of my studio!
This old farmhouse gave me an idea for a series: to search out the increasingly rare farmhouse on the Cape and paint them before they, like so many of their predecessors, give way to McMansions.
Left Rea's with a jar of beach plum jelly and a big jar of pickled asparagus!
Earlier in the week I met my friend Shelby in her hometown of Washington, DC. What a beautiful city. We went to several art museums--all free--and had a great lunch at a Jose Andres restaurant.
Shelby and I met years ago at a workshop in New Mexico: we sat next to each other then found out we lived across the Delaware Bay from each other. At that time she had a summer place in Lewes, DE, and we got together to paint often. But they sold the house and we don't see each other as often as I wish we did!
These paintings are a couple of years old: the top one is Shelby's granddaughter Elena, and below is her daughter Nadejda.
I thought I had given these to her! Now I have an excuse to go visit again!