Sunset at Olana

Clouds over the Hudson, by little ol’ me. $795, framed.

 
A select group of New York plein air painters—my pals—have been in the Catskills painting this week. On Wednesday, Nancy Woogen and Johanne Morin saw a bear swimming in a lake, a rainbow, and a painted turtle laying eggs. I saw only one of those things (the turtle) and was awed by it; they must have been gobsmacked.

Sunset over the Hudson, by little ol’ me. $795, framed.
Last night, I was leaving the grounds of Frederic Church’s Olana at dusk, having painted the sunset. I was completely alone. I sometimes have an intuition that there is wildlife close by. I slowly coasted the lanes out of the historic site, hoping to glimpse a bear. No dice so I sped up to 55 MPH as I entered the road—only to narrowly miss a bounding doe.
To amuse myself, I attempted to paint just like Jamie Williams Grossman. That really didn’t work so well; we’re too different, but it was a fun experiment and I think I might show my students how to start indirectly like she does.Here are our easels, side by side.
We’ve been surrounded by crazy numbers of tourists as we’ve painted this week. Nothing unusual in that for me, except that it usually happens on the Maine coast, not in an untamed wilderness. Plein air painters have a different relationship with nature than most visitors. Tourists hike up trails, they linger on sunlit rocks, and then they head down to their cars to drive to the next vista. Nothing wrong with that—I love hiking myself. But it is unlikely that you will come face-to-face with nature that way.

Painting at Olana! Oh, my!
Meanwhile, we’re in our corner, struggling with our paint. Most of the time, that’s an introspective thing, and we’re concentrating on the canvas. But because we are essentially still, and we’re there for a long time, the woodland has a tendency to sneak up on us. Still, at the end of the day we get in our cars and drive away, the windshield separating us from the wilderness as it does everyone else.
This week’s painting has been made more difficult by heavy pollen after this cold winter. My asthma, which has been well-controlled for years, is rampaging. Yesterday, I capitulated and called a doctor, and not a moment too soon.  I’m wheezing like an ancient church organ.
Still, I have allies—a group of tremendous friends who helped move my pack today. I couldn’t have done it without them.


There are still a few openings in my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available 
here.

Rye Painters on Location, 2013

Regatta off Milton Point, 24X20, oil on canvasboard. A terrible photo of a decent painting.
Rye Arts Center’s Painters on Location is back and in fine form. I love this event—I get to see good friends, paint serious plein air, and then attend a swank little reception and auction. In general, Rye Arts Center does as much as is humanly possible to take care of its artists, and we appreciate it.

Brad chatting with another artist.
This year I painted with my pal Brad Marshall. It made for a great time and for better paintings from both of us—I think—since we coached each other over the rough patches. I saw Linda Richichi, Marilyn Fairman, and Kathy Buist, and met some new friends. (If I have any twinges of regret, it’s that Bruce Bundock sat this year out; he’s buried prepping for a portrait show at Vassar.)

Painting with Marilyn Fairman and Brad Marshall. Marilyn was blessed by a seagull shortly after this photo was taken; mercifully, it missed her canvas.
This year, I had an anonymous telephone bidder putting in bids for my auction piece. I can’t say that’s ever happened before, and it lent a fun twist to the evening. Since painters have collectors, I thought I’d guessed who the anonymous bidder was, but it turns out my guess was wrong. Now I’m just baffled. But if you know, don’t tell me; I enjoy the mystery.

Painting with Brad on a luminous autumn day. Perfect!
One more workshop left this year! Join me in October, 2013 at Lakewatch Manor—which is selling out fast—or let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in 2014. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

My painting in its frame.
The bidding public. Rye supports its arts center.

It’s almost time for Rye Painters on Location again!

My piece for Rye POL’s Silent Auction: Gold Mountain Air, oil on canvasboard, 11X14.
Some of my Best Painting Buds (BPBs) are people I met at Rye Painters on Location: Bruce Bundock and Marilyn Fairman, for example. Another of my other BPBs—Brad Marshall—is someone I recommended to the organizers (as did Lee Haber). There are also painters I like so much but never see except at POL—Kathy Buist, Patti Mollica, Linda Richichi, Tarryl Gabyl, and others. It’s always been my favorite event, so the last few years when they tinkered with it, I was kind of bummed.
Brad Marshall’s piece for the Silent Auction: Watermelon and Cherries, oil on canvasboard, 11X14.

Linda Richichi’s piece for the Silent Auction:Wetland Pink, pastel, 9X12.
But it’s back in its old format: silent auction of prepared pieces, live auction of wet canvases. And it’s coming up soon: September 28. I will be in Maine that prior week, and plan to race down to Rye to meet Brad Marshall for some fun times “flailing around.” After that, we’ll wash our faces, have a few glasses of wine with our friends, and sit back to watch the auction.
Having done this for a lot of years, I feel like I’ve painted an awful lot of the Long Island Sound scenery. I suggested that Brad should choose our painting location and I’ll just come along to fall into the ocean and generally make a mess. He was amenable, and last week he drove up to drop off his silent auction piece and scout locations. I now know where we’ll be painting; you’ll just have to wait and see, won’t you?
If you haven’t registered for my workshops but want to, know that October 2013—last session with openings in 2013—is selling out fast. Or, let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in 2014. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

Seventh Annual Rhinebeck Paint-Out

Around the Bend, 12X16, oil
On Saturday, Oct. 18, I will participate (long-distance) in the Barrett Art Center’s 7th Annual Rhinebeck Paint-Out and Art Auction. Painters will work from 9-3 in the greater Rhinebeck area, with a reception starting at 4 PM, and a live auction from 5-8 PM. The auction will be held at Good Shepherd Church, Father Brogan Parish Center, in Rhinebeck.

Because I have an event in Rochester on the same day, the organizers graciously allowed me to paint on Friday, October 10. I chose the lovely Queen Anne house at Wilderstein for my subject. This was the home of FDR’s cousin and confidante, Margaret (Daisy) Suckley. The landscape of this estate was designed by Calvert Vaux (Olmsted’s co-designer of Central Park) and features prospects of the Hudson. I dithered between the “million dollar view” created to seen from the house, and the house itself. House won.

Wilderstein, 14X18, oil
Among the fifty or so artists who will paint in this event are Kathy Lynn Buist, Bruce Bundock, Frank Cannas, Margaret Crenson, Sallie Lyon, Nestor Madalengoitia, Seth A. Nadel, Crista Pisano, and Phyllis Tarlow.

For more information contact: Barrett Art Center, 55 Noxon St, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601 845- 471-2550

Rye Painters on Location 2008

Here is my set-up along the shingle.
Well, dang me, I managed to delete my own painting from Rye from my camera. (That’s what I get for photo-editing when overtired.) Hopefully, the Rye Record will have a copy of it.
However, my experience at Rye was (as it seems to be every year) wonderful. I decided to paint at a small rocky promontory at Edith Read Sanctuary behind Playland. A young man was there fishing for porgies and bluefish—he was disappointed that the surf was making his day off so difficult. He gave up fairly quickly, but not before modeling surf casting for me and showing me pictures of his two young sons on his cellphone.

I sketched him a bit thinking I could integrate him into my painting but it seemed too contrived. In retrospect I wish I’d redesigned my composition around him, but he was gone by then, and photo reference violates the spirit, if not the rule, of this paintout.

Rye has changed its format this year to include two days of painting. There are many painters who can put together a polished, credible entry in four hours. I am not one of them. I paint for every hour available, struggle back and forth from overdone to fluid. This was no exception; at 2:45 on the second day, fellow painter Sally Lyon kindly helped me hoist my stuff back off the beach to my car to get it framed and wired by the 3 PM deadline.

Along the coast, the tide goes in and the tide goes out. You can freeze it in a photo, and that makes for simpler painting, but in plein air you work essentially from imagination and memory, substituting the rocks that show for the rocks that are submerged. I love the freedom of this approach, but it can be quite disconcerting the first time you try it.
It has rained all summer in the northeast. This weekend was no exception. By the end of our first day, it was pouring buckets. It killed me to quit, because the light was low, lovely, and moody, but I generally quit when the medium and rain are emulsifying in the cup.


This photo, taken the Mill Pond as I left, shows the rain and failing light. A few minutes later, when I saw cygnets following a swan beside Manursing Way, it was impossible to even take a photo.

The second day, back at the beach, the surf was down and the light was flat. I attempted to recreate the prior day’s darkness and moodiness, but I should have followed new conditions (one never knows).

That morning, I saw a seal potting along the shore. Shorebirds such as gulls, cormorants, and herons are numerous beyond mention. What a lovely place it is!

New York Social Realism

A Pool With A View (Cunningham Rd) by Bruce Bundock
32″ x 20″, Acrylic

Today I’d like to write about an artist who also did the Rye Painters on Location this weekend: Bruce Bundock.

It takes an extraordinary mind to see the beauty of Tyvek, T11 siding and an above-ground pool set serenely in Eden. This is a legitimate extension of the social realism of Millet or Hopper, but we are so blind to working-class, rural New York that we don’t immediately recognize it. (New York has the highest and fastest growing income disparity in the nation*.) What interests me is that Bruce seems genuinely fascinated by these modest houses; there isn’t a shred of sentimentality in his work.

His subtle social commentary wouldn’t work without impeccable technique. I am personally fond of the Bay Area Figurative Movement, and I see intimations of it in Bruce’s work, particularly in the discrete steps used instead of gradation to indicate tonal range. The best of his paintings remind me of old-fashioned commercial lithography, particularly in the wonderful flat greens of the trees. None of this, of course, would work without his superlative drafting.

Botanical by Bruce Bundock
11.5″ x 8.25″, Acrylic

This weekend, I acquired Bruce’s “Botanical”, above. I presume by the title that Bruce thinks it’s about the flowers, but once more I see a modest but proud house set in Paradise. As I’m sure I’ll see him someday in a major national gallery, I am thrilled to have such an archetypal example of his work.

Rye Beach Pavilion, by Bruce Bundock, September 13, 2008, acrylic

His Rye painting, of an old Spanish-style building at Playland, included that motif, appropriately muted. A painting which might have been postcard-sentimental was elevated by the inclusion of construction equipment in the foreground, which was perfectly integrated into the composition by skillful balancing of form and color.

To see more of Bruce’s paintings, go to http://artid.com/members/bundock

8th Annual Painters on Location

Saturday, September 13, 2008, Rye NY
The Rocks Would Cry Out
18X24, oil on canvas
To bid on this work, call the Rye Arts Center at (914) 967-0700 x 33 before Saturday, September 13, 2008
Tomorrow I leave to participate in the 8th annual Painters on Location paintout and live auction in Rye, NY. This is an event I look forward to with great excitement and a little nervousness.

43 artists choose locations along the Long Island Sound Shore and have 32 hours to paint, frame, and deliver a wet canvas to the Rye Arts Center. That evening (September 13) the paintings are auctioned off at a charming gala event.

The reception opens at 5:00 PM, by which time I hope to have my face and hands reasonably scrubbed and be changed into some paint-free clothing (it doesn’t always happen). The auctioneer begins the live auction at 6:15. The reception is free but anyone who is interested in attending the live auction is asked to purchase a $10 bidding paddle. Guests are encouraged to purchase bidding paddles in advance as seating is limited.

(frame detail)

A Silent Auction of existing works by these artists is now on view in the gallery. The opening bid on my silent auction piece (above) is $600 and you are welcome to bid in advance by calling (914) 967-0700 x 33. The silent auction ends fifteen minutes after the live auction, on September 13.

Where the movie “Big” was filmed

I just returned from a week downstate. The culmination of this was the seventh annual “Painters on Location” of the Rye Arts Center in Rye, NY. Last year I was overwhelmed by the landscape, the parking, the driving and the event, yet I had a wonderful time. This year, Daisy dePuthod (see her work here) took me under her wing and with the logistics more manageable, I was able to relax and paint.

The artists’ boards were stamped at 3 PM on Friday, since rain was threatening on Saturday morning. Daisy and I gathered our boards and lunches and headed to the Playland boardwalk. Playland was built in 1927 and is the only Art Deco amusement park left in the United States; it’s a National Historic Landmark. The part on which we painted is a public beach. (To learn more about Playland, see here.)

Many people pointed out that the section I chose to paint was
used in a scene in Tom Hanks’
Big. Does this look familiar?

The boardwalk and bathhouse are set on a long curve, which makes for some intriguing arcs. I stood within a stucco arch and focused on the long curving sweep of the roof. Even though the subject of the painting was the bathhouse with its two towers I knew the picture depended on the sweep of the blue roof.


By the time I committed my drawing to canvas, the light was gone. It was a beautiful evening, with lights twinkling along the boardwalk, but useless for painting.

The next morning I arrived in Rye shortly after 6 AM.

No box easel! I can never find anything in them.

My set-up under an arch was a good idea, for it was rainy, cold and dark.

My first task was to refine my drawing in charcoal. Normally, I don’t do much charcoal drawing, but the buildings are complex and I was working fast.


Daisy scoping out the scene…

And Daisy painting the scene…

It was hard to choose among the architectural gems in this place…


I concentrated on painting the orange beams first because I needed them to be believable.


Note that I got rid of the man peering into the Museum windows. I think that was a mistake—he lent good foreground interest. I replaced him with a couple walking a dog—ubiquitous on the boardwalk, but too far away to lend any depth to the scene.


The finished painting:

“Where Big was Filmed”
16X20, oil on Ray-Mar canvas board, sold, Rye, September 15, 2007