Before we even started, Crista plucked a dead dragonfly out of her radiator.
“How long have you been working on that” is a common question asked of all painters. Of course that doesn’t include the time spent on prep, which includes ordering supplies, setting up one’s palette, building frames and equipment, and, above all, reconnoitering painting spaces.
The Flume. Requires some hiking, but there’s great energy, and a log on which to sit.
I know the lower Adirondacks well, but I don’t know the High Peaks as well. Tarryl Gabel and I went for a drive to look at painting sites yesterday. Along the way, we discussed what makes a great composition.
Meadow view of Whiteface. A little too balanced, too static, but it has its good points.
  • Interesting light. For Tarryl, this means a raking light from the side; for me, the definition is a little vaguer, but there are sites that are appropriate for morning and sites that are appropriate for afternoon. (In the Adirondacks, it’s hard to find sites that look great at midday, because the green gets a little harsh.)
  • Naturally occurring compositions—sometimes you have to work at it, and sometimes it’s there automatically. Both have their virtues, but frankly the natural ones are easier.
  • Layers—I’m always looking for this, and in particular on long views in the mountains. I don’t want to make wide panorama paintings; they’re not my thing. So I want foreground, trees, mountains, and clouds (if I can get them).
Roadside view, gives an s-curve to the far distance, but not a lot of layers.
  • “Atmosphere, perspective, depth,” added Tarryl, and I think it’s as good a guide as anything.
  • From an ergonomic standpoint, I want shade and a level surface on which to stand for a long period of time. If I can’t stand on a level surface, I’m going to sit.
  • Some place to pee.
  • For safety’s sake, it makes sense to not choose a spot where you are totally alone.
Waterfall in Jay has energy, layers, and lots of depth.
Perhaps most interesting to me is how the same scenes that set my pulse racing didn’t do as much for Tarryl, and vice-versa. For her, it’s about inviting people in to a restful place; for me it’s about energy and pattern. That’s what’s wonderful about art; no two of us see things the same way.
I love the looming mountains and warm tones in the foreground, but am unsure about making a good composition.
Setting up my palette is all about the greens here—I want enough separation in them to make the paintings work. But there are intimations of fall in the air even now, and the soft maples are starting to go red.
Mixing greens is a priority when everything is green. That’s a matrix of black, ultramarine and Prussian on the vertical, and Hansa yellow, Indian yellow, and yellow ochre on the horizontal. Modulated with a lavender tone, that gives me 18 different greens in a hurry.
Message me if you want information about next year’s Maine workshops. Information about this year’s programs is available here.