I was outside a couple weeks ago with two friends, also painters. I have known them since art school, yes, 40 years ago. Anyhow, I drove to meet them in the south suburbs of Chicago to go painting in the woodlands there. One of my friends drove to this location and we split up and started to paint. Once I started my first effort I knew it was a disaster in the making, so I scraped it off and then began this one....a tree study. I knew there was about an hour's light left and had to hurry.
the light changed fast and I was left with a tree in shadow, not the light I began with. Basically I have here a drawing done with a brush and a few colors. The point is....in all PRACTICALITY I will not be finishing this one because it's unlikely that I could find my way back to this spot without my friends and couldn't do this until fall of next year anyway. Now this all brings me to a story about practicality......I once was working as an artist with a another friend who drove us to somewhere outside of Chicago to a film studio where we were going to photograph the art we'd done. Over the course of the day, I was getting really angry at my partner when I just could no longer take it and was ready to walk out the door telling him "I quit". Now, I realized in that moment that I was in a location I didn't know and with no idea how to get home on my own..... I stayed. That was practicality in action that day. A couple years later I did quit and found my way home. The moral of the story.....drive yourself.
This is a small watercolor I did sitting across the street from Wilson's, a classic old Door County landmark in Ephraim, Wisconsin. Ice cream and hamburgers. I was not feeling well this summer and didn't think I'd like to stand up for over an hour so I took my little watercolor kit and sat in the grass.
This is Rembrandt's "Descent from the Cross" which I copied in 1977 the year after I left art school. I gave it to the church I was going to about 1980. The painting hung for many years at the top of the entrance stairs, so it was the first thing you noticed when arriving. In the course of time, I left that church and after hanging there for probably 20 years the painting was taken down during a remodeling. That wall was taken out and the picture was put into storage. One of my friends there died and I attended the memorial service to be surprised by the fact that the painting was gone. I later asked someone what had happened to it. Just a month ago the new minister decided to clean up the storage area, my friends contacted me and the painting is now back with me after about 25 years. That is the story and here's the point....as you can see in the somewhat blurry closeup (bottom picture) there is a bloom over the picture, some scratches and some frame damage and a hole in the liner around the frame. After a good cleaning it came out looking like new. Not much I can do about the cloth liner, but I can touch up the frame with a little paint. Once your painting leaves your hands there isn't much you can do when it's not well cared for, luckily this one is still good.
I have done the plein air event at Emily Oaks Nature Center over the last 3 years with the Anatomically Correct painting group, an unofficial group. I stood almost in the same spot last year, but of course the concept behind the two are different --- what I did last year was not the same composition or focus as this one. Usually I don't do the same thing from time to time, but there just aren't that many great views here, sorry to say. So knowing what I know and painting the way I do, I pushed the color and brushwork. It's a 9" x 12" on a linen canvas panel prepared by me and painted in less than two hours.
I just got back yesterday from taking my three paintings to Morris, Minnesota for the Horizontal Grandeur show at the Stevens County Historical Museum. Driving from Chicago it's about 10 hours, mostly interstate views of Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. After getting off the interstate the views are a little better, but it's pretty much farm fields and flatland ---- nothing that makes you run for the paint and brushes, no majestic views....at least from the car. So after driving all that distance it took me all of five minutes to drop off and leave, although one person remembered me and my work from last time --- nice to hear. This is a nice show, meaning it's there for three months in a very nice looking museum.
Secondly, the painting you see that I just finished. It's another farm scene from Wisconsin along one of the Rustic Roads. I actually did this farms once before in another view, but the season changed and you'd never know it. This one is 22" x 28", oil on canvas. Otherwise I've been busy repairing old pocket watches. That's frustrating.
Last December I was at a gathering of friends. This portrait, by the way, an 8" x 10" oil on canvas is of my friend Bill. I was sitting at the table after dinner and had my camera intending to take a candid shot of any interesting face I saw. Bill was sitting nearby, but every time I wanted to snap a picture, there he was looking right at me. I wanted something a bit more immediate and just could not get it --- I wanted to tell him to stop looking at me. If it had turned out a bit better I wouldn't be calling this a practice piece, but it's just a practice piece and I guess I will just have to give it to him. I had in mind a "bearded man" series.
Both of these paintings were done on odd size canvas for which I would have to make my own frame (probably). Since I have always stretched my own canvas I always have small remnants which you can either throw out or use. I had saved that end-of-the-watercolor block cardboard and had a nice surface to mount a piece of canvas. So I primed it and waited for the right time to use it. I did the one painting in an hour or so, but the painting with the tree took longer. The marsh painting of Cambridge, WI is 8" x 13" and the other is from Amana, IA and is 7" x 11".
The flooded creek with a footbridge (I don't have a title yet) is finished. I spent some time on the background trees on the left and the right, the water flowing over the footbridge and the light colored tree branches at the extreme left and bottom. I've included a close-up of the area on the right of the rocks. There's a lot of thick paint and knife-work there. That kind of thing takes a lot of patience as you work on it and develop it. (Well, you need patience for all of it, I guess.) So after finishing this painting and setting it aside where I can see it for anything I might have to change, I cleaned off the palette and decided to start the next painting. I don't always have the next one decided upon, but this farm in Cambridge, Wisconsin was something I have wanted to do. It's located behind a pond, which you can just see at the bottom of the painting. No major problems with this one....meaning no rocks. The creek painting is a 20" x 24" and the farm is a 12" x 24". I took another picture of the barn and willow tree which I particularly enjoyed painting.....I liked doing everything on this one....it was a pleasure to look forward to working on this one. I did a couple small sketches after these and have just started another 20" x 24"... a street scene.
I've painted water and rocks for myself or to help students with their work and I've always thought they are hard to make look convincing. Using a combination of brushwork and knifework was the way I did the rocks in the foreground. The water still needs to be finished, especially what's flowing over the footbridge. This is a 20" x 24" oil on canvas of a creek or stream going through an area near the Georgia border in North Carolina. There is a house to the right not in the picture and the water is quite high flowing over the bridge. I had a lot of work finishing the numerous trees in the background. It's a fun painting which I look forward to working on each day.
Here's a small winter painting, 8" x 10", which I started at least a year ago and never finished. I was not happy with it, but it wasn't to be just thrown away. It's a tribute to an artist's not giving up. I was tired of the painting I was working on and decided to pick this one up and finish it. It had been sitting on the floor of the studio looking neither interesting nor bad. A few hours' work of added color and added background (and foreground) and it was done. It did take as much effort to finish as I had originally put into it. This doesn't mean that I always finish everything for there are times when a short trip to the garbage can is the best option. But sometimes another long look (sometimes a year later) can make the difference.
I did this here in Chicago at a forest preserve near my home, but it is also near Superdawg -- a hot dog restaurant. It won't therefore get a Romantic title like "Winter Reverie" or something like that.
This is my final and expanded version of the painting sketch I posted previously. I tried to keep it brushy, well, I always try to do that. I think it has the immediacy of the little sketch, so I am proud of it. This is an 11 X 14" oil on canvas board. I don't know who these two guitarists are, but I am glad that I caught them at this particular moment in time with the light falling just as it did.
This is a small section of an 18" x 36" painting. I got the idea for this when I was in Iowa doing a plein air event. I was finished for the day and drove to a nearby town for dinner. Coming back, the sun was setting and just catching the ends of the buildings of this farm. It really captured my eye and I stopped and took a couple photos ---- (no, I did not do a plein air study because I knew the light was changing quickly). Since the light was failing fast, my reference came out rather dark, which made it not so easy to come up with the colors, but seen wholly it looks good. This will be an entry in the Farms & Barns show later this year I am sure.
I still have these two paintings lurking in my basement. Many artists throw away or burn their old paintings and eradicate the memory. I don't have these in plain sight, but I don't really show them to anyone either, but they are a memory of something along the path of learning and development. The first painting, a watercolor, I did when I was 16. I remember painting it in the basement of another home. I never liked the way my art teacher taught us to use watercolor, so I am surprised I even painted this. Some of my relatives encouraged me in my art, but not one (unobservant)uncle, who's comment was "You never see a sky like that". You don't if you aren't looking. The other painting I did from a drawing (or painting) in a book on Japanese and Chinese art (Epochs of Chinese and Japanese Art by Fellanosa) in 1967. I read the book and probably others and went to the Art Institute of Chicago specifically to look at their Asian art. What influence it had after that time I just don't know. I've never done any more paintings in that style, but I've done at least a hundred more watercolors.
We traveled to Door County, Wisconsin this fall. Of course for me that means doing some painting and taking some pictures for possible paintings during the winter months. (By the way......it is all of 1 degree Fahrenheit here right now.) One morning we went to a coffee shop in Ellison Bay on a morning when musicians gather to jam. I sat there for quite a while when I was taken by the look of two of the guitarists. I did this little 6" x 8" study of one of the musicians with an intention to make a larger painting. That was September, this is January.....sometimes it takes a while for a painting to percolate in the mind.