Chicken Coop, Wheat, Crepe Myrtles / oil

chicken coop wheat crepe myrtlesIt was over a month ago when I went out to Cold Harbor and saw the wheat looked beautiful. I wanted to hurry and paint it before it got mowed.  I thought, this will be easy, then I had to go over it 3 times to get it to come out ok. The texture across the top looks velvety and soft. The 1st time I tried to paint the wheat, it was too spotty. So I tried again. The 2nd time I tried to paint it, The texture looked better but the color was off. Finally on my 3rd try, I liked the color and texture. I was a little concerned about finishing the wheat before it got mowed, but Barbara told me the man mowing the wheat was working his way down Cold Harbor Rd. mowing fields on the other side. She said her field would get mowed last when he came back mowing fields on her side of the road. So, even though I had some difficulty with painting the wheat, I got it in before it was mowed.

Then this painting was on hold for a month because I wanted to put the Crepe Myrtles in but they were late blooming. The Crepe Myrtles started blooming in Richmond about a month ago and these are still opening up.

I’m happy to finally see this painting finished.

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Winter Pond with Barley Field / oil

pond with barley

Do you see those bright green fields in the dead of winter out there in the country? I thought it was Winter Wheat but Barbara told me this field is Barley. She said Winter Wheat, Barley and Rye all look the same.

It took me weeks to finish this painting because of the winter weather. When I started working on it the pond was frozen but I knew it wouldn’t last. I was kind of hoping for more cold weather so I could practice painting ice.

That’s the back of the corn shed and the chicken coop in the upper right of the canvas. As I was painting glazes working from background to foreground, and from top to bottom on my underpainting, I was checking if each glaze looked right with the one next to it. First I thought the chicken coop was too bright on the contrast, so I made it less contrast. Then I thought it looked too weak so I changed it back to more bright. That’s how I like to work, correcting is ok. You can change your mind when using glazes and oil paint.

Corn Shed ’14 / oil

corn shed 14 oil
This is my second painting of the corn shed. I think it came out better than the one I did last year, so I guess my drawing and painting skills are improving.

I layered glazes on top of glazes here. I painted impasto with my palette knife and also used the palette knife to scratch through glazes. Using thick paint and thin paint on the canvas adds interest because the eye compares different sections of the painting and the textures keep the eye moving around the canvas.

That Alvi’s Maroger Medium is the best stuff, my artist friends. You can do glazes, bleeds, paint impasto, add texture.
Everything you can do with any other kind of paint you can do with oil paint. You can do dry brush, work into your bleeds paint thin lines without much turp, and the medium holds it in place and makes the surface nice and slick so the paint slides easily.

I posted my underpainting below so you can see the major changes I did to this painting. And I put some text on it about linear perspective.

Corn Shed ’14 underpainting

corn shed underpainting
My charcoal sketch for this painting is posted below. I can’t trace my sketch and transfer it to my tinted canvas, I had to draw it again freehand with charcoal on the canvas. Linear perspective is still difficult for me but the more I try to draw it the better it gets. The boards on the shed are warped and not all straight. The temptation is to draw lines horizontal on the canvas when I know they’re horizontal, but the eye sees the lines going up hill and getting that close to what the eye sees makes linear perspective work.

Sometimes when I’m trying to draw a building I hold my charcoal out at arms length and close one eye, resting my arm on my easel to keep it steady. I hold the charcoal or pencil out like that to measure. With figure drawing that helps get proportions and angles right but with linear perspective I have to eyeball it to make my corrections. I don’t get it right on the first try and not on the second try here either. I corrected it again when I added layers of glazes. That’s one thing I like about oil paint, it’s easy to paint over and make it look better. I can make major changes in a painting and if I don’t show you, you can’t see my mistakes.

Corn Shed at Cold Harbor / charcoal

corn shed charcoal

Some thoughts about being in the right place at the right time.

The flip side of that coin is knowing when to get the hell out of Dodge because you don’t want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. My tip for avoiding disaster is to watch for red flags. Metaphorically speaking, one or two small red flags means you should stay aware of the surroundings. Big red flags mean don’t hang around to see what happens next. It’s a self preservation thing.

If you want to be in the right place at the right time it’s a good idea to not book your time to tight. Then you can go for the opportunity when it’s available. Don’t stay home to work, go out and scout. Talk to anyone who’s interested. If they tell you about a great place go check it out. If you get a call that you should be there because someone requests your presence, go. Unless there’s red flags on it, then decide for yourself.

It still amazes me that the farm I like at Cold Harbor, Via Farm, is the most peaceful and safe place in my stomping grounds because 150 years ago it was a crucial piece of land hotly contested by two armies. Cold Harbor was part of Richmond’s outer defenses. The Union army tried to break through so they could get to Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, and destroy it. They fought there and then fought there again later but couldn’t get to Richmond that way. People kept saying, “this war can’t last long.” but it did. Over the course of a few years dead and wounded soldiers were strewn over the land for miles.

Now, 150 years later it’s lush and green, peaceful and safe. The old weathered corn shed has so much personality it almost talks. It seems like nothing in life goes as planned, but then I see a twist of fate that brings me to a great view. That’s what I call being in the right place at the right time.

Pond at Cold Harbor / oil

The joy of taking your sweet time

The joy of taking your sweet time-

This painting got delayed by the holidays and bad weather. I’m glad I don’t feel the pressure to complete a painting every day or every week. It seems like an art treadmill to me.

Most of the regular jobs I had in my life were sewing jobs. I like working with my hands and wanted jobs that wouldn’t be too demanding. Sadly,  it didn’t work out that way and I had to fire every boss that ever hired me. They rushed me every day. They promised the job finished when the fabric was still on backorder. I called it bad management and swore I’d never rush again. Then I sewed slip covers on my own for years and my customers never rushed me. To me rushing the job takes the joy out of the work.

When I can see that what I want to do is difficult,  I need to stop and think about how to proceed. I’ll finish it eventually and the results will be better.

When I paint in plein air I like to hang around in the place I’m trying to capture. I can be found working hard or taking a break and enjoying the view, in the most beautiful places around here. To me it’s nice when people get used to seeing me there and stop to talk.

Taking my time, going back to the same time of day to catch the same light again and again gives me a feeling of being in it and part of it, and bringing it home with me. Does that make any sense?

I wish I could see more artists enjoying nature  with me. Don’t be shy, it’s your right.

Strawberry Green at Via Farm / pastel

This was a commissioned drawing.

This was a commissioned drawing.

I drew this freehand without a camera or ruler because I’m challenging myself to improve my drawing skill.

When Barbara asked me to draw her house I wasn’t sure I could do it because the house is big and complicated. The first time I tried to sketch it I stood far back and drew small so I could make it fit on the paper. Barbara showed me some black and white drawings she has of houses. They are done in pen and ink and graphite pencil with the house large and centered. I knew she wanted my drawing to be more about the house and less about the scenery so I moved my easel closer to center front for this drawing. She likes the way it turned out.

It’s nice to hang around on the farm and draw. It’s so peaceful and safe and pretty out there.

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