Japanese Garden at Maymont / charcoal

This is my 2nd try sketching the pagoda and pond.

This is my 2nd try sketching the pagoda and pond.

I love the Japanese garden at Maymont and wanted to paint there for a few years. The thing that stopped me is the long hill to climb in and out of there. I guess the exercise won’t hurt me. I’m going to get a workout lugging my gear.

When I was down there drawing today, I met a few other artists drawing. It wasn’t a class, they are friends out casually drawing. One lady told me, “They tell you to draw without erasing.” That sounds funny to me because I erase all the time. They looked like VCU students., so I thought, maybe their teacher doesn’t know how to draw. hahahhahahah Drawing without erasing wasn’t on our list of drawing exercises from York Academy of Art. YAA was a school that pushed the students to try to draw and paint in the classical tradition. They don’t follow that path in art school these days.

Wait a minute. Is that a pagoda or a gazebo?

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.

Pond at Cold Harbor / oil

Here's a camera shot so you can see what it really looks like.

Here’s a camera shot so you can see what it really looks like.

When I started to work on this painting a couple people who live there stopped and asked me why I was painting the pond when the water’s 4′ low. They think it looks bad. It’s fed by rain and been mostly dry for a while. I said, “It’s still beautiful.” I think they stopped worrying about it after I said the water won’t look like that anyway. Maybe I can make it deeper.

If I worked from a photo instead of painting in plein air my painting might have come out looking far away and browner. When I started the background trees last week there was still some green showing but now a lot more leaves have fallen.

This is my underpainting with glazes started on the background.

This is my underpainting with glazes started on the background.

This is how they wanted the art students to paint at York Academy of Art. Start with the background and work to the foreground. Start dark and build up your lights on top with more opaque paint. First do a detailed underpainting, but you can change it later if you want to with this way of painting by building up layers of glazes. I may as well stick to this method of painting. I think I’m still seeing an improvement in my paintings

about those trees standing in the water -

about those trees standing in the water –

but I always think I can do better next time

Can you see the texture of the bark on your computer? The computer doesn’t show the painting like the naked eye sees it. The background is loud so I had to make the foreground trees loud too. First I blocked them in with a black that I mixed some red into. Yes, I like to mix black in. Make black by mixing Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue. If you need a warm black use more brown. If you need a cool black use more blue. This makes a black that isn’t dead to start with. You can mix black into any color on your palette then use it in your glazes and you won’t get a muddy color. If you ever see muddy colors in my paintings , please circle it and send it back to me. Sometimes I put glazes of green and red in on the same day over top of each other. I’m not mixing the paint on the canvas but on my palette. Your eye blends the colors without mud showing.

After the red / black dried I mixed my grays for the bark and painted over the dark glaze. Then scratched through it with my palette knife to show lines of the dark color showing through. It’s fun to scratch off paint to make skinny lines. It shows up best if you use the right values of your colors. That is dark to light.

Barbara told me those dead trees standing in the water are Gum trees. They live a long time standing in water then take forever to fall down when they finally die. Strong trees!

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.

Japanese Garden @ Lewis Ginter Botanical / oil

japanese gardenWhen I started this painting the tree on the left had a few red leaves hanging on the lower branches. I knew they would drop soon so I had to work fast. By the time I had the background finished and ready to paint the tree the leaves were all down but I saved a space in the underpainting for them and mixed my colors in advance.

For the tall grass I mixed colors and blobbed runny paint on then scratched through it with the back end of my paintbrush to make a texture like grass without painting skinny lines.