I started this painting Saturday; it was the first of two sittings. I've got the model's features in more or less the right place, but they need refinement, and right now her expression is a bit odd. Obviously I need to pay attention to her hair, too, and add more color to everything. But it's not a bad start.
The police officer in this scene is actually a bronze statue by J. Seward Johnson. The officer stands guard, day and night, over an intersection in Friendship Heights, near the DC/Maryland border. Reportedly local residents give him a scarf in cold weather. He also apparently deters some aggressive driving, or at least that's what the local police say.
I had hoped to depict more traffic and passersby, but the sun set, and I was still finishing the officer's hat in virtual darkness. I'd like to go back and do a more complete picture. It was still lots of fun.
I found a shady spot by the Potomac River, near Swains lock in Maryland, and painted reflections from the far woods. I had on plenty of bug spray, but even so I was assaulted by a combined-arms force of stink bugs. Airborn bugs dive-bombed me while infantry bugs marched across my painting. Nonetheless, I managed to escape with a credible picture of the scene.
This is a photo of the early stage of a portrait that I started using only two colors, Burnt Sienna and white. Here I'd just started adding hints of color, but I was already running out of time, so the image looks rather ghostly. It's still interesting, and the likeness isn't bad. It helped that the model, Lily, held her pose so well. I went on to add some color, but I didn't finish; I like this "brunaille" version better. I'm hoping I'll get another chance to paint Lily so that I can finish the picture.
Today I painted five quick watercolor studies at River Bend Park in northern Virginia, on the Potomac. In each study I was experimenting with color and composition; I didn't bother with an underdrawing. Here are three examples.
I set up at Woodacres Park in Bethesda, hoping to paint the baseball backstop and fence, which were framed nicely by trees behind them. But time was short, so I settled for a quick study of the trees and resolved to paint the baseball diamond on another visit.
This fall I'm studying with a well-regarded local artist, and today our group painted at the bridge spanning the C&O canal near the Old Angler's Inn. I liked the hint of fall colors in the trees. I especially liked how the white sycamore complemented the horizontal of the bridge.
I spent the afternoon at Carter Barron soccer fields, near 16th Street in Washington. D.C. I was originally drawn to the 6th Presbyterian Church, on the left, but as I started painting I grew increasingly interested in the temple on the right -- Chua Giac Hoang Buddhist Temple. As the day wore on, people filled the park, but I didn't want to distract attention too much from the religious buildings, so I sketched only a few folks.
It was a glorious day of 70-degree sunshine, and I spent the afternoon at Swain's campsite, a free campground adjoining Swain's Lock on the C&O Canal in Potomac, Maryland. I found an open campsite, and it had this lovely view, framed by trees, just as I painted it. It was one of those plein air paintings in which I didnt really have to change much to make the composition work. The atmosphere was quite jolly, as campers and day-hikers strolled around the river-side, taking in the view. The lock itself would be fun to paint, as would the canal, so I'll be revisiting this wonderful park.
I learn a lot about a place when I paint there. I've visited Friendship Heights -- an area on the D.C./Maryland border -- hundreds of times. But today was the first day I'd ever painted there. I didn't know this little one-block-square park was named Hubert Humphrey Park. I didn't know so many seniors lived here. I didn't know about the immaculate community center adjoining the park -- with a library, people playing chess, clean bathroom (a luxury for a plein air painter!), and friendly staff.
And I didn't know about the neat sculpture depicted here, by J. Seward Johnson. Like the nearby bronze policeman, she get lots of double-takes: she's pretty convincing! Me, I thought it was fun to make a picture of someone making a picture. Plus, this model never moves or takes breaks. On top of all that, the weather was perfect! It was a great day to be outdoors painting.
Today I drove around in circles for a couple hours looking for a place to paint. Sometimes the scenery is great but there's no convenient place to set up. Finally I settled on this bridge over busy Massachusetts Avenue, in Maryland near the D.C. border. I wanted a bucolic feel, so I magically removed all the noisy traffic.
Pennyfield Lock is Lock 22 on the C&O Canal in Maryland. Pennyfield's Inn stands guard over the lock, and the inn still operates today. You can rent it for a night or two from the National Park Service, as long as you don't mind having no electricity or running water. As it happens, two nice travelers named Steve and Jennel were staying there while I was painting the house, and I added them to the picture; they're hanging out at the fence. They liked the painting and bought it from me off the easel.
I gave my new Soltek easel a spin! Together the easel and I visited Lake Needwood, in Rockville, Maryland. The easel was great, but my sun umbrella broke and floated into the lake. I waded in after it before it sailed away. Kinda comical!
I had planned to put the focus on a fisherman standing on the spit of land in the front right, because he looked cool and would have helped establish scale. But the flies started biting, so I omitted the fisherman and fled. The resulting study was rushed; I hope to go back and improve it. In any case, a good start.
Over the past couple weeks, I've been painting the storefront of Anglo-Dutch Pools & Toys, a wonderful toy store in the Westwood shopping center in Bethesda, Maryland. I've been buying toys for my kids from this delightful store since they were little. I decided to paint a zoomed-in, "kid's-eye view" perspective of the storefront. (I'd also like to paint the whole storefront from further away, but this will be tricky because I'll have to set up in a busy parking lot.) Soli and the other proprietors of the store were very welcoming to me. You can learn more about the store here: https://www.anglodutchpoolsandtoys.com/
Today is my birthday, and it was a glorious day of warm sunshine here in the D.C. area. I celebrated by spending the day painting a bend in the Potomac River.
In this painting, I was trying to convey the warmth and steaminess of a laundry room. Hence the warm colors and soft edges.
I paint primarily in oils, but I don't use turpentine or mineral spirits to thin my paint or clean my brushes. Paint thinners give me headaches. I've even tried soy-based substitute-thinner, but these too induce long-lasting migraines. Even Gamblin's solvent-free gel bothers me. One alternative is water-miscible oil paint, and indeed I have many tubes of Holbein Aqua Duo and other brands, but I prefer the consistency and choices in traditional oil paint brands. (My favorites include Winsor & Newton, M. Graham, Rembrandt, Michael Harding, and Maimieri.)
Fortunately, plain old walnut oil does most of what I want. It cleans most the paint off brushes, so it's useful during paint sessions (to clean brushes when changing colors) and afterwards (for clean-up). It also makes a perfectly nice medium for thinning paint. The only downside is that it's not ideal for laying down a ground or a thin wash before starting a painting. But one can use water-miscible oils for that, or just a thin couch of walnut oil. I'm still experimenting. If anyone has thoughts on how to make a solvent-free underpainting, I'd love to hear them.
Clara Barton's house is a national historic site at Glen Echo Park in Bethesda, Maryland. Barton lived in the house for a number of years, and the building served as one of the first headquarters of the American Red Cross. The park used to give tours of the site, but it's closed now; I don't know if there are plans to reopen it. It could use a bit of sprucing up, frankly.
Architecturally, the structure is unusual: it has a facade of stone towers with pink caps, giving it a palatial appearance, but behind this is an ordinary wood-frame house. It proved to be a challenge to paint, all the more so because of the intervening foliage. I'm not very happy with this first effort, but I'll give it a try again later.
I spent a couple more days at Great Falls National Park in Maryland, and this time I painted the "towpath boat," which historically was towed along the C&O Canal by mules walking on the path to the right. The Park Service still operates the boat this way Friday thru Sunday, which meant I had to try to finish today. I didn't finish; many things still need work. But it's a start.
Plein air painters love The Great Falls National Park, and for good reason: there's no shortage of interesting subjects. I visited the Maryland side of the park today and started this painting. This old tavern stands guard by a lock on the venerable C&O Canal. The picture needs work; the only question is when I'll revisit the park. maybe later this week.