My wife Anne and her twin sister Alice celebrated their birthday on Monday, and we marked the occasion by congregating at the American University track, where they often meet to jog. I sketched them in oil as they circled the track.
I returned to the Bethesda intersection I inhabited a few days ago, but this time I painted a different corner cafe — Bacchus of Lebanon, on Norfolk Avenue. I stupidly knocked over my easel several times, and the third time I lost my favorite brush down a storm drain — arrrrgh! It was a No. 7 Eclipse long-handle flat from Rosemary Co. That brush and I have been through a lot of paintings together. It put me in a grumpy mood. (It didn’t help when a passerby sought to reassure me that the brush would make good gnawing material for the local rats.)
I still managed a respectable painting. The idea was to showcase the umbrella and its strange jungle of plants, juxtaposed with urban features like street signs and garbage cans. But if I paint this scene again, I might try leaving out the plants for a simpler composition. Also, I forgot to put flowers in the flower pots! I thought of it after the sun was already setting, and I could no longer see anything. :) I might add them tomorrow.
Time to renew my annual visitor’s pass for Great Falls National Park! It was a gorgeous day today: sunshine, low humidity, no clouds, and a strong breeze that is unusual for Washington summers. I hiked from the Visitor’s Center to the overlook trail, then found this view of the river. It was one of the few times that I didn’t have to alter the scene to suit the composition: everything was already placed just so.
That said, the conditions were a bit challenging. I painted “contre jour,” into the sun; you can see this from the angle of the shadows. As the afternoon wore on, I had increasing difficulty seeing my canvas. Bugs were biting. And I was set up on a somewhat rocky slope, and my feet hurt after a while. So when I got back to civilization, I found a few stray marks on the canvas that I hadn’t noticed. But to maintain this piece’s status as a pure “plein air” work, I have left those marks where I put them. :)
Cityscapes are still, for me, the final frontier of plein air painting: challenging but exciting. Here I tried to get the feel of a corner cafe, on Norfolk Street in Bethesda, and its surroundings. At first I had a clean image of the sign and front window of the cafe, but I didn’t like it and wiped it out, and never got around to restating it before sunset. I still learned a fair bit from this tiny (6” x 8”) study.
Apologies for another bad photo with glare (especially in the top left). Fortunately, I’m upgrading my photography setup. I’m getting a new camera tripod tomorrow, and then I will invest in some photography lights.
Anyway, I improvised a lot more than usual here, with mixed results. I was emulating David Dunlop, who does amazing things by moving paint with squeegees and trowels. Not really my cup of tea, but it was interesting to try. :)
Sometimes I paint better when I paint fast, and today may be an example. I spent an hour, tops, on this tiny little 5” x 7” sketch of some roses in my garden. Apologies for the bits of glare on the photo; I need to invest in a better photography setup. But I like the painting itself.
After yesterday's trail, I wanted something more urban. I tried to use the telephone poles to lead the eye into the distance. In fact I initially thought I'd make the first pole the center of interest, but I was seduced by the intense light on the orange-red storage unit. If I do the scene again, I’ll try toning that down.
It was a glorious day today — sunny and mild, with a nice breeze. I intended to paint at a local park, but I took a wrong turn and ended up at a trail. So I set up my stuff at the trail head and painted away!
I had my most enjoyable day of painting of the year! My family and I traveled to the Chesapeake to enjoy a party with friends and relatives, and I brought along the paints. This yacht was sitting in the late-afternoon light, just begging to be painted. So I obliged it! There was a pleasant south breeze, temperature in the low-80s, sunshine, good food, and lots of friendly party-goers wandering up to my easel to chat.
It was one of those paintings that felt right after the first 10 minutes. I sketched in the hull, leaving the light bit unpainted, and I knew right away I'd be happy with the composition. It may not be perfect, but it sure was fun.
I’m always eager to paint cars, but cars are fickle models: they tend to drive away. Today I got a great chance: a car stayed parked for hours right across from my house. Time for a portrait of a Honda Accord!
I spent the afternoon painting this pleasant view of Cordell Avenue in Bethesda, Maryland. Cityscapes are, for me, the most challenging form of plein air painting. First, you’ve got to get your perspective right. Second, it’s a drawing challenge: there are lots of machine-tooled, symmetrical objects with sharp edges and perfect corners (buildings, cars, windows), and it takes lots of concentration to draw them correctly. Third, composition is a challenge: how do you pick a focal point when there are so many interesting things to see? Fourth, there’s a ton of detail, and even if you omit 80% of it, there’s still a ton of detail. But the upside is that it’s never boring, and I never lack for company — well-wishers stop by my easel all day long.
I had expected a dreary, overcast, muggy sort of day, but by mid-afternoon the sun was out and the heat and humidity wasn’t so bad. So I rushed outside to paint a rose bush in full bloom.
My daughter is home from college, and she and I painted together today — a rare treat! It was a glorious 70-degree day, with bright sunshine and clear skies. I thought I’d share both our paintings. First, here’s mine:
And here’s my daughter’s impression, with a more zoomed-in point of view:
I did yet another scene from my neighborhood, as I’m limiting my driving as my back heals. (It felt a lot better today.) It was a gorgeous day, but I had trouble seeing my panel because I was standing in shade looking toward a very bright light source. Perhaps not coincidentally, the painting is less daring than my best pictures. I’ll have to think about better ways to keep light off my canvas.
Also, this is not a wonderful photo. In the actual painting, for example, the background is more green. I might re-photograph and re-post it later.
My back has been too sore for me to drive safely, so I’ve been walking to nearby spots to paint. In this case, I was trying to highlight the bend in the road in the top-left, but I also wanted to include the car because it’s just plain fun to paint cars. The trouble with cars, though, is that they always drive away. True to form, this one poofed before I’d finished it. I did my best completing it from memory.
For the second straight day, I felt an unusual compulsion to paint a doorway. And why not? There’s something mysterious about a closed door. But the flowers stole the show.
It was a lovely afternoon to paint — until a squall unleashed a torrent of rain. Still, it made for a nice wet street to paint. I went for a semi-abstract vibe.
Our azaleas won’t be in bloom much longer, so I’ve got to paint them while I can!
It was an overcast, blustery, almost misty sort of day. I found myself at Concord-St. Andrews United Methodist Church in Bethesda, Maryland, and I decided to paint a side area, which encloses a garden. I wanted to convey some of the gray, cool, raw, misty, slightly breezy weather I was feeling, especially as I didn’t dress warmly enough for it.
I also wanted to experiment with ways to paint less literally. I cut out trees and asphalt, and I deliberately de-constructed the roof and other edges, to convey a more painterly feel. I like how it turned out.
I spent a balmy afternoon painting the outdoor seating area of a local Five Guys restaurant. I wiped it out twice, as I learned the hard way that people don’t stay at a Five Guys for very long! My models kept leaving. So the painting is just okay — sort of indecisive. Also, I now see that I should’ve moved (or removed) the tall straight tree on the left, as it confuses the well-drawn potted plant in front of it. . Oh well. I still learned from the painting, and it was fun.