I stood on my back porch and painted my neighbor’s house, painting for a couple hours on both Saturday and Sunday. I was going after the glowing afternoon light that sporadically lit the house in warm colors.
I painted this exact scene two years ago, but I did not look at that painting again before stepping up to the easel and trying again. I didn’t want to be influenced by the earlier picture. One thing that changed was my canvas: I chose a wide surface this time. Another difference is that this time I painted it all in one go, in about two hours; last time I worked on the painting for three full afternoons! So the “old” one is somewhat more detailed and refined, but the “new” one has its merits too. Here’s today’s effort:
And here’s the painting from two years ago. I blogged about it, briefly, here: https://www.geoffwatsonart.com/blog/2017/8/2/boat-on-the-rehoboth-lewes-canal?rq=Lewes
I spent more time working on the flower pots at the pool, this time adding … flowers. And water to the pool.
Vacationing is trumping painting, but I still managed time to sketch a couple things, and I started a little oil study. First there was this scene, on the main street in Rehoboth. I drew this in about 10 minutes, while sitting in an outdoor table at a Mexican restaurant.
I also started this little oil sketch of flowers at a swimming pool. Uh, I didn’t get to the flowers! So yeah, it needs work. We have one more day here, so maybe I’ll return to it tomorrow.
Just for grins, I wanted to see if I could recreate the mysterious filter I inadvertently added to my beach scene yesterday. Maybe?
It was a day at the beach! I sat with my family on busy Rehoboth Beach, and I dug out my oils and sketched the scene in front of me. I didn’t want to lug an easel or tripod, so I just had the linen panel and palette on my lap.
Given the challenging circumstance, I wasn’t expecting to paint a masterpiece. My plan had been to put in a few basic strokes, photograph the scene, and finish back at the house later. But I got enough done that I decided just to leave it the way I painted it on location. Neither of the two photos below quite does it justice, but they should give you the basic idea.
When I was photographing and editing the picture, I inadvertently applied some sort of filter to it. Here’s what it looks like. Kinda cool!
Our rented house in Rehoboth Beach looks out on the Rehoboth-Lewes Canal. It was raining all day, but that didn’t stop me from setting up under an awning and painting the scene. I wanted a better view of the canal, so I “pruned” a few bushes with my brushes.
Again it was too hot to paint outside during the day, so I waited until evening and then took another run at the house across the street. I had more time this evening than I did when I first tried this subject, so the drawing is a bit more careful. I’m getting closer to the look I want, but not there yet.
A big challenge is seeing the canvas and the palette. Sometimes I just couldn’t see what I was doing, and I lathered the paint on too thick. I do have a nocturne easel light, but I cleverly left it at home, so I had to make do. Great fun, in any case.
I painted this view of the Potomac from Swains Lock campground. A couple of nearby campers took an interest in what I was doing, and they seemed to like it, even though I was hogging a good campsite for a couple hours! I was especially interested in the strange little tree that seemed to be growing in the middle of the river.
Also, I found some relatively inexpensive linen panels, so I’ll be using those a lot over the next few weeks. I think I paint better on linen, but it’s ordinarily prohibitively expensive, so I’m excited about the switch.
I hadn’t planned to paint another roof, but this turret beckoned me, so I had to paint it.
I hadn’t planned to paint outdoors today, but the clouds suddenly parted in the afternoon, and I rushed outside. I stood on Butler Road in Bethesda and saw this rooftop overlooking nearby River Road. I was most interested in the late-afternoon light on the walls of the buildings.
When I’m in New York, I like to attend at least one life-drawing session at the Art Students League on West 57th Street. I chose a long pose of Sasha, an excellent model. I started with an indifferent gesture sketch of her full figure, then did this 35-minute portrait sketch.
Before life class, I took my little portable paintbox and stood on the corner of 57th and 7th Avenue, looking downtown, toward Times Square. I had trouble concentrating: there was no place to sit, it was hot, and it was crowded. But at least I got a few ideas down on the canvas. I was interested in contrasting the dark mass of green (the backstop for the 57th Street subway stop) with the very bright buildings on the left. And it’s always fun to sketch figures in the city.
It was a hot and sunny day in New York, so I bustled my way to Central Park to do some painting. As I mentioned earlier, I brought only four colors on this trip — red, blue, yellow, red oxide — pus white. With that palette, it was hard to get some of the bright greens in this scene, but it sure was fun to try. I can see why some people advocate a limited palette: it makes you think more carefully about mixing paint. Anyway, I did this little sketch in about two hours, with the tiny 6” x 8” panel propped up in my little Guerilla Thumb Box.. I sat on a bench until the sun bore down on me, then stood behind a tree, then sat on the ground. Meanwhile tourists bustled all around me. Challenging circumstances!
I drove around in my Miata looking for a good spot to paint, and after failing to find anything, it occurred to me that the Miata itself might be a good subject. It’s 29 years old but stlil cute. So I parked it and got out the paints! Especially those reds. :)
I did this collage of the thirty paintings I did in June. The final painting actually took 3 days, but on several days I did more than one painting, so I probably did at least 30 paintings all told. Some are better than others, but I like most of these a lot. Some standouts include the Jefferson Memorial, the Great Falls picture, the roses, the yacht, and Voltaire.
The daily painting craze continues in July! Today I started painting a giant red crane, but it kept changing positions, perhaps because it was being blown around in today’s high winds. After an hour I gave up, wiped out the painting, and did a quick sketch of diners across the street at Olazzo, an Italian cafe and restaurant on Norfolk Avenue in Bethesda. I had only about half an hour, as the diners finished their meal and left. If I’d had more energy, I would have found substitute models, but by this point I was tired and called it a day.
I paid a visit to Hills Plaza, a pleasant street in Friendship Village, just north of the DC-Maryland line. I liked the way the streetlamps lined up, and I also wanted to say something about the competition between trees and buildings in the background. I was still painting away when darkness fell, so I gave up before I felt I was finished; once again I gave short shrift to the flowers in the flower pot! Not to mention the tops of the street lamps. I will touch them up tomorrow.
I returned to Great Falls National Park to paint the old tavern there, but I didn’t like how it was going, so I wiped it out and chose a new subject — the Washington Aqueduct. More specifically, the dam for the aqueduct, just upstream of Great Falls. I like how the water is still and clear on one side of the dam and agitated on the other.
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.