Life in the Meadow; Start to Finish

Today I thought I'd share the  progressive steps for my newest painting of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. (My usual disclaimers and apologies about the quality of these in-progress photos apply due to lighting conditions in my temporary work space.) This view is near the little B&B where we have stayed on a couple of occasions while visiting Bedford, Virginia.

I'm starting as usual with a sepia-toned sketch thinned with Gamsol to work out the main elements of my composition. This is very loose and general, but it helps me to determine placement. At this early stage I am not overly obsessed with exactness of the forms. Unlike with watercolor, in oil painting I like to carve and refine shapes as I go along. 


In the next steps I concentrate on massing in areas in the shadow family. This doesn't take too long because in contrast to my prior painting of the Blue Ridge which was predominantly in shadow, this new painting is predominantly sunlit, with a light source that is nearly overhead.


Next steps are massing in the meadow and the rest of the tree shapes, as well as the distant mountains


Followed by the sky


With the canvas nearly covered I work out the finer details of my primary focal area (the horses). 


At the final stages I add some suggestions of wildflowers to the field. I also add highlights and soften edges here and there, until I achieve the illusion of depth and light I'm after. 

Voila! The final: 

 "Life in the Meadow", Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer Young

"Life in the Meadow", Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer Young

Last Light on the Orchard

We are in mid-construction here trying to convert the garage to my new studio space, so I am staying close by and working in the studio, as time and interruptions permit. I am preparing for a June show at the Cabell Gallery in Lexington, Virginia as well, which is proving a challenge in my chaotic state. Nonetheless, I'm  having a bit of fun mining my photos from various plein air trips I have made to the mountains in last few years.

One most memorable trip was a beautiful long weekend trek I made solo to Crozet, Virginia. I stayed in a sweet little country cabin and explored the area with my paint kit. The orchards and wildflowers were blooming and I was in heaven. The plein air pieces I did during that trip have long since sold but through my reference photos and photos of the work I did there I developed this large studio piece:

 "Last Light on the Orchard", Oil on linen, 24x36" ©Jennifer E Young

"Last Light on the Orchard", Oil on linen, 24x36" ©Jennifer E Young

A few years ago I had worked out a 30x40" painting of this same scene, but I really wanted to try this again now that my style and color sense has evolved. I rather prefer the 24x36" format to accentuate those long slivers of sunlight that are spilling across the mountains and the grass, righ before the sun takes its leave for the day.


Mother nature surprises again! By the 2nd week of February we were head-on into spring. The robins were back at least a month early, the fruit trees had all started blooming, and temperatures went has high as the low eighties. Now here we are in the "Ides of March" and in comes the ice and freezing rain, school closings, and the reintroduction of turtleneck sweaters.

I did manage to get down to the river a couple of times during that February thaw, though in both instances I came away with nothing but wipers. However, those "failures" provided fuel for the studio piece below, so all was not lost.  

 "Intertwined", Oil on linen, 16x20" Jennifer E Young

"Intertwined", Oil on linen, 16x20" Jennifer E Young

There still wasn't much color in the landscape when I was working on this piece, though the river and sky provided a nice cool counterbalance to the warmth of the earth toned trees in the foreground. As for the drawing and the overall light in the painting I would say this studio piece achieved a level of success and finish that the plein air pieces didn't. Still it was the plein air experience that helped to inform that light and shadow, so in that sense those exercises were essential. 

Speaking of studio work, I am doing just that...working on my new studio space! :-) After a lot of soul searching and agonizing over our budget, we decided to table the idea of building a separate studio on our property. Instead I will be taking over our 20x20' attached garage and installing some doors and windows where our garage doors sit currently. I'll keep my office in an adjacent room in the house, so the garage will be dedicated to just the art studio. I actually think this arrangement will be quite helpful in that when I enter my art space there wont be the distraction of my email and computer.  This setup won't be as fancy as the last studio I had, but I think it will function just fine for my purposes, and will be a far sight better than the tiny dark room I have been painting in for the past 5 or 6 months. 

Unfortunately the garage had kind of become the catch-all for overflow storage items, so it's going to take some time to sort through and clear out everything and make some kind of order and dedicated workspace. But in spite of the storm, the windows were installed yesterday and the doors are scheduled to be installed today! This will be followed by electrical, heat, and a bit of carpentry and painting to finish things off. Hopefully by May I'll be fully in, and oh what a happy day that will be. I will be sure to post some updates as things progress.

Woodland Spirits

In troubled times, I seek solace in nature. I crave the woods, the water in all forms, sounds of the wild and the quietude. These are indeed troubled times. I don't often write about politics or world events on my website dedicated to art, but I can no longer look at nature, my child, my work or my relationships without worry. The world I have known, with all its flaws, had some sense of stability for me. Now, though I don't know what to expect, I find myself fearing the worst. Maybe the better nature in us all will rise and simply rid itself of the superfluous, like a tree self-pruning its dead limbs. Or maybe all of this mayhem is insignificant in the grander scheme of things--just a part of life's ebb and flow. Whatever happens, I will try to steady myself in nature. Fleeting as it now seems to be, there is a power in it. A steadfast knowing...a spirit that can't be broken. 

 "Woodland Spirits," Oil on linen, 24x24" Jennifer E Young

"Woodland Spirits," Oil on linen, 24x24" Jennifer E Young

Lemons and a Springtime Shawl

 "Lemons With a Springtime Shawl", Oil on linen, 24x24" ©Jennifer E Young

"Lemons With a Springtime Shawl", Oil on linen, 24x24" ©Jennifer E Young

It's been a while since I painted a still life, and this one almost didn't make it. In fact, it sat around in my studio for about a month 3/4 of the way complete and my plan was actually to just paint over it or throw it through the window, whichever came first. What happened was my little kitten tore down my still life setup not one, not two, but THREE times. You might think I would find some way of preventing this, but at the moment I am painting in a small room in the house that also happens to have our only cat door that leads out to the screened porch (and litter box). The last time the take-down happened I was so disgusted I just left the whole setup on the floor for a while in a sorry heap, took the painting off the easel and turned it to the wall, where it sat in infamy for about a month.

!I think it was the little  blue pom-poms on the shawl. They were just too tantalizing dangling over the edge of the bureau like that, and I guess no self-respecting kitten could resist. Any way, it was a true miracle that the rice bowl and ginger jar didn't smash into a million pieces, but they survived somehow. And so did my painting! Yesterday I put the canvas back up on the easel with the thought that I'd at least rescue the cost of the linen canvas and paint over top of it. But as I took another look I thought,  well maybe I should at least see if I can open the surface back up and finish the thing. If I hate it I can always scrape it down and paint over top, right?  Well I did finish it (with the kitten in exile). And what do you know? I'm glad I did. 

P.S. I've added a few detail shots of this painting on it's product page. Click on the painting above to view.