Intertwined

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.

In Harmony

Last week as I was working on my latest James River painting, I ran into a little conudrum. So I decided to put the question out to my followers on my Facebook page to get some feedback. First, here's a few shots of the painting's progression.

The foreground was definitely what was holding most of my attention. Those roots and the light spilling over on the trees, was where it was at. That's fine, but my worry was that once the eye was finished there, it would exit the painting rather too quickly. So I experimented by adding a couple of birds in the middle distance, perhaps as a way to rest the eye before taking flight. I liked the idea, but I was a little worried that an additional element would split the focus or detract from the foreground too much. 

I knew which way I was leaning, but I thought it would be fun to put the question out there in Facebook land. The overwhelming feedback was YES to birds. So birds it is...simple ones, just shapes, really. It's been raining for days, so it's been really difficult to get a good shot of the completed painting, but finally, here it is!

 "In Harmony" Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

"In Harmony" Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

This is another painting of the James River's Pony Pasture. I've done a couple of other small plein air studies of this exact view in the past, and have always wanted to do a larger one. I'm not sure why it took me so long to get around to it, but I'm glad I finally did. You can see more info, plus a couple of detail shots of the painting by clicking on the final image above.

Carlson, trees and me

Well I really do need to stop saying I'm "back in business", because no sooner do I say it then something goes awry. Mid-way into the James River studio piece I posted about in my last blog, Ma Nature delivered to us a belated white Christmas and sub-freezing temperatures. School closed for three days (!) but in fits and starts I got 'er done.

 "Take Me to the River", Oil on linen, 24x30: ©Jennifer E Young

"Take Me to the River", Oil on linen, 24x30: ©Jennifer E Young

There's quite an investment in paint in this piece, but since I was able to work at least a little bit on it each day over our surprise break, it stayed open and wet enough that I was able to work up a nice texture without the dreaded gumming up of paint that can lead to over-work. 

Lately I've been looking at and thinking a lot about one of my painting heroes, John F. Carlson. If you paint landscapes (or are the connoisseur of them), you may already know about his well-loved book "Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting". If you haven't heard of it, I highly recommend picking up a copy if you are serious about the study of painting in this genre.

Carlson was a Swedish-American Impressionist born in 1875. His family immigrated to New York in 1884. Carlson went on to study art at the Art Students League in New York City, and achieve a fine career as a landscape painter, with prestigious exhibitions and a position as the director of the Woodstock School of Landscape Painting.

While he painted a variety of subjects, he made many powerful works based on scenes containing primarily groupings of trees. Carlson really was a master of form and negative space. The simplicity of his subject matter in many of his better-known paintings belied the abstract power of his compositions.

So in addition to thinking about light and shadow, variations in color, etc., I thought a lot about variation in shapes, both negative and positive. The James River series really does lend itself to this kind of study, as many paths to the river are wooded before you arrive at its rocky banks. Twisted roots along the forest floor add an additional element of interest to the composition. I had such a good time with this painting that I am developing a companion. More about that coming soon.