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

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.

Take me to the river

The fall weather and colors  have been pretty spectacular this year for plein air painting, so I have a little backlog of images to post as a result. The first two paintings were done last week at a paint out with the Virginia Plein Air Painters group. This is a great group that gathers once a month (sometimes more) from spring through fall to paint together en plein air. The great thing about this group is that members will organize unique locations within about an hour of Richmond. Some sites are public, but others are on private property that can't be accessed ordinarily. Such was the case with this location.

The owner of the property happened to be a Zen garden and landscape designer who allowed us to paint on her sprawling property fronting the South Anna River. There were so many beautiful compositions to be made that it was really hard deciding what to paint. But since I wanted to take advantage of the autumn foliage and the play of light across the sparkling water, I was most drawn to the natural settings along the river bank.

This was my morning effort:

"Autumn on the South Anna River", Oil on linen, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

"Autumn on the South Anna River", Oil on linen, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

I had such a great time with that one that after a quick brown bag lunch I decided to try another river painting a little further upstream:

A few days went by when I couldn't get back outside, but I kept thinking about how satisfying it was to be painting down by the river. Especially in the fall, where the vibrancy of the light is at an all time high. This has to do with both the lower angle of the light at this time of year, and the way coolness of the blues and purples in the shadows so naturally play compliment to the autumn hues of gold, orange and red.

Yesterday was my next opportunity to revel in all of that beautiful light and color. I couldn't finagle my way back onto the South Anna River property without a proper invitation, so I decided to return to Pony Pasture, the same section of the James River Park system that I visited in my prior blog post.

"Sun-kissed", Oil on canvas, 6x8" ©Jennifer E Young

"Sun-kissed", Oil on canvas, 6x8" ©Jennifer E Young

As lovely as it is, the autumn light tends to move faster than the spring and summer, and I only had time to do a small one this time before making the trek back to Ashland.  But at least I got my fix. I can't promise I'm done, though; the weather's supposed to be pretty nice for the next few days, and winter lurks just around the corner.

James River plein air

Oh happy day! Oh cold morning; but nevertheless, happy day. This week I finally managed to get back outside, to visit one of my favorite painting muses, the James River. The James River Park system in Richmond, VA, continues to fascinate me and remains one of my all-time favorite plein air painting sites.

* SO LD*  Autumn Morning on the James River", Oil on canvas, 6x8" ©Jennifer E Young

*SOLD* Autumn Morning on the James River", Oil on canvas, 6x8" ©Jennifer E Young

I painted this at Pony Pasture, where I stood wedged between some boulders.

jamesriverpleinair_jenniferyoung

Pony Pasture is on the south side of the river, in Richmond VA. I've always wondered where this part of the park got its name, but only today did I think to look it up. According to Richmond.com, "The name came from the 1960s when the area was suburban and people who were into housing their horses near the river," said Ralph White, who is the (now retired)  manager of the James River Park.

While there are no ponies today (though what a cool sight that would be) there are plenty of other creatures to observe, including Canadian geese and herons, as well as dogs and their owners, fishermen, kayakers and canoers. Oh, and you might occasionally see the odd painter too. ;-)