Small but sweet; Ashland, VA

I sometimes feel that painting really small can be just as challenging as painting really large. Because of the level of detail, this little piece has a slightly tighter handling than the one I posted last week. There was a time or two during my process where I questioned whether I should see this through, but I am glad now that I stuck with it. This painting features the former train station for RF&P Railroad in my home town, Ashland, VA.

"Autumn in Ashland," Oil on panel, 6x6"

"Autumn in Ashland," Oil on panel, 6x6"

While it's an iconic view of the town, it is also meaningful to me for another reason. I gaze upon this approximate view on a regular basis, because my temporary studio happens to be located very near by.  Ashland is a small southern town that grew up around the railroad, so it has a pretty interesting history. In fact, while there is no longer a ticket counter at this location, the footprint of the interior has hasn't changed all that much, so it isn't hard to take a step back in time and imagine what things must have been like when rail was all the rage. Today, while the building now serves as the town's Visitor's Center, this train route on Railroad Ave. still sees a lot of action, and the location serves as a train stop for Amtrak commuters,  both north and south.

October Pumpkins

In Hanover County, Virginia,  where I now live, fall is particularly lovely. The profusion of green has given way to warm rich tones of gold, red and orange. October is pumpkin season, and you don't have to drive too far around here to find a roadside stand where you can pick up some  pumpkins to decorate the front stoop. If you are feeling adventurous you can even take the kids to a pumpkin patch so they can pick their very own.  Myself, I rather like leaving them put and painting them right where they are growing (in this case, the pumpkins, not the kids!). 

"October Pumpkins, Hanover" Oil on Panel, 8x10" ©Jennifer Young

"October Pumpkins, Hanover" Oil on Panel, 8x10" ©Jennifer Young

This painting came about after getting a call from a painter friend of mine. She'd made arrangements to paint at the Hanover Vegetable Farm on one of the last days in October, and invited me to come along. I drive past this farm from time to time and I'd been eyeing those pumpkins for a couple of weeks. But for whatever reason, I hadn't gotten around to calling the proprietor up about painting there. So when the chance arose, I jumped on it. We got there around 8 a.m. The sun was low and the moon was still up. And of course, there were all of those cute round pumpkins gathering round the dirt path and echoing the shape of the waning moon. 

While I have really loved painting with my water soluble oil paints in the studio lately, I painted this piece solvent free using traditional oils. I used a little bit of Gamblin's Solvent Free Gel for my medium, and cleaned my brushes with walnut oil. I'm happy to report that it worked out just fine. I am so glad to leave that messy can of toxic solvent  out of the picture and just pack a little bottle of walnut oil and a small jar to swish my brushes in for cleaning. 

It's been raining around here for the last couple of days and I am anxious to see if the foliage will hold up until the sun comes back out. It would be great to get out a few more times before we have to say farewell to all of this gorgeous autumn color. We will see....

The Third Tee

Last week I finally got out to do a little plein air painting again. Since the leaves were pretty much at their peak, I decided to try a new location that would really feature the fall foliage. This is the golf course at the JLCC, where we have a pool membership:

"The Third Tee" Oil on Birch Panel, 8x10" (SOLD) © Jennifer E Young

"The Third Tee" Oil on Birch Panel, 8x10" (SOLD) ©Jennifer E Young

I am not a golfer, but I am told it is the 3rd Tee. We would often looked down at this lovely view in the summer while having a light dinner by the kiddie pool. It's a great dining spot in the good weather. We get to relax and take in this great view at sunset, while our daughter splashes around and plays.

It was fun to return in a different season, with a different vibe altogether (very peaceful!) This pond actually backs up to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, where I've also frequented for local plein air excursions. So along with the occasional golfer, there were plenty of water fowl and songbirds to keep me company.

October Maples

When I woke up the other morning it was so stunning outside that I decided to leave the studio for a bit and do some plein air painting in my Bellevue neighborhood. Dave and I passed these gorgeous maples on Newport Drive during our walk in the 'hood the previous evening and I made a mental note to check them out again in the morning :

"October Maples" Oil on Linen, 9x12" ©Jennifer Young

"October Maples" Oil on Linen, 9x12" ©Jennifer Young

This is not the greatest of photos, so I will try and re-shoot this tomorrow morning when the lighting is better.  There are some areas where I might've wanted more refinement, but I am going to sit with this a bit and see how I feel about it when I can look at it with fresh eyes.

One thing I realized from the timed exercise I mentioned in my previous post was just how long my plein air paintings look like absolutely nothing. In fact, a common occurrence with me lately is the feeling of a sinking heart as I look at the confusing mess that is my painting and wonder if I might be better off just scrapping the whole thing. Bleh!

But then I'll think something like, "Just work on it a little more and then you can quit if you want to." Only a few strokes later (if they are good strokes) I find myself excited again and some logic begins to emerge.  It's almost as if something switches in my brain (on or off? I don't know.)  Maybe I just let go of the outcome and relax enough that somehow I can see the scene before me not as an overload of "things", but as a rhythmic pattern of lights and darks, colors and shapes.

This is not to say that there aren't areas for improvement in this painting. But at least I managed to get the impression of place down, which, based on how the painting progressed in the earlier stage, was quite a surprise to me.  I guess the moral of that story is not to give up too soon. Some paintings are indeed "false starts" and probably just doomed to fail. But then there are those that have potential and a solid start and just require more patience and relaxed focus. Bargain with yourself to just stick it out a little longer and see what happens. By doing so, you often have little to lose and much to gain.

Golden Hour on the James River

Miracle of miracles, I actually painted something this week. I decided to stave off the moving insanity by paying a restorative visit to Brown's Island for a little plein air painting on the James River:

"The Golden Hour" Oil on Multimedia ArtBoard, 9x12" ©Jennifer Young

"The Golden Hour" Oil on Multimedia ArtBoard, 9x12" ©Jennifer Young

Brown's Island is not too far from my current downtown studio, and painting there the other evening really made me appreciate anew what a uniquely beautifulwildlife refuge we have running right through the heart of our city. Just down stream, cranes and geese were resting and fishing on the rocks, creating an interesting counterpoint to the cars zooming across the nearby Lee Bridge and the train trestles that loomed directly over my head.

Remnants of old pilings and bridge footings (like the ones shown to the right of the foreground trees in my painting) also served to remind me that this location was the industrial heart of Richmond's recent past.  Today Brown's Island is a lovely part of the James River Park system that feels both wild and urban at once. It's also a popular venue for outdoor concerts and festivals like the upcoming Richmond Folk Festival. (Reminder Richmonders--the festival is this weekend! Tents are already being raised and lots of work is being done in preparation, so don't forget to come out and support this event!)

As for the painting, I painted this scene in the late afternoon/early evening time frame. When I started I didn't notice the bits of red that were in the trees. It wasn't until the sun got a little lower and lit up the trees just so that the brilliant burst of autumn reds revealed themselves. That's one of the joys of plein air painting--these kinds of little miracles unfold before your eyes as you witness the evolutionary effects of light in nature. In these days when I seem to be going a mile a minute, I'm all the more appreciative of the experience.