Beach Week Bliss

What happened to June? It was a crazy, exciting month. To our surprise and delight, our 8 year old daughter had landed a bona fide cast role— as “Molly” ( the littlest orphan,) in the chlidren’s theater production of “Annie”. I soon founding myself chauffering her to daily rehearsals and painting orphanage set pieces, Hooverville set pieces, and various props in the production.

We had a blast during the whole experience, but by the time beach week (and July) rolled around (the day after closing the show!) we were all SO ready to return back to our normal, boring life. Not only that, but I was REALLY ready to return to painting—landscapes on canvas, that is.

My first, early morning attempt at it didn’t exactly go as planned, however. Little did I know when I hauled myself and all of my gear over the dunes and down to the shore at 6 a.m. that I was without a rather key part of my painting setup—the piece of my pochade box that attaches to my tripod and essentially holds my painting upright. As dismayed as I was, I determined to forge ahead.

I managed to complete a small 8x10” just-after-sunrise piece of the pier, propping the canvas horizontally the way you would a watercolor, on the edge of my palette. But it was no watercolor. The morning sun cast such a light on my oil painting at this angle that it was really glaring and almost blindingly too much light on the piece, making it hard to view or judge values. In any event, after a few minor adjustments “after the fact,” I think I managed to capture the “feeling of the moment” in spite of the struggle.

“Nags Head Pier, 6 A.M.” Oil on linen, 8x10” ©Jennifer E Young

“Nags Head Pier, 6 A.M.” Oil on linen, 8x10” ©Jennifer E Young

I actually thought I had left that key piece of equipment at home, but luckily for me (and the next painting,) I found it, tucked in a compartment in the trunk of my car. Whew! 😅This gave me courage to venture a little further down the road, to find a public beach access and a traditional Nags Head cottage, complete with dunes, weathered cedar shingles, and a fishing boat temporarily moored in the distance between the two. I really love the traditional cottages of “Old Nags Head”, and this cottage “Sand Joy” seemed to embody so much of that local character.

“Sand Joy” Oil on linen, 11x14” ©Jennifer E Young

“Sand Joy” Oil on linen, 11x14” ©Jennifer E Young

One other morning it was down to Nags Head Fishing Pier. It was a little too far from the house to hike with all of my gear, so I drove down and paid to park. Ironically, I ended up painting the beach and no pier at all. I had fully intended to paint that pier with its waves lapping and glinting under the pilings, but my eye and my heart kept drifting to the beach and the surf and those wonderful clouds that were forming on the skyline. So I wiped down my canvas and started anew. In such moments I just feel it is better to paint what compels you, rather than what you think “should” compel you.

“Nags Head in July,” Oil on linen, 11x14” ©Jennifer E Young

“Nags Head in July,” Oil on linen, 11x14” ©Jennifer E Young

After that I ran out of white paint and was bummed to find the only art store on the island apparently closed for the July 4th weekend. As a result, I was “compelled” by necessity to just relax the next morning or two and enjoy the sandcastles and porpoises, which, let’s be honest, isn’t exactly suffering. I took a lot of great photos, though, so I am sure to revisit my time there in the coming months in my studio. Hope you’ll stay tuned for that inevitability!

P. S. I have a couple of upcoming summer shows in the very near future, including one at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens that opens tomorrow night. I have written indepth about them in my latest newsletter, which you can check out here. I hope you can join me at the openings if you are in the area!

New auction listing, "Shadows of the Pier" original oil, 8x8"

Today's auction listing is for a loose, impressionist painting of North Carolina's Outer Banks. I painted this little 8x8" oil "en plein air" over the summer during our annual vacation down there. It's a special place and it's a trip I look forward to all year long!  This auction will end on Wednesday, November  8th at 8 PM US Eastern time, or 5 PM Pacific. 

"Shadows of the Pier", Oil on linen, 8x8"  SOLD!

"Shadows of the Pier", Oil on linen, 8x8" SOLD!

Treasure Hunting at Avalon Pier

What a fall it has been so far. I thought once school started things would normalize (ha!) but the  schedule continues it's craziness. Most days lately I have just enough time (and energy) to paint, and maybe quickly post here and there on social media. Last week was major at my husband's job, and he had to pull some of all-nighters out of town while I played the single parent at home.

Unfortunately this blog suffers during times like these, and my rhythm tends to stumble. I don't feel comfortable venturing too far away from my daughter's school when my husband is also far away, so I opt for studio painting instead of painting in the field. The set-up and cleanup is just quicker and more efficient when I need to head for the pickup line at the end of the school day, or should Iget a call from the school nurse or whatever. When the weather is gorgeous and fleeting as it has been, this sometimes makes me feel a little sad not to go out to some beautiful countryside location and paint outdoors.

On the up side, the studio allows me to experiment and try new things. Not only can I paint larger (yay!) but  I can spend more time designing and composing. I can also decide how loyal I want to be to the image I'm working from, or whether I want to push that edge and see if I can manipulate the color more to create a certain color harmony or mood. So yeah, I was definitely going for a mood with this piece, and I have to admit I had a good time doing it!

"Treasure Hunting at Avalon Pier", Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

"Treasure Hunting at Avalon Pier", Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

Due to the cloud cover and my auto settings on my camera, my photo references were somewhat washed out in terms of color. So, much of the color is inspired by my memory and another plein air painting I did in the summer:

"Anchored at Sunrise", Oil on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E  Young

"Anchored at Sunrise", Oil on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E  Young

The image above has more warmth to it due to the time of day and the location of the sun so close to the horizon, but I loved the beautiful soft pastel colors in the sky and water and I felt that something similar would work well for the hazier light of a cloudy early evening, with just a tinge of the sunlight warming up the clouds as touches of blue sky break through. 

During our beach trips to Kill Devil Hills, I often walk down toward Kitty Hawk to the Avalon Pier and enjoy the people watching as I go. I especially love to see the kids playing by the shore, so in-the-moment and involved in their play. I know that feeling all too well. It's the way I feel when I'm painting down there, though my time always seems to end all too soon.

Marinating, then celebrating!

I completed this painting (or so I thought) a short time before we left for our annual summer trek to the beach. I really liked it, for the most part. And having considered it finished, I stuck it up on my studio wall before our trip. After our return though, I started looking at it with fresh eyes. Some things that tugged on me before were now really starting to become more bothersome. But I decided to let it marinate a while longer as I was distracted with other projects. 

surfside1_jenniferyoung

Finally, I decided that while I liked the overall mood in this piece, I did not like the little closed umbrella to the left of my grouping of sunbathers. It kept pulling my eye away from where I wanted to go, and it was sort of an ambiguous object sitting there. Still I wanted something near that spot that would perhaps pull the painting together a little better. So I began flipping through my trip photos for some ideas and inspiration, and came across a snap of a little boy digging intently in the sand. I sketched it out quickly in a nearby notebook and set to work. 

boy_surfside_sketch.jpg

There wasn't a lot of built up texture where the umbrella was, so I only had to scrape it down just a little bit with a razor. Then I proceeded with a little "oiling out"  (in this case with just a little gambol and solvent free fluid) to help the new paint layer adhere to the older but still very fresh under layer. Here is the revised painting with the little boy. I also brightened the sky a bit more as it was feeling a bit intense and heavy.  

"Surfside", Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer E Young

"Surfside", Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer E Young

Here's a detail of the figures: 

"Surfside" (Detail) ©Jennifer E Young

"Surfside" (Detail) ©Jennifer E Young

I don't know about you, but I like this much better, and I find it finally worthy of celebrating with a frame and a signature.  :)

Plein Air to Studio

Though I have a great love for plein air painting and do it as often as my time and circumstances allow,  I have, out of necessity, become much more of a studio painter these last few years. Working on location is like painting calisthenics. It demands one's full concentration, advance planning, additional travel time, and a good amount of in-the-moment ingenuity in order to capture the particular color notes and light effects of that point in time. As with physical exercise, I get both an exhilarating rush and a bit of a drain afterwards. 

5:30 a.m. wake-up time ensured that I captured this sunrise in all of its colorful glory. As you can see, all of that color was long gone when I photographed the setting at around 7 a.m.

5:30 a.m. wake-up time ensured that I captured this sunrise in all of its colorful glory. As you can see, all of that color was long gone when I photographed the setting at around 7 a.m.

While I love the spontaneity in my plein air work, my studio work has its advantages. For one I can be more deliberate. Without the limitations imposed by time and changing light, I can go larger in the studio, and at times, improve on my drawing and composition. I can also experiment more easily with various formats, color combinations, and other formal aspects of 2D artistry. 

While I have been engaged in both practices for many years now, I want to do more to relate the two disciplines to each other in a more purposeful way. Part of the reason I haven't always managed this is because I tend to consign my plein air paintings to galleries almost immediately after I complete them, which means I am separated from them for either the length of the consignment, or forever if the painting is sold outright. I do have photographs of all of my plein air paintings as well as photographs of the location (though as you can see above,  the latter often tells me very little about the true color I saw in the moment.)

Therefore I'm making a concerted effort to do more plein-air to studio paintings, using the actual plein air paintings as my primary reference when at all possible. Here's my most recent effort:

"New Day Rising", Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer E Young

"New Day Rising", Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer E Young

Here's my setup, in progress. I used my tablet holder to prop up my plein air painting so that both pieces would be under the same light for better color accuracy. It actually worked very well. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention!  :)