From Study to Studio: Rose Regalia

There is little more satisfying than capturing a moment in time through painting. And there is no better method to achieve that end than painting from life. The beauty of plein air painting lies in its freshness and immediacy. At its best, pure notes of color painted with confidence are juxtaposed with passages of broken color as the painter makes new discoveries along the way. Light and shadow fit together like pieces of a puzzle until a unified statement coalesces into art.

Where plein air painting is very spontaneous, my approach in the studio, while similar, is more deliberate. Here I can adjust my proportions and play with the composition without the rush against time. I knew in the moment as I was painting this scene at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens that I would want to do a variation of it in a larger format. The colors were so spectacular and the garden designers did a good deal of the design work for my painting with the well- planned pathways and layers of flowers in all shades framed by trees and gazebos in the background.

“Rose Regalia”, Oil on linen, 12x16” ©Jennifer E Young

“Rose Regalia”, Oil on linen, 12x16” ©Jennifer E Young

I chose a favorite canvas size, 24 x 30”, for my larger studio piece. It is a slightly different aspect ratio than my 12x16” plein air, so I made some slight adjustments to the proportions and placement of the gazebos to create a less centered composition.

“Rose Regalia II”, Oil on linen, 24x30” ©Jennifer E Young

“Rose Regalia II”, Oil on linen, 24x30” ©Jennifer E Young

I wanted to stay true to the spirit of the smaller painting and the lighting effect coming from behind, but I lengthened the path to create a little more distance between the foreground roses and the background gazebos so as to slow the eye as it traveled through the painting. I really liked the looseness and freshness in the handling of the roses in my plein air piece, but I added more tonal variation and detail in the peachy roses in the foreground, since these shrubs were close to the viewer and the larger canvas seemed to call for something more.

Overall I am enjoying both the large and small versions of this composition, each in their own ways, and I think they each possess their own qualities unique to their chosen approach. The smaller plein air piece is currently one of 3 paintings I have displayed in a group show called “En Plein Air” at the Lora Robbins Library at Lewis Ginter, and the larger painting will be a part of a new exhibit this Friday at Crossroads Art Center’s Summer Open House. If you are in the Richmond area and you’d like to see these shows in person, check out my calendar for the details .

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!

From winter to summer, in one post!

It is good to be back to painting again. It has felt like such a long time since I have been able to stand at the easel and wipe all the cares away and just focus on art. Maybe for this reason, this painting came together fairly fluidly. This piece was inspired by a challenge from Gallery Flux, to create works for their upcoming show all about SNOW! So I thought I would experiment with a few different compositions in this theme in hopes that I'd have some good candidates to offer up for the show, and oh what fun it was! I painted from reference photos I took last winter in my neighborhood, which has its share of beautiful stately and Victorian homes.

"Victorian Winter", Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer E. Young

"Victorian Winter", Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer E. Young

And now that I have you hankering for some hot chocolate, I carry you back to summer again, with a new online auction. This plein air painting is a little larger than my prior auction listings; it's an 8x10" piece on linen-mounted MDF panel, with an opening bid of just $200. I painted this little gazebo on the dunes just in front of the beach house where my family has been staying the last several summers in Kill Devil Hills on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I love the way the light hits the dunes right around dinner time, when the sun gets lower and the shadows get nice and long.

"Dune Shadows" Oil on linen, 8x10".  SOLD !

"Dune Shadows" Oil on linen, 8x10". SOLD!

Floyd Plein Air (In Retrospect)

In addition to my travel up to Maine in June, I participated in two plein air festivals this summer. This was the first summer I have done this many "away" events in a long time but now that my daughter is getting a little older I felt like the time was right to give them a shot. The first was Floyd Plein Air, which took place in and around Floyd, Virginia in August. I had fully intended to live blog during this event, but I had zero internet or GPS anywhere in Floyd (not a great look for me, but somehow I survived ;-) ) I participated in the inaugural event for this festival a couple of years ago, under the name of "Plein Air Crush". This time around the festival was extended from a long weekend to an entire week. The weather was much better this time, which meant my paintings weren't covered in a layer of fine dirt like they were the first time around. Floyd is was a truly scenic venue for a plein air event, organized by the Floyd Center for the Arts.  I met a lot of very fine painters during the event, but I found it to be equal parts congenial and competitive. Congenial because I really admired and respected the participating artists who took part in the event, but competitive because there was definitely a competition aspect (judges and awards given) which always adds a layer of stress ( at least for me) to the experience.

Nevertheless the event was a fun fledgling festival, and I had the chance to paint some beautiful scenery for an entire week, which culminated in a show at the Floyd Center for the Arts. Here are a few of my pieces painted during the festival:

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.