For Everything, A Season

It’s been a difficult year. I guess I’m now at a point where I can finally write it down, but based on the June date of my last real blog post,😳 (aside from the occasional quick announcement) maybe it was already evident. June was when the reality settled in for me and my siblings that it was time to say goodbye (for now) to our beautiful, sweet, smart, creative mother, who had struggled with her illness in an acute form for over a year. I thought I was prepared, but no matter how well you understand the “reality” in front of you, there’s nothing that really prepares you for such a loss. With a little distance and time, I am still realizing how much it knocked the wind out of my sails, and I’ll admit that I am struggling to get my energy and my painting “mojo” back.

If you, yourself, are a creative of any kind, I’m sure you know that feeling of creative flow. It’s so great when it’s present and really kind of miserable when it isn’t. That’s not to say that I haven’t painted at all. In fact, the paintings I’m sharing in this post are from commissions and projects I worked on over the past few months. But it’s been hard to get that momentum going where gears are all greased and the ideas and inspiration just keep flowing and I’m chomping at the bit with my next idea.

I suppose there are art marketing gurus out there that say that you should never admit such things and always put your most successful foot forward. “Fake it ‘til you make it,” so to speak, and only share your successes and never the struggle. That can sometimes be helpful, but it’s not particularly authentic. Let’s face it, the struggle can be real and I would venture to say I am not the only artist who has been in this place.

If you are in this place also, my advice is to be gentle on yourself. Do the work that is in front of you, do what you can, but don’t beat yourself up that it’s just “not happening” for you every time you step in front of the easel (or the potter’s wheel or the computer). Celebrate the moments of inspiration in whatever form and for however long they come. This too will pass, but in the meantime, the only way past it is to get through it the best way you know how.

For me, I’m reorganizing my studio, working on an new inventory management system, and cleaning up the office as a way to clear out both the mental and physical clutter. As a result, I’m holding a holiday sale of smaller (mostly plein air) paintings with some great savings in hopes that I can manage my limited storage space and also hopefully send a few more pieces out into the world. I’m also working on a series of still life paintings, as they are less dependent on time of day and weather. More about that in future posts.

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.

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!  :) 

 

 

 

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....

Sunrise Stroll

Back in spring as I was packing up and/or discarding my earthly belongings, I had imagined that by fall we would have begun working on a new studio at the new house. "Oh, I'll be up and running by winter," I thought. Well, I may have been a "tad" optimistic as we haven't come close to deciding how or even where we will fashion one.  In light of the constant waffling, we finally decided to rent a little temporary workspace for me, to take the pressure off a bit.

Viola! My little space. It's certainly a far cry from my former studio. It's tiny, it's dark, it's plain...but it's mine (at least temporarily). And I couldn't be happier to be back at work. :-)

What's missing in this picture is, of course, the easel. I will keep things simple (and light) by using my Soltek in here. I have also added a few additional lights to brighten things up a bit and make things a bit easier on the eyes.

To kick off the occasion, I dove into a subject I have been dying to develop since I painted it on location this summer- The Outer Banks of North Carolina. I was especially keen to dive into the concept of the sunrise, having tackled in en plein air in July:

"Sunrise Stroll", Oil on linen, 20x24", ©Jennifer E Young

"Sunrise Stroll", Oil on linen, 20x24", ©Jennifer E Young

Because I am renting this space and the ventilation is poor, I will only use water miscible oils here. So this, friends, marks another inaugural moment, of sorts--my first studio painting with Royal Talens Cobra water miscible paints.  I have to say, I am loving these paints in the studio. They stay open longer than my traditional oils, which makes it easier to manipulate edges and build up to lovely, lush texture without having to do it all alla prima.  The only criticism I have at the moment is that the Titanium White in this brand is rather weak. Maybe I just need to get used to the tinting properties of the other paint colors,  but I used  almost half of a 150 ML tube of paint on this one 20x24" painting. (And that's not *much* of an exaggeration.)  Otherwise, though, I am having a great time and am so happy to have a room to call my own to create and leave all of my toys lying about.