Happy New Year!

Happy New Year (almost)! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and looks forward to a great 2015. I took a little time off over the holidays to be with my family. Now that my daughter is 4 1/2 years old, Christmas time is really so much fun and I wanted to enjoy and cherish every minute of it. Even so, I did manage to "sneak in" one more painting before ringing in a brand new year.

French landscape pastoral painting by Jennifer E Young

"Mist in the Valley" Oil on Canvas, 12x16" Click here for more info, or  contact me to purchase!

This painting is based on a combination of photos and a plein air study I did while I was in the Lot Valley a few years ago. If you have been reading my blog a while, you may recall that I tackled similar subject matter before, and will likely explore compositional variations again. I have a lot of reference photos from that morning and it was probably one of the most memorable plein air sessions from the trip. It's also both fun and challenging painting such a close range of values and all of those soft edges.

P.S. Did you know 2015 is the year of the sheep in the Chinese astrology? I'm not really superstitious or into astrology and didn't realize it when I started working on this piece. But it's pretty coincidental, don't you think?

Dordogne Breeze

Here is the final version of the painting I posted in progress yesterday:

French landscape <!-painting by Jennifer E Young "Dordogne Breeze" Oil on Linen, 20x16" Click here for more info. Contact me to purchase!

The fun thing about this painting is that I used a lot of paint, which made working the edges really easy and enjoyable to manipulate. Truth be told, I had originally planned to have more elements  in the painting, (sheep, additional buildings in the distance) but in the process of painting it I decided I liked the simplicity of it with just a very few dominant shapes. Those other elements can wait for another composition, another day. This has been a good reminder to myself that I do not need to say everything in one painting, and to just let the brushwork speak for itself.

French landscape; new and in progress!

It feels like it has been ages since I posted a new work in progress. That is probably because it has been! This kitchen renovation really sidelined me more than I imagined. The new kitchen was in the studio and the old was completely gutted. For weeks. We live in a small house and there was no room at all to store the new stuff, so for a while we could barely walk around without tripping into something or shimmying by someone fast enough to avoid being stapled or drilled. Add to that mix  a couple of family illnesses and a trip or two, and here we are in December already.

French landscape painting in progress by Jennifer E Young

The kitchen still isn't done but at least my studio has been freed from floor-to-ceiling cabinetry, boxes, and debris (not to mention a table saw or two). So today I actually started something new. It feels good! This is a 20x16" and a fairly simple composition. But I wanted to keep it alla prima and fresh and airy, and for my first time back at the easel I wasn't looking to plunge into a large complicated piece. It's not done yet, but I think will be very  soon. When it is I will post it here, of course, and with a much better quality photo.

Poppies in a Fallow Field

I posted a progress shot of this painting a while ago, but let it marinate while I took advantage of the good weather to explore some plein air painting. While I haven't closed the season on plein air work, I'm excited to return to the studio, both to start something new and to tie up loose ends.landscape painting south of France by Jennifer E Young

"Poppies in a Fallow Field" Oil on Linen, 16x20" Click here for more info, or contact me to purchase!

In southern France, farmers often sow poppies and other wild flowers in fields that otherwise go fallow. This naturally helps protect the soil from erosion. At other times, poppies self sow and grow wild spontaneously. In either case, their profuse springtime display is pure joy to behold.

French landscape painting in progress

School's out for summer today so over the next couple of weeks we will be in transition mode as we settle into a new summer schedule.  I'm painting this French 16x20" landscape IBKT,  (in-between kid time) and I forgot to photograph this as a step by step.

French landscape with poppies in progress © Jennifer E Young

I started this late yesterday and today I'm trying to address the  whole canvas in a general way first,  so that when I return to the easel I can jump right in to the next level of detail. I really hope I can work on this wet into wet the whole time though, as it's so much easier to manipulate edges when the painting remains open. It needs a lot more work, obviously, but I'm enjoying the simplicity of this composition so far.

Lessons from the workshop

I thought I'd share a few of the studies I worked on during the Matt Smith workshop I posted about earlier this week. I will first preface by saying that my haste in preparing for this class came back to haunt me, so while I was well prepared in terms of my art supplies, I misunderstood what I was supposed to bring in the way of reference materials. The support documentation said to bring plein air studies and/or photos, and for some reason I took that to mean that plein air studies were preferred (maybe I was just hooked on the idea of plein air!) I probably should have asked beforehand about this because I did feel a little puzzled when I was packing about referencing a small scale plein air to make another small scale painting. (I usually translate small plein airs to larger works in the studio, but the recommended canvas sizes were all under 12x16"). In any event, I packed a number of my plein air pieces for reference, and then as a total afterthought printed off a few of my photos "just in case."

After seeing one demo and hearing the discussion though, I realized the error of my ways. I talked to Matt about what I should work from and he said he would rather see what I could do with my photo references for this class. Matt did bring a number of his own photo references for people to use, but I really dislike using other people's references. Even though we are composing with light and form, I want references that reflect my real experience of having seen (and felt) a place.  So I did what I could with what I had, but I really wished I had brought a more extensive selection of my hundreds upon hundreds of photos I have in my personal archive.

This  first painting is also the most incomplete:


In all of my paintings the common feedback from Matt was to take my brush and "knock back" some of my brushwork that competed with my statement or focal area. For instance, in this painting, our conversation went something like this:

MS:  "Is this painting about the light or shadows?" JY: "Well, I like the highlights on the edges of the poplar trees the best". And with that he took my brush and blended back the rather boisterous brushwork that was beginning to take shape in the shadow passages. MS: "You're giving equal weight to both." Next he mixed a bold tree highlight and swept it upwards on the edge of one of my poplar trees calligraphically, making the highlight really jump out. JY: "Ah, I see! But...I wouldn't just leave it like that...would I? It looks pretty unfinished." MS: "No, not necessarily. But you may restate and knock back several times before you get it right."

 I have such a love of brushwork, but it probably can work to my disadvantage sometimes. The hard part, I think, is figuring out what, exactly, is "right", and what is too little or too much. It's all about finding that balance, where active areas are juxtaposed with quiet passages. It's the quiet passages that play a supporting role and allow the more active ones to take center stage. To paraphrase something Matt said in one of his talks, it can't all be "important". Filter the noise and find the important elements.

I soon abandoned the first study, deciding to just keep that as an annotated lesson.  The second 8x10" painting below is more complete, and may look familiar to some long time blog readers. That is because I painted this scene before en plein air, and blogged about it here. The photo in the link is too dark overall but even so, I think this second study is much more infused with light. (So this exercise will be very helpful to me when I translate the concept to a larger painting, which I really am excited to do now! ) For the painting below, though,  I thought I'd try it again using just my photo reference and see what kind of feedback I could get, and whether it would look decidedly different as a result.


I really loved the composition as it was, so it remains relatively the same in this second attempt. But in terms of paint application,  I got some helpful hands-on feedback from Matt again. Again he took my brush and knocked back the brushwork of the distant trees to make them sit back more and look less stylized.  Fair enough. He then demonstrated "opening up the shadows, using reflected light cast from nearby objects to cast color into the shadows. He put a touch of blue, for instance, on the shadow side of the tree trunks reflecting the water, and the warmer tones reflecting warmth from the stones or earth. That was awesome. After that he showed me how an assertive hand used to apply just a few intense highlights could suddenly make the painting pop. I reworked some of what he put in but played with those general ideas. But that rim light of his along the trunk and the 3 or 4 dabs of bright green paint on the tree leaves remain just as they were applied. (And don't they just sing?)

I felt I was finally getting somewhere on this final painting (below), though we had some helpful discussion early on about using perspective to direct the viewer to the focal point. He again knocked back the distant mountains with no paint, just several swift blending strokes (sigh.)  I don't consider this painting really finished either but I love the composition and I think I would like to try this again on a larger scale. It's the Dordogne as seen from the top of the Chateau de Beynac.


I think overall his main critique of my work was that he wanted to see both more paint and a more deliberate, assertive handling of paint. And it's really hard to do the latter without the former. As he put it, you need to have enough paint there so that it expresses the character of the medium. Otherwise you need to ask yourself, "Why are you painting in oils?"

The class was listed as an intermediate-advanced class and I felt the instruction and the students lived up to that. I left the class pretty exhausted but with a lot to think about on my 6 hour drive back home. It will be interesting to see how I can apply Matt's feedback and insights to my work, while still making my paintings "mine". Once or twice the feedback was hard, but I soon realized, as with any class, it's important to leave your ego at the door and come with an open mind if you really want to learn.

Shadows of Frayssinet (W.I.P. complete)

I've been doing a little plein air painting lately, some of which I will share here soon. But lately it seems like I either have time to paint or post, and I guess I have chosen painting. (Sorry blog!) I do have a completed studio painting to share today though, the beginnings of which I posted right before preschool spring break!

French village painting by Jennifer E. Young"Shadows of Frayssinet" Oil on linen, 20x16" SOLD

This is in the lovely little village of Frayssinet in the oh so lovely Lot Valley of France. I  enjoyed this so much that I plan to do a companion piece to this one of a different cottage from the same town, in the same size and orientation.

Frayssinet shadows W.I.P.

I had a rough time painting last week. Plein air season is upon us and I have been waiting with baited breath for the weather to cooperate so I'd have the  opportunity to get outside again. But there are just some times when the odds seem stacked against me. Some of the prettiest, mildest days turned out to be mommy-duty days for me. My painting days were full of wind and intermittent clouds and showers. I did get myself outside but the wind and weather weren't cooperative and I ended up coming home with a couple of wipers. That's the risk of plein air painting. Just because you put in the time, it doesn't mean you will come home with a keeper. And with such limited time, it can be hard to justify the effort. So why do I do it? Well, it challenges me to think on my feet and  be in the moment. It gets me out of my comfort zone, and when its not frustrating the hell out of me,  it's pretty fun and exciting.

It also gets me jazzed for new paintings in the studio, which is what leads me to my current post. I started this piece after one of those frustrating wipers, and by comparison to my battle with the wind, it felt good to just paint! At this point I am just settling on my composition and laying in some of the shadows and highlights. This will be a painting of a little street in Frayssinet, a tiny village tucked in the Lot Valley of Southern France:

French village painting by Jennifer Young

Southern France painting by Jennifer E Young

I painted another version of this scene with different light and a different orientation before, but this painting will focus more on the little cottage to the left  in the foreground. The cast shadow across the top of the canvas is from my easel. Sorry about that! I'll try to get better progressive shots as I go along.

Summer Blooms, Ansouis (final)

I'm happy to report this post will wrap up the Ansouis painting I have written about in my last couple of entries. In the shot below, I have fleshed out the rooftops and the distant mountain. I am keeping the background fairly plain because there is already a lot going on with the architecture and plants.

French village painting in progress by Jennifer E. Young

The people of Ansouis take loving care of their little village. Not only are there potted flowers gracing nearly every window and doorway, but the public spaces also have beautiful plantings as well. This square in the village had a lovely combination of lavender, yellow roses, and deep pink blooms. I lay the flowers in last after the painting has set up a bit. This allows me to overlap the background buildings and helps to push them further back into the background.

Ansouis France village painting by Jennifer E. Young Summer Blooms, Ansouis Oil on linen, 20x24" SOLD

There, that about wraps it up! I'm glad I was able to finish this up before Christmas week, because the holiday schedule is heating up and I'm not sure when I will be back in the studio again before the new year. In light of that, let me seize this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a joyous holiday season!

Update on the Ansouis painting in progress

Now that we have some real Christmas deadlines looming, I've decided to give the self-hosted auctions a rest for a while. Thanks so much to those who bid and followed my auctions! It's been an interesting little experiment that I might revisit in 2014. But it was a lot more time consuming than I imagined, at a period in my life when it is a challenge just to maintain a normal studio schedule. Meanwhile, the painting of Ansouis is still on the easel (case in point!) Here are the latest progress shots:

Ansouis French village painting in progress by Jennifer E Young

Ansouis French village painting in progress by Jennifer E Young

 Ansouis French village painting in progress by Jennifer E Young So now I have the whole canvas covered. I started in on some of the details sooner than I would have liked, but there were a few breaks in the continuity of my painting sessions that compelled me to tackle certain areas while they were still wet. Over the next session or two I'll be finalizing the background mountains and fleshing out the flowerbeds. I'm going to do my best to finish this up in advance of Christmas. School's out for a couple of weeks for Christmas break so my studio time is about to get a lot more dicey.

Ansouis (W.I.P.- continued)

Here's some progress to report on the composition I sketched out in my last post.

Provence France village painting in progress by Jennifer E Young

After laying in the sky and distant mountains, I set out to establish the broad areas of light and dark in the painting. I'm really trying to think of my composition in terms of underlying masses of light and shadow, and not just a group of individual objects.

Provence France village painting in progress by Jennifer E Young

I'm using a broad palette of colors- my usual red, yellow, and blue, plus cad. orange, cad. red, permanent rose, sevres blue, as well as two earths; gold ochre and burnt sienna (for the tonal sketch) and, of course, white (titanium).

This is as far as I got today- about 2 1/2 - 3 hours' work- before it was time to pick up my daughter from preschool.

Provence France village painting in progress by Jennifer E Young

I'd really rather not allow this to set up, as this is my "first pass," and there is so much more to lay in. I am going to try and work on this again tonight after my little girl falls asleep, but I'm not normally good for much creative work after wearing the "mom hat" in the evenings. We will see. Otherwise my next dedicated painting day will be Friday, and I'm afraid it may be too tacky for my liking by then.

Ansouis/French village painting in the works

Note: I have gotten word that some users are having difficulties placing bids on my auctions. I believe I have fixed the issue now (the bid button was missing!) But if you have attempted to bid unsuccessfully, or if you are having any issues now, can you please contact me and let me know about your issue? Now, on to the new painting! Not a great photo here, but I'm doing a bit of mobile blogging and the image editing options on my phone aren't optimal. Nevertheless, I  thought I'd share the rough sketch I've started on a 20x24" canvas of a French provincial village street scene.  Even though I mapped out the composition more or less to scale in advance, it took a little more editing than usual  to get the layout the way I wanted it (the first pass had things too centered). France village painting sketch by Jennifer E Young

The plan for this painting is to portray a square in the center of the charming village of Ansouis. I have a busy next few days with family, but I hope to be able to get back to this soon. I'll post further developments as they unfold!

New auction of Provence

chateaustudy.jpg"Springtime at the Chateau de Lourmarin" Oil on panel, 6x6" 20120826-120134.jpg

Technical difficulties on my blog last week didn't exactly create a seamless experience for my first auction. But I'm trying again with a new feature that I think will work much better. This week's auction is  a sweet 6x6" Provence landscape. Click over to the auction page for all of the details. Or if you simply can't wait, start bidding in the sidebar to the right of my blog! Congratulations to Pat H. for winning this auction!

Two feature shows opening this month

Happy April everyone! Even though its still pretty chilly around here in Richmond, the birds are back and early spring blooms are everywhere. My garden, however, is still pretty much a mess. Old growth covers new, and even though it's driving me crazy to have it look like that, I haven't had time to deal with it.

That's my cat Olive in the background, looking at me with mild disdain.

My studio is looking like it is following suit as well.

This is my framing table. I'm too embarrassed to show you what the rest of the studio looks like right now!

Not exactly "Martha Stewart Living".   But I have an excuse.  I have been busy framing and shipping paintings for two feature shows in April. First, in Bernardsville, New Jersey, I am April's featured artist at Design Domaine Gallery. On view are a collection of my paintings from Europe and the American South. If you are up that way, stop in tonight, April 5th, for a wine and cheese reception from 6 to 9 PM., and say hi to owners Larry and Marilyn Rosenthal. Thanks Larry and Marilyn for featuring my paintings!

Another sizable exhibit of my work has just been installed at the H. Scott November Gallery at Westminster Canterbury here good ole RVA. This beatuiful exhibition space features rotating quarterly shows of artists from throughout Virginia. On view from now until June are my paintings of the French and Italian countryside. There will be a reception and artist Q&A later in the month on April 23rd. I am so happy and honored to have the opportunity to exhibit at these wonderful venues.

Promenade sur la Rue Claude Monet

Well life has taken an interesting turn for me this past month. My lack of posting would suggest that I have been away from the studio, but that is not the case. In fact, I feel as if I have become a permanent studio fixture, getting up at 5 a.m. and painting whenever I can find the hours before and after the hubby goes to work and my daughter goes to sleep. "But where are the paintings, then?", you may ask. Well, the work I'm referring to is more commercial in nature. I can perhaps post more on that in time, but not at the moment. Suffice it to say, that up to now,  I haven't had much time for my own "personal" work this year.

Nevertheless, things are normalizing (for now), and I have been able to return to my easel to finish a painting I started some time around New Year's Day.

French village painting of Giverny by Jennifer Young

"Promenade sur la Rue Claude Monet" Oil on linen, 11x14" To purchase, please contact me!

Hollyhocks always make me think of France. I have tried growing them in my own garden but they always seem to get overtaken by rust. Maybe my garden is altogether too crowded or too moist, because in many parts of France they always seem to be growing out of what looks to me to be dry rock! This is a street in Giverny that leads to Claude Monet's famous home and gardens. The street is aptly named Rue Claude Monet, and is itself the subject for many potential paintings. I will add updated info about this painting to my website later today, but for now, please contact me with any inquiries.

French country garden painting complete

Whew! I had a lot of starts and stops with this painting, but it's finished.There were times when I really needed to scrape whole portions of it down because there was too much buildup to make adjustments. It brought to mind a quote attributed to Everett Raymond Kinstler that I read recently in a very good article by Bill Davidson posted on the Oil Painters of America blog,

“I start out in this way thinking, ‘this will be the greatest painting of this subject matter ever painted.’ Later in the process I think, ‘this will be the greatest painting of this subject matter I ever painted,’ and finally I think, ‘Hell! I hope I can save this painting!’ [paraphrased]”

Now I can't say that I've so far stated anything close to the first sentence of that quote, but the progression of feeling from confidence to doubt certainly rings true, especially when there is a lot of time invested in a piece.

French country garden painting by Jennifer Young"Quiet Reflection, Southern France" Oil on Linen, 20x24"

The subject matter is the dappled morning light as it plays across a part of an old convent building and surrounding water garden. This place is now converted to a B&B and venue for painting holidays  (aptly named Le Vieux Couvent) in the town of Frayssinet, France. I blogged about my visit there numerous times. It is a lovely place that I remember with great fondness.

...And now,I'm going to get  a bit off topic by asking a favor of my readers. I seem to be having some trouble having my posts delivered to subscribers by email. So if you actually do happen to receive this post via your email subscription, could you please let me know?

Southern France W.I.P. resurrected

It has been 4 months since my last confession post. I realize my blogging has been extremely spotty over the past year or so, and I think it is time to 'fess up about the reason for my silence before getting to my work-in-progress. Longtime readers may recall my mention before of, in the midst of being a new mother, my struggle with some health issues. Well it got worse before it started getting better, and these two major life challenges has meant the painting has had to take a back seat. In a nutshell, I developed an autoimmune condition after the birth of my L.O., and one of the main (and most debilitating) symptoms has been chronic insomnia. Now you'd think that with insomnia I might as well get up and out to the studio and do some painting! But it hasn't worked out that way because along with the insomnia came some pretty significant muscle pain and (not surprisingly) extreme fatigue. Before motherhood, I was able to maintain a fairly steady process of work and productivity. Certainly some days were more productive than others, but overall I took my painting life seriously and showed up to work whether "the inspiration hit" or not. I still take my painting life seriously, but my recent life and health changes have thrown me for a loop. I have seen some improvement lately, so I remain optimistic that I can get this all sorted out. But it seems to be two steps forward and one step back.

Mundane tasks are manageable, but creative work simply does not happen for me on 3-4 hours (or less) of sleep for months on end; particularly when I am also taking care of a toddler. Contrary to what a lot of people think, painting is as much an intellectual process as it is an emotional one (perhaps even moreso) and it requires a lot of brain power, focus, and concentration. With plein air painting, where the concerted effort is even more heightened, there is the added need for a good deal of phyical stamina as well. So if you happen to see me post a plein air painting here on the blog, you can assume that I must've been blessed with the miracle of a few good night's sleep beforehand! Okay, so enough of the old lady talk.

This painting, the very beginnings of which I wrote about in my prior post, in (ahem!) late December, is finished. Quite a bit different from the plein air study I based this on, but the study was still a good reference for the light, and helped bring back the experience of being there. Click on the image for more info:

Landscape painting of southern France by Jennifer Young

"Path to St. Germain du Bel Air", oil on linen, 24x30"


From study to studio (work in progress)

I feel like it has been ages since I have painted en plein air. Perhaps I feel this way because it is true! But while time, obligation, and health have kept my plein air painting at bay lately, I still think about it very much (not without a lot of longing) and I find myself digging out what plein air pieces I still have and meditating on them. It seems to me that even the weakest studies contain valuable information. Studio works have their place and purpose, and (the good ones) posess a grandeur that is harder to acheive en plein air. But there is a quality about the plein air paintings that continues to distinguish them in my heart and mind as something very special. As incomplete and insufficient as some of them are, they are infused with life and an immediacy that I still find hard to match in the studio. Still, given my life situation at the moment, I shall have to try.

One day recently when I was feeling particularly "homesick" for plein air painting, I came across this little piece that I painted during my trip to the Dordogne. It was tucked away in a stack of unfinished studies that I have not looked at in a long time:

 St. Germain de Bel Air plein air painting by Jennifer Young

I put it away mainly because I ran out of time to finish it on site, and I really haven't thought much about it since. It doesn't have the wildflowers that were in the field, the middle distance is unresolved, and it is lacking contrast in the row of nearby trees, as well as some other detail. But what it does have is some really good information about the light, as well as a nice loose, light touch that reflects the breeziness of that morning in early summer. And as I looked at it with new eyes, I started to think about new possibilities, and how I might translate the information in this scene to a larger studio canvas.

The location was near a public park just on the outskirts of a little village in France called St. Germain de Bel Air. There were these enormously tall trees that I believe were poplars. They always remind me of Monet because he painted a series of these trees in the countryside near Giverny. I was attracted to the scene not only because of the trees, but because of the way they lined the simple country path that led to the village, and the shadows they cast in great diagonals across the picture plane.

We will see how it goes, but here is my (very) preliminary layout on a 24x30" canvas.

French landscape painting work in progress by Jennifer Young

The Path to the Pink House

Finally  (maybe?)  this painting is complete. I am taking it off of the easel at any rate and giving it a rest, as I feel like I have been looking at it for so long  that I can't see it properly any more. Monet's Garden painting by Jennifer Young

"Path to the Pink House" Oil on Canvas, 18x24" To purchase, please contact me!

This is one of the many wildly colorful garden paths leading up to "The Pink House" (Monet's).  I softened the house and left out some of the finer detail because I wanted it to sit back more in the painting. The scene is set in the diffused light that was so typical of the humid atmosphere we experienced during our visit to Giverny.

Monet's Garden Painting W.I.P.

While it may appear that my poor blog is suffering from benign neglect, I actually have been working on it, albeit on the back end. Recently my blog has been attacked and completely overrun by comment spammers. Hopefully the issue hasn't  been too evident to readers, but it completely overtook my blog (and my email) for a while . After a few attempts at a "quick fix," I decided I really had to take the time to do a Wordpress upgrade. It's something I should have done a long time ago, but have been loathe to do because it involved a good deal of time that I dearly need in order to attempt any kind of painting these days.  Unfortunately, upgrading has caused me to lose my sitemap and all of my prior post tags, so I am very bummed that I have yet to spend more time trying to figure out what happened to them. Hopefully I can recover them, but otherwise I guess I am looking at manually creating new tags for each post that has been added to my site since the dawn of man. Arrrgh!

Well, thanks for letting me get that off my chest!  I actually do have a painting under way, of Monet's Garden. Still quite a bit of work yet to do on this 18x24" canvas, but at least I've mapped out the main elements:

Monet's Garden painting work in progress by Jennifer Young

When I have free time in the evenings (which lately isn't that often) I have been watching a fascinating series of educational videos on the Impressionists produced by the University of Texas at Austin. It's basically a lecture format, which at first, kind of made me feel like I was back in art history class. But after a while it did draw me in, and it is probably the most through and in-depth investigation on this incredible group of artists that I have seen on DVD. It is so inspiring to go back in time and visit with these incredibly innovative masters (Manet, Monet, Pisarro, Renoir, Degas, Morisot, etc.)

So this was the spark that made me want to revisit my photos of Monet's garden. It has been a while since I painted this subject matter. What an amazing place ! Hopefully I can finish this painting soon. However, if the weather cooperates and I can find a chance to paint outside, I may do like the Impressionists and forgo the studio to grab the opportunity. We will see....