Sant' Antimo (Tuscany) painting complete

It took longer than I would have wanted to finalize my latest landscape painting of Tuscany, but I am really pleased with the final. Picking up from my prior post about this painting, here are a couple of additional progress shots: Continuing work to further articulate the background landscape:

Tuscany landscape painting in progress by Jennifer E. Young, All Rights Reserved

...and here I begin to work on the Abbey:

Tuscany painting in progress by Jennifer E Young, All Rights Reserved

Here, at last, is the final!

Tuscan landscape paitning Sant Antimo Abbey by Jennifer Young. All rights reserved.

"Path to Sant' Antimo" Oil on Linen, 24x30" Click here for more info!

Sant' Antimo Abbey is a beautiful Romanesque (formerly Benedictine) monastery dating back to the 1100's. It is situated in the stunning landscape of the Montalcino commune, and rests about 10 km from the town of Montalcino, (home of the gorgeous Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello wines).

In springtime the landscape of Montalcino and surrounds are strewn with poppies and other wildflowers, and the hillsides are often touched with the soft yellows and greens of golden broom.

I have a lot of reference photos of this abbey from my visit there several years ago. But I particularly like this view, which shows the focal point as a hint of the abbey in its lovely setting, but doesn't scream "portrait of a building". I also enjoy the point of view, which puts the viewer firmly on the pathway beneath the tall cypress trees, and nearly eye level with the abbey, adding to the sense of "being there".

A consuming commission

When I last posted here, I alluded to a project that has consumed quite a bit of my  time and creative energy. Given that this blog has suffered a great deal of neglect lately, you can assume that still holds true!  Unfortunately, because this is a commercial project for a product yet to be launched, I can't post any progress shots or share specifics about it right now, except to say that it has been very exacting, time consuming work that leaves little time for fun things like blogging. Compared to how I normally approach a painting, this work is quite a different animal. Designs have to be made according to a certain format, of a certain scale, and there is nothing done "on the fly". Everything has to be very well planned in order to get the placement exactly right. So even though I am using my own creative skills and imagination, I am also working within a lot  of structure and constraint.

While I love working more spontaneously, I think this work has been good training, as it has compelled me to work in this deliberate fashion. It has been a good experience in terms of the structure, forethought, and preparation I have had to do before ever picking up a brush. Given that I can sometimes be a little quick to "jump right in" with my own painting, I hope to carry over some of the things I am learning about process into my other studio work.

Spring is springing here in Richmond (albeit slowly) and it's always so exciting to me to see new life re-emerge after the cold dormancy of winter. I find it very appropriate, personally, as I have felt a bit like a hibernating bear. But that should be changing soon. Already the April calendar is marked up with dates, deadlines and "to do's". In addition to wrapping up this commission, I have two shows that will open (more about that in a future post). Shortly thereafter things should be normalizing, and I can get back to my usual studio work, and the blogging that comes along with it. I am determined to get back into plein air work again too, and am already planning and plotting my course to make that happen. Enjoy the spring, everyone!

Happy New Year!

Just a brief post to wish you all a very happy, prosperous, and creative 2013! Santa Claus pretty much hijacked my studio for his own personal workshop over Christmas, but things are normalizing again. My daughter goes off of Christmas break and returns to preschool later this week, so I can get back to painting and promise more art related postings soon. Here's to good things and happy painting in 2013!

French water garden W.I.P.

As much as I love the sweeping vista, I am also very drawn to a view of the intimate. This is the preliminary sketch (on canvas) for a new painting of an old French country farmhouse flanked by lush vegetation and a lovely little water garden. 20120824-161723.jpg

I painted a plein air piece of this location when I was visiting the Lot Valley village of Frayssinet a few years ago:

French country garden painting by Jennifer Young

Since the plein air piece is still in my possession, I have the opportunity to use it to inform my larger painting. Here it is just a step or two beyond the color lay-in. I have eliminated the building in the background to simplify and unfiy the painting. The color is off in this pic, and that shadow going across the top is being cast by my easel, (the joys of mobile blogging!) but at least it will give you an idea...

French Country Garden painting w.i.p.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken

Have you ever had a project that illicted a phrase something like, "I can't wait till this  @!% thing is over!" ? Well, that was my thought every time I showed up at the easel over these past few weeks (WEEKS!) to work on the Venice painting I posted about eons ago in my last blog. Awesome way to inspire creativity, eh? For some reason though, I couldn't let it go. I don't quite know why. It was like slowing down to look at an accident when you really didn't want to . Okay, that's a bit melodramatic.  Maybe more like continuing to watch a bad movie because you'd already invested so much time in it. Makes no sense, but  I guess I kept hoping that by overworking an already bad painting I would somehow be vindicated in the end.

Well, as you can imagine, it did not, in fact, end well. The painting was, I felt, dreadfully bad. And to add insult to injury, I had just spent multiple sessions of my precious new painting schedule (more about that in a minute) completely devoted to trying to fix  a mess that I should have trashed after the 2nd session. It was pretty demoralizing and I still don't know why I put myself through it. The only thing I can come up with is that I am incredibly stubborn. And I think when I am tired or stressed, I must be moreso (ask the husband). I think I was out to prove that I could, at long last, finish SOMEthing (the effect of which took me about as far away from creative joy as I care to go.)

So no, I will not be sharing that painting here. It went promptly from the easel  into the trash and I wasn't about to photograph the ghastly thing. But something good has come from it, I think. It taught me more about surrender (a hard lesson I thought I'd "gotten" given the personal challenges of the past couple of years) and it revealed pretty much every one of my artistic weaknesses in a single painting, (now that's an accomplishment! ;) ) so it gave me a very clear picture of what kinds of things I need to seriously work on.

It also made me feel incredibly free, relieved, and happy to be staring at a blank canvas again. And this painting, I will it is it so far after about 2 sessions:

Tuscany landscape painting-in-progress by Jennifer Young

Regarding my new schedule, due to my need for sustained energy to care for a very active toddler at home, I have determined that mornings are by far my best time of day (by nightfall I am pretty much toast). So I have arranged to get up before the rooster crows, and get out in the studio for 2 hours before the husband leaves for work at 8:30 (whereupon I toss off the artist apron, superhero-style, and assume the role of full-on mommy!)

At present, I can only do this 3 days a week due to schedules, etc., but it gives me 6 hours of dedicated painting time, plus maybe a few more (if I play my cards right) on the weekend. Other than the fact that it is very hard  sometimes to be getting up so early, it so far it seems to be working okay. It's nothing like the vast swaths of luxurious time I had before my daughter, but there is a structure in place now, to in the very least, start developing some positive new artistic habits again. Hopefully with regular work habits  it will also mean I can get back to blogging regularly too! But first things first...

Season's Greetings

It's hard to believe that in just a few days' time, Christmas will be upon us, and we will shortly after ring in a new year. I need only look at the cherubic face of my daughter,  a near-18 month old very active toddler,  to find truth in the saying "time flies". Her progress has been great and swift. I can't say the same for my painting or my blog this year, but that is life. I have (thankfully) been busy with some commissioned work this fall and winter, so the studio isn't completely covered in cobwebs. But time has been tight and consequently the blogging has suffered (as it is plain to see). So to the readers who are still with me, I feel like I should offer my apologies.

I can sometimes feel a little sad when I reflect on it, because up until the last year or two I had devoted quite a bit of time to this blog, trying to find things thoughtful or useful or interesting to post that could actually help or inspire someone else. There have been times this year when I stumble upon old blog posts and marvel at their length and how indepth some of them were. I find myself thinking, "Geez, I had a lot of time." Time, now, is an elusive stranger, and I have struggled these last twelve months or so to wrangle it, without, I'm afraid, much success.

The truth of the matter is, that along with motherhood (which, while incredibly rich and rewarding,  still feels very much like a new shoe in need of breaking in) I am also dealing with some health issues. While not immenently  life-threatening, they are nonetheless, significant enough and  have really thrown a wrench in my ability to wear multiple hats. So when push comes to shove and I only have a finite amount of energy to devote to either art or motherhood, motherhood wins hands-down (and rightfully so).

I have to admit, I am not really a heart-on-the-sleeve kind of person and I don't go much for "diary-entry" type posts on my blog. It's supposed to be an art blog, after all, right? I also learned in my "professional artist" training that if you want to be successful, you must present yourself that way. So with that intention, my plan has always been to keep things mostly on a professional level here. But as John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens to you while  you are busy making other plans."  And I just felt that it is better to tell it like it is rather than to have you just think I have neglected blogging because I just lost interest or something.

I feel certain that I'll find a way to overcome the health issues and, in time, get my energy level back. I feel just as certain that I will return to the easel and the blog on a more regular basis, as I am still carrying a very big torch for painting.

In the meantime, I am enjoying being Santa to the  smart, funny, amazing little cherub running around my house inspiring me to be a better person, (and to get to feeling better so that I can chase her around and maybe even catch her once in a while!) And, in addition to my little girl and my wonderful husband, I have another forever-kind-of-love in painting, that is ready for me when I am. My wish to everyone reading this is that your life is equally as rich and full.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy 2012 to all!

Summer Reading

My husband saw this little painting I did of our friends and said "Very Mary Cassat".  Sweet of him to say, and yes, I'd certainly aspire to paint like her! But I think the Cassat reference had more to do with my painting on the beach than anything else. I've often wanted to paint on the shore the way the Impressionists once did, but always felt somewhat restricted due to the total lack of shade and the sensitivity of my fair skin. This year, however, it has been possible because we've borrowed a large 12x12' canopy from our sister and brother-in-law. Otherwise I've had fried in my first 30 minutes on the beach!

The canopy allowed me to set up my easel and caputre this little vignette of our friends Esther and Carrie, engrossed in their summer reading:

figurative painting plein air coastal beach scene

"Summer Reading" Oil on Multimedia Artboard, 6x6" (NFS)

This painting was done on Multimedia Artboard. I painted straight on an unprimed surface, and I must say I prefer this surface primed with a layer of gesso for oils. While I was able to build the surface texture up after a bit, I found the board too absorbant without any gesso. Any way, after a bit, it was fun. I felt particularly good about the piece since Esther (the one with the dark hair) got up in the middle of the painting to go surfing.  She was a good sport, but still her vacation wouldn't suffer for my art.

Happy New Year World!

French: Bonne annéePortuguese: Feliz ano novo Spanish: Feliz año nuevo Arabic (Egypt) : kul sana wentu tayyebeen  German: Guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr! Czech: Šťastný Nový rok Hebrew: שנה טובה (shana tova) Italian: Buon anno Swedish: Gott nytt Ã¥r Danish: Godt nytÃ¥r Chinese (simplified): xin nian kuai le Vietnamese: Chúc mừng năm má»›i Croatian: Sretna Nova Godina Dutch: Een Gelukkig NiewJaar! Hungarian: Boldog Újévet Turkish: yeni yıllında kutlu olsun Russian:Ñ?чаÑ?тливого Ð?ового года Latvian:laimiigu Jauno gadu Hindi: Nav varsh ki shubh kamnayey Swahili: Heri ya mwaka mpya

Okay, the only ones I really knew were French and Italian. The rest I had to look up, so forgive me in advance if I've butchered your language! There are lots that I've missed, so feel free to comment and add to the list. May your 2008 be filled with joy, prosperity, and of course, lots of vibrant color.

Merry Christmas!

Just a brief note to say Merry Christmas to all. Thank you to my collectors and blog-readers for your support of my art and for tuning into my website and blog. It really means a lot! I will be taking a much needed break from studio work between Christmas and New Years day. I'll still be around, checking email and phone messages from time to time, but I doubt there will be much blogging during this time. I'll be back blogging in full force in  early '08. Enjoy the rest of your holiday season, and have a bright and beautiful 2008!

Family matters

Not much blogging (or painting) this week as my family mourns the loss of my beloved Aunt Sheila. A wonderful mother, wife, and aunt, she was also an amazing poet. For now I will leave you with a painting I did some time ago of her family farm near Warrenton, Virginia.

landscape painting by Jennifer Young

"Waiting" Oil on Canvas 20x24"

We will miss you Aunt Sheila!

In Memoriam

The shocking tragedy at Virgina Tech has saddened so many, perhaps especially here in Virginia where I live. Sending prayers of healing and hope to the family and friends of the departed, and to everyone at the college and in the community.

Thanks to artist Susan Reynolds for sharing her image. Susan is also sharing a sheet of memorializing stamps that people can download for personal use. Thanks to Alyson Stanfield for spreading the word about her project.

Day one at the Asheville workshop

Well it has been an interesting time here in Asheville so far. Yesterday it was beautiful and sunny, but C-O-L-D and very windy. The combination made it almost unbearable for most of us.  We stuck it out though!! The way they've organized this workshop is to split the group into two, so that one instructor gets half for half of the week, and the other gets the other half and then they switch. Ken Backhaus was teaching the first half of my workshop. His focus for the class was "the figure in landscape painting".

Okay, so I didn't read the prospectus that well and I had no idea we'd be doing figure painting. Being so excited about painting the landscape here, I was a bit taken aback and somewhat put off by having to paint from the model. I kept looking at this gorgeous land and thinking that if we were going to paint outside in the freezing cold, why not paint the landscape and work from the model indoors any time?

But having taught workshops before I also understood how hard it is to have control over a class and offer something that pleases everyone. In fact, it is nearly impossible! So having remembered "what it's like" I relaxed and decided to just enjoy the teaching, knowing that this was a time to learn and be challenged, not to worry about coming away with any "finished" paintings.

In fact the figure is the most challenging subject a representational painter can attempt. There is a reason why the the old masters started their training by painting and drawing the human figure. If you don't get the proportions right, it is obvious for all to see! And the figure is a great instructor of proportion for any other manner of painting that one might attempt.

Ken started out the workshop with a very interesting and informative session on color mixing. He uses the following limited pallette:

  • Ivory black
  • Alizarin Crimson Permanent
  • Permanent Rose
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Raw Sienna
  • Cadmium Lemon
  • Titanium White

His "color" demo showed how he can mix a myriad of colors from his palette. This palette was somewhat "earthier" than I am used to, but I enjoyed experimenting with it. The one component that I really do not use in my own palette is the Ivory black paint. I'm not really sure it will find its place on my own palette when I return home, but I  think it always helps to learn more about color by limiting the palette. Plus, it is a good way to provide color harmony in your paintings.

After the color demo, Ken showed us how he designed a painting using the figure. He spoke much about how to design the painting using large planes and notes of color. His approach was a bit like composing using puzzle pieces. Everything was about comparison. Comparing one proportion to another, and one value to another. It was very helpful and very informative!

Afterwards, we were able to start a painting of our own using the figure. Unfortunately by that time it was about 30 degrees and the winds were at 20 mph. Most of us were woefully underdressed for the occasion! We all finally had to stop due to the extreme temperatures. Many of us were shaking so bad from the shivers that we couldn't even draw any more. I went out immediately afterwards and bought boots and long johns.

This was a difficult day even for a seasoned plein air painter. Ken is from Minnesota and even he admittedly struggled. I felt for him during his demo, but not as much as I felt for his model! Nevertheless, the days lessons were very instructive.

I've taken some photos but I have yet to figure out how to upload them withouth my usual setup. Once I figure this out I will post some images!

Jennifer Young; Vibrant Landscapes Oil Paintings and art prints online Contact

How it all began

From time to time I get asked the question, "When did you know you wanted to become an artist?"  My answer is always the same. 1st grade. I remember the moment of that decision too, believe it or not. Our class was assigned a project of deciding what we wanted to be when we grew up. Once we figured that out, we were to create a presentation about it. We could use magazine pictures, crayons, paste, and writing.  Well, at six years old, I hadn't quite had my lifetime career figured out just yet, but I set to work nonetheless.

Flipping through the magazines I found a picture of a pretty lady dressed up as a nurse. So I cut her out and pasted her on my construction paper. Then around her I drew a hosipital with trees, massive butterflies, flowers, etc. In my best print I wrote, "I want to be a nurse".

When it came time to present my project to the class, I stood up there and held up my picture. My fellow students began oooh-ing and ahhh-ing. I hadn't really thought much of my project beyond the fact that I had loads of fun making it. But in that moment of appreciation from others I thought, hey, maybe I'm onto something here?

So my first desires about becoming an artist were based on the appreciation I received from others. But as the years have gone on, I have come to realize that while that kind of appreciation feels really wonderful, it is temporary if I am not at the same time appreciating my own experience as an artist. If you aren't letting yourself be guided by your own internal compass, you kind of feel like a leaf blowing around in the wind.

The art school that I attended has been consistently ranked among the top 10 or so art schools in the country. It is a great school and I learned a lot, but the painting department leaned more towards abstract expressionism, pop, and conceptual paintings. It was not the place for me to freely explore my colorful landscapes. At least, rightly or wrongly that was my perception at the time. Looking back now I am glad that I was exposed to the variety artforms and styles. But it wasn't until I got out of school that I felt free to explore what would have been considered more traditional genres like landscape painting.

I am really enjoying landscape painting and I still get excited about learning new ways of seeing and executing that vision. And yet lately I have also started to get really excited about exploring abstractions too, without having any idea if it will lead anywhere at all. I am loving exploring both! It feels just as fun as when I was six drawing gigantic butterflies and flowers, and that feels like a pretty good vibe to me!

And now for something completely different

A while back I posted about experimenting with non-objective work, so I thought I'd share the results here. I'm not sure what you'd call this configuration of installation? In any event, I installed this piece in my living room this weekend during the power outage, and even without electricity it brightened up the place. This is my first abstract in quite a while:

abstract painting by Jennifer Young


As an artist exploration and experimentation is very important to me. On the surface this doesn't seem to have much relationship to my landscape paintings, but there is something to learn here, and perhaps at some point these experiments can also help me to grow with my landscapes as well. In any event,  it was fun, fun, fun! Installed, this work is pretty large, measuring about 39" across by 40" tall. The small canvases to the side may not be quite to scale, so I will try to photograph the whole thing installed in the room and post it here when I do.

Here it is in the room:

abstract painting

One day when I have time I'd like to get rid of those green walls, but I guess they'll have to do for now.

painting artist abstract art non-objective painting