Monday, August 27, 2012

Morning Drive

Morning Drive 12x9 pastel, copyright 2012

Last week was the start of the back to school routine of getting up far too early for my taste.  The dog is happy though, as it means we are also back to our morning walk.  And really it's a good thing for me as well, so long as I remember to bring my camera along.  Or in this case, my cell phone.

One of our neighbors has a long gravel driveway that wanders between a little creek and a corn field before heading up the hill.  Friday morning the sun was just breaking through the mist behind the trees as I walked by, making wonderful highlights.   Here's an excellent discussion on what artists refer to as the "magic hour", the time around sunrise and sunset.

I tried something a bit different this time: working from the image on my phone rather than loading it on to the computer.  Having to work from such a small image was challenging yet good, as not being able to see the details made simplifying easier.  The fact that the image was still fresh in my mind helped too.  I initially tried getting the sunbeams in the mist, but that didn't really work and as it turned out, wasn't needed.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

North Fork Shoshone River

Overlooking the North Fork 5 1/2 x 8 pastel, Copyright 2012

Headed back out west with the smaller format, this time along the North Fork Shoshone River.  The highway that runs along the river takes you from Cody into Yellowstone Park, and it is a breathtaking drive.  Closer to Cody the terrain is less rugged and there are scattered ranches, many offered for rent to tourists.  Further upstream the gorge gets more narrow and walls more steep until the highway climbs up the to the rim of the caldera inside the park.

East of the East Entrance into the park the evidence of past volcanic activity is abundant.  Many of the ridgetops are formed by the sharp spires of volcanic dikes - long, narrow cracks where lava pushed through and solidified.   Morning and evenings (the reference photo was taken in the evening), the low angle of the sun creates dramatic light and shadows on the formations.

My intention with this one was for it to be a quick study like the previous ones.  But I found myself so caught up in capturing that light and shadow that any sort of time limit went out the window.  What I did unintetionally limit was my palatte, to only 16 colors, and four of those were blues for the sky.  It's quite satisfying to see how well that worked.   But I think it's time for a better camera - the photo doesn't do it justice.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Morning in the Badlands

Leaving the Badlands 24x18 pastel, copyright 2012

There is still plenty of inspiration to be had in my vacation photos from out west.  Badlands National Park is a fascinating place where rolling hills suddenly give way to colorful, fast eroding formations that drop off just as suddenly to the rolling hills of a river valley.  The entire formation is only a few miles wide, which surprised me.  The surrounding hills are covered in blue-gray buffalo grass that is slowly being replaced by a yellow blooming clover imported from Europe.  A very dramatic storm the night before left lingering clouds in the morning.

I experimented a bit with this one.  It's a pretty large format for me and I wasn't sure how to cover up all the pastelboard.  Turning the pastel sticks on their sides, making large patched of color worked pretty well and coincidentally excellent marks for the rock formations.  The hills and sky took a little more work though and at one point I almost gave up on it.  Instead I left it to sit for about a month before finally pulling it out again a week ago.  A focal point for the clouds and higher contrast in the foreground hills created a far more interesting landscape.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fair sunflower

Sunflower study 8x10 pastel, copyright 2012

Last Thursday I was back at the Preble County Fair for a demo, this time trying my hand at an award winning sunflower.  Two sunflowers actually, but the second just wasn't working for me.  It was erased and cropped out so that I could focus on this one.  Although I love to paint sunflowers, my heart wasn't all that into it that day.  I did take a few photos though, so I may try again later.  And again, I just can't get enough of that blue!

Friday evening I was back, supposedly to paint again, this time with a group of artists.  There was a bit of chatting before most of them got to work, but I couldn't seem to focus.  Instead I ended up wandering around the fair getting frustrated with my camera's inability to take good night shots and eventual dead batteries.  A few of them did turn out, and hopefully I will find inspiration in one of them.  Or even better, I may borrow inspiration from a friend who has a much nicer camera.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fair Daze

Begonias work in progress, 12x16 pastel, copyright 2012

It's fair week here in Preble County, and in rural places the county fair is still a big deal as the community comes together to show off the best of the best.  This year the Preble County Art Association became deeply involved in the fine arts display, and I am on that committee.  It means that I haven't had a lot of time for painting the past few weeks, though I finally got a chance yesterday.

Local artists have been taking turns doing demonstrations at the fair, and yesterday was my turn.  The art display is housed in the same building as the flowers, and it's turned out to be an excellent combination.  For my demo I chose to start painting a pot of begonias.  This is the result of a few hours of work, punctuated by greeting and chatting with visitors.  The leaves will need a bit of work - the lighting wasn't ideal - but I feel like it's a good start.  I'll have to finish it from memory though, as the flowers were cleared out at the end of the day.

I'll be back tomorrow for another demo, and possibly Friday night when a group of artists plan to get together to paint scenes from the fair.  The Art Association's September show will be "Scenes from the Preble County Fair", so I need to get to work.  I've taken a few reference photos, but working plein air in front of a crowd should be a good experience.

By the way, I entered three pieces in the fair, and two of them, Winter Reflections and Bank Barn in Early Spring placed second in the oil and pastel categories.