August, 2020: 30 in 30
My talented and prolific painting pal Karen Weber has long extolled the 30-in-30. This is when an artist commits to a goal of completing and posting 30 paintings in 30 days. Karen says it's good for honing skills and self-discipline while using social media to entertain patrons, friends and other followers. I can be deficient in these areas. So in a moment of inspiration or weakness (I'll know which by September) I agreed to join her in the endeavor for August, 2020.
August 31: My first 30-in-30 turned out to be a 25-in-30, but not for lack of effort. Three of the paintings each took three days, and the commitment did help drive me to paint every day of August save two. Thanks again to my plein pal Karen Weber for cajoling me into it. It was her ninth, and we’re looking at putting together a similar event for our Art Plus peers in February 2021.
“Manhattan in Summer 2” is the third in my Manhattan Project series, and not the last. It’s a photogenic cocktail that looks good in every season, setting and time of day after 5:00PM. I made a sweet cherry frame for it. If it sounds good to you at $290, shoot me an email.
5/28-5/30: If nothing else, this Spring was good for sunsets. I photographed a bunch of them that caught my eye, always shooting from the same spot on the deck behind my house, with a vague idea of someday painting them as a series. The gradual blooming of the walnut tree on the left edge might be an interesting touch, I thought .
While plein air painting in Maine this summer with gouache artist Peggy Fitzgerald, I mentioned that I wanted to try that medium, and she generously lent me an extra set.
Late last week I was considering my lag in the 30-in-30 pace, and said to myself, "Hey, why not combine the two?"
The answer is because, like all art media, there's unique technique involved, I didn't master it in these six sunsets between April 27 and June 18. But I enjoyed experimenting with gouache and glimpsed the potential of the medium. Next session with it I'll aim for one good painting.
Thursday, 8/27: A height of 20” is the max that my field rig can accommodate, and this square panel was the largest I’ve done primarily en plein air. “Water Over the Dam” combines a Hudson River School palate (via a vis Tim Koeppel) with sage advice that Mark Boedges gave me at a workshop last August (“Use bigger brushes!”).
Wednesday, 8/26: Back to Grings Mill, this time on the downstream side of the bridge with the 20" x 20" panel that I blocked in on Monday. A quiet day in the shade near the portage ramp, vaguely shared with a fisherman 30' upstream who said little and caught even less, and a Great Blue Heron who gave up fishing for a half hourto ponder the odd contraption across the creek.
Tuesday, 8/25: “Orchids and Deck Prism” is my second floral. This first was an orchid as well, done in pastel and currently on exhibit at Saylor House. Both were 2020 reblooms that found the indirect light and daily mist of our shower to be the perfect environment for a surprise encore show. I hadn’t thought of painting the second one until the late afternoon light happed to catch this corner just right.
8/23 & 8/24: Spent some time Sunday spiffing "Reflections on the Tully," then Monday moved to the other side of the bridge with a 20" x 20" panel and an idea for bringing a big sky to the picture. I used my sketch and photos to block it in. Next partially cloudy morning I'll be back at Grings Mill to paint.
Saturday, 8/22: This 28 x 10’5” oil was 3 days in the making, but worth the effort sez I. There’s a lot to take away from Grings Mill, The scenic recreation area on Tulpehocken Creek, across from the Penn State Berks campus. It’s popular yet teeming with wildlife, tranquil yet energizing, sprawling yet intimate. It was a pleasure to paint there again. Time well spent in my estimation, though statisticians tracking my 30-in-30 progress may disagree…
Friday, 8/21: Back to the Tully to capture the hues and atmosphere of this charming place. My set up was only a couple yards off the path, and a steady flow of hikers, bikers and runners seemed to enjoy a glimpse of the painting and much as I enjoyed spending 3 hours there. If I had a nickel for every time somebody said "That's beautiful!" I'd be $2.50 richer. A few more hours of studio time are still needed for details.
Thursday, 8/20: I’m pumped up about a new take on Grings Mill. On the downside, my idea warrants a big canvas and at least two days, probably three. This will take me even further off my 30-in-30 pace, but the commitment has me picking up my brushes every day, and I feel good about that. Today I tracked the sunlight (looks good till around 11:30AM), did a value sketch, and blocked in the composition on a 28” x 10.5” panel. Tomorrow I’ll be there early to paint...
8/18 & 19: This stable dates back to the late 1700’s, say the folks at Fisher Farm, the popular farmstand toward the eastern edge of Oley Valley. While the ancient doors and window frames hang in various stages of disrepair, the stonework remains in remarkable condition. If those walls could talk they’d go on for centuries, but just looking at this magnificent structure, you can imagine what they’d say. At present, they'd likely comment on the dozens of swallows that live and play there.
Devoting 2+ days to painting this takes me further off my pace for 30-in-30, but the subject itself bespoke the value of taking one’s time and doing things as well as one possibly can. This 11" x 14" oil on panel is $390.
Monday, 8/17: The Muddy Creek Soap Company and Chatty Monks Brewpub offered a refreshing fourth stop as I continue to bounce down Penn Avenue. The small 5” x 7”s are fun. Interestingly, they don’t take me any less time than an 8” x 10” would.
8/15 & 8/16: Technically I was painting, though it was wainscoting that my son Matt and I installed in his DC nursery-to-be. This knocked me off the pace for 30-in-30, but I’ll try to double up on a couple days.
Friday, 8/14: When it’s open, Say Cheese! Restaurant also makes my Top 3 list of West Restaurant establishments. And the renovations in the works (due to be done by the holidays) will make it even better: moving the gourmet cheese shop next door into 602 Penn Ave, knocking through the wall to connect the two, and jazzing up the main operation with a 14-seat bar and more tables. I love the exterior looks of the place too. “So 3 Poles Are in Front of a Bar… “is the fifth time this iconic building has worked its way into one of my paintings, no two from the same angle. If you’d like to know more, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, 8/13: Drilling in on yesterday’s study, today I focused on my two favorite establishments on the block: Art Plus Gallery and the West Reading Tavern. The shared Tudor architecture was challenging, but hopefully support the theory that art and alcohol can work well together. With some fine-tuning I may frame Tudors Up the Block and hang it in the hood...
Wednesday, 8/12: There’s a lot of visual interest to be found on Penn Avenue in West Reading, but the north-facing side of the street seldom gets direct sunlight. The exception is summer evenings, when the splashes of light and long shadows from the setting sun showcase the wonderful array of architectural styles in the 600 block. That’s what I’m looking to capture, starting with this little color study I just did as I plan a large commission.
Tuesday, 8/11: I’m back in Berks County for the middle stretch of my 30-in-30, and keeping with the Hudson River School palette that I started using in Maine. I like the muted tones for taming the ubiquitous green here in Pennsylvania. The streams are plentiful here too. At a glance at the map there are around 10 of them wending through the fields that quilt Oley Valley. “Fields of Streams” is Manatawny Creek off Hoch Road.
Monday, 8/10: For Day 9 of the 30-in-30 with Karen Weber, my last painting of July's trip to New England. This was another typical yet memorable from the cruise with Jack Kareckas and Cole Mather. Great Blue Herons were cheap along the rivers that fed Great Bay. We saw 30+ of them on the cruise, warranting only a “GBH” if any mention at all by the return leg, where I saw this one fishing along bank of the Cocheco.
Sunday, 8/9: Jack Kareckas timed our 3-hr late afternoon cruise of Great Bay perfectly, catching the golden hour on the Cocheco River and bringing us back into port of Dover, NH by the soft light of dusk. This was my first ride on both Jack’s new Dorchester Dory as well as this tributary to Great Bay, which separates New Hampshire and Maine. Making the cruise even more entertaining was Cole Mather, another salty, long-time friend. I enjoyed trying to recapture some of the day, and using big brushes on a small panel fit the ease and spontaneity. Good Day’s End is a 5x7” oil, NFS.
Saturday, 8/8: Waking up to a morning fog and low tide seemed like it might be a good time to catch the mailboat in Port Clyde. I wasn't disappointed. All was calm, soft and right for taking photos that I worked back in the studio. An impressionistic style seemed fitting for the conditions. "Early Mailboat" is an 11x14" pastel, $490.
Friday, 8/7: Across the channel from our rocky enclave was a string of islands. One of the closest is called The Brothers. It's actually two islands, explained our neighbor Jack Dennen. There are thin strips of greenery at the high points and along the shore line, and one tree on each of the islands. Toward sunset the light granite boulders often popped against the sky and sea, briefly bringing a Caribbean feel to the coast of Maine. The Brothers 2 is a 6" x 11" pastel, $190.
Thursday, 8/6: Our niece Julia–normally one of the most energetic humans that scientists have ever encountered–succumbed daily to the lack of gravity that pervaded The Lobster Pot. Her routine usually started on the porch with a book, cup of coffee and her Golden Annabelle. By mid-morning you'd find them nestled on rocks close to the surf.
But back to the porch. Its lines, as well as its allure, reminded me of a lobster pot. Squint at the needlepoint that hangs over the cottage’s mantle, and it can look like either.
TUESDAY, 8/4: Five of the seven paintings I did in Maine were around this cottage where we stayed for the week. A charming little place called The Lobster Trap, built in 1918, back when you could build a place as close to the water as you dared. In this case it was about 10' from the drop to the ocean at high tide. We went to sleep not long after sundown to the sound of the surf on the rocks, woke up at dawn (around 05:30 in July, BTW) to the chugs of diesels as lobstermen checked hundreds of nearby pots.
MONDAY, 8.3: Before I painted the aforementioned lighthouse I spent the morning at the harbor with the Laura B, the iconic 65' wooden boat that ferries folks and freight between Port Clyde and the legendary artist enclave of Monhegan Island. She earned this good gig. Built in 1943, she patrolled the Pacific Coast with a pair of 50 caliber machine guns. After that she hauled loads of lobsters to Boston and New York.
SUNDAY, 8.2.20: I'm starting by finishing some landscapes I got half+ done while vacationing in Maine last month. I began this one with a brush around 2:00pm on 7/21, but went to the knife for speed when the clouds started rolling in.
Another Close Encounter of the Furred Kind
Oct. 12, 2019
One of the perks of plein air painting is that by standing in one place for a long time, local wildlife will sometimes eventually sidle up to get a closer look. In August I was painting a quiet cove near Spruce Head, Maine. The egret settling in to my right was nice, but not a surprise. Not long after, amid the rocks to my left I was catching a black flash popping out of various crevices like a Whack-a-Mole. I eventually got lucky with my phone camera to confirm that it was a mink.