Tuesday, December 29, 2015

North of Boston

Oil on canvas 36x36 on view at Walker Creek in Essex, MA
I have always found much inspiration from the area north of Boston.  The painting above is done from the trustees of reservations property in Essex. The late fall early winter is a wonderful time to paint and see the salt marshes.  The warm orchers and Indian red that can be found in the dead marsh grass can look like fire in the sun.  I love the contrast those colors with the coolness of the sky above.  
      While driving around the North Shore I find that the places I like to paint are the locations that I have fond memories.  Below is "Singing Beach" in Manchester by the Sea.  This beach was a constant destination in college and later on when I lived in the area.  Beverly Farms where we lived also became a favorite as I could walk to west beach and the marshes that lay behind it.  I have painted Chubb's Brook in most every light just as Monet painted the Cathedrals and Haystacks.  

"Singing beach with figures"

"Summer Love"

"Sea Lawn" Magnolia, Gloucester, MA 24x36
This trustees property is another favorite. There are so many interesting views and I have many nice memories of picnics by the sea and watching our children run around. 

"Nocturne Harbor with full moon" 8x10.  Above is another painting done of the harbor in Manchester by the sea.  Recently I have enjoyed painting nocturnes.  Using burnt umber and ultramarine blue together I create the grisaille "grey" tonal painting.  This location I remember walking by in college and seeing the moonlight over the harbor.  I did a drawing on location and removed a few of the boats in the distance. I like to do smaller sketches and drawings of larger paintings and work out the composition before working on a larger painting.  

"Summer Marsh" 24x36 was done by the Parker River.  I had painted here all day and used the moments of the day that worked best for the painting.  This is the great benifit to working out of doors. You can see it is toward the end of the day and the light is coming from the left side of the canvas and illuminating the sides of the trees along the river.  This painting was in the HBO movie "Olive Kitteridge" which I have yet to see. 

"Figures on the Beach" summer sky 24x36.  This last painting is made from a few visits to different beaches.  The first right hand side of the canvas is of West Beach in Beverly Farms looking over to Salem and Marblehead.  The right side originally had trees but felt "wrong" so I continued the ocean over.  I enjoy the liberties that painters can take manipulating a scene to create a desired effect where a photographer or photorealistic is often stuck with slavishly recording what is in a photograph.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sun Bathers

"Reading at the Beach"
Oil on canvas

Above is a recent painting at Cavalier Gallery in Nantucket.  The beach is the perfect place for an artist interested in the figure.  All the models you could ask for posing for you unpaid. It can be hard working plien air and simplifying the scene to its essence.  This process is what I enjoy so much.  Looking around me and distilling the interior and exterior worlds.  I see the forms as physical but carting a spiritual mystery that no science can prove but our intellects tell us that there is something more to the world that what we see and feel.  Something behind the scenes. 

"Rainbow Umbrella"
Oil on panel
Jonathan MacAdam

These paintings for me carry that strange human weight.  The drama that a figure when placed in a landscape creates, and the questions that plague the philosopher What are we? What are we doing here? What is this strange reality that seems grows more unknowable with each generation as our knowledge grows. We are again and again stripped down and brought back to the beginning  and faced with  mortality and the question of a spirit.  As in the tragedies and comedies of Shakespeare the artist has the stage and looks at the figures from afar and can see their simple fates.  There sun bathing seems as I beautiful enjoyment of the moment and an effort to slow down death. The love affairs of Summer's past hang there suspended.  Light itself we can hardly understand.  The physics are astounding.  We can't hide from it we can only see what it reveals; feel it's warmth; contemplate its journey from the sun itself. 

"Couple at the beach" 8x10 oil on panel

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Beach Paintings

"Child at Play"
Work in progress
18 x 24
Oil on canvas

The ocean and beach is one of my favorite places to go and to paint.  The light on a clear summer day with the big expansive views allow a painter so many subjects to choose from, not to mention all the figures.  The figures bathed in light and often at rest are perfect models.  I also love drawing and painting my own family at the beach. These have been really rewarding as many include my wife and children as models.  The beach is a great place to draw as you don't really stick out as you are drawing. The views from sitting down in a chair can be interesting rather than standing.  Also, all the figures over a great distance are fascinating to me as they appear in different sizes as the perspective moves back into the horizon.
      I started the below painting by covering canvas in a warm color.  Vermillion thinned down works nicely.  Below is the almost finished painting where you can see I added my son to the composition as I wanted another figure in the foreground.  Painting at the beach also allows me to place objects like chairs and umbrellas in the painting from drawings to balance the painting with color and form that works for the composition of the painting. 

  I really enjoyed seeing some of the photographs of people at the beach by Vivian Maier recently.  The figure against the ocean as a back drop creates a great tension.  The flexing of mussels against the movement of the ocean is beautiful. Another artist who I admire and enjoy their figure paintings is Wayne Thiebaud. playfulness of Wayne Thiebauds' beach figures capture some of that fun and color that I associate with the beach.  Wayne is 94 years old born in 1920! 

Here is finished work 24 x 36 inches, oil on canvas. 
"Day in July"
On view at Cavalier Gallery on Nantucket Island.

I really love painting a group of people gathered together. There are few reasons that a group of people get half undressed and pose for free for a painter other than to sit by the ocean.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

drawing from drawing

Girl with drink at the beach

Woman walking on beach study

Currently I have been taking drawings from the past summer with figures at the beach.  In drawing I can work out the composition and add details from life.  I have always enjoyed drawing.  Drawing is the foundation of painting. Making many lines, marks and smudges to make one big picture.  Whether you use a paintbrush or a pencil drawing is crucial. Like in music each note adds to the piece and it builds slowly to create form and volume.  I like going over and over again changing and correcting trying to make the space real and pleasing.  
Drawing takes time.  It sits you down and you are forced to look at things and study them.  In a way it is a form of meditation.  Some times it takes a lot of energy to look at things.  Really study them.  We don't want to slow down enough to do the looking.  Drawing helps me slow down and really be amazed at what is around me.  Reality is so strange and wonderful yet easy to take for granted.  As I look at people moving in space and try to discribe that space and those bodies in it I become more a part of what is around me.  More connected to what I am looking at. Most of the time the scene is very complicated and  I am forced to simplify.   Below is a small study of a girl at a beach and then an empty beach in Maine. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Canvas vs. Panel

Summer Marsh
38 x38
Oil on canvas

I often debate with myself what surface I prefere to paint on.  Sometimes it is nice to switch things up.  If I have been working on panel it can be nice to move over to canvas.  The give that canvas has can be nice in the early stages when mapping the image out.  The play and bounce of the canvas becomes its own language.  The force that the brush playes back is a conversation that feels different than panel.  It is also nice to hit a new canvas and hear the drum sound.  When painting with turniptine the canvas absorbs the terps better than the panel would.  The hard panel has a directness were each mark is free from the texture of the canvas or linen and is easier to read and give the illusion of space in an emediate way that canvas doesn't do.  Sometimes when getting up close to a canvas the materials stop the mind from the trick of photographic illusion. 
With the painting above I used a palette knife in the clouds in the sky.   I really enjoy painting the sky and like John Constable will make studies for larger works.

Sea Lawn
Oil on panel

This painting is painted with more layers using liquin as a glaze.  With panel I find that I tend to paint with a little less impasto.  It I do use impasto it is with the whites and I employ less paint with the darks such as brown and green. 
Usually the panels are first painted with an orange or thin red oxide.  This way the white really jumps out and the values can be established.  To me in landscape painting the values are the first thing as with drawing.  The color comes next never before the value.  After this the sky was keyed in.  All the other values are compared with the sky. 
Below are some skies painted by John Constable. I often also make sky studies for reference using them in later paintings.

Below are a few paintings on panel that the skies were borrowed from smaller sketches of the sky that were done plien air. 

128 South
Oil on panel

Sky over Land
Oil on panel

Hay Bales
Oil on panel

The sky above looks from the image as if there is too much cerulean blue.  In truth there is more ultramarine but the photograph doesn't reflect this.  My studies of sky's first began  in Orvieto, Italy; a medieval hilltop village in Umbria.
Below is s photograph I took there of the sky moving above the ochre tufa of the buildings.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Favorites at The Addison Gallery of American Art

When in the studio I like to put up a few paintings on the church bench to see how paintings relate.   Here I have a few evening paintings of various sizes.  It is a good practice to hang up a finished painting and live with them for a little while.  Some times it can be helpful to hang the painting upside down a see if the painting has any problems that stand out.  After looking at the work for so long it is hard to see the painting with a fresh 
     Today I took a trip to the Addison Gallery of American Art and saw a few of my favorite artists which is always an inspiration.  Winslow Homer, Albert Bierstadt, George Inness and Sarah Surplee all amazed me with their handling of paint.  

I had never seen Sarah Surplee's paintings and felt as if I had stumbled across a soul mate.  This highway was Rt 495 in Massachusetts were I have painted myself.  It is wonderful and humbling to find other artists that have worked in the same vein. 

Here is a photograph of a tree by David Armstrong that reminded me of paintings of trees that I have done. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Old Lyme

This summer I took a trip to the old Lyme are colony and the Florence Griswold House.   I wish that there was some places like this that still survive.  Rome and board was only a dollar day!  These communities helped artist development as they went out and painted together.  Childe Hassam and Willard Metcalf were two of my favorites from the group.  "May Night" by Metcalf is a haunting picture.  I love nocturnes and am always surprised when I see them as if the American Impressionist were not "allowed" to paint so dark. 
Willard Metcalf painted 26 paintings there   In one year.  The subtle harmonies are reminiscent of my favorite Tonalist painters George Inness and James McNeil Whistler.

I was in Old Lyme showing a few Central Park paintings at the Old Lyme Art Association.  This was one of the first in the country.  Incorporated in 1914 but artists began showing at the Library in 1902. 

Below are a few panels from the Florence 
Griswold House.  My Aunt Bonnie MacAdam used to work here before she went to the Hood museum in Hanover. NH. 

Traveling Artist Studio
Artist Dash
Florence Griswold House
Door Painting

I had a few paintings showing at the Art association next door.  

Central Park Terrace
Oil on panel

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

MFA Boston

This past fall I took a trip to the MFA with the family.  
We mainly went to see the Goya exhibit, but there is always the temptation to try and take in more than we can handel. They Goya paintings were sad and made me feel as if they were half in a dream and half in a nightmare. 

This painting by Sargent is always a favorite. After seeing it I always hope to do some paintings of musicians.

The Winslow Homers in Boston are also really beautiful. The way the ocean is painted is amazing and memorizing.  You can really feel the movement of the sea as the waves are coming in. I get tired just looking at this fishman and his catch with no land in site. 

The suggestion is always more powerful to me then the spelled out every blade of grass kind of thing.  
Although I think of Albrecht Dürer's watercolor "Great Peice of Turf," might balance that aesthetic.  

This painting has always impressed me.  The love and care that went into studying a few square feet of earth is admirable. I think of Anne Dillard and her writings and observations in "A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek".  She takes us under the earth and loves every part of it and analyzes each part.  She even goes so far as to imagine sculpturing a tree with all its roots!  How much material wood it take to recreate.  A birch tree or a red wood for that matter.  It could take one person a lifetime. 
Andrew Wyeth has the same attention in his studies of nature.  I compare the two here.  

I also really enjoyed the Jamie Wyeth exhibit that they had there.  For me Andrew Wyeth is one of the more interesting characters.  

This painting stikes me as so vast.  He is like a space junkie.  David Hockney used the phrase to cat agonize himself and I see it fitting for Wyeth as well.  Our brains can't really fathom space.  When it comes to a field, the Grand Canyon or the Milky Way and beyond.  It all depends on the size to of the viewer.  If you are an ant the tuft of grass is your world or yard.  The field Weyth painted is your world.  Cezanne was Abel to paint the air that is closer to us and the air that is further away.  The artist here takes nothing for granted.  Jamie's paintings seem a little more illustrative at times like his grandfathers.  This is fine with me.  I love a good story.  

Silver screen

Olive Kitteridge

Living on the north Shore of Massachusetts

Here is a painting that was used in the HBO movie Olive Kitteridge.  I have not seen it, but know it was shot on the North Shore.

Summer Marsh
Oil on canvas

Living on the North Shore of Massachusetts I was reminded of thd landscape of England.  Some of the open fields and salt marshes reminded me of Sudbury in Suffolk.  There I could see great distances.  Inland there were so many trees.  Out on the coast I am able to see the horizon and watch the effects of light as it comes down over greate distances. This painting was started from a smaller study that was done near thd Parker River in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
The family all got out and stretched while I painted for an hour. My family is so patient. Later I took the small painting back to the studio to make "Summer Marsh."  I hope to see the movie.  Sometimes I feel as if I like a movie just because of the locations or the sets.