Posts Tagged ‘plein air painting’

New Painting- Southgate Plantation Sugar Mill

May 20, 2009

It was a  grey day, no sun, flat atmosphere. I started this piece plein air during a workshop I took here a short while ago and finished it in the studio.

southgateplantationmillblog“Southgate Plantation”  10X12 oil on panel

There was a moment or two of brighter light coming from the right as the weather front lifted a bit. Not having sharp contrast from strong sun, makes for a flat scene which it was for most of the day.

I’m pretty pleased with the mill and the tree on the right.

These impressive structures, some 150 remaining ones on St.Croix, are reminders of the history of sugar cane. Going back over 300 years to the early Dutch settlers, it’s hard not to feel ambivelance at the conditions under which slaves were deployed to keep production at peak levels, while recognizing how hot it was. As stories are passed along, it was noted that as the crushers inside these mills squeezed every drop of cane juice out of the stalks, there was on site, a person whose job was to release by use of machete, any unfortunate workers arm that did not release from the grinding wheels in a timely manner.

Some interesting reading about the full history of St Croix when ” sugar was King ” courtesy of the Landmark Society here:

And a photo and short story of a mill from todays’ time here:

And a P.S.- fellow St. Croix resident, blogger friend, and creative digital photographer Don Diddams,  coincidentally posted a strong image and similar sentiments on his blog today. Have a look here and at the body of his work.

Nothing was plein about the air this morning- a rainbow popped into an otherwise dark, looming, overcast sky. Just enough of a snippet of light from somewhere to form a fleeting prism in the sky.


St. Croix Painting Workshop

October 3, 2008

Looking straight up at the massive mast of the Schooner Roseway, a National Historic Landmark that makes its’ winter home here on St. Croix. This was a photo from last winter on a day trip I took with visiting friends.

In addition to being a teaching facility for kids on St. Croix to learn about sailing, there comes a unique opportunity for friends of this blog who would love to take a plein air painting workshop, on the Roseway as she makes her way from St. Croix, to St. John and the BVIs’ next March ’09.

Please click here to read about the mission of this stunning schooner and get details and itinerary on the workshop.

The workshop is being given by Colin Page- please go here and take a long drink of his work. He infuses landscapes, still lifes, figuratives with dazzling light and masterful brushwork.

You’ll also learn about the last workshop he gave on the Roseway and see why he wants to do another one- this time in waters a bit warmer and bluer than in New England.

Oh- I should add, there’s room only for 12. Book your trip now- operators are standing by…….

Sour and Sweet

May 15, 2008

A few weeks ago, I started this still life at a workshop given here by Bruce Williamson, a visiting artist/teacher from Texas. Unlike the other members of our class who used oils, I was working in acrylics.

Bruce would begin each class with a demonstration ( think of it as You Tube LIVE ).

As a visual learner, and aren’t most artists, I gained so much by watching him begin to fill in spaces. And hear his mental process, not because we were psychics but because Bruce, while working, was telling us how he translates what he sees into what he applies.

By the time his demo was over, it was midday and the sun was directly on top of us which gave our still life set-up the very sharp shadows as you can see in the photo.

It also very nicely baked my paints into a abstract form on my palette, much faster than I could paint. That’s the Sour in the title.

But I liked the beginnings. It taught me to work fast and not over think each stroke. I took it home and worked on it in the studio, using the photo as a reference ( what did we do before digital cameras??).

How we look at shadows- they’re not one color. There are at least 6 colors in each object and its’ shadow. The true color, the mid-tones of the true ( or local ) color, the shadow of the object, the shadow of the object reflected on the surface, and finally the best part- the little highlight on the true color that gives the object its’ “ping “.

Who could have known you’d need an abacus to tally the contents of your work while you’re having at it!!

Art is math. Art is science. And some darn fine teaching too.

This is what I finished in the studio.

-I’m very happy with the lemon. I adjusted the pear to be more grounded into its’ axis- it wasn’t leaning authentically. The apple, well, I’m learning to compensate for how acrylics dry darker than you think they will but I’m not into overworking this piece anymore.

What I did get out of it was a sense of having fun while doing it. I haven’t done a still life in a very long time.

How pedestrian, to be living in the Caribbean and presenting you with a trio of fruit you could find in a convenience store on the interstate! But mango season is coming right up and hopefully may compensate your disappointed eyes.

I’m no Plein Jane

April 28, 2008

Just ended a weeks’ workshop given by Bruce Williamson, an artist and teacher living in Texas who flew here to St. Croix to hold a plein air workshop with the idea of turning us into ” Painters of Light”. He refers to The Yin/Yang of Painting by Hongnian Zhang and Lois Woolley.

Some rapt students at the waters’ edge watching a landscape take shape.

Bruce is a wonderful painter and generous teacher. I wondered what the challenges would be in painting with acrylics while everyone else painted with oils.

I soon found out.

I likened it  to wanting to dance with the corps, but while they were in ballet slippers, I was in tap shoes! Did I enjoy it? Yes! Did I learn? Yes! Was I able to apply the same techniques and get the same results? A very frustrated no!

Our repertoire consisted of still life and landscape with the components of composition ( light and dark ), light source ( warm light, cool shadows ), focal point, and value based on grey scale ( Frank Gardner has a great post on this ) being consistent in whatever we painted. Varying directions of brush strokes for interest, giving the focal point sharper definition than background elements. He also included an exercise in painting with a limited palette ( two primaries ) to create harmony of color and deliberate thought of mixing to achieve a result that doesn’t rely on a quick grab of a tube.

I gained lots of insight into these important tenets of a good painting. Bruce starts a blank canvas by visually selecting his subject with a view catcher, then gives himself points on his canvas as reference.

He then loosely draws basic placements of his objects with a sienna wash. At this point, he blocks in his darks. So up to this point I was nodding eagerly ( I can do this, I get this …). Add some lights for a visually arresting composition. Still with ya’ Bruce.

Then the scientific adage of oil and water………

Even with a Sta- Wet Palette, my paint puddles dried before I could dip into them again. Every color had to be re-mixed over and over which creates two problems- a painting that takes forever, and colors that are always off.

Landscapes were impossible for me. I was cautioned by Nancy Moskovitz, well, she actually wished me ” Good Luck ” and said to work fast. Fast and good are not always best friends.

What do I do? I did quick studies of fruit, using the one stroke at a time method that he showed us to really ” see ” the warm and cool, light and shade.

I love the way oils look when working with them- the subtleties of color range and staying power of pools you can keep referring to. But how do I negate drawers full of acrylics. re-tool in oils and all their sidekicks, and justify it? The smell of turp, the safe disposal of toxic liquids on this little island?

I humbly bow deeply and respectfully to plein air painters while I ponder where to go with all this.