Sunday, December 31, 2006

"Overlook -- Kensington Metropark" plein air oil on birch panel -- 9x12"
Michigan's had an unusually balmy winter, with daytime highs in the 40's and 50's, even during this Christmas week. Yesterday morning we had heavy fog to start, and my friends and I had fun painting fog scenes in the horse staging area just east of the park. By lunchtime, the sun had come out -- a rare sight in Michigan in winter. In fact, Michigan's winter skies remind me of the skies of Lima, Peru: a dismal gray most of the time. The TV news at lunch time was showing giant snowstorms out west, interspersed with images of Sadam Hussein's hanging. But here in Michigan, all was calm, all was bright. A day too beautiful to stop painting! I drove to a big overlook on the north end of the park. From this point a person can see for many miles -- all the way to Ann Arbor - or beyond. All the colors this time of year are quite muted, and the sunlight is weak. The few red cedars pop up in the landscape like so many little exclamation points. In winter they take on such interesting colors, from olive greens, bronze -- even to shades of rust and purple. Both the cedars and white pines have needles that die back to shades of honey and rich gold. This was a day I wished could have lasted for a week!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

"Black Cat Teapot With Lemons"
oil on archivally-prepared canvas panel -- 11x14"
The Canton, Michigan Village Theater invited me to come and do a painting demonstration 2 weeks ago. This was painted in the theater lobby. I chose this teapot because it's so much fun to paint. The high-gloss glaze reflects all the surrounding colors like a mirror. I grabbed an antique tablecloth from the 50's and a couple lemons. This teapot I originally bought back in 1978, so I've gotten quite a few good pots of tea (and paintings) from it.
As an experiment, I'm also listing this on an eBay auction. Here is the link:

Thursday, December 28, 2006

"Wino Angel in Pink Poinsettias" oil on canvas panel -- 11x14"
One of my good friends sent me a CD that is a collection of really awful wino songs. They sound as if the musicians were exceedingly drunk at the time and the recordings were done in situ, in some kind of raunchy dive. I was listening to this awful CD (amazed at how lame it was) on the way down to the Anna Scripps Conservatory on Belle Isle, Detroit. One song in particular was memorable in that the singer had an exceedingly raspy voice. He sang the virtues of his favorite brew: Thunderbird. I just couldn't shake the memory of that ravaged voice. So wouldn't you know I'd be attracted to this stone cherub holding a wine glass and bunch of grapes? He was surrounded by pink poinsettias. All the while I painted, I could hear that voice whispering "Thunderbird!".

Saturday, December 16, 2006

"Sunrise 12-16-06" plein air oil painting -- on 9x12" birch panel
I'd been thinking about painting this view for weeks. It was on my mind all week at work. Finally I woke up at 3 AM this morning, jumped out of bed (startling the cats) and made coffee. Gathered my gear and set off early for Kensington Metropark. I wanted to have my easel set up, paints on the palette, brush in hand for the glorious sunrise I'd been lusting for. Southeast Michigan is notorious for its endless string of dark, gloomy days, but I think that is when we see some of the most dramatic sunrises. If you haven't ever tried painting the shimmering pinks, peaches, golds and reds of a sunrise or sunset, you would have no idea of how nearly impossible it is to duplicate those colors! Add white to red to make pink -- and you usually end up with a muddy, grayed-out pink. And take a look at the red color reflecting in the water on the right. Isn't that almost obscene? Sunrises & sunsets are very sensual! I've seen colors in sunsets that made me blush! I parked at the Nature Center parking lot, loaded my gear into my "bag lady" folding wire grocery cart, and walked a short distance over to this view. The lake is partically drained for the winter to avoid ice damage to the boat docks. So the dark spots you're seeing in the foreground is some of the lake bottom. It's been unusually warm here, and the lakes haven't frozen yet. Only the thinnest sheet of ice shows at daybreak. To the left, out of range of this painting, was a small flock of Canada geese, snoozing on the ice. They were waking up and honking with excitement at the new day. Was it cold? A little. Right around freezing, with a slight wind. It's a bone-chilling experience to stand rock-still in winter while painting, so I had piled on layers and layers of hi-tech long underwear and goosedown. Too much -- I was sweating! Maybe I'll do a larger "studio" painting, based on this plein air study. And I know I'll certainly be doing a lot more daybreak paintings! They're a blast!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"Dawson's Road 12-09-06" plein air -- oil on birch panel -- 9x12" What a great way to use up some yellow ochre! I parked my french easel on the side of the road (actually on the little bridge), hoping only benevolet, sober drivers would pass by. What I loved most about this view were the tire tracks left in the snow and mud. Notice the blue shadows? Some of the ones on the lower right were just amazing in their sharp brilliance. This is the second painting I had done yesterday morning, and people were starting to pack up to go to the bar for lunch. So I was trying to hurry. I painted this whole thing with a size 8 flat brush, going as fast as I could go. What always takes me the longest is establishing the basic layout. I ALWAYS use a viewfinder in the beginning to help me compose. I learned this trick from landscape painter Clyde Aspevig, no matter if I'm doing a still life, portrait, or landscape.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

"Wildwing Lake - Early December" oil on canvas -- 12 x 16" plein air study This weekend the Detroit area narrowly missed a major snowfall. I met my plein air friends out at our old standby, Kensington Metropark early yesterday morning. It was a bone-chilling experience, standing out there in 27 degrees, in a stiff wind. About 5 of us showed up; I'm sure the rest of our group was lying in their warm, soft beds, feeling guilty they hadn't joined us. We've learned to layer thermal longjohns, polartec and goosedown to the point of sometimes having to remove clothing. While we painted, 3 white swans kept us entertained, chasing each other back and forth over the water. We were standing along the path that runs around the lake, a distance of several miles. As you can see in the painting, not all the leaves have fallen. Our red oak trees don't shed leaves until springtime. The birds are quite tame here. Chickadees, titmice and nuthatches ate sunflowers from our outstretched hands (and off our easels). It was a very dark, gloomy morning, causing us to consider traveling to the Belle Isle Conservatory to paint bright red poinsettias sometime in the near future.