Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Rain Squall over Lake Michigan" -- field study 11x14" -- oil on canvas -- Margie Guyot

"Approaching Storm" -- field study -- oil on canvas -- 9x12" -- Margie Guyot

This morning I looked out the window and saw some fabulous clouds out in the west. Hot damn! I was especially fired up to go painting because the Tom Thomson book had just arrived yesterday. He's one of the Canadian Group of 7, who did a lot of plein air painting in the Algonquin area. His colors and sense of composition intrigue me. I just got the book, so don't be too critical yet of my compositions!

"Approaching Storm" was the first painting of the morning. I loved the way that big cloud stretched forward and diagonally. I'd set up my easel on the sandy beach, nearly getting my Explorer stuck in the wet sand. Good thing it's got 4-wheel drive. The wind was brisk, but it wasn't bitterly cold. Still, I knew I had to hurry with this painting. Good thing it was relatively simple. What I'll probably do later, in the studio, might be to increase the contrast a bit. In this photo it looks a bit pale. As I removed it from the easel, the rain started in.

I decided to go home, but as I got about 2 miles down the road, the rain stopped. So I drove back and did a second painting.
This one, "Rain Squall over Lake Michigan", had to be another quickie. Those clouds were moving fast! I loved the many layers in the clouds and the little pocket of golden light at the left. The colors of the lake continue to amaze me. Before I moved up here, I had no idea how turquoise the water often looks.

Again, the rain and sleet started up just as I finished this painting. As I drove out through the park, everywhere I looked, I saw a Tom Thomson painting! Oh, to learn his feeling for composition and color!

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Monday, October 20, 2008

"Maple Tree on Toad Lake Road" -- plein air oil study -- oil on canvas board 11x14" -- Margie Guyot
There is a one-lane dirt road that winds along between the farms between Ellsworth and Eastport, called Toad Lake Road. The first time I happened upon it, I was lost, trying to find my way home from Tapawingo. It was early spring and the road was quite muddy in places. I have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, but I was worried I'd get stuck, miles from help. I revisited this road on Friday, armed with painting gear. The road was relatively dry. It's really quite a pretty drive, snaking along through the woodlands and hills. Rather like parts of Vermont. No Hunting/No Trespassing signs are posted, along with Season Road -- Not Plowed in Winter (And they mean it!) signs.

At one point it does pass a small lake. The famed Toad Lake, I assume. I rolled the window down and listened. Hmmm... no toads were calling. Wrong season anyway. None were trying to mate at the moment. Come back in the spring when the road's a quagmire and hear the frenzy.

There was a really cool, old, gnarly maple tree along the roadside. There are LOTS of old, gnarly maples up here to chose from. Some are right on my property. But somehow the excitement (and suffering) of exploring the hinterlands give certain gnarly trees more of an appealing aura than others.

I loved how the branches snaked out. And the golden leaves, some brushed with shades of red, some still green, shot through with bright sky holes! It's tough to paint. I'll probably try doing another version of this, using this field study as a reference. What I'd change is the value of the leaves in relation to the value of the sky holes. I'd make the leaves a shade darker and give the sky holes a bit more of a design, a pattern. It's sometimes kind of difficult to consider all these aspects when out painting in the field. The light changes so fast. The wind is blowing. Insects are biting. Branches are moving and leaves are falling. Clouds move in; clouds move away. No wonder Van Gogh went mad!


Monday, October 13, 2008

"North Side of Church Road, South of Atwood Road" -- plein air field study -- oil on masonite -- 12x16" -- Margie Guyot
This is another scene I've been wanting to paint all summer. Some lucky person has a house right on this small lake, with a glassed-in porch hanging right out over the water. I hope to meet these people some day.

It was an unusually warm day here, but the clouds were pretty thick by the time I got to this spot to paint. Most of what you're seeing is dead, dry cattails and gray sky reflected in the water. Even the distant ridge of maple trees is muted. Their fiery reds and oranges have simmered down quickly.

As I painted, I heard various croakings, including a mating call of a leopard frog, Rana Pipiens! I didn't expect to hear mating calls this time of the year.

It was a pretty tough scene to lay in. I'd like to do another version, maybe a bit larger. I'll probably redesign the bits of open water slightly. When the snow's flying and it's freezing out, I'll pull out some of this summer's studies and see what I can do with them.

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"Richardson Road" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas -- 8x10" -- Margie Guyot
The other day I'd been driving along this road and saw these wonderful dark maroon shrubs all over in this field. Maybe they're some kind of dogwood? I wanted to get over to this spot and paint it on my day off. Thankfully, it was fairly sunny this morning and relatively warm for October. There was a grove of maples and pines in the background. The colors are changing very fast up here, along Lake Michigan, from fiery reds and screaming oranges to more muted tones.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Speedboat at Rest" -- plein air field study -- 9x12" on canvas -- Margie Guyot
After painting the maples at my friend Cal's house, Mike and I went into the town of Charlevoix, where they were having their annual Art, Apples and Autumn Festival. We'd been invited by the Circle of Arts to paint en plein air around the town, then frame our works and return to the gallery by 4 PM. They hosted a wine and cheese reception.

I love painting boats in the water (and cars), so I suggested to Mike that we mosey on down to the marina and paint. This boat looked interesting to me. I'd just drawn in the basic outline when the owners showed up and started getting ready to take her out! I asked them if they minded hanging around another 15 minutes or so. They got out their fishing poles and fished. But they also took the front tarp off and I had to work a lot of this painting from memory, trying to remember what color things were. I worked as quickly as possible, but they were gone before this painting was done.

I really loved the ripply water and the reflections. I would have loved to have painted more boat scenes, but we were running out of time.

I framed this and it sold within the first 5 minutes of the show! Hey -- that's a car payment for me.

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"Cal's Maples" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas -- 11x14" -- Margie Guyot
This morning my friend Mike and I met at our friend Cal's house, just south of Charlevoix. He's got these giant, old maple trees in his front yard. As I drove up I saw these and knew I just had to paint them. The fall colors are starting up here. Some of the maples are fiery red, but some are still quite green. Old maple trees can get quite gnarly and weird-looking!

I'm still trying to get used to the new color palette I learned at Scott Christensen's workshop out near Jackson Hole. I really like the color range, but I think I will need to add a few colors to work here in Michigan in the fall.

Last fall I was occupied with packing and moving up here and had NO time to paint at all, so it's been a real treat to get out and paint.

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"Waves -- South of Petoskey" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas -- 9x12" -- Margie Guyot

Friday I was driving back from visiting my brother in the hospital in Petoskey when I noticed these amazing waves. We'd had nearly 2 weeks of dreary, wet weather and finally it was sunny -- but very windy. The wind was kicking up big whitecaps on Lake Michigan and there were places along the shoreline south of Petoskey that I just had to stop and paint!

For this painting I walked way out to the edge of the water and set up my easel. There were lots of big rocks and the ground around the rocks was slimey and mucky, but it was a very invigorating experience, being pummeled by the wind. I haven't had much experience painting waves, but they were fabulous to watch. The fall colors were just beginning with their reds and golds. It was late afternoon and the distant tree-covered shoreline was showing some deep, bluish shadows. Way at the back on the left is the beginning of the hills of Petoskey. It was very refreshing to stand out there, doing this painting -- after a very rough week.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

"October Storm" -- field study 11x14" -- oil on canvas -- Margie Guyot

After weeks of beautiful, warm, sunny weather, everything turned foul. It's rained copiously for days. Yesterday I just had to get out and paint something or I thought I'd surely go mad. The skies were so interesting, filled with dramatic storm clouds. I went to my favorite spot, Rex Beach, which is part of the Nature Conservancy land along the coastline here. It was kind of risky -- the rain has been hitting off and on. I could have been drenched, halfway through the painting (which has happened before).

Thank goodness I'd thought to bring along my winter coat! The wind was about 30 mph and the temperature was in the low 40's. Bitterly cold. But the clouds were just so cool, "roiling", as they say. What painter could resist those? I'll have to be sure to bring along some of those hunters' hand warmers in the future. Thought my fingers were going to freeze off.

In the distance you see Northport, the little town at the tip of the
Leelanau Peninsula. It juts out into Lake Michigan. The foreground in this painting shows a little reef covered in reeds.

The sun dropped to the horizon and it was quickly getting dark as I packed up the Explorer. Deer darted across the highway. Going out to paint is so much better than vegetating in front of the TV!

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