Sunday, November 30, 2008

"November 30 - The Beach" -- plein air field study -- oil on birch panel 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

It was the Calm Before the Storm. This was the first time I've been to the lakeshore and there was no wind or waves. It was overcast and very chilly, though. We're bracing for another big round of snowstorms, beginning later this afternoon. The weather forecast is for snow every day this week.

When I go to a place to paint, I'm always wondering what's the most interesting thing here? What is the most exciting thing I see? Today it was the shape of this rocky shoreline with its thin remnant of snow that I thought was beautiful.

What's surprising to me is that this strip of rocks was not visible this summer. It was under water. The lake level has dropped at least 6" recently. Some of us suspect water is being siphoned off or diverted elsewhere. There are several water bottling plants using Lake Michigan water and longtime state residents are saying the water levels have dropped noticeably, by several feet.

I just read online that the Great Lakes do experience tides, affected by the pull of the moon. But they're not as dramatic as ocean tides. Other factors affecting the lake levels are the wind and weather. So apparently when we're experiencing high winds from the west, it's pushing the waves higher here, on the western shoreline.
So because the day is so calm, the water appears lower right at this point.

I'm really looking forward to coming back to paint here as the winter progresses. I've bought some hi-tech snowshoes to get down here, as the snow can really pile up. I want to get some ice pileup paintings along the shoreline. And while hunting season goes on, I've got my hunter's orange cap to wear. It's a long hike through the woods down to the water.

Labels: ,

Saturday, November 29, 2008

"Beach -- 11/29/08" -- plein air field study -- oil on 8x10" birch panel -- Margie Guyot

"Beach -- 11/27/08" -- plein air field study -- oil on birch panel 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

Most people probably went to the Malls this weekend. Not us painters! We grabbed our gear and hit the beach. It's truly addictive. I grew up in Iowa, with no views anything close to this, so I'm totally ga-ga over Lake Michigan. I could come down here every day and paint. The colors of the water astound me. Painting the waves is tricky. Kind of like trying to paint a barnyard of chickens running around nonstop. The light's changing constantly, so it keeps me guessing all the time.

Painting on the beach in NW Michigan at the end of November is cold business. The temperature may be slightly above freezing, but the wind howls relentlessly off the lake. Layering helps immensely. Thank goodness for Gore-tex! Being all bundled up makes small movements take longer. Just putting away a piece of paper towel into a trash bag and tearing off a new one takes about three times as long as it does in warm weather.

I always love to walk along the rocky shore, looking for Petoskey stones. I find one about half the time. Petoskey stones are petrified coral that was formed along the coast of Chile, they tell me. Over time the plates shifted and the coastline of NW Michigan is supposedly the only place in the world you can find them.

Today I was lucky enough to have 2 old-time painting buddies along with me. They agree: this place is wonderful. It's at the Antrim Creek Natural Area. We're planning on having a hot dog roast with more of the gang next summer. A "paint-athon".

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"November Storm - Lake Michigan" -- plein air field study -- oil on birch panel -- 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

Ever have a rough week and you just had to go out and paint or you'd go nuts? This was such a week. I had a lot of dental work on Monday (2 1/2 hours of drilling!) and my mouth has been sore ever since. And my older brother's health is failing fast. I'd been watching him slip away in the nursing home. But there's one place I know I can go to feel good again: the beach. It doesn't matter what the weather. There's something about seeing the amazing colors and hearing the waves crashing that heals me.

The wind was whipping along something fierce. OK! How windy was it? It was so windy, I had trouble painting the straight horizon line of the water. (In the far distance is the Leelanu Peninsula, by the way.) The wind kept pushing my hand around. Foaming waves were crashing against the rocks. Gloomy skies. had snow every day this week. Fortunatley, I had on expedition-weight longjohns over sweatpants and my heavy-duty down coat. Thank goodness for all that, or I'd have been frozen.

What struck me as most interesting were the patterns of sand, crusty ice and snow that were starting to build up along the shoreline. The painting doesn't show it, but there were thousands of little, blue, crawdad claws washed up onto the rocks.

You probably think this photo looks rather fuzzy. It isn't fuzz. It's a fine layer of sand! I had laid the painting down on the beach while I packed up. The wind was so strong, it was blowing fine sand over it. I should have known better. But after it dries, I might be able to wipe the sand off.

I really need to find my hunter's orange vest. It got lost in the move up here last fall. I paint in areas where hunting is allowed. Hopefully I don't look too much like a deer!


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Poinsettias" -- oil on birch panel -- 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

Finally the poinsettias are coming into the stores! I'd been waiting for these hot little numbers. I've been doing lots of plein air landscapes and things were getting to be dark & gloomy! There's nothing like a good dash of red to liven things up.

This is just a tiny poinsettia I picked up for $3.33 at the grocery store. I set it on a red brocade fabric my brother brought over from China. It was quite a challenge to paint, as there was a lot of detail to it. Of course I could have painted in all the little details, but I wanted to keep this "loose and juicy". The two Christmas ornaments must be well over 50 years old. They were old when I was a kid and somehow they survived moving several times.

This little plant is surrounded by a gold foil sleeve and it was reflecting in quite an interesting way. It was kind of difficult to photograph this. It's extremely wet and gooey and the light today was very dim. We're having a big ice storm at the moment here in NW Michigan. So the bulb on the far right was glaring. Really, it's darker.

Oh -- now I see the ice storm has changed over to snow. Yee-haw!

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, November 08, 2008

"Farm on Farrell Road" -- plein air field study -- 8x10" -- oil on birch panel -- Margie Guyot

Yesterday was probably one of the last nice days we'll have here in NW Michigan until next April. So I had to get out and "make hay while the sun shines". I saw this farm scene on Farrell Road, just south of Essex Road. I loved the way the shadows fell across the grass and road and the bright green grass.

Behind this windrow of spruce and deciduous trees was the farmhouse. I believe that bright green field (on the left) was planted in winter wheat. It was fresh and new, only several inches high. On the far right you can see a tip of the cornfield, fully dried out and still waiting to be harvested. Farmers often plant cover crops such winter wheat and rye to help save against erosion and to help fertilize the soil. Besides corn and other grain, there are many apple and cherry orchards. This area is also known as "The Cherry Capital of the World".

The day started out with 100% pure blue skies, but as the day wore on, the clouds and chilly breezes came in. After several balmy days with highs about 70 degrees, we're expecting a weekend of ice pellets and snow.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, November 06, 2008

"November 5th - the Lake" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas -- 12x16" -- Margie Guyot

This lake is addictive! I went back to Rex Beach again yesterday afternoon to enjoy another moment of painting while the good weather still held. We've had highs up near 70 degrees the past couple days. And there's nothing quite so refreshing as standing on a Lake Michigan beach!

Good thing I had my polartec jacket with me. Sometimes the wind direction would change, blowing in a chilly breeze. Storm clouds were rolling in from the west. The weather forecast is for a high of about 30 degrees this Sunday, so I really wanted to seize the day.

The day before, I'd painted about 100 feet north of here. I'd included the sun's glare on the water. Today I didn't feel like blinding myself again, so I looked more to the north. I loved the pale viridian hue of the water and the shoreline pattern of the rocks. No sand in this view! The rocks all had some kind of crust on them, so hunting for Petoskey stones was out of the question.

This canvas was actually a recycled canvas that I'd coated over with a gold tone. It's larger than I'd normally use for a plein air study, but I managed to complete this painting in about an hour. The sun was dropping fast towards the horizon, so there was no time to dilly-dally.

I loved the little pools of water in between some of the rocks. Maybe if I try repainting another version of this in the studio, using this study as a guide, I might be able to show these pools better. As usual, I painted this whole thing with a single #8 flat brush. And hurridly. So small details couldn't be noted.

Another plus to painting in November: no mosquitoes!

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

"The Lake 11/04/08" -- plein air field study -- oil on stretched canvas -- 11x14" -- Margie Guyot

"Maple" -- plein air field study -- oil on birch panel -- 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

After voting this morning, I came back home and loaded up my Explorer and went out to paint. As usual in Michigan, the weather is usually pretty nice up until about the first week of November. Then it all goes to hell. All the more reason to go out and paint today!

I was able to get by with just a T-shirt & jeans this afternoon. No bulky down jacket yet. It was wonderful. The maple tree in this painting is just down the road from me, on Old Dixie Highway. Most of the trees are bare by now. This one had some glorious red and gold leaves hanging on yet. I love the way these big old maple trees get so gnarly.

After painting the maple tree I drove down to my favorite beach: Rex Beach. You can actually drive right down onto the sandy beach, but you can't park there. With all the rain we've had lately, the sand has been pretty wet and it is kind of scary to drive on it. I see deep ruts from other vehicles who've barely made it out.

First I took a walk along the beach, looking for Petoskey Stones. Alas, all the stones I saw were covered in some kind of dried scum. The sun was blindingly bright on the water and I found this spot where cross currents were making interesting patterns. In the distance is the Leelanu Peninsula. If you like rocks, this is the place to get some! Because of the blinding reflections on the water, it was kind of tough to paint this. I kept my sunglasses on through most of it, which is something I wouldn't ordinarily do. It was kind of tricky to get the values of the water and rocks right so that the sunlight reflections would give the feeling of how bright it actually was. And painting waves is always tough -- like trying to draw chickens running around in a pen! But I really enjoyed painting this.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, November 03, 2008

"Late Fall, Late Afternoon, Creekside" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas panel -- 11x14" -- Margie Guyot

This is part of the Antrim Creek Nature Area. I'd seen this creek months ago but never got over to paint it until this afternoon. It was one of the last nice days we'll have this year, with temperatures in the 60's. Soon there will be blowing snow.

I dragged my painting gear down the leaf-covered trail, scootching up big mounds of leaves along the way. I had it in a little cart with wheels, which is great if you're on a sidewalk. Kind of an adventure in thick carpeting of leaves, trudging up and down hills. But it saves the shoulders.

This view was painted at the edge of a small cliff, looking down on the winding creek. It empties into Lake Michigan, about a block west from this spot. It's spawning grounds for some of the large salmon who swim up this stream to lay their eggs. A great blue heron flew off, another sign of the stream's health.

I had to work very fast, as it was late afternoon and I was losing the light in a hurry. I liked the reflections in the water and the soft, faded-golden light. Maybe I'll return to this spot tomorrow and try another painting. If I have more time to work I might get something with a bit more detail. And working earlier in the day will give a whole new lighting and color scheme.

Had to wear my orange T-shirt while painting this. Hunting is allowed in the park and I didn't want to be mistaken for a squirrel.

Labels: , ,