Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Pink Tulips" -- oil on canvas -- 12x9" -- Margie Guyot

I picked up these tulips at the grocery store last week and was too busy painting other things this week. They were out in my studio and I nearly forgot about them. I knew I had to paint them today, or they might be falling apart in another day or two.

I really loved the way they looked in the bright sunlight. Because I knew they wouldn't last much longer, I wanted to keep it simple and rather small. I painted them just they way they were, sitting on my big table. I'd left the white plastic grocery bag around it and I think it makes a more interesting painting.

The sun was moving so fast! I didn't know if I'd be able to pull this one off. I started out painting just the dark shapes. Then I moved to the medium-toned shapes. By then it really looked crazy. But I kept slugging away at it.

Notice how the dark gray shadow on the table right underneath the pot is reflecting back some of the dark pink?


Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Orange Truck" -- plein air field study -- oil on birch panel -- 9x12" Margie Guyot

After painting down on the beach (see below) I trekked through the snow over to this abandoned orange truck. It was parked by the ranger's station at Barnes Park Campground, in back of their little log cabin headquarters. I saw this the other day and planned on returning to paint it before our snow melted. I really loved the color of this truck! After painting so many vehicles in the snow, I knew how the shadows would look, so I invented some for this painting. In reality, it was an overcast day, with no strong sunlight and defined shadows.

"Ice Breakup - Lake Michigan - 2/26/09" -- plein air field study -- oil on birch panel -- 9x12" -- Margie Guyot

I decided to take my morning walk down here at the beach, at Barnes Park. It's a beautiful park and campground on Lake Michigan. During the winter it's virtually abandoned. We were having a heat wave -- all the way into the upper 20's today. Still -- I put on my layers of long underwear and heavy down coat. And I was so glad to have it. Surprisingly, it wasn't windy. Usually it's like trying to paint in the middle of a tornado down here, but today it was calm.

I walked along with my viewfinder, checking to see what looked like a good design. I really loved the clumps of ice, piled up a little ways out from the shore. A few weeks ago I crossed a stretch of flat ice to climb up onto some of these "chunks", but I didn't trust the ice today.

As I painted, the ice was moaning and making crunching sounds. Really neat! Dark clouds were moving in the distance. As far as you could see at this point, Lake Michigan was covered in snow-covered chunks of ice.

I liked the little pattern of footprints on the ice. I wanted to be sure to include it in this painting. And the snow was not a dazzling white today, due to the cloud cover.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Red Primrose" -- oil on panel -- 11x14" -- Margie Guyot

Don't you love this intense red? I saw this little plant at the grocery store last weekend. I don't think I could chose a favorite color, but if somebody was twisting my arm, I guess I'd chose red. Or yellow. No -- wait....

We went through a week or so of totally blah weather: cloudy skies, with very little interesting views to paint. And when it's down around zero, I like to have something inside the studio to work on. I believe I can plant this primrose outside in the spring. I have some yellow primroses and what the heck -- I should go back to the grocery store and get one in every color!

The vintage tablecloth is from a garage sale, of course. The rose glass is from my favorite aunt, Aunt Madeline. If you've been following this blog for a while, you would probably recognize the frog. I thought the viridian-green of the frog went along well with the viridian-green in the tablecloth.

Although there are 3 big southern-exposure windows on my studio, it's been too cloudy to cast strong shadows. So I had to pull out the studio light to create a sunlit effect.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"Waiting to be Dumped On" -- plein air field study -- 11x14" -- oil on board -- Margie Guyot

Yesterday I drove around the country roads, looking for something amazing to paint. Nothing looked interesting: it was overcast, gray and blah-looking! I made it my rule never to paint anything that didn't amaze me. So I came home. Decided to take a hike down the road for some exercise.

Old Dixie Highway is just a 2-lane blacktop and nearly deserted in winter. It's a very safe place to walk, especially when there is snow and ice. I veered off onto Fox Mission, a luxury home subdivision. Thanks to the economy, lots may have been sold, but nobody's built anything up there yet. So it's all MINE!

The driveway goes through a pine woods, through a cattail swamp and then up a ridge that overlooks Lake Michigan. It's beautiful up there. A flash of something white caught my eye. It was a whitetail deer. He (or she) and his 11 buddies scampered off into the pine woods. I walked over there to take a peek at the landscape and saw this scene. I loved it! The shapes of the melting snow were amazing (to me, anyway).

I took a shortcut home, hiking down the snow-covered field and crossing the frozen creek. Thank goodness it was frozen! I couldn't find the bridge. Cut though my neighbor's yard and went to my studio. Loaded the Explorer with my paints and drove back up to Fox Mission.

It was 5 PM by then and the light was starting to fade. Northen Michigan was under a posted storm warning, expecting "up to 10 inches" of snow over these next few days. So the sky had a dark, brooding feel to it. Surprisingly, it was quite pleasant up there. Compared to other painting experiences I've had lately, it was great. The wind was blocked by the pine trees. It wasn't too cold. I loved it!

This painting seemed to paint itself. Well, it was pretty simple in composition and basically had only 3 values to it. There were no strong blue shadows. No glaring snow. Things were very grayed-out. Notice how the dead-grass background is more of a red tone? I learned that in Scott Christensen's workshop last fall: as the land recedes, it increases in red. Little tips like that make paintings turn out better.

I got home in time to soak my brushes in soapy water, clean my palette, drop off my gear in the studio and drive up to the Charlevoix Library for a lecture on the Mt. Everest disaster. One of our local men was up on the mountain, 400 feet from the top of the mountain when he had to turn back. 8 men died on that trek, which several books have been written about, including "Into Thin Air" by John Krakauer.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

"Basket Bushes" -- plein air field study -- oil on panel -- 11x14" -- Margie Guyot

My neighbor Jerry tells me these are called "basket bushes" because of their shape. They're some kind of cedar that grows in the wild, up here in NW Michigan. Some can get quite large. These were "youngsters". I liked the design of the cast shadows and deer tracks in the snow and wanted to do something rather abstract.

We've had a few partly sunny days and the snow is beginning to melt down a little, especially around the base of trees and shrubs. It's been melting and freezing, off and on, for the past couple weeks. The nice thing is that it's created a rather hard, crunchy snow surface that will hold me up when I walk on it. Otherwise I'd be sinking in up to my knees.

This morning I took a long walk down Old Dixie Highway and found a sure sign of spring: a wild pussywillow tree, loaded with catkins! Looking forward to going painting in a T-shirt again.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Ice Breakup -- Lake Michigan" -- plein air field study -- oil on panel -- 11x14" -- Margie Guyot

Never thought I'd ever say this, but I'm kind of sad to think of winter ending. I've had such an interesting time this winter, painting snow-covered cars and lake scenes!

This morning I had planned on painting daffodils in my studio all day. But first I decided to drive down to Barnes Park Campground, about 3 miles south, for a hike along the lake. I try to get some daily exercise, outside whenever possible.

When I got down to the lake, it was just amazing to see the huge chunks of ice and the sky and just everything! I turned around, drove home, gathered my painting gear and drove back. Needless to say, I had on my wind-proof pants, polartech pants, thermal socks, Arctic snowboots, heavyweight goosedown coat and gloves. Always over-dress! You can always remove stuff, but if you find you need it -- and don't have it -- it's pretty miserable.

It was a nice hike from the parking lot, through the crunchy snow. I was glad it has semi-thawed, then refrozen, or it would have been hard walking in it. There is a rather steep hill going down to the lake at this point. Glad it wasn't icy!

About 50 feet from the shoreline was a long, high mound of ice and snow. To get to it, I had to hike over snow-covered ice. This time of year, a person is never totally sure of how thick the ice is. It could have broken through. But I figured the water was probably only about 3 feet deep right there, so I decided to risk it.

The mounds were the place to be! Standing up higher, a better view of the ice chunks could be seen. I decided long ago only to paint things that I found amazing. Never paint anything that's boring. So this scene was pretty amazing to me. I loved the variations in colors: the pale mauves, the hints of olive, lavender, etc. The sky in the distance was so interesting as well, with the low, dark cloud bank, bordered with higher, brighter clouds.

Notice the distant "bluish" treelines? The ones on the right side are the Old Mission Peninsula, I believe.

It was very windy, but not quite as horribly windy as the other day when I was painting on Peebles Road. It was a relief not to have my gooey, wet palette blow up onto my good goosedown coat.

So I finished the painting, carefully packed up, lugged everything up the steep hill, drove home -- and then realized my camera was missing! Drove back to the park, slogged through the snow and down the hill again. Whew! There it was: my beloved camera, lying in the middle of the path!

I hope we have another big snowfall again. Just one more!

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"February Thaw -- Lake Michigan" -- plein air field study -- 9x12" -- Margie Guyot

This was the second painting of the day, started about 4:30 PM. The snow was melting fast in this 50 degree temperature, so I wanted to capture the look of it -- and the ice chunks on Lake Michigan. The sun was setting fast, and the shadows were deepening. Some of the snow, partially melted, had a rather smokey violet hue.

The distant water along the horizon always amazes me for its deep blue color. Not a true ultramarine, it's grayed-out a touch. Closer up, sometimes you see the most striking shades of paler blues, even ranging to turquoise and ochre tones.

The ice was breaking up and piling up in clusters all along the shoreline. As you can see, what remained of the snow showed in rows and rows of ripples. The endless wind creates all those ripples. Strangely enough, it wasn't as unbearably windy here on the shoreline (at Fisherman's Island State Park) as it was around noon today, near Ellsworth. Thank goodness.

The distant sky, right above the horizon, was a gray-blue: a far-off cloudbank. Somewhere it must have been snowing in the Upper Peninsula.

It's fun driving along, looking everywhere, all the time, trying to see amazing things: amazing shapes, stunning colors. I look for that stuff all the time. SO much more fun than doing taxes!

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"Peebles Road, Looking South" -- field study on panel -- 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

Yes, it was 50 degrees. And yes, it was sunny. But my gawd -- the wind! It was roaring in off Lake Michigan, blowing straight across the empty farmers' fields, where it tried desperately to rip my hat off, blow over my easel and drive me insane! 5 times it blew the palette off the easel, landing the full, gooey color mess smack-dab onto my jacket. I was just covered with paint by the time I finished this little field study. Ordinarily I can paint & not get a drop on me. Not today!

Everybody was so excited to finally had a sunny, warm day! Our first "nice" day since last October. I knew I'd be out painting. The land around here is pretty hilly in places, with remnants of pine forests here and there. Many cherry and apple orchards in this area as well. I seem to gravitate towards picking a north-and-south-running road, then looking south. I like the perspective and colors. The blue haze in the distant hills. Noticing all the colors is so addictive!

I parked on the side of the road and kind of wondered if I'd be stuck. So if it wasn't the wind that did me in, it would be the muck. I'm not a big fan of wind. The wind, the Mistral, drove Van Gogh nutty and by God, I guess that's good enough for me. By the time I finished this, I'd felt battered. Covered in oil paint and battered from stem to stern. Exhausted from trying to hold my palette down and my hat and a paintbrush all at the same time.

The wind was so strong, it kept blowing my hand around. The hand holding the brush. Damn! And I was slowly sinking into the mud. But at least the mosquitoes weren't out yet.

Was glad to finish this. Drove straight home and threw my clothes into the washer. Had a cup of tea, some guacamole & Ritz crackers, changed clothes, then went back out again...

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

"The North Forty" -- plein air field study -- oil on masonite panel 11x14" -- Margie Guyot

After painting Shirley's truck, I moved my easel over to do a painting of the view just to the north of her house. This is a very small wood shack that a couple lives in. It's a historical building along Old Dixie Highway, just north of Eastport. Over 100 years old, it consists of 2 rooms.

The 2 big stacks of logs are Sue & Shirley's firewood supply for the winter. They cut, split and stack their own wood every year. They have 2 large gardens where they grow a lot of their own food. This spring I look forward to having them show me how to rig up a solar panel to power a small pump for my irrigation system.

Old Dixie Highway is lined with huge, old maple trees that were casting shadows across the snow this afternoon.

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"Shirley's Truck" -- plein air field study -- oil on birch panel -- 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

Last week I painted Sue's Willys and would have liked to have painted Shirley's truck, but it was way too cold. We had highs of 3 degrees and 9 degrees this week. Today it jetted up to about 40 and there were sunny skies, so I went next door to paint Shirley's truck. Last week it had a lot more snow on it, doggone it!

There are lots of huge, old maple trees that cast interesting shadows across the snow. This truck was parked on the north end of their house and you can see bits of the snow-covered hillside in back. That's a big forsythia bush at the front bumper of the truck. I look forward to seeing it in bloom.

Shirley said her truck has 13" tires. When the grass is wet, it has absolutely no traction. Just sits and spins.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

"Kutya" -- oil on canvas -- 20x24" -- Margie Guyot

It's brutally cold and windy here this week, so I was happy to have a pet portrait commission to work on inside my nice, warm studio. I was given a small portrait to copy on my digital camera, which I then printed to an 8x10" sheet of paper. Still, the colors may be slightly off. Before calling it 100% finished, I'm going to ask the man to come and look at it to get his OK.

I hadn't done a pet portrait in years and had forgotten how much fun it is.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"Willys -- 9 Degrees" -- plein air field study -- 8x10" -- oil on birch panel -- Margie Guyot

This Willys belongs to my neighbor Sue. She lived in this car for 7 years, while studying to be a cobbler. It's parked alongside her house and I've been admiring it. I especially love painting cars covered in snow, on sunny days, with the deep blue shadows. Well, today it was sunny (a rarity here in NW Michigan), so I layered the clothing and donned my big snowboots and waded through the knee-deep snow with my gear.

Sue's Willys is a two-tone in shades of deeper and lighter turquoise-type tones. That backside in the shade was picking up some good reflections from the snow. There's a black pickup in the back, on the left, that I'd like to paint some day before our snow melts.

I knew it was rather cold out despite the sun. By the end of the painting, my fingers were getting stiff. Toes are still thawing out. My Soltek easel's legs had frozen, so I just laid the whole thing flat in my Explorer, legs frozen in the extended position, and am letting it thaw out in the studio. My vehicle's got a thermometer and I was kind of surprised to see it was only 9 degrees out! No wonder I was feeling rather chilled. I'm forever in search of warm gloves that are not too bulky.

I dream of a nice, above-freezing, sunny day with no wind!

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