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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