I just got confirmation that I was accepted in the Shenandoah Valley Artfest to be held on 24 June 2023 in the town of Woodstock VA. I am so proud as participants were selected by a jury and I submitted my application as a complete unknown. I have a busy month ahead of me to get ready! Stay tuned and I will share more info when we get closer.
Natural Bridge Studies
I mentioned in my last post that I am doing a commission for my friend Jo Ann, who lives here in the neighborhood. She wants 24×18 watercolor of Natural Bridge, Virginia in the springtime. I went and took pictures a few weeks back. Jo Ann and her husband Morgan chose this picture as the reference photo for their painting.
As promised, I have done three small studies in the same aspect ratio as their painting. I do this to get client feedback. I took them and showed them to Jo Ann and Morgan today, and the good news is that they liked them all. They gave me some ideas of what they liked and didn’t like. While there is no way I can get exactly the same result this still gives me good guidance as I proceed with their real painting.
Here are the three studies (click on image to see larger version):
While the clients’ opinion is the most important, I like feedback from multiple perspectives. Please share what you like and don’t like about each painting.
I’m getting ready to start on the final painting. This will be the largest watercolor I’ve ever done, so that’s making me a little nervous. I will share the result, hopefully in a few weeks.
Commissions I’m Working On
I have not one, but two commissions I’m working on this Spring. The first is for a friend, Jo Ann, who lives here in the neighborhood. She is doing some rearranging of the art in her house and has purchased three of my paintings. She would also like me to do a large (18×24) watercolor painting of Natural Bridge (Virginia) for her. She was thinking that she might prefer Spring colors, so I’ve been waiting for the trees to leaf out. Today was a beautiful day so I went down and did the hike. The trees are not quite as leafed out as I would like, but I can change that. I took several pictures and presented Jo Ann with three slightly different angles to choose from. I think this one is my favorite.
Once I get feedback from Jo Ann, I will do some small studies.
Last year when I did the Rockfish Valley Foundation Plein Air event, I had a couple come up to me at the show and sale and ask if I did commissions. They said they wanted someone to paint their view. They live in Afton Virginia and have a view of the Blue Ridge, including Humpback Rocks, one of the hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway. They took my card, and I didn’t really expect to hear from them. A few weeks back I got an email from Brian, and he said he wanted to commission a painting. I’ve gone to their house and they do have a lovely view. Here is a nice photo.
Brian also wants a large painting (24×12) and he would like it done in fluid acrylic because he likes the vibrancy of the colors. I have done a small study to get us started on our back and forth. The composition needs a little work, but I have some ideas.
I have to share that one of the things that Brian told me that made me feel so good. He said one of the other artists are the show actually recommended that he see me about doing a commission. I am honored that one of my fellow artists did that. I am sad that I don’t know who it was.
I am looking forward to doing both of these works over the next few months! I will post progress and results here!
When one door closes…
“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell
This was a quote I used a lot during my days teaching innovation. We are often blind to opportunity because we look backwards and not forwards.
In the last week I received unpleasant news on two unrelated fronts of my artistic journey.
First, I was notified by Rockfish River Gallery and Gifts, where I’ve had my work for about four years now, that they are changing the terms of their standard agreement.
The woman who was running it when I first put some of my paintings there was a wonderful lady who was passionate about supporting local artists, but she was not a business woman. Last year she decided that she was unable to run the gallery anymore, so she sent a notice that she was going to shut it down unless she could find a buyer for it. The Rockfish Valley Community Center, where the gallery is located decided to take it over. They had a grand reopening over the summer and they appear to have breathed some new life into it. Unfortunately, they have also discovered that it is not sustainable under its current structure.
The new terms require a $20 monthly fee to be paid just to display there, and then they will still take a 30% commission on the works sold. If you want to volunteer to work 10 hours a month in the gallery then they will waive the fee and reduce the commission to 10%. In the four years that I have had work there they have sold exactly three paintings. I cannot justify paying $20 a month to keep my work there, nor will I work for $2 an hour, so I will be pulling my work out of the gallery. I will begin the search for additional galleries to display my work in that have more attractive terms. It is sad though, because that is the closest gallery to us and I can easily send people there, plus many locals tell me they’ve seen my work there.
I will continue to show some work at the Shenandoah Art Center in Waynesboro, and I also have work on display at the Friendly City Inn in Harrisonburg.
The other bad news, and this one is quite heartbreaking for me, is that Nimrod Hall will not be opening their doors for art workshops in the foreseeable future. Owners Laura Loe and her husband Will Loving need a break. Owning and operating Nimrod Hall is a labor of love, but Laura has been doing it for 25 years, first as a hired manager and then, since 2013, as an owner. They have decided that for now, they just want to enjoy it as a second home and a private retreat for themselves and their family. They have said this is for 2023 but have not speculated at all about what the future holds. For those who might be interested, here is Laura’s statement.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know that I love Nimrod Hall. It’s a magical place where artists can go and simply create. It’s rustic, but that actually helps encourage me. I will miss it terribly, and hope that someday it returns to its former magical self. Until then I will need to look for other opportunities to immerse myself in art from time to time. Sometimes I simply lack discipline or inspiration to practice my craft. Nimrod always helped get me going again, but for now I will need to look for other ways to do that.
So as you see, I’m going to be out trying to open some new doors to see what I find. Stay tuned! Sorry, but this is a post with no art. I promise I won’t do that again for a while.
Odds and Ends I’ve Been Working On
First, I said I was going to do a third version of the autumn scene with the tree and the bridge in fluid acrylic. I did that and here are all three paintings side by side. I think the fluid acrylic came out pretty nice. The colors are very vibrant.
I also did a nice little sketch of a winter scene that was a lot of fun. I planned to do two versions of this, one on regular watercolor paper and one on a watercolor note card. Traditionally I have not liked watercolor note cards because the quality of the paper isn’t good. I found a brand called ARTEZA on Amazon that advertised 100% cotton paper so I thought I’d give them a try. Sadly they are a disappointment. While they may be 100% cotton the paper doesn’t absorb the water and behave like good quality watercolor paper. I haven’t given up yet, but I’m not happy with my first attempt. Here is the version done on regular watercolor paper.
The December theme for the members at the Shenandoah Valley Art Center is always small works. To that end I did a 10×8 version of the same scene I did in fluid acrylics from my exploration for the RVF Plein Air Paint Out. I really like painting that scene. I forgot to take a picture of this before I framed it, so here it is under glass. It will be on display at the SVAC through early January.
Finally, I got a new iPad and a 2nd Generation Apple pencil. A long time ago, before there were Apple pencils, I used to do “paintings” on my iPad. Back in those days I had a few third-party styli and a conductive brush. I haven’t done this for a long time. This is the same scene as above, but I did it from memory, not from a reference photo. It was done using Procreate and my Apple pencil. I had a little trouble with the pencil’s responsiveness which was frustrating, but in general it worked. I am very rusty at this, but I had a lot of fun. I will do more as I need the practice.
Rockfish Gallery and Gifts Grand Reopening
There is a gallery in the Rockfish Valley Community Center (RVCC) not far from where we live called Rockfish Gallery and Gifts. I’ve had several pieces in the gallery for quite some time. Some have sold. Recently, the founder decided to retire and it changed hands and is now owned and operated by the RVCC. They are having a Grand Reopening Open House this Sunday, October 30, from 1 to 3 PM in which I will be participating.
I plan to bring some additional paintings to display in the RVCC auditorium for the event. The new operators suggested that people like to see recent work and to learn about an artist’s process. With that in mind I finished two paintings this week. They are from a photo of the same autumn scene taken right around the corner from where I live. The first one is mostly watercolor with a little bit of white ink. The second is watercolor washes with gouache for the more detailed foliage. I’m still assessing the differences. The colors in the gouache definitely pop more, which is to be expected. The foliage in the watercolor has some nice shapes and detail. I was hoping to do a third version in fluid acrylic, but I don’t think I will get to it.
I will also have a few other paintings including two from the Plein Air Paint Out a few weeks ago. If you are in the area this Sunday please stop by.
RVF Plein Air Paint Out 2022
The Rockfish Valley Foundation’s Plein Air Paint Out 2022 was held on October 7th, 8th and 9th. We had spectacular weather with clear crisp fall days. The colors were changing before our eyes. It was a wonderful experience. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, much of this will be a repeat, but there will be some additional commentary.
Day 1 – Morning
We started on Friday. We were asked to check in at the Rockfish Valley Foundation Museum between 9AM and 11AM. I checked in at about 9:15. There were a few other artists there and I’d already seen some out painting.
I went to my first scouted location. I had a wagon for my stuff, but I knew there was a bridge with a step up and a step down between me and where I was going, so I decided to put minimal supplies in my backpack with my easel and grab my chair. As it turns out, this was a good warm up location, but I really didn’t like the work I did there. Here is a photo of the scene and the two paintings (one is really just a sketch) that I did while I was there.
Day 1 – Afternoon
I had chosen a setting overlooking a field with hay bales, and foothills in the background, one with a higher elevation field. I later learned what I was looking at was Glenthorne Farm. We had a dinner up there on Saturday evening. It was open to painters, but I didn’t know this till I’d already planned my activities. It has stunning views and I will definitely paint from there next year.
Once I got set up in this location, I realized that about 90 degrees from where I was facing there was another nice view so I decided to make that my sketch and the original site my painting for the afternoon. I’m really glad I painted this scene on Friday, because at the end of the day they started picking up the hay bales and they were gone by Saturday. Artists love hay bales and we were incensed that they took them away.
Here are the photos of my afternoon set up and scene, and my paintings.
Day 2 – Morning
We were told that artists were gathering at the Camille Trailhead in the morning. That was already my planned site, so I was happy to oblige. I set up in the field facing Three Ridges and did a sketch and a painting. I struggled with this painting but I was okay with the final result. One challenge with painting fall in watercolor is that the colors mix together on the paper. Green and red are complementary colors, so if you let them mix together you get a muddy brown. I worked hard to prevent that. My mountain isn’t particularly realistic, but the effect is nice.
Here are photos and paintings from my morning.
There were a lot more people out walking around watching us paint on Saturday. Everyone was nice. I talked to a reporter from the local press, and I also saw our friends Kate and Mike. Once I was done with my first two paintings for Saturday rather than moving, I turned to face a scene that had been catching my eye all morning. It was the roof of the Elk Hill house peeking through the brilliant fall-colored trees that surrounded it. I decided to do this in fluid acrylics, which resulted in very vibrant colors. In hindsight, I realized I will need to bring my wet pallet into the field with me if I ever use fluid acrylics for plein air again. The paint in my wells dried very quickly. But I did get a nice little painting out of the exercise.
Here is the painting.
Sunday morning there was a quick paint exercise, but I needed to frame my work so I skipped it. I barely had enough time as it was. I took five paintings to the show and sale, and I sold three of them… Yay! The five I took included three that I’d painted in the field, and the two that I painted from my scouting exercise. Both of the fluid acrylics sold. I will take this as a sign that I need to keep painting with them.
Here is a photo of the paintings I showed.
It was a great experience. I got to meet several other local artists which was nice. I will definitely do it again next year.
Preparation and Planning for Plein Air Paint Out
So, back when I was at Nimrod Hall this summer I had a great plein air outing with my classmates. Fresh off of that high, I signed up to paint in the 2nd Annual Rockfish Valley Foundation Plein Air Paint Out. It seemed like a wonderful idea at the time, but now I’m stressing over it. I’m not really a plein air painter. My OCD engineer’s brain doesn’t like the uncertainty and primitiveness of painting outside of my studio. The thought of painting on the RVF trails with people watching me is unnerving. All of that said, it will be good for me, but I feel it’s important to be as prepared as possible.
With preparation in mind, I’ve gone scouting on the trails twice to choose some locations. I’m trying to pick places where the sun and fall light will be good at certain times of the day. I’ve also tried to find scenes that fit my style. They have done a very good job of prepping the place for artists. They have mowed the fields and created and left the hay bales. I think there will be plenty of fun things to paint.
For those of you in the area, below is a map of the trails where I’ve indicated where I will be painting on each day. Of course, these are subject to change. The weather is supposed to be very nice, although some days will be cool. It’s a three-day event and we will paint on Friday October 7th, Saturday October 8th, and Sunday Morning October 9th. On Sunday afternoon the works will be on display and for sale in the Tuckahoe Clubhouse in Stoney Creek. Here is a link to the web site.
Here are a few photos I have taken that align with some of my chosen location.
Finally, I’ve also done a little bit of practicing from a couple of the photos. This first one is a scene near where I plan to paint the afternoon of Day 2. I did this using fluid acrylics on paper. You may recall from my earlier fluid acrylics post that I was planning to experiment with other techniques. This one is done on hot press watercolor paper. It was very different from working on canvas because surface of the paper is absorbent. I liked it.
The second one I just finished today and it is also near where I plan to paint on Day 2. This one is all watercolor. I was going to do the highlights in gouache, but it wasn’t necessary.
I plan to paint mostly using watercolor, maybe highlighted with gouache. I will have some fluid acrylics with me in case the mood strikes me.
Stay tuned for the report after the fact. I’m nervous. I hope I produce some work I can be proud to display on Sunday.
More Watercolor with Gouache Highlights
When I did my last post on using fluid acrylics I said that I wanted to try the scene with the fog rising off the mountain using transparent watercolor for most of the painting but opaque watercolor, also known as gouache for the highlights.
Watercolor purists would frown on using anything but transparent watercolor, but it’s my art, my choice. I’ve always found that saving the white and lighter colors when it involves small details is difficult. I am almost always disappointed in the results. When I was at Nimrod I did one painting where I used gouache in the foreground and I really liked the result. I said I was going to use that technique more, so here is my second attempt.
The sky, mountain, fog, foliage and field are all transparent watercolor. The dead trees, fence and hay bales are gouache. I like the result. The tree trunks stand out nicely. I would not have been able to do that in watercolor since they are lighter than the foliage. I also couldn’t have done a fence that was that delicate and precise. I may have been able to save the whites for the hay bales, but I like the way the turned out and this was less frustrating.
More of this technique to come, I’m sure…
Experimenting with Fluid Acrylics
I’ve seen paintings done by some watercolorists using acrylic media but watercolor techniques to get that same loose wash feel to the painting. Some time ago I bought some fluid acrylics to do some experimenting. Inspired to paint more by my recent Nimrod experience I finally got around to trying them out.
I did three paintings, the first two with subjects I have painted many times and am comfortable with. The third was a bit more of a stretch. I also learned some things and applied changes with each painting. I will explain these with the discussions of the paintings.
First let me say that when I first started painting back in the mid 1990s, I started with standard acrylics. Acrylic is very forgiving. It dries quickly and you can paint over your mistakes inside of a few minutes. You can also paint back to front without a lot of planning as is required with watercolor because you need to leave the whites and the lights.
Once I started painting in oils I abandoned my acrylics. The downside to acrylics is that that they dry so fast that you can’t really mix colors on the canvas to get those wonderful blends and soft edges. Conversely, oil can be frustrating because it takes so long to dry that hard edges are very difficult.
Then I switched to watercolor which is a lot less forgiving than either, but for the last few years this has been my media of choice.
The fluid acrylic paints that I bought were the Golden brand. Golden specializes in only acrylics and is considered the premier brand of acrylic paints. I bought a set, which wasn’t geared towards landscapes and consisted of very bright primary colors. Mixing for landscape colors proved to be a challenge. Some of my colors are less than realistic, but I tried to stay true to the color values and had a lot of fun.
I used a wet pallet, which was made up of pallet paper over a wet sponge and the top closed and sealed. I had this from my acrylic painting days years ago. It keeps the paints kind of wet over night, but I found that with the fluid acrylics the consistency did change. The got thicker and lumpier.
This first painting was done on a piece of canvas paper taped to a board. The reference photo was a summer season picture of Three Ridges from our local overlook. I’ve painted the view many times. I tried to approach it with light, watercolor like, washes and I succeeded in the mountains and the clouds, but not so much the sky and the foliage. I did learn that I could mix the paint on the canvas and I had a lot of fun blending the dark areas and the lights in the clouds. I used traditional acrylic brushes for this painting and I thought that I might get a better watercolor effect if I used watercolor brushes. I didn’t want to use my expensive watercolor brushes so I ordered an inexpensive but decent set of brushes for my next experiment.
The second painting was done on a canvas board, which is higher quality than the canvas paper. I used another reference photo of Three Ridges but this one was from the trails in the valley. It was in the morning and there was a fog rising. The beautiful turquoise mountain was a result of the color mixing challenges I described earlier, but I actually ended up liking it. The watercolor brushes made a big difference. I think the sky is a little bit more wash-like in this one, but I don’t like the clouds as much. I did have a lot of fun with fog on the mountain. Being able to blend on the canvas was very helpful. I used watercolor techniques for the foliage. It looks like my style for watercolor but the colors are much denser. The field in the foreground is a good loose wash. The hay bales were much easier to paint than they would have been in watercolor, because I could just paint over the green. Those tall dead trees and the fence are my favorite part and they would have been nearly impossible to do well in watercolor because the values are lighter than the surrounding colors. I would have had to save the whites and it is hard to do that and get the same level of precision.
I am inspired to try this one in my new water color and gouache technique, so stay tuned for that.
The thing that stood out as most challenging for me in the second painting was color mixing. The bright Phthalo green was impossible to tone down to a color that appears in nature without having red oxide. The Phthalo blue is lovely but also very bright and not very versatile. So, I ordered some colors to augment the original set before starting a third painting.
This next painting was a scene I’d not painted before. It is from a reference photo of a local historic site called Dodd Cabin. I painted it once before from the other side in the snow, so this was very different. I had my good paint brushes and my new paints. I went with a small (12” x 9”) stretched canvas for this one.
The resulting painting looks like a regular acrylic painting, except for perhaps the foliage. I don’t dislike it, but I ended up getting way into the details of a detailed subject, because I could. Acrylic lets you do that.
The colors were better, except for the sky which is too blue. I had a lot of fun with the trees, especially the pine tree on the left. The cabin was also fun to paint and ended up true to its photo.
So as for the experiment, it was both a success and a failure. The successes were that I had fun, I learned some good techniques for using fluid acrylics, and I may just let acrylics back into my life from time to time. The failure is that I didn’t really learn how to do those watercolor-like paintings with fluid acrylics. I may have to do some research and seek out some YouTube demonstrations to learn more.
This was a long post, and a bit technical. Thank you for reading!