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.

Watercolor with white ink – 10×8
Watercolor washes and Gouache – 10×8

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.

Day 1 – Morning
Day 1 – Afternoon
Day 2 – Morning
Day 2 – Afternoon

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…

Sunsets and Streams

I promised you I was going to start posting more and I’m trying to make good on that promise.

Several months ago I posted that I was working on an oil painting. I had a photo I had taken from the Stoney Creek Golf Course near where we live. It was of a sunset over Three Ridges, one of my favorite subjects. I had done a watercolor of it, but while I was doing that, I decided it would also be a great oil subject. I must admit I was very rusty, but I had fun. Here are both paintings, with the watercolor first. Neither is my best work but both have some good techniques in them. I posted the reference photo also.

This next painting is one that I undertook to replace a large watercolor print that is in my guestroom that was left by the previous owners. I want to put something of my own there. It requires a large piece so I decided to tackle a picture of a stream 24”x18” format. It will be six to eight inches larger in each direction once matted and framed.

So one thing I haven’t learned is that streams are very hard. I have one successful stream painting that I did in oil, which I love. Others have all had issues in my eyes. This one is the biggest I’ve ever attempted, and I painted these rocks for a very long time. There are some things I like about it, but in general I don’t like it enough to invest in the framing. I really like the trees in the background. I did those first. I think the foliage around the stream should have been loser. The stream in the distance gives the illusion of being at an angle, which I tried to fix, but nothing really worked. It also looks kind of like it’s on a ramp. I might work on it some more. It may be salvageable, but I don’t hold out hope that it will ever be what I want to frame and hang in my guest room. I’m sharing this for critique, so opinions, both positive and negative are welcome.

That’s it for now. I’m experimenting with fluid acrylics and with my first use I really like them. Hopefully I’ll have something to share on that soon.

Nimrod 2022!

After a two-year break, Nimrod Hall Summer Arts was back up and running again this year as a fully functioning art retreat. In 2020 the season was canceled because of covid, and in 2021 they attempted to do an abbreviated version, but the year off left some of the buildings in a state of disrepair so they were unable to open. I signed up each of the lost years and was devastated each time I received the cancellation notice.

This year things were pretty much back to normal. Some of the buildings had gotten a facelift. The food was fabulous, as always. The group of artists who were there with me were wonderful. I really needed to get out of my funk and start painting again. Nimrod always helps with attitude.

The main building at Nimrod, built in 1783.

As I mentioned in my last post, which I’m sorry was so long ago, my previous Nimrod teacher, Kesra Hoffman taught in June this year. I was cruising at that time so I was unable to work with her again. I chose watercolorist Kathy Calhoun’s class instead. This was Kathy’s first year doing a full week, but she’s done many weekend workshops. She is a full-time art teacher in a private school. She seemed to want to provide more instruction than I prefer, but I did spend some time with her and I learned some things. The class had a diverse level of experience, which added to her challenge, but she did well.

We arrived on Sunday afternoon, settled in, and met each other. I rented a studio again, as I did on my last visit. This helps give me a place to set up where I’m not always carrying everything around. I brought watercolor, gouache, and acrylic with me. I wanted to be ready for anything.

On Monday morning, I worked on finishing a painting I’d started in my sketch book some months ago. I needed to shake off the cobwebs. I’d done the foliage, but nothing else. The reference photo was a scene from my neighbor’s yard with a watering can perched up on a concrete block that says “stop”. It’s a fun little scene that I’d been thinking about painting for a while. I was happy with the result and felt a little bit more comfortable painting after the exercise.

That afternoon, Kathy decided that we were going to work on still-life paintings as an exercise. I don’t do much still-life painting, so it was good practice for me. I chose a clay pitcher as my subject. We focused on shadows and highlights, and the cast shadow of the object. I should have included a surface edge showing the table in my background. Without it, my pitcher looks like it’s suspended in midair. I guess we know why I’m not a still-life painter.

After the still-life exercise I went back to my studio and decided I still needed to get some of the rust off so I painted a flower. I don’t do florals often either. I chose a photo of a trillium that my husband, Bill, had taken. I like trillium, because it means that spring is about to make it up to our mountain top. It’s such a delicate flower. It’s a cute painting, but not great. It was still fun.

On Tuesday morning, Kathy decided we were going to do a plein air of the barn. I don’t really like to do plein air. I guess my tidy brain likes more perfection than you can achieve in the field, but I need to get better at it so I was happy to have the opportunity. Kathy emphasized doing a sketch first that helped nail down the color, composition and value. I normally wouldn’t do this, but wanted to follow directions, so I did a sketch in a little handmade sketchbook I had. I followed this by a full painting on a watercolor block. It’s funny but I, and most others who have seen them, liked the sketch better. It was looser and more fun. Perhaps this should be a lesson to me. Here it the sketch followed by the painting.

I was inspired by this exercise to sign up as a participant in the Rockfish Valley Foundation’s Plein Air Paint Out in October. More info on that later.

On Wednesday I opted out of Kathy’s sessions and decided to paint alone. It was a lovely sunny morning so I started with another plein air of one of the Nimrod cottages, Sunset 3. All of the cottages have challenging perspective. I tried to maintain what I learned about being loose from Tuesday’s session. I’m not crazy about this one, but it’s good plein air practice.

In the afternoon I decided to start on an experiment that I’ve wanted to try for a while. I wanted to do a mixed media using watercolor and gouache (opaque watercolor). I had a photo I’d taken at Westmoreland State Park on the Northern Neck. It was looking out over the water, and there were wildflowers in the foreground. I knew the watercolor washes would be best for the sky, water and foliage, but there was no way to capture the flowers and grasses well using watercolor. I started with the sky and water. I had a little trouble with it bleeding along the horizon, but I was able to recover it. Then I did the foliage. I variegated the foliage that would be behind the flowers so that you would still see some of the light and deep greens. Then I switched to gouache and painted the flowers and the grasses. I really liked the result. Other artists responded positively too. I am going to start using this technique more.

I finished the above painting on Thursday morning. Late morning Kathy came by and said she’s challenged her students to do three paintings with a theme in the afternoon. I had gone down by the pond and boys camp on my morning walk and had several pictures so I divided a piece of paper into four smaller sections and worked on four paintings from those photos. I paint fast, so the time frame worked for me. I rotated between the four paintings, letting each dry in between layers. I do admit that I got fatigued and it shows in the level of detail, particularly in the bottom two which I finished last. I put off finishing the one of the pond because I didn’t like the initial reflections, but I was eventually able to recover them somewhat. The perspective on the two boys camp cabins on the bottom is wrong. I was below them but the painting shows them from above. My favorite of the four was the roller with the flowers. That one was really fun to paint.

Thursday evening was the walkthrough, when everyone walks around and sees the work everyone did all week. This always ends in Nimrod owner Laura Loe’s studio where she shows us all of her recent works and paintings in progress. She has a unique style, so it’s always a treat to see her work.

It was a wonderful week and just what my artist’s soul needed. I am pleased that I made a commitment to the plein air event because hopefully that will keep me painting.

I know this was a long post. If you read to here, thank you! I am hoping to be painting and posting more regularly going forward. I have some things in my studio that I haven’t shared yet, so I’ll try to start with those.

Happy New Year 2022!

So far the new year looks a lot like the old year, which looked a lot like the year before that. I keep hoping that someday things will start to look better again. To be honest, Covid has sapped a lot of my inspiration. Some would think that I should be painting like crazy, but it doesn’t work like that. I need inspiration, some of which comes from the stimulus of going places and seeing things. I haven’t been doing much of that.

I looked at how few blog posts I did in 2021, and it is really sad. I have been painting some, but not blogging about it. I am going to try to change that in 2022. Let’s start by sharing a few things I’ve done recently.

The first one is from a photo taken by an online friend of mine who lives in Finland. It’s a lovely monochromatic photo of a moonlit night. When I first saw it I though it would make a beautiful oil painting, and I might still do that, but after I though about it for a while I though it would also make an interesting watercolor project. The background was done in a series of washes with various cloud structures. I actually used several different muted colors so it’s not simply gray. I masked out the moon to keep the white, and also realized that in order to make it glow I would have to go darker and darker with the washes. Once I was happy with the background I painted the trees. Painting all of those little branches was one of the most relaxing things I’ve done in a long time. I didn’t really do my friend’s photo justice, but I think it stands as its own artistic interpretation of the scene. It is 16×10 on Arches 140lb cold pressed paper.

The second one is also based on a photo from an online friend. This one was taken in Korea of the sun setting over the sea. I did this one in a sketchbook first and didn’t really like the result. I thought I could learn from my mistakes so I attempted it a second time. I was happy with the result. The first version didn’t really capture the ripples in the water, nor was I as happy with the sky. Both of those are better in this version. The sliver grass in the foreground was fun to paint. I enhanced it with a little white ink to get it to glow. This is a small painting but it has really good depth. It is 8×8 and also on Arches 140lb cold pressed paper.

The last one is something different. It’s of a photo I took of Afton Mountain Vineyards several years ago. I’ve painted it in oil and watercolor before. This version is in gouache, also known as opaque watercolor. I don’t have much practice using it, but last time I went to Nimrod Hall Summer Arts I took classes from Kesra Hoffman and she does magnificent landscapes in gouache. I’m hoping to get more practice using it in the coming months. This is 12×6 and is painted on Arches 140lb hot pressed paper.

Speaking of Nimrod Hall, I’ve signed up the past two years and both years they have been forced to cancel their season due to Covid. As they say, third time lucky. I have signed up for a week in mid-July. Kesra is teaching in June and I’m hoping to be cruising around Spain during that time, so I had to chose a different teacher. I’m really just looking forward to a week of intensive painting.

I’m hoping that it won’t be so long before my next post. I recently broke out my oil paints for the first time in years. I have a work in progress that I hope to share soon.

Marla and Ben

So a few weeks ago a dear friend’s daughter, Marla, got married. I’ve known Marla since birth so it was great to see her marry Ben, a handsome and successful young man who appears to love her very much. They had planned the wedding for September of 2020, but as we know, very little celebrating went on in 2020. It was a blessing to be able to share their joy, even if it was a bit delayed.

So what does this have to do with art? I sent them a nice gift from their registry, but registries have always felt impersonal to me. I planned to take them a card to drop off at their ceremony, so I decided to paint a little watercolor sketch to put in the card. I didn’t really care what they do with it, but wanted to give them something of myself and my wishes that they have a life of travel and adventure. I chose a scene from Monet’s garden, but only loosely interpreted from the photo I had. My trip to Giverny was very special to me.

It’s a cute little sketch. It’s not meant to be a masterpiece. I decided to put two people on the bridge. They aren’t really meant to look like Marla and Ben, but I wanted two people in the scene. People are difficult for me and painting them is something I wish I was better at. I think people add interest to scenes be they urban or rural. So, I’m vowing to practice and get better at them. In the mean time, I hope Marla and Ben excuse the inadequacies of the people I included in their little sketch. I just hope that when they look at it and see the people on the bridge that they imagine all of the places they can go together. Wishing them many happy adventures!

My Sketchbooks

In my last post I mentioned that I was working on something in my sketchbook that I was going to share. One challenge with using sketchbooks is if you do something you really like it’s in a sketchbook and you can’t do anything else with it, because it’s attached to the sketchbook. Also, while you can get watercolor sketchbooks with good 100% cotton paper it’s still different from the paper I’m used to painting on. The way watercolor interacts with the paper, and the way the paper absorbs the watercolor is extremely important to the outcome, so I have become very picky about the paper I use. I always use Arches 140lb. cold press paper. You can’t buy a sketchbook with that paper, unless it’s hand crafted. I’ve gotten them off or Etsy but they are very expensive.

A few years ago, I took a class on Traveling with Watercolors at the Beverly Street Studio School in Staunton, VA. The teacher made her own sketchbooks with Arches paper. She would cut the covers from mat board scraps and she’d cut the paper to fit. Then she’d take the whole thing to Staples to have them punch and bind them. I did a little research and figured out that the binding machines don’t really cost that much, so after about a year of thinking about it I bought one and started making my own sketchbooks. I have done two so far. I just filled up the first and started painting in the second one.

Here they are closed so you can see the covers and how they are bound.

And here they are open so you can see some sketches on 100% cotton Arches 140lb. paper.

Anyway, one advantage to using sketchbooks that have nice paper is if you get really lucky and create a painting that might be suitable for framing, you can detach it and frame it.

I had taken a photo of a small barn in the valley across from Devil’s Backbone Brewery. I didn’t really like the setting, but the barn itself had a lot of character. I thought I would practice Steve Mitchell’s spontaneous watercolor techniques to do the background and then I’d paint the barn from the photo. Masked the barn with tape and then painted the background. The spontaneous method requires a lot of random paint, water, blending, running, dripping and spraying. Then you use the random shapes and create more detailed aspects of a landscape from it. I really liked the outcome.

It is looser than most of my work but the barn is still quite detailed. It also has white space around it, rather than filling up the whole page. That’s actually a function of the sketchbook because I don’t feel compelled to paint to the edges. I don’t have to paint to the edges on other paper either, but I have this engineer’s brain that really wants to fill up the page. I’m going to use this as an inspiration to stop doing that.

It’s small, about 7 x 9 inches. I bought a small frame and I’m going to remove it from my sketchbook and frame it.

Painting a bit, but not writing about it…

I’ve been doing a little painting, but haven’t been very inspired to write about it. When I was editing the photos for this post I got even more discouraged. The three paintings I’m going to share are all okay, but they feel simplistic and amateurish. I’m not getting better… but that’s because I’m not painting enough. I obviously need to work on discipline.

The first painting is from a photo of a stream crossing a field. The photo was taken a few years ago in the springtime. I’ve painted this scene before but I like it so I decided to do it again, using a few new techniques. I tried to loosen it up a little. I think I was moderately successful doing that.

What I like about this painting is the tree canopy in the background. I’m not really crazy about most of the foreground though.

The second one is a bit different than my usual style. This is a from a photo at the Three Ridges overlook in Wintergreen. I went with a really dramatic sky. I wanted to practice my hard edged puffy white clouds. I like them, but there were some places where it didn’t work. The can easily get too angular. I did some scrubbing of those areas and that gave me some really interesting wispy effects. I also had a lot of fun doing the highlights along the ridges. I like the way that came out. Some of the plants and trees in the foreground are okay. Others I don’t really like.

The last is a barn in a field in Afton Virginia. The photo for this wasn’t great – the lighting was very bad. I had to use a lot of imagination.

What I like most about this painting is that I got pretty good depth in the trees and field behind the barn. I enjoyed painting the trees to capture that each was behind the one in front of it. That may seem simple, but it’s really easy to miss that nuance and get a really flat image. The tree in the foreground had highlights that I wanted to capture so I masked part of it. I augmented these with some white ink, but I think it came out okay in general. The ground it kind of boring, and the barn lacks interest. The barn was the worst lit part of the photo, so it was hard for me to get a feel for it.

I think I need to play in my sketch books for a while rather than trying to do full paintings. I’m working on one there now that I’m kind of excited about. I will share soon.

Bye for now!