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.

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.

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.

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.

Gouache Experiment

I registered to spend a week at Nimrod Hall again this summer, but it was not to be. Laura Loe, the owner and operator of Nimrod, decided to cancel the whole 2020 season in light of the need for social distancing to stay safe. I was heartbroken, but it was the right thing to do. I will need to focus on the 2021 season instead.

Nimrod is such a magical place where artists go to fuel our creativity. This year I had signed up with Kesra Hoffman again. I don’t usually sign up for the same instructor, but Kesra is very versatile (watercolor, acrylic, gouache), allowing me to run with whatever medium I am in the mood for. But since she really excels at gouache I thought I’d practice a bit. Here’s a painting done from a photo I took of the Raven’s Roost Overlook, on the Blue Ridge Parkway not to far from where we live.

It’s on Arches 140 lb hot pressed watercolor paper. For watercolor I usually work on cold pressed paper, which has a rough surface. I thought the smoother surface would be nice with gouache.

Gouache is opaque watercolor, so in many ways it behaves the same, but it is also very different. One thing that really struck me for this painting is the difference in how the colors work. Watercolor dries lighter than what it appears when you apply it. Gouache dries darker. As a result, the colors in this painting are bright and bold, and not particularly realistic. I ended up not minding that too much. I particularly like the highlights and the shadows in the mountains. I can’t get that effect in watercolor. I think that is partly because watercolor is transparent and blends more than gouache, and partly because of the smoother surface of the paper. I will need to experiment more.

I hope everyone is home and safe and free from COVID-19. Please take care and be well!

6×6 Paintings – Help Me Decide

So several years ago when I first started experimenting with watercolor Falls Church Arts did a 6×6 to 12×12 show where they wanted all works to be square and in that size range. I painted two 6 inch x 6 inch paintings from photos taken in Wintergreen and Italy and entered them into the show. They were accepted, which was nice, but when I look back at them now I think how far I’ve come.

I decided I wanted to reuse the frames, so I set out to paint two new 6×6 paintings. I didn’t like the first two I did so I started painting more and before I knew it I had seven 6×6 watercolor paintings. All have good and bad points, as with all paintings. I can’t decide which two to put into the frames. I thought I’d share them all and let my readers help me choose.

The first one is from a photo I took several years ago of a stream running through a field not far from where we live. The photo was taken in the early spring, and the real problem with this one is that I tried to change seasons to summer, but didn’t change the large trees in the foreground. In the photo they were just barely leafing out, so they ended up looking like dead trees. I tried to add more leaves to one of them, but the result is not the best. I still like the peaceful feel of the scene.

The second painting, which was really done simultaneously with the first, was from a photo of Three Ridges from the valley. I changed the house on the right to a barn, but not a very good one. Plus it’s too far right which hurts the composition. In my opinion, this one is just ho-hum.

After I did these first two and didn’t like them I decided to try some things that were more ambitious. Both were scenes I’d done before, but not in this form factor. I’d also been practicing some techniques that I thought were well suited to these subjects. I like these two better than the first two, but don’t let my opinions influence you. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that art is very personal. People like what they like.

One of the things I’d been practicing was rocks, trying not to over obsess with the photograph and just letting the shapes and groupings form as I painted, sort of like doodling. So I did this scene of the stream that is in our backyard. It’s fun because of the light dancing through the trees. I used white acrylic paint to make the little rapids pop.

There’s a waterfall on Route 56 in Rockbridge County that is on private property but the owners have generously let people stop to photograph and enjoy the scene. I recently heard that they had stopped allowing this because some people had been destructive, which is very sad. In this painting, I had fun with the deep shadows behind the falls and the spatter of the spray, using white gouache. It was a happy accident that I got a misty feeling along the edges of the falls and the surface of the water.

Having done those two I was on a roll, starting to have fun with the small, square form factor. I liked the fact that I could knock them out relatively quickly, so I just kept going.

There is a barn that you can see from Route 29 in Greene County that is beautiful in the morning sun with a backdrop of the Blue Ridge. I’ve never gotten a good photo of it because there’s no place to stop. All I have are a few bad cell phone photos taken from a moving car. I used one of those as the inspiration for this next painting, but I modified the scene a lot. I added the cows, the truck, and the road. I also changed the trees in the front. Unfortunately, the resulting composition isn’t the best. The barn is too much in the center, breaking the rule of thirds. I like the effect of the mountains. They represent one of those situations where the watercolor painted itself.

This next one is of Afton Mountain Vineyards. I’ve done this in oil and watercolor before, but set out to do this one quickly. I took a very different approach with the sky than my usual technique. I let the hard edges define the whites. The result is more dramatic and less subtle than my usual skies, but I like the result. I may try to use it more often.

Finally, I decided to do the cub creek barn again. I recently watched a video from my favorite online instructor, Steve Mitchell from the Mind of Watercolor, where demonstrated using a nib pen to apply watercolor to detail a painting. I used that here. I really like the technique and I’m sure I’ll continue to use it a lot.

Those are the seven I have to choose from. Let me know which two you like best.

In other news (I really need to blog more often so my posts aren’t so long), I have two paintings in shows this month. The first is one I did a couple of years ago from a photo I took on Tilghman Island. This is in the Falls Church Arts All-Member Show, which runs through March 8th.

The second is in the Shenandoah Valley Art Center’s monthly member show, which is themed “red” this month. I painted this specifically for the show. The photo is the same one used for the painting of the cub creek barn above. It was taken in the late summer, so I needed to drastically change the seasons, and the color of the barn to make it fit. I’m pleased that I’m getting better at using some artistic license to change the material I’m working from, although sometimes I’m more successful than others. This painting is on display at SVAC through March 3rd.

September 2019 Shows

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I have four paintings in two different shows in September and October. That’s a first for me and I’m very excited.

My painting Paris Barn, was accepted into a juried show at Falls Church Arts. The juror is Glen Kessler, a Rockville Maryland based landscape painter. I’m always proud when my work is accepted into a juried show.

The reference photo for this painting was taken by Breck Carter, and was posted in the Exploring Virginia group on Facebook. It was used with permission from Breck.

Paris Barn – 14×10 Watercolor

This show will be on display from September 14th through October 13th at the Falls Church Arts gallery located at 700-B W Broad Street in Falls Church City.

I also put three works into the member show at the Shenandoah Valley Art Center in Waynesboro VA. This is not a juried show, but SVAC represents many fine artists and I’m always proud to have my work displayed with theirs. I chose all travel pictures for this show.

Venice Canal – 9×12 Watercolor

The first is a painting I did of the canals of Venice. This was done from a reference photo I took in 2011.

The second is a picture from the Isle of Skye in Scotland. The reference photo for this was taken during our visit in 2018.

Isle of Skye – 12×9 Watercolor

The third is of a church on Mykonos in the Greek Isles. This reference photo was taken on our recent visit in July of 2019.

Mykonos – 5×7 Watercolor

This Show will be on display from September 7th – October 30th at the SVAC gallery located at 126 S Wayne Avenue in Waynesboro Virginia.

I hope that if you live near either of these locations you’ll be able to visit the shows.

 

Nimrod Hall 2019 – Part 2: The Art

I apologize for this really long post. I wanted to capture the whole week-long journey all at once. I love Nimrod Hall!

Day 1-sketching and getting my Rhythm

We arrive on Sunday afternoon. Actual painting days are Monday through Thursday. On Friday, check out time is about 11 AM. So that’s four full days of painting. A rare luxury of which I planned to take full advantage!

Monday morning I decided the best approach was to go out with my sketchbook. This would give me a chance to loosen up and get comfortable. Laura Loe is good at putting cute little paint-able things around. Last time I visited I noticed this bicycle at the front entrance to the property with geraniums and other flowers planted on it. I regretted not taking a photo of it since my last visit, so I decided it would be my first subject. I chose watercolor pencils as my medium, but did the foliage on the trees with regular water color. The challenge with this one is that it was our hottest day and I was sitting on my uncomfortable folding stool in the blazing hot sun. I could only tolerate that for so long. I did get a fun little sketch.

After that, I decided I needed to get 1) out of the sun, and 2) into a more comfortable chair, so I decided to paint the two red seesaws on the lawn between Square House and the Post Office. This allowed me to sit in an Adirondack chair under a tree. It was much more comfortable.

I chose line and wash as my medium. I did the sketch and inking (mostly) before lunch. After lunch the sun had moved so I was forced to move my chair. The charge in light and perspective did not matter too much since I’d already captured the drawing. I spent the afternoon finishing This up and felt it was a good second effort for the day.

Day 2- Landscape Painting in My studio

Monday evening our teacher, Kesra Hoffman did a gouache demo for our class. She said she resisted the medium at first but then decided that she could just use it like watercolor and grew to love it. I’m not sure I totally agree with that, but I do agree that if you start with a wash and build up, that first layer is similar to water color. Watching the demo was humbling because Kesra is so comfortable with the medium. I knew I needed to try it to see what kind of results I could get.

Another factor that helped set my direction for the day was my realization that I should get over needing to do plein air and paint in my studio. As I said in my earlier post I have always thought of Nimrod as a plein air location, but found that many of the artists there with me did not subscribe to that way of thinking. I figured I had paid for the studio so why not use it?

I went for a nice walk on Tuesday morning and took some nice pictures. I decided to spend my day painting a landscape from one of my photos in both watercolor and gouache to compare the two mediums. The reference photo I used is below. I like it because of the clouds and the contrast between the green grass and trees and the golden fields. I also noted the clump of trees right at the end of the road. Technically this is a composition no-no, but I kind of liked it so I decided to run with it.

I painted the watercolor and the gouache together, switching from one to the other during drying time. There are similarities and differences between the two mediums. I learned that the gouache can get undesirable “blooms” just like watercolor. The gouache yields harder edges where soft edges are easy in watercolor.

When Kesra came by in the afternoon and did her critique she pointed out a couple of things. First, my road did not go far enough into the center of the painting. She showed me how I’d made an error in the proportions as they appeared in the photo. Second, she pointed out that the trees at the end of the road weren’t really working. I’d hoped they would, but I was wrong. She also pointed out that the variations in color along the tree line in the gouache were really nice, but the watercolor was too consistent.

I was able to cover and move the road in the gouache, but that was not possible with the watercolor—a distinct difference between the opaque and transparent mediums. I also lifted some color on the tree line in the watercolor, but in a subsequent critique Kesra pointed out that it was a little too formulaic. Here are the two paintings. They are 10” x 4” on Arches 140 lb. cold press paper.

Watercolor

Gouache

I really liked doing the same scene in two different mediums. It was very educational, not only in learning about the different media, but also in studying and interpreting the scene. I decided to keep it going the next day by doing the same scene in oil and acrylic.

Day 3 – More Landscape Painting in my Studio

When I was packing to go to Nimrod I packed way more than I needed for art supplies, because I didn’t know what I’d be doing and wanted to have whatever I needed. I am happy I did that, because I ended up doing some things that were out of the ordinary…like painting in acrylics. I had these two little 12 x 6 stretched canvases that I tossed in. I like the 2:1 footprint for landscapes, although I usually paint bigger. Painting smaller has its advantages if you’re painting plein air or trying to do a lot of quick studies.

So on Wednesday morning with my two little canvases in hand I set out to paint the same scene in oil and acrylic. I haven’t painted much in acrylic in years. I get very frustrated with it because once I switched to oils, I couldn’t take acrylic’s fast drying time.

Once again I switched back and forth between the two. Of course, that didn’t allow the oil to dry…that takes weeks or even months. Switching still gave me a break. It’s always good to look away.

Similar to the gouache, the acrylic yields much harder edges. The fast drying paint makes it hard to blend the colors, but the oils are very difficult to get hard edges with. You can do it if you wait for it to dry, but that takes a long time. 

I like the colors better in the oil version. There is more variation. Some of that is the nature of the slower drying oils, but I also had a more extensive palette of oils to start with. I only had a limited number of acrylics, even after supplementing them by buying more in “The Art Box” bus which is parked at Nimrod every summer to provide artists with materials they find they need but don’t have with them.

When looking at all four versions I found that I got bolder with the skies on the second day, so the oil and acrylic versions have much more dramatic clouds, which I think is an improvement. I found myself wishing I’d been more daring with the skies in the watercolor and gouache versions.  Here are the two paintings from Wednesday.

Oil

 

Acrylic

Day 4 – Another Day of Gouache and Watercolor, but Not the Same Subject

I had one last day to paint and after spending two full days interpreting the same scene I was ready for something different. I did two more paintings on Thursday – one watercolor and one gouache.

On Tuesday evening we had a thunderstorm followed by brightening skies and a rainbow over a nearby ridge. I brought out the camera and took a lot of pictures. While I was doing so I pronounced, rainbows are nearly impossible to paint. So what did I do? I painted the rainbow!

Several years ago I did an oil painting of a rainbow from a photo a friend had taken. I was not happy with the result. I decided that watercolor might be friendlier. I hoped that if I did a wet in wet approach I could get the primary colors to bleed into a full ROYGBV* spectrum. It kind of worked, but not nearly as well as I had hoped.

The criticism Kesra had for me was that I did not get enough atmospheric distance in my mountains. They were too green, which is never the case when you’re looking at them at a distance. This is something I’m still trying to train my engineer’s brain to do. I need to learn to see, and paint what I see, rather than painting what I know to be true. Yes, the mountains are green…and yes they look green to me in the picture, but they are much bluer than I think. I really need to work on this! Here is the painting. (10” x 7” Arches 140 lb cold press)

And here is the reference photo.

* red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet

In the morning I’d gone for a walk and I found a pretty scene with a dead tree (dead trees are great fun to paint) and a field in the background with hay bales. I decided it would be fun to do as a gouache study for my final painting. This is probably the one I spent the least time on. We had the walk-through that evening and so there was a lot of pressure to get it done.

Kesra didn’t have a lot to say about this one. I like the sky but the rest of it is a little flat. I could probably correct that if I spent some time on shadows and highlights. I may also do this again in watercolor. Here is the painting. (6” x 12” Arches 140 lb. cold press)

Each Nimrod art week finishes on Thursday night with a walk through where everyone displays what they were working on and people walk through and see it. As Laura Loe explained, it’s not really a critique… it’s more of a “love-fest”. I must say, people did some lovely work.

I painted up until almost the last minute and then tidied up my studio, which of course was a mess. I did take a break to shower, but most everyone was well dressed and I was still in my shorts and t-shirt. Oh well.

People seemed to like my story about my scene that I painted in different media. They were interested in which I liked best and I explained that all had their pluses and minuses, but the process was very educational. Here I am with my work.

Is I said in an earlier post, Kesra did her own thing in the morning and did critiques of our work in the afternoon. She did some beautiful work. Her gouaches really pop. I’m hoping to keep practicing my gouache. I’m inspired by how beautiful hers are. Here she is with her body of work from the week and a few other things she threw in. The two landscapes on the upper right were the demo she did for us on Monday evening.

Nimrod is a magical place and it’s wonderful to spend time with such creative people in such an inspirational place.  I’m already looking forward to next year. 

Nimrod Hall 2019 – Part 1: The Nimrod Experience

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After a two-year break I finally returned to Nimrod Hall this year for their Summer Arts Program. This is the first time I’ve gone for a full week – my past three visits were all weekend workshops. I was excited to go again, but a little nervous about the “rustic-ness” of it for a full week. I did fine with my back corner room in Square House, despite the fact that my shared shower was too small to turn around in. Halfway through the week I even found an alternative to that. Fortunately our weather was not too hot, so the lack of air conditioning was not a problem.

The instructor I signed up for was Kesra Hoffman. I chose her because she does beautiful gouache paintings. Gouache is a medium I’ve not worked a lot in but would like to learn to use better. At Nimrod you can sign up for a particular instructor or you can sign up for an “open-week” where you just paint what you like. Total we had about 30 people for the week. Ten were signed up for Kesra and the other 20 were open week.

An example of Kesra’s art

Each instructor is different, but there seems to be a general assumption that Nimrod full-week attendees are experienced painters who don’t need or want a lot of instruction. Kesra’s style was to do demos in the evening and be hands off doing her own thing in the morning. Then in the afternoon she would come around and do one-on-one critiques of what we were working on. That worked pretty well for me.

One great thing about Nimrod Hall is that it comes with three meals a day, eliminating the need to cook, clean up, or look for restaurants. This means more time to focus on painting or just relaxing. Chef Jim spends most of his year cooking at a fraternity at Washington and Lee in Lexington VA but for the past several summers he has worked at Nimrod. His food is fabulous. It’s got a local southern flair, but is in no way plain. Everything is family style and I can assure you no one goes away hungry. I’m not a dessert eater, but every night after dinner we got something that was big and gooey and irresistible. I was trying to diet for an upcoming vacation, but gave up after a couple of days.

This year I also did something different… in 2014 Laura Loe, artist and Nimrod Hall owner, decided to establish “studio row” a grouping of 10 individual studios each in its own little approximately 10’ by 10’ house. Studios have a front porch covered with an awning allowing you to work inside or outside depending on your preference. They don’t have much of a view, so if you plan to paint there you will need to paint from reference photos, or other material. I rented one, primarily motivated the need for an easy and accessible place to store all of my art supplies for the week. If I ended up with an upstairs room (I didn’t) I was certain to struggle with carrying everything up and down those stairs every day. Sadly I’m not as young as I once was. I got studio #7 and ultimately ended up doing a lot of painting there. It was protection from the occasional rain showers, and provided a nice little space where I could concentrate on honing my craft.

Studio Row

My Studio

On a related theme, I’ve always considered Nimrod to be a place for plein air painting. The instructors in my weekend workshops have encouraged us to set up as a class outside and paint. As I said earlier, the weeklong workshops seem to encourage a more independent approach. Many of the artists brought partially finished works that they wanted to focus on and finish. Others painted from photos. Some just painted from their mind’s eye. So, after the first day I got over the idea that I simply had to paint plein air. Took morning/evening walks and took reference photos and then painted from those.

As is true with any experience focused on a common activity, I really enjoyed spending the week with likeminded people. As I said, there were about 30 people there. Most were women but there were a few men. Kesra got her class together on the first evening and we all talked about our background and goals for the week. It was a great group of people that included, Jennifer Eidson, an artist from Columbia MD. This was her first time at Nimrod. Dolly, who was 87 years old and suffered from macular degeneration but still paints(!) was across the hall from me. She traveled to Nimrod from her home in Charleston WV with her daughter-in-law, Laura, who was a novelist and decided to use the time to edit her most recent book about the daughter of a hoarder. Porter Smith-Thayer painted on the porch of Square House most days. She is an oil painter and this was her first time at Nimrod Hall. Matt, a photographer for the Roanoke Times and watercolor artist was there. He and Jane, another watercolorist, had done Kesra’s week for the last few years and knew each other well.

Here is a group picture that was taken of most of the week’s artists including both Kesra’s class and the open-week participants.

Finally, the Nimrod Hall and its surroundings are beautiful and inspiring. It’s located in rural Bath County Virginia, which is right on the West Virginia border. Bath County has no incorporated towns or cities – even its county seat is an unincorporated and very charming town called Warm Springs. It is probably most known for the town of Hot Springs, which is home to the Homestead Resort, I lovely and very upscale hotel. The clean and beautiful Cowpasture River runs through the county and the wildlife is abundant. On our second day we had a visit from a bear. He was a juvenile, old enough to have left his mother, and was curious but in no way aggressive. And I might add, he was cute as a button. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture because when I reached for my iPhone if found an empty pocket because I’d left it on the table in my studio.

Here are some photos of Nimrod Hall and its surroundings.

Nimrod Hall Main House

Typical Painting Subject

The Cowpasture River

Old Boy’s Camp Cabins

Our Rainbow

The art I did will be the subject of my next post.  Hope to have that up in a few days.  Stay tuned…. (and subscribe!)