I mentioned in my last post that I would be doing a show at Mountain & Vine, a local winery, on Saturday February 3rd from noon to 5. That’s tomorrow! In addition to the pieces I’ve shown in the past I will be showing some new paintings that I also shared in that last post, including this one.
I am also trying something new. I have a lot of nice artwork that I’ve never framed. Much of that is because I don’t have frames to fit. I have observed in past shows that people sometimes like to buy unframed art because it’s a little cheaper and they can use a frame they already have, or chose one to their liking. I also painted a few new pieces for this show that I chose not to frame. These will all be on display in a bin on my table in my booth. I am curious to see how people react to that. Here are a few photos. These were harder to photograph because they are in plastic and there is a glare if I light them directly.
These first two are things that I painted for this show and matted but did not frame.
These two were in a sketchbook but I like them. They are very tiny, but I removed them from their sketchbook and matted them and I think they are cute and would go well in a small space.
Finally, the opening of the second show in The Trillium Gallery went great! We got some fabulous artwork from our local art community. We had a wonderful turnout and sold four paintings! There is still a lot of good work up so hopefully sales will continue. This show will be up until late April or early May.
Sorry it’s been a while, but I have been busy! Happy New Year to all.
First, the Trillium Gallery has been doing well. It’s had good traffic and we sold four paintings, which I think is not bad for a first show. We plan to rotate the work on display quarterly and that time is nearly upon us. We have grown our mailing list considerably by including a signup sheet in the gallery. We are taking submissions till tomorrow, and we already have 44 artworks to select from. We have refined our selection process and I’m really looking forward to presenting another strong body of work. The new show will open on January 27th. We have also worked on our branding and I created a logo, which is not my forte, but it came out okay.
I am doing a show the first week in February at the Mountain & Vine winery. This show is only open to Nelson County artists. I don’t know if I will sell anything but I’m proud to support the winery and other local artists. I’m doing something new for this one. I’m going to try including a bin of unframed original works that will be less expensive than my framed pieces. We will see how that goes. I have painted a few new pieces for this show, and for the next gallery show. Here are a few that I’ve recently completed.
Finally, every few years I get ambitious and decide I’m going to hand paint Christmas cards. Usually somewhere in the process I kick myself, but in the end, I look at it as a labor of love. I did 21 in total this year and it was really good for me to focus on painting that much. I got to experiment a bit with some new techniques. And the recipients were all very appreciative. Several have told me they plan to frame them. They are all included in the gallery below, which I learned does not appear in the email version. Hopefully people will click through.
First a little background about Wintergreen. There is an independent organization here called The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen (TNF). They are a naturalist organization that performs several important environmental functions, maintains our hiking trails, tracks wildlife sightings, etc. Inside TNF there is a meeting room maintained by the Wintergreen Property Owners Association (WPOA) for use by residents.
When this room was opened last year, the WPOA noted that it needed art. I suggested that it be a gallery where local artists could show and sell their art, to which WPOA said they didn’t want to be in the business of selling art. Understandable.
TNF has a gift shop that does some retail sales, so I suggested that they could do the sales and take a commission. I thought it was a win-win. People resist change, so I was not able to get any interest from TNF, until I learned that a friend and fellow artist, Carolyn Velletri had the same idea. Carolyn and her husband do a lot of volunteer work for TNF so she had the attention of the right people and we managed to get them to commit to a trial.
Carolyn and I wanted this to be a class act! We wanted a professional gallery where local artists could submit art work. Carolyn, myself, and a representative from TNF would curate the work submitted and select art for display. Art would have to meet the mission of TNF which is “to foster an understanding and appreciation of the natural and cultural heritage of the Central Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and our community through conservation, research and education.”
We wanted to hang the first show well before the holidays in hopes of getting gift sales. The art will be rotated quarterly. We worked hard to create a submission form and disseminate it to local artists. We got some great submissions and held our grand opening on October 28th. It was well attended and we received numerous compliments. Most importantly, we sold three paintings!
I am excited about this new venture. It will give me more credibility as an artist and it will help me grow and foster our local art community which is very important to me. Here are pictures of the art shown.
Here is a photo of me and Carolyn.
Here is a photo of several people viewing the art. We were having too much fun to remember to take pictures so we didn’t get photos of the crowd at its height.
Tomorrow is the big day! I will be participating in the Shenandoah Valley Artfest 2023 in Woodstock Virginia! The weather this week has been terrible, and for a while it looked like the festival would be a wash out. Things are looking a little better, so fingers crossed.
I assembled all of my racks, which was a bear, and staged my setup in my garage. I think this will look fine.
I will be showing about 20 pieces. There are a few that I don’t have good photos of, but here is a gallery of most of what I will be showing.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!