Saturday, November 28, 2009

Celebrating the skies of AZ

I'm back!  "Back" in this case refers both to resuming blog posts and my return to the place I consider "home":  Arizona.  Stepping off the plane in Phoenix last Friday evening and seeing the fading  sunset casing a warm glow over thes sandstone rocks near Sky Harbor, I immediately felt a sense of relief, contentment and just plain joy at being away from the grey skies and bleak winter landscape of New England.  I will be spending the winter and possibly more of the next year in Bisbee.  I am exited to be doing part-time innkeeping at the beautifully restored Letson Loft Hotel in downtown Bisbee.  Bisbee is a small mining town located in the southeastern part of the state.  It is listed as one of the top 100 small town art communities in the country and is hugely popular as a tourist destination, often showing up on recommended small towns in the US to visit lists.

I promptly came down with a cold after coming to town, and combined with the resulting poor sleep, beginning work at the hotel, getting unpacked and settled in, and computer/internet access issues, I was unable to do anything art-related until today.  Today was gorgeous - bright, sunny skies and mild temperatures.  Some scattered cumulus clouds began gathering in the afternoon, presenting an excellent opportunity for some sunset photos.  Having lived and spent time in many parts of the country, I have yet to see skies or sunsets that can compare to those of the west and southwest.

Here are a handful of the photos from Friday evening's photoshoot (and two sunrise photos taken in Tucson last Saturday) that I hope will give a sense of the beautiful skies here in AZ:

First Light
Swirling cirrus clouds reflect the warm light of the rising desert sun

Sunrise Silhouette
The forms of the Sonoran desert provide a dramatic contrast against the pastel palette of the morning sky

Sunset over Tombstone Canyon
Taken from a vantage point over the Bisbee tunnel along Hwy 80

East towards Bisbee
A waxing moon and clouds over the distant mountains along Hwy 92

Sierra Vista bound
This shot was taken using a shutter speed of 6 seconds with tripod mount and shutter delay to capture the tailights of a car heading along Hwy 92

Fading sky with passers-by
The streaks of passing cars catch the colors of the final light of the setting sun to the southwest.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fall Color series - Autumn Path

Well, I hadn't planned for almost a week to go by between postings, but time has been moving along very quickly!  This might be the last post I am able to do for a week since I will be heading to AZ this coming Friday, and am going to be shipping most of my art supplies via UPS Ground.  I'll be staying in Bisbee over the winter and possibly longer, depending upon how the work situation goes.  The good news is that I already have a part-time job there.  I plan to spend the rest of my time painting and drawing, and I can't wait to dive in once I get settled!

In the meantime, here is the latest painting in the fall color theme I've been on.   I plan to continue with several more paintings of fall colors and landscapes, simply because I am inspired by ideas I have from the photos I took, and I have found that focusing on a subject or theme has allowed me to "learn" it much more than skipping around would.  Also, I'm pleased to report that both this painting and the previous painting, "Fall in Old Mystic", have been sold.  Thank you Kenny and Sue for your support!

"Autumn Path" - sold
pastel on 400-grit sandpaper, 9x11"
This forgotten dirt road leads to a place unknown

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fall in Old Mystic

Here's the latest fall-themed painting.  I started it over the weekend and wasn't thrilled with some aspects of it, so it sat until I finally had some time tonight to re-work the road (originally in a rather bright blue) and some of the trees.  It's based on a photo taken along the road that leads into Old Mystic.  As is so often the case, the photos aren't entirely accurate for color, saturation and such.  Looking at the photo of the painting, I see some additional things I'd probably like to tweak a bit, but then there's always the risk of over-working it.  Sometimes it's best to just leave it as is and save changes for the next painting.
"The Road to Old Mystic" - sold
pastel on 220-grit sandpaper - 9x11"

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bluff Point State Park - photo essay

The weather was exceptional today, and probably the last warm, sunny weekend day we'll have here for close to 5 months.  I won't be spending the winter in CT, but this was a day for getting out with the camera and going for a walk.  Location:  Bluff Pt. State Park, which is about 10 min. from our house in nearby Groton.  It is one of my favored places in the area to go for a hike or run.  It features a 3 mile loop multi-use road/path, some points of interest and areas to fish and harvest shellfish.  It also has a sandbar beach called "Brushy Pt" that is popular with beachgoers in the summer and equestrians. 

Here are some photos out of the 40 or so that I took today that give a good sampling of this popular state park.  I was on a wide angle kick today, so most of these were shot at 18-25mm. 

Saltmarsh grass along Brushy Pt, cove side
View looks to the west, with New London visible in the distance

Leading the Way
This boardwalk leads from the cove side to the "breaker" side of Brushy Pt.

Unplanned Obsolescence
A section of beach fencing lies forgotten amongst the beach grass

East towards Bluff Point
The "breakers" side of Brushy Pt.  The rocky tip of Bluff Pt. is visible.

Phragmites facing East
The faded flowers of Common Reed [Phragmites australis] sway in a light breeze

Boulders and Breakers
The surf is no match for these huge granite boulders at the eastern tip of Bluff Point.  Fisher's Island, NY, is the barely visible landmass along the distant horizon.

Salt marsh and trees
This small area of marsh wetlands is bordered by a stand of hardwood and evergreens

Floral photos for fall

I absolutely love flowers, and they became the primary subject for my photography excursions this spring and summer.  As winter rapidly approaches and the fall colors are disappearing just as fast, flowers are the perfect pick-me-up.  These are photos that didn't make it onto my original archived disk and haven't been loaded to my existing picasa album, so I thought I'd share a few that are in a folder before I pull them off onto disk.  They are from a variety of locations.  I hope they help brighten your day as well!

Some black-eyed susans provide some mid-summer cheer in a neighborhood garden

These brightly-colored mid-summer flowers on graceful, curved stems are desert plants in Phoenix, AZ

Blue and white columbine, Colorado's state flower, are seen in a private garden in Silverton, CO

This amazing hibiscus flower in a neighborhood garden is larger than a dinner plate! 

Daylilies provides a steady source of blooms during fall along the roadside here in Mystic

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fall Color Paintings - pastels

Since I'm still in a "fall colors" momentum after all the photos I've been taking - and posting - I wanted to get back and do some more paintings.  I'll probably continue the fall colors theme for a bit since repetition will help improve my ability to handle things like correct colors, shadows and painting trees effectively.  The first painting was done as 14x11" on Strathmore 500 series pastel paper (a moss green color).  I'd tweaked the cropping/composition of the original photo to where I thought it would look best, but it wasn't until I took the photo of the finished painting that I realized that more of the field had to go.  So, this is the cropped version.  It places more focus on the trees than was in the original painting.  It took one evening and maybe an hour the next day to complete, and I found myself fighting to not overwork it and add too many details.   I did change some things from the original reference; the tree on the far left was originally green - I wanted a more pronounced fall palette, so it became reddish/rust. 

"Fall at Field's Edge" - pastel on Strathmore

After I finished it, I decided to do a smaller study using some of the pre-cut papers I'd been using for the challenge paintings. I really like the sanded surface and dark color of the sandpaper, so I used that for a looser, more abstracted version. I changed the colors a bit, and used some of the Mt. Vision pastels I'd just received in the mail; the sky and field are done using them.  The smaller study took about 30 min and was fun and refreshing to do.  Sky is brighter and cooler now as blue, and gives a completely different look.  I think some of the tree shapes are a bit repetative, but I was more interested in incorporating different colors here:

"Fall at Field's Edge" - 5.5"x 8", black sanded paper

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Leaf Portraits - a different take on fall colors

I suppose the idea for this first started last fall when I did a walkabout in my neighborhood with my camera.  I noticed a single red maple leaf on the sidewalk and thought it made an interesting study against the grainy texture of the concrete.  I posted it to the fall colors album in my picasa gallery from last year, and recently noticed that it has garnered more views than most of the other photos there.  You can see it here

I enjoy looking at the random, abstract patterns of fallen leaves that carpet the ground, and have seen some fantastic photos taken of this very thing.  It occurred to me that it might be rather fun to make purposeful arrangements of leaves under more controlled lighting and background conditions.  So, a couple of weeks ago when I went on my most recent neighborhood fall color shoot, I took the time to collect some leaves from the wide variety of deciduous trees that were busy shedding them in preparation for winter.   I have to say that I found this to be as useful as it was enjoyable to do - it made me think about composition and design, since I was now in complete control of that.  I used a light neutral grey piece of cloth as the backdrop for the portraits, as I'm calling them, with indirect afternoon light.  I also gave thought to how the final image would be cropped during post-processing in Elements.  Just like doing a quick sketch of something, I didn't want to spend too much time deciding on the "perfect" crop; I went with a quick, intuitive approach, being mindful of how the negative space affects the composition.   This project has also provided me with some reference material for a possible series of paintings.  

I took about 40 photos total; here is a small sampling:

Color Connection
Three Norway maples and an unidentified species form a study in yellow

Disorderly Conduct
Red maple leaves in a variety of shapes, sizes and species

Oak Leaf Quartet

Maple Relations
Three different species of maple are represented here

All in the Family
Different sizes, colors and shapes from the same species of maple

Celebrating Diversity
A variety of shapes, sizes and colors represented here.  The very large leaf in the back (8" wide) is from a London Planetree - a pollution-tolerant hybrid of the sycamore family.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Reflections: land, sky and water

Here is a collection of photos taken at various locations, seasons and time of day that have one thing in common:  water and its ability to reflect light.  Such images usually evoke a sense of calm and tranquility - something that is always a welcome reprieve from the stress of daily life.
Cloud Reflections - Poquonnock River
Late afternoon reflected light reveals unseen overhead clouds near Bluff Point State Park, Groton, CT.

Sunset Reflections
The foreground reeds provide a sharp contrast to the bright sunset colors on the Poquonnock River

Monsoon Clouds over Trout Lake
The San Juan Mountains and summer cumulus clouds create an interesting symmetry in this lake south of Telluride, CO. 

Fall Afternoon near Esker Point, CT
A sinuous current breaks up the small ripples near the far shore, providing some interesting contrast in this small cove.

Mumford Cove, late summer
The still water allows for a nearly perfect symmetry of the land and trees.  Fisher Island, the land mass seen in the distance, is located in L.I.S. (Long Island Sound).

Fall Reflections in Pond
This small pond in Old Mystic provides a double-dose of peak fall color.  A patch of lilypads provides some texture to break up the glass-smooth surface of the water.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Commissions - #2

Next group of completed commissions. 

First two:  limited-edition resincast sculpture of "Hazel" - sporthorse mare, 1/9 scale, sculpted by M. Kilborne in '08.

Dark dapple grey in oils [thoroughbred x Perchron].  Base in acrylics. 
Commissioned by K. Cabot. 

Light sorrel [Belgian-cross].  Oils with base in acrylics.
Commissioned by J. Arns.

Next is "bitty bosco", a 1:32 scale mustang stallion, also sculpted by Morgen, and released in 2009.  Morgen put an amazing amount of detail into a sculpture that is only 3.2" high.

"Bisbee" - Light slate grulla in oils.
Collection of L. Gruetter.

This view, not using lightbox, shows the color more accurately.

That's it for now.  I have two final commissions that will be posted once finished, and that will be it for my commissions!  Thank you again to my very patient clients and friends; I appreciate your support of my work over the past several years.
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