Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Poquonnock Sunset

Having been in a bit of a creative and mental slump over the past couple of days, in part due to the high humidity we've had here over the past few days that drains my energy, I have finally gotten some painting done.

I'm always looking for new surfaces to try, usually based on the results and recommendations of fellow artists.  So, while I was out the other day, I stopped by the local chain art supply store and picked up a jar of Golden fine pumice ground and a pad of 11x14" 140-lb cold-press watercolor paper to experiment with.  I love the how the textural effects of the paintings that fellow bloggers Jala and Lorianne get with their handmade grounds, so I was inspired to try it myself.

The surface was easy to prepare:  I placed approximately 1 Tbsp of the pumice ground into a container and added a bit of water to thin it.  I coated one sheet with the plain ground, using a cheap 1" housepainting brush.  Taped it to a board and let it dry in the hot sun.  I decided to tint the remaining ground, so I added some red and burnt umber acrylic to form a warm brown.  I did not add enough to form an opaque color, just a tint.  I was able to cover 2 more pieces of paper using this mixture, thinned with water.

"Poquonnock Sunset"

I based the painting on one of the photos I took last Monday with my new lens, of Bluff Point.  The Poquonnock River forms the inlet to the west side of Bluff point, offering nice reflections and stands of trees on the distal shore....and the prime location of the setting sun.

underpainting - rubbing alcohol with pastel

I really wanted this to be a warm painting, and to that end, there are probably things I'd change about it.  Even a simple painting like this often brings out the deficiencies in my pastel collection, including the lack of darks.  I find that I use my two favorite darks - a dark green Sennelier and dark blue Mt. Vision and Sennelier - for almost everything.  For this, I was wanting for some dark purples and warm browns to work in conjunction with the green and blue for the tree stand.

I didn't have the exact colors I was looking for to do the proximal part of the water, so I ended up blending and scumbling blues, yellows and a muted rose gray (Richeson handmade - another favorite brand) to try and achieve what I wanted.

I will probably do a few more reflections and water pieces before returning to solid ground.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Along Mystic River

I've been a bit lax over the past week as far as blog posts go.  Haven't had (or made, perhaps is the better word) the time to paint, although I've certainly been thinking of it.

Anyway, here's the latest boat/reflection pastel.  I think that it is a good idea to have a goal in mind when doing a painting, or at least I try to.  Goals vary, depending upon the day, my mood, and what I'm painting.  For this, I had three goals:  1) add to the boat/reflection series; 2) simplify the scene; 3) work fast.

Along Mystic River
11x9" on 320# sandpaper 

Photo was one I took the day after I got back to town from AZ, along the docks on the western side of the river.  On the far shore, the tall building is where boat repairs are done at one of the marinas.  Decided to keep that in, but simplify it.  Ditto the building along the left.  I didn't spend much time making sure the perspective of the buildings was absolutely spot-on, and it shows, but that wasn't a goal.  In the photograph, the front roof of the building fell right behind the boat.  And lots of large sailboat masts were visible.  So, I eliminated those and shifted the building so it wasn't competing with the shape of the boat.   Still not sure if it works so well.   Ditto the boat itself - I didn't fuss around with getting its shape perfect, so I sketched in the basic shapes formed by the hull and top sections, and just grabbed pastels and went for it.

The painting was done in less than an hour, and to that end, it's good practice for plein air painting.  No tinkering, no futzing.

So, for the goals I had in mind for this painting, it was indeed a success.  The boat reflections are off a bit, but I found that they were my favorite thing to paint.  I usually keep paintings a while before binning them, unless they are absolutely awful, in which case, they get tossed almost immediately and don't make it onto the blog.

I may stop with the boats for a bit, and concentrate on reflections of trees and light.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Through a telephoto lens

I *finally* have a new lens for my Nikon.   An eBay purchase from last week, it arrived yesterday, and of course, I wasted no time in getting it on my camera.  While I do like the versatility of the wide-angle zoom lens that came with my camera, the limitations of it were felt on more than one occasion, particularly when trying to shoot distal subjects and wildlife.  This lens, the Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6, offers probably a bit more versatility, given what I like to shoot.

Finding subject matter  to shoot is never an issue here at the house.  I'm a sucker for a cute face.  Having a telephoto lens will make taking portraits of my favorite model even easier.  He's always dressed for the occasion, being nattily attired in his gray tuxedo.  The orange object in the photo?  That's his favorite toy - a fur-covered mouse, with the tail chewed off.  He fetches them when thrown, and carries one up on the bed with him.  It's one of the many Cute Cat Things he does.

f/4.8, 90mm, ISO 800

Later, after stopping by the library for the summer solstice celebration/reception they were having, I drove out to Bluff Point SP, which is just down the road.  Walking out on a small jetty afforded multiple photo opportunities perfectly suited to this lens, including this macro shot.  The combination of longer focal length, plus an additional stop up, makes for shots with pleasing bokeh:

Afternoon Grasses
135mm,  f/5, 1/500 sec.

Slightly further down the jetty, and I saw this young cottontail.  It was so absorbed in obtaining some dinner that it didn't immediately scamper off as I came up the trail.  No cropping.  Not bad for a hand-held shot.  

200mm, f/5.6, 1/100 sec., ISO 800

Walking up the road towards Bluff Point, I was able to get my reflections fix, and some of those will no doubt become a series of paintings.   I noticed the waxing moon, and on a whim, decided to see how that looked.  Yeah, it's cropped to help the composition, but I was impressed with the detail that is visible on something that is over 238K miles away.  With my old lens, it always looked like a small white blip in the sky.

Waxing Gibbous Moon
200mm, f/5/6, 1/500 sec., ISO 250

And, finally, the sunset shot.  Metering directly off of the sun (and probably destroying some retinal cells in the process), produced this darker, more dramatic image.  Colors weren't really quite this orange, but the sky isn't blown out, so that's the trade-off.  I still rather like it.  Minor pp to darken the highlights and lighten the shadows.  A tripod would have been nice to have along.

Solstice Sunset
120mm,  f/11, 1/640 sec., ISO 200

Summer is now officially here!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Anne of Mystic - pastel

Here is #3 in the "reflections and boats" series.   "Anne" is a small tugboat that sits moored to a semi-public dock on the east bank of the Mystic River, slightly north of downtown.  I think this is a most charming boat, and I was excited to paint her.

Each one of these paintings teaches me something, and "Anne" was quite instructive!  These boats - they are definitely a challenge to paint.  Not only are there the perspective issues to consider, similar to buildings, but symmetry is required - both for the boat and its reflection.  It must be absolutely horizontal since it rests on water.  Unlike buildings, boats are curvy (probably why they are all "she's), which adds another challenge to drawing them accurately.  Careful study of values and colors is necessary to discern what is going on in certain areas, esp. when working from a photograph, and also being mindful of the limitations of a photograph.

The reference photo, taken on my Memorial Day walkabout, was compositionally where I wanted it.  I used to just fire off shots, figuring maybe 1-2 would be decent enough to use.  Now, I spend the time to carefully frame the shot, walking around to find the most pleasing composition.  There were other elements in the photo, such as part of another large sailboat, that I eliminated.   I wanted the focus to be on the tug and her reflections.  Because this is done from a specific location, I did decide to keep some of the building elements on the distal shore, but tried to render them to simple abstract shapes that wouldn't compete with the COI.

I wasn't sure what direction this painting was going to go as far as its detail went.  I found myself getting caught up in the detail, for better or worse.  I always worry that the painting is going to get too fussy, risking it becoming over-worked.  I also think that for paintings with any kind of detail, working on a bigger size paper is advised...time to order some 12x18" and larger papers!

While there are some things that I knew would be an issue (like trying to make the chain for the anchor look *remotely* like a chane), the biggest bother for me is that her name plates aren't even!  There's that symmetry thing I mentioned earlier.   I suppose I could go back and re-work the plate on the left side of the boat, but quite frankly, I would rather just move on.  Years ago, I used to work so hard to make everything as perfect as possible in the painting.  Now, I just analyze what could be improved, and move on, saving the changes for the next painting.

"Anne of Mystic"
pastel on Wallis paper, 12x9"

For this painting, I decided to use an underpainting, since it had worked so well the last time I used Wallis.

underpainting - pastel with rubbing alcohol

Finally, here is a photo of the front of Anne's hull, showing some of the detail and her nameplate.  The neatly coiled rope photo on my Memorial Day post?  It's Anne's :).

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sky Friday - More cloud abstracts

Today's sky Friday post is another group of abstracted skies from photos taken at various dates and locations.  With the sky as a canvas, sun and water as the medium, and air currents working as the brush in the hand of Mother Nature, beautiful forms are forever being created and re-created in the heavens above.

In bloom
April 15 - Tucson

April 18 - Tucson

The dragon
April 18 - Tucson

May 1 - Mystic

May 26 - Mystic

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Reflections and Boats - Sailboat solo

Here is #2 in the reflections and boats series.  This small sailboat sits just off shore along the eastern side of the Mystic river, tethered by two small ropes.  I was drawn to its simple shapes and colors, and of course, the reflections.

I ended up doing some finger blending on the boat and its reflection, so I could obtain better coverage of the paper and to provide a more accurate color.  As a result, the paper color (Leaf Green Dark) shows through on the water, adding a bit of a transparent contrast to the boat.

What I also wanted to avoid was over-working and fussing too much with the reflections.  After selecting the basic colors and values I wanted, I just blocked them in and added the additional colors around or on top of the initial layer.  I'm hopeful that by the time I finish this series, I'll be much more competent at rendering this challenging subject.

"Sailboat Solo" - 9x12"
Colourfix paper

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New series - reflections & boats

Well, the aerial skies series ended unceremoniously yesterday, when after 2 attempts to paint the same image, it was clear that wasn't going to happen.  Third time wasn't going to be a charm, so I figured that was a sign to move on to something new, and stripped the Colourfix for the 2nd [and last] time.   Clouds will never be far away.

Starting last year, I began taking all these neat photos of reflections, which started down at the Mystic River piers and docks, usually including boats.   I find charm in boats.  Not huge ships, which seem impersonal and too imposing to me, but smaller crafts.  I imagine this is because I've experienced first hand how fun they can be and the degree of independence they offer by allowing travel over areas otherwise prohibited by our physical limitations as a species...much as flying does.

Boats are always given names, thus lending them a distinct identity, and they are always a "she".  They also are almost always subordinate to the landscape, another thing I find appealing.  A boat resting quietly on the water gives a sense of peace and calm.

They also represent a challenge to paint, by virtue of their reflections.  The canoe painting brought that concept home very clearly.  So, I have all these fun photos I've taken over the past year, along with various others over the years, and I want to pursue them as a subject while I'm still within the physical presence of them.  In just over 4 weeks, that will change.

So, here's the first in the series.  Based on one of the photos I took a week ago at Watch Hill, it shows boats as the minor players.  I simplified the composition, leaving in only 3 boats.  And, after taking the photo, I saw I forgot to add the sail mast to the tiny blue one - oops!  It's there now.

The cloud reflections are a bit off; they should be a bit closer to the shore, and there are other things that .  The further away an object is from the water and the viewer, the more distorted its reflection becomes.  Even in the photo, the reflection is compressed and is more of a suggestion of the actual cloud.

"Little Narragansett Reflections" 
Colourfix, 12x9"

I didn't time how long it took me to do this, but it wasn't much more than 1-2 hrs. at most.  Surface is pale blue Colourfix, that I ended up sanding down after the previous failed paintings.  The alcohol washes/underpaintings had transformed it into a darker blue, some of which shows through.  Sanding the surface helped, although this surface just doesn't hold much pastel.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Aerial Sky Series - On Approach to Atlanta

This will probably be my next-to-last painting in this series, at least for a while - I have a new series in mind that I'd like to get started on really soon.

This is another piece that was intended to be a quick, loose study.  I often like to use the black Strathmore Artagain for these pieces due to its smooth surface, which forces one to be more deliberate with pastel laid down, as mistakes aren't easily corrected.

This is another based on a photo taken as we were in our initial descent towards Atlanta.  The bottom of these cumulus defined the upper level of the smog/haze from the greater Atlanta area, which I found fascinating.   The land wasn't really visible below the clouds due to the appreciable amount of smog present, and the distal row of cumulus clouds acts as the horizon line for an otherwise indeterminate boundary of sky vs. land.

This is a combination of Unisons, a few Senneliers, and MV's.  I was able to achieve a surprising amount of blending via layering on the darker areas of the land.  Normally, I try to avoid finger blending on this surface - it often results in "dead zones", where no additional pastel may be layered.  But, I did want to try and duplicate the soft, blended and lost edges of the clouds with the land on the western (right) side, so I used light, discreet blending here.

I'm not sure the shadowed leading edges of the clouds work so well, and the distal cloud line could be a bit better (and straighter!), but it's not a total faceplant.  While I don't think Artagain paper will ever become a surface of choice, it's good to use now and again.

On Approach to Atlanta - 9x12"
pastel on black Artagain paper

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Aerial Sky Series - Cumulus Fly-by

After not getting anything done in my studio for the better part of a week, I finally sat down yesterday afternoon and painted.  It was good, and it reminded me that I need to make painting every day a priority, regardless of what else I do or don't get done on that day...which lately, isn't nearly as much as I'd like.

I did, however, update my blog.  In addition to changing the layout to a new template design, I also got around to updating and adding some more blog links, and adding the thumbnail pictures to them.   I hope readers find the new layout to be an improvement as well.

Last night, I sat down and counted the number of pastel paintings I've done since I switched to 2D work back in October [the # of completed paintings I have photos of; not the throw-aways].  This painting is #70.  I've heard it said that one must do at least 100 paintings in order to obtain a minimal level of skill and comfort in the medium, and start to develop a personal style.  I suspect there is a lot of truth to that; I do know that with each painting, I learn something.  Sometimes, it's an "ah-ha!" moment, a small breakthrough.  Other times, it's more of "well, that didn't work", which is maybe not as fun, but equally as valuable.  I post almost all of it here, even the funk.  Hopefully, as I continue towards 100 paintings and beyond, there will be more good and less funk.

I do wonder, though, how long it will be before I do have my own unique painting style.  Right now, it seems that my "style" is "consistently inconsistent".   This painting looks nothing like the last painting posted; it's loose and experimental as far as the colors go.  I wanted to use layering and scumbling to achieve some more exciting grays to depict the cloud colors and smog layer underneath.  The camera did rather odd things to the colors, and I had to dial back the contrast on the photo almost completely to get it to look like the real thing.   Even still, it looks better viewed in person; the darkest areas are not black, as appears on the photo, but the dark blue and purple from my favorite MV Thunderstorm Grays set.

It's based on a photo taken during the final descent towards Hartsfield-Jackson Int'l, in Atlanta, from my flight in April.  It was approaching evening, during the "golden period" of light, coveted by both painters and photographers.

Cumulus Fly-by - 11x9"
pastel on 320# sandpaper  

The goal was to experiment with colors, and to have a more abstracted image of the clouds.  To that end, the painting was a success for me.   I may set a goal of completing another 28 paintings before we leave for Durango next month.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sky Friday - A Reflected Sunset

Clouds and sky reflected in water seems to be a common theme for both photographers and painters, and it's a recurrent theme for me as well; here is another post from last November of the same subject.

On our drive back from Watch Hill on Tuesday, I asked Wayne if he wouldn't mind another two stops before we headed home, and he was happy to oblige.

The first stop is a rather good sized marsh that is in east Stonington, known as the Avalonia Land Conservancy nature preserve, and located right along the road.  There are many of these small nature preserves around the area where I live, which is a great thing to see; human encroachment is everywhere, it seems, and these preserves are as much a sanctuary for the local flora and fauna as they are for humans wishing a view unspoiled by man.

The sun was just dipping behind the trees along the edge of the marsh, producing soft light and shadows on the overhead clouds.  While most of the marsh is a wet bog, there are a few mini ponds of still water, offering abbreviated snippets of the sky above.

Reflections on Avalonia preserve
Both land and sky are reflected in the marsh

Closer to our house, towards Groton Long Point, was the second stop.  It's an area that I've been to on different occasions, and an image from the same location - Esker Pt. - is in the November blog post linked above.  It's a favorite area for kayakers to put in, and in fact, was the very first place that we went kayaking 2 years ago.  The Amtrak and commuter train runs right along the edge.  

By the time we arrived at Esker Pt., the sun was just setting right in the inlet notch between tree sets.  

Sun and Reflections at Esker Pt.

A few homes and small boat docks line the southern edge of this small cove.  A few scattered cumulus clouds remained in the sky, their pinks and purples intensifying in the fading light.

Sunset over the Docks
The colorful clouds and marina are emphasized in this shot

Reflections in Pink and Purple
The still water of the cove  reflects the clouds not seen in this southern view

Sunset colors in the clouds are most intense when viewed to the west, right at the location of the setting sun.  The northern latitude of New England is not enough to produce the brilliant reds, yellows and oranges of a southwestern sunset, but the skies do their best anyway.  

Sunset Symmetry
The land and clouds form a nearly perfect reflected image in the cove waters

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Watch Hill, RI - part II

Here is a second set of photos taken from Tuesday's trip to Watch Hill.

After walking past the small harbor, part of Little Narraganset Bay, with its collection of anchored boats, we walked out along the barrier beach of Napatree Pt., along one of the beach paths.  The marsh grass was a vibrant green and a recent rainstorm had texturized the sand along the path and broken up some of the footprints present.

Sandy path with lone tree

The shore of Stonington, CT is seen in the background, and the distal clouds catch the afternoon sun along their edges.  The storm cloud that dumped the rain on the area had retreated far east over the Atlantic.  Further along the beachway, another path traversed the dunes, leading to the "breaker" side of the spit.  Along the side, and present throughout the area, was this colorful, salt-tolerant rosebush, a native of Asia:

Beach Rose (Rosa rugosa)

The end of Napatree Pt. leads to the ruins of Ft. Mansfield, built in the early 1900's.  Unfortunately,  we weren't aware of them at the time, so we didn't walk out the the end of the point.  The waves aren't exactly surfing material [and the water was quite cold], but the rhythmic sound of the waves crashing on the sand is relaxing and nostalgic.  

Towards Napatree Pt.

Turning back towards Watch Hill, the lighthouse and its associated buildings were visible on the point.  Lighthouses have the potential for being incredibly trite and kitschy in artwork, but I was drawn to the simple, bold shapes of the buildings.  A telephoto lens would have been really swell for this shot:

Watch Hill Lighthouse

The Napatree Pt. beach is a public beach and the Watch Hill area is absolutely packed on summer weekends.  On Tuesday, however, only a few scattered people were to be found.  The lone lifeguard tower frames this family enjoying the beach to themselves:

Beach goers

After heading back over to the business district of Watch Hill,  we sat down for some dinner.  As we were walking back to the car, the wind had picked up and the sun was headed closer towards the horizon, casting its sparkling afternoon light on the harbor.  Scattered backlit cumulus clouds add some additional drama to the view.

Late afternoon on Narraganset Bay

A nice way to end the day.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Trip to Watch Hill, RI

Yesterday was my birthday, which to me is really just another day and a reminder that I'm no longer in my "early 40's", but in the mid-point of my fifth decade of life.  Commiserating with girlfriends about the woes of the aging process after 40 hits is a bit comforting as a shared experience, while we continue to let slide those grips on our vanity in exchange for happy acceptance, the wisdom that only comes from life experience, and redirecting our priorities to things more important than a few wrinkles, sagging parts, and gray hair.

To that end, I wouldn't want to be back in my 20's for anything, dealing with the follies and insecurities of youth.   Besides,  I actually enjoy being in my 40's.

So, while yesterday wasn't a big deal to me, Wayne decided to come home from work early and suggested we go to Watch Hill, RI.  He had been looking at the cloud-filled skies that afternoon, and suspected (correctly so) that I might fancy a drive somewhere to take photos.  We had just been to Watch Hill on Saturday with my friends Sue and Peter, and Wayne suggested we go back there, and have something to eat at the same little restaurant we'd eaten at with our friends.

Watch Hill is a quaint little community out on a small peninsula in western Rhode Island, not far away from the town of Westerly.  It is also the westernmost point for the open Atlantic ocean, vs. the CT shoreline which is within Long Island Sound.   It also has a beachway/spit - Napatree Point - which has been turned into a nature preserve.

Lots of open space, attractive shorelines, 18-19th century architecture, and boats make this an appealing location for photos as well.  Even being limited to my Olympus p'n's camera, I still managed to take over 100 photos, most of which weren't complete throw-aways, and some of which turned out pretty well, all things considered.  I could sit and ponder the "what if's" of having my Nikon and maybe a tripod along instead, but that doesn't serve much purpose.

For the sake of theme and continuity, I'll split them into two separate posts.  The first set is based on - what else - clouds and reflections.  Add some colorful boats and other man-made structures and it was a wealth of material for me.   There will no doubt be a series of reflection paintings in the future, with some based on photos taken yesterday.

Geometric Reflections

Cumulus with shoreline homes

Yacht Club 

Harbor Tranquility

Along the Dock

Meeting Place

A Splash of Green

Thank you again, Wayne, for knowing how to show me a good time on my birthday - you're the best!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Botanical Abstracts

Between sorting and packing and other distractions, I managed to not get any painting done this weekend, and rather than let another day pass without a blog post, I realized that I still have plenty of subject material to share.

This collection of images were taken in a variety of locations and dates, and represent a diversity of adjectives:  edible, sharp, soft, weed, cultured, wild, commonplace.  Small, large, spherical, linear.  Colorful or patterned.  As with all the images I take of such things, my goal was to focus on the unique features and try to present the ordinary in a new light.

Some are in black/white, some in color.   They are shown in order of oldest to newest, with location and date.

Corn tassels
 Backyard garden -  CT.  Aug 13, 2009.

Agave leaves
 Crest trail, Huachuca Mtns. - southern AZ.  March 18, 2010.

Seedpods - unidentified 
Honeybee Canyon trail - Oro Valley, AZ.  April 11, 2010.

Red Yucca stalk
Private residence - Tucson, AZ.  April 16, 2010.

Yucca spire in bloom
Biosphere 2 property, Catalina, AZ.  April 17, 2010

Private residence, Tucson, AZ.  April 20, 2010.

Backyard - CT.  April 30, 2010.

Parsley patch
Personal residence - CT.  June 4, 2010.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sky Friday - Serenity

I realized as I sat down to write this post that it was already Friday, and given that this is #5 in the Aerial Skies series, it fits the bill for today's Sky Friday post.  

When I was deciding what I wanted to do for my next painting in this series, I kept coming back to one of the images I took during our July trip to CO last year.  In my mind's eye, I'd seen it as a painting at the time I was seeing the view out my window of the 757 flight from Cleveland to Denver.  When I started this painting a few days ago, I figured that there would probably be a lot of people that wouldn't "get it". Wayne said:  "If you want to paint something that will probably sell, do a sunset."  I'm sure he's right.  But, I paint for myself first and what grabs at my senses and emotions.  So, this was it.  

I suspected when I started on this painting that it would end up going in a more detailed, realistic direction than what I generally aim for in my work.  I've learned now that it's really pointless to fight the painting or the process; it will have a direction and sometimes that's not maybe what the artist intended.   I'm not sure this would have worked as well, at least in my hands, if it were looser like the others in this series.  

I'm also not sure exactly how to categorize it.  "Abstracted realism"?  "Realism with a surrealistic edge"?  I don't know.  As a photo, it's clear what the subject is.  As a painting, it takes on a different reality, as it were.  I really wanted to capture the dynamic shapes, reflected light and shadows of these amazing clouds as seen from 20,000' or so.  A critical part of making this painting work, to my mind, was to accurately capture the flowing nature of the lower layer of the clouds in what is essentially the foreground, and give the middle ground of higher clouds that light "vapor" quality.  Many of the earlier cloud paintings I've done I felt were "stiff" and heavy, and I think it's a subject that many artists struggle to paint.

"Serenity"   -   12x18"
Pastel on Strathmore 400-series paper

For an added challenge, I decided to do it on Stathmore paper, which is similar to Canson M-T.  It's got a textured surface and doesn't hold many layers of pastel without fixative.  But, until I put in an order for some UArt or larger Wallis sheets, it's all I've got that's bigger than 9x12".   For this, I pretty much had to do quite a bit of finger blending, although I kept it to light touches with the tip of my index finger.  Grinding the pastel into the surface really kills the luminosity of the pastel, so I try to avoid that.  When I do, it's only to form an underpainting and fill in the unwanted surface texture of the paper.

I thought to take an in-progress photo showing areas with initial blending and the lower areas as they were blocked in with Nupastels.  I used my MV Thunderstorm grays for this, along with some favorite Unisons and a few Senneliers.  The fun part was lightly scumbling in various blues and greys.  Most probably aren't visible in the photo.  

Even coming up with a name for the painting wasn't that easy.  I originally titled it "Above Gray Skies", but that sounded trite.  When I look at this, I feel a sense of calm and quiet, so the title reflects that.

It's certainly not your average "cloudscape", but I find the departure refreshing.  I hope viewers do as well.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Memorial Day Walkabout - photos

I'm working on my next painting in the "aerial skies" series, which has gone down the "abstracted realism" road, and that I am now compelled to follow to the end, so in the meantime, here are some photos taken on Memorial Day.

It was a beautiful sunny day here, and not too hot or muggy, and I decided it would be a good day for a walk downtown with the camera (still using the Olympus 3.1MP PnS) to maybe get some good water and/or boat photos for painting references.  We live about a mile away from downtown Mystic, so it's a nice walk.  I didn't know when I set out that there was a Memorial Day parade schedule for the early afternoon, so that made it even busier than usual on a holiday weekend.

Walking down Water St. (where Wayne's office is located), with its various docks along the west side of the river helped fill some of my "odd reflections" fix.  I find these patterns just mesmerizing.  It's like a spider meets a Spirograph.

Hull Reflections

Continuing on towards the downtown area on Water St., some of the local fire trucks were lining up for
the parade.  Lots of red, polished chrome and bold, in-your-face vehicles driven by their human counterparts.  I love this: 

S.B.F.D. Logo

After negotiating the narrow sidewalks of the main downtown area filled with shuffling out-of-towners (aka "tourists"), I finally got across the famous Mystic drawbridge (correctly known as a "bascule bridge") and headed north up the river on the eastern side.  The Mystic Seaport is located up the road here, along with some other private and semi-public docks, where there were some neat things that caught my eye for various reasons.  

 Still Life with rope and shadows

Randomness is about all these images have in common.   And surely overlooked by everyone but me.  I chuckle sometimes when I think of what people might think when they see me kneeling down and taking a picture of what is clearly nothing.  

Abstracted Reflections

But, of course, there is *everything* there.  Colors and strong values.  Linear, non-linear.  Hard edges, disappearing edges and repeating shapes.  Patterns.  It's all there.


Sometimes there's a story or question as well:  why is this little boat tied up on this private dock, for example?  Surely it's not going to be blown into the river by a strong wind, nor is it going to suddenly develop a consciousness and move itself.  Theft deterrent?  Hardly.  I'm guessing it's just out of habit of its owner to do so.  

Pretty Pair

Sometimes, there's no explanation needed.

After walking back towards downtown and in the general direction of home, it was clear that the parade was gearing up to start.  People had situated themselves along the streets and the police were starting to clear out traffic from Main St.  I figured that I'd sit and watch for a bit; parades in Mystic aren't huge, drawn-out affairs.

I ended up taking some photos, most of which are nice personal reminders of the event, but nothing much more than that.  Groups of veterans representing all branches of the armed services, VFW, and what appeared to be currently enlisted troops were present.  It made me happy to see them and to be reminded that they served and continue to serve our country and make sacrifices to protect our freedoms and liberty.

Vintage Pontiac

The shiny red fire trucks passed by, then a few old bygone-era cars.  I'm not sure what those had to do with Memorial Day, but I did get a few photos, including the one above.  Proud owners were behind the wheels of these, and I actually wish there had been more.  

We are now 6 weeks away from our move to Durango, and I've now a few more reminders of my time here by virtue of these photos.  As much as I'm really not a New England or east coast type of person, I have to say that there is probably no better place to live in the state of CT than Mystic.  It's an attractive little town that manages to hold on to a bit of the positive New England stereotype.  

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