July 8, 2009
Another reprise scene today, Buckeye Falls in Sharon Woods Gorge. The last time I painted this waterfall, there was some residual ice. Today I worked up a good sweat just sitting, and a nice little watersnake greeted me at the rock where I set up the easel. The water still had some sediment in it from the July 4th rains, but it was starting to clear. The color of the water was quite different from it’s blue-green winter hue.
The easel set up below the falls in Sharon Woods Gorge.
This time I rotated the “canvas” (I work on Masonite panels) 90°, making a vertical composition. The shadows from trees extended a little way across the falls and the creek, adding some interest to the brown water. In the winter, the shadows were linear shapes from bare branches and tree trunks, but this time they were blotchy leaf shadows. The sun was much higher in the sky as well, putting more sunlight directly on the falls.
As I worked, I was visited by Indigo Buntings, Cardinals, a Red-Shouldered Hawk, and a nice little Northern Water Snake. Minnows hunted the pools in the creek. Humans made visits as well!
"Buckeye Falls, July 6" 14 x 11, Acrylic on panel
June 30, 2009
Today I went back to the scene of the first painting in this series, to document seasonal changes. As you might expect, the difference between February and June is green, lots of green.
Painting at Miami-Whitewater Forest's west entrance on a very green June day.
I didn’t set up in exactly the same spot. I stepped back a little, so the scene is viewed from slightly more afar. This wasn’t exactly on purpose. I actually made a copy of the February painting to take with me, but left it sitting on the counter at home by mistake. So the composition you see in this recent painting is my best memory of the February composition.
The weather was near perfect, and only about 20 degrees warmer than it was on an unusually warm February 9th. Both days were clear and very sunny, although today I tried to hide from the sun, rather than seek it as I did in February. Since I was set up on the side of the road, I could actually sit on my tailgate in the shade of the hatch while I worked.
"West Entrance, Miami-Whitewater Forest, June" 9 x 12 acrylic on panel
"West Entrance, Miami-Whitewater Forest, February" 9 x 12, acrylic on panel.
June 22, 2009
I felt the need for broad vistas, so I headed to Shawnee Lookout by the river to the west of Cincinnati. I drove the park road to its conclusion at the lookout trailhead, packed up and hiked in. With my easel and pack it was about a 20 minute walk to the overlook. It was a nice view, although I was a little disappointed at the amount of human construction in the view. I guess I wasn’t surprised, given the location. Being an artist with a bonafide artistic license, I was able to edit out the offending constructions in the view. Out went the power plant, the I-275 bridge, the railroad bridge, the powerlines, etc. This is much better than Photoshop!
As I painted, I was paying attention to the atmospheric perspective, but it changed radically as I worked. When I first arrived, the air was very clear and I could see the most distant hills distinctly. By the time I packed up, it was very hazy, and the most distant hills were starting to fade out. As the haze increased, the colors changed considerably. This is something that always challenges the plein air painter. Light and shadows are always in motion, and as the light changes, so does the color.
Painting at the Shawnee Lookout overlook
"Shawnee Lookout, Edited" 11 x 14, Acrylic on panel
June 16, 2009
Just off the Garden Loop trail, looking south
The sky looked pretty threatening, so I decided to go somewhere relatively close to paint today.
I walked out the Garden Loop trail a little ways, finding an interesting battered old Sycamore tree standing inside the loop. I set up my easel at the edge of the mown grass, hoping that was enough to keep me out of the serious chiggers. The light was bright overcast, so there were no dramatic shadows to play with. Once again, I used atmospheric perspective to break up the composition. The distant trees had a slightly bluish cast to them, which I exaggerated slightly.
I was tempted to paint in a faint set of tire tracks still visible from a passing mower or service vehicle. I might do it yet, as it would give the scene a nice sense of linear perspective.
While I worked, Purple Martins swooped around me, catching insects over the field of grass.
"Inside the Garden Loop" 11" x 14" acrylic on panel
June 13, 2009
The weather hasn’t changed a lot, it just stopped raining. Even though it was cloudy, Sharon Lake was lovely in its stillness. I hiked down below the Lakeside Lodge, and set up on a small dock looking southeast across the lake. The water was still, the air calm, and the birds noisy and active. The rattles of Kingfishers echoed across the lake, and a few times, a pair involved in a chase passed close by. After I was set up and painting for awhile, a Great Blue Heron took off just 20 yards from me. It had been so still that I just hadn’t noticed him. Mallards paddled back and forth across the lake.
On a misty, gloomy day like this I enjoy painting the moody colors of greens and blues. The mist provides an atmospheric perspective with both color temperature and value.
Painting at Sharon Lake on a cloudy day.
"Sharon Lake Mallard" 14"x 11", acrylic on panel
June 11, 2009
It never fails to amaze me how time fills up in the spring. This is the time of year when I would most like to have nothing else to do but watch flowers bloom. Instead, there are all sorts of family rituals to attend, house maintenance and garden chores to attend to, and etc. Weather is another great excuse for not painting more. We’ve had a lot of it.
A front passed by and I had a beautiful day on Sunday to head out to find a scene to paint. I ended up in Miami-Whitewater Forest… deep in the forest, to be exact. I was drawn in by the shady green leafiness, the sounds of Pileated Woodpeckers, and the promise of solitude. I found a fantastic old grape vine and set up the easel. While I worked, the Pileated Woodpeckers drummed (startling, like a machine gun) and made their calls. They always make me think of some exotic jungle bird.
The complexity of the forest interior is always a challenge to paint. The ancient vine gave me an interesting object to concentrate on, while doing enough detail around it to suggest the real complexity of the scene. The leaves of the Pawpaw trees around the vines made an interesting counterpoint to the twisting wood.
My easel set up in the forest
"The Old Vine" 12" x 9" acrylic on panel
April 19, 2009
Winton Woods has some nice backwaters along the shore of the lake. I found a nice one on the west side of the lake where a stream enters. A couple of Canada Geese were exploring the little cove, and a nice moss-covered tree arched out over the water. There was even a log to sit on as I painted. Comfort is always an important artistic consideration.
I was fascinated by the changing color in the water. It had lost its blue-green winter hue in favor of a springtime muddy brown, but the reflections of sky and trees interacted with shadows as they stretched across the water.
As I painted, fish jumped frequently. It was hard to tell what they were, maybe carp? Maybe bass? A male Mallard Duck flew past, and the sun behind me hit the bird just so as it passed, such that the iridescence took my breath away.
My painting resting on a log on site
"Backwater, Winton Woods" 11x14 Acrylic on canvas
March 31, 2009
I’m back from the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker hunt, without success. We did have a good time looking, though. You can read all about it at my other blog; http://herps2art.wordpress.com
Finally, the conditions were right for another foray. This time I chose Glenwood Gardens. I was hoping for an early spring bulb display in the planted areas, but it looked like I missed the peak. So, I slung my easel over my shoulder, and hiked out the Wetlands trail. I found a spot near the dams for the artificial wetlands, where a massive sycamore tree spread its branches in such a way as to nicely frame the landscape beyond. I set up the easel and got to work. I brought an iPod with me, but the birds were heavy into their spring songs, setting up their nesting territories. I could hear Song Sparrows, Cardinals, Towhees, and a few that I couldn’t identify. I’m afraid that I know only the most common bird’s songs.
The painting went fairly quickly, or at least it seemed like it. The clear blue sky, the emerging spring green, and the last of the winter hues of dead weeds and grass all lent their color to the scene. I’m looking forward to the trees leafing out, so that I can paint in masses of leaves rather than each individual twig. I enjoy the look of bare trees, but they can be tedious to paint! In this scene, there was just the faintest hint of green in the trees.
Painting on the Wetlands Trail, Glenwood Gardens
"Wetlands Trail" 11x14 acrylic on panel, 3/30/09
March 18, 2009
Yes, I know it’s beautiful out and that I should be hauling my easel out somewhere. However, I’m headed south to hunt for Ivorybilled Woodpeckers. I’ll be back next week, and back out with the easel.
March 10, 2009
Yes, I’m a weather wimp. I don’t go out to paint when it is excessively cold, gloomy, rainy, or windy. If you come to my show next October and see that county parks are always sunny, you’ll know why.
Today was pretty close to perfect, with sun and 60F. I have been through the gorge before, and knew that I wanted to paint this spot, surely a place with which lots of people are familiar. I picked a spot just downstream from the falls, at stream level, rather than from the official overlook. The idea was to emphasize layers, or levels within the compostition; the water, the layers of rock that make the falls, the hillside behind. I think I also liked the large rock that made a good seat. Sometimes compositions are partly determined by considerations for comfort. All honest plein air artists will admit to this if you press them.
A nice view of the falls with a comfortable seat
The painting, "Sharon Woods Falls" acrylic on panel, 11x14