Taming the Tempest

That's me doing my thing in the Patagonia catalog! Photo by Ben MoonIt was a nice surprise to open our mail a few weeks ago and find this picture of me in the latest Patagonia catalog! The picture was taken by Ben Moon during a storm that was testing our mettle on Rabbit Island with near freezing temperatures and driving rain in late July. I love how this picture captures the tough side of plein-air painting. There’s usually a bit of suffering involved in creating this art, but the thrill of working in a storm far outweighs the discomfort of the cold and wet. This is the fourth time I’ve been in the Patagonia catalog – previous images and articles focused on my involvement in rock climbing, bio-fuels, and composting, but I’m proud to be representing the painting life this time! In fact, the entire issue of the catalog is dedicated to artists, and worth checking out.


Jan. 13 – March 17, 2015  (10 weeks)

Fee: $450 (installment plan available by credit card only)  Sign up online here

I know I just got through telling you that landscape painting is all about being tough in the outdoors, but hey, it’s winter here in NYC and besides the fact that it is freezing outside, the sun goes down at 4 PM! In light of this I am offering a studio workshop as an alternative way for us to continue studying landscape painting and stay sharp for spring.

In each session, artists will choose from a selection of master paintings to copy in grisaille, limited palette, or full color. This is an ideal workshop for those who have little or no experience painting outdoors.

By copying existing paintings, we will learn how a successful painting has been composed and how to approach complex subjects such as foliage, moving water, forest interiors, and clouds. We will focus on identifying value hierarchy while looking for elements of design and composition. Besides being an extremely helpful way of preparing the artist to work outdoors, this exercise will train your eye to be more efficient at recognizing values independently from their color, and giving you more control and organization on your palette.  Think of this as “pre-season training” for landscape painting! When spring arrives, we will be ready to take what we’ve learned from the masters and apply it to the living landscape.

Artists will complete one copy in each studio session. Among the artists we will be focusing on are Ivan Shishkin, Frederick Church, Sanford Gifford, William Trost Richards, and Albert Bierstadt. Artists will be welcome to add to this list or bring in their own ideas for master copies.


This is a copy I did in grisaille of a painting by Ivan Shishkin. I wanted to understand the value structure of the tree trunks and how to achieve the feeling of depth in a forest interior.

Ivan Shishkin-685258

the original by Ivan Shishkin


This is my latest painting, a self-portrait painted from life in the new studio. Last year was a bit rough for me, mainly because I had to move my studio three times and my apartment twice. It felt like New York City was trying to spit me out and I began questioning why I fought so hard to live here. Without planning on it, I poured all those turbulent emotions right into this painting. My intention was only to paint a self portrait that incorporated a landscape, but the result became a much deeper narrative that reveals my inner emotional landscape. I can happily report that I’ve emerged from this storm into a more stable life, but making this painting has been a unique experience in reflection and vulnerability.


Fortitude, 30″x36″, oil on linen, 2014


5 thoughts on “Taming the Tempest

  1. Em, Having been sick over all of Christmas, I’ve now had the time to browse at leisure through your wonderful blog….a few thoughts…..first of all, the overall wonder of watching your work unfold as you move about the globe, second you write beautifully and all your written entries are very moving guides to your work. As I just finish now, I have an entirely new understanding of the life you are leading, of what is important to you, of how your travels and work and blogging are all of a piece in bringing your life together. It’s wonderful, Em, so wonderful and I thank you for sending it to me. I love you and your life. Grammie


    Joan Ellis Fergle@aol.com 732-291-0588 Movie Website: JoanEllis.com Blog: viewfrom80.com

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