Painting My Way Across America

Wow, it’s been a whole year since I updated my blog! I’ve found it so much easier to share my news on a daily basis through Instagram, but for this blog’s record here is my latest: I’ve just moved to California!  In April I sold and gave away almost all my belongings and moved into my Honda Element with my dog Honeycrisp fora  two month road trip, camping and painting my way across the country. I left Vermont on May 7th and began an adventure I’ve been dreaming of since my early 20’s. To say the least, this trip has felt like a momentous achievement for me! After almost eight years in New York City, I moved home to Vermont in 2015 where I spent a year and a half re-evaluating my life. It felt so good to be out of the city, but I was shell-shocked from the intensity of my experience there and it took some time for me get in touch with my intuition and allow myself to follow my heart again. During my year in Vermont I experimented with a lot of different ways to use my skills – teaching workshops, working as an adjunct professor at Champlain College, teaching weekly classes, painting commissions, and selling gallery work. I realized that what truly makes my heart sing is plein-air painting and spending time outside on long trail runs in the mountains, climbing, and practicing yoga. Once this became clear to me, I started making some changes in my life so I could spend more time doing the things I love. I moved to Santa Barbara, CA to be with my boyfriend Kristo and when I decided to make this move, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to indulge my fantasy of doing nothing but plein air painting, camping, and climbing for two months as I drove across the country. In the first month I made twenty seven paintings and posted them for sale in my online store. Within four hours, almost all of them sold! Now it’s been two months and I have another twenty paintings to sell, so if you are interested in being the first to know when my next sale begins, Sign up for my newsletter.

The success of my last sale was a huge affirmation that I am doing the right thing by following my heart and doing what I love. I’m feeling so grateful for all the things that bring me so much joy, and that I’ve found a way to fill my life with them! Now that I’m in Santa Barbara, I’m getting settled in, looking for a new studio space, and spending plenty of time painting at the beach and in the mountains. Life is good and I’m thrilled to keep up the momentum! Stay tuned (instagram or my newsletter are the best ways to stay in touch with me!) for future workshops, more paintings for sale, and stories from all the new places where I’ll be exploring and painting on the west coast!

Cross-Country Road Trip Painting Collection

Commissions, Residencies, and Good Fishing

As I write this, I am waking up on my first day at the Jentel residency in Banner, WY. I’m here for a month to work on one of my six foot wide prairie paintings, and I’m looking forward to turning off my phone, unplugging from the internet, and taking a digital detox while I focus on this amazing opportunity to paint with no distractions. Before I go, I wanted to post a quick update and share my work from the past month. I’ll post again at the end of the month before I go to the American Prairie Reserve for a week of plein air painting and research in September.

APPLETON FARMS COMMISSION, IPSWICH, MASSACHUSETTS

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This is the final painting for the Appleton Farms commission I wrote about in several of my earlier posts. The painting is 18″x11″

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This is a drawing I did on location at the farms, which provided all the detailed information I needed to complete the commission.

PLUM ISLAND COMMISSION, NEWBURYPORT, MASSACHUSETTS

I spent three days on Plum Island making studies for a commission. This is a hidden gem on the North Shore of Boston. Thirteen miles of protected sand dunes, beaches, forest, and marshes provide an important habitat for many species of migratory birds and other wildlife. There are also public beaches for surfing, swimming, and fishing. The painting I am working on depicts a sand dune in the foreground of the view from my client’s house. Below are three of the studies I made while researching different options for the commission idea. We settled on the sand dune in the end.

Plein air study for commission on Plum Island

Plein air study for commission on Plum Island

plein air study on Plum Island

plein air study on Plum Island

plein air study on Plum Island

plein air study on Plum Island

HUDSON RIVER FELLOWSHIP, WHITE MOUNTAINS, NEW HAMPSHIRE

After visiting Plum Island and delivering the Appleton Farm’s commission in Ipswich, I drove north to drop in on the Hudson River Fellowship. For five years in a row, I participated in this month-long painting residency, and for three years following that, I’ve tried to drop in for a few days. During these summers, I really honed my landscape painting technique, made new friends, and felt challenged by the motivated and skilled artists that this fellowship brings together. This summer, I could only manage one day, but I was grateful for that.

during one day with the Hudson River Fellowship

Painting at Jackson Falls was pure bliss during one day with the Hudson River Fellowship. There’s nothing like taking a break from painting to jump in the cold water and pick wild blueberries!

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It was a treat to paint with my friends Leeana Chipana and Mary Jane Ward atop Cathedral Ledge.

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I spent many years obsessed with climbing this impressive granite cliff in North Conway. When I was 15 I climbed my first multi-pitch route here, and afterwards made a series of wood-block prints inspired by the experience. I always think of this place as one of the important creative forces in my life.

RABBIT ISLAND, LAKE SUPERIOR, UPPER PENINSULA MICHIGAN

On July 20th I went to Rabbit Island, an artist residency in Michigan’s U.P. Each year, 3-5 artists are selected to spend several weeks creating work on the 90 acre island, which is located in Lake Superior, 4.5 miles from the mainland Keweenaw Peninsula. (The deadline for 2016 applications is August 26th, by the way!) Artists live in a simple lean-to structure, cook over a coleman stove or a campfire, and create work in the outdoors. There is no running water or electricity. While I was there, I overlapped for one or more days with three of the artists – Beau Carey, a painter from New Mexico, Noam Enbar, a musican from Tel Aviv, and Josephina Munoz, an installation artist from Chile. We also did a lot of fishing, painting, projects around camp, and spent time exploring the mainland.

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I was thrilled that Beau Carey took the time to pose for me on the last day of his residency.

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On this day, I was so excited because after 8 days of hot sun and no wind, we finally got a bit of a storm!

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This is one of my favorite spots to hang out and paint along the shore. Photo by Ports Bishop.

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I love the challenge of painting these waves and the striking transparency of Lake Superior’s water.

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Gouache and graphite on watercolor paper toned with graphite powder and shellac.

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Amit Goldstein posed for me while she meditated in the shade. Painting with a live model is a form of shared meditation, and this morning was so soothing, listening to the water lap against the rocks and trying to interpret the dappled light.

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I knew that after Rabbit Island, I wouldn’t have time to work on commissions until November, so I brought one with me. I spent a few days working on it in the outdoors setting on the island, and antother 5 days working on it in a house on the mainland.

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A detail from a finished section of the Plum Island commission. I will finish this in November, so stay tuned!

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Rob and I spent a day orienting artist Josephina Munoz before leaving her alone for three weeks of total isolation.

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Catching Lake Trout out by the Huron Islands,  at some points during this trip the water was 800 feet deep!

Summer in the City

I came home a month ago after a grand adventure in the west, where I spent one month painting on the American Prairie Reserve and one week showing new work at the Telluride Mountainfilm Festival. Time is flying, and I’ve been busy teaching, working on a new commission, and preparing for my next trip to the prairie. Here are some highlights from the past month in New York City.

FIRST PLACE WINNER!

My painting “Fortitude” won first place at the Mills Pond House Gallery juried show. You can see this and another painting of mine “Saco River” at the gallery in Saint James, NY (Long Island) until July 22.

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Fortitiude

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Saco River

EXHIBIT IN NEW YORK CITY

These two paintings are in an upcoming juried show at the National Association of Women Artists. 80 5th Ave, New York, NY. July 8-29. Opening reception is July 16, 5-7 PM

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Portrait Study

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Ball Mason

NEW ONLINE STORE

I came home to my studio and couldn’t find enough room to hang up my latest paintings from the prairie, so it’s time for a spring clearance sale. In the past I’ve sold my work through emails and Facebook connections, so I hope this new store will help make the process more efficient.

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TEACHING IN CENTRAL PARK

We managed to dodge the frequent thunderstorms for my Tuesday plein-air painting classes in Central Park, but for the workshop last weekend the weather caught up with us. Despite the rain we had a productive weekend and everyone made great paintings!

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These two paintings were done by students in my class

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staying dry under the terrace

APPLETON FARMS

Commissions like this are a dream. One of the shareholders at Appleton Farms in Ipswich, MA, asked me to make a painting of this very special place. The farm was founded in 1636 and operated by the Appleton family until 1967 when it was acquired by a local conservation organization. It is the oldest continuously operating farm in America, producing dairy products, beef, and produce. Sustainable farming practices ensure that the landscape also provides a safe habitat for wildlife and birds. I spent two days working on location and have since been finishing the final painting in the studio.

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BACK TO THE PRAIRIE

From August 15 – September 15 I’ll be in Wyoming at the Jentel Artist’s Residency where I’ll be working one of my big studio paintings inspired by my time on the American Prairie Reserve. Jentel is located in the Bighorn Mountains, just five hours south of the Prairie Reserve, and offers writers and artists a quiet place to focus on their work. They don’t even have cell or internet service, I can’t wait! After the residency is finished, I’ll be driving north to the Prairie Reserve for a week of plein air painting in mid September. It will be interesting what this landscape is like in a completely different season.

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RECENT PUBLICATIONS

An essay I wrote for Alpinist Magazine’s fiftieth issue can be read online as well as in print. The Dumpster Diaries, Then and Now  reflects on an adventure I wrote about for the Alpinsit ten years ago. It involves climbing, art, and the Trader Joe’s dumpster. Read the original 2004 article here. An article I wrote about my ongoing project on the American Prairie Reserve was published in the RISD XYZ spring/summer issue, free to read online here.

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Prairie Plein Air

It’s hard to believe I have only nine days left out here on the prairie. I’ve been enjoying some quiet time alone, observing the daily changes as spring brings new life to this landscape.

Tonight I have more images than words to share, so I’ll tell my stories through my most recent artwork. Click on the images to see a larger version.

Inspiration In The Wide Open

Sunset Color Study, 8x10, oil on linen

Sunset Color Study, 8×10, oil on linen

I’ve been drawn to the big open skies and the feeling of distance in my paintings here, but the real challenge has been deciphering the characteristics of the sage brush and grass that plays a role in every scene here. When it comes to the studio phase of this project, I imagine a richly textured foreground in my large paintings, with accurate representation of different plant species and ecosystems. I’m thinking of Andrew Wyeth and Albrecht Durer … it is fun to imagine how these artists would paint here. In the painting to the left, I have some good color notes, and when combined with accurate drawings, this type of study will be extremely helpful in bringing my idea to life on the large canvas in the studio.

Snow Flurries, Andrew Wyeth, 1953

Snow Flurries, Andrew Wyeth, 1953

Speaking of inspirations, Wyeth has been on my mind a lot. I love how he takes a mundane subject and imbues it with such weight and power. For instance this hill, looming in front of the viewer, gives me an ominous yet excited feeling about what lies beyond the horizon. I was thinking of this painting when I stopped to paint the above Sunset Color Study, and how intriguing I find the subtle topography here.

On my long walks and runs across the prairie, I am starting to notice which scenes really light up my imagination. There are the wide open vistas and big skies that feel expansive and boundless, the tangled sage brush and grease wood in the foreground that allude to the wildness of this place, and the abstract simplicity of sky vs. grass. In the below painting, Prairie Swoop, I was attracted to the curve of the horizon, the swaths of color, and the gentle wisps of clouds that gesture in unison with the land.

Prairie Swoop

In my ten days out here, it’s rained a few times and the landscape has started to become green. I’ve been covering more miles hiking with the ASC Landmark research crew, and on adventurous trail runs – my favorite way to clear my head and explore new territory for painting. I have yet to make a trip into town, which is an hour away. The local radio station has been an amazing soundtrack for my drives out here – from 7 AM to 1 PM they play only Native American music, which seems to emphasize the feeling I have of being so remote. Way up here near the Saskatchewan border, between two Indian Reservations and in the middle of millions of acres of undeveloped land, this does feel like a rare oasis where the drama of nature has become the dominant presence in my life.

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Prairie Noon, 8×10, oil on linen

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Larb Hills

Larb Hills

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storms, 16×8, oil on linen

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Getting to Know the Prairie

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There are 305,000 acres in all those blue sections

In my first three days on the American Prairie Reserve, I logged 24 miles of hiking and running through this vast landscape in an effort to acquaint myself with this place. Much of those miles were with the Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation Landmark crew as I tagged along on their daily rounds. This group of volunteer researchers have been out here since March 1st traversing the landscape by foot, collecting data that is crucial to understanding wildlife populations. Covering this much ground right away and in the company of people who have a scientific perspective has been an amazing introduction for me. As we walk along, I ask questions about plant species, wildlife behavior, and the prairie ecosystem. If I was alone, much of these fascinating details would go unnoticed under my foreigner’s gaze.

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Just after sunrise on our way out after finding the Sage Grouse lek

On my first morning, I woke up at 3:30 AM to meet the crew for a pre-dawn hike in search of mating sage grouse. These birds return to the same location every year to perform an elaborate mating dance, so we were able to use a GPS system to find our way to the exact spot. There are many of these “leks” on the prairie and the crew has been checking them regularly for the past month. We split up into pairs and set off through the dark. My team had to go three miles across the prairie to find our lek and we were almost running to reach the location by sunrise. If we arrived any later, we risked missing the birds. Before we could even see them, we could hear their guttural whooping calls. We followed the sound until we saw about 30 birds in the distance, with their white chests puffed up, they looked as big as turkeys. Watching through binoculars, I could see them bouncing their chests and strutting around, while only a few females wandered close by acting uninterested. We watched them for about ten minutes and then without warning the entire group took flight and disappeared.

(This is a video I found on youtube, so you can see what I’m talking about)

My crew mates took detailed notes on the sighting, data which will be used to understand the health of the Sage Grouse population, including whether or not they should be considered an endangered species.

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Elaine and Caitlin check a camera trap they set in a spot where they saw a cougar two weeks ago. So far, the cat seems to be camera shy.

Later that day, we went out hiking again, this time to check motion sensitive camera traps to see what kind of animals have been through the area. By this time I had hiked nine miles since waking up and I was glad I had sturdy hiking boots and gaiters as we strode through the prickly pear cactus and knee high sage brush. On our way back, we found what we thought was cougar scat, which was exciting because just two weeks ago, a cougar had been seen in this area but until photo evidence exists, the cougar presence cannot be officially acknowledged.

 

what kind of prairie is this?

what kind of prairie is this? I didn’t sign up for hill hikes!

On day two, I hiked eight more miles to check camera traps and I was surprised at the variety of terrain I was discovering on the prairie. Contrary to my expectations, it wasn’t all flat ground. We were hiking up and down quite a lot and even went through a Ponderosa Pine forest and discovered some lakes. On this trek we spotted a few groups of Pronghorn and Mule Deer, crossed through a Prairie Dog town, and saw a Kestrel.

 

First Light, Prairie Peas. oil on linen

First Light, Prairie Peas. oil on linen, 4/22/15

I’ve also been finding time to paint. In the early morning from 6 – 8 AM, the light is magical and the meadowlarks are singing. It’s a little cold, but I am loving these peaceful hours spent alone with the wind and the grass, soaking in all the details. This quiet time in a remote landscape is such a gift, when I’m out there all my anxieties are gone and I just think about how lucky I am to be present in this place.

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First Sunset on the Prairie, oil on linen 4/20/15

The time spent covering ground with the research crew has been incredibly valuable. Now when I approach my paintings, I’ll know a lot more about the landscape and I’ll pay attention to the subtle differences in ecosystems that exist all across this region. I’ve also seen some spots that I know I’ll return to paint, like the early morning lek trek, which left an impression on my memory. I’d like to take my tent and spend a few days working out there. It’s only day 4, and I’m feeling pretty inspired out here. I’ll try to keep up with the blogging and share as much as I can along the way.  Thanks for following along – Emilie

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Painting the Prairie

I am excited to announce my latest endeavor, a project that unites my interest in wilderness conservation and my love of adventure in a landscape that provides remarkable inspiration. In less than a week, I’ll be heading to Montana for a month of painting on the American Prairie Reserve (APR), a conservation area in the Great Plains that has caught my attention.  This organization is a unique voice in the field of conservation because of its creative method of merging previously-owned land into one encompassing open space. To do this, APR purchases land when it comes on the market and leases adjacent government parcels, then merges them to create a new wilderness. When it is complete, the reserve is expected to be three million acres, the largest wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states.

As an artist who has spent the past six years studying the Hudson River School painters and the world they lived in, I am interested in how my work can investigate the subject of wilderness in the context of our time. We no longer have vast expanses of undeveloped land to claim for conservation, which makes the innovative vision of the American Prairie Reserve an inspiring model for our generation. Nature’s power to reclaim the land calls to attention the impermanence of our human-built world and highlights our own vulnerability as a species. It is important to preserve these wild areas not only for biodiversity and the health of our planet, but for our own consciousness as a civilized people, a sentiment beautifully summed up in this quote:

“Wilderness is an anchor to windward. Knowing it is there, we can also know that we are still a rich nation, tending our resources as we should — not a people in despair searching every last nook and cranny of our land for a board of lumber, a barrel of oil, a blade of grass, or a tank of water.”

– Clinton P. Anderson

Former Senator, New Mexico

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I will spend my time on the prairie making drawings, notes, and plein air paintings while working with the Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation Landmark wildlife research crew to gain a deeper understanding of this unique place. In September 2015 and again in the upcoming winter, I will revisit the prairie to paint the landscape in the different seasons. Over the course of the year I will be working in my studio to compose a series of five paintings, each approximately six feet in width, informed by my studies from the field. I will share the resulting body of work in a show planned for spring 2016 that will lead the viewer through an intimate investigation of the prairie with delicate botanical illustrations, sketches, handwritten notes, and large-scale oil paintings that depict the wide vistas and Montana skies. My work will depict the prairie grasslands and the effort to conserve them in the time-honored tradition of painting, forever preserving this moment in culture for posterity.

Joining me on the prairie will also be musician and native Montanan Jessica Kilroy (Roki Rej, Flitcraft, Pterodactyl Plains) who plans to record elemental sounds (wind in the grass, bird calls, thunder) to use in a musical composition that will accompany my gallery exhibit. Kilroy’s work will bring attention to the value of an unpolluted natural soundscape and add a high level sensory experience for the viewer.

During the final week of my trip, photographer Eugenie Frerichs be with us to document Jessica and I at work in the field. I’m excited to have her perspective on the project because much of her personal work as an artist and photographer explores the concept of wilderness.

Valley of the Chugwater, Sanford Robinson Gifford, 1870.

Historically, artists have played an influential part in shaping American perceptions of wilderness and its role in our national identity. I see my work as an extension of this tradition, exploring a contemporary example of wilderness conservation using a medium and a process that is identical to those of an earlier generation of artists. Among the first European explorers discovering the west were landscape painters like Thomas Moran and Sanford Robinson Gifford who recorded their findings in sketches, small paintings and journals while traversing the unknown territory beyond the Mississippi. Back in their studios, these artists created monumental paintings that glorified the pristine beauty of the American wilderness. Their work had mass cultural appeal and presented a sentimental vision of wilderness to the American people. This moment in art history became known as “The Hudson River School” and is now recognized as the first art movement to originate on American soil. Their paintings sparked the first conservation movement in this country when Moran’s depictions of Yellowstone directly influenced the creation of our first National Park.

As a senior fellow at the Hudson River Fellowship, I have spent the past six years studying this moment in art history and painting in the same Catskills and White Mountains locations where these early artists made their work. In the American Prairie Reserve, I see an opportunity to celebrate an exciting new chapter in conservation history, recognizing nature’s ability to restore itself when the right conditions are created by a group of well organized individuals. This work will inspire not only our generation but those who come after us with a message of hope from the front lines of American conservation.

 

This project is made possible with support from

Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation

American Prairie Reserve

Jentel Foundation

Gamblin Artist Colors

Patagonia

*please take a moment to visit the new calendar on my website to see my upcoming schedule of artist’s talks, workshops, and exhibitions. I’m in a group show in NYC that opens next week and this summer I will be sharing my work in public presentations as an artist in residence at Telluride Mountainfilm (Telluride, CO, May 22), Jentel Foundation (Banner, WY, August) and Glen Arbor Arts Association (Glen Arbor, MI, September). I will also be teaching landscape painting workshops in Central Park, NYC in June and July.

Summer: Episode I

Summer is upon us and I’m about to leave on more painting trips, so I thought it was about time to update the blog before another two months slip away.

In early June I went up to Vermont to begin making studies for a new commissioned project.  It’s a dream job and the perfect blast-off to a great summer: painting an incredible view across Lake Champlain of the Adirondack high peaks.  I began talking with the couple who own this property about a year ago.  They’ve been restoring an old summer lodge on the lake and wanted some custom made paintings that would fit the old-fashioned vibe of the place.  In April I made my first visit to see the land and talk about possibilities for the paintings.  We decided on two larger studio paintings as well as a series of smaller pieces to hang in the house.  Here are a few of the pieces I painted on location during the week I was up there.  I also made a series of careful drawings that will be useful in the studio painting process.  These loose color studies of the view across the lake help me remember what I was feeling and observing when I was there in the moment.  As I get further along with the studio paintings, I will share progress photos and talk about process on my blog.

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Since I returned from Vermont, I’ve been working on composing the first studio painting for the commission.  There’s also been time to get out to enjoy some of the local beaches and escape the heat too!

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New York Harbor from Sandy Hook, 6″x10″ oil on canvas

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Next up:  I’m looking forward to painting in Aspen, CO next week, then meeting up with the Hudson River Fellowship in Jackson NH before heading out to Michigan to paint at the Rabbit Island Artist Residency.

Painting Silver Lake – A Studio Landscape

I’ve recently completed my first “big” studio painting, and I wanted to share some of the work that went into it here. Over the past four summers I’ve been developing my plein air painting skills, working on drawings or small panels under 9″x12″. All along my goal has been to take these outdoor studies into the studio to use as reference for larger paintings. The years of rigorous life study at GCA has been incredible training but I feel limited in my ability to express larger ideas when I can only work with a live subject in front of me. I would love to work from my imagination and still  represent nature truthfully. Ultimately I would like to combine figure, landscape, and other elements into my paintings without using the aid of photographs or digital technology. For me landscape painting has been a perfect place to start experimenting with this process.

the final painting: Silver Lake, 22"x43", oil on linen, 2013

the final painting: Silver Lake, 22″x34″, oil on linen, 2013

This painting was commissioned by Mark and Teresa Richey, who have an incredible view from their lake house in New Hampshire.   I felt I had plenty of freedom for my own creativity, but I enjoyed spending time with the Richeys on location hearing what they loved most about their special spot.  Mt. Chocorua is the star here, but they asked if I could fit the entire mountain range into the composition, which became the main challenge in designing this piece.  The panoramic view meant that most of my canvas would be occupied by sky and water, so I paid special attention to cloud compositions and learning how to paint water.

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detail

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The foundation of this painting is made on the piles of careful drawings and notes that document my observations from life. When I was on location, my mission was to absorb as much information as possible about the structure of the landscape. Detailed drawings of the mountain ranges, the foreground elements, and the behavior of the clouds helped form my vision. With the light conditions constantly changing, my ability to paint detailed scenes was limited and my color studies were abbreviated. What the paintings lack in structure, the drawings accomplish. In these I focused on understanding the three-dimensional form of the landscape so that in the studio I could put the sun wherever I chose and paint the scene accordingly.  I may have gone a little overboard with the amount of sketches I made, but now I have enough information to do several more paintings of this spot!  I’d love to try a sunset or sunrise.

When I look at each of these studies, I am transported back to the moment I was observing when I made them.  I use this time-travel device to help re-create the moment in my mind.  The full sensory experience is important, so I try to recall the smells, sounds, emotions, and thoughts that I had at the time I made the initial study.  I make my painting decisions from this state of meditation, fully occupying the memory.   Ultimately, not everything can be recalled, but the most important things make it through and into the final piece.  Over time this exercise makes your memory stronger!

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This sketch shows contour lines on the mountains that helped me understand the 3 dimensional shape. If I ever want to paint Mt. Chocorua in different lighting circumstances, I have all the information I need in drawings like this.

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This drawing shows a more specific cloud shape, especially at the top of the cloud

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more contour lines.  Here focusing on understanding a certain passage of subtle receding land masses

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These sketches may look like chicken scratches but they were some of the most helpful material I had in the studio painting process!

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clearly I was freaking out over an awesome sunset. These notes help bring me back to that exact moment.   I could still use this to make a color version from memory

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Here I observed the light coming from the spot where I eventually chose to put the sun in the final painting

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This drawing was a little boring to do, but I knew I would need some detailed information about the foreground so that it wouldn’t look too generic

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The middle ground, focusing on capturing some of the individual personalities of these trees

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more detailed study of Mt. Chocorua. It was hard not to spend the entire time just painting this scene. As the centerpiece of the view it was definitely the most interesting part to focus on.

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8″x10″ oil on toned paper.

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8″x10″ oil on toned paper

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foreground trees

This painting

This painting drove me crazy!  I spent two or three afternoons trying to learn how to paint the little waves on the beach.  It was worth the struggle because it helped me in the studio so much.

Clouds Over Mt. Washington

Clouds Over Mt. Washington.  I painted this in another location later on in the summer but this specific study had a big influence on the clouds in my big painting.

Storms at Dusk, Silver Lake, oil on canvas, 2012

Dusk was one of the most magical times of day! This was mostly painted from memory right after the sun set.

Silver Lake Sunset #2, oil on panel, 10"x8"

oil on panel, 10″x8″

Silver Lake Sunset #3, oil on linen, 8"x4"

Silver Lake Sunset #3, oil on linen, 8″x4″

Silver Lake Sunset #4, oil on linen, 5.5"x3"

Silver Lake Sunset #4, oil on linen, 5.5″x3″

Silver Lake Sunrise #1, oil on paper, 10"x5"

Silver Lake Sunrise #1, oil on paper, 10″x5″

Silver Lake Sunrise #2, oil on linen, 8"x3.5"

Silver Lake Sunrise #2, oil on linen, 8″x3.5″

Silver Lake Sunrise #3, oil on linen, 9.5"x4"

Silver Lake Sunrise #3, oil on linen, 9.5″x4″

Silver Lake, Storms, oil on panel, 6"x12"

Silver Lake, Storms, oil on panel, 6″x12″

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Silver Lake Sunset #1, oil on linen, 4"x7" (for sale in Silent Auction)

Silver Lake Sunset #1, oil on linen, 4″x7″

Two months passed before I had a chance to begin the studio painting phase. Meanwhile I was continuing to paint outside in other locations, and always keeping in mind the things I would need to learn in order to tackle my commission.

Once back in the studio, I took out all my drawings and began working on a composition.  Using a perspective grid, I was able to piece together my different sketches into a believable space.  I placed a few sailboats in the scene to help give a sense of distance since the receding shore line is nearly horizontal and I thought it might be hard to sense how far away the right hand side of the far shore is.

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After shuffling around all these parts until it felt right, I transferred the drawing to a small 9″x14″ canvas to start a small version of the painting I envisioned.

Color Study for Silver Lake, 9"x12" oil on canvas, 2012

Color Study for Silver Lake, 9″x12″ oil on canvas, 2012

The small painting was a crucial step in this whole process.  It gave me a chance to work through a lot of the questions I had in a more forgiving scale.  After Mark and Teresa approved of this version, I dove into the final process.

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final painting: Silver Lake, 22″x43″, oil on canvas, 2013

Working through this whole project has taught me so much.  When I come up against a section that I don’t know how to paint, I go do some research.  I look at master paintings of a similar passage, or go outside to observe nature.  Back in the studio I try to bring my observations to life in the painting.  The process becomes a feedback loop – from plein air study to studio painting and back.  It keeps my mind constantly challenged and learning.  Among the many reasons I don’t paint from photographs is that it prevents this analytical learning process.  The photo flattens out the world and it’s too easy to just copy the flat shapes in the photo.  It feels limiting and lifeless.  I’d much rather struggle through some unknown territory and learn along the way!

If you took the time to read all of this, thanks for sticking with me, I hope some of it was helpful or interesting!  I welcome comments or discussion too, so don’t be shy.

at the office

Paradise!