Saturday, October 27, 2012

Photos of Autumn in Santa Fe

When I lived in Santa Fe some years back, I bought a camera (a point-and-shoot, nothing fancy) and made regular excursions to find scenes to take back to my studio and turn into paintings.  I tried the plein aire thing--painting landscapes from life rather than from photos--but never found it satisfactory.  Ants would crawl up my legs.  Or I'd have to keep shifting to stay out of the sun.  Or a sudden squall would come up.  Or I'd see a striking scene where it wasn't convenient to park myself.  I even came to the conclusion that the best way to pursue plein aire art was to first find an appropriate place to sit and then look around for something to paint.

But I gathered a nice complement of photos.  Here are a few autumnal scenes, all of which I thought I might paint one day.

Mountain aspens

A blue, blue sky and an amazing patch of red

Bandelier Garden on Canyon Road

Up Hyde Park Road behind Santa Fe

The red gate, hint of the scruffy house, plus the silvers and bronzes seemed an unusual, painterly scene.

There's that red patch again ... Hyde Park Road on the way up to the Ski Basin.

Chamisa in bloom
O'Keeffe country ... Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pastel Paintings of Autumn in Santa Fe


The word "pastel" is so often associated with a soft-color palette that one might not realize it can also refer to little chalky sticks that are used a bit like crayons.  No brush is involved.  (And so I've always had a bit of an argument with those who call such works "paintings" but that, indeed, is the term.)  The artist, Wolf Kahn, once described pastels as being like "the dust on butterflies' wings."

I lived in Santa Fe some years ago turning my well-lit breakfast area into an art studio.  I attempted a few oil paintings but didn't like having toxic fumes--from both the paints and the turpentine--around food.  So I fished out a box of pastels that had belonged to my parents and used them instead.  One of my favorite activities when living there was to browse through a splendid art store on Canyon Road and come away with anything at all--a new little sketch book, a sable watercolor brush, or more luscious, colorful pastels.

Wanting to get into the Santa Fe art scene, I decided to do a series of pieces and present them to various galleries.  So, using pastels as my medium, I picked autumn as my subject.  In the end, I did manage to exhibit two or three but as for finding representation, I'd get such comments as, "Oh, pastel.  Well, we already have our pastel artist."  (As if they were only allowed one.)  Or "These are very nice.  If they were in oils, I'd take them."  Or (and this was from Elizabeth Taylor's son--he with her same violet eyes--in a gallery on Canyon Road), "Thanks but we already have a lot of work we don't even have space for."  I ended up hanging some on my walls, selling a few, and storing the rest in my portfolio between sheets of protective glassine.

An Alameda Hallowe'en

Aspen Autumn

Blue Chairs

Gathering Copper Light

One Hallowe'en in Bandelier Garden

October Orchard

Indian Summer (I expected to rephotograph this but sold it before I could.)

Tesuque Trail

Arroyo (Not autumn, but I like it so thought I'd include it.)

Next week's posting, the last in this October Splurge, will show photos of autumn in Santa Fe.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Photos of Autumn in Vermont

As the sun heads south and the days shorten, trees draw their sap, their strength, their chlorophyll into their core to keep from freezing.  All that remains is structure, cells, bare bones, color ... for, under the chlorophyll, an oak leaf is brown, a box elder yellow, a sugar maple red.  So saying, the countryside has now been awash in school-bus yellows and enough reds and oranges to bring leaf peepers in their out-of-state cars to meander our dirt-bumpy roads, stop at our over-looks, and photograph any covered bridge in sight.  Fun times.

Here are some local scenes from autumns past.

An apple orchard ... where the movie The Cider House Rules was filmed.

Some of its apples

Next week's posting will show paintings of autumn in Santa Fe.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Watercolors of Autumn in Vermont

I'm going for an October Splurge, taking these next four postings to show some of my autumnal paintings and photos of two gorgeous spots--first Vermont, then Santa Fe and environs.  Unlike summer (all greens) and winter (all whites or greys), autumn around here is easy to paint since it invites you to splash your brush about in your paint-box and come up with outrageous colors.

That was a term I first heard used by Wolf Kahn, a New York City/Vermont artist (and colorist) who can paint a barn turquoise green, a sky pink, and tree trunks lavender.  (When giving a talk at our local museum, he came in emerald green trousers and a yellow T-shirt.)  Describing seasonal landscapes, he once said that it was in autumn that "nature gives you permission to use outrageous colors" ... though he added that one can use this same bright palette anytime.  "Intense colors are always available," he said, whether that meant choosing magenta, say, to paint shadows or turning a river yellow.  He liked using bright colors because they stretched one's vision and also kept him and his viewers from being bored.  Pretty, he didn't want; unusual, he did.  But he also felt that because his colors were so intense, he needed to keep his subject as simple as possible.  So:  a river, some trees, a sky.  Or:  a barn, a sky.  Or:  a line of trees, a mountain, some sky.

But getting back to enjoying this season's color palette, here are my watercolor renderings of autumn in our part of the world.

The challenge with this first painting was to paint the negative space around the trees rather than the trees themselves.  That took a lot of concentration since I didn't draw the trees in very carefully, not wanting to get too fiddly about it and also knowing that even if I did delineate everything before painting it, I'd probably get confused along the way. In the long run, I did manage to leave the branches and trunks bare, letting the white paper show through.  Later, I added shadow-like purple washes here and there.

West Dummerston Mail Boxes

West Hill Road

The above piece shows a technique I enjoy using sometimes to add interest--using different colors on the right and left sides of the painting. 

I decided to paint this when I saw how beautifully the trees behind me were reflected in the glass doors and windows of my friend's house.

Mt. Wantastiquet in Autumn
I did the above in a highly loose style in order to capture the wet, foggy mood.

Dutton Farm Road in November
Here, I wanted the eye to be drawn to the center of the painting, so I emphasized the dark green tree and center clouds.

Kipling Road Country Walk

This road, which I've often walked, gets its name from Rudyard Kipling who lived here at the end of the 19th century.  As you'll note, I painted the left tree trunks brown and the right blue-grey.

Next week's posting will show photos of autumn in Vermont.