November Birches

Like many artists, I want my paintings to turn out well. But that typically means that I sacrifice experimentation for tried and true techniques. Risk vs. Return. At some point, though, I start to feel stale and uninspired, and then I know that it’s time to change the line up and go for risk. Such was the case with painting these birches. Here, I cast off my usual careful drawing and painting style and tested a variety of watercolor techniques. To achieve background depth, I built up layers of color behind the… Read More

Moods of Autumn

I met Connecticut artist Jan Blencowe last week and we headed to Hammonassett Beach State Park to sketch together. The Connecticut coast is on the Long Island Sound, rather than directly on the Atlantic, so there is no surf. Instead, stretches of quiet beach and boulders dropped by glaciers some 17,000 years ago line the coast. Hammonassett also preserves 460 acres of salt marsh and that’s where we headed to try to capture the color and mood of Autumn. The day was bright, but windy and cool. After sketching the salt marsh for… Read More

Life and Pears

The allure of supermarket pears is real: perfectly shaped, beautifully colored, promisingly sweet. Pears grown wild are not like that. They come warped and blemished; who knows what’s inside. Life and pears…not the way they’re supposed to be, but how they are. Sometimes sweet, sometimes rotten. “It’s how we cope that makes the difference.”

Beautifully Poisonous

I found a ring of impressive mushrooms in the lawn outside my son’s apartment in Lexington, Virginia last weekend. It had been raining for several days, which brought on the fall bloom. Curious, I picked these samples, drew them, and then did some research to identify them and learn more. How fun to discover something so beautifully poisonous! I’ve done many pages like this over the years. I love finding something that I don’t know much about, sketching it, taking notes, reading and researching, and combining it all on the page. The result… Read More

Well Protected

Sharp spines, thick shells, noxious odors — the lengths a tree will go to protect its seed! I found these while exploring a local cemetery in my new hometown. Alive among the dead, the American chestnut really caught my attention. Once the predominant tree of Eastern forests, they are a rare find today. A fungus nearly killed off the entire species by 1940. In contrast, the ginkgo is an ancient survivor. Native to China, but planted widely in cities, ginkgoes have been on Earth since the days of the dinosaurs. I had never… Read More

Undesirable Beauties

I was drawn to the golden orbs of the horsenettle while hiking last week in an old field on the edge of an orchard. Bright spots of yellow against faded, brown grasses and dried wildflowers, I decided to take a stem home to paint. Upon identification, I was not surprised to learn that the plant is invasive and unwanted, as are many plants that grow in the weedy margins of fields. Still, I love the way the fruit drapes from the tendrilous vines and there is something ironic, yet masterful in a… Read More

Drawing Donuts

If donuts don’t immediately strike you as artistic subjects, you’re not alone. I got a few passing glances from the staff of the farm café and bakery when I sat down with my hot cider and bag of donuts and proceeded to paint them. Fortunately, it was an hour from closing time and the café was pretty deserted, so I sat contentedly savoring the quiet moment. This page illustrates what I like best about keeping an artist journal. Freed from the pressure of making a “finished” piece of artwork, my journal is… Read More

Pear Portrait

Beautiful form, beautiful color. Is it any wonder that pears have been artistic subjects for ages? From Roman mosaics to Renaissance religious paintings, from woodcuts and engravings of the 17th and 18th centuries to Impressionist paintings in the 19th century– the pear proves a worthy subject. When I see pears at the market or a farm stand, I can’t resist buying them. I don’t care that much about eating them. Not that a good pear isn’t heavenly. I just feel compelled to paint them. But pears, like apples, are tricky. Seemingly simple,… Read More

Grief and Glory

The last blaze of autumn’s glory is upon us in upstate New York. Gold, crimson, bronze, and green hang on, even after several days of wind and rain. Among the best places to see the show, I knew, would be in one of my area’s oldest and grandest rural cemeteries – Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, New York. Established in early 1848, Oakwood’s monuments are dwarfed by towering oaks, maples, beech, and hickories. How fitting, then, to paint there just two days after a longtime family friend died of cancer. In retrospect, I… Read More

Keeping it simple

This was one of those weeks where art took a back seat to everything else I needed to cram into my life. So when a few hours presented themselves yesterday, I knew I had to seize the moment. Choosing a fairly simple subject would give me chance to focus…and to finish. I really wanted to complete at least one page and be able to move on. Unfortunately, while I found the common milkweed a joy to draw, it was much more challenging to paint than I had anticipated. What color are those… Read More