Thursday, July 30, 2015

Day 6 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

The only way I could contend with the parking situation at the location I wanted to paint was to arrive early. Very early- 5:00am and sunrise wasn't until 5:43. It was still kinda dark as I began setting up my easel.

I wanted to capture that faint, gingerly light that first casts itself over the barn area. Doable since it was another humid day and the sun was hazy behind a thin veil of clouds. My scene is still in shadow with a creeping, subdued light to the right.
Four Pines, 11"x14", oil on panel

This is Barn 49, Michael Trombetta's barn. Michael is a Maryland-based trainer who consistently finishes close to the top of the trainer's standing every year. He sent up a small string in the care of some very capable help. A young man named William is the hotwalker who I tried to depict and he is over six feet tall. Patient and gentle with his horses, he displayed some excellent horsemanship even when a filly went ballistic while being bitten by a fly.

Here's what I've learned so far for every day I've plein air painted the barn area.
  1. If I made four hundred paintings instead of forty, I would still never run out of inspiring subject matter here on the backside.
  2. Pay attention when closing the top of the brush cleaner. It will pinch the bejeebers out of a finger and neatly slice skin now requiring bandaids for the rest of the week.
  3. There is a little know-it-all voice in my head that says things like "don't fool with this", "I told you to leave it alone", "now you've made a mess" "oh great, go back and fix it".
  4. I really can paint from memory. As a life-long studio painter who utilizes all manner of reference material, this was a wonderful revelation. What a good exercise for keeping the ol' noggin' sharp.
  5. I'm very pleased with the enthusiastic response I've received. People are very curious about what I'm doing and are supportive and encouraging. They think I'm nuts, but they're intrigued.
  6. There is no substitute for painting from life. None. No photograph can provide the amount of information that a set of eyes can see. I'm becoming an obsessive convert.
I want you to know that I'm baring my artistic soul here. I'm a newbie at this plein air painting and there are days when I struggle. There will be some paintings that I probably shouldn't post but maybe you can take something from my mistakes as I know I'm learning every day. At the end of the forty days, I will be a different painter.

With all sincerity,
Sharon

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Day 5 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

My first "tonal" painting. It was an unusual sunrise with orange clouds and fog drifting both on the ground and at low levels in the sky. Very hot and humid today and we finally broke 90*, I believe it got up to 94*.

This is a small one. I absolutely could not find a parking place where I intended to paint. I thought about it all day and I have a plan to foil that dilemma tomorrow morning. But I was glad for the diversion:
Ground Fog, 5"x7", oil on panel
 I love the way the barn roofs picked up the reflection of all that crazy light.

The price is $200. framed and includes free shipping within the U.S. You can purchase it with the PayPal button below or feel free to contact me for other options. I accept installments and you can also purchase it unframed for $150.



Hot and steamy (but it doesn't last long),
Sharon

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Day 4 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

I'm a day late. Today, Tuesday, is a dark day and I simply collapsed last night and went right to sleep. Unusual for this insomniac.

Yesterday morning was overcast and foggy, giving me more time to paint. There are a few add-on stalls such as these around the barn area, usually for the stable ponies. This particular pony is Bucky, belonging to Shug McGaughey and he's a feisty twenty-three year old. The horse on the left is a filly in love with Bucky.

The cool light enabled me to really observe and match that odd putty gray-green color of the barn. It's a very muted middle value. I use a combination of yellow ochre, veridian, chromatic black and of course white. If you've never used Gamblin's Chromatic Black, it's actually a mixture of pthalo green and quinacridone red and comes out of the tube a rich, jet black. It's quite versatile.

Bucky, 11"x14", oil on panel
I went bigger with this painting. I'm much more comfortable with a larger size.



The price is $750. framed and includes free shipping within the U.S. You can purchase it with the PayPal button below or feel free to contact me for other options. I accept installments and you can also purchase it unframed for $625.00

Taking the rest of the day off,
Sharon

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Day 3 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

It rained this morning. After I helped Michael open the tent, I headed directly over to Oklahoma. The traffic is extreme and parking is so insane there are no words to describe the frustration. No wonder some people lose it! Found some peace and quiet way in the back of the barn area.

This is another backlit scene but in the afternoon sun this time. Between finishing with morning training and afternoon feeding exists a quiet time (unless you're running a horse). Many of the help take naps, run errands or go to the races. Bikes are a convenient mode of transportation and this scene is a common one.
Bike, 8"x11" oil on panel
The price is $500. framed and includes free shipping within the U.S. You can purchase it with the PayPal button below or feel free to contact me for other options. I accept installments and you can also purchase it unframed for $400.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Day 2 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

I had to spend Friday and today in my booth on the frontside. There are too many friends and clients stopping by to visit and ask about what's new and I don't want to miss any of them. I call it "hugs and kisses day".

Today's painting was also created earlier in the week as I knew I'd be spending two long days in the booth. Cheating? I don't think so. There will be days when Michael will have to be home printing stretching, matting, pressing and all manner of replenishing the booth with artwork and merchandise and I'll be in the booth. It's good to be a little ahead. Speaking of that merchandise, we've cut back on gift items as I'm beginning to feel that the it monopolizes our time and steals attention from possible paintings sales. We'll still have mousepads (yes, they're still selling), 8"x10" matted prints, notecards, my children's book and a few other things. I'm also still offering customized jockey silks - more on those here: Jockey Silks

This is a morning backlit view of Michael Dilger's barn after a hard rain the night before. If awards were given for best tricked out barn, Michael would win it every year. Beautiful hanging baskets and pots of flowers create a lovely and appealing atmosphere. His workers were so friendly - they kept visiting the easel to track my progress and inquire about which hotwalker made it into the painting. I love my job.

Dilger's Barn, 8"x10", oil on panel
The price is $500. framed and includes free shipping within the U.S. You can purchase it with the PayPal button below or feel free to contact me for other options. I accept installments and you can also purchase it unframed for $400.


So darn pretty,
Sharon

Friday, July 24, 2015

Day 1 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

I'm cheating a little bit as this is opening day at the Saratoga Race Course and I've been working diligently for the past two days to get my booth ready. There are some priorities, I guess, although I'd much rather be painting.

This is the plein air piece that I painted last Sunday I believe, to be sure that I could pull this lofty project into a tangible product. It was a cloudy day which gave me more time to paint without chasing the light. I have to keep reminding myself that this is not a sprint, but a marathon to be savored and learned from.

Wash Rack, 8"x10", oil on panel

It's Todd Pletcher's wash rack behind his barn. I thought the open barn in the background was for ponies, having never paid it much attention. Apparently it's being used for runners which I thought very interesting as it's so open and on the main busy main road in the barn area. The training track is just beyond the road. Must be the calm ones of the outfit, or perhaps they become used to all the activity.

The price is $500. framed and includes shipping with the U.S. You can purchase it with the PayPal button below or feel free to contact me for other options. I accept installments and you can also purchase it unframed for $400.



Thank you for following me on this crazy journey,
Sharon 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New Project

Forty paintings in forty days?

An idea from Michael several weeks ago. He's willing to man the booth if I'm willing to show up everyday at the Oklahoma Training Track and paint. We spit in our palms and shook hands on it.

Either at sunrise or later in the afternoon, you'll find me painting plein air (outdoors direct from life) somewhere in the Oklahoma barn area. Will I succeed in such an undertaking? All I can promise is the effort. Realistically, if I can manage to produce half of that lofty number, it will be an accomplishment.

I spent a recent morning walking miles through the barn area while mapping the configuration and making note of where all the ladies rooms are located. Putting big stars where I think potential paintings exist has given me some direction. I will get up before sunrise and show up...unless it's raining and then the day is cancelled (oil and water do not mix no matter how hard I try to blow the droplets away). Six weeks of exhibiting at the track is a mighty grind and there will be days when fatigue will overtake my resolve.

The paintings will be done mostly alla prima (all in one session) therefore they will be smallish, 8"x10" or 11"x14" if I'm ambitious. There may be days when I have to return for a second session.

Embarking on a few practice runs this past weekend revealed a flood of emotional feelings that I still have for the biz. I experienced a belonging and felt at ease with the people I know and admire. This is my element and it was comfortably familiar.

I'll be posting every piece right here on this blog beginning Friday evening with a PayPal link if you're interested in acquiring one. If you can make it to Saratoga, Michael is arranging the tent to highlight this painting-a-day project throughout the race meet. I'll also share a commentary about my process, what I find inspiring and any other stuff I think you may find interesting.

Here's where my new location is:
I'm the third tent down from the jockey silks room heading toward the grandstand. If you know my old location, just turn around and you can't miss me. I'm directly across from the brand new building that forced my relocation.

Wish me luck (I'll need it),
Sharon

Sunday, July 12, 2015

American Pharoah Craze

I rarely do spec paintings. My partner requested that I create a couple of paintings to celebrate the new Triple Crown winner and I decided to oblige as people will be visiting my tent and asking for American Pharoah. But I had to enjoy it as sometimes these projects can turn into a tedious chore.

Due to all the copyright issues and permission requirements, I used a couple of my old paintings as "models". It wasn't at all difficult as I've become proficient at understanding the anatomy of strides (years of studying Muybridge) and confirmation. I also had help from a racing friend in California who's deft with a camera. Overall, it was challenging enough to hold my interest.

American Pharoah is a brown horse with no chrome and a short tail. Frosted is medium gray, also with no chrome. Straightforward. Hopefully, the owners won't be cranky that I've used their racing silks. This is a slippery slope...remember Funny Cide and the Funny Cide store in Saratoga selling all things Funny Cide (even Funny Cide beer)?

I love the process of gold leafing. Laying down the gold as it tears unpredictably is a wonderful thing. I don't trust my oils to behave well with the medium therefore it gives me an excuse to practice with acrylics.
American Pharoah on a Morning Gallop, 7"x5" gold leaf and acrylic on panel.
I have a longing to become proficient with watercolors. It won't happen but I let myself play now and then. This was pure experimentation and a blast:
American Pharoah in Training, apprx. 14"x20" watercolor on paper.

Frosted had the misfortune of being a three-year-old the same year as AP. I think he's a really nice horse...I even bet on him somewhere back during the prep races. I hope he'll be around for a while as he could mature into a the champion he deserves to be:
Chasing American Pharoah, 24"x18", oil on canvas

I'm finished with it all and my partner is pleased. It remains to be seen how popular this west coast horse will be here on the Atlantic side. If he does indeed make the Travers, I will be one very happy artist!

Still painting horses...
Sharon

Monday, July 06, 2015

Why Don't Young People Care About the Visual Arts?

It was a rocky week, last week. Word ricocheted about NYRA's changes for the upcoming season. I'm one to roll with the rumors, however, when it was verified that there would be no open house this year, I was deeply disappointed.

When an artist encounters stress while in the midst of a decent painting, it detrimentally affects the project. I just about ruined what I thought was a very strong piece. Losing concentration and focus is deadly for inspired production.

To start off the week fresh, I headed out very early to one of my favorite plein air destinations...Yaddo, right here in Saratoga. To those of you not familiar with Yaddo, it embodies a rich history of support and retreat for artists and writers. Click here for the facsinating story. Yaddo has hosted over sixty Pulitzer Prize winners and a Nobel Prize recipient. You can check out the roster of impressive alumni on Wikipedia.

For this local yokel, I love the exquisite gardens that are open to the public. Although the extreme winter and hungry deer have challenged the roses, they still present their ephemeral beauty with determination. I have never painted flowers other than colorful dot dot dots in a field and today I thought I'd give it a whirl. Give me some slack...I've never done this before AND I forgot my cadmium orange. My artist friends will know that mixing cad red with cad yellow should yield a cad orange but no, the manufacturers have the cadmium orange market authoritatively cornered.

As I immersed myself in exploration, a young woman in her 20's walked by...her face tuned in to her electronic device. Remember, it's about 7:00 am. She didn't seem to notice me set up by the yellow roses but strode directly to, ironically, the sun dial. There she sipped her Stewart's coffee (local favorite convenient chain) and stared intently into her device. All the while, the roses struggled to put on their glorious show, the birds sang their repertoire and the butterflies gracefully fluttered. The groundskeepers arrived to feed the koi. After her last upturned coffee gulp, she left just as she arrived...never looking up from her hand-held device.

I accept that it's a new world and while I don't have to like the distracted changes, I know I have no choice but to accept them. They're never going to go away and I can like it or lump it. I try not to judge the new shiny generation...but I wonder about the simple aesthetics of a straightforward gift from nature that they seem oblivious to...

My painting gear is to the left of the front column.


View from the main rose garden.
Koi enjoying breakfast.
No doubt you've seen this photo that went viral recently. 'Nuff said:
So, this got me thinking: is this the reason that young people have no interest in the visual arts? Is it because their attention is so limited that they no longer have any field of vision? Are they at all aware that life is happening around them? At quantum speed? Do they know that their hands are holding a device that is not only buzzing with electricity but also possesses sub-atomic particles with cool names like bosons and quarks and leptons that are swirling around with their DNA and hold the answers to...everything? Can they ever be intuitive...pick up vibes...experience that inner knowing of the present moment?

Love to hear your thoughts...
Sharon

Friday, June 12, 2015

My Latest Plein Air Experience

I returned last weekend from the Mountain Maryland Plein Air Competition. Overall, it was a great week. I say "overall" because the weather was pretty crappy with overcast drizzle that sometimes turned quite blustery. And it was cold. Colder than up here in the arctic circle.

However, the people were first class including the organizers and volunteers of the event as well as my host family who were supreme. Friendly, hospitable, willing to help but most of all: enthused about the art that was being produced throughout the week.

I'm still a newbie to the plein air genre. Barely two years of painting outside and here I am entering competitions. The nerve. I'm not kidding myself, I'm competing against very seasoned artists who have been on the circuit for a long, long time.

I mentioned that I might not be ready for prime time to a board member and she couldn't agree less, stating that I was a very experienced artist and that I was merely re-inventing myself. When I mentioned that my quick draw pieces (paintings produced in a timed two hours, it's a separate, fun competition) were my strongest, she offered "there you go, you're over-thinking." Well, that was a large epiphany of sorts after my intensive year of constant self-study.

Here are the quick draw pieces. The first is a restored train station in the nearby town of Frostburg. I was pleased with the freshness of the brushstrokes.
Frostburg Station, 8"x10", oil on panel
The experienced artists are all painting large, even in the quick draw competitions. I told myself to paint big or go home. Right, all the way up to 14"x11". This piece was in the main quick draw in downtown Cumberland.
Rails, 14"x11", oil on canvas panel
Hard to see here but the grays are subtle and suggest the overcast atmosphere. I think this was my strongest piece. The composition is also decent.

I also wasn't too displeased with this next piece. Painted from the back of my mini-van high above the city in a church parking lot, it has a wispy feel of the foggy, saturated air. I kept the brushstrokes loose and light.
Foggy Cumberland, 11"x14", oil on canvas panel
So here's a little story I'll share with you. Late last Saturday afternoon was of course, the running of the Belmont Stakes. I believed that American Pharoah had the best chance of winning the third leg of the Triple Crown than any of the close contenders of the past twenty-five years. I decided I would NOT miss the race. Here's what I posted on my Facebook timeline:

I ran out to a bar across the street during the middle of the awards ceremony at the Mountain Maryland Plein Air. It was surreal...total strangers screaming and hugging each other after that phenomenal race. Shows where my heart still wants to be, damn it.

Yup. The next morning as I packed to head home, I became misty and emotional. What? The more I try to distance myself from horse racing, the harder it pulls me back. I know I can never walk away from it. It won't let me go. My peeps won't let me either and that's a very, very exceptional and blessed thing indeed.

Sniff, sniff,
Sharon