Thursday, October 08, 2015


Last week I participated in the Seneca Lake Plein Air Festival. Prior to the event, the weather was gorgeously warm and sunny. On the first day of painting the temps dropped into the low 40's with brisk winds to boot. Michael urged me to pack long underwear and I was soooo grateful that I did. Concluding the event on Sunday, the temps went back into the warm and sunny 60's. Go figure.

I struggled with the cold as all of us artists did. The first morning at 7:00am, I set up in a pretty marina. Because the water was still warm (70 degrees I was told) and the air temps were rapidly descending, an ethereal mist rose off the surface. I went big, 16"x20".

Temperature Change, 16"x20", oil on panel
I didn't win any prizes but I thought this painting was decent enough. I managed a couple of smaller pieces but they were so-so. The organizers encouraged us to bring extra work for the Sunday public display. I brought the better plein air pieces recently painted at Oklahoma. Guess what? I sold horse paintings. Horse paintings! It was all anyone was interested in. The marina painting brought barely a passing glimpse. Go figure.

In hindsight and giving this situation lots of thought, I compared it to horse paintings in Saratoga. Equine art saturates galleries, restaurants, banks - you name it - until everyone is sick of them. In Geneva's culture of water and lakes, perhaps a similar scenario holds true, and, when I recall what the other artists were selling, it was the rolling landscapes of farms, nocturnes and urban scenes with a possible sliver of lake way in the understated background.

Isn't it ironic?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

My Quick Return to Oklahoma

The weather this past week was nothing short of spectacular. Even though I have orders and commissions waiting, I couldn't resist getting back to the Oklahoma training track, this time without the pressure of time constraints and alla prima demands. Four consecutive mornings of two hour sessions (7-9) produced a studied piece. I went bigger, the biggest I've plein air painted to date, 16"x20".

With the change in the weather giving us cooler nights (50's) and the hot horses just returning from the track, the steam resulting from their baths was abundantly beautiful! In fact, I could have put more in. I painted the background and let it set up a bit in order to apply a light, warm tone which I scrubbed in with my finger, otherwise I would have been dealing with a muddy mess (something I'm very good at...making mud). I can tweak a few things but I'm letting this remain a 100% plein air piece.

Cool Morning, Hot Bath, 16"x20", oil on canvas (sold)
There are several pieces from the Forty (Thirty) Paintings in Forty Days project that I want to revisit, this one being the back of Weaver's barn. The first one I completed was subject to a hazy, overcast day and a two hour deadline. What a difference, huh?
Behind Weaver's Barn, 8"x10" oil on panel

As promised, a Saratoga 2015 review:
  •  Many fans were disgruntled due to several track changes this year and freely vented their unhappiness on us. At first we politely listened and then - we'd had enough negativity. We suggested that they contact NYRA management and express their views to them as there was nothing that we as vendors could do and the powers-that-be should be made aware.
  • My booth has not been located in the same spot for six years and I wonder how many people who wanted to visit couldn't find me. The new location was fine, but will I be there next year?
  • The weather was simply gorgeous. Warm, wonderfully sunny days and it only rained on Tuedays (dark) or during the night! 
  • Fifteen thousand plus fans showing up early Friday morning before the Travers just to witness American Pharoah gallop was a phenomenon we will not see again any time soon. His defeat to Keen Ice affirmed this track as the "graveyard of favorites." I thought he ran a stupendous race in the Travers and has nothing to apologize for. Nothing. Not with his resume.
  • I spent little time in the booth as that was the deal Michael made with me. Didn't miss it either!
  • Plein air painting almost every day under the pressure of creating a completed piece is one of the best challenges I have ever taken on. What I learned and experienced couldn't be duplicated in any other situation. Don't get me wrong, a workshop with the likes of Scott Christensen is still on my bucket list! I painted some mediocre pieces, some real turkeys but also some decent ones. Even sold several. Michael put up a sign at the booth entrance inviting people to come in and see the "painting of the day" and they did! As I photographed for this blog I harshly self-critiqued each piece and that's where the accelerated learning took place.
  • The biggest takeaway? Confidence. My uneasy self-consciousness melted away daily as I met so many supportive people who thought it was a hoot that I set up my gear all over Oklahoma to paint. As one owner told me, "I love seeing you do this - that's the way Saratoga is supposed to be."
And it's not over,

Sunday, September 13, 2015

OPA Paint Out

Oil Painters of America encourages members throughout the country to organize plein air paint outs . Today I attended one in Londonderry, Vermont, and although the weather was not quite cooperating, it was still lots of fun and a relief to not be rushing through a painting. Organized by accomplished artist Hilary Mills Lambert at Taylor Farm (a real working farm), it was a great way to unwind from the stress of the Oklahoma plein air series and meet some new artist friends.

The farm offered plenty of cows, horses, goats, hogs, chickens and one turkey. The horses were out in a large paddock and would not come visit, so I settled for some very sweet and friendly young cows.

It was a dark and drizzly day but I set up under the hatchback of my minivan. The cows were terrible models and wandered off when bored and/or filled up with hay. It's great practice for a lazy and defiant memory.

I decided to pack it in when the moisture invaded my oils, plus I was getting chilled from the damp and cooler temps. Before leaving, I grabbed my camera to take some photos. I love this series - this artist set up her easel and moved to the right where her vehicle was parked to retrieve something. The chickens were overcome with curiosity!

Here's the list of upcoming paint outs, and most are open to non-OPA members.


Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Day 30 - Forty, er, Thirty Paintings in Forty Days

I didn't hit the forty mark but I did manage thirty! Whoo hoo!

Those other ten days I had to be in the booth (every Saturday), work in the studio (coating giclees and one rush order commission), give Michael a couple of days to print orders, and one sick day. I thought I could make up any missed days on Tuesday (our dark day) but that was filled with packing and shipping, running to the art store in Albany and/or to one of our suppliers, and the rest of the usual errands of grocery shopping, the cleaners, bank, etc.

Today I'm faced with the herculean task of tearing down the tent, washing grid walls and the tent itself. My house is a disaster...looks more like a warehouse with hoarder-like pathways. The cats are feeling horribly neglected but they'll get over it in a few days when they realize life is returning to normal. Funny how they become sullen when they don't get attention.

It's all good though.

I've fallen back in love with blogging. I used to post 2-3 times per week before everyone jumped on the Facebook bandwagon and I determined no one was reading my posts. The problem with FB is we don't own that little piece of cyber real estate and someone else decides what we can see and who will see us.

I admit I dashed this one off yesterday:
Last Day, 8"x10", oil on panel
I was close to Union Ave. on the outside of the old Horse Haven track. Michael and others were waiting for me and I was anxious to join them. Ironically, as I painted, someone across the street played a bagpipe! Just when you start taking yourself too seriously...

I'm glad I'm not at Oklahoma today, watching all those vans pack up the outfits and head out. My heart is filled with love and admiration for not only the horses but also the people who work on the backside. I know firsthand what their lives consist of. I didn't feel this compassionate when I was one of them. From the outside looking in, I guess. Distance. I met so many dedicated trainers and workers and they were all wonderfully supportive of my efforts.

I'll go into more detail in a few days after I analyze the summer and muck out a bit.

Still wired,

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Day 29 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

PBS used to air a program, Landscapes Through Time with David Dunlop. Dunlop, who is a very accomplished artist and passionate teacher, would travel the world to places know to have been painted by famous masters. Dunlop would present not only a history lesson but also discuss technique, science, materials, the social and economic milieu, etc. One episode in particular that I remember is Renoir's Olive Groves in Cagnes Sur Mer, France. Dunlop pointed out how Renoir would use trees to frame a focal point.

The Farm at Les Collettes, Cagnes, by August Renoir, oil on canvas
Dunlop would also be in the company of student artists who traveled with him to plein air paint the same views as best they could search them out. He would offer an encouraging critique, however, never hesitant to take the brush from their hand and have at it with their paints on their canvas. I loved it!

When I saw this scene this morning I thought of Dunlop emphasizing this technique with a student (he took her brush and created window-like draperies with the trees). My view is from the opposite direction of an earlier piece that I painted on Day 12.

Tree Canopy, 8"x10" oil on panel
Only one day to go and the meet will conclude. I'll go out tomorrow morning to paint Day 30. Then back to the booth to celebrate.

Maybe drink some vodka,

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Day 28 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

I'm going for thirty paintings in forty days and I think that's worth patting myself on the back. Just two more after today. However, I'm embarking on a marathon studio painting session tomorrow for a client - leaving the weekend to finish up. I think I'll make it.

Fatigue is setting in for both Michael and I. The days have been insufferably long but I'm always amazed at what can be accomplished with dogged fortitude. My brain shuts down before my body which seemingly switches to autopilot without me.

It was difficult to concentrate today. This spot had a picnic table that I left out to focus on the light and shadows. In the background is a building, probably a dorm, and a wash rack. The fence is the remnant of the old, old track.

Shade, 9"x12" oil on canvas

It occurred to me today that I've painted 28 quick draw pieces without the luxury of time.The smaller panels (5"x7", 8"x10") take 1-2 hours and the 11"x14" are 2-3 hours. That's it. There are too many demands to keep this summer freight train running efficiently. Plein air is a process and not necessarily an end result although there are plenty of artists who are great at this. Now that I've given myself this self-taught crash course, I'm curious about how I'll apply all I've learned to slower, calmer days when I can return to tweak and highlight the next day.

It will be good to spend a day in the studio,

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Day 26 & 27 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

I was quite under the weather since Travers evening, however, I managed this painting on Monday. In the last four days I've taken about 40,000 mg of vitamin C. I can hear the groans from the health professionals but this has been my cure for many years and it works for me (placebo effect?). I believe that Dr. Linus Pauling was a genius researcher despite an avalanche of criticism when he first published his paper advocating mega doses of vitamin C.

This old cottage-type building is currently being used as a dorm. Late last spring when it was finally warm enough to venture out with my paints, a lady parked close to where I was set up. She began calling out names and setting out food for...cats. Of course, being the cat lover that I am, I walked over to her and inquired about what she was doing.  Apparently, there is a colony of feral cats that live in Oklahoma year-round who are lovingly and tirelessly cared for and fed EVERYDAY by an angel named Michele Jennings. She explained that she has not missed a day in seven years!

Feeding Station, 11"x14", oil on canvas
She has financial support and help from the Moore Foundation, NYRA and Quaintence House. Maintenance helps keep the snow plowed so that she can reach the feeding stations in winter. This is a labor of love beyond the highest calling. Teresa Genaro wrote some informative blog posts about the cats, like this one. I've since heard that Keeneland has a similar program.
 *    *    *
Today I wandered back to Campfire Court to paint Dutrow's shady barn straight on. I found that most of his horses have shipped out and I was suddenly overcome with the bittersweet emotion of the meet's culmination. Glad that it's almost over, sad that it's almost over. Not much gray area in my vacillating passions of extreme joy and sorrow! His help assured me that Tony is still here and they have some big guns ready to send over to the races this weekend.

Campfire Court, 11"x14", oil on canvas
I'll be too busy to be depressed next week. Lots of commissions to paint and several paint outs to attend. More on all that later.

With a heavy heart and an ironic smile,

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Day 25 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

This is last Friday's effort. I'm falling behind schedule due to the incredible Traver's weekend. I finally met Thomas Allen Pauly in person who is American Pharoah's Official Triple Crown Artist. He's a great guy and multi-talented artist. Spent a bit of time showing him around Oklahoma and talking art/horses in my booth.

I photographed this scene with my good camera from several angles to use as reference for a later studio painting. I love the light filtering through the translucent white bandages and I want to spend more time getting the hang of this backlighting. However, this one is purely plein air:

Bandage Laundry, 9"x12", oil on canvas
Today I'm debating if I'll attempt to go out and paint later this afternoon at all. I'd love to but my body is not cooperating by giving me a very sore throat (and not from screaming during the Travers). Just a reminder of what a breakneck schedule we keep, sleep being non-existent on the list of priorities.

Cough, sniff,

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Day 24 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

This scene is similar to the first one that I painted of Pletcher's wash rack. The light was different this morning - not really overcast, but a gauzy curtain of light that produced defined highlights like hotspots. Sunburn weather. This is my last panel and the rest will be on stretched canvas. When I regain the luxury of time, I'd like to revisit this spot to exploit those hotspots that I'll recall from this plein air piece. Put in more horses, too. It's behind George Weaver's barn close to Elmer's gap.

Note the sagging roof showing it's age on the middle building. One of the backstretch guys visited and told me that the door on the left side was to his room.

Behind Weaver's Barn, 8"x10", oil on panel
 We have to open at 7:00 tomorrow morning. Michael is planning on being in the booth all day and I'll get to head over to Oklahoma nice and early. Not sure if I'll make it over to watch the big horses train but that's okay (notice the priority shift). I've had the honor to be in the company of many good horses throughout my prior life...and yes, they are different and extraordinarily special.

Did you visit with Funny Cide today?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Day 23 - Forty Paintings in Forty Days

I painted on a stretched canvas today. After becoming familiar with the slick surface of the panels and loving it, the canvas felt awkward. The fabric is 12 oz. with a defined tooth that grabs onto a thick bristle brush full of paint. Great for large pieces. I've been using soft hair brushes on the panels and I think they enhanced my ability to loosen up.

To compensate, I rubbed the surface with a mixture of linseed oil and turps. That decreased the drag and was helpful but the soft brushes still struggled to fill the weave while the bristle brushes felt clumsy and not very malleable. I've just about used up all my panels so this will be interesting.

Here's another ancient building, the maintenance office. Odd diagonal shadows fell across the surface from the giant pines off to the left and I sketched them in quickly as they would soon change or be gone. Originally, I wanted to paint the other side with more interest but I couldn't find any shade to set up in. We're having a lovely warm and sunny summer so no complaints!

Maintenance Building, 11"x14", oil on canvas
Pharoah arrived today and the frenzy begins. We've been told to expect over 15,000 people Friday morning as the Travers entrants gallop between 8-9.

We're all paparazzi for a few days,