Summer Nights

I have  been cleaning my house for days now, due to COMPANY COMING!

Oh. The dreaded C word. I guess if I kept up with the house work on a more regular basis, I wouldn’t be scrambling. But on the other hand, it has been so darned nice outside, who wants to be in scrubbing and mopping???

As you know, the week at Cape Cod was great, but that particular time wreaked havoc in terms of putting me way, way, behind in the garden. I came back to absolute chaos. The bind weed, and all the other freaking weeds took over. Plus I had to build a stone wall, and put in a brand new garden to make up for the trees that had been cut down due to disease.

But having gotten through all that, things are now looking better. Everything is weeded, (as best as possible), edged, and mulched. Wow. I am really feeling my age. I am at the point where I get tendonitis, arthritis, and feel beat up. Yikes. It shouldn’t be this way. I still feel young inside, but my body is telling me differently.

So, after a long day of vacuuming and straightening up, moving paintings around, and sweating from the humidity, night time finally arrived. We had Chinese food for dinner, and talked and had some beers. Because the weather is so heavy, and the rain is on and off, it is a very quiet night. The air is dense, the rain is light, and it is just beautiful. It is not quite dark, so visibility is wonderful, but a bit misty. The colors are a bit exaggerated.  A neighbor’s white picket fence looks almost turquoise in this light. This is the time I love the most. Well, maybe the most. I really like winter, too. I find the colors of fall to be spectacular, but the feel of fall is melancholy. I cry a lot. I know what’s coming. It’s the dreariness of November that makes me dread winter. But when winter hits, with all its cold air and amazing light, intense storms and raging fury, I revel in it. Then February comes, with its dreariness again.  Ah, the life cycle.

Anyhow, I digress. Tonight, with all the softness of the light, the softness of the rain, and the real quiet, I decided to light some candles in the front and back yards. I really like the glass candle holders, the lanterns with the different patterns. Some are just copper lanterns with dragonfly insets, and others are stained glass. They each have their own appeal, and make the night light more interesting. I have done paintings of these scenes, and they are always a big hit. Yup, sold every one of them. Because we can all relate to that. It speaks of summer, of bugs singing, fireflies flitting, and night time colors. Looking at the soft orange light coming from inside a house- looking so warm and inviting. A curtain partially closed, making you wonder what goes on in there.

But also, with the rain, mist, and heavy summer air, comes all the wonderful nighttime smells. Tonight, it is the lavender in the air. I plant lavender near my roses, and they seem to be very compatible. There is a spicy quality to the air tonight, and I attribute it to the lavender. Sometimes the roses are more prominent, and they can smell almost peppery. But tonight, it is delicate and aromatic. Every day, every night is a treat. A feast for the eyes, and a feast for the sensory.

I have so many things I want to paint, I can’t keep up with it all. The light coming in to the bathroom in the morning, the light from the lamp hitting the wall in the evening, I have to record and photograph all this stuff. That way I will always have something to work on.

I find that if I take notes, keep logs whether written or just memorized, about the time, the senses, the smells, I can recreate pretty accurately what I’m trying to portray. In college, we were not allowed to take photos for reference. We had to memorize everything. I am grateful for that. I learned how to see, how to take notes, how to memorize. I would go to a spot that I knew I wanted to work from, and get the initial view. Then I would go back every day, at the same time, and memorize something else in the scene. And the next day, and the next, until I got the whole picture in my head. Over the years, I have gotten pretty good at seeing. But I still work at it. You can never become complacent, but now, yes, I do use a camera. I must admit, there are times I want to paint on location, but I am not comfortable being alone. It’s a tough world, and I’m not a kid anymore. So I am more cautious. Plus, I don’t like to rush. I really enjoy working a piece. If it goes quickly, then great. But if not, what is the problem with taking time to figure it out? There are no time limits for me, so I prefer to work at my speed, not someone else’s imposed time frame.

Ok. That’s enough for now.

I’ve got to shower, and get up early to hit it tomorrow. After this weekend, I will be spending lots more time painting. I have only done two pieces since returning home. And they both have been done in the last week. They are both plein air pieces. I started them on location, and finished in the yard with no reference photos. I wanted to test myself. It felt good, and I know that I am putting my “new knowledge” into practice. I am again excited and ready to go. Isn’t that what it is all about???

ruminations 4/28/11

Ok. This one is just going to be random thoughts.

I am sitting out back in my yard, on a spring evening. A storm has blown through, and I feel lucky to be alive. We got some rain, but nothing like what other people experienced. There are many people in this country that died in this powerful weather system that moved across the country. If I hadn’t been listening to the radio, or watching the news, I wouldn’t be able to tell that anything had happened. The birds are singing with all their hearts, the bushes are in bloom, and all seems perfectly spring like. I guess with all the catastrophies that have been going on lately, I sometimes wonder about writing about painting. It could seem superficial.

But, then, art is really important in the scheme of things. It can settle you down like a nice cup of tea. It can evoke many emotions, and they are all valid. I think if people didn’t create works of art that appealed to the senses, we would lose hope. Art is tangible. It is a reminder that there is beauty in this world. Even with all the destruction and corruption, beauty sneaks through.

I am looking at the soft light of the evening. Every evening is different. Every cloud mass, every sunset, the last birds to come to the feeders, the last birds to sing goodnight. They are all unique. Tonight, the air still has some humidity. But the feel and sounds are that of a quiet night. The Keria bush is loaded with beautiful yellow blossoms, the tulips are really coming into peak with colors ranging from yellow to orange and purple. The redbuds and magnolias are laden with blossoms, and the lilacs are getting ready to burst and perfume the air.

Why then, with all this beauty, do I sometimes feel guilty about waxing poetic about art? Because I know that for everything beautiful, there is an opposite. So the conundrum continues. Around and around.

At this point, I feel like creating art is my job. I have done many things in my lifetime, and here I am now, feeling like I hit the jackpot for work. It is what I love and want to do everyday.

I have seen artists go through drastic changes in style in their lifetime. I’ve seen painters go from chronicling the most beautiful landscapes ever, to painting the harsh cityscapes of factories and pollution in dark, dreary colors. The message was clear. I got it.

I choose to focus on the mysterious beauty of the every day life. The tree trying to hang on to its life force after a long life of crippling winds and winter storms. I saw a photo of a beautiful ornamental tree in full bloom while in the midst of devastation and destruction in the aftermath of the Japan crisis. There it was, maybe for the last time, coming through debris and devastation. Still spectacular.  How can we ignore that?

These are just random thoughts and musings. That’s what makes me tick.

Back to Painting – A New Piece

I started this painting a couple of weeks ago. Initially, I started a winter scene on this canvas but I just didn’t feel it. So, I wiped it off and started a warm weather scene. My husband and I had traveled to Nicaragua in January, to see what life was like there. No touristy stuff, no zip lines, no climbing to the top of volcanos. Just seeing what it is like to live there. No itinerary. I came away from that experience wanting to do scenes from there, but felt like I should be loyal to what we returned to: SNOW and ICE! Wasn’t happening.
So, I am showing you what the process was for this piece – it was a real struggle. But – It has a happy (and funny) ending.

After wiping off the grey stain and the drawing of the winter scene, I sketched in the Nicaragua scene. I didn’t really put in my darks as I usually do. I couldn’t wait to get into the big blocks of color, and therefore I got lost:

I liked the drawing, I liked the overall feel of light, colorful buildings, and hot weather. But it was too bland, all the colors had the same value, and nothing popped out as a focal point. I was stuck.

So, after lying awake at night thinking about it, I realized that I needed to really put some heft into the colors. I added alizarin crimson glaze into the roofline and some dark purple and the black lanterns. Then I was able to see where I needed contrast.

In the end, it worked out the way I intended it to look:

I sent a jpeg to our friends in Nicaragua, in whose B&B we stayed, and they sent back a photoshopped addition (a masterpiece!) to my painting. I could not stop laughing, so I thought I would share it with you:

Why didn’t I think of that??!! It is so balanced now, I may have to re-think this piece!