Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Need for Duplicate Photographs

We have returned from our yearly vacation at our favorite lake.  It was, as usual, a wonderful and relaxing time.  I know I have shared photographs from this site before, but there is something special about this place that, despite our best intentions not to repeat taking pictures of the same sights, we continue to snap away.  Bear with me as I share with you the beauty that keeps us going back every year to refresh and revel in these sublime surroundings.

These are from our first morning when the lake was still calm (if you click on the photo, you can see a larger view and scroll through all photos posted today):

This is a closer look at one of the mountains at the lake.  As you can tell, it was taken at the same time in the morning - note the clouds . . .

Later the light shows the details on the mountains, and the wind has raised waves on the surface of the water.

As with the first set of two, this closer look is taken at the same time.  I take this kind of series so I have both a wide view giving an overall impression while the close-up gives details that can be included  in a painting.  Look especially at the cliff face and the water.  Understanding what causes the impressions in the first shot by looking at the second helps me make sense of what is indistinct in the first.

 Still a closer look at the cliff.  Here I can see the shadows as well as the specifics of the rock and overgrowing greenery.  And those clouds!  Oh my.  As I continue to share these scenes, you may want to keep an eye on the clouds - which are quite tricky to paint by themselves.  What makes them even more tricky, I think, is that they appear to be going on the diagonal - from lower right to upper left.  It's the way the wind blows, I suppose, but in a painting, would it make sense to the viewer?

See in this next picture what I mean about the path the clouds take?

Then just for fun, here is an evening picture of a family of mergansers swimming close enough to the camp where we stay that you can see not only the buoy in the background but also the railing of the deck from which I took this picture.  And of course, the lovely violet reflection on the water and the chevron shapes made in the water as the ducks pass.  Challenging to paint, don't you think?

At the moment, none of these are calling to me as a painting I need to do, but one never knows.  Even though I have hundreds of these views, taken year after year, I never know when a particular one may turn out to be the one that inspires me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Returning to an Unfinished VT Painting

Still hot but a much better day!  After a relatively early walk and breakfast, it was time to go off to my studio class.  It had taken me considerable effort last night (probably befuddled by headache and humidity) to choose what I would paint, and by the time I got to class, I was all right with my decision.  Much like my decision about quilting (complete one unfinished project before working on a new one), I chose to work on the painting I started last year in Vermont.  Est and I both worked on this subject en plein air, but she finished hers ( I think)  and I hid mine from sight.

Here's where it stands now:

There is still a lot to do, but it's on its way, and I plan to take it to VT with me to work on there.

After class I went down to a quilt store (I know - you're probably thinking, "Oh no, not again!), but I needed some thread for my wool work and two pieces of fabric if I could find the right color.  I chose the thread, bought some red wool, and found one of the two fabrics before wending my way home.

Once back here again, I figured it was a good time to work on the Block of the Month for the Guild.  And here are the two I made as samples after finishing all the cutting:

One more thing to check off.

As I said, it was a good day!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cool Wishful Thinking

Very hot and humid today, and I have to admit I'm feeling headachy and out of sorts so tonight's entry will be short.

Annandale-on-Hudson near Montgomery Place
This is where I would have liked to have been today.  If I close my eyes, I can imagine splashing around in the shallows over on the right in the shady section.

I wish you could join me in my day dream!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

An Exercise in Futility

Friday was a very busy day for ME and me (I've wanted to write a sentence that included that "ME and me" for some time - well, one has to find humor where one can).  Our first stop was at a local quilt shop where ME picked up her quilt.  It was beautiful before being quilted, but afterward it is stunning!  I am hoping that ME really means it when she says that she's keeping this one.  She has a tendency to make for everyone else except herself; that's noble, but she should have a quilt for her own bed.

While she was doing her business, I was getting myself in trouble with fabric (what a surprise).  Of course, there was no intention of buying anything except a few fat quarters when I walked in.  But oh my, what I saw had to come home with me!  Then we both signed up for next year's trip to Syracuse to see the 2016 American Quilt Society (AQS).  

Finally we stopped at another quilt shop so I could leave my Carpenter's Star wall hanging for quilting.  

Now you realize that the above is sort of a exercise in futility for both you and me. I can't show you the quilt ME made that is so special because I don't have one.  I can't tell you why the fabric I bought is so special because what I plan to do with it is a surprise.  You can scroll back through my entries to find one that shows the Carpenter's Star, but that would take too much time and if I were you, I wouldn't do it.  

But for me, at least I can record when I took the wall hanging to be quilted!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Hooking - a New Passion

Wednesday I was lucky enough to be able to attend a hooking class with a dear friend who is an avid "hooker".  Oh, in case you haven't picked up the meaning yet, I use the terms "hooker", "hooking", and other forms of the root word "hook" to mean the art of rug hooking.  And while I'm dealing with vocabulary, I may as well clarify the meaning of "rug".  For hookers, a rug may be something used to cover a section of flooring, but it could also mean a coaster for use under a mug, a wall hanging, a table mat, a chair pad - well, you get the picture.

SMcG got me into hooking, and forever after, I will blame her while thanking her for this past time.  She is the soul of generosity (I pick the best friends) and started me out by giving or lending me everything I needed as well as told me where to get the best tools and frame.  Believe it or not, she also let me put stitches in one of her projects.  Now that's being generous!!! I purchased a pre-printed linen (the base of the rug), and SMcG brought her wool cutter to a retreat we both were attending and let me cut the strips for my project.  And then she told me about a class she planned to take and asked if I'd like to go.  I jumped at the chance.

It was a wonderful class, I learned a lot, and had a great time with women who welcomed me warmly.  Here's the teacher's finished example of the piece we all were working on:

This is the color kit I selected for my owl, but I will probably change the background and will definitely make some other small changes to make it my own.  But isn't the design wonderful?

Thanks for adding another passion to my list, SMcG!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Grounds at Montgomery Place

Here is another entry on Montgomery Place.  In the first one, I focused on the magnificent views out over the Hudson River.  Tonight I'll show you some views from within the gardens starting with the lily pond in the Rough Garden.  It's hardly fair because that is one of my favorites place in any garden that has such a feature.  They are often found in a quiet part of the landscape where there is both sun and shade.  Both qualities I enjoy when outside.  They also have beautiful flowers, frogs, and dragonflies; all of those are favorites, too.

Here is one clump of lily pads surrounding one water lily.

This is another flower with a different admirer.

From the lily pond, we wandered farther afield and found another lovely area. This building we found in the Formal Garden.  It reminded me of the buildings we found in English gardens.  Very picturesque, don't you think?

Finally for today, I'll close with a tree.  The trees alone are reason to visit this estate.  I am convinced that these trees (are there are many like this one) would not be there if this estate had not been in the safekeeping of a single family, the Livingstons, since 1802 until 1986 when it was donated to Historic Hudson Valley.  Trees like this would have been cut down long ago.

This a splendid locust!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

It's not over until . . . it's over!

Maybe I could learn not to say, "It's finished"?  Almost every time I say that I am proven wrong.  Last night E told me that she wasn't thrilled with the blue building, and she explained why.  I looked at my painting, and  .  .  .  she was RIGHT!!!  And there I was patting myself on my back for having actually thought my way through this painting instead of merely painting instinctively.  

Nothing more was done last night as I was smart enough to know I was too tired to tackle it at a late hour (never a good move for me anyway).  Today I told Sharon what E had said and also that I agreed with her.  Sharon then started to tell me what she thought, but I asked her to let me tell her what I thought I needed to do (because I need to learn to self-critique and solve my own problems for those times when I have neither E nor Sharon around).  I did explain what I thought I should do, and she agreed, but then said, "And what else?"  

Oh my!

I had no answer so she pointed out several other small details that should be worked on, and rats, I agreed with her, too!


Here's yesterday's photo:

Here's today's:

Now what do you think, E?  Is it finished?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Yesterday I mentioned the weekend and how wonderful we found it.  What I didn't go into was our trip to meet up with D's sisters, N and A.  The designated location for us to meet was at Montgomery Place in Annandale-on-Hudson.  As it explains in the brochure we picked up, Montgomery Place "includes over 400 acres tended and shaped by one family for nearly 200 years".  Our guide through the house also told us that when the house was purchased, the family donated all the contents.  What a tremendous gift!

I haven't seen all of the Hudson River mansions and estates, but of those I have seen Montgomery Place has the most beautiful setting and views.  Those views (again I encourage you to click on the photo to see a larger image and to be able to scroll from one to another) include a grand sweep of lawn framed by huge, old trees, a pond, the Hudson River, and the Catskills.  Here is one from the side porch (definitely not what it was called by the family:

By the way, that porch was very large and comfortable.  One could imagine it as it was used - as an extension of the home - another room without walls in which people congregated.

This next picture is taken from the main steps down from the house to the lawn and gives a more complete and formal view beautifully framed by the trees on either side.

As you walk farther down the gentle hill towards the pond, the view shifts again to something a bit more intimate:


And then more intimate still:

I will show you still more photographs as we go through the week, and by the time you've seen what I have to show, I think you will agree that Montgomery Place deserves to be at or near the top of your "must see" list.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Painting Complete. . . ?

It's been a lovely weekend; our weather has been spectacular.  They've been the kind of summer days one reads about, sees in movies, and remember from one's improbable summer memories. I will be writing more about what we've been up to and showing photographs from our good times, but tonight I'm going to show you the "Kensington Mews" in what I believe its finished form (or a least almost finished - I did add/change a bit after I took this picture - things like darken shadows and so forth):

When I go to class on Tuesday, I will ask Sharon for her opinion, but in my mind this painting can go to the framer.  She may have some tweaks that she feels would make this a better painting, but I think she'll agree that I've done all I can do.

Now the question is, "What are my thoughts about this painting?"  I started it for two reasons: I like the colors, and it represents a portion of our trip to England.  Oops, make that three reasons because it also represents a challenge for me.  Unlike the "Stourhead Stables" which had softer edges to the building and a very watercolor style of background, in "Kensington Mews" the perspective is crucial to the success of the painting, the buildings are modern with definite hard edges, and the background consists of sky only.

Another technique I wished to explore was to paint in such a deliberate manner that the viewer would be pulled in to the focal point of this work because of the specific way I manipulated the scene.  That is why I rearranged the building colors to have the strongest, warmest colors and contrasts where I wanted it.  It also why the buildings on the left and right fade away into nothingness, have little detail, and cooler colors.  It is also why the focal point has the only real proofs of human habitation, and therefore would be of more interest to the viewer.

Or so I thought.  Did I succeed?  Only you can tell me.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Day at the Track

Our week is rounding out nicely with today spent at the Saratoga Race Track as guests of friends.  We went with them last year , also, and had a good time so accepting another chance to enjoy this summer "must do" was a a pleasure. 

 Last year I bet once and lost which put me two dollars in the hole.  This year I felt more brave and decided to allow myself to lose ten dollars but to try some different options.  The first race in which  I placed a bet, I chose by the jockey - one who has had a successful career.  He may be doing well, but the horse wasn't and was scratched.  Well, that means I didn't win, but I also didn't lose.  That two dollars went on the next race where I bet on two horses in a quinella (the horses come in first and second but in no exact order).  I lost.  So the following race, I put my money on one horse but as a win, place, or show - same horse but three ways to win.  That costs a bit more so when I lost, I lost $6.  That meant I was down to my last two betting dollars. When I decided on my final horse and started to the betting windows, I glanced up at one of the monitors and saw that horse, like the one in the first race, had scratched.  If that wasn't a sign, I don't know what was.  The two dollars went back in my wallet.

Maybe next year.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Maxfield Parrish Exhibit

If you have not already made your way to the Fennimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY, to see "Maxfield Parrish: Art of Light and Illusion", you need to get there as soon as possible.  The exhibit of over 40 pieces of his work will close on September 7, 2015.  D and I went down today to attend a gallery talk on this artist's work and returned home full of wonder.

You need to understand that I fell in love with Parrish's work when as a little girl I was given the edition of Tales of the Arabian Nights which he illustrated.  Over time I learned of his commercial work (posters and advertisements for things like Edison & Mazda Lamps, magazines covers, book illustrations, and more) and eventually saw some of his "pure" art work (a landscape painted to hang on a wall instead of being used as a poster or illustration was considered "serious" art).  When Parrish was painting pictures for books or for advertisements, illustrators were not considered real artists.  They made art that was commercial - in short, they got paid for their work.  There was a reason for their paintings; they did not paint in the hopes they might be admitted into a museum show.  Eventually, Parrish did win acceptance in art circles due to his landscapes . . . his incredible abilities over a lifetime had a lot to do with it.

I wish my brother D (aka BD) and E had been with us.  I thought of the way BD works as being very much like the way Parrish worked.  They are both determined to get every thing right.  Light and shadows, lines of perspective, the minute details, all need to be accurate.  Both are perfectionists.  Both do work that takes one's breath away and makes one think, "How did they do that?"  I, on the other hand, tend to walk by one of my framed pieces and say to myself, "Oops, there should a shadow there!"  And the next time I walk by the same painting I see some other problem.   I think D would have enjoyed meeting a like-minded artist during the gallery talk.   

Maybe I will lend him the book I bought when I finish with it.   What do you think, BD?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Quick Mews Update

Here it is after today's work.  It's coming along, and if I keep in mind the fact that it isn't finished, colors will be adjusted, messy bits fiddled with (and I hope corrected), I can live with it.

By the way, ME (as the only one who responded with a suggestion for the tricycle color), the decision is blue.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Mews Again - or is it Still?

The most notable thing that happened is that painting supplies were taken out and actually used.  Of course, I thought that would happen yesterday after returning home, but that was definitely not realistic.  I wonder if that was the reason that impelled me to buckle down to work today.  There is a small part of me that feels I have to do something that it on my list - even if not that day or even week.  The only time I let myself off the hook is if the task is officially cancelled or postponed for good reasons.

Okay, I'm off topic already, and I've just started!

Here's the painting as of July 28th:

Here it is now:


An admission first - sometime ago I learned of a helpful "tool" about which I was very skeptical - so skeptical I never tried it.  Today I tested it and then actually used it.  Are you ready?  Mr Clean's Magic Eraser (the original one) is the tool.  The sky in the July painting was cerulean blue (my go-to sky color in oils but my least favorite in watercolor), and it was used because I thought I would use that blue on the building at the far left.  I really didn't like it.  At all!  So I cut a small square of the white eraser, wet it, squeezed out excess water, and easily removed all cerulean blue from the sky. Wow, that eraser is a life saver!  

From there I worked on the surface of the walls of the buildings and then started on the first layer of some of the details.  Here's where I need to make note of a bad habit that I must work on changing.  I get so involved with one section of a painting that I focus all my effort on just that area.  I should work on the entire surface at the same time.  That is -  I should be working all over the surface to keep things in balance.  

One major problem: what color should I paint the tricycle?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Successful Weekend

What a lovely weekend it was.  The weather was really perfect, and we spent the time celebrating a major birthday of a friend.  He had decided to orchestrate his own party (a wise move if one can pull it off and he did), and it was perfect.  The best part was seeing him surrounded by his children, his grandchildren, and his friends.  It meant a house full of laughter and talk and more laughter, and running through and around it all was the sound of children running, playing, chattering, and screeching with glee.  Now that was a birthday!

While we were at his home, I took quite a few photos that I hope will help me with the oil painting I have underway.

In all of these pictures, I was looking at how the setting sun lit the tree tops.

And the atmospheric perspective (simply put - the way atmosphere changes the colors and outlines of distant features) in this one is easy to see.

 Sometimes, no matter how thorough you think you are, you don't get all the reference photos you need the first time.  Now with these additional pictures showing summer hillsides in late afternoon, it will be easier to paint the scene I'm working on.

A very successful weekend, indeed!