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Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Vermont Experience

Just arrived home after spending 10 days in New England, mainly Vermont. My wife and I were first there in 1986 and still cherish fond memories of that trip. It's just hard to believe its been 25 years.
The foliage was not near as beautiful this time around with a confluence of less than ideal weather and our slightly late arrival being contributing factors.
My intention and hope on trips such as this is always to come home with several plein air studies...disappointment prevails once again. Didn't do nearly as many as I had hoped and I'm not especially  satisfied with them. The partly sunny and rainy days presented their own set of problems, so I finally gave up trying to capture the brilliant sunlight and settled for the more prevalent cloudiness

This is the view from the entrance of the Deerhill Inn. It was cloudy and rainy. All studies were done on gessoed paper using a palette of titanium white, ultramarine blue, cadmium red, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow light, and oxide of chromium

Our first layover was in Lenox, MA located in the western part of the state. The Village Inn, in which we stayed, was built in 1767 and is the oldest surviving house in Lenox. The houses in this little town are magnificent and create a noteworthy contrast amid the trees. It was from Lenox that we drove just a few miles south to the Norman Rockwell Museum. In far northwest Massachusetts we also went to The Clark Museum...more about these museums in future blogs. After three-days in Massachusetts, it was on to West Dover, VT and the Deerhill Inn. West Dover is just north of Wilmington at the base of the Green Mountain National Forest in southern Vermont.
This is a portion of the Deerhill Inn in West Dover, VT. This was painted from inside the car. In  a one hour period there was rain, heavy clouds, rain, and sun. Here I made an attempt to capture the shadows created by a very brief appearance of the sun

The Inn was built in 1954 as a ski lodge and was called the Deerhill Lodge. Over the years additional rooms were added which transformed the lodge into a farmhouse. The vertical board and batten siding was replaced with horizontal clapboard...and is now a beautiful Inn.
There were pleasant vistas from the Inn so I took advantage and created three studies (shown here). Our room at the Deerhill was basically an attic cubbyhole, maybe 25' long and 7' wide at its narrowest. Bend over the bathroom sink and you'd rub your butt against the opposite wall. There was no TV, only a small radio/CD player with a selection of four CD's...only one of which we enjoyed...Frank Sinatra's "Nice 'n' Easy"...and enjoy it we did, over and over and over. Hey, it wasn't the Inn's fault. It was our choice...only $168.00 per night!! I better get some salable paintings out of this trip.
An enticing view from Inn Victoria in Chester, Vermont

We drove through many of the small villages in southern Vermont. The Vermonters have wasted no time in dealing with the recent devastating storm and flood damage. We were really impressed with how much they have accomplished in such a short time.
Two villages that I found especially attractive were Weston and Chester. There is an old grist mill in Weston, that for this artist, made the whole trip worthwhile. You will be seeing a few variations of that mill showing up on some of my canvases before too long. Oh, be sure to visit the famous Vermont Country Store. They sell anything and everything and offered a delectable assortment of enticing foods to sample. We wouldn't have needed to go next door for lunch.
It was Chester, VT however, a place I haven't heard of before, that was the highlight of our trip. Not only is the small town beautiful but our three-day stay at Inn Victoria was the icing on the cake, the creme de la creme of our visit to Vermont. Innkeepers and owners, Dan and Penelope (Penny) Cote (Coat-e), are a delightful Christian couple and are perfectly suited for their line of work. You would do well to stay in Chester at Inn Victoria whenever you are in Southern Vermont.
Another appealing view from the Deerhill Inn in West Dover, Vermont

Breakfast is a three-course gourmet treat that will last you most of the day. Additionally a typically British high tea was offered on the day we arrived...umm.
Stimulating conversation, interesting guests, excellent food, and plenty of photos capturing the beautiful landscape have all made this another trip to remember.

Next week: The Norman Rockwell Museum

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Plein Air Painting in the Flint Hills 2

As I mentioned in last week's blog, I had the distinct privilege of enjoying three days of plein air painting in the Flint Hills of Kansas with a great group of talented artists. You may read the account of my experience HERE.
The participating artists came from Minnesota, Arizona, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas.
As promised, I would like to share with you the work of these talented folks. I asked each of them to select that one painting, produced during our time together, for which they were most proud. Also they were asked to explain what inspired them to paint their chosen motif and what were the challenges they experienced.
I believe you'll enjoy their responses.

Michael Albrechtsen - Olathe, KS
Reflecting Blues - 10"x 8" - Oil

"I chose this spot because of the blue reflecting on the spot of the tree where the bark had fallen off. It was interesting to try and figure out where it was receiving such a blue cast since the water in front was green. I am sure that it received some reflected light from the water but even more accurate is that the only place it received color was from the sky to my back. It was hard to keep this as the one thing that interested me since I was tempted to paint the back light that came through the trees as the painting session went on."
Michael was encouraged by his Mother and Grandmother to pursue art, rather than the family occupation of mechanical engineering. Graduating from Utah State University with a Master of Fine Arts degree, Albrechtsen was snatched up by Hallmark in Kansas City. He worked there for many years using his experience as a landscape and figure painter in the creation of speciality cards.
To view more of Albrechtsen's work, please click HERE.

Kim Casebeer - Topeka, KS
Timber Hill - 9"x 12" - Oil

"After painting here during our group sunset paint out, Cally and I decided to try it again but from a different angle. During the sunset paint out the back hills seemed to have more of a gray tone and we noticed that the next night they were more violet which is what I like to see. Interesting how the temperature can change from day to day. The biggest challenge this time of day is to capture the values and temperature you see in a short time frame and avoid chasing the light."
Kim was born and raised on a Kansas farm. She received a BFA from Kansas State University and has worked as a graphic designer and art director. She spent her evenings and weekends developing her fine art. Now she is a Master Signature member of American Women Artists and a Signature member of the Oil Painters of America and the Pastel Society of America.
To view more of Casebeer's work, please click HERE.

Debra Groesser - Ralston, NE
Back in the Old Days - 11"x 14" - Oil

"I love painting old farm implements and old cars/trucks. More often than not, it's not so much the subject matter that attracts me but the way the light and shadows play upon the subject and in the scene. That was the case with this old "wagon". I was attracted to the rim lighting on the top edges of the wagon, the negative shapes of the wheels, and the glow of the light patterns on the grass beneath it. The light was beautiful in the background as well. My "challenge" on this piece was after it was finished actually...I found out that what I thought was some kind of wagon used to disc fields was actually an old manure spreader! I think I would have painted it anyway in spite of what it was. Just goes to show, through the eyes of an artist very ordinary things can be made beautiful."
I didn't realize it until now, but Debra and I were both born in England. After Deb completed college, she worked as a graphic designer. As a fine artist she has attained Signature membership in the American Impressionist Society, Plein Air Artists of Colorado and the American Plains Artists. She's the mother of five children and has seven grandchildren.
To view more of Groesser's work, please click HERE.

Marc Hanson - Taylor Falls, MN
Road to Bazaar, KS - 14"x 18" - Oil

"The most impressive visual idea that I was left with from our trip to the Flint Hills was that of the amazingly huge expanses of empty landscape, with rolling, grass covered ground occasionally broken by a few trees. It seemed like a land still lost in the throws of times past when bison and native peoples lived and survived on it. About the only clue that you're not standing in a land lost in time are the ever present flint covered roads that bisect the land and connect remote regions to the little towns that sprinkle the area. The painting is of that idea. I had to paint it fast as the sun was setting behind me. Because of that I painted this quite thinly and almost as if I were sketching quickly with the brush, writing down the information as much as rendering the actual subject. By the time I had the surface covered, the sun had dropped below the horizon to my back and I was done."
One of the reasons Marc is a visual artist is that it has always been more effective for him to share his excitement about the natural world through visual means, painting and drawing, than through writing or speaking of it. Hey, I think he did a great job of explaining his painting. He is a Signature member of the Oil Painters of American and earned the bronze medal for his work in the most recent national show.
To view more of Hanson's work, please click HERE.

Cally Krallman - Topeka, KS
Subtle Changes - 11"x 14" - Acrylic

"This was painted on Saturday morning. The most challenging thing was painting plein air in acrylic. I have to paint "swiftly" in order for the paint not to dry before I have a chance to blend it, unlike oils you can blend all days long. I was happy with my results! It is difficult to capture the vastness and depth of the area and truly represent the atmospheric perspective...always a challenge."
Cally earned a BFA from Washburn University. She is also a very talented lyricist and songwriter. In just five years she has written over 200 songs. She has also produced four CD's, her latest being "Some Kind of Magic". You can check out her music here.
To view more of Krallman's work, please click HERE.

Joseph Loganbill - Newton, KS
Morning on Silver Creek Road - 8"x 10" - Oil

"We all have experienced the exciting feeling of being up early, hunting for a scene and not wanting to waste the early daylight. There were plenty of country road possibilities and the temptation to feel that around the next corner was going to be the best scene. I drove past this spot initially and then came back after getting a rear-view mirror glimpse. Here I found a combination of, interpolating light and cast shadow, taller trees in the mid-ground, and a view of the rolling pasture expanse that is iconic for the Flint Hills area. I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful quiet morning - trying to capture the serene feeling of cool shade and emerging warm sun."
Joseph majored in art at Bethel College and has served as Director of Carriage Factory Art Gallery in Newton, KS. He is now devoting his time to creating fine art. He believes art can serve many valid purposes. He feels when he paints that it is a healing experience as he is enveloped in that world of concentration, away from other concerns.

Susan Lynn - Kansas City, MO
View from Sharpes Creek Road - 8"x 10" - Acrylic

"What originally caught my eye was the pair of misshapen trees, and the way they formed a kind of gateway to the disappearing road. The longer I stood there looking at them, however, the more enthralled I was with all the beautiful and very subtle color changes happening in the hills beyond. I think I repainted that background about three times on the spot trying to capture those colors, so I'd have to say that was both the challenge and joy of painting this piece."
Susan earned a BFA from Kansas State University. She is a Signature member of the Missouri Watercolor Society, and Painters of the American West and Midwestern Prairie. When painting she considers her compositions as interpretations of the landscape rather than strict depictions.
To view more of Lynn's work, please click HERE.

Judith Mackey - Cottonwood Falls, KS

Judith is a native Kansan who resides in the Flint Hills. She probably knows this area better than any of us. She's been a professional artist for more than 40 years. She is mostly self taught. In approaching her work, Judy first abstracts her subjects mass and form while on site. The piece is then refined in the studio by adjusting the composition and values, and selecting significant details. When painting the Flint Hills, Judith principally depends on her intimate knowledge of the area...the place she lives and loves.
To view Mackey's work, please click HERE.

Dick Sneary - Kansas City, MO
Tack House - 10"x 14" - Watercolor

"These two buildings were just outside of the cabin (Calaboose) that my wife, Susan Lynn, and I stayed in. The one on the left is the tack house...the one on the right was our bathroom, without unfortunately any hot water. I like subjects with character (usually means something man made in them) and I thought these had lots...really reflected the Flying W Ranch. That along with the striking contrast of the two structures in the late afternoon sun against the dark background of trees caught my interest immediately. The challenge was pulling all the complexities together."
Dick is a registered architect and has been an architectural illustrator for 30 years. His beautiful work has won many awards. He is President Emeritus of the American Society of Architectural Illustrators (ASAI).
To view more of Sneary's work, please click HERE.

Phil Starke - Tucson, AZ
Farm Near Cottonwood Falls, KS - 10"x 12" - Oil

"This was painted early in the morning. I was looking for anything but the rolling flatness of the Flint Hills, so I came upon this small farm and liked the variety of shapes in the barns and the dappled light. The hard part was the time aspect, trying to get an accurate drawing of the structures before the light changed and deciding what's important and what's not."
Phil's original plan was to enter the field of advertising as an artist but decided to switch to the fine arts. He studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago.
To view more of Starke's work, please click HERE.

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Plein Air Painting in the Flint Hills

I just returned from three days of plein air painting in the Flint Hills of Kansas. I remember, as a young boy, passing through the area several times a year with my folks on the way to visit my grandparents in Pittsburg, Kansas.
The Flint Hills were first given the name in 1806 when explorer, Zebulon Pike, referred to the soil as being "flinty". Early European settlers found plowing pretty much impossible because of a thick layer of underlying bedrock made up of flinty limestone. As a result, the region is sparsely developed and represents the last expanse of intact tallgrass prairie in the nation...and the best opportunity for the sustained preservation of this unique habitat once covering the great plains.
Millions of American Bison once grazed the area. Today one sees mainly cattle, but bison are also being reintroduced to the area.
Flint Hill Painters
Back row L>R: Kim Cassbeer, Cally Krallman, Judy Mackey, Debra Groesser
Front row L>R: Marc Hanson, John Pototschnik, Joseph Loganbill, Susan Lynn, Dick Sneary, Michael Albrechtsen, (Not shown: Phil Starke)

Painting in the Flint Hills is not easy. It's not the kind of place in which you can just show up and discover incredible motifs over every rise and around every corner. Trees, structures, even vistas can be difficult to find. Horizontal is the word that comes to mind when in the Flint Hills...layer upon layer of rolling horizontal lines. I think all of us artists sought verticals and diagonals to add balance to our compositions.
Although this is the third time I've painted the region, getting to the essence is not an easy task.
Shown here are my attempts.
Kim Casebeer organized this paint out and she wisely knew we would all like to experience a Flint Hills sunset. So, late one afternoon our Flying W Ranch hosts had us all pile into a 1956 Ford grain truck and they drove us to a high point. All of us painted this amazing vista as the light rapidly changed. The challenge was sticking with the original motivation and not "chasing the light", as artists often say. I was guilty of this amateur mistake as I continually warmed up the landscape in order to keep up with the descending sun.
Mike Albrechtsen and I found this view. It was also one that Marc Hanson painted. Appealing textures, color variations, and rise and fall of the land were sufficient motivations for attempting this painting.
I enjoy painting farm scenes that include silos. While Marc and Michael painted a large pond just off to the right, I decided on this view.
Black and white ladies with large udders enjoyed dancing in the nearby pond but they gradually worked their way toward me. Ever so curious, nudging ever closer, they pressed in until I almost couldn't move. They checked out everything. I felt my whole set up was in danger of going down. My loud warning to, "Go away", fell on large, deaf ears. However, somehow I knew they must have approved of my work as they flipped their tails and nodded their heads. I hung in there and they eventually grew bored with my efforts to capture their home turf.
This is the view from the bunkhouse area of the Flying W Ranch. Painted early one morning, I was attracted by the long shadows and the winding road inviting one to see what's around the corner.
On our last evening together, many of us painted on Coyne Creek Road. I found this location extremely appealing and sought to create an unusual composition. I was painting while standing in deep shadow so was totally shocked when I saw the painting in natural light. It was way too light and did not capture the observed mood at all. Back in the studio, I darkened values in an attempt to get closer to reality.
One of the difficulties of painting during midday is the flatness of the light. This painting gave me fits. I had to take significant artistic liberties just to get to this point.
This was a very quick study done just prior to leaving on our sunset excursion. It's a view from a distance of the bunkhouse area. I liked the simple composition.

Next week I hope to show the favorite paintings produced by each of the plein air participants.

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