Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ashokan Reservoir Paintings

Ashokan Reservoir, 2014, oil on linen, 10 x 12 inches 

Last weekend I spent a few days at a friend's house in the Hudson Valley, and when there I can't pass on painting the scenery near by. The Catskill Mountains can be seen from most places, but no better view than from the Ashokan Reservoir, which is one of two reservoirs in the Catskills that provide NYC with water. The views from this place are breathtaking, trying to find a spot to paint was difficult since the options were so many. There is something in the air and light that make the mountains look very blue from afar. I think this was the main effect I was trying to capture in this painting.

Ashokan Reservoir, Upper Basin, 2014, oil on linen, 10 x 12 inches

As the afternoon progressed it became overcast, and although I could not feel it, I cold see the humidity set in, creating a thick layer across the water. The blue mountains became slightly more grey and values were too similar, making it hard to differentiate most of the shapes. As I continued painting the afternoon sun was trying to break through the heavy clouds, creating a beautiful soft glow. This place was peaceful and it was very hard to leave. More trips to this area will take place in the near future, definitely.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

New Plein Air Painting: Stone Bridge, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

It was long over due, after ten years of living in this city I finally made it over to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and what a place it is! I waited too long, most of the flowers had already bloomed and gone, but even so, the different gardens were great. There were few spots I loved and I will have to go back before it gets too cold. 
Time was flying and I had to set up quickly, to my luck, I found this stone bridge while walking a path. This bridge was very nondescript while walking through it, but soon as you stepped off the path and walked around you got to see it's structure hovering above a little stream. Something about it said "paint me, paint me!", and usually I go with my gut, this spot was a no brainer.
By setting up on this spot I took on a number of challenges. The first challenge was time, I was off to a late start and not only did I have to try to work fast before I lost all light, but I also had plans right after. This was enough to make me work fast! 
The second challenge was dealing with the light. There were moments when the sun was shining bright, and then at times clouds would roll in. To those who don't paint this may not seem like a big deal, but to plein air painters it is, because the amount of light and it's direction changes the colors of the setting. You can spend a whole day adjusting the colors according to the shifting light, but that is not working smart. Choices need to be made from the start to make things easier, and so I chose to paint the golden bright light and focus around that choice. 
The third challenge was how to deal with so much green. It has been said in the recent past that I paint too bright, that perhaps I should tone down my colors. I have always wondered why since I think my perception of color might not be too far off from what others see, but I know in all honesty this is not the case.  While starting this painting I decided I was not going to hold back and I was going to paint what I saw and if brightness is what I see and what I feel, then so be it. Also, it helped that one of my favorite painters recently published a blog post about this matter, and his take on it, not to mention his amazing work, was enough to make me keep working with a brighter palette. 
Stone Bridge, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, 2014, oil on linen, 10 x 12 inches

The finished painting is this explosion of greens and foliage. I will leave you with this quote from Marc Dalessio, the painter I mentioned above:
"First off, I should mention that there are many people whose opinions I highly respect that think my greens are terrible. Acidic, garish, too bright, too yellow, etc… That said, I try to honestly paint what I see and I like my greens. I was always partial to the story of John Constable who, when painting at a time when artists would cover their finished paintings with brown violin varnish to make them look Old Mastery, took a violin and laid it on the bright green grass to show the difference between the accepted pictorial norms of his contemporary artists and the colors of real life.

Enough said. 

Monday, August 04, 2014

New Paintings

Ball Fields in North Meadow, 2014, oil on linen, 10 x 12 inches

These are four new, small paintings started on site and finished mostly in the studio. It seems like I'm back to painting buildings, which I have stayed away from for two years. Not sure why I shied away from it, but this summer I was back at it and to be honest I think I'm getting better and it adds something more interesting to the paintings. I am a contemporary painter after all and why not show contemporary life in my work.
The Hudson from Fort Tryon, 2014, oil on linen, 9 x 12 inches

Aside from painting more buildings I have also noticed that my color sense has changed since I started working in plein air. There was more brown in my greens, everything seemed more earthy, but since last year my use of color has opened up more. Everything is more chromatic, another welcome change I would say, since many of the paintings I have been enjoying looking at have been by amazing colorists and I would like to think that they are rubbing off on me.
The Cloisters, 2014, oil on linen, 8 1/2 x 12 inches

Sheep Meadow, 2014, oil on linen, 8 1/8 x 12 1/2 inches