Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lock No. 12

Last Sunday afforded the most ideal conditions for winter plein air. Beautiful fresh snow, blue skies with billowy clouds and best of all (for a watercolor painter especially!) above freezing temps! I couldn't wait to get out to paint.

I decided to drive down to the river, to the little town where I grew up -- Lumberville, Pennsylvania. Or, as the state highway sign says (thanks to the addition of a grafitti "S") -- Slumberville. I think it's kind of humorous that forty some years later this is still being done to the sign entering the village.

It is a peaceful. I have the fondest memories of growing up here along the Delaware River and it's neighboring canal. The towpath that runs between them was my "playground" as well as the wooded hillsides running along the river's path. It is so wonderful to have moved back, closer to "home."

The old lock (Lock No. 12) in Lumberville is still standing and sadly the canal has fallen to disrepair and damage from past storms. When I was growing up the canal was still operational and we use to ice skate in winters and canoe come spring's thaw. I decided to stop and walk down the towpath a bit. There was a wonderful view looking through the locks with a great play of light and shadow.

 Lock No. 12, Lumberville, PA
plein air watercolor, 11" x 8"

Funny, for all the times spent on this familiar ground, I had never really looked back this way and up to the ridge beyond. I could see snow covered hills with bare trees revealing blue skies. The trees tops were pink and gold in the late afternoon sun. And beside me was the constant sound of the river flowing by, its gurgling and swooshing sounds passing through rocks and brush along the shore's edge.

It's kind of surreal to come back to a place filled with childhood memories and realize that many years later those very sounds can flood right back into your being. And be so familiar.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Winter's Bones

“I do an awful lot of thinking and dreaming about things in the past and the future - the timelessness of the rocks and the hills - all the people who have existed there. I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show.”
Andrew Wyeth

This is one of my favorite quotes from Andrew Wyeth. His paintings had a huge influence on me... I spent hours pouring over books of his drawing and paintings while growing up in Bucks County. My parents would take me to the Brandywine River Museum so I could see his work and that of his father, N.C. Wyeth. A framed print of  "Groundhog Day" hung in our kitchen where I would look at it every day and study the intricate color, texture and detail.

This past weekend I was thrilled to participate in the fifth annual Plein Air event to benefit the Chadds Ford Historical Society. The event provides such a unique experience!

It was a bitter cold weekend which made painting challenging. But I didn't mind... I had great winter gear to keep me warm and I was so enthused and inspired to be painting in Wyeth's country. At the suggestion of one of the Historical Society members, I ventured up Wylie Road and I was so glad I did! This beautiful red barn with classic white pillars appeared around a bend. It was perfect.

It took several "drive bys" to find a safe place to park just down from the barn. There was barely enough room to plant myself and my easel off the road but I managed.

As I painted the sheep and goats came over to check me out. I loved them!

The deep overhang of the barn's forebay created rich shadows and the texture of the weathered wood and stone were revealed in the midday sun. The view looking through the underside of the barn intrigued me - the stark contrast of shadow and the brightness of the plastered stone columns. I thought about this barn and the hands that had built it, the many seasons it had endured. The extreme weathered boards were so interesting in the sun, their texture catching the light. I especially loved the little worn path the sheep and goats had made in their daily grazing habits.

The subtle greens and golds beneath winter's dull grasses hinted of spring's impending arrival. For now, there was rest. And time to think, to reflect.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Still Standing

Just down the road from our farm, at the corner of Twin Oaks and Deep Run there is this farm. Left to neglect, in a state of sad disrepair it still stands - a distant memory of what was once a beloved homestead, a small working farm in upper Bucks County.

On our farm we have rescued two horses and our newest dog, Ben, is also a rescue. These animals are so wonderful and we are blessed to have them as part of our family. I feel the same passion about barns and old farms – I want to rescue them.

I am compelled to capture their story on paper. My sketchbook is filled with small studies like this one I did of the farm.

This past weekend, I finally tracked down the owners and got permission to go onto the property. I was excited about capturing the fresh snowfall that blanketed the property. The old outhouse was tilting, its door left ajar. The weathered walls of the red barn were sagging – still standing in a heroic effort of great fortitude.

Sadly the buildings will soon be torn down. In the meantime, I will cherish my time spent sketching and painting this farm, the Anton and Mary Schadl homestead, circa early 1800's. 

 "Still Standing," Plein Air Watercolor, 12" x 9"

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Turn in the Road

One of my favorite things to do is to load my car with my plein air stuff (I keep it all in a giant LL Bean boat bag so I am ready to go in minutes!) and set out to find a new place to sketch/paint close to our farm. I really need a bumper sticker that says "I brake for great sketching spots!" as I undoubtedly annoy people behind me. I had seen this barn on a drive the week before but saw no place to pull off the road.

Today, I decided to go back and drive slower to see if I could find a place to park. Driving back I realized there was a housing development right across the road. Funny, I hadn't even noticed that the first time I drove by! I parked and set up across the street to the side of the driveway.

I just loved the snowy driveway and snow covered fields... the rows of old crops peeking through. The sweeping view up to the barn was incredible. The light was perfect! It was chilly with light winds... and my watercolors were freezing a bit which made it challenging. It helped to keep stepping out of the way for the sun to hit my paper.  I had to work fast -- only mixing what I could use in a few brush strokes before it could freeze.

I like the effect of the cold on the paints! The key is to not panic... I just go with it! If you try to rework the areas that are freezing you end up lifting the paint in big icy flakes which fall off the paper. You can see the neat ice feathering in the sky and the freezing effect in the evergreen trees. When I am finished I bring it back into my car being careful to keep it flat so the paints and ice crystals can dry.

Painting in winter's cold forces you to work fast and to make quick decisions. I like it! The colors fascinate me and the shadows on snow are so wonderful. I am so glad I took this turn in the road to discover this new spot to paint. I look forward to returning.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

That Which Remains...

I love discovering new places just miles from where I have grown up. My artist friend Elissa was visiting nearby and suggested we find a place to paint in a central location. A simple internet search for "historic properties Horsham" revealed this wonderful gem... I love Google! Another artist friend Taryn joined us. We met in the parking lot on a cold sunny day with our gear-packed cars and ventured off to walk the grounds and take in the possibilities.

The skies were a vibrant blue with a strong and steady wind moving through the pine trees.

There were fields and pastures idle with scrubby brushes and small trees.

I was immediately attracted to a cluster of small barns/sheds and outbuildings in the rear of the property. The original bank barn had burned down years ago and these were all that remained. The old horse sheds were collapsing under the weight of a sagging roof and broken rafters. A smaller building to the right had wonderful stone work with weathered doors.

I was drawn to the light separating the buildings ... bathing the side with a charming little window. The textures and colors were so wonderful. It was so windy and cold I had to move inside my car to keep my watercolors from freezing. I returned the next day to finish the painting - the winds had subsided and temps were slightly warmer.

"All That Remains"
watercolor, plein air, 8" x 8"

The Penrose/Strawbridge Farm is a 102-acre property located on the southwest side of County Line Rd. in Horsham Township, Montgomery County. It is located next to Graeme Park....another incredible historic site with equally wonderful painting sites! You can read more about the restoration efforts and the rich history of the property at http://www.horshamhistory.org/Penrose-Strawbridge-House-Restoration#x060

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What's the rush?

I'm back.
Back to posting on my painting blog. Back home to Bucks County where I grew up. We have bought a horse farm and have settled in with my family - both two legged and four legged!
Things have changed, the area has grown and developments have pushed their way across sprawling farm land. I find comfort in the back roads - the winding web of narrow country roads that, for the most part, remain unchanged. I am enjoying discovering new routes for everyday errands where I can escape the busy main routes and find places to pull off the road to sketch and paint.
This week was an opportunity to go into Rushland to pick up supplies at a feed store. It is like stepping back in time... this tiny village comprised of a railroad crossing dotted with the Davis Feed Store, a few older homes, a post office and this quaint little depot building. It sits right at the rail crossing about two feet off the road and looks so forlorn and neglected.

The sun was warm. The sky a brilliant blue. The old clapboard siding was bathed in sunlight.
For the next hour and a half I was caught up in the play of light and shadows. I loved the textures and the whimsical shapes -- the sky peeking through the roof. I was amused by the tattered sign with the words Rushland. This little depot had been left behind. The traffic rushing by hardly seemed to take notice. But I did.

Rushland, Bucks County, PA
Curious about the name, I looked it up when I got home and found out the town began in 1750 as Sackett's Ford named for Joseph Sackett who built the grist mill and blacksmith shop. In 1883 the name was changed to Rushland because of its reference to the area, Rush Valley, where two creeks created an availability of scouring rushes used by the early settlers for cleaning pots and pans.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Vermont: Lawnmowers & Raindrops

Side Street Parking, 14 x 11, watercolor

I spotted these wonderful old red buildings on a side street in North Bennington, Vermont. Spilling out of the doorways of this lawnmower repair shop were a quirky assortment of snowblowers, lawnmowers and even an exercise cycle. While I am sure this haphazard assortment of metal and tires mixed in with weeds and spare parts is an eyesore to some, it was something I really wanted to capture.
Partway through the sketch it started to rain pretty hard so I jumped under the overhang of a back door entrance to a shop. The rain was on and off, and each time it stopped I stepped out to work on the painting more. I loved the rain spatters in the tree foliage (far right)... and it worked great with wet washes in the roadway. 
I love the ink pens I use... Faber Castell PITT artist pens. They are waterproof and archival ink quality. Great for plein air sketchers!
I finished up my painting and with the help of the beauty salon (my back door shop!) I dried it with their dryers!

I walked across the street to join my friends Mary and Andrew who were painting under umbrellas and car hatchbacks. Loved Andrew's set up with a big tarp covering his easel and keeping his legs and feet dry. A board props up the hatchback of his Volvo station wagon so he can sit further back. 

Plein air painters have to improvise all the time! It's part of the adventure!