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!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Vermont: Barns & Vistas

I just returned from a week in North Bennington, Vermont -- one of 25 juried artists participating in the 2011 North Bennington Plein Air Event. What a great event! Vermont offers endless subject matter and even though we had uninvited guests – Hurricane Irene (before) and Lee (first two days) – the artists prevailed and painted 100+ paintings in just four days!

How great to reconnect with Mary Byrom and Andrew Orr (whom I met in last year's event!). And to meet new artist friends like Bruce and his wife Janice. On the second day of the event we went in search of a painting spot along a road that Andrew had discovered just within the boundaries of the little town of North Bennington. We set off, caravan fashion, all four cars making our way in the grey misty morning.

We stopped to survey the road ahead and spotted a farm high on a hill in the distance. We had to get there knowing we would find great views and painting opportunities! Andrew and Mary studied the map and we set off to find the farm.

We did! But it was set way off the road down a long, winding driveway. Both Mary and I have no qualms about asking to enter private property (we're fearless women!).  So we parked along the road and went up in one car so as not to spook the poor man who we could see was peering out our way.
We were greeted by Mr. Browe and after a bit of friendly chatting, he finally felt comfortable to allow us on to the property to paint. He was a third generation farmer, struggling to keep the land and farm. It took a little bit to warm up to the idea that we wanted to paint... a little bit of a foreign concept to him. We went back out to the others anxiously waiting on the road and then all drove in and set up to paint.

I chose a spot down by a babbling brook with a sweeping view up to the barn. The others set up alongside their cars and painted the magnificent view of sweeping farmland, mountains and dramatic skies. Halfway through the sun began to shine through the clouds. The rain was finally lifting!

We spent a memorable morning on that lovely farm and worked feverishly to finish our paintings. Mr. Browe drove by and stopped to look at my painting. He remarked how, indeed, it was a great old barn and that I made it look better than he thought it did. I love that aspect about plein air.... to be able to remind someone of the beauty that surrounds their everyday place. The extraordinary in the ordinary.

Browe's Barn On Coulter Road, plein air watercolor, 12 x 9

A few hours later, we finished and then packed up to head back to town for a quick lunch break. On to the next painting spot.. which was actually a cluster of barns down the road owned by the same farmer. Bonus! Two painting venues from one inquiry. Loved that!
Painting plein air in out-of-town locations is always a great adventure. It takes a willingness to explore and a love for discovery! You have to find the scene that speaks to your heart and then the painting is pure pleasure... immediately you have a story to tell.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pioneers & Landmarks

 These are some sketches from an afternoon side trip to the little town of Somers on Flathead Lake created during our visit to Montana this summer.

Driving south on the Highway 93 towards our lake house rental, I saw the signs for Somers and caught a peak of a quaint little street with older buildings. I knew I had to go back with my sketchbook and paints to spend an afternoon exploring and sketching.

The main street was tiny, with just a few buildings dotting the roadside. Further back I spotted this tall building in the rear of a lumber yard. I parked and walked back to the get a closer look. What a striking building... it's elongated proportions and rich patina of the wood siding were marvelous. So textural! It was an old cold storage building where they cut blocks of ice from the lake and stored them to load onto wagons.

The main road leading into the town had a wonderful array of small buildings with similar siding and proportions. I loved this small structure with the front washed in glowing light and old rose bushes still growing along its side. I wondered what the building had been used for... and thought about all the changes it had observed as it stood near the entrance to this little town.
Somers played an integral role in the expansion of the Great Northern Railway as they increased their tracks throughout the west. From 1900 to 1949 the Somers Lumber Company produced thousands of railroad ties.

I love these "relics" - they speak of a rich past and stand as testaments to pioneers who settled small towns and created small communities in the rugged west. They live on in my sketchbook and fond memories.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Big Skies On a Big Lake

Montana is big skies, vivid blues, enormous clouds that seem endless. It's the kind of"big" that brings everything immediately into perspective for me. You feel small. You are in awe. You realize that creation is indeed magnificent and we are privileged to behold its glory.

My favorite time of day was early morning. The light streaming in the cabin's window would beckon us to awake and, with coffee cups in hand (and my sketchbook!), we would walk down to the shoreline. This morning an enormous bank of clouds moved over the Mission Range and enveloped the lake beneath it in shadow. The sun was piercing through the edges making the rocks near the dock sparkle. The promise of another new day on Flathead Lake.

Day's end brought a whole new light show with clouds backlit by the setting sun. The deep purples and vibrant pink highlights made for a dramatic display with their shadows moving across Wild Horse Island in the distance. After supper, family members gravitated down to the shoreline and we watched until the light faded and the moon appeared in the sky.
Then we made our way up the path, through the pines to the cheery lit windows of the cabin. The sound of gentle waves lapping up onto the rocky shore of a very big lake.