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

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.