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.