Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Mexico

May 2000 Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, NM~
Having decided that 630 commissioned house portraits were more than enough, I signed up for a week long workshop with Jane Shoenfeld to jump-start my next career; self-directed pastel painting.

I showed up with my brand spanking new French easel, some papers and a new box of soft pastels. I was a little's not natural flying with a pastel set-up but I managed to arrive with the gigantic, way too heavy suitcase full of art supplies.

I knew right away I had made an excellent choice in teachers. Jane proved to be positive and encouraging in her guidance and suggestions. I couldn't wait to get through her brief morning lecture and start working on a beautiful butte overlooking the desert. Besides the sand fleas loving the slacks I wore, the morning went fairly well. We broke for lunch and, neophyte that I was, I left my easel set up. During lunch at the dining hall under the cottonwoods I could hear the breeze was picking up. Worried about my easel toppling, I hurried back. Relieved that I could see it still standing on the middle horizon, I picked up my pace, but not in time. About twenty paces in front of me a gust grabbed it and threw my work into the red earth. Nothing important was lost; the pastel sticks were mostly broken, which is the way I have always chosen to work with them ever since; the painting was scratched & damage there, and the easel was...and still is a little bent in places, but serviceable. I learned Rule #1; Never trust the calm side of the wind. I wish I could say I've never broken that rule since, but that would be a lie. It is a humbling exercise to be picking one's pastels from amongst the grass & gravel, but I apparently need to be cut down to size occasionally.

I learned many more lessons about plein air painting that week and made some paintings I was happy with. I traipsed all over Georgia O'Keeffe country. I made my first ever truly successful night scene, Chimney Rock. I fell in love with a red heeler named Chica. And I was fired-up for more pastel painting out of doors and more trips o the Southwest.

This little painting is Box Canyon.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New Jersey

1978 Beach Haven, NJ~
To my knowledge this is my first plein air painting
(as opposed to outdoor sketching). I was 32, not yet a mother; I sat on a piling to paint this spontaneous watercolor of flower gardens in front of some bay-side cottages. It has been hanging on the studio bathroom wall for 30 years, where you may have seen it.

At the time I had recently moved to rural NE Pennsylvania from Philadelphia and I was about to launch my new "career" of House Portraiture, in which I painted on commission over 630 watercolors and pen & inks of client's homes, businesses, hunting cabins, favorite places and even a golf course and a mobile home! Twenty years later in 2000 I knew that this type of forced labor had not only paid many a grocery bill, but I had learned everything it could teach me. The problems it presented were routine as had become my solutions to them.
It was time for a new challenge.

I decided to paint only what I wanted and hoped to sell mostly from my own studio. Finally, my work was enabling (requiring) me to get out doors to paint my chosen landscape subjects. I needed to break the bad habits I'd developed in working from photos. I craved the experiences of the fresh air, seeing the subtle colors deep in the shadows, depicting atmosphere and air quality. I launched this millennial change of course in the southwest.