We just had our first cold night and chill morning, our first taste of autumn, but I’m not ready yet to let go of summer even with memories of extreme heat!
I do most of my plein air painting in the summer simply because conditions easily allow it—no bundling up or difficult travel on foot or bicycle or even if I’m traveling somewhere, longer days allow for more work time, and inclement weather is easy to avoid.
Above is “Summerfield”, remembering that big sky, lots of light, breeze and birdsong in an old farm field.
I’m featuring a set of my favorite originals, most of them small and painted en plein air for an end-of-summer sale of green and leafy images and blue skies. I have all these pieces and more posted in my Etsy shop, and each entry includes even more information about each piece.
These small images are my attempt to describe a moment in time, pulling into the work what I hear, smell, feel, even taste at the moment so that the piece is packed with information. They can be so satisfying to create, especially if I’ve been working on bigger pieces plus spending a lot of time at my computer for design, as was the case with “Cloud Study”, because they challenge me to give my whole self to what I’m doing and let that creative magic between my perceptions and my paper happen on its own.
I also enjoy framing these small pieces in sometimes simple, sometimes unusual frames. The result is a completely unique work that can fit in a tight space, a tiny wall or even on an easel on a tabletop.
Sometimes these are studies for larger works when I’m remembering a scene or working from reference photos and trying to get back to that moment of inspiration to find what was most important to me then.
For instance, I had taken a number of reference photos for a painting of a scene I’d seen on Chartiers Creek while I was canoeing. I couldn’t do a plein air painting in a canoe because I didn’t want to hold up my group of canoers, but I did a quick reference sketch either that night or the next day, doing my best to hold onto what I had perceived in that space. The result was “Sunbeams”.
I didn’t get a chance to paint the painting until January, though sometimes waiting until January or February for a big work is by choice because it’s a better time of year to focus one something big and complicated, and business is a little slower. But in this case it was also icy cold and snowy, a long way from the warm June morning in a canoe. Looking at photographs will bring that back, but my sketches hold my memories and thoughts at the moment of creating more than my photos do. Photos aren’t always accurate for color, especially contrasty ones like this scene, so I’m also careful to choose the colors I feel at that moment for later use. The result is “Morning on the Creek”, though trust me, this on in particular was no quick sketch! It’s the only one in the set that was a planned and long-term piece.
Most of the works in this summer gallery are pastel because when I need to make quick creative decisions, bypassing logical thought, I feel most natural using a medium that I hold directly with no applicator of any sort like a brush, and there’s no mixing or other preparation or even waiting for something to dry—just pick up the pastel and get it on the paper, then move on. I carry small sets with me that have limited colors, and I try to keep them in the same order so I don’t even have to look when I reach for one.
But now and then there’s a little inspiration that’s actually left over from a big piece. Years ago I was commissioned to paint four custom pastels to fit in an existing custom frame. I chose the four seasons in local nature. The piece which became “Summer” was a scene that always held a great sentiment for me, though I’m not sure why—I love just about any scene of field and trees I find. I passed it every day on my way to work in the last few years I worked outside of my home, and my thoughts as I passed it must have made an impression.
In any case I wanted to explore its layout a little more, this time leaving out all the color and a good bit of the detail, just capturing its basic structure in a small illustration-style linoleum block print. I don’t ask why, I just go where my inspiration leads me, and “Summerfield” was the result.
There are a few other pieces in the gallery that aren’t included here, so please visit my summer gallery on Etsy for more details and yet more stories. A few of these are out in galleries, but most are either in my home or at my Portraits of Animals shop in Carnegie Antiques at 423 West Main Street.
Until now I’ve only had the chance to share my artwork with people who visit galleries in the tri-state area around Pittsburgh. I’m so glad now I have the chance to share with a wider audience on my blogs and on Etsy. I hope you enjoy browsing my summer inspirations!
If you are interested in any of the artwork, they are all framed and ready to hang, and except for “Morning on the Creek” they are all priced at $100 or less.