I have some paintings on display at the Florence Academy of Art‘s New Jersey campus. They’re having an open studio today in their new space in the MANA Contemporary art center. If anyone is in the neighborhood, be sure to pop over. The teaching staff is excellent at the FAA’s new space, and it looks like a very promising endeavor for the school.
These plein air paintings are actually from a few weeks back, but I never got around to posting them. I was working in the area around Montisi (east of Siena), and looking for views that would work as larger compositions for studio paintings to be done over the winter.
As I’ve discussed before on this blog, the Holy Grail of landscape painting is a view where the foreground, middle-ground, and background compose well and I spend a great deal of time every year driving and walking in search of such a view. An obvious question would be ‘why not just invent it from parts of views taken elsewhere?’ The answer for me is that, in part, my training makes it difficult. I was trained with the more ‘Impressionist’ methodology of sight-size, which requires the subject to be in front of the artist (as opposed to a ‘construction’ based painting system). In part though, it’s also a component of my philosophy on painting of taking a more humble and reverent approach to viewing the natural world. Furthermore, there is a historic precedence as seen in the work of a great number of plein air painters, and Henry Fuseli said it best: “Selection is the invention of the landscape painter”.
It means a lot of driving though.
I’ll often do a number of paintings of the same view when I do finally find one that will work on a larger canvas. This is in addition to a number of pencil sketches to figure out the balance and composition of the final piece.
One of my favorite ‘tricks’ to finding good views in central Italy is to look for the cemetery. They tend to be placed just the right distance from the town, usually with a very good view on the town, and they have parking and shade to work under.
Overall I was quite happy with this short excursion and I think I can make at least three larger studio pieces from a few days worth of scouting.
A few plein air paintings from earlier in the month in Salzburg and Hallein. These are part of a continuing series of paintings I’m doing in the area for an exhibition in Hallein. The show was supposed to be coming up fast, but I’ve pushed it back a year to next October, so I can try to get four seasons worth of work into it.
I really enjoy painting in the valley west of Hallein as well, (even though it’s Germany and I’m supposed to be working on an Austrian show).
I painted a lot in Salzburg again. I tend to focus on smaller areas as walking a lot to scout can take up too much time for these short trips. In this case I was in the Mirabell Gardens for a couple of days.
This last one is unfinished as I didn’t calculate the shadow of the bell tower blocking out my light for an hour. It was my last morning there so I didn’t get a chance to go back this trip.
These are some of the small plein air paintings from last week on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts. We stayed with the excellent landscape painter Joseph McGurl and his wife, and he showed us the good spots for landscape painting.
Some of these paintings will be going to Collins Gallery in Orleans, MA.
For the last stop of our two month trip to America, I taught a couple of three day plein air workshops in Boston for Leo Mancini-Hresko’s Waltham Studios. Boston is gorgeous. Probably the most beautiful large city in the US. I had been there 25 years ago for a couple of days, but didn’t remember it being so picturesque.
I didn’t have time to paint any cityscapes, unfortunately, but here are the unfinished demonstration pieces from the plein air classes. I painted the same view twice as it worked technically for the points I was making during the demo.
Here are the paintings from the last week in Nova Scotia, Canada. We rented a place just outside of Mahone Bay and painted up and down the coast from Blue Rocks to Chester.
Lunenburg was a particular favorite. There was a wide selection of views in a small area, the weather was great (the food too) and the people were very friendly.
Because of the microclimates in the area, we often had sun all day in the town of Mahone Bay, when other parts of the coast had the fog.
Below are some of my paintings from the last week in mid-coast Maine.
It was my first time painting in Maine and I have to say it’s one of the best places I’ve ever painted. The weather has been great, sunny but cool most of the time, the people are incredibly friendly and knowledgable about plein air painting, and there is a great wealth of stunningly picturesque places to work.
I have an opening tonight at Haynes Gallery in Thomaston, Maine. It’s actually a few group shows. My ‘group’ consists of Karen Blackwood, T. J. Cunningham, Ben Fenske, Greg Howitch, Leo Mancini-Hresko, Joseph McGurl and myself.
Joseph McGurl was a big influence on my work when I was first starting out as a landscape painter (and still is), so it’s great to be showing with him.
I’ll also be giving a painting demonstration at 3:30 pm, if you happen to be in the area.
Below are some paintings from the Central Coast of California over the last ten days. I was based in Carmel Valley, but moved down the coast quite a bit.
These first two paintings were quite large so I tied the canvases to the ubiquitous barbed wire fences to keep them steady in the high winds. I picked up a lightweight rope-and-plastic-carabiner combo from Nite Ize at a local camping store and the system worked perfectly.
One great thing about painting in the Monterey area is that there is a handful of world-class plein air artists who live there to paint with. On the above painting I worked with John Burton, and the sketch below is of Mark Farina, who we painted with one morning south of Carmel.
I’ve always felt I became a landscape painter because of growing up surrounded by the beauty of California, so it’s great to get back there and paint when I can.
Update: We stopped and painted for a bit in Lake Tahoe on our way out of California. Here are a couple images:
In my quest for a lighter and more portable plein air set-up I’m currently experimenting with a carbon fiber photography tripod and paint box.
The camera tripod I settled on is a Sirui T-025X with their C-10X ball head. It was originally recommended to me by plein air painter Paul Rafferty who has used one to great success for a year now. Sirui is a Chinese company who, apparently, used to make photo equipment for Gitzo (the very expensive Italian company) and are now making tripods with their own brand name. The tripod folds up to be tiny and weighs only 1.54 lb (0.7 kg) -slightly less than the Fome aluminum easel I’ve been using for a while. (For anyone thinking of getting the Sirui, you can find one on Amazon and support my site).
To use sight-size one’s panel or canvas should ideally be at eye-level. This puts the surface quite high off the ground where stability becomes an issue. On the other hand, after years of working on canvas, I don’t really mind a little give while I’m applying paint. Even with my extremely light backpack hanging off the supplied carabiner, this set-up becomes stable enough for me to paint comfortably.
I also don’t like the pochade-box-on-camera-tripod system that most plein air painters use. With sight-size it means the paints are right under my nose. The solution for me is to use a mast to get the panel high enough, and attach the paint box to the bottom. For the mast of this set-up I picked up a pre-made carbon fiber slat, drilled a hole with a 1/4″ drill-bit, and bolted it to the quick-release plate of the Sirui. The Sirui quick-release plate has screw threads out, so one can switch to a longer bolt without permanently affecting the tripod. One could drill a hole in the aluminum or steel mast of the Fome easels and get an even stiffer design. I settled on a shorter mast to be able to pack it in a suitcase easily. With the taller camera tripod it is still big enough for my 11″ x 14″ (25 x 35 cm) panels in a vertical position, even if I have the easel set up downhill.
I’d love to be able to triumphantly declare that the carbon fiber painting box was a great success and is the future of plein air painting equipment. Unfortunately, after an annoying amount of time and money spent, I have to admit that a $5 dollar Ebay cigar-box works just as well. Leo Mancini-Hresko has written a good blog post on making one. The carbon fiber isn’t any lighter or sturdier, and it lacks the charm to boot.
The opening reception was this Saturday for my annual solo show at the Grenning Gallery. There was some press for the show, including an excellent article on me in the Sag Harbor Express and a piece on Underpaintings.
For anyone in the area, you can also pick up a copy of the Spring edition of The Southhampton Review which has some of my paintings in it (including one on the cover).
I painted for a few days out on the East End before the show opened as well.
I always find the boatyards very interesting. There are a lot of great views around the boatyards on Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton and the owners and managers were very friendly towards me when I was looking for places to paint.
Here are few plein air paintings from the last week in New York. I was staying in Tribeca and painted a bit in the neighborhood.
It was pretty quiet downtown for the July 4th weekend, and the city had a wonderfully empty feel to it. I also went up to 5th Avenue on the morning of the 4th to paint the flags on Rockefeller Center.
And we painted a bit in Central Park.
New Yorkers have an undeserved reputation for being rude to tourists, but I find it one of my favorite places to paint. The locals always seem so appreciative and respectful of plein air painters.