Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Two Really Difficult Weeks

There have been a number of deaths with which I am to some degree connected. These have all occurred within the last five or six weeks. The greatest of these has been the death of our family's matriarch--my cousin Grace Machia. She was born in St. Albans in 1926, grew up on the family farm in Fletcher and lived most of her life in Fairfax. Her mother and mine were sisters who both were raised on the farm which had been in our family since 1867. This was the homestead I was forced to sell a year ago.

Grace was a good woman whose main care in life was keeping the family together and I loved her very much. This is the end of an era.

Right now it is difficult to do anything. So, I am using my drug of choice--online games--until things settle down. I am grateful for my upcoming show with Charlie Hunter in Woodstock. That will be some positive medicine.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Charlie Hunter - Clair Dunn Woodstock show

At the artistree community gallery in Woodstock, Vermont. The opening reception is on the 27th from 6-8:30 p.m.

Charlie Hunter is a Bellows Falls-based Vermont artist, currently emerging on the national level. In 2012 he won awards at plein air painting events across the East, including Easton, MD (Best New Artist), Wayne, PA, Cranford, NJ and Plein Air Vermont. This show of paintings from Summer, 2012 captures Hunter's propensity for the drippy, begrimed and neglected.

"This is not the Vermont of fall leaves and covered bridges the tourists come to see, but the Vermont of abandoned Plymouths, lost industries and declining family farms. Charlie Hunter captures that everyday beauty with realism and sympathy, his eye eager for the telling detail, the unusual viewpoint, and the unexpected angle." – ART NEW ENGLAND

Clair Dunn sees Vermont in black and white. Her rural images often capture the result of abandonment while "rural urban" images depict the very human and very comfortable scale of Vermont's towns. The former are fast vanishing, the latter we still have time to think about. She lives and works in Swanton.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Painting Progress

I've quickly learned that when working in oil you need to have more than one painting to work on.

As all Vermonters know, they make jokes about us sitting around "watching paint dry". Well, I've not been sitting around. I've been reading and watching videos. Two of those videos were so inspiring that I decided to break out another panel and go to my image library.

Before I get to the nitty-gritty, I want to name the two most inspiring videos I may have ever seen: The first--The Art of Oil Painting with Charles Evans was by a British painter and teacher, well-respected and often seen on British television. They are lucky. The second is by Alywn Crashaw--Oils for the Beginner, Part I. I watch it at least once a day. Good teachers are priceless, and alas, all too rare.

After absorbing these two videos I went through my color shots, taken while I was out hunting for black and white subjects. I stumbled on one, taken of what used to be our pond across the road in early autumn. It was simple and clean and I figured it would be a good place for me to start.

And so I began--nervous and excited almost to the point of combustion. Here is the result. I have learned much--beginning at the beginning. This is not the way I want to paint landscape, but I need to learn how to mix, how to use the brush, how to do those two things to get what I want on the canvas. This time I wanted to get this image onto canvas. That's all.

Still Pond - Early Autumn, Fletcher, Vermont 8" x 10"

I learned much doing this. Especially about mixing oils on the palette. I also learned that one needs to leave well enough alone at a certain point. (I did purposely set out to make this brighter than the photo because the part I was most interested in painting was the sky and I wanted a greater contrast.)

And, to further inspire me, this morning on Vermont Art Zine there was a post with two oils by S. P. Jackson. They are wonderful! I wish I could get to Middlebury to see them in the flesh. If you can get there, please go in my stead. What he said is what I want to do:

"...The title of the show comes from the fact I am not attempting to record an exact representation of a particular landscape. It is the lingering impression, the fleeting memory, that I want to capture and hold onto as our lives speed by in time and space.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Swanton Under Rain

My second sketch is not as good as my first but it did lead me to discover something. So that makes it worthwhile.

It was raining and we were waiting for a pizza to be ready, driving around until I said "stop". And I did this sketch (admittedly while being very hungry). Fortunately the pizza was much much better than the sketch.

After we got the pizza in the car, I remembered that I wanted a photograph of the view I had sketched, so we drove back. Turns out we didn't stop in exactly the same place, but close.

The next day I looked at the sketch and the image and something about the two shapes of the pavement in the foreground triggered something and I immediately started drawing on a canvas board. A couple of days later I had this:

Swanton Under Rain - 8" x 10" oil on canvas board

What I learned is that sketches aren't blueprints. They serve a purpose beyond the visual. I think the simplicity allows imagination a free range. If they've done their job, the transmutation happens quickly in the brain. Something snaps into focus that is not the sketch, but is of the sketch. The act of sketching makes us focus for just long enough that the brain absorbs its own vision of what we see and mulls it over, "painting" it with other images, other feelings, other pieces of ourselves until it becomes what it is we (in particular) really see.

For me in this case, I can make some guesses as to what got thrown into this sketch: maps, aerial views, my love of shapes and colors, interest in roof lines, my fascination with the weather, among other things which even I can't now consciously remember.