A Snowbound Christmas in Mystic

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Like many in the Northeast, we celebrated the holiday and then hunkered down for the impending storm. Luckily southeastern CT seemed to suffer more howling wind than actual snow accumulation, but since we found out that we had lost power back at our house in Stamford, it meant a longer visit than usual with family -- and LOTS of board games, puzzles, crafting and sketching to pass the time.

Our Christmas Eve routine generally involves going to 5 p.m. services at St. Patrick RCC super-early to ensure we all have seats. By about 4:30 the church is standing room only (read: a fire hazard). I pass the time by sketching, but over the years I've drawn most of the stuff I can see over the tops of people's heads -- so this time, my subject was some random architectural detailing -- and then people's heads.

Christmas Eve Mass in Mystic, CT, 2010

While we spent much of the post-Christmas blizzard-holiday trying out the new games that had been gifted and unwrapped on Saturday, we also broke out the classics. Here, the family decided to play Monopoly, thinking it -- and the storm -- would last us quite a while. Surprisingly, the game ended in mere hours, barely giving me enough time to finish this sketch!

Snowed in with Monopoly, Christmas 2010

Watercolor Experiment on TerraSkin

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A friend gave me some sample sheets of TerraSkin -- the environmentally friendly "paper" made from mineral powder and nontoxic resin -- and I decided to try a loose watercolor on it. The subject is a farm building from a photograph I had taken somewhere on the road between Red Hook and Hudson, NY, earlier in the year.

As many other artist-bloggers have noted, it's not easy to erase pencil lines on this surface. I do like the way the watercolor puddles on it (and granulates -- probably picking up a bit of the mineral dust -- if you work into it a lot, as in the sky). It forces me to give up control, which is a Good Thing For Me! :) Lately I've been looking again at the watercolors of Hopper and Homer and Sargent, trying to see (and paint) simpler shapes and values.

Farmhouse near Hudson, NY

Another Mystic Memory

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Watercolor of a small outbuilding that I had photographed in August, near M.'s parents' home in Mystic, CT. A little overworked, unfortunately -- didn't make the sky quite blue enough at first, and then used too much dark cobalt in the second glazing. Think it would have worked better in something a bit closer to cerulean plus cobalt turquoise light. And of course I need to force myself to think "big value shapes" instead of picking over each tiny detail!

Outbuilding, Mystic, Connecticut

Metro-North Commuter Series, Framed

Sunday, December 19, 2010

M. had the idea of putting together several of my Metro-North commuter iPhone sketches -- so I found an old frame upstairs, and voila.

Metro-North commuter series, framed

Summer Memory: Morgan Point Light, Noank, CT

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

One of the highlights of M's annual family reunion weekend in Mystic, Ct., is a boat ride along the picturesque coastline in the area. As the Whaler bounces about on the water, it's fun to try to keep the camera dry enough to capture the scenery -- lobster shacks, lighthouses, sail boats, etc.

Since it was much too cold to paint outside today, I decided to relive the summer by painting from one of the photos I took on the boat ride earlier this year. Had to look up the name online, but the building is Morgan Point Light, in Noank.

Morgan Point Light, Noank, CT

As usual, it was tough to control the paint on the Hot Press surface, but I think I'm getting a little better at it. I used a goat hair mop brush for the clump of trees, inspired by Don Gore's experiments with roughly hacked off brushes. The colors are mostly Winsor & Newton with some Schmincke. (And I did use two Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pens on that vine-covered wall for a bit of texture.)

Scanning My Way Down Memory Lane

Monday, December 13, 2010

On a whim -- and to test out some slideshow/album widgets -- I decided to scan in a bunch of sketches and small watercolors I had done while in high school, some 20-odd years ago. Here's a Flickr slideshow of what I've scanned in so far.

The View from the South Bank, Revisited

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Finally got around to adding watercolor to the ink sketch I did in London a few months ago. I've been playing with my new Schmincke 24 half-pan set -- the colors are super-bright, so I'm trying to learn how to control them so they don't appear garish. Here I used a mix of the Schmincke colors and my Winsor & Newton paints.

London from South bank, with watercolor added

Penn's Homecoming: So Much More than Football

Friday, November 05, 2010

Homecoming at the University of Pennsylvania is so much more than a game on the gridiron these days! Attended a two-hour life-drawing class there last weekend -- part of Penn's "Classes Without Quizzes" concept -- where we had to sketch a model who moved everything but the placement of a foot for each pose. It was very challenging -- I haven't sketched from a model or used Conte crayon in years!

Sketchcrawl in London (Sadly, Solo)

Friday, October 22, 2010

I was really looking forward to the 29th Worldwide Sketchcrawl, as I was going to be in London for it. I was, and it happened, but due to some meeting place snafus (a long security queue at the British Museum) most of the sketchcrawlers didn't really meet up. Disappointing, but got some sketches in, nevertheless:

And then went off to the south bank of the Thames and sketched the view.

Sunday on Staten Island

Monday, October 11, 2010

Quite literally spent most of the day with a friend on Staten Island -- didn't get to sketch or paint as much as we'd hoped because it took us so long to get to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center in the first place (the buses weren't running along Richmond Terrace in the morning due to the half-marathon, oh well). Did get one sketch in, of this building:

Building at Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Staten Island, New York

Flying Kites on the Beach in East Hampton

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My colleagues at ?What If! Innovation and their spouses/partners proved to be fairly adept kite pilots, as is evident from these scenes on the beach in East Hampton, N.Y. (strong winds from Igor helped, no doubt). I just watched and sketched and painted -- not an easy task with all that wind blowing around.

Flying kites at the beach, East Hampton, New York

Kites on the beach, East Hampton, New York

Sketching at Choate

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How fun to be on a school campus in September! Spent yesterday afternoon in Wallingford, CT, sketching at the Choate Rosemary Hall campus with a friend. I drew the Seymour St. John Chapel from across the lawn.

Seymour St. John Chapel, Choate Rosemary Hall, Wallingford, CT

Weekend Sketchbook: Dutchess County Fair

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Last weekend, we went up to Rhinebeck, NY, for the annual Dutchess County Fair. (Between this event and Chelsea Clinton's wedding, Rhinebeck has sure seen a lot of action this year. We had dinner at the Beekman Arms, and the people at the bar were still talking about the wedding.)

Ah, county fairs, with their 4-H fun, husband-calling competitions, and unhealthy fare... I skipped the bloomin' onions in favor of my sketchbook.

The crowd, Dutchess County Fair 2010

Seated llama, Dutchess County Fair 2010

Camel, Dutchess County Fair 2010

The highlight of the fair was easily Rosaire's Racing Pigs. Yes, pigs, that "race" -- well, run or amble depending on their weight -- toward food:

Rosaire's Racing Pigs, Dutchess County Fair 2010

Pig and goats, Dutchess County Fair 2010

Llama, Dutchess County Fair 2010

When It Rains, We Paint!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Spent a lovely afternoon painting with a friend at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The weather wasn't the best, so we had the pavilion at the Japanese hill-and-pond garden mostly to ourselves and took advantage of the sheltered benches. The lack of strong shadows made for some tough subject matter, though, and I ended up overworking my painting a bit.

Torii, Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden

While I waited for my painting to dry, I sketched a different part of the garden, and decided to color it later on with the muddy pigments left on my palette - just for fun.

At the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, BBG

A Horsey Birthday in Saratoga Springs

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Just spent a few days in Saratoga Springs, NY --  a curious assemblage of horses, over-the-top hats, and spring water spas. Friday was so sunny I just had to buy a hat -- and where else but at the art supply store (only in Saratoga can you find hats, sundries, stationery and art supplies sharing retail space -- at Soave Faire). Had time for a quick sketch of Broadway, the main drag:

Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY

Then it was off to a polo match, with the Saratoga Polo Association. And yes, we actually did go stomp the divots at halftime.

Preparing for polo match, Saratoga Springs, NY

Polo match, Saratoga Springs, NY

 Saturday we went to see what for many people is the main attraction in the area -- the racetrack. Had never been to one before, and our visit confirmed that the whole racing culture is not for us. When we went to the gate and asked how to get tickets for the seats close to the actual track, the guards kept assuming we wanted to bet or to eat, both of which can easily be done quite far from the actual track due to the ubiquitous simulcast video screens. Seriously, people? Picnicking in front of a television?? If you take the trouble to go the racetrack, don't you want to see the action LIVE? Like I said -- this culture is not for us. People kept saying how beautiful the thoroughbreds were; frankly they just looked exhausted to me. And why people dress up in fabulous hats and outfits just to sit on the dust-laden seats eating ballpark-worthy junk food also escapes me. I know, I know ... tradition.

Racetrack, Saratoga Springs, NY

At the racetrack, Saratoga Springs, NY

Mt. Monadnock, at the Summit

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hikers savoring the view after the arduous climb up Mt. Monadnock in Jaffrey/Dublin, NH, via the White Dot Trail:

Hikers at the top of Mt. Monadnock, Jaffrey, NH

Every drop of drinking water we carried with us was precious that day (the temperature was in the high 70s to low 80s), so I had to use a waterbrush with my watercolor paints up there.

Weekend Sketchbook: Mystic, CT

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Was in Mystic for M.'s annual family reunion this past weekend, and was able to get a fair amount of sketching in (when not kayaking, biking, shopping or playing cornhole and Apples to Apples).

Here's a quick ink-and-wash impression of Stonington Village Fair in Stonington, CT:

Stonington Fair, Stonington, CT

Determined to get better at painting on Arches Hot Press paper, I painted a few views of this tree in the neighbor's yard -- getting more abstract each time:

Tree at Mystic 2

Tree at Mystic 3

And I finally got to return to Bluff Point State Park after several years. There's a great rock formation that's like a desk and chair, which I used to set up my equipment for this painting (also on Arches Hot Press paper):

Rocks, Bluff Point State Park, Groton, CT

Work in Progress: The Road, Co. Donegal

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Have been working on an oil painting from a photo I took years ago in Ireland. I'm not quite happy with it, so I opened a picture of it in Photoshop the other day to play with it a bit. Here's the current painting:

And here's what I think I'll do with it:

While the "current state" is more true to life (it was a gray winter day, after all), I think the more colorful version would make for a better painting. Thoughts?

Westport Arts Center "Summer" Show Opens this Friday

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

If you're in the Connecticut area, please stop by Westport Arts Center this Friday, Aug. 6, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for the opening reception of the juried members' show, "Summer," curated by Alexandra Munroe, senior curator of Asian art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Included in the show is my oil painting, "AC Lifeguard." The show runs through Sept. 12.

AC Lifeguard

Two of my paintings are also currently in the Stamford Art Association's juried show, "Faraway Places," which runs through Aug. 26.

28th Worldwide Sketchcrawl: Newport, RI

Monday, August 02, 2010

Did a solo sketchcrawl this time in Newport, RI. Spent a few hours working on a plein air watercolor painting of the 40 Steps from an overlook point on the Cliff Walk:

View of 40 Steps from the Cliff Walk, Newport, RI

Later in the day, I sketched some scenes at Easton's Beach, which is where we had parked the car:

Easton's Beach, Newport, RI

Lifeguard, Easton's Beach, Newport, RI

Saturday Sketches, aka Waiting for the Tide in Milford

Monday, July 19, 2010

Had the bright idea (thanks, Connecticut magazine!) of heading to Milford on Saturday morning with our kayaks before the heat got too intense, to explore the Charles Wheeler Wildlife Management Area -- basically, the salt marshes. It's a gorgeous place -- calm waterways and lots of birds and other creatures to gawk at along the way. We set off around 9:30 or so, scooting our kayaks through a few feet of mud before getting to the water.

I took some pictures with my camera and then decided to take out my little watercolor set and a waterbrush to capture M. paddling. Here's what I was able to do while bobbing along in the kayak and trying to keep from hitting the banks too frequently:

A few hours later, when we were through paddling (or so we thought) and wanted to head back, we realized that the few feet of mud had suddenly become several hundred feet of mud -- because of those pesky things known as the tides. Yep, we'd forgotten to check the tide charts.

I looked at maps of the area on my iPhone, but we couldn't find any other way to get back to the car. I finally pulled up a tide chart, and we found out that low tide had occurred at just after 10 a.m. So we'd have to kill at least a few hours before there would be enough water to get back to the car. And the sun was only getting higher in the sky, during a heat wave. Fab.

What to do? Well, we hitched our two kayaks together using a nametag lanyard from my Wharton reunion weekend (not sure why M. had this with him, but it sure came in handy) and M. paddled us along toward the (Route 1) Washington Bridge (figured it was better to wait near civilization and not in the marshes).

I took out my Lamy Safari pen and sketched in my kayak as he towed me (watercolor added later, in this case):

Washington Bridge from kayak, Milford, CT

Paddling toward bridge, Milford, CT

We stopped near the bridge to rest and stay in the shade, so I sat on the rocks and sketched a different perspective (again, watercolor added later):

Washington Bridge, Milford, CT

Finally we paddled back past noon and had enough water to get back to the car -- though not without M.'s having to wade, nearly knee-deep, through several feet of thick, nasty-smelling mud!

Early morning, Shippan Point

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tandem-biked on our bike & tag-along down to the end of Shippan Avenue early this morning before the cars came out; I took a camera, sketchbook and Lamy Safari pen along in the bike pannier.

Shippan Point, Stamford, Connecticut, early morning

Racing the Weather at Kent Falls State Park

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Yesterday we meandered up Route 7 toward Litchfield County, just because. It wasn't supposed to rain until late, or so said Weather.com. But as we passed around Lake Waramaug and took a long loop back toward Kent Falls State Park, the sky was threatening. I sketched the footbridge in pencil and took a photo for color notes; I used Arches Hot Press paper, which is a hit-or-miss experience. Then I sat by the waterfall and sketched in different media (NOT on the Arches paper but in a sketchbook). I tried dip pen and pencil but wasn't too happy with either, so I went back to my Lamy Safari for a last try. And then the sky opened up, so I had to pack up and go. (We did stop for handmade hazelnut ice cream at Belgique, of course, because, well, c'est necessaire!)

When I got home I added watercolor to both -- the footbridge painting has way, way too many layers of paint on it, and the tree shapes are bizarre. The other was a challenge because it's really hard to paint a waterfall.

How about you -- what tricks do you use with Hot Press paper and watercolor?

People enjoying Kent Falls State Park, Kent, CT

Footbridge at Kent Falls State Park, Kent, CT