Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Clematis and Fog

I love to go outside in the early morning to see what's perking in my garden.  It's cool and the birds are chattering away.   The other noises of the coming day have not begun.  This particular morning there was a deep fog that made everything seem a little myserious.
My first Clematis of the season struck me as it seemed to be nestled in the crotch of the dark Katsura tree behind.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Cloudy with chance of rain again today.  I made a short video to remind myself of what all this rain produces.  The music is played by Tatyana Featherman from one of the ballet albums produced by White Feather Productions.  This is an enterprize of our local ballet school, the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet in Narberth. If this video does not work click HERE.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Yesterday at the Morris Arboretum, under the pergola in the rose garden,was the first time all week I felt happy painting.  What a lovely place!  It was not the perfect spot to see the grandeur of the formal rose garden, but I was out of the rain the whole time in a lovely atmosphere and I could appreciate the rain for the life giving force it is.
When I finished painting, as I made my way up the hill to the car with all my supplies, the sun came out and filled the whole beautiful garden.  Every rain drop was caught  in the leaves and lit like a gigantic array of jewels. The sky was filled with dark clouds, accentuating the sun light in the garden.  It was an awe inspiring moment that only lasted a short time before the rain began again, but it made the whole struggle to find some meaning in catching nature on canvas seem worth the effort.

Friday, May 20, 2011


I just realized I will not be able to scan in my paintings to show on the blog as they are framed and probably hanging already at the Wayne Art Center.   If you live in the area I hope you will go and check them out.  There is a gala opening - meaning you have to contribute a little pile of money - on Saturday night.  The show is open to the public from then on until June 24th.  There were many wonderful paintings being brought in last night.  It is amazing how much material people can get on to a canvas in a short time.  This show is definitely worth seeing.
There are still two days of painting to go.  Today promises to be raining again and we go to Philadelphia to paint.  I may end up on my daughter's porch in Mount Airy as it is covered and there is a toilet available.  These are not ideal reasons for choosing a painting site.
Some people work better when they are stressed.  I'm not one of them.  There is a feeling of 'carnival' about this paint out that is engaging but I don't think painting as a competitive sport is for me.  I am of an age when thinking about my subject matter and planning is as important as the act of painting itself.  Of course if the weather had been perfect I might have an entirely different opinion.  The exhilaration of being in controlled nature in fine weather can make up for a lot of hassle.
Tomorrow all the artists will be in downtown Wayne painting in the morning and it looks like the sun may be shining!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Paint Out

Well the Wayne Art Center Plein Air Festival is happening, rain not with standing.
I have completed two paintings but they are not dry enough to scan in yet.  Both were started outside and finished from the window of my car.  This is not exactly what any of us involved in this planned for I'm sure.  Painting from the car in the rain is not easy.  There simply is not enough room and you can 't see exactly what you started painting, plus you must turn on the car and use the wind shield wipers periodically so you can see anything.  This does not have the grand feeling the french words 'Plein air' imply, to say the least.
The whole exercise got me thinking about what the act of painting is really about.  Why bother to reproduce what is there when the camera does it in a snap.
In the life of every painting there is an internal dialogue that the painter goes through.  The answers to the questions I ask myself as I am painting are recorded on the canvas.  "How shall I best begin" is the first of course, and from then on until the last question, "Is this all I can do?", there are hundreds of others.  "Is that the right shade of green?". "How many shingles is enough to say shingle?" "Which sky, of the many floating by, will be the best for the composition?". "Why bother with the shingles at all?" Have I gotten the whole thing crooked?. Why didn't I paint the bush in back first? And always at some point.  "What am I doing here ?"
I also have an interior dialogue about the quality of the work at hand.  Usually it starts out enthusiastically. "Now this is going to be good.  Look at that beautiful sky next to those dark trees.  Really yummy".  And then about half way through, "I should have planned this better and gotten the whole painting drawn in loosely.  It looks like a child did this".   Then later, "This is it, I am absolutely stuck and cannot go on. Better eat lunch or walk around before I throw in the towel". Then, if I'm lucky by the time I am really painted out I can say, "Not too bad.  It has a certain something, and I certainly gave it my all."
The dialogue is all recorded on the painting for better or worse.  So the answer to the question, "why paint instead of taking a snap shot", is that the dialogue is usually a lot longer and there is a lot of messy paint involved.

Friday, May 13, 2011


On Wednesday I went to beautiful Chanticleer to paint.  It was a  magnificent day and the gardens are as always simply exquisite.  I am trying to warm up for the Wayne Art Center Plein Air Festival which is next week.  I have never participated in a Plein Air Paint Out before.
When I applied to enter, I thought it would be a good way to force myself back into the wilds of painting outside. I had no idea I would be painting with 29 of the best plein air painters in the country ... or that I would have to bring my still wet canvas back to the art center framed, the same day I painted it, each day for five days.
So I had to figure out how best to frame a wet painting and try to get into some kind of shape to paint outside again after a year or so of contentedly painting in my studio with brief excursions outside to look for material.
My first outdoor painting was my last post, completed in my garden, a quiet place to be with not too much weather turbulence.  My experience at Chanticleer was quite the oposite.  I positioned myself in front of a very big scene with lots of people walking by talking to me or peering over my shoulder.  I had a very tiny canvas.  The sun was moving in and out of clouds constantly.  I ended up with something of a mud pie.  The interactions with people were all pleasant—especially the boys from Valley Forge Military academy who were polite as could be.  After I explained what I was aiming for in the painting, one of them said, "Good luck Ma'am".  Ah ... so sweet, he could probably see I needed some luck. 
Well here is the mud pie.  I have "photoshopped" the image to give some indication of what I was aiming for in the second image.  Still pretty bad.  I will try not to paint in such a busy spot and not tackle such a huge scene next time.
Looks like this is going to be quite a learning experience.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Back to Merion and my garden in its first flowering of this year, with Korean lilacs, Forget-me-nots, from New Zealand, and Spanish Bells.   It is an international dance to welcome spring.  The old privat hedges, probably originating in England or Ireland march along keeping order, with the Japanes Katsura as chaparone.  And then there are the gout weed (England) or pinellia (Asia) rudely cutting in.

Just like humans the plants are all jostling for a place in the sun.

This was my first painting of the year completed outside, as I have been working from sketches and photos in my studio.  It is an exhilerating struggle.  The light changes, the wind blows or the sun is too hot...and there is so much more to choose from visually.

Monday, May 9, 2011


One of the prettiest streets in Brooklyn is Albemarle Road with a median planted with trees and seasonal flowers.  I am a fan of porches and this one beats all.  I believe this house is one of the ones described in this entry in Wikipedia.
Tomorrow back to Merion.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Looking out my bedroom window on my Brooklyn holiday I caught this shaft of light that I could not resist.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pardon me if I kvell.  My dear grandson Konrad wrote this wonderful poem, inspired by these two paintings.  A double whammy of happiness for me.


Over the walls
Always moving
Not noticeably
But never stopping
Hugging all that pass
Receiving hugs back
Or rejected
They’re dogs
Not getting too far away
From their master
And pulling
Taunting and teasing
Night falls
They fade away

Konrad Herman

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Everything in spring has a burst of energy.  Trees are blooming in the neighbor's backyard and even the little plant on the window sill is full of new growth.  Another painting from my trip to Brooklyn out the kitchen window.

Monday, May 2, 2011


I spent last week in Brooklyn with my two grandsons.  They live in Ditmas Park, a part of Flatbush where there are old Victorian houses like this one, which I painted from their porch.  It was a lovely time to visit as their spring is a little behind ours, so the tulips and flowering trees were in full bloom.  This neighborhood has wonderful old houses with big welcoming porches like this one.