Pine Cone

I’ve been in a creative slump since getting back from Florida.   I’m not sure if it’s just fatigue or the weather.  It’s certainly getting colder and snow is forecast for Tuesday.

However, just when I was wondering what to practice on next, my neighbour and friend, Pia, brought me some lovely pine cones from her white pine.  They’re not as easy as they look – this is my second attempt at teasing out the hard petal shapes while saving the white tips.  If you can ignore that it looks like it’s floating, I think I got the essence of it’s personality.

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Sketches from Kissimmee

Umbrellas at Orange Lake

Staying at a resort is not usually the type of trip I’m used to. While it’s great to sit by the pool for a while, it’s not long before I’m looking for something to do. I was glad I brought my travel paints for those rest and relaxation moments.

It was fun to practice figures in the bright Florida sunshine. This is something I don’t do often enough as you can tell by my scribbles.

Figures by the pool

My friend Joanne is the model for the reclining figure. I warned her if she pulled her chair in front of me she risked getting sketched. Undeterred, her comment when I finished was, she wished I’d “photoshopped” more curves in. I told her I’m a “realist” painter. Thankfully she laughed. It was all fun and games and no one lost an eye.

There was a bit of excitement as the resort staff carefully chased a beautiful three foot long black snake. I was rooting for the snake and was happy when it slid safely away under the palms. Other wildlife, includes snowy egrets, sand cranes that poke holes in the lawns, and intrepid little geckos that climb over everything. They stop to listen when you talk to them. They’re my favourite resort creature so far.

Gecko 🦎

Evening Light on the Heather

Evening Light on the Heather 6×9 watercolour 300lb arches cp

I wanted to see the heather blooming in Scotland. As we crossed from Glasgow to Edinburgh by train, I realized it was too late in the season. We eventually did see some late blooms as we travelled into Wester Ross but no great coverage.

The AirB&B where we stayed in Edinburgh’s west end had a milk can on the bathroom window filled with artificial heather though.  They were only silk but beggars can’t be choosers. A photo of them in the evening light on the day we arrived would have to do.  It turned out to be a good high contrast shot and I’m happy with how the painting turned out though the bathroom was more purple.

It was nice to work back home in the studio today after my summer of plein air practice.  I feel I can slow down and regain some control.  

I have one more trip this year. This time to Florida.  I’m debating not taking my paints and sketch book but who am I kidding? If they don’t fit in my carry on, they’ll be in my purse. #can’tquit 🙂

Dunboy Pony

Dunboy Pony 6×9.5 300lb arches cp

I wasn’t sure if it was an Irish horse or a pony, in the yard near the gatehouse, but its sentry-like presence sparked my imagination. It watched as we drove in the road that leads to Dunboy Castle on the Ring of Beara in County Cork, Ireland. The trip was a few years ago but I remember the moment clearly. 

The gaze never flinched as I snapped a few pictures. It was a look that said I know who you are. It was the only welcome we got on that cool October day and I felt it was a solemn greeting full of the knowledge of the final battle and defeat that took place there;  the castle, once home to my ancestors, was a ruin of stones covered in moss and ivy. Parts of some walls still stood. A few plaques had been mounted to remember those who died in its defence.

I felt the air and attitude of the pony held the feeling of the place. Could I capture that in watercolour?   

I chose mostly single pigment washes, or mixed no more than two pigments on the palette. It meant going for intensity without mud… not one of my strong points. I used a wash of burnt umber over burnt sienna for the pony, mixes of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna for the darks, with manganese and ultramarine blue washes for the sky. Naples yellow and quinacridone scarlet with a touch of purple finished the hoizon, and yellow and blue mixes suggest the grass.

I kept the background loose adding a ghost of a structure on the horizon. I wanted to convey the sense of determination and steadfastness of the O’Sullivans through the spirit of this little horse more than I wanted to “tell” the story.  

Obviously, my interpretation is subject to place and time but I’d be interested in knowing what others perceive. Let me know what you think!
For a history of the O’Sullivans or Dunboy Castle check out Wikipedia. Lots of history there.

Kejimkujik Lake from Keji Beach

Quick sketch of Keji Lake

Check-out time at the retreat was 11:00 a.m., but Susan wanted to see the Park (her first time there), so we packed up quickly and skedaddled five km down the road to Keji, arriving around 9:00. 

After a quick tour of Mill Falls, Jake’s Landing, and the Eel Weir, which included lots of picture taking and stopping multiple times to watch the deer, Susan headed back to the city. 

I had some lunch and made my way to Keji Beach.  The stillness was broken only by the sound of acorns dropping.  Mind you, when they hit the picnic tables, the “crack” echoed across the lake! 

Not keen on being pelted while I painted, I chose a sunny table on the sand with no overhanging oaks!

Thinking back on all the work we did over the summer, I’m not convinced  I’ve improved that much and I’m looking forward to doing some studio work.

When I commented at the retreat that I wasn’t able to repeat the techniques we learned without the instructor there, one of the other artists reminded me that our instructor has been painting for over fifty years and has earned a Fine Arts degree under masters like Alex Colville.  I’ve got a ways to go –if I live that long.

Isn’t it true that sometimes, what we really need to learn is a bit of perspective!?! 😊

A bit of colour on the Mersey

Capturing the colours of autumn in Nova Scotia is the goal of many artists. The Mersey River retreat weekend was a great opportunity to play with oranges and reds.  

Two paintings came off the easel today with only one passable for posting.    

For the morning set up, I paddled out to a floating dock.

From the floating dock in the middle of the lake.

The plan was to capture the canoe in front of the mouth of the Mersey River.  The foam ended up looking like snow, and the colour in the reflections ran badly, turning the lake a muddy orange. Plus… the perspective on the canoe was off, making it look like a dory!  I gave up and went for a nice paddle instead.

Easel, paints and chair in the bottom of the canoe.
The foam makes cool patterns on the surface
Where the Mersey feeds into the small lake I paddled.
Fall colours in NS

The paddle lifted my spirits and after a good lunch I headed back out to find a less challenging view.

afternoon inspiration
My interpretation: A bit of colour
 

The afternoon painting was unfinished as the rain began to add a bit of unplanned texture. It gave a nice effect to the big tree on the right, but worried about all the colours running, I packed up quickly to join the other painters for supper.

As always, the critique at the end of the day was gentle and constructive. Muting the background colours would give better depth. Placing the large rock further to the left would balance the composition more. And, some of the foreground darks could be darker. 

Helpful advice is one of the best reasons to paint with a group. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with these artists.

A productive weekend for some!
Twenty paintings in all!