I'm happy to announce that selected original watercolors and photographs will now be for sale at the Village Gallery in Croton On Hudson, NY. The gallery selected 5 night photos and 3 landscapes. :)
This is a Japanese Maple drawn during lunch breaks and after work the past few weeks. It’s a managable 12 x 12 inches but still, this was a slow and clumsy endeavor. I’ve always wanted to be that artist who makes fantastic drawing look easy, but I fall into the practice and perseverance camp, even after so many years. Tree shapes are wildly complex and detailed, and you almost instantly feel lost trying to map them in space. Plein air artists have a technical toolbox of resources, ways to break down the living landscape and then translate that to pencil and paper. These tools include measuring scale and proportion, shade, form, distance and texture; and these skills are juggled as the artist muddles through. Ideally, the drawn line can simultaneously convey a specific contour, the shade from light to dark, its form, and scale. But it's just so hard to do that when drawing a tree! The detail is immeasurable, like stars in the sky, and changes with the wind and light. So, you erase and redo, and, over time, it sorts itself out. In that process, you’ve gotten to know the tree like an ant across a lawn, and a memory develops for its peculiarities. That's why a drawing is usually a study for a painting, because the act of drawing gives you enough familiarity and grit to later create a studio painting with merit. Below are some of my favorite trees by artists who have influenced me.
Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Summer Solstice (In Memory of the American Chestnut Tree), 1961-66; watercolor on paper, 54 x 60 inches; Image from the Burchfield Penney Art Center Archives
Summer Solstice is the radiant first day of summer in the northern hemisphere. It will be the longest day of the year and the shortest night. Charles Burchfield wanted to celebrate “this great moment when the sun and earth meet in their greatest intimacy—a truly mystical event—” by painting one of his grandest landscapes. - The Burchfield Penney Art Center
David Hockney, Bigger Trees Nearer Warter, Winter 2008, oil on nine canvases, 36 x 48 inches each, 108 x 144 inches overall
“Trees are the largest manifestation of the life-force we see. No two trees are the same, like us. We’re all a little bit different inside, and look a little bit different outside. You notice that more in the winter than in the summer. They are not that easy to draw, especially with foliage on them. If you are not there at the right time, it is difficult to see the shapes and volumes in them. At midday, you can’t do that.”
“Yes, the trees become friends. One road I like particularly has trees that must have been planted two hundred years ago. I’ve always liked trees, but being here you look really hard at them. You notice things. The ash trees are always the last to come out.”
Stephen McKenna, An English Oak Tree 1981. Tate. © Stephen McKenna
In making this painting, McKenna was very aware of the importance of the oak tree as an English national symbol, and of pictures of single trees by other artists such as Courbet, Crome and Caspar David Friedrich. The artist made drawings of a particular oak tree in Dulwich Park, south London, and developed the painting from them. The landscape background is imaginary. 'An English Oak Tree' is a pair with one of a beech tree in a large park in Brussels, painted at the same time. McKenna has painted several pictures of city parks, being interested in their combination of the natural and the man-made.- Tate Gallery label, September 2004
Graham Nickson, Monumental Tree—Serena's Tree, 2000 Watercolor on paper 18 x 24 inches
Graham was my primary teacher at the New York Studio School and he basically formed me as a painter. I will always be grateful to him.
“It was 1972, and I went up on the roof of the Academy. I was looking at this dramatic sky, and it occurred to me that the most dangerous thing would be to paint the sunset, because it’s so clichéd, so hackneyed, so well known. Even at its best, it had already been done so well by Turner, Nolde, and other people. So I painted the first sunset, and it was awful. Then I painted the second one, and it was equally awful. Then I thought maybe I should try the dawns, because it’s the same thing but earlier. So then I’d have two goes a day. And before I knew it I had painted every dawn and sunset for two years.”
“In the last decade or so, I’ve been painting—mainly with watercolors as opposed to oil painting—every sunrise and sundown that I can do. This activity has become seminal. In a way, it has given me a kind of permission to explore the radicalness of color that happens in the big oil paintings.”
“His color is extreme.” “In all of his work,” wrote Mr. Forge, “there is a sense of something being pushed to a limit–a limit of saturation, of tonal contrast, of dissonance. What establishes the limit is a certain conception of light. This is where the line is drawn beyond which color would run berserk.”
Stanley Lewis, “Hemlock Trees Seen from Upstairs Window in the Snow” (2007-2014), pencil on print paper, 68 3/4 x 59 3/4"
Stanley was my first landscape teacher. Here's a great little video I found which is very much what it was like to learn from him, and is, basically, how I think as a painter.
June 30, 2017
A few years ago, painting had begun to feel like work. It was all the rigor and detail they demanded, the way they could take so long to complete, the uncompromising methods. Studio time was burdened and heavy. I was looking to bring back the joy. These night photos are a painter's way of letting go of draftsmanship and control in preference for the auspicious mistake.
Escaping the isolation of the studio, I wrangle a friend or two with the persuasion of free drinks and the spirit of collaboration. We select a location in nature marked by amplified beauty yet easy to get to. We apply bug spray and forge a plan. For the next 3 to 20 minutes, it’s long exposure theater improve. A flashlight becomes the painter’s brushstroke, highlighting and drawing forth forms revealed by moonlight and the ambient light of humanity’s electricity reflected off the clouds. We move about with lights, a little scared, a little excited, trying to be lit, or not, counting out loud, careful to light without over exposing. Once shot. the camera needs to cook the file the same amount of time as the exposure. So we hang out as anticipation builds, a childlike appreciation for surprise and the pleasure of creating. Hands down, each photo is as compelling as a birthday present.
Under the Blessed Moon
In June, Buddhist’s celebrate the holy day of Saka Dawa on the full moon. They honor the birth, enlightenment and passing of Buddha who had grown weary and tired of the suffering of life ad so renounced his kingdom and family. He went forth in solitude, a seeker who sat under a tree next to a river until enlightened understanding dawned within him.
This photo was shot on Saka Dawa in Garrison, NY. It is a long exposure of approximately 7 minutes. Three people teamed together to make this happen. One person stood by the camera to call out 30 second intervals while the other two illuminated the tree and path with flashlights. The bright light of the moon enhanced the cloud coverage which gently blurs along its path of motion over the time of the exposure. The image was enhanced in Lightroom.
In Zen Buddhism, the Enso circle symbolizes non-duality and the moment when the mind is free to let the body create. Like spring’s abundant energy leading to the full bloom of tree blossoms, our creative energy surges when we allow for movement, space, wisdom and joy to permeate.
In this case, I created an Eno circle of hands by lighting them in 6” intervals in a circle around my body. I used the warm light of the mag light to illuminate the building and my body and the cool light of the LED to light the tree. In order to avoid harsh shadowing, I lit the tree in the round by walking back and forth, lighting the tree from top to bottom several times. This image was approximately 7 minutes and was enhanced in Lightroom.
Humans have always used the natural world to demarcate gathering places, sacred land centers, and community gathering areas. People gathered at these natural places to share and disseminate knowledge, to perform ritual, create treaties and alliances, and mingle families. North American Natives bent trees in recognizable shapes to designate burial grounds and trade routes.
This image was taken in Garrison, NY. I set up the tripod on a dark and misty night, far away from the tree which is the focal point. Then I walked to the tree and lit myself as three characters under the tree. Over the course of the long exposure, the camera picked up the landscape by ambient light, human made night light permeating the atmosphere while the mist softened the edges of trees and ridges.
The Muses are blessings with good ideas that visit you when you open your heart, listen and appreciate their guidance. They are ripe with inspiration, new ideas, options, experiments, and risky notions. They keep the creative life moving forward, one decision at a time. Mostly, they come in whispers and it isn’t until you’ve brought their song into form that you can appreciate it’s value.
This image was photographed in Garrison, NY with the intention of capturing the beauty of the old autumn tree before it dropped its leaves. I set up the camera at a good distance, opened the shutter and recorded the surface of the ground and my walking path by swinging my flashlight back and forth. I then illuminated myself in three positions at the base of the tree. Finally, I spent time lighting the tree itself before returning to the camera, lighting the ground behind me in the same manner as earlier.
Our nature, ever changing, vacillating between pleasure and pain, good and bad, is more of a map of opposites than any one characteristic. Like the day shifts to night and back to day, our inner experience is marked by tidal movements. We are not real so much as reflections of ever changing experience.
This photo was taken under the full moon on a windy night on Mt. Beacon in NY. We hiked up at sunset and stayed on as the moon rose. This exposure was about 5 minutes. The trees were blurred by the wind, the sky and landscape were brightly lit by the moon. The model was illuminated from two directions, casting two strong shadows. The final image was enhanced in Lightroom.
Fourth of July Promotion
buy 2 night photos and get one free