Henry Shaw’s Resting Place

I start the week all excited knowing that the weather forecast called for beautiful mild weather, and my calendar is empty – 2 rarities that even more rarely coincide.  On Monday I had to take Andrew to the doctor and had other things to do, so on Tuesday I got all my painting supplies together, and marched over to the Missouri Botanical Garden to paint.  I was feeling very tired that day because I had not slept well the night before.  I decided to paint the mausoleum of Henry Shaw.  The Victorian edifice was truly beautiful that day, with the sun glimmering through the windows and the stained glass, and the dappled sunlight creating a multitude of highlights and shadows on the building. I also loved the twisty tree to the left of the building.

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Henry Shaw’s Resting Place, 16″ x 12″, acrylic on canvas panel

It was a nice quiet day without wind, bugs, or people to interrupt me often.  However, when I paint en plain air I usually do pastels. I’m not used to all the accessories  I have to juggle when painting with wet media like acrylics or oils or watercolor.  Not only that, but about 1.5 hours into the painting, it suddenly got cloudy, and my light completely changed.  I was already quite tired, and having a hard time being able to focus and get in the flow.  So I got quite frustrated and decided to pack up for the day.

I came home, and rested for a few hours.  Fortunately, I had taken a picture, so then I used that to block in the trees and the sky.  Two days after that, I decided to put away the photo, and just go with what I remembered, and used my sense of what would work artistically.  I made a point to create a sense of space by making some of the trees a cooler and grayer green, with less details.  I did this by mixing purple into the green.  I also refined the building by putting in some details of the wrought iron work over the windows, and some flecks of color to suggest the stained glass.  I like how you can see the green trees behind the structure through some of the windows.

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“Garden Sentry” Pastel Painting

I can’t get enough of the Missouri Botanical Garden.  I wish they would allow artists to come in and paint after hours.  I would live here if I could, it is so pretty, and has so many luscious scenes to paint.

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Garden Sentry, pastel, 9″ x 12″

Last Wednesday, my husband and I sat at the edge of the lake in the Japanese Garden so I could paint either the bridge, or the boulders in the lake.  I decided on painting the boulders.  Instead of the traditional composition, I chose to put the rocks in the top 1/3 of my painting, and have the bottom 2/3 be the water and the reflections.  It made for an interesting effect.   Usually the background of the painting has the soft edges, but in this case it is the background that has the more distinct edges and brighter colors, due to the subject matter.

This egret landed on top of the taller rock, as if to say “Here I am, and I’m going to keep watch over this garden”.  It stayed there for at least an hour, preening it’s feathers and just relaxing.  I felt blessed and grateful to have this wonderful addition to my scene!  I like how the blue in the shadow side of the bird goes into pink at the bottom, from the reflection off the rock.  I also like the reflections of light on the edges of the bird and the top of the beak.

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Coronado Glory Original Pastel Drawing

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I painted this en plain air with my husband Jon in fall of 2016 in Holly Hills.  Holly Hills is an especially beautiful and charming neighborhood in south St Louis City.  The sugar maples have an amazing color scheme.  They range from a deep golden orange, up through a beautiful magenta color, with darker oranges and reds in between.  These are one of my favorite trees in the fall, because I am a colorist.  When I first moved to St Louis at age 15, I was truly blown away by the colors of these, and would just stare at them in awe and amazement.  I even remember one Sunday, our family drove to a small country town for a sausage supper in October, and I saw so many of these trees on the way there.  I was transported in bliss!

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“Coronado Glory”, pastel on board, 15 1/4″ x 10 1/2″

Old St Marcus Crabapples

One Friday in early spring, I went about 2 – 3 blocks from my home to Old St Marcus Park  for a day of plein air painting.  It was one of those idyllic spring days where the sun was shining, it was balmy, and nature was exploding with a rich, clear, blue sky, vibrant greens, and luscious pinks.  I set up in the grass that was carpeted with violets.

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Old St Marcus Crabapples, oil on canvas panel, 20″ x 16″

I started by toning my panel with a brilliant cool lemon yellow, which to me is the color of early to mid spring on a sunny day.

After this, I painted the evergreen trees on the left.  I did it quickly and somewhat loosely, because time is of the essence when it comes to painting outdoors.  I then did the path and the grasses.  Then I did the pink crabapple trees.  I used cadmium red deep with lots of white.  I also added some warm colors for the lighter sunlit parts.  I think I mixed in some orange or scarlet.  Lastly, I painted in the violets in the grass.  I allowed parts of the bright yellow underpainting to show through, to connote warmth and light.  This works really well with the parts of the grass that are in the sun.  I deliberately simplified the background, which in actual fact had houses and cars, etc, because that wasn’t the point of the painting, and it would have been noise and distraction.

If you closely look at any tree in bloom or in leaf, there are lots of interior darks and grays that support the vivid colors of the outer sunlit leaves and flowers.  I made this gray a greenish gray, in order to complement the pinks of the sunlit crabapple blooms.    This was done in midday, due to the restrictions of my schedule that day.

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Spring Epiphany

This is a small pastel I did en plain air, with a painter buddy who lives nearby.  I did this in the early spring.  This is an elegant stone church in south St Louis called Epiphany Lutheran Church.  It is at the intersection of Leona and Holly Hills.  It is across the street from Carondelet Park, which is where Jane and I painted this.  Both she and I love to paint architecture.  The color of the pastel board is gray, so it was easy to add my windows and shadows by just erasing away the pastel.

I enjoy the experience of having people come to talk to me during my outdoor painting sessions.  I got to meet a neighbor who lives on Holly Hills near this church.  She made a wonderful shawl for my painter friend Jane, and she told me all about the Shake festival in Forest Park, which features a free play every evening in June by Shakespeare.  This year is Romeo and Juliet.

The trees did not have leaves on them when we painted this.  However, my son Andrew suggested I add leaves to the trees.  I did that, and I’m glad I did.

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Spring Epiphany, pastel, 12″ by 9″

Creve Coeur Shadows

I recently took a class with Jerry Thomas called French Impressionist Blue Painting.  The basic premise is that you use at least 2 or more pigment blues, and keep them isolated

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“Creve Coeur Shadows”, 18″ x 14″, oil on canvas panel

from each other in different areas of your painting.

This particular scene is at Creve Coeur Lake in St Louis Missouri.  My husband, sons, and I have spent lots of time sailing here during summers.  I used cobalt blue for the sky, Prussian blue for the water, and ultramarine blue for the snow shadows. Blue is a space color, and there is a strong sense of space in this piece.  I started with a panel toned in bright yellow, to offset all the blues and warm it up, so it wouldn’t look icy cold.  I also used soft pinks, yellows, and violets in the grays of the trees and shrubs.

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Shadows and Reflections

When I was walking past the lily pad ponds by the Linnaeus House in the Missouri Botanical Garden, I was mesmerized by the pattern of lily pad shadows and reflections on the water.

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Shadows and Reflections, acrylic on canvas panel, 14″ x 18

I painted this in acrylic based on a photo I took of the scene.  I enlarged it on my ipad mini, and did a drawing first.  Then I painted in the scene.  It was colorful, but looked somewhat flat and disjointed.  So, I put my Monet on and put lots of broken color in the shadows and the sky reflections.  This made it much more vibrant, and unified the painting.  Later, I darkened some of the shadow areas, and brightened the lighter areas to improve the value system.  Finally, I realized it was hard to tell the reflections and shadows from the actual lily pads and flower, so I put a glaze over the water using a mixture of translucent zinc white, iridescent silver, and iridescent gold.

My favorite part of this is the foreground lily, with the white and gold light reflections on it.

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