road series


To travel and paint ….. to paint and travel.  To pass along the various methods I’ve learned or discovered to express the life I awaken to each morning …. To make connections, on a daily basis, with new people from all walks of life  and to add, in a positive way, to the rhythm of the Universe …. Those have always been my goals.

On the Road to Asheville, NC

On the Road to Asheville, NC

As those goals become reality, other aspects of daily life require adjusting.  There are only twenty four hours in each day.  I had filled those hours completely before needing to upgrade my online presence, before needing to plan for days lost to airports and cars, travel logistics, packing everything into manageable suitcases.  It’s challenging and totally worth every frustration that crosses my path.

Developing new approaches to teaching the basics drives me along paths I might not have explored.  I discover techniques I had forgotten and I stumble across techniques I haven’t tried before.  My own work grows when I share my painting experiences with others.

Sketchbook travel drawing:  Drawn first with ink using a fountain pen, followed by watercolor using a waterbrush. Drawn from the passenger seat, en route to Asheville, NC where my friend, Pete, filmed the first of a series of online painting demos.

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Here’s one of the sketchbook pages from my recent road trip to New England.

View From Rest Stop near Malden

And here is one more ….

And the last one sketched on March 7th before the sun dropped behind the mountains.

Bromley Ski Resort, Vermont

An hour later the biggest moon I’ve ever seen rose above the mountains above Saxton’s River, VT.

Sketchbook Drawings:  all drawn first with fountain pen, followed by watercolor

What continues to thrill me each and every day?  The shapes created by roads slicing through the landscape are endless entertainment and inspiration.

Driveway Zig Zags echoed by dramatic clouds

The view from my front porch delights me morning, noon and night.  This little pencil sketch has possibilities to be developed into a large oil painting.  My challenge is to keep the foreground, mid-ground, tree line and sky close in value while captivating in color variations.  I want the repetition of sky and road shape to be abstractly strong, yet not overbearing.

Misdirected attention …

Cedar Tree at the Route 12 Circle

For three days I painted small studies of the cedar tree at the end of the Dvoor Farm driveway in Flemington, New Jersey.  The driveway leads to the intersection of Mine Street and the Route 12 circle.  The tree is stunning as old cedars usually are.  I thought I was struggling to paint the tree, when in reality, I was more interested in the way the shapes of the roads fit into the shapes of the grass masses.  The difficulty was capturing a sense of both the tree and the roads in a quick sketch.

My water to pigment ration continued to trip me up by either bleeding too much into other areas or losing the beauty of translucency.  My ultimate goal of these quick sketches is to be able to travel and paint on location with some sort of satisfaction even when I have only a fifteen minutes to paint before moving on.

While working on the quick cedar tree paintings it became crystal clear to me that careful observation and clarity of purpose are uppermost in importance.  When working figuratively I do not lose focus on my intent as easily as I do when painting landscapes.

Sketchbook Notes:

Race Track at Lime Rock, CT. watercolor sketch

Signs are useful to add a bit of primary color to a landscape and to keep your eyes from wandering too far from the road.

The top painting began as the painting below. I thought I had resolved the painting, cleaned my palette and brushes, shut off the lights and returned home. Next morning when I arrived back at the studio I noticed that the dark spaces between the branches of one of the larger trees on the right was too dark in value and came forward rather than recede. I thought it would be simple enough to make the adjustment. One small adjustment led to another. I added a bit more definition to the small, isolated tree in the mid-ground area on the far right. I lost the subtlety I had liked in the grassy area. The painting lost its spark for me.

I’m not sure what happened next. Perhaps I began making a few more adjustments. At some point, the painting began to take on a new life, a far more vibrant life than the original version. The image began to have a heartbeat and I responded by giving it air to breath and space through which to move. I have had this experience many times while painting with watercolor, but only recently have I experienced it while oil painting.

Transformation is thrilling. Allowing the painting to go in a totally new direction resulted in a far stronger painting.

After working for about six hours on the two paintings of Gaudi’s walls of brick and stone I felt tight and lacking in creativity. It is one thing to look intently at a scene in front of me and to respond to the details that I pull out of the reality. It is quite another to study a photograph with the same intensity. Photographs are terribly limited when it comes to color. They can’t help it. The color is created by pigment, not light. Translating pigment to pigment is quite different from translating light into pigment.

After deciding it was time to stop working on the brick and stones, to let the paintings dry and hope for a bit more energy to come from the next layer of glazing, my choice was to lock up shop and go home or to paint the first layer of glaze onto the last of the Road Series canvases. I had decided to use the painting Morning Dance as inspiration and to see what might happen. The painting is not at blue as it appears here.

With simplicity in mind I began to paint; I began to smile, to feel that rush of pleasure when something unexpected begins to happen. My fatigue vanished and I followed the muse. The final painting is another example of how working on a series results in breaking through barriers and finding myself in a new, unexplored territory. I adore simplicity, yet it is so difficult for me to express well. This painting is finished and I am delighted with the results.

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