For Everything, A Season

It’s been a difficult year. I guess I’m now at a point where I can finally write it down, but based on the June date of my last real blog post,😳 (aside from the occasional quick announcement) maybe it was already evident. June was when the reality settled in for me and my siblings that it was time to say goodbye (for now) to our beautiful, sweet, smart, creative mother, who had struggled with her illness in an acute form for over a year. I thought I was prepared, but no matter how well you understand the “reality” in front of you, there’s nothing that really prepares you for such a loss. With a little distance and time, I am still realizing how much it knocked the wind out of my sails, and I’ll admit that I am struggling to get my energy and my painting “mojo” back.

If you, yourself, are a creative of any kind, I’m sure you know that feeling of creative flow. It’s so great when it’s present and really kind of miserable when it isn’t. That’s not to say that I haven’t painted at all. In fact, the paintings I’m sharing in this post are from commissions and projects I worked on over the past few months. But it’s been hard to get that momentum going where gears are all greased and the ideas and inspiration just keep flowing and I’m chomping at the bit with my next idea.

I suppose there are art marketing gurus out there that say that you should never admit such things and always put your most successful foot forward. “Fake it ‘til you make it,” so to speak, and only share your successes and never the struggle. That can sometimes be helpful, but it’s not particularly authentic. Let’s face it, the struggle can be real and I would venture to say I am not the only artist who has been in this place.

If you are in this place also, my advice is to be gentle on yourself. Do the work that is in front of you, do what you can, but don’t beat yourself up that it’s just “not happening” for you every time you step in front of the easel (or the potter’s wheel or the computer). Celebrate the moments of inspiration in whatever form and for however long they come. This too will pass, but in the meantime, the only way past it is to get through it the best way you know how.

For me, I’m reorganizing my studio, working on an new inventory management system, and cleaning up the office as a way to clear out both the mental and physical clutter. As a result, I’m holding a holiday sale of smaller (mostly plein air) paintings with some great savings in hopes that I can manage my limited storage space and also hopefully send a few more pieces out into the world. I’m also working on a series of still life paintings, as they are less dependent on time of day and weather. More about that in future posts.

Now showing - A new venue and a fun art festival in the heart of RVA!

Greetings friends of the arts! It’s been a while since I have reached out and I wanted to share two exciting new venues I am participating in this fall.

Carytown Collective

As you may already know, my studio is in Ashland, Virginia, located about 30 minutes by car from Downtown Richmond. I’m always happy to show my work at the studio by appointment to interested collectors. Even so, I have had a lot of people in the Richmond area ask where they might find my work closer into town. Now I am happy to announce my partnership right in the heart of one the premier urban shopping districts in RVA- Carytown! The Carytown Collective is a shared retail space bringing you the best that RVA has to offer in gift items, home accessories, beauty brands and art. Located at 3422 W. Cary Street in Richmond, the shop is open daily every day except Monday from 11 AM to 6 PM. For more information, contact the shop at (804) 353-1509. And be sure to follow their Facebook page!

carytowncollective_jennifereyoung

Plein Air Westhampton

My second announcement is actually an event, which takes place in yet another premier Richmond shopping district. It’s an event I’ve been looking forward to ever since participating in the inaugural event last year. Plein Air Westhampton is a week-long plein air festival celebrating paintings of real-life Westhampton, completed by 23 local artists. Artists will be working throughout Richmond’s Westhampton neighborhood during the week of Sept. 24 and present their creations during a show culminating on Sunday in the Plein Air tent, during Party On the Avenues. 10% of Plein Air Art proceeds will benefit FETCH-A-Cure – an organization providing pet owners with awareness and access to pet cancer treatment.

Follow @buypleinairwestrva on Instagram to purchase pieces before Party on the Avenues!

 “This Way to the Market” (SOLD) Oil, 12x12” Painted at the 2017 Plein Air Westhampton

“This Way to the Market” (SOLD) Oil, 12x12” Painted at the 2017 Plein Air Westhampton

If you’re local to the area, I hope you can come on out to see either me, my work, or both at these two great local venues.

Butter and Buttercups

Each year in early spring the rural counties in Virginia are blanketed with sunny yellow buttercups, and each year I vow to get outside and paint them in the field. More often than not though, I miss their brief appearance for one reason or another. It’s a busy time at my daughter’s school, or I am preparing for a show, or moving, etc., etc., etc.) This year I got lucky, thanks to the sweet tip I received from my husband, who spotted this location on his morning drive to work. 

 "Butter and Buttercups", Oil on linen, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

"Butter and Buttercups", Oil on linen, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

This dairy farm is about 20 minutes from my home in Ashland, out in rural Hanover County just past historic Hanover Tavern. I started out painting the barn and fields, cowless, with a plan of perhaps adding the cows later from photos I took on site. Just toward the end of my session though, the cows obliged, and ambeled over long enough for me to paint a suggestion of their general shape and position. I decided to leave them as I painted them in the field, as I felt the handling was consistent with the rest of the painting.

Change is Good (on revising oil paintings)

I’m not afraid of anything in this world
There’s nothing you can throw at me
That I haven’t already heard
I’m just trying to find a decent melody
A song that I can sing in my own company
— Songwriters: Adam Clayton / Dave Evans / Larry Mullen / Paul Hewson (U2)

I've heard it said that there's nothing new under the sun, and that's probably true when it comes to painting. Nevertheless,  I never stop striving to improve, both in terms of technique and in how best to express myself. I want to make work that speaks to me and hopefully speaks to others as well. No one painting can say everything and I don't expect it to. The best paintings say just enough, with sensitivity, but without overstating. 

And then there are the ones that need re-stating. :-/  Often with such paintings it is easier to just wipe down or tear up my first effort and see if I can try again on a fresh canvas. Sometimes though,  it seems worth the effort to attempt a revision first before scrapping the whole darn thing. If the painting is fresh and new, reworking is a fairly easy and straightforward task, as there isn't an under-layer of built up paint to compete with.

But it may not occur to me right away exactly what change is needed, and it's only after sitting with it a while that I want to go back into it again. In these cases, a little bit of elbow grease is required, both to ensure proper adhesion of the new paint layers and to knock down any unwanted texture. 

My painting, "Rugosa Coastline" is a studio piece that was based on a smaller plein air piece I did when I was up in Maine. After a few months of thinking about it I decided that it lacked something that the plein air piece captured. I felt the studio piece was labored, overall too busy, and the colors, especially in the foreground greenery,  too intense for the time of day. So I set to work to see if I could make a few changes, to maybe loosen it up, and tone down the colors to ones more faithful to the time of day I was trying to capture.

 First pass of my 24x30" studio painting based on the smaller plein air piece below.

First pass of my 24x30" studio painting based on the smaller plein air piece below.

 "Day's End, Lane's Island", Oil on linen, 11x14" ©Jennifer E Young

"Day's End, Lane's Island", Oil on linen, 11x14" ©Jennifer E Young

My first order of business was to knock back some of the texture. Not all texture in the under layer is bad, but if there is  a lot of texture that shows through as a "ghost" image I will sand it down a bit. If it's really built up I may find I need scrape it away razor blade, very carefully, (and pray I don't poke a hole in the canvas). 

Next I will "oil out" to give the new paint layer better adhesion to the partially dried layer underneath. To oil out, solvents or medium (or a combination) is brushed in a thin layer on the surface of the portion of canvas you want to rework. Most often I just use a little Gamsol for this purpose. 

 "Rugosa Coastline" (SOLD) Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

"Rugosa Coastline" (SOLD) Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

The resulting painting was still a bit different than the little plein air piece, but it felt truer to the time and place and to the feelings that I had when creating the painting on the spot. I felt significantly happier with the revised version of this painting, and wouldn't you know, someone else did too? It sold not long after the revision. 

Tune in to part two in my next post, where I'll share another revision I undertook, which ended up with more extensive and fairly dramatic changes. 

"Plein Air Unleashed"

Last week I posted about a planned trip to White Stone, VA to paint with fellow artists in a relatively new plein air painting festival called Plein Air Unleashed. There were ten of us artists at this year's event, which spanned over a period of three days. 52 paintings were turned in to Allure Art Center at the culmination, to be displayed at the gallery during the month of May.  This is a fairly newly minted event, so it was pretty relaxed and low-key, which was fine by me as I always feel a bit rusty in the spring after my winter hibernation in the studio. 

 This was my collection of paintings turned in at the end of the event.

This was my collection of paintings turned in at the end of the event.

White Stone is less than two hours from where I live, but I have never been to this area, nor anywhere in the Northern Neck. It's really quite a treat for plein air painters like me. The Northern Neck is the northernmost peninsula in Virginia. White Stone, Irvington, and Kilmarnock, where we painted sit at the southern end, where the Rappahanock meets the Chesapeake Bay. The area consists of small beaches, wetlands, marinas, farms, vineyards, and wineries, so there is a wide variety of subject matter to paint, with some really beautiful light and cloud formations from being that it is surrounded by so much water.

In all, I painted 8 pieces and turned in 7 (with one being a tosser). I can sometimes feel stressed by the more competitive events, but this festival was invigorating. It was great to be around other fine caliber painters and to just be able to submerge myself in nothing but painting for a few dedicated days. Here are a few on site photos of works-in-progress:

I felt fortunate to have stumbled on the info about this event through my friend Kim Hall, and hope to return next year. Here are most of the paintings I submitted for the show. I wish I had time to get a terrific record of the artwork submitted, but these photographs will have to do for now. 

The exhibit at Allure Art Center will run through May 26th. The gallery is going to be posting highlights from the event and artists on its Facebook page, so even if you are nowhere near White Stone, you can get a taste of the event online.