Beach Week Bliss

What happened to June? It was a crazy, exciting month. To our surprise and delight, our 8 year old daughter had landed a bona fide cast role— as “Molly” ( the littlest orphan,) in the chlidren’s theater production of “Annie”. I soon founding myself chauffering her to daily rehearsals and painting orphanage set pieces, Hooverville set pieces, and various props in the production.

We had a blast during the whole experience, but by the time beach week (and July) rolled around (the day after closing the show!) we were all SO ready to return back to our normal, boring life. Not only that, but I was REALLY ready to return to painting—landscapes on canvas, that is.

My first, early morning attempt at it didn’t exactly go as planned, however. Little did I know when I hauled myself and all of my gear over the dunes and down to the shore at 6 a.m. that I was without a rather key part of my painting setup—the piece of my pochade box that attaches to my tripod and essentially holds my painting upright. As dismayed as I was, I determined to forge ahead.

I managed to complete a small 8x10” just-after-sunrise piece of the pier, propping the canvas horizontally the way you would a watercolor, on the edge of my palette. But it was no watercolor. The morning sun cast such a light on my oil painting at this angle that it was really glaring and almost blindingly too much light on the piece, making it hard to view or judge values. In any event, after a few minor adjustments “after the fact,” I think I managed to capture the “feeling of the moment” in spite of the struggle.

“Nags Head Pier, 6 A.M.” Oil on linen, 8x10” ©Jennifer E Young

“Nags Head Pier, 6 A.M.” Oil on linen, 8x10” ©Jennifer E Young

I actually thought I had left that key piece of equipment at home, but luckily for me (and the next painting,) I found it, tucked in a compartment in the trunk of my car. Whew! 😅This gave me courage to venture a little further down the road, to find a public beach access and a traditional Nags Head cottage, complete with dunes, weathered cedar shingles, and a fishing boat temporarily moored in the distance between the two. I really love the traditional cottages of “Old Nags Head”, and this cottage “Sand Joy” seemed to embody so much of that local character.

“Sand Joy” Oil on linen, 11x14” ©Jennifer E Young

“Sand Joy” Oil on linen, 11x14” ©Jennifer E Young

One other morning it was down to Nags Head Fishing Pier. It was a little too far from the house to hike with all of my gear, so I drove down and paid to park. Ironically, I ended up painting the beach and no pier at all. I had fully intended to paint that pier with its waves lapping and glinting under the pilings, but my eye and my heart kept drifting to the beach and the surf and those wonderful clouds that were forming on the skyline. So I wiped down my canvas and started anew. In such moments I just feel it is better to paint what compels you, rather than what you think “should” compel you.

“Nags Head in July,” Oil on linen, 11x14” ©Jennifer E Young

“Nags Head in July,” Oil on linen, 11x14” ©Jennifer E Young

After that I ran out of white paint and was bummed to find the only art store on the island apparently closed for the July 4th weekend. As a result, I was “compelled” by necessity to just relax the next morning or two and enjoy the sandcastles and porpoises, which, let’s be honest, isn’t exactly suffering. I took a lot of great photos, though, so I am sure to revisit my time there in the coming months in my studio. Hope you’ll stay tuned for that inevitability!

P. S. I have a couple of upcoming summer shows in the very near future, including one at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens that opens tomorrow night. I have written indepth about them in my latest newsletter, which you can check out here. I hope you can join me at the openings if you are in the area!

Escape to Provence! A Step by Step Demo

Over Christmas break as everything was pretty brown and exceedingly soggy outside, I decided to mine my many photos of sunnier times from my trips abroad. I will never forget my trip to Lourmarin, painting and eating my way through this beautiful part of Provence. I still long to go back, and am determined to do so, hopefully this time sharing it’s magic with my daughter. In the meantime I can always revisit the experience through paintings. So let’s get started, shall we?

“Le Printemps, Temple de Lourmarin”, Oil on linen, 24x30” ©Jennifer E Young

“Le Printemps, Temple de Lourmarin”, Oil on linen, 24x30” ©Jennifer E Young

Above is the completed work, photographed outside for correct color and no glare! This Protestant Church, Le Temple de Lourmarin, is simple and austere on the inside but it has a wonderful exterior and adds a sense of history and tradition as it sits like a sentry at the edge of town. Click through on the final image to read more or purchase this piece.

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. 

Upcoming events

Sometimes I am grateful for the cool rainy days of spring. It makes me feel like I can do things like clean my studio or prep my plein air panels and frames without the tinge of guilt and regret from not being outside in the thick of it painting all of that spring color. But without the prep work, the other doesn't happen, so hooray for rain and clouds and wind! :-)  

This week I am preparing for a couple of upcoming events that I am excited to share with you. The first is coming up speedy-quick. It's a plein air painting event called "Plein Air Unleashed" in Whitestone, Virginia. I have never been to this area but from what I have read and heard, it sounds like a location ripe with subject matter for plein air painting. 

pleinairunleashed.jpg

Starting this Thursday artists will descend on the charming, sleepy towns of Whitestone and Irvington and unleash actual havoc with flying paint and violent brushwork! Seriously though it should be lots of fun scheduled over a long weekend this Thursday, April 26th through Sunday April 29th. Please visit the Plein Air Unleashed Facebook Page for all of the information on the demos and events planned. The paintings from the event will be on exhibit at the Allure Art Center through May 26th.

"Charmed In Beynac", Oil on linen, 11x14", will be included in the upcoming "April Showers Bring May Flowers" exhibit of flower-themed art at Gallery Flux.

"Charmed In Beynac", Oil on linen, 11x14", will be included in the upcoming "April Showers Bring May Flowers" exhibit of flower-themed art at Gallery Flux.

Also this month I will be participating in a spring-themed exhibit at Gallery Flux entitled "April Showers Bring May Flowers". Come enjoy the color on display in this floral themed exhibit with works by over 20 artists. The variety of mediums, sizes and floral interpretations make an eclectic mix of artwork celebrating the beauty of spring. Opening Reception : Thursday, May 3, 2018 5:30-8pm. Exhibit continues through May 25th. 

I hope to see some familiar faces at one or both of these events. If you are further afield, follow me online on Instagram and Facebook where I'll do my best to keep you updated!