Finished my Grand Canyon Painting which was more work than I expected, although I am happy with the outcome. The scene is the Bright Angel Trail and the meandering it takes out to Plateau Point. There hikers do hike down the canyon and from the rim I once saw a moving figure about the size of half an inchworm. I was told, to my shock at the unreadable distance, that it was a mule train and it was moving along slowly.
The Grand Canyon is lovely in its natural beauty and deserves to be one of the natural wonders of the world. At any given moment the sun and clouds change all the colors.
Reading a new book I got for Christmas, entitled The Village, 400 years of a history of beats and Bohemians, radicals and rogues by John Strausbaugh. It's quite well written and has a lot of research in it on Greenwich Village, of which I never lived in but have been back and forth to it on sundry occasions going back into my childhood. My parents lived on Long Island and my grandparents, aunts and uncles were all city dwellers and so I was taken there for different reasons but it has always struck me as so pretty with its tree lined streets and old townhouses.
So far I have learned a bit regarding how Manhattan was originally hilled, brooked and wooded, and all were mowed down to flatten the landscape for the grid we all know as New York City.
"The magnificent opportunity which was given to the Commissioners to create a beautiful city simply was wasted and thrown away. Having to deal with a region well wooded, broken by hills, and diversified by watercourses-where the very contours of the land suggested curving roads, and its unequal surface reservations for beauty's sake alone-these worthy men decided that the forests should be cut away, the hills levelled, the hollows filled in, the streams buried; and upon the flat surface thus created they clapped down a ruler and completed their Boeotian (ie; dull-witted) programme by creating a city in which all was right angles and straight lines." written in 1893 in Harper's Monthly.
More's the pity. One has to wonder how lovely that original island did look and would've have looked had it been carved out for a city by a more artistic eye!
I did read a book recommended to me by a friend many years ago when we were college mates, Spindrift, spray from a psychic sea. Written by Jan Bryant Bartell, which led me to paint her in front of her 19th century townhouse on Tenth Avenue.
Here is that painting:
January 7, 2016
It's raining. The earth's magical gift, rain. I took my coffee outside to see the gray sky and watched as the fine rain came down with that magical sound, the voice of rain speaking on its lovely stage of foggy air and leaves bobbing under it's wet touch.
Rain always inspires me to paint. I think because I get a sense of being part of the natural world. I watch a mockingbird as he takes his place in the bared limbs of my backyard tree and though it is a warm fall of of water it is because I'm now living in Phoenix but always thinking of Long Island and the wood there.
As the rain falls he flutters and shake his wings and taking a bath that seems pleasant he makes an occasional sharp chirp. In no way does he judge the wetness, he gives his little bird body up to this watery world and I think of how many ways there are to look at rain.
I am in the process of finishing a painting but already considering and wishing to do one that includes rain.
I remember reading once Van Gogh, when writing Theo, wrote of his painting that included rain. In his painting "Enclosed Wheat Field in the Rain" he painted a rainy autumn day in France looking out his window while in the asylum by using diagonal slashes of white paint to depict the rain falling outside his window.
It's always been a problem for me to paint rain, how do you capture it other than this way and so I have so far only painted the effects of it, gray days, cloudy skies or fog. In reality it's rain I'm thinking of and still searching for a way to paint it, other than the fine slash of a line which is fine for an impressionist but does not feel right to me when trying to paint in a realist style.
As a child growing up on Long Island my father would take my sister and I for rides out to the end of the Island. I was moved by many of the beautiful scenes I saw there, many no longer exist. The rainy days were my favorites. Going back recently one of the scenes still unchanged was in East Hampton, by the pond off Montauk Highway, or otherwise known as Main Street. It had just rained. The grass was wet and green. The atmosphere slightly diffused. The colors of rain even though none fell at the moment, all was wet.
This is what prompted me to paint Tranquil Pond in East Hampton.
January 20, 2016
Taking a little time to do a snow painting, which I have always wanted to try but have not had the chance. It happens there is a huge storm on the East coast due to hit this weekend, particularly the DC Washington region. As I paint I do feel a twinge of guilt sitting here in sunny Arizona painting the snow as I see it as very beautiful. It is often deadly and living through those Eastern snowstorms, which are beautiful when sitting inside looking out the window at the snow with a hot chocolate and the heat going. However, truthfully my heart goes out to them for this upcoming storm and the dread they might have of it. I have read some comments on the internet that some fear will be another Sandy (hurricane of a few years ago).
Still, the memories of snow days drift back to me and my brush brings them into focus while I lay down blues and whites of the snow and it's shadows as it lay on Main Street, Sag Harbor, Long Island in my chosen subject.
My mind really is on my childhood and playing in the snow with my sister. I can still remember the silence and that stillness the air held with the flakes drifting down slowly all around us. My little sister nearby crunching her way through the drifts her laughter in the air and the snow in clumps on our clothes. We were cold and sniffling but somehow children do not mind the cold as much as they love the company of each other, building our forts and our snowmen together. An adult might find this great production of creation to be without the merit of value in money but never has money brought me the deep happiness I enjoyed as a child, playing in the cold with my sister. Those were the golden days.
My sister, gone these many years now and taken too young. Many have said it better than I but how strange it all is, to live and then not to.
The painting when done I will show here.
I can show you 'Shadow and fog down beautiful Atlantic Avenue'. I painted because it also brought back similar memories of my sister and I going for walks in the warm spring sun down a street that looked very much like this one, near our home.
We found it quite by accident after what we called 'exploring'. A walk down paths through a woods behind our house and found this quite street, very old about a half a mile from our home. The arching of the trees over the street and the shadows falling across the road silenced even we, as children, because of it's beauty.
The fog in the distance of this painting at the end of the road symbolizes the unknown where my sister has now disappeared into. I hope she is happy down that road. I hope to see her again.
Sunday Jan 31 2016
While painting my snow painting, Snowy day on Main Street, I listened to a documentary on Paul Cezanne. He rejected Paris to live in Provence and wrote to his friend Camile Pissarro in Paris that for the first time he understood what the impressionists meant by using patches of color as opposed to modeling in tone. To model a form gradually from light to dark or visa versa. The impressionists introduced painting, juxtaposing colored brush marks, patches of color which would serve to model a form. He sketched his works drawing very faintly, just enough to allow for the placement of things and then proceeded to paint with the color. Cezanne's impressionist period was 1870s to 1878.
I have read that Cezanne is said to have formed the bridge between late 19th-century Impressionism and the early 20th century's new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism. Both Matisse and Picasso are said to have remarked that Cezanne "is the father of us all."
I found this an interesting observation on the Impressionists works, and when I started this painting I considered doing it in an impressionistic style. I thought of many of the impressionist works I've seen but could not outright remember a snow painting by one.
It happened I came across an artist whose work I had never heard of before, Walter Moras. He lived in the mid 1800s to the early part of the 1900s and was a German landscape painter who specialized to some extent in winter scenes. It was this painter who really influenced me as I worked on my painting of snow. His works are so well done and have such feeling in them that I know I will be looking at them on occasion for many years to come.
It's always disappointing to me when I see someone doing the same thing in paint I am trying to accomplish but they have done it better than me. Moras has a way with giving snow, depth. His shadows, sky treatment, trees all reflect the snowlight that gave so much atmosphere to the days of my youth. Being out here in Arizona I do not experience the snow anymore and to me it is a nostalgic memory. His paintings very much capture what I what I felt in those days, you can nearly hear the silence and understand what it really means to be part of nature.
The drives out to Sag Harbor always a pure delight for me because the town is a lovely haven, comfortable and cozy nestled in it's trees and shops down Main Street. It's particularly charming when the snow falls on it. The little shops on the side of the road, a less hectic atmosphere, a treat to visit.