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Blackwater Gold Wild Goose Farm Side Light Red Barn at Massey
Colhouns Barn Standing Stones II Soy Field Saxtons River View

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May 26

May 26

My colored pencil colleague Mary Ellen, who teaches art to elementary school-age students at Eagle Cove School in Pasadena, very kindly invited us to paint on the grounds of the school, which occupies a lovely triangle of land formed where the Magothy River meets the Chesapeake Bay, just before the causeway to Gibson Island. Barbara, Elena, Jane, and I were not only enchanted by the views across the river to Gibson Island, but also were charmed by the students who came out to see us paint. They asked excellent questions and were very knowledgeable about the processes of making art (you’re clearly doing a great job, Mary Ellen!!) – we were all very impressed. Today my focus was on nailing the values and temperatures of the colors across the river, making sure they retreated in space behind the foreground tree, shrubs, and grasses. I was pleased with the result of that effort, but once again I spent too much time on those issues and not enough on composition: examining the piece back in the studio I see several problem areas that need to be addressed. At some point I have to learn to slow down, take a deep breath, and do a better job of planning when I’m outdoors!


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May 21

Since I had to take our two cats to the vet Saturday morning, I set this session for late afternoon (one of the perqs of being the schedule maker!)…we have not tried a late-day paint-out yet, so it seemed like a good idea. We were at the Howard County Conservancy, and the evening was really lovely – lots of warm, orange-y light and long, cool shadows, and only a little buggy. Barbara, Mary, and Maria joined me. I settled in to capture the green light that permeated the shadows on the white house, and I wanted to start pushing my color. I think I did both those things satisfactorily, but my composition and drawing definitely left a lot to be desired, so this is not a piece I’ll be showing anyone. I like the color notes, though, and I think I may use the plein air version to do a studio painting, correcting for my previous errors. I also enjoyed the afternoon-ness of it all, and will schedule more of those in the future.


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May 14 Rain-out

It looks like tomorrow will be very cloudy, if not soggy, and not the best light for Brookside. So I don't plan to make the trip down there. Good day for studio work!

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May 6

For this session we returned to Oella, a small town on the east bank of the Patapsco River, across from Ellicott City, built 200 years ago to house local mill workers. There were 4 of us – me, Elena, Jane, and JoEllen, and all of us but Jane (who focused on the intersection of Oella and Westchester Avenues) painted the Mount Gilboa Chapel. This is a small stone church built in the mid-19th century by freed African Americans; it is included on the National Register of Historic Places. Last year I painted the same view on a very dark surface. This time I started with white PastelMat paper, and after getting the charcoal drawing down and fixed, laid in a watercolor underpainting, using Derwent Inktense pencils. The result, as you can imagine, is very different! I’ve posted both to my Facebook page, for anyone who’d like to compare. The second one is not complete yet, though: I had to pack up and leave to meet someone at Strathmore Mansion, so I’ll have to finish the second version in the studio. The foreground and sky are not done, yet, and it needs a few fixes.

The last time I tried working a watercolor underpainting on PastelMat, I used tube watercolors, and the result was very blurry and weird – the colors all bloomed and ran into one another and I could not use the surface for the piece I’d intended. The Inktense pencils behaved very differently. I just scribbled the pigment lightly onto the paper and then used a large bristle round brush (and controlled amounts of water) to wash in the color. Much better!

I’ve also had a change of heart about drawing. After thinking about it a lot over the past week, I realize that I LOVE drawing. It’s what I do best, and it would be stupid not to play to my strengths and do what I most enjoy. Intellectually, I completely understand the concept of painting shapes versus drawing the lines of shapes and then painting them, but if I don’t get to draw, I get no pleasure from painting. And if I’m not having fun, what the hell’s the point?


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April 29

Azalea Path

After a pretty wet and stormy spring (so far), our first MPS Howard County plein air session of 2011 at the Brighton Dam Azalea Garden was a real treat. True, the sun disappeared behind the clouds fairly early, making only brief reappearances throughout the remainder of the morning and early afternoon, but the 8 of us – me (pastels), Elena (oils), Brenda (oils), Cathy (oils), Maria (acrylic), Rita (pastels), Elaine (acrylic), and Elizabeth (colored pencil sketching) – were just happy not to get rained on. We spread out across the grounds and scrambled to capture the lovely shadow patterns on the brief occasions the sun popped out. It was a cool morning, but the smell of damp earth and the gorgeous white, pink, and fuchsia blooms were so inspiring. While we were painting, Mr. Ronald Williams, a photographer for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, came by. He asked if he could photograph us painting (we all said “yes!”), and we’re hoping to get a little free publicity about the Maryland Pastel Society and plein air painting in Howard County…keep your fingers crossed!

In mid-April I took a two-day pastel still life workshop with Rosalie Nadeau, an outstanding pastel artist and MPS member who lives and works in Massachusetts. (See her website: .) It was a wonderful workshop (although I did confirm, pretty darn conclusively, that I’m a landscape painter, not a still life painter), and my plan for the 2011 plein air season is to conscientiously apply Rosalie’s basic tenets: paint the light, paint the shapes, connect the light and dark shapes. More often than not, I allow myself to get too involved in the drawing and to focus too much on rendering detail, to the detriment of the painting’s freshness and emotional impact. This year I want to stay lose and avoid those mistakes, and following Rosalie’s reminders will, I think, help me do that. Here is the first result: it’s called “Azalea Path.” I began with a thumbnail, as usual, and then a very loose block-in of darks, mid-tones, and lights using the side of a NuPastel. The surface is PastelMat. It’s a good start, I think, and left me feeling better about this new approach than I (frankly) expected to. More practice!

On a last note, I also had a chance to chat with Jane, a retired elementary school art teacher: Jane, if you’re reading this, please join us – it’s loads of fun, there are no judgments, and you learn a LOT about painting!


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