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Colhouns Barn Standing Stones II Soy Field Saxtons River View

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July 9

This morning was my first trip back to Kenilworth Gardens since 2009, and I was really amazed at how much it had changed. The view of the main pond - the one you see as you first enter the grounds – that I’d painted twice before was almost unrecognizable, and overgrown enough that you could barely see the water from my previous vantage points. There were five of us today – me, Kay, Barbara, Maria, and JoEllen – and it was a really lovely day: hot, yes, but not too humid. After wandering about for a bit and taking photos, Kay and I parked ourselves in the shade along the main path to paint the small park buildings. Barbara joined us there when she arrived. Maria also found shade and was working on a lovely view of the lotus ponds when we left. JoEllen braved the dirt paths between the ponds, where the view was great but the sun was really strong: here’s a link to her website where she’s posted her first piece, “Morning Pond.” I told her this morning that I really wished I could achieve that same beautiful spontaneity and freshness in my plein air work that she does. I keep striving for it but missing the mark, getting too bogged down in details. I’m hoping that, by going a bit larger than the standard 9 x 12 format I’ve been using, I will help force myself to work more abstractly and freely. This piece today, entitled “Kenilworth Morning,” is around 11 x 14. So far, larger isn't helping! But I'm still OK with it. It needs a little work, but I consider it about 85% done.

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July 1

So this was my first painting opportunity, post-workshop, to try out the techniques and concepts I’d learned in Chadd’s Ford. Several of us, including Barbara, Maria, Rita, Jane, Elena, and Kate, met up at the Daniels Area of the Patapsco River State Park. Low humidity and lots of sunshine made for a perfect painting morning. Rita and Maria painted the church at the end of the road, while the rest of us settled in along the river and painted the water. We were joined by several groups of kids from Baltimore down for a day of canoeing under the guidance of the park personnel, and kayakers of all varieties were putting in where we were working. Not a problem – we were all able to stay out of each others’ way easily. I chose a view that suited the method I wanted to try, a shadowed tree hanging out over the water and back-lit by the sun on the river and the distant trees behind. The result is posted here, “Patapsco Shade,” and I’m happy with it. Probably just beginner’s luck, but I’m feeling optimistic. Happy Fourth of July, everybody!

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June 20 - 24

Wow! What a great workshop! If you’re not familiar with Terri Ford’s work, check out her website, and you’ll be smitten. Strong design, luscious color, and bravura pastel application make her paintings among my very favorites. As I noted in one of my 2010 posts, I feel kind of like I’ve been producing pretty much the same plein air painting every week for 2 years now, and I was in serious need of a wake-up call. This workshop was it! Terri is a genuinely nice person and an excellent instructor, and it was marvelous to be able to learn and see her working method. Moreover, it is a method that closely aligns with my own style and approach and that, combined with a minor overhaul of my pastel box, will help me bring a freshness to my outdoor work that has been missing for some time. We painted for 5 days, and I thought I had 5 keepers, but back in the studio, I’ve decided only 3 are really frame-worthy. I’ve posted one of them here, a piece called “Collapsed,” which was done at an unoccupied farm outside Chadd’s Ford. What a great week! If any of you pastelists out there have a chance to take a workshop with Terri, I can heartily recommend it.

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June 17


This was a good weather day, and three of us – me, Rana, and Barbara – met up at Parking Lot D in historic Ellicott City. Rana and I wandered about a good bit before settling down to paint near the Mat About You gallery and framer, and Barbara arrived not too long after that. I spent perhaps 90 minutes on my piece but ultimately it went into my “what was I thinking” collection (sadly, I’m now on my third Bag O’ Rejects). To be honest, I was more interested in trying out my new Best Brella, which attaches to my tripod and which I picked up so as to have shade when I cannot stake my trusty Shade Buddy into the ground. I was also overly focused on the upcoming Terri Ford workshop in Chadd’s Ford, PA, sponsored by the Maryland Pastel Society. Really looking forward to that and did not have my head in the game!

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