Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Discovery Park Paintings

Discovery Park in Seattle's Magnolia Neighborhood was a place I visited many times last summer to do plein air painting in watercolors and oil colors. The park is within a 20 minute drive from where I live and it offers a variety of views to paint. This is a perfect place to paint a sunset over the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains.

As a former soldier in the Army National Guard and history buff, I appreciate the park's history as Fort Lawton, a military base dating to the early 1900's. I used to collect militaria from that time period. Here is a display of a soldier's uniform circa 1905 that used to be part of my collection.

I love the pre 1910 buildings that have survived the past century. The first time I visited Discovery Park with Cheryl in March 2012 I was intrigued by the historic buildings. The houses on officer's row reminded me of the Avonlea TV series I used to watch as a kid.  These homes are now on the market and if I had the money I wouldn't mind living there. 

Though I love the park and it's ambience I am aware of it's darker history. During World War II 28 African-American soldiers were wrongfully convicted, without solid evidence, of an attack on the fort's Italian prisoners of war. These soldiers received dishonorable discharges and imprisonment. It wasn't until 2008 that the names of these men were cleared and a formal apology was made during a ceremony at Fort Lawton. After decades of appeal by the soldier's families, the men finally received honorable discharges. You can read about in the link I provided.

 Plein Air Paintings and Drawings

I have shown some of these paintings before in previous posts. Here they are again along with other paintings I have not posted.

My first plein air painting at Discovery Park, watercolor. Mid June 2016

Plein air painting of the same view a week later in oil colors. Mid June 2016

Photograph of the area. I'll paint this view again in the future but I'll be more careful about my composition. After studying other landscape painters I learned I can be selective of what to paint. It's okay to move around some trees or eliminate others.

In late June I returned to Discovery Park to paint another view. Cheryl came with me on this trip and photographed me at work.

I worked on this painting over four 30 minute to an hour sessions. Here I am again in early August during the third session for the painting. Since plein air painting is new to me I'm working on my technique to paint efficiently outdoors. During the second session I tried using Rublev's Wilson Medium. It felt a bit harsh to me and was drying quickly on my painting. Maybe I wasn't using it right and I will revisit the medium in the future.

The end of the fourth session. This painting was a combination of painting outdoors and the studio. I was more selective with the composition, eliminating trees and moving others around so it didn't look so packed.

I learned a lot while painting this. I'm not fully pleased with the foreground and I think the trees are a bit stylized as a result from finishing it indoors. 

My final outdoor painting of the summer, late August, work in progress. This was at the end of the first session after the light had subsided. The next day I went back again. I painted during the late evening when the light produces nice effects on the landscape. Usually I have only 30 minutes to paint. Hence the multiple sessions outdoors for one painting. Many plein air painters try to complete a painting alla prima- in one sitting. I prefer a closer study of nature, inspired by the Hudson River School painters of the 19th Century. At the same time I'm trying to be looser with my outdoor studies so they don't look as stiff as the painting before this one.

5" x 7" Cigar Box Studies

I made a couple of smaller studies using the cigar box pochade which I made especially for 5" x 7" paintings. The first time I used it was late July. I brought a folding chair for this purpose. During that session I had begun to set up across from the gymnasium/ PX building. A gentleman who is part of the board of trustees for Discovery Park came over to see what I was up to. At first he thought I was setting up a drone which he explained is a bit of a problem at the park. I told him I was there to paint and I showed him my pochade box and tubes of paint. He was pleased to see this and we had a brief chat about painting. He mentioned he had taken a few classes before at the Gage Academy.
I spent about 30 minutes on this before packing up as the light had rapidly changed. I finished it up in the studio. As with all of my recent landscape paintings I add figures for the sake of scale. They also represent our love and appreciation of these places. They are based on people I see at the park whether it be couples watching the sunset or people with there pets. On this evening there was a man and his dog playing fetch, though they were using the field behind me.

The last evening at the park in late August, I ended my session for another paint early because I wanted to make a sunset study. On the hill overlooking the park I set up and did this one in 15 minutes, working fast. At home I cleaned it up a bit. I was inspired by sunset studies made by Frederic Edwin Church at his estate at Olana in the late 19th Century. These are very loose, contrasting with the meticulous technique of his studio paintings. 

Discovery Park is a place that I find inspiring and I love it's peaceful atmosphere. The views that it offers has allowed me to paint from nature. There are still many spots I want to paint in the future and I plan to make several larger studio paintings. I haven't been down to the beach yet to paint though I've hiked there two summers ago. It's a great alternative to crowded areas such as Golden Gardens. In an upcoming post I will discuss a studio painting I made last Summer.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Summer 2016 Landscape Paintings and Studies

Summer 2016 was a very productive one for me. I focused on honing my landscape paintings skills through plein air painting, drawing, and imagined landscapes. In addition I also bought several books which have helped inform my craft. To top that off two of my paintings were in Gallery North's Beauty of the Northwest 2016 Show in which my Lake 22 painting won the Gallery North's Member Choice award.

There is so much to write about I'll have to break it up into several posts.

Landscape Drawing from Nature

After my first trip to Lake 22 I decided to carry a small sketchbook with me during my outdoor painting trips. One is a tan toned paper sketchbook and the other is all media paper. I really like the toned paper sketchbook because it has an old master feel. I addition to graphite I use Sepia Pitt ink pens. I did do a couple of studies from nature at Discovery Park and elsewhere but the bulk of my drawings have been from my imagination.

Sketching at Lake 22, second trip on August 5th with my fiance Cheryl and my nephew Dylan. I only sketched a few evergreen tree tops during a lunch break. Had this been a solo hike I would have been sketching all kinds of stuff. I wanted to focus sharing the experience of the hike with Cheryl and Dylan. This was Cheryl's first real hike at moderate difficulty. Dylan has hiked with me before to Snow Lake.
Maple tree study at Discovery Park one evening. I probably spent 30 minutes on this one. I have been inspired by Asher B. Durand's advice to draw from nature. I have no idea when was the last time I did a tree study. Maybe 20 years ago.

The same evening I sketched the maple tree above, I made a study of the bluff at Discovery Park with Mt. Rainier in the distance. In fact I sketched both the tree and the bluff from the same spot. I just turned my chair around to face the maple tree. My vantage point was at the top of the sand dunes, looking south. The glaciers on Mt. Rainier were heightened with conte crayon.

I had planned to go back and do a small 6" x 8" oil study. I began this one at home using my pencil sketch, remembering the colors of the evening sky. The oranges on the bluff seen are part of the underpainting. I could finish this up from my imagination but I couldn't remember where houses were on the hillside. I'll save this for next summer, or maybe return this Fall.

One day I did a study of several small trees outside my bedroom window. I'm trying to slow myself down when making drawings such as this.

Imagined Landscape Studies

At the same time as I began focusing on outdoor drawings from nature I also began renewed focus on landscape drawing from my imagination, especially tree studies. Earlier this summer I avoided using invention in my landscapes because I felt that I did not have enough knowledge to successfully do so. I did paint a handful of landscapes from May 2015 up through May of this year but I felt they were lacking. Hence my goals to draw and paint from nature. I am aware of many old masters making invented landscapes throughout art history. However their practice was informed by studies from nature outdoors, especially in drawings. Through understanding nature the old masters were able to use their knowledge in the studio.

I have been following the blogs of Erik Koeppel and Lauren Sansaricq, two contemporary landscape painters who have mastered the Hudson River School style of painting. I truly admire their work and practice as master artists. In addition the the landscape painters of the 19th Century Erik and Lauren have inspired my own work and my goal is to attend one of their workshops within the next two years.

About late July I began drawing landscapes from my imagination. I was inspired by Erik Koeppel's blog post on "Imagined Landscapes". I started by doing some tree studies, trying to figure out the masses of the foliage. Since I already had a month of outdoor studies under my belt I figured it was a good time to use the knowledge I had gained.

This may become a larger painting, based on 22 Creek at Lake 22 and Denny Creek near Snoqualmie Pass.

Recent hikes also inspired my work and I was able to draw landscapes based upon being in nature. Most of all I was inspired by the vistas I had seen while hiking switchbacks to Lake 22 last June and Snow Lake in Summer 2015. This led to a small oil study and a larger painting.
Imagined landscape inspired by the hike to Snow Lake.

Imagined tree study on a switchback.
Work in progress, small 12" x 9" oil study on ACM Panel.

Finished study of an imaginary landscape inspired by Snoqualmie pass hikes, 12" x 9", Oil on ACM panel. This landscape is purely invention. The ridge line near Snow Lake wasn't as open or showed a distant vista. It is inspired by multiple views I have seen. I may turn this one into a larger painting this fall.

About the same time as the painting above I started a composition for a larger painting. This time the hike to Lake 22 inspired this drawing.

Work in progress. The actual ridge near Lake 22 ran parallel to the switchbacks. Like the painting above, I wanted to open up the landscape so my vista had depth.
Imagined landscape based on the Lake 22 hike, Oil on ACM panel, 16" x 20"

Painting the people was somewhat awkward because they are so small, yet large enough to show some articulation. I used a rigger brush to do this.

The combination of focusing on drawings from nature and my imagination has helped me develop my landscape paintings and I have grown more confident in this genre. In my next post I will share studies I had made at Discovery Park over the summer.