Sunday, February 28, 2010
This is a painting I did this past December when we were all excited about snow. And there have been years when the snow came and went. That is why I was determined to do a large painting that depicted how Pittsburgh feels with snow. Little did anyone know that we were going to be buried in this stuff until April! With over 70 inches of snow so far this year I think it is time for spring.
I first painted a small 8 x 10 inch of this alley and then took a terrible photo. Both were used as source material. This particular area of Lawrenceville is tightly packed with buildings. By pushing the dark masses close to the top the viewer is forced to stay down near the alley. I think of it as an urban canyon painting. The light patches are used as elements that break up the space and also create the illusion of depth. The colors become less intense and the value of colors become closer as you move further back into the painting. It is a combination of linear and atmospheric perspective that takes the viewer up this snowy path.
Monday, February 22, 2010
These houses, which are only a few blocks from my studio, were painted last week. I painted them about two years ago for my daughter. That version was larger, 30 x 40 inches. I find it useful to revisit my favorite places. First of all I know where to park. That may sound stupid but when all these skinny streets are packed with snow, the last thing you want to do is move someone's "Pittsburgh chair". So yes parking is an issue, but so is knowing which direction the sun is moving. You only have so much time before the entire light and shadow distribution changes. It is a race against time. There is also comfort painting the same scene because you learned something that can be applied again, hopefully to your advantage. The paintings never look alike. I think of them as journal entries. They record that particular day. One painter friend refers to his daily paintings as tracks in the snow. That makes sense. We learn from our own work – one painting at a time.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Last week we had a brief period of sunshine here in Pittsburgh. Even if I'm working inside on a commission, like I was, it is impossible for me to stay there. Light on snow just has that effect on my senses. A favorite place to paint winter landscapes is Fox Chapel. This was done by Trillium Trail. The real challenge is painting the shifting shadows over ice that is melting. Add the chilling 15 or 20 degree temperature and it is easy to understand why most artists prefer to work inside using photos as reference. But for me there is a special feeling of accomplishment that working outdoors brings. It is difficult to explain. The spirit of a place somehow becomes part of the painting. Even if I'm not satisfied with the finished painting, I'm always pleased with the experience. Time spent looking closely at nature is never wasted.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Sometimes the best paintings are right in front of us. I found this melted patch of snow as I marched towards the forest to paint something like I've done before. But there it was, an abstract area of light and color broken by horizontal shadows. It wasn't part of my plan. There was already an idea in my head about what I was going to do. I suppose that's the lesson [to myself] – approach every painting with an open mind. I'm proud that I stopped to make a painting that wasn't like all the others I've done. I was standing in 24 inches of snow on a 15 degree day. I seriously did not want this painting to be a dog. The light was just too beautiful for that to happen. I went with my gut instinct and used the simple, most obvious idea – one which was right under my feet.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
This is a painting I did of the Hill District in Pittsburgh. It is an area that doesn't get a lot of good press, to put it mildly. Hopefully paintings such as this give a voice to areas of the city that are often overlooked as subject matter. Also, I really liked the random placement of the windows and the overall geometric feeling.