Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Loose Ends: Ohio, New York and Michigan are finished.

I almost forgot about OH, NY and MI. When I returned from my last "Easel on Down the Road" trip, 7 weeks remained until my Open Studio Sale - the first as an independent business person. I put the half-finished Easel paintings to the side in order to work on new canvases for this event. It is wonderful to have a deadline, especially for landscapes of my own choosing - beaches, water and big skies filled with clouds.

In a short five weeks I left to teach a class in Escanaba, a small city clinging to a northeast corner of Lake Michigan in the UP. This was a very calm trip.  It involved attending a show that I had juried and then one day of teaching oil landscapes. I loved everything about my visit and hope to return soon.

After Escanaba I had one week to prep for the Studio Sale, which went off beautifully - better than I could have imagined - and confirmed for me that I am on the right path. Making art full time is actually a viable career. Phew!

So it was not until this week that I pulled out Ohio (a city-scapes - yikes!) and New York (I love it too much to touch it). I set Michigan out also, as I had started this plein air shortly after the New England Easel but never addressed it again. All three need to be finished before I can call this year complete. I looked at Ohio and did not like it and I did not want to work on it but herein lies the beauty of "Easel" - it is my job and I have no choice but to finish each piece. I lit the wood burning stove, put my BB King channel on Pandora and went to work.

As I worked on Ohio, I remembered the cold, windy day and my general discomfort. These feelings seem to have translated to this final piece, which turned out somewhat anxious and oddly ghostly.

Cleveland, Ohio
Then I worked up my courage to re-enter New York, a piece I was already quite fond of. This emotion can be the kiss of death, because as soon as I feel a painting is actually good, I become too careful and tight. I took stock of what was there: accurate color, strong values and a true drawing. I could do this - I had only to apply thicker paint!

Robert Treman State Park, Ithaca, New York
Last - Michigan. It was also a difficult plein air to go back into. It had great energy: strong brush strokes, a huge value contrast and good color. I wondered whether I could achieve anything better without destroying the fresh feel. But this was my 5th day of painting in  a row. I was extremely warmed up and in control of the paint. I remembered something my yoga instructor said last week: move slowly and with deliberation, as if you are going through water. Feel the earth beneath you. I concentrated on the physical flow of applying paint and stayed focused.

Dunes State Park, Saugatuck, Michigan

So, that makes 33 states finished. I may squeeze Illinois in yet this year, or I may have to fit it into 2015, when I will attack the Wild West.

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