Back from Lakeville with a collection of paintings and drawings

I haven’t had a chance to take pictures of everything I did while visiting my aunt and uncle in Lakeville, MA, but here are the first two small paintings from day one.

Late morning calm over the farmhouse:  

One of the chickens have me a dirty look:  

More to come. 


Finished barn painting


I finished the woodpile and darkened a few areas this morning, then, when it dried, I put a thin glaze of nickel azo yellow and yellow ochre over the top to tint it. It is a little more yellow than in the photo. I think the tint worked well for the subject given the age of the barn. More drama.

I tried using cad red light more in the painting as a base for the wall. I usually use cad red light as an accent but I am learning to use it better in mixes.

I have been thinking more about Jamie Wyeth’s work as I painted this and will return to that in a later post. For now, thanks for reading.

Coming to the fun part


So far with this painting I have been standing up holding the brush(a quill or a 12 or 14 round) from the end, just putting in loose washes and mixing colors. The painting is starting to take shape. I can now get into the smaller brush work. That big empty spot in the center left is a pile of debris that will be fun the sort out. I think this isn’t going to have much to do with Jamie Wyeth work I saw. I got away from that as I was painting, and came back to my interest in Sargent. Unfortunately the composition doesn’t seem to be working for me. I may have to crop it interestingly to fix it now that I’ve changed my thinking mid way. Perhaps the debris pile will become the focal point. That will resolve itself as I get further into it, and even if it doesn’t, it’s good to be back at it with some more consistency again.

Thanks for reading.

Placing shapes and washes

I moved this painting a little further this morning, laying in the some washes and shapes and working out the barn. The colors aren’t right throughout, but I intend to adjust them in the later stages. For this morning I just wanted to get the shapes in. This is probably not the best painting to use to think through what I saw in the Jamie Wyeth exhibit, but I think the point for me in this one is to just work on overall tinting of the painting, getting the right mood. More thoughts on Wyeth later. For now, here’s what I worked out this morning.


Some thoughts on housing and vacation

Vacation is a wonderful thing. I spent last week in Lakeville, MA with my family where I had a chance to look back on the past few months which featured less casual painting and blogging, and more big efforts. In addition to an already busy schedule with my regular life and job, we’ve been preparing our first house to sell so we could move into the house we expect to last through our kids’ college years. We really loved the townhouse we were in, but we took it as far as we could, both in terms of space and design, so it was time to move. We had a sense not long after we moved in that it would only be right for us for about 5 to 10 years, and with the housing bubble bursting, that added urgency to the feeling, so it was never really possible to truly settle into it and get fully engaged in our own pursuits. Now we’ll be able to do that. This seems to be an interesting thing about the first home, at least if you buy with the intention of buying again. It becomes a transient space with the illusion of permanence, and the period of transience is too long.

Today’s rising generation, the millennials, is said to be putting off home ownership, in part because they saw their parents lose their homes in the recent financial crisis, in part because they entered an economy that wasn’t so favorable to them, and finally, because they just have a different sense of what they want for living arrangements–closer to bars, restaurants, urban environments, no cars, and so on. I read in one article the other day that the age for millennials is up to 34. That puts me in the first wave of millennials. This surprised me. I don’t really see myself that way. I’m also at the tail end of Generation X. I’m not sure how those two reconcile. Then again, I prefer it that way. It’s better to be none of the above, or some of the above, whatever. For me, at least where I live, I’m pretty young for what I’ve done so far–a couple kids, moving into my second home, pretty well established in my career with opportunities ahead of me. It makes sense to want to move into a single-family home in a bedroom community, even if it breaks with my assigned generational group. Good for the kids, plenty of space, peaceful, etc., and it settles an important thing for us so we can free up head space. Plus it’s what I grew up with.

There’s the idea that creative people living near more creative people has a multiplier effect, which accounts for the success of certain urban locations, and might also be an underlying aspect to the millennial urge towards the urban environment. This makes a lot of sense. You don’t have to do everything yourself, you just need to know people who can help. But there’s another side of things–and perhaps its the result of the nature of my personal pursuits–writing and painting–where I don’t need to be around a large community of creatives when I walk outside. For one, I’m married to one, and that’s the most important thing, and I am lucky enough to work in a pretty interesting place with a wide range of really intelligent interesting people. I suppose, though, to bring it back to the millennials, that became more apparent to me as I established myself more, and got to know a wider range of people who do different things around the company. When I first started, which might be the case with any recent grads, my circle was smaller, and it was not so easy to branch out. It was the ability and willingness to involve my whole self in what I was doing at work that made a difference, that helped me meet more interesting people. This has coincided nicely with our changes in housing situation and desire.

Beyond my personal housing decision, the housing question in general is interesting to me because housing is the point of intersection between so many fields. There are the obvious ones of architecture, engineering, economics, and finance. But there’s also art, cinema, literature, sociology, demography, geography, and on and on. Where we live has a profound impact on us individually as well. It affects where we go to school, who our friends are, what we do for fun, what we dream about, with whom we fall in love, when we fall in love, when and if we have kids. All of this goes into the building of community. So in a sense, when we talk about housing, we’re, in one way or another, talking about all of these things.

Where people vacation has a similar community defining impact as where people live. It gives people shared experiences, even if they don’t have those experiences at the same time. Vacation destinations, and the way they’re designed, encourage certain behaviors. The Outer Banks, for example, especially up in Duck and Corolla, has a lot of large houses that serve family reunions, or at least group vacations, with 6+ bedrooms, pools, etc. Families gather together in their own groups, which is very different from the boardwalk-centered experiences of other vacation spots. Various vacation destinations tend to draw people from similar places and backgrounds so that the community essentially travels from home to there. There’s a lot to look into for this subject, too much for a blog post, but it made for an interesting subplot to my own vacation.

I like our trip to Lakeville because it’s none of these things. It’s a simple escape to live a different life for a brief time, share some small farming experiences with my Aunt and Uncle, and do a little of my own stuff. I did a little sketching and some short story writing, which I haven’t done in years. It was good to get back to that. I’m sure I’ll post the story at some point, but it isn’t ready yet.

Once we complete our move, I’ll get back to painting and posting more regularly. I took a lot of reference photos for future paintings, and saw an inspirational Jamie Wyeth exhibit, so I will have a lot to work through soon. For now, here’s one sketch from my trip. Thanks for reading.


Balancing art and design, finishing the beekeeping painting


I like to balance my art and design work–they can inform each other well that way, and counterweight each other’s forms of concentration. My time recently has been heavily focused on design work, which has provided a constant sense of urgency. I haven’t been able to re-enter painting, nor have I wanted to–it was important to keep up the level of intensity and focus to pull these design engagements though, and when I am involved in a painting, I think about it even when not working on it. But I could feel an imbalance creeping in. Fortunately my team and I wrapped up a few engagements and I was able last night and tonight to get back into and wrap up the beekeeping painting as well. I masked the highlights in the bee suit, dropped some wet in wet colors for the mid tones, then got into the shadows and the face behind the mask. Getting the face was difficult and I worked it too much before looking at John Singer Sargent’s watercolors for guidance on portraying a face quickly. These few swipes were how I settled it. I think the head might be too big, but I am satisfied with it for tonight. I like the way the suit ended up. It is a little more colorful than real, dreamlike in the midst of some concrete things, such the trailer, but that’s important. Beekeeping is magic as much as reality, as is Lakeville, and even, to be a little silly about it, as is life.

Thanks for reading.


All but the Beekeeper (and some finishing details)

This painting is coming together now. Last night I scumbled the ground and built out a lot of the rest, giving it more life. I’ve enjoyed using Prussian blue a lot in this one–something I didn’t feature in the last few, but a pigment I love for its hue and versatility. The trailer is mostly diluted Prussian blue with some lights cobalt for texture, and the barrel is also Prussian and cobalt. I have also gotten to use my new Sennelier Yellow Lake and Permanent Alizarin Crimson. It’s been nice getting to know these pigments, and I am looking forward to using them a lot more.

Last up is my uncle the beekeeper. I am a little nervous about painting the bee suit. Not yet sure how to handle all the wrinkles. I will probably mask the highlights and have a few saturated swipes of color to add life to the shadows. This on has been fun so far. Don’t want to ruin it.

Sketches from Lakeville, MA

We just spent a wonderful week visiting my Aunt and cousins up in Lakeville, MA at their family cottage on Assawomset Pond (famous for its role in starting King Philip’s War) and at my Aunt’s homestead, which they just moved into last year. She already has a great vegetable garden going, and a promising beehive, not to mention a wood shop in the barn for my uncle. It’s a dream house and a dream life, and we were fortunate to get to live it for the week.

While there I got in a lot of sketching. Some highlights are below, and more are on my Flikr page here.