I've been busy getting ready for my benefit show for the Land Trust and gathering all the paintings together to hang in one place. Four seasons of paintings from my time on the Ulrich Farm will be hanging for people to enjoy. It's exciting.
I am actually excited myself to see them all together as they have been scattered about my home and studio - on shelves, in drawers and some hanging on walls. This is a big deal for Laura also and I hope it brings her as much joy and pleasure as it has for me.
A few people asked me which paintings are my favorite. Gosh, that's a hard one. And yet, there are several that come to mind.
This is one of them. The barn at night basking in the glow of the floodlight.
"Leave the Light On," plein air watercolor, 15" x 19"
I painted this on a late summer evening - it was cooler than usual and the bugs had died down. We had a spectacular pink and purple sunset and I immediately thought it would be a good night to capture this scene. I'd painted it many times before. In my head, that is. I do that so often when I see a scene that inspires me – I'll go over it in my head and think about how I'd paint it. I love how this massive barn just emerges from the shadows and darkness. The glow of the lights in the donkey's stalls are inviting. I also like how the darkness pares down the details in the overhang or outside in the barn yard. The barn's floodlight almost acts like a stage light – bringing your focus to the weathered wood and wagon wheels leaning up on the wall.
There are more favorites, but I'll save that for another blog post!
This is a recent painting from the Bucks County Plein Air. Just down the road from our farm is this farm... "the old Derstine place" a local farmer told me. I love how the farms carry the original farmer's name long after they have been on this earth. It's a farm's legacy and, rightfully so. Farming is hard work and we should remember these great stewards of our farmland. The new owners (15+ years) couldn't have been kinder or more welcoming when I stopped to ask if I could paint. I especially enjoyed watching the chickens move around and under the old corn crib (isn't that roof with all the old paint colors wonderful!). When the painting was just about finished, they hopped up onto the stairs, each one taking a step for themselves. "Now, why didn't you do that when I first started the painting?!?" I thought. Next time. I'm hoping they'll oblige and take their respective perches!
These little vignettes I discover while spending time on the Ulrich Farm inspire me. I love these old wagon wheels sunbathing in the afternoon light against the crumbling plaster of the barn wall. They are the original wheels from wagons that were found in the upper loft of one of the outbuildings. Parked next to them are old feed troughs from the pigs that used to be on the farm. The weathered barn boards and the subtle colors weaving through the old plaster are a wonderful backdrop to these items. All part of the farm's rich story.
As you enter the old farm road there is a small wooded area to the left with saplings along the edge of the fields. Among them, the upright blade of an antique mower attachment stands tall in the grasses. It's as if it's become one with them, a part of the young woods. As your eyes focus and look around, you can make out other farm relics, put out to rest. I have a reverence for these old pieces, for the incredible ingenuity and design that went into them and for the service they rendered. They, like so much of the equipment in and around the farm, were an integral part of the farm's operation. It seems fitting that they have this special place of rest.
The approach of evening is one of my favorite times of day to paint. The sun dropping down to the horizon creates dramatic long shadows and piercing shafts of bright light. These are the back fields of the Ulrich Farm. I hiked my way back making my way through the boggy sections still glazed over in thin ice and the snow retreating from the warmer day temps.
I wanted to paint this scene with the old hay wagon, retired from its many years of service, now parked out along the scrubby brush line dividing the two fields. It's almost as if it has become one with its setting, echoing the colors and textures of its surroundings. I loved the long shadows stretching across the ground and the glow of the brush along the back horizon - that evening glow. It doesn't last long... I painted until it was dusk and then finished it up in the studio that night while everything was still etched in my memory.
We have enjoyed some unusually warm days in between the cold wintery ones. (In fact, the next day, this scene was blanketed in heavy snow!). But this day, was delightfully warm, almost 70 degrees and I took advantage of the weather to return to the Ulrich farm to paint.
I love the old farm lane that enters from a smaller, older side road, Hill Road. It's the original entrance to the farm, and there is a special feeling when you turn onto the dirt lane and pass through the canopy of trees along its edge. There's a sense of timelessness, a feeling of reverence as I make my way down past these wonderful barns and outbuildings. Though they are now quiet, dormant in this stage of their lives, they speak of years of hard work, lives well lived, endless seasons and harvests of plenty.
"The Old Farm Lane," plein air watercolor, 18" x 12"
If you look closely you'll see Piccadilly and Midge sunbathing in the barnyard... they are the resident donkeys who still enjoy the comforts of the barn and farm.
My time spent on the Ulrich Farm in Bedminster is special. I am so enjoying getting to know Mrs. Ulrich, my honorary grandma (as she so sweetly wrote in my Christmas card) and feel so blessed with her warm friendship. Safely tucked away in her memories are all the wonderful stories of this farm and the generations that came before her. We are going to be working together in the new year to commit them to paper – both in writings and paintings. I am excited and look forward to bringing them to you in future blog posts.
When the light begins to depart and I pack up my painting gear to leave, this is my view as I get in my car. The other night I just had to stop and sketch it out, make some color notes and then hurried home to paint it. There is a quiet that settles over the farm, a hush over the pastures and the soft glow of lights from the house appear in the windows. Everything is tucked in for the night.
This late evening display of shadow and light is but a fleeting moment. In the span of no more than 30 minutes the Ulrich barns are transformed with a fast moving sweep of shadows from the neighboring stand of pines. The pastures are swallowed up in the shadows as they break through the brush and fence line.
I blocked in the painting on the previous evening and returned yesterday for a second trip, a chance to finish it and to capture the light and wonderful shadows.
My time was also spent in the company of two donkeys. Piccadilly, the most curious and friendly, ventured close to my easel along the fence. Of course, the butterscotch candies in my pockets (always have them for our horses) might have been the real reason for the visit!
After I had finished, I did a few more little sketches until it was too dark. I stopped at the farmhouse to visit with Mrs. Ulrich and share the painting with her. I love hearing Laura's stories about her life on this farm and getting a glimpse into this farm's rich past.
I took the back road out of the farm, the narrow dirt road runs along the back fields. The moon had risen and the woods and fields were wonderfully lit... I could see the deer venturing out to graze. So magical.
I'm borrowing my dear childhood friend's words for the title (thank you Liz). It's what she wrote when she saw the posted photo on my Instagram account. (you can follow me on Instagram for my weekly painting excursions!)
This barn glows in the late afternoon light ... I love the warmth of the stucco and stone and the weathered wood with it's great texture and rich patina. Yesterday I was nearby painting a commission and wrapped it up in time to travel back by the barn so I could stop and paint. I only had about 45 minutes to capture this light so I worked small with hopes to scale this up to a larger painting in the future.
This. This! is the kind of scene that makes my heart sing.
This. This! is what makes me want to paint!
Evening along Farm School Road in Bedminster, Bucks County, Pa.
It most likely is my favorite time of day to paint. The "magic hour" as many artists call it. It is a magical time to observe and paint plein air. The low light makes for long dramatic shadows, the masses of trees and flora are reduced to interesting shapes and the skies change before your eyes. I especially love watching the wildlife - the birds swooping and diving for late evening meals, the groundhogs and rabbits emerging the brush to enjoy the cooler part of the day. There's a softness that happens as the shadows progress and evening is quietly ushered in.
I grew up along the Delaware River in Bucks County, PA. My earliest memories are of drawing outside with my sketchbook and it evolved into plein air painting with watercolors. I love capturing scenes that inspire me - many I find along my everyday travels in and around Bucks County.