"Stories to Tell," Plein Air Watercolor
My daughter works in Vermont managing a horse farm. Lucky me! I feel so blessed that I can visit her and paint in this beautiful rural area of Vermont. This is an old dairy farm down the road nestled at the base of an expansive valley of steep rolling hills, winding brooks and wooded hills.
I've sketched it on past trips but this time I came with the intent to do a larger painting. The weathered wood and rusting metal are so harmonious with the fall colors. The textures and tired structures blend into the surroundings.
On the second day of painting I was delighted to meet Mrs. Nutting as she came down the long driveway from her house set on the hill beyond the barn. She stopped and came over to look. We talked about the barn and the little milk house. She paused and looked at the barn, turned to me and said, "There are so many wonderful stories inside that barn, you know." I told her that's what I feel when I look at these old farms. The stories are there. I may not know the exact details but I can tell there was lots of "living" in these old barns and farms settings. Weathered wood and worn places that speak of many seasons of farming. Old outbuildings that once had a real purpose and played an integral part of the day-to-day workings of the farm.
I'm hoping the barn is still standing next Spring when I return... I am looking forward to hearing more about the stories from Mrs. Nutting.
“Evening Visitors” 52-1/2” x 25-1/2” watercolor on Fabriano soft press paper
This painting started in my head two summers ago when I fell in love with the soybean fields on the Ulrich farm. Last summer was my first summer living and working out of my studio on the farm. So many evenings were spent alongside the fields with my sketchbook and paints... sometimes just watching and observing the colors and light.
Those sketches and studies were integral to the creation of this studio piece. For me, photographs just can't capture that which our eyes can see nor can they record an experince. But when I look at my sketches and quick color studies it takes me right back to that moment in time. I relied so much on my memory for this larger studio piece.
Below are some photos of the painting in the various stages...
And some closeup photos of the finished painting.
Who would have known that two and a half years after meeting Mrs. Ulrich (and making this painting of the old farm lane) that I would call this place home? My studio is now in the little tenant house, the small house in the center of this painting. Originally a one-story log cabin, the house was added on to over the years and sits aside the larger farmhouse where Mrs. Ulrich lives. I love being able to step outside my door and find painting inspiration close to home. I love being Laura's neighbor and am incredibly honored to be her "daughter." She is such a special lady and fills my life with much joy. I feel very blessed. Come visit. The studio is open by appointment and Laura and I look forward to sharing the farm with visitors.
The grounds of Cedaridge Farm, the home of the Bucks County Designer House & Gardens, are sublime. The owners, Derek and Caroline Fell, have created special views from each window of lush gardens and trees of all varieties. The colors this spring are truly inspiring and breathtaking. My studio room has stunning views of this magnificent weeping cherry tree with it's branches dripping in pink blossoms. And, only but for a few days to enjoy. Four days later, the ground was a carpet of pink petals and the branches were popping in small green leaves.
My first love was the pencil.
Recently, I have been inspired to take my pencils (and charcoal) out into the field to create large drawings. I purchased some large sheets of BFK Rives paper (I was introduced to this great printmaking paper in art school in Seattle -- many years ago). It was so liberating to take a 30 x 40 sheet of paper and draw BIG!
It's wonderful to return to an old friend (the pencil and paper) and work large.
This drawing was done on a blustery cold January evening on a farm not far from my home. I loved the sheep all huddled together under the barn.
"In for the Night," charcoal & graphite
Another favorite from the Ulrich Farm Series. "Morning Mist,' was inspired from an early morning visit to the farm. Entering the front lane from Bedminster Road, one views the front pastures looking east. The sun was making its entrance burning through the cool and cloudy dawn - there was still a hint of its pink glow from earlier at sunrise. The mist rising from the pastures created this wonderful atmospheric effect, as well as the frosty dew on the grasses in the foreground. I paused on the driveway, turned off the car and just watched for a while. I made some notes and quick sketches, took some photos and then continued on to the barn to care for the donkeys.
For months, I reflected on this scene and then set about to capture it on paper in the studio. It's a large piece for me and a new direction in terms of medium. Laying in the large areas of color with watercolor and then going back into the painting with oil pastels to add depth and texture. I love the play between the paint and pastels. It affords me the opportunity to add to the color process and bring some of the emotion of the scene to life.
"Morning Mist," watercolor and oil pastel
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.
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.