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.
This past Saturday afternoon I set up to paint at the Heritage Conservancy's Farm to Table Event at Manoff Market Garden in Solebury, Pa. Such a beautiful farm and one of the many preserved properties through the conservancy's efforts. I was joined by two other artist friends and together we headed out to find a spot of shade to paint from. Our paintings were created onsite to be auctioned off at the benefit that evening.
The heat was intense, along with the high humidity but once I was set up and painting it didn't really matter anymore. There was an occasional light breeze and a chance of thunderstorms so we worked quickly.
In classic late summer style, the skies darkened and a large storm cell swept through bringing heavy, soaking rains, some wind and then, just as quickly as its arrival, departed with the sun piercing through the dark sky. A double rainbow appeared over the setting and the white tent shimmered in the wet air. It was incredible.
From our umbrellas, we watched this scene. These are the opportunities, the incredible moments, that a plein air artist experiences. Those moments when I realize ... no matter how great my painting may turn out, the Creator can make masterpieces unrivaled.
I have been driving by this field of wheat every day taking in the sweeping vistas of gold and oranges and telling myself I have to paint this. Yesterday, I drove by and saw the harvest wagons and equipment and realized that the moment was... Now! I pulled in the the farm's driveway and parked alongside the neighboring field. I only had about an hour (if that!) to capture this scene. As I set up, the combine already was moving across the field making it's first impressions in the waving sea of golds. The late afternoon sun was taking us into evening and the light was incredible. With each pass of the combine, the scene changed. Just as the farmers were seizing this moment to harvest, I also, was glad I had not missed this opportunity.
We've had some beautiful summer days with lower humidity, sunshine and brilliant blue skies with billowing white clouds. The wet Spring rains and the warming temps have produced lush hay pastures and these red Angus cattle with their new youngsters were enjoying the good grazing. The grass was so high it was hard to make out all the young cows as they napped in the sun. Their coats glowed in the warm sunshine. I always have my plein air gear in the car and today I pulled right off to paint when I saw this scene just outside of Blooming Glenn on Route 113. This is Tussock Sedge Farm, 100% grass fed beef, and they keep 550 acres beautiful and unspoiled. I am grateful for these farms and their contribution to preservation and keeping Bucks County beautiful. Check out their website at tussocksedgefarm.com/.
So many of my paintings have a story. That's one of the things I love most about Plein air painting - I love meeting the people, the families that are part of the scene that inspired me to stop and paint. "Wash Day" is one of them.
Deep Run Road travels along farms near my home and then dips down into a little hollow where this wonderful cluster of barns and outbuildings are anchored into the sloping land. Large, old shade trees surround the house and barns and the fields travel the contours of the land.
I've painted here before, but today, the sunlit laundry line caught my eye and I pulled over to paint. I love the touch of humanity. The laundry tells a story -- lives living and working, routines and chores to be done and the laundry, these are working people's clothes.
About halfway through the painting, Mrs. Leatherman came up to see me and introduce herself. I loved hearing her talk of her husband and his family farm. She looked out at the view and apologized for the laundry on the line, maybe it was spoiling the view for my painting, she thought. It was the very thing that made me stop and want to paint, I told her.
I admire these farms and the families that work so hard to keep them going. In these days of giant corporate "farms" and rising property taxes, the struggle is real. I think scenes like these, yes, even laundry on a line, are truly beautiful and worthy of capturing in paint.
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.