Two weeks ago, I was in Chestertown, MD participating in a plein air event. I think I am still drying out! Four days of non-stop rain, damp and chilly temperatures made the event a challenge. There was the physical aspect of staying dry (and warm!). But as a painter who is attracted to the play of light and shadow, it became a new challenge to look for other inspiration. I really didn't have to search too hard... the spring colors were astounding with lush greens and vibrant hues of the marsh grasses. There was a softness to the scenes and, on a positive note, the light barely changed during a painting session!
These challenges also bring out a plein air artist's "MacGyver" mode. My artist friend Elissa Gore and I backed our cars up to each other and taped a poncho as a makeshift tent. It worked pretty sweet until, unbeknownst to us, the hood had filled with water and it released it's contents right onto Elissa's head -- the ultimate "ice bucket challenge"!
A lot of laughter, some towels and a trip into the closest town for some coffee and soup (and changing into dryer clothes) and we were back at it! Here's some paintings from the trip.
Tavern Creek, plein air watercolor, available for purchase
Quaker Neck Landing, plein air watercolor, available for purchase
Vanishing Landscape, plein air watercolor, available for purchase
Seasons' End, plein air watercolor, available for purchse
Is there anything more glorious than Springtime in Bucks County. The cool nights and warmer days have brought on a bounty of blossoms and lush greens. I love the observations that plein air painting affords. The subtle hues and soft tones of the trees as they begin to bud and fill out. The flurry of birds and their return to their springtime habitat as they make nests and forage on seeds and grasses.
This is a scene on Meadow Lane (appropriately named, don't you think!)... I love this little country road near my house. With only two farms on the road, there is little traffic. This day was particularly spectacular with a slight breeze in the air and the warmth of sunshine. The hawks and birds flying in and out of the meadow were my steady companion. Behind me was the melodic sounds of a babbling brook. Perfect. Spring. Bucks County!
I love painting plein air in the winter. The inside of my car might look like a large, messy suitcase, but I am prepared with extra jackets for layering, a rubber mat for standing on (it insulates my feet from the cold ground and is essential for staying warm!),assorted hats and gloves. The best part of painting in the winter are the new vistas revealed from the absence of foliage. Yesterday I discovered this wonderful old farm on a small side road near my home. The farmer's old path to the barn was overgrown with great old trees flanking both sides. I was able to create these two small studies before the afternoon skies turned dark and a strong storm blew in.
I often love to take a turn down an unfamiliar road in search of a new painting spot. The possibility of discovery is exciting. A recent break in our bitter cold winter weather propelled me to venture out to paint and my turn onto Buck Road didn't disappoint! I love the small winding roads of Bucks County - the twists and turns of former cart paths, now paved and barely wide enough for two cars to pass. This farm like so many of the local farms is split by the road - the barn and outbuildings on one side, the farm house on the other. I loved the textures and worn surfaces, the rambling split rail fence following the curve of the land and the curious dark window and doorways of the bank barn. The warmer temperatures and the melted snow revealed the earthy smell of the season to come. The willow at the top of the hill with it's feathery branches hinted at the promise of Spring.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by…” Robert Frost
This painting reminds me of one of my father’s favorite poets and a poem we both loved. This spot along Meadow Lane, a little unassuming road that branches off Kellers Church Road was a favorite detour my father enjoyed when we went out for errands. We always stopped at this old farm, it’s barn in ruins and the house set high on the hill. Who lived here? What happened? These questions and more intrigued us. The cluster of outbuildings and large storage barns hinted at a past life.
This week I returned over the course of three afternoons to make this painting. While painting the second day, a car (one of only two cars that passed by the entire afternoon) slowed down to talk. It was Mr. Britt checking on his family farm. I was so excited to meet him and hear the stories. His great grandfather had homesteaded this farm and he had fond memories of his grandparents and many years he spent growing up on the farm. His 95 year old mother lived there up until a few years ago when they moved her out to live with them in a house down the road. Now he and his sister stop and check on the farm.
I mentioned the path of footsteps in the snow and he told me they were his sister’s who comes daily to feed a family of cats that live in the house. (I saw one come out the window and perch on the roof watching me paint).
He was sad that they didn’t have the money to fix the roof or keep up the buildings. I told him how drawn I was to paint and capture the scene – the beauty. He kept telling me how I should have seen it before. But I see that beauty even now. It’s there.
Day 2 - the blue skies and wonderful snow shadows from Day 1 had disappeared so I worked on the house, treeline and brush and returned the next day (a sunny and perfect match to Day 1) to finish the snowy foreground.
This weekend is the Bucks County Audubon's Art of the Barn exhibit. I am thrilled to be a part of this event, my second year. It is the perfect match - an exhibit of old barns, fellow barn and art enthusiasts and a chance to display my paintings (of barns, of course!).
My love of barns was instilled by my father. He had a passion for Bucks County and all things old., especially old barns. Sunday afternoon drives were my family's entertainment. A struggling school teacher with a wife and three kids didn't leave extra money for movies or shopping. Instead, we piled into the car in search of new roads (or old favorites) with stops along the way to admire old barns and farms. I would take along my sketchbook and make little drawings or just take it all in creating a painting in my mind. The jaunt was never complete without a stop for an ice cream cone.
In the 80's my father's lifelong dream to own a barn became a reality. My siblings thought they'd lost their minds. The called me (I was in Seattle going to art school) and they told me to come home and talk them out of this crazy farm purchase. I came home to visit them at their "new" farm... it was an enormous project in its dilapidated state. But there was my dad, his bright eyes shining and a grin as wide as the "to-do list" --He couldn't wait to show me the barn.
My parents are both gone, but I still love taking off in my car in search of great barns. With my easel and paints in the back seat I am always ready to pull off, park and paint. I can hear my dad saying "Look at that one Jane, now that's a real beauty."
Yes Dad, it is.
This painting speaks on so many levels for me. First of all, I am returning to my easel and all things related, such as this blog. The day before I did this painting we were in the path of massive snow storm mixed with sleet, snow and lastly, a glaze of ice.
The three years leading up to this day were turbulent in their own right. My fathers battle with MRSA and decline in health brought him to our home where I cared for him as well as my mother, who had her own health and mobility challenges. Over the past year and a half, they both passed away, eleven months apart.
My parents were my biggest fans – always inspiring and encouraging my passion for art. My mother especially loved it when I set off to go paint plein air. Upon my return, she would look at the paintings, talk about the subject matter and express her joy at being able to share in the experience of being there. Even in her last months and days, she would tell me how bad she felt that I couldn't get away to paint. "I'm taking you away from your painting time," she would say. I didn't feel that way. Time to paint will always be there. My days with my mom would not.
Now there is painting, and time. Time to reflect. Time to observe. Getting back to painting is so restorative. I am comforted in the quiet of being outside with nature.
This particular morning, I came into the kitchen and looked out at the red horse shed in the far pasture. It's usual shabby appearance was transformed with a shimmering blanket of white. The winds had glazed the lower portions of trees that lined the woods. Everything sparkled. I had such a feeling of hope. A promise of healing. A glimmer of light.
Saturday evening I was cleaning up from dinner and watching the sky change from the kitchen window. I immediately decided I had to go paint (dishes can always wait!) and dashed down the road where I remembered seeing the farmer's round bales being harvested earlier in the day. It was just after 8:15 pm and I knew I had to work fast.
From the back of my car, I dashed out a sketch and began to paint. Josh, our hay farmer pulled by in the big tractor to wave hello. We were both chasing the light – he had a partial field left to do and I had a painting to make!
It was a fast and furious dash – paint, brushes and water all coming together. The sky was incredible and the light changing so fast. I found myself totally immersed and just telling myself to press on and paint fast. No time to over to analyze or scrutinize.
As the sun disappeared behind the distant hills I stopped and watched a deer and her young ones venture out from the woods to find a little nibble. I saw Josh in the distance, returning to his barn.
And I packed up to head home... dishes were waiting.
What a gorgeous setting and wonderful opportunity to paint with other local plein air painters. ByOak Farm offers endless subject matter and lovely vistas to paint. The morning sun illuminating these weathered white barn boards caught my eye. I loved the shadows and intrigue of multiple doors and windows. The small chicken coop to the right and the meandering fence lines added to the scene. It was a great morning to be out painting!
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.