Thursday, July 23, 2009

field and creek

Sunday afternoon I found a hilltop east of town and spent a couple hours laying in thin brush strokes.

Warm sun, cool breeze out of the east, no traffic, what a view.
Water spritzer to keep my palette moist. Bug spray and sunscreen lotion all over.

There were many "tries" in this piece. Light blue streaks in the sky to make clouds. The back row of trees are done in blue to create distance. Thin layers of acrylic for the field. As I completed the work its title came to me. The next day I received an email telling me my cousin Anthony Bode had died. He was suffering from leukemia. He had lived in Arizona.

Anthony's Repose by Karl Marxhausen 9" x 12" acrylic on 140 lb watercolor paper
After packing up my easel and equipment I drove three miles home for a lunch break. That afternoon I returned to Ground Hog road, west of town,and set up beside a tiny creek with dust-laden leaves. I set up a couple of large orange safety cones along the road where I was painting. Drivers slowed down when they passed by. That gravel road seemed especially narrow.

From what I have seen Albert Bierstadt, Russell Smith and Alfred Bricher do, I am convinced there is more I can pack into my 12 x 9 format. You can see the elements I chose to describe in my two hours of work.

Creek Study by Karl Marxhausen 12" x 9" acrylic on 140 lb watercolor paperIf you would like to purchase either of these or wish to share your thoughts, leave me a comment below.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Marceline 2009 Paint Out

Saturday, June 20 - There were no meetings, my schedule was my own, so allowed myself extra sleep and headed up late Saturday morning. It was going to be a hot humid day, heat in the upper 90s, typical climate for the middle of this North America continent. By 10 o'clock I was on the road with breakfast inside. 11 am I was in Marceline, and by noon I was painting beside a culvert shaded by a magnolia tree. My red vehicle was parked on the same side of the street to let neighborhood traffic know I was there. My ritual began with spraying bug repellent over arms, legs, neck, and face - eyes closed tight. Next, sunscreen was applied over the same areas. Wide brimmed straw hat on head, green apron secured, EasyL kit on its tripod, primed canvas panel in place, tube dabs squeezed on the glass palette, plastic spray bottle to keep the acrylic paints from drying out, retractable razor blade to scrape off dried paint, water holder, and brushes selected. Ready, set, hands frame the scene (above, Magnolia Creek - acrylic - 12 x 9/ RayMar cotton). That challenge gave me plenty to work with. Thin washes of green Viridian Hue were first dabbed on the white panel to make "a map," brush marks to position the cement incline, the center stone, the floppy leaves, the banks, the reflected sky on water. Alizeran Crimson and Viridian were mixed to make the darkest values. The palette also had Hansa Yellow Pale, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, and Titanium White. My eye moved around the design in a circular fashion. Whatever value was on my brush was added to all areas with the same value around on the picture. Billyo had said on Friday, the artist must pause and consider where one wanted to take the painting. The only other thing I might add was this piece took longer than usual. It was clocked on my time sheet at three and a half hours.

Around 3:30 pm the thunder sounded much closer, dark gray clouds dragged their tails toward the ground, it felt like rain might fall soon. I stopped painting, cleaned the brushes, scraped the palette clean, packed up the palette box, collapsed the tripod legs, dumped the dirty water, and loaded the backpack in my vehicle. As I drove away, it began to rain. I touched base with the NOMO gallery, sat down to rest my feet, and asked where the others were painting today.

Time for lunch
!!! From 4 to 5 pm I enjoyed a reuben sandwich across from the city park, while sheets of rain fell outside. A local Little League baseball team were finishing their meal inside. Just passed 5 o'clock the rain subsided, and I drove back to Beebee's Creek. When I returned the sun was shining and a light mist made the air sweaty. Retracing my steps, I located my stick markers from the day before. A cascade of swift moving water drew my attention. (above right, Roaring Ditch - acrylic - 14 x 11/ RayMar cotton) I set up my equipment and mapped thin washes of paint on the white panel. There were not three masses or three values this time. My eye and hand flitted back and forth, hands framing up the image I wanted. Light rain made me stop, lean the panel against the tripod away from the rain, to keep paint from running down, to let it "dry," HA. I strolled across the lawn, looked at a cluster of willow trunks, the fast moving stream, considered whether the tree canopy above could shelter me, but no, there were bothersome drips falling there too, walked back to the painting, touched it up, and tore down my kit. That piece clocked on my time sheet at one and a half hours. Sweet.

The rain had ceased. At 7 pm I parked my vehicle further up Wilson Street across from the orange Jordan mailbox. A wide field to the south dipped down to a willow row and up to the skyline. I decided the light was not what I had loved the day before. Instead, settled on the vista looking west toward the village's water tower.(above, Vista I - Acrylic - 11 x 14/ RayMar cotton) Worked on atmosphere, lighter and lighter tree rows, the Beebee residence to the right, the light sky streaks around the white sun. That piece clocked on my time sheet at one hour.

I was so glad I had sanded and gessoed these panels the previous Monday in preparation for this day. All ready to go. At 8 o'clock I eliminated the road and join hedge rows from either side, then focused on the sky.(above, Vista II - Acrylic - 11 x 14/ RayMar cotton) Forty minutes later I pulled out my last panel for the night.

Ground fog was rising across the field to the south. The night was settling. Still, the humidity was high and the air muggy. (above, Vista III - Acrylic - 9 x 12/ RayMar cotton) In thirty minutes I roughed in the twilight, the ghostly water tower, unable to see the colors I was working with. As I laid the last panel inside my vehicle to dry, a sense of satisfaction spread through my being. Wow. What a run. I was happy with each one. At 10 pm I drove home slowly on double J, keeping eyes open for deer on the winding road. An hour later I was home. Walked my dog and got my shut eye. Thanks for Nyquil sleep medicine.

Sunday, June 21- Home-brewed coffee, a hot wrapped McGriddle sandwich on the seat next to me and on the road by 9. It was a bright morning, no clouds, another HOT day. By 11 o'clock I had retrieved my remaining sticks from the Beebee property. This time I settled on a sandbar with red bricks and crushed cement pieces, and gave thought to the wrinkles of light blue on trickling stream. (right, Reflected Blue - Acrylic - 12 x 9/ RayMar cotton) Laid in the upper end of the stream, smooshed the green fringe outline of the banks, and played with the lit bank portions. Where they warm light-oranges or cool orange-purples? As the sun rose higher behind me splotchy patches of shade disrupted my pursuit of the skyward reflections. I had to ignore what my eyes were seeing. A patterned arch of pebbles broke the surface into shallow rivulets. The rhythm of lilly stalks in the lower right cried for a greater presence. I ignored the sunlit greens and put them in shadow to call attention to the watery blues.

Upon completion the work reminded me of what
Stuart Shils had said. Not to worry whether the picture reads clear or reads as "pretty." Let the abstraction and the balance of light and dark colors "speak." Capture the moment. I did just that.

At noon I touched up Magnolia Creek from the day before, bringing the sky and field in the upper right hand corner into harmony with the floppy leaves. Mrs. Beebee came out and invited me in for an air-conditioned break and a glass of lemonade. I declined politely, but showed her the panels in completion. She shared her thoughts. After she left, I signed my name to all six works. At 1:30 pm I took time to visit with the Beebees, have that iced lemonade, and examine the wood carved figures her husband had done. Very nice.

At 3 pm Darlene Gardner, Gloria Gaus, Nora Othic, Gloria Gooch, Richard Johnson, Alexa Dunham, and myself had returned to the gallery to enter fifteen paintings for the Artist Choice awards. I had six entries. One other had two. The rest entered one each. Painters voted for the three best works.
Alexa won 1st place, Gloria 2nd place, and I tied 3rd place with Nora. Cash prizes were awarded. See all four Artist Choice winners.

Darrell Gardner let me chill out, rest my feet, and eat a bite in the cool of his home. By 7 o'clock I was on my way home. By 8:15 my dog was walked. By 9 o'clock I was dreaming about paint.

Monday, June 22 - I am always tired after art excursions. Today was more like a "body crash." Mind-fried, weak, down with diarrea, slept all day, and slept again all night. Wasn't worth a hoot! By Tuesday, my strength had returned. Excellent.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

plein air workshop with Billyo

The biggest question on my mind after packing up and heading out early Friday morning was the swollen, bandaged finger on my painting hand. Two days earlier a wasp had left its fiery sting. A tumble that same day left a scuff on the bottom my right foot, while out walking the dog. Were those incidents omens of warning? Strong irritations seemed intent on discouraging me. Family obligations had prevented me from going other years. Now I was given a green light. Over the next three days I would drive 60 miles to and from Marceline, because I thought I was ready for it. And I found out, I was.
The shortcut I took followed a winding highway 24 east, past planted fields and tree lined creeks, to the village of Brunswick, from which river barges leave with midwest grain. Then north on highway 11, east on Route C, and north again on Route F, which turned into double J before rolling into the rail town of Marceline.
Along the way, I came upon a cluster of cattle who stood in the middle of the road on the crest of a hill. Click triangle to view 30 second clip. When I arrived, the sky was lit, the ground was dry, and there was plenty of time to circle the village and scout out scenes. The plein air workshop met at the NOMO gallery on Main Street USA. The same street name used in the American theme park known as Disneyland. Marceline was the home town of Walt Disney. There I was greeted by Billyo O' Donnell, a personable oil painter, from Saint Louis.
The twenty-five adults were mostly from Missouri, although one college student was visiting from Los Angeles, California. Billyo was an artist who set up challenges for himself to grow his own skills. He once tried to paint the entire St. Louis Symphony Orchestra as it rehearsed. He shared his history as an artist with the group, and talked about his paintings that hung in the NOMO gallery.
He was not always so well-known. In fact, he was turned down by galleries in his own city simply because he was a local who did landscapes. Back then "Modernism" had been the trend. When he did become well-known he stayed true to his roots. When offered a place of esteem at a prestigious California gallery, he chose to return to Missouri to encourage the arts.
"Problem Solving for the Plein Air Painter" came out his own history with the Marceline art group. Years ago his fellow St. Louis plein air painters drove across the state to take part in an invitational and the next day participated in the village's annual Paint Out. The recent "Art Scene Marceline" had brought 2 demos and 3 workshops to the land of Disney. Grants from the Missouri Arts Council and Missouri Association of Community Arts Agencies (MACAA) had brought someone of his calibier to north central Missouri.
By 9:30 am a string of vehicles headed west on Broadway to the dusty gravel of the Ankeny farm, one mile north west of Marceline. The plan was to set up our easels close in a shaded area where he would give instruction. Later, after we had painted a while, he would give individual pointers which everyone could benefit from. That worked ----- until the rain came.

Every easel has its own rhythm, he said. Be patient and find a way that works for you. He demonstrated with a french easel on hand.

He showed how to block in three masses and use one color to create three values. I found that very helpful. As one student said, "Composition takes the credit, but values do all the work."
Just after I set up my easel it began to rain. Most of the painters hauled their easels and supplies into the corregated metal buildings nearby. We were able to look out from dry quarters, through the steady rain, to vistas in the distance, from the hill top we were on. I used green Viridian Hue to divide my RayMar canvas board into three masses and create three values. Later (below) I worked additional colors on top.

Billyo recommended to the group that we allow him to make changes on our paintings during the workshop. On mine, he made changes in the mid-ground tree row. He also showed me what foreground grass strokes could be made with a thin long rigger brush. He asked how I could work at all using those "small" brushes. I asked him what he liked about "big" brushes. (I work with a #2 and a #3 flat synthetic blend brush by Utrecht. In contrast, he used a #6 and extra long filbert bristle brushes.) It came down to preference, of course.
The rain ended, the sun came out, the summer heat was kept in check by pleasant breezes. After we had painted for about an hour, he had us stop, gather around him, and listen as he gave pointers on each of our landscapes.

Click on triangle for 1 and a half minute clip.

He found more value in letting us work out our own challenges than watching him do a complete demo. I admired him for that. He let us paint for another hour, then we grouped up again and followed him around, while he gave pointers. At lunch time people gathered on the house porch to eat what they brought along. I had to drive into town to buy mine. They were seated on lawn chairs when I returned. The breeze kept the bugs from lighting. After the meal, Chris Ankeny gave us a tour of the century-old farm house. Her art collection included works by Nora Othic and Richard Johnson.

Billyo had us move across the yard, way over by the farm house to start another painting. Amid groans and wishes to complete their first paintings, back and forth traffic began, with arms wrapped around unwieldy easels, backs bent with supply packs. Above us new clouds hid the sun, and stronger wind gusts joined us under a large shade tree. The instructor wanted to see what perspective skills we had. I was not excited about my house painting (below). He told us to not hurry into a scene, but stop, and consider what the painting was going to be about. There were too many possibilities. I could see iris rows, curling vines on a wire fence, dipping branches bobbing up and down, and all kinds house fixtures to size up. When the time came for us to gather round, he began with my 12 by 9 canvas panel.
The angle of the house gave the center peak of the roof problems. He went on about eyeballing the sides of the house, finding its true center, and then corrected my peak roof with his brush. My kit was the only "acrylic" one in the bunch. All the others were rightly "oil." It was an oil painting workshop. (I had received permission to work in acrylic, when I registered) So, when he reached over with his brush loaded with mineral spirits, he had caught himself, and re-thought how he would proceed. (You don't mix mineral spirits with water. It could also ruin his paint brush) He used my brushes, mixed colors off my acrylic palette, and rinsed in my water holder. I removed my brass brush holder, because I could see him taking the brush there for rinsing, and then having to halt, and look for the other water container. But he did fine. And he made the points he wanted to teach. Soon, he was on his way to the easel of another student, to make further corrections.
It was quite windy. There were easels being blown over. It was a lot harder to hear him talk. The rushing air filled my ears. There was a lot of standing. My feet were tired. When he had moved on beneath the bending shade tree, I went to pull my lawn chair from my vehicle, returned to the group, sat down and rested within earshot. The workshop wound down at 4 pm. We thanked the instructor for his efforts.
Back in town I swung by gallery. NOMO member Sharon Goddard turned my canvas panels over and stamped the backs. Generally. paint outs do that so that everyone has the same amount of time to produce their paintings. For one hour I drove around the east side looking for places to paint the next day. Joanne Beebee gave me permission to explore the creek bed that wound around her property by Wilson Street. I like when the grass has been mowed right up to the creek. In hot weather like that, I could wear shorts and not worry about stickers. So I walked and stopped and considered the willow trunks, the banks, and then walked and stopped some more. I found a skinny branch, broke it into pieces, and laid them down where I could find them the next day.

At 6 o'clock Mr. O'Donnell gave a one hour presentation at the Uptown Theater, and shared stories about the people he met during "Painting Missouri". Over a seven year span and 160,000 miles, O' Donnell created an outdoor painting for each of the 114 counties in Missouri and the city of St. Louis. He camped in a tent, no motels, lived out of pocket, gave it his full attention, and later met Karen Glines, who wrote background information about each of the counties in the book.

After his talk, he stamped and signed copies of the book. All 3,000 copies had been sold out. A second edition was being planned, it was announced.

He announced the entire collection of 115 paintings was going to be on display at the Boone County Historical Museum in Columbia, Missouri from June to August. And then it would be at the Missouri State University Art & Design gallery in Springfield, Missouri during September.

At 7:30 pm I attended the Marceline Paint Out reception across the street at Darrell Gardner's studio.
Tables with grapes, ham wraps, cookies, wine, and air-conditioning. Ahhh. Walls lined with large framed paintings of the Grand Canyon by Gardner after the Swedish-American Birger Sandzen. Darlene Gardner asked about my blistered finger. Yes, I was able to bend it. No, it had not kept me from painting. The demands of the irritation had become less. Almost as if it was saying to me, "See you later. I have done my part. Bye, bye." Billyo and Peggyo had their own sore muscles from the trip up. They had been rear ended in traffic, and he said his neck was aching from that. Inspite of that he gave the workshop. Maybe that was what those irritations were about. Pressing on. With a full day behind me, I headed home.