Tuesday, January 14, 2020

January 14, 2020 - A New Year, Two Views

All images are photographed late in the evening for posting the same night we paint them.  We strive to reproduce the color of the paintings here as close to our originals as we can, but some variation is probable.  The paintings are labeled with our initials preceding the date label and title.  The date label is Month/Day/Order Painted. 

All of these paintings can be purchased on our website.  This link will take you to the page where they're posted... Salt Marsh Studios.

Marc's Day
We stayed up to watch LSU beat Clemson last night (great game), and paid for it today!  We decided to 'get out of town' and go paint along the wildlife drive at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.  Upon arriving we discovered that NO ONE is allowed into the refuge right now because they're repairing damage and doing clean up from Hurricane Irma's passing through.  Dang, we were pumped to get in there to explore and paint.  Since we couldn't do that, we drove a few miles to another branch of the refuge, Tupelo Trail, and walked in about a half mile or so to paint.  It was a pretty drab morning, not strong light, no moody fog or other atmospheric niceties.  But we did paint, both of us a little less than in top form, partly due to the football game last night, partly because the location where we decided to stop in the refuge wasn't a great spot to find compositions... let's just say A LOT of reeds and very little water, and dike roads.  Later in the day it became very nice with an active sky and some ground cloud shadowing happening.  I made a trip or two back to the parking area to fetch some things (lunch and panels) from the truck.  On the first trip back, I ran across a gator on the bank of one of the canals, covered in so much red clay that it looked like a terra cotta statue.  A little further along an otter stuck it's head up over the bank, took one look at me and vanished.  Just before reaching the truck a gangly looking great blue heron stood in front of me with a fish about a foot long in it's beak.  It also decided I wasn't good company, and took flight.  When I began walking back to our painting spot, the otter had had enough time to feel more secure in my harmlessness.  It climbed up the bank from the canal, ran across the dike road about 10 ft in front of me on it's way over the other side and into the marsh.  I love otters, such a playful, but completely wild forager of fishes.  We finished off the day in a hurry due to a loud, growling old gator somewhere near us.  I'll let Dottie tell you about her gator induced stopping point!  

How every evening begins... paintings head to a small space we have to be photographed and put into drying racks.  It's sort of nice to have a fixed spot to do this every day, no adjusting lights or tripod/camera.  It took a few sessions to figure out how to use the polarizing filter on the camera, and the polarizing film on the lights, correctly to avoid glare on our very wet paintings.  The results are pretty good now.

MH - 1/14/1 - NWR Savannah
In front of me was a vast almost crop like expanse of cattail leafage and other freshwater marsh grasses, all at least 6' high, maybe higher.  I felt like I was looking at a field of corn in Iowa, so perfectly similar, no variation to the growth.  Barely any water was visible.  The light was not sharp, not diffused, it was really pretty flat.  When you face these times as painters, times when you've taken time to travel somewhere that you want to paint (remember this wasn't our choice, it was the result of our choice being unavailable), and you need to do the work because to move would put a time crunch on your plans, you might find yourself painting with a less than ideal frame of mind.  I think that fairly describes this morning.  I tried to find a way to simplify all that, to create a more interesting view than really existed. It was nice listening to the coots and rails all around us though. 

MH - 1/14/2 - Tupelo Trail Haze
Mid day painting, the sun had warmed up the marsh around us enough to cause more moisture in the air.  I was looking into the light and decided to choose a small portion of what was in front of me and see if I could make it as subtle as possible and still talk about the light.  Don't know if I did, but I did enjoy this painting and might take it up larger one day.

MH - 1/14/3 - Tupelo Trail Sky
Last painting of the afternoon proved to be a quick one, and the sky was the reason.  Passing groups of clouds, top and back lit by the high sun , is always a good contrasting idea to paint.  I loved how all that light in the sky forced the land mass to become a silhouette.  That was enough for me to get going on it.  One thing that we've both talked about regarding this month's painting project is that we both wish many times that we could switch it up and use a different format for some paintings.  Today it didn't make any sense at all not to be painting on larger 1:2 ratio canvases!  But we've decided to stick with our plan, make all of these paintings the same size.  We will go back to the refuge though, to paint at another time with larger, wider formatted canvases and boards! 

Dottie's Day
Where to begin?! Today was definitely a scramble.  We started off with one idea of where we were painting and ended up with another less than ideal spot. With the short January days, once we make a commitment to a spot, we pretty much have to stay there to get our three paintings done.  The landscape was beautiful but for me it was much better suited to larger studio paintings than small plein air paintings.  That was the first problem I faced...trying to simplify a very complex scene made up of so many different grasses and scrubby shrubs and trees.  There would be a couple more problems I would face before the day was over.  But, as always, it was a beautiful day to be outdoors in sunshine and 80 degree temperatures.   A beautiful day to observe the wild landscape and the creatures in it. A beautiful day to put paint to canvas and try to learn something from the experience.  

DTL 1/14/1 - January Color Study
This started out as a much more complicated painting.  I worked on it for about an hour and it just felt too busy.  Too much information.  I struggle with that in these small paintings.  I am so used to painting so much larger.  Instead of 9"x12" panels, I feel like I get three postage stamps out to paint on every day.  It is getting easier, after 14 days, but it still isn't comfortable yet.  I still want room to paint.  Getting back to this painting, I looked at it after an hour and wasn't happy so I wiped it off and did a much simpler color study of the early morning light on the old rice fields. I thought I might come back to it later in the day and do a little more but I think the simplicity works.
DTL - 1/14/2  - Layers
Here I go with the complex again.  I loved the way the landscape separated into layers, like a layer cake.  They were very distinct and evenly spaced.  I had moved about 30 feet down the trail from where I painted the first one.  There was swampy marsh on either side of the trail.  Beautiful tall reeds of all kinds and there was water but not much where I was standing. As I painted, birds called to each other, and the grasses rattled in the breeze.  But I kept hearing this noise every so often, a very low guttural sound, almost like a grunt.  I kept thinking that it sounded like a gator.  But only the tips of the grasses were moving and the sound was very intermittent.  I chalked it up to my imagination and kept painting.  

DTL - 1/14/3 - Take 2
I finished my second painting and started this one.  It was a much more complex marsh scene with more grasses in the foreground.  I liked the way the whole scene was backlit with very little color.  
I was working away and Marc had gone back to the truck to get another panel, when out of nowhere about 3 feet away from me came a loud and very long bellow.  There had been an alligator there the whole time I was painting.  That WAS what I had been hearing.  
I must have jumped a foot off the ground.  I started trying to grab all of my stuff and in my excitement, tripped over my easel with my painting on it, totally smearing the whole bottom half.  I moved myself and my stuff over to where Marc had been set up about 20 feet away.  
I had to completely wipe off the bottom of the painting to try and salvage it.  It seemed like forever before Marc got back and with my concentration gone, I changed the bottom of the painting to just water.  Hence the name, Take 2.  I tried to start a 4th painting and got it blocked in just in time to hear that dang gator bellow again.  At that point I decided that it was his house, not mine, and it was time to go! 

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