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  • Antique Easel(s)

    Last weekend I bought another antique easel, an F. Weber crank easel.  I now have three of them.  They are not easy to find, so I thought I would do a blog post explaining how I’ve been going about getting them.  Also, I thought it was worth putting a few pictures online for folks to check out (there is very little real information to be found on antique easels online)  Here is a link to a previous blog post on the first of these old easels I found, back in 2012.

     

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    I call them the three graces.  Just kidding, that’s silly, they’re ‘the nice easels’.

     

    For the past few years, I have been buying used easels, antique and not, because I always need extra easels for my classes.  First, a few words on the cheaper new h-frame model easels out right now-

    Click here for a link to the Winsor and Newton ‘Shannon’ model H-Frame easel– This is a fine easel.  It is sturdy enough, lightweight, and folds up smallish- it’s rack and pinion, so clicks into place and stays there.  It doesn’t go up super high, and the mast is tall, so you will need a tall ceiling.

    Click here for a link to the Best Richeson ‘Dulce’ Lyptus easel.  This is another good h-frame- especially good for sight-size and smaller ceiling heights as the tray goes way up, and the central mast can go down independently.    I do have a problem with the ‘best’ model easels though- the central shelf is fastened with a plastic knob that comes loose, and the whole thing comes slamming down like a guillotine.  That really sucks, so I keep a heavy clamp underneath them to keep them a bit more sturdy.

    Blick is now selling a studio h-frame that is inexpensive, and basically identical to the W&N shannon.  While it is identical in size, it is far more rickety, and entirely unstable.  I would save your money and get the shannon if you can.

    My favorite ‘new’ studio easel is the Mabef 06 this is a medium-size easel that can accommodate both huge and small pictures.  Sturdy.  I have three of them.

    An easel should really last a lifetime, so I don’t mind buying them used, even one of the newer models above.   That said, I love finding old easels like the above because they have features you just don’t find today- this antique easel was in very rough shape.  I took it all apart, sanded and oiled all the wood, glued and screwed everything back together, and had to have a friend custom build a bunch of new parts for it in his machine shop.

    Here’s what I know about it: The good folks at Martin/Weber helped me out, and I can say with confidence that this is a very early version of the Number 20 ‘Rembrandt’ Winding Studio Easel produced by F. Weber Co from 1903-1919.  (Number 20 was the only one with drawers).  I am guessing that it is much earlier than my other two as there are some major differences- the casters (wheels) are made of wood, not plastic/rubber.  The tray length is different, and the design of the base and frame of the easel interlocks differently (weakly, but beautifully hinged, instead of bolted).  The pegs on the mast are all wood, with a metal washer, rather than all-metal.  All three of them have to have been produced before 1919, as after that date the company name changed to “F. Weber Co, Inc.” and the nameplates would reflect that.   The other two are either the Number 17 or 18 model Rembrandt easel.

    If anyone has access to the Getty Archives, they have the weber old catalogs, you might be able to find more information:

    http://archives2.getty.edu:8082/xtf/view?docId=ead/950018/950018.xml;chunk.id=scopecontent_1;brand=default

     

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    Look at those drawers.

     

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    Like my other Weber Easels, it has the unique spiral cast-iron peg mounting crank rather than threaded rod that was already popular at the time.

     

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    Beautiful solid base for storing a drawing board or canvas, and ornate hinges

     

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    Embossed ‘F. Weber&Co. Artist & Draughtsman’s Materials, Philadelphia’ nameplate, clearly older than my other two models

     

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    compare the above simple nameplate from one of my newer Weber easels

     

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    The easel has a simple system for doing small canvases up at eye-level

     

    As I said above, the easel was lacking some pretty major pieces- I had my friend and neighbor Todd Cahill of Steamachine Sculpture make them– he had to make 3 new pegs for the crank, thread a new piece of rod for the clamp that holds the canvas down as it had stripped, and invent a new tightening Knob mechanism for the mast support.  Todd does incredibly precise work, functioning steam engine kinetic sculptures and works with old belt-driven metal lathes and all sorts of wonderful machines I can’t pronounce.  Here is a video of Todd showing what he does, and clicking here will bring you to another video, which shows a bit of our studio complex and surroundings.  Todd has been very helpful to me with my odd studio projects (he saved the day on a couple of my sculpture stands I built back in December), but the guy is a fascinating artist.  He just had a show of his drawings and process at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation.  Todd’s drawings are beyond impressive, and you should see them in person to appreciate the meticulous linework.

     

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    My number 20 Easel was missing one of these cast-iron knobs- if the early model even had them

     

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    Todd built me this in wood, and i stained it to match. Metal detailing on the other side.

     

    So- the reason I go to all the trouble and expense of restoring these antique easels is because they just function better than new ones tend to.  They have a sturdy crank system, and they are seriously built to last.  They are also beautiful, the last time I did a blog post on them in 2012 I had a string of designers write me trying to buy them.  There is a trend of putting Flat Screen TV’s on antique easels, and though they would have paid me good money, I am a romantic and can’t imagine parting with them.  You can’t help but daydream about who has used it before you.

     

    Here is my advice on easel searching:

    This is the hard part- learn to recognize (often from bad photos) the basic easel designs you are interested in.  Is it an H-Frame?  Does it have casters?  Does it have a crank?  Compare, for instance, an Anco-Bilt antique studio easel to the pictures of mine above.  One hundred percent of the times I have bought an easel online I know more about the easel than the person selling it.  There are little elements of the design that give away what it is, and photos online are almost always terrible.

    Patience.  There are not a ton of them out there.

    I have a search set on craigslist to ‘easel’.  Any other keyword is too specific.  You will need to wade through tons of ikea kid’s easels, plastic easels, and presentation easels.  That said, it’s the way I have ended up buying nearly every used easel in this room.  I use this each particularly if I am traveling to another area and I will have room in the car.

    Freecycle.org works pretty well in Boston, check it in your area.

    The antique shops will have easels.  Sometimes overpriced, sometimes not.

    I search on Ebay for ‘antique easel’ or ‘vintage easel’.  This has turned up some nice ones.  Try to find one nearby though, that can be hard.

    If you end up shipping one, use a trucking freight company.  It will save you literally hundreds of dollars.

    Also, I have gotten good at inspecting the easels when I go to buy them- I ask myself,  ‘how much work will it be to get this thing working?’  Will it just need some glue and a couple of screws, or something more?

    When you get the easel, decide if it needs to be taken apart and repaired (it usually does, whether new or old).

     

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    See the tiny nails coming out of the tray and clamp?  That allows you to paint all the way to the edge.  I love those.

     

    If anyone finds anything out there, leave a photo in the comments.  And designers, just buy one of the Restoration Hardware reproduced crank easels, and hire an artist to use it for  a few weeks 😉  Leave the antique easels to people that will use them.

  • Show at Tree’s Place

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    Fishing Shack in Allen Cove, 35×43″ (90x110cm)

     

    This Saturday May 21st there is a show of my work opening at Tree’s Place Gallery in Orleans, on Cape Cod.  It’s a two-person show, the other artist’s work featured is Marcia Burtt.  The opening is from 5-7:00 and I will be there- the show runs through June 2nd.  If you’re in the area, stop by for a glass of wine and a chat.

    Below are a couple of other paintings in the show that are not in the online catalogue:

     

    Spring-in-Gloucester

    Spring in Gloucester, 16×20″ (40x50cm)

     

    Blue-Rocks-Mist

    Morning Mist, Blue Rocks 24×30″ (60x75cm)

     

    Pomegranate-Slice-5.5x7.5

    Halved Pomegranate 6×8″ (15x20cm)

     

    Click here to see the online catalogue for the show.  

  • Plyos, Rain

    This painting of Plyos, Russia from 2014 left the studio last week and I realized I never put a finished photo on my site. The client asked me to write a short description of the piece for them to have, so I thought I would post it here.  This has long been among my favorite of my studio landscapes, but strangely had never been selected for a single exhibition.  Glad that it’s gone off to a good home.

     

    Plyos

    Plyos, Rain oil on canvas 2014 35×47″ (90×120 cm)

     

    In spring 2013 I was invited by the Museum of Landscape in Plyos, Ivanova Region, to paint in Russia as part of a cultural exchange/art initiative called зеленый шум or “Green Noise”.  Plyos is a quaint village on the Volga River, (one of the ‘Golden Ring’ cities about ~8 hours northeast from Moscow), today a tourist destination with strict architectural cultural preservation and as its centerpiece, a museum and statue to the great Russian landscape artist, Isaak Levitan (1860-1900).  Levitan had long been one of my favorite artists, and I had read about Plyos for years-although most Russians I met had never heard of the town.

    Each year the ‘Green Noise’ program would invite foreign artists to paint with Russian counterparts and have an exhibition with the work at the end of the trip.  I jumped at the chance-Levitan’s pictures of Plyos rank among his best, so of course, I had to see it.  

    Unfortunately it rained every single day with two exceptions: the day it was snowing, and the one day we weren’t allowed to paint as we had to take part in the inaugural ceremony.  Generally speaking, I prefer to work indoors if it’s raining, but we had no choice during the trip to continue work as each of us had to produce paintings for the exhibition at the end.  I did 13 paintings during the trip, and ‘Rain, Plyos’ was eventually painted in my studio outside Boston from the studies in early 2014.  

     

    For comparisons sake, here is an image of the 24×30″ (60x80cm) painting that I did on-site during the trip:

    Plyos Sketch

     

  • Recent Drawings

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    charcoal pencil and white chalk

    Here’s the third installment of my far too infrequent blog postings of my recent work, drawings.  I’ve been good at putting images on my Facebook and Instagram but should probably be updating my site more often.  I’m considering rebuilding/restructuring my site again, as so much of what I post on here has been about guest teachers demos, and random thoughts.  Maybe I need two blogs-but I don’t even update this one often.

     

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    charcoal pencil

     

    These are just sketches, all but one done between critiques while I am teaching in the studio on Tuesday evenings.  I don’t paint the figure or portrait very often these days and sketching is an easy way for me to keep my eye analytical.   I love drawing the figure, it’s what initially pulled me away from doing graffiti as a teenager.  Plus, the human form translates so well to all of the other issues in painting- whether portraits, landscapes or still lifes, it seems to inform everything and keep me interested in my other work.

    None of these are really ‘finished drawings’ and most serve just as a record of the 2-4 hour classes that I did them during.  I switch mediums a lot while I’m doing them to keep challenging myself- I have a toddler who still doesn’t sleep through the night often, so if I work with charcoal pencil or metal point, which doesn’t really lend to erasing, it keeps me focused (or incredibly frustrated) at the end of a long day.  Some of these are done sight-size, some not.

     

     

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    silverpoint

     

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    graphite

     

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    charcoal and white chalk

     

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    silverpoint and white chalk

     

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    silverpoint and white chalk

     

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    charcoal

     

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    graphite

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    graphite

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    graphite and charcoal pencil

     

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    silverpoint and charcoal pencil

     

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    charcoal and charcoal pencil

     

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    charcoal and white chalk

     

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    charcoal pencil, silverpoint and white chalk

     

     

     

  • Recent Paintings 2.0

    Yesterday I posted a group of recent still life paintings- today I thought I should put up all of the other work I have been up to over the past few months.  Though I do like painting still life I have been exploring some techniques in painting that are best suited to the landscape.  Some of these are sketches, and some took really quite a bit of time.  All of them are pushing my painting towards the more ‘broken brush’, impressionist-vein tradition I have been working at the past few years.

     

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    Blue Rocks Docks, Slack Tide 35×43″ oil on linen

     

    The above painting is from the fall but I had forgotten to get an image before it left the studio.  It’s a studio picture, done from one of my on-site paintings in Nova Scotia last August.  Painting it was done from below, for comparison’s sake:

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    Backlit Docks, Blue Rocks, 12×16″

     

    The below four are all from Vermont, though different trips.  The weather was particularly difficult both times, it was good to get out, but snow mixed with ice, rain, sleet and wind isn’t fun.  I spent a weekend painting alone, staying with friends that were snowboarding at Okemo, and another short trip up with Stapleton Kearns and TM Nicholas.

     

    Tunbridge Mill

    Tunbridge Mill 14×10″ 

     

    Wallingford Barn

    Grey Morning in Wallingford 12×16″ 

     

    Ludlow

    Ludlow 10×14″

     

    Tunbridge

    Melting Snow, Tunbridge 12×16″

     

     

    Angie by Window

    Angie by Window 20×12″

     

     

    The below two were longer projects, all done outside, only touched up occasionally in the studio, in between sessions.

     

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    Codman Farm 28×37″

    The above painting has been a long haul- I realized after finally finishing it that I started it way back in December 2013.  Photo metadata is a great way to pinpoint when you started a painting 😉

     

    Codman

     

     

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    Clearing skies at Drumlin Farm 22×28″

    I have done blog posts on the process of both the above and below paintings; click here for ‘Drumlin Farm’ which started out as a demo at my winter workshop in January, and click here for the previous post on the below painting, ‘Peters Hill’ which became more of a studio picture than a pure outdoor piece

     

    Peters Hill

    Peters Hill 20×24″

    below an iPhone closeup of some of the directional, opaque brushwork.

    broken color

     

     

    I have another couple of paintings I am finishing indoors from the winter season, but it will probably be some time before they’re ready.  If I get them done soon I will update this post.  Next blog post will be on recent drawings.

    Tinmouth Barn

    Unfinished painting in Tinmouth, VT

  • Still Life Paintings

    It’s time to post some work, show folks what I have been up to.  As usual, I spent some time painting outdoors this winter, though our snow left much to be desired this year.  In a way, that was a bit helpful, it encouraged me to stay in the studio and start doing some still life painting again.  It had been at least a few years since I painted still life in earnest, so it has been great to delve into it again- as one might expect, my approach is now quite different than it was back in 2006-2010 when I painted primarily still lives.  I have been enjoying them.

     

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    The batch of paintings below is part of a still life exhibition ‘Stillness‘ at Ann Long Fine Art in Charleston, SC.  The show opens this Thursday, and you can see whats in the exhibition by clicking here.  Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it down for the opening, Charleston is a really fun, beautiful town with great food and weather.

     

    Fennel

    Fennel and Spring Onion 12×10″

     

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    Honeydew and Grapes 10×12″

     

    pomegranate

    Single Pomegranate 10×8″

     

    halved_avocado

    Halved Avocado 10×12″

    bunch_of_asparagus

    Bunch of Asparagus 12×16″

     

    cauliflower_and_onion_in_warm_light

    Cauliflower and Onion, Warm Light 10×14″

     

    watermelon_slice

    Watermelon Slice 12×16″

     

     

    Then, the below four still lifes went off to the gallery I show with in Boston, Sloane Merrill Gallery.  They are not part of an big exhibition, but I was there the other day and most are currently hanging if you stop in at the gallery.  The below painting is my favorite painting from this year thus far.

     

     

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    Pear and Pomegranate 11×14″

     

    Poggio-Antico-e-melograno-16x20

    Poggio Antico and Pomegranate 16×20″

     

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    Artichoke, Tomatoes and Garlic 10×15″

     

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    Breakfast 12×16″

     

    The below batch has gone off to a variety of places, and a couple I still have.  The top picture with the three clementines is going to be part of a 2-Person show I’m participating in next month at Tree’s Place gallery in Orleans, MA, down in Cape Cod.  That show opens on May 21st, I’ll be at the opening, and the show runs through labor day weekend to June 3rd.

     

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    Spotlight 13×22″

     

    Turnip-9x16

    Single Turnip 9×16″

     

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    Watermelon Radishes 10×12″

     

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    Sliced Pear 10×14″

     

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    Satsuma Mandarins 10×14″

     

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    Pomegranates 7×10″

     

    As this post has become a bit long, I will do a separate one for recent landscape paintings.

     

  • Ben Fenske Figure Construction Class, March 2016

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    Ben Fenske taught an stunningly informative class earlier this month in my studio.  It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to call his courses ‘drawing classes’, although most of the time is spent drawing: either Ben demonstrating while lecturing, or the group drawing from the live model.  We advertise Ben’s courses as ‘construction’ courses, ways to study building the figure, with the goal being the ability to draw with or without the live model.  Perhaps more accurately, we could say that these are courses in theory and abstract conception of the figure through the memorization of specific anatomical points and surface references.  But it’s easier to say ‘Construction’.

     

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    Ben puts a huge amount of effort into these classes (see above two of Ben’s life-size sculpted examples for this class,  two different constructions of the core of the body, ribcage and pelvis, with anatomical references marked).  For those who don’t know Ben and his work, he is a painter who uses a fast and loose impressionistic technique, and as the history of representational painting has shown us, the best ‘loose’ painting requires a huge amount of theoretical and academic understanding.

    Each day Ben would lecture on anatomy and draw examples, the class drawing along with him and taking notes.

     

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    Below, see a few of Ben’s boards from his morning lectures.  The top image is on proportions of the figure and begins outlining Ben’s system of points which are to be mapped out on the figure.  This technique is an amalgam of what Fenske studied at the Russian school in Florence, and his own studies on artistic anatomy.

     

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    Then, each afternoon we had a model, male and female.  The students were all very ready to draw after spending the morning taking notes and drawing from Ben’s sculpted models.

     

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    Here’s one of the students, Vaijayanti Meweda at work, and below, her drawing.  I think it was a nice example of some of the concepts Ben was trying to trying to have the students work with, hatching and directional modeling rather than value-based modeling- especially since she had a backlit view of the model.

     

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    Additionally, Vaijayanti gets an extra-special shout-out for helping to organize our pot-luck lunch on the last day.  The food was great, and while everyone ate, Ben gave a lecture on the computer on some of the art that inspires him.  All in all, the class was amazing, just overflowing with practical information, and I’m glad to say Ben will be back to teach this August.

     

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    Ben’s Recommended Book List:

    Gottfried Bammes (in english, but not complete) http://amzn.to/1Um4hvp
    Gottfried Bammes Die Gestalt des Menshen (this is the more complete book, all images) http://amzn.to/1RoKWtc
    The other Bammes Figure book, also in German and excellent http://amzn.to/1UaJ4oQ
    Nikolai Li’s figure drawing book (in russian, great images) http://amzn.to/1Me4luK
    Nikolai Li book on the Portrait (in Russian, great price right now) http://amzn.to/1RqFEr2
    ‘Struttura Uomo’ Pozza book volume one http://amzn.to/1Me3r1n  (I can’t currently find easily volume two, ebb and flow of book availability)
    Richer’s Artistic Anatomy http://amzn.to/1Me3GcD
    Hatton’s Figure Drawing: A Complete Guide http://amzn.to/1RT84uj
    Russian Fundamentals of Drawing Textbook (in english, not as extensive as the Li books, but very good) http://amzn.to/258GMK9
    Russian Academy books on alumni and teachers, these are all paperback and in chinese:
  • More on Landscape Painting Process

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    Peters Hill, 20×24″ oil on canvas

    The above painting (just a quick raking light snapshot image to show some of the technique I’ve been using) is 95% done. As I’ve been talking about process a bit on the blog over the last year, I thought I would continue that here.   This is a link to my previous post where I tried to deconstruct the design of one of my favourite Isaak Levitan paintings.  Unlike some of my other work, this is a painting that was done 30% outside, 70% in the studio.

     

    Here is the above landscape as I started it outside, nearing the end of two days of work- about three hours the first day and 2 hours on the second day.  I spent a long time on the drawing and scale of each of the trees, arranging the design of the picture into a pleasing set of rhythms.  I worked to get the painting as true to what I saw in nature, while being somewhat interpretive with the color (the second day was overcast, but I held on to the blue sky and shadow patterns from the first day)

     

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    I knew at this point I wouldn’t be able to finish this picture outside.  The kids use my central hill as a sledding hill, and the snow was getting pockmarked with all their little footprints- and no more snow on the forecast, as it’s been really, really warm this winter.  What’s more, I wasn’t entirely pleased with the overall composition as I drew it outside.

     

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    After letting the picture rest for a few days, just to let it dry and to give myself a fresh mental perspective I spent an hour or so drawing on top of it with charcoal and white chalk.  I moved trees around, added a cloud, changed the foreground mass, started to turn the trees on the left into birches, and came up with a more unified pattern of light and shade on the snow.

     

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    Above was my first pass in oils on my newly studio-ized snowscape.  I’d filled in the center-left tree a bit, removed the one next to it, and adjusted a bunch of the big rhythms.  Most of the work took place getting me to this point– as you can see, the final image below is nearly identical in design.  I then spent many sessions arranging broken color, glazing, and applying short, stiff impastos.

    I will probably rework the painting a bit when I get the frame for it (I nearly always do), and will update the image at that point.

    Peters-Hill-20x24

     

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