Saturday, May 31, 2014

Emily Carr

Emily Carr is a 19th century artist, an explorer, fearless and brave, willing to undergo extreme discomfort, ravenous bugs, slithering and biting things to document the totems of native people of the northwest as well as the landscape of towering trees, majestic mountains and streams. She was driven to capture expression with her paintbrush, finding a compliment in being labeled a Fauve.  Her work is a historical document of ancestor poles that were sold, ruined or stolen. She is considered an honorary member of the Group of Seven in Canadian art history.

This scene from the East side of Tuscarora State Park was painted with Emily Carr in mind. I hoped to show respect for our mature evergreens and the meadows of wetlands in rich and loose color, painted with a brisk wind at my back and a serious chill in the day.

plein air, Tuscarora Park, Schifano NFPAP
Channeling Emily Carr, oil on board 14x11

 The book The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland is an embellished novel of her life as a painter, her travels into the Northwest and into Alaska in search of carved totems to draw and paint. The week after I painted this, I drove to Pennsylvania to paint and listened to the book on CD. Totally inspiring, but coincidental that I had just completed this painting.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Influenced by Wolf Kahn

A few years ago, I appeared on a channel 7 morning show and in the interview I was asked which artists were my favorites. I flubbed the answer, since any names that would answer that question changes regularly, and also was not something I thought much about, I like so many artists equally. If I had been asked who influenced my artwork, I would have a completely different list. John Singer Sargeant, all of the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, Robert Henri, maybe Georgia O'Keeffe, Charles Hawthorne and many of my painter friends including my husband.

Recently, I was asked by Carl Judson to reconsider Wolf Kahn as a 'favorite'. My main interaction with Kahn's work was presenting a workshop/paintout based on his visit and artwork created in Niagara Falls for his Castellani Art Museum show. Loving the Falls as I do, I objected to his severe abstraction and garish colors, simplifying views and places I know so well.

I thought about this challenge and when Judson and I went there to paint, I eliminated details, heightened colors and broke the landscape into color fields. The huge plateau of snow and dramatic shadow, along with the shapes of mist, water and background made the composition appear to be composed of just a few puzzle pieces, hard edged and flat. I like it. I proceeded to make a second painting from the same vantage point including more information. I might have painted more on it, but the light was changing; by mid afternoon, the gorge fills with light and the shadows you see here are gone.

  Channeling Wolf Kahn, 14x11 oil on board
Early Spring at the Shoe, 8x12 oil on canvas

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Saturday Quick Draw, Camp Hill

A 'Quick Draw' involves starting, completing and turning in a framed painting in a limited time frame. In Camp Hill we had two hours, this is on a 9x12 panel that I chose because I had a single mid size frame left and it was not too big a surface for the time allotted. I went to a lovely garden within a block of the display area and shared this view with 4 other artists, but only one had a picture that was remotely similar to this. I was tempted to offer a trade with her but lost that opportunity as she had two hungry little ones with her.

After a long gray winter, these huge mounds of azaleas are so attractive to me. I cannot comprehend how one chooses to paint a winning scene, so I just pick what I like. There were many beautiful and distinctive homes in the Quick Paint area but after several days of working I knew my wrist was not going to continue to correctly make the straight lines that I would need for architectural perspective. Alas, the garden fence is perfectly straight!

24th & Walnut, Harrisburg. 9x12 oil on birch panel

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Harrisburg, PA, The Camp Hill Plein Air Competition

It was a little overcast but his was fun to paint, in a lovely neighborhood park. So many people had suggested I visit this pristine groomed park that I headed there with my paints. When I began the painting the air and water were still, fortunately I had recorded the reflections on the calm water to start. The small evergreens in every corner of this park are trimmed into perfect boxes, later in the week visitors to the art show recognized the location seeing these distinctive bushes. Now that the painting is in my studio I may choose to paint them out as I prefer a softer look and this isn't familiar to anyone but residents of Harrisburg. I may change the title to something like Azalea Reflectons as well, it was the bright contrast that attracted me to choose the scene between two trees.

Unfortunately, it was 'cut the grass' day in the neighborhood, commercial lawn maintenance in the park, as well as at the homes directly behind me shot cinders, grass, bugs and plain old dirt onto my wet paint, all unintentionally. I can say that the workers made an effort to avoid blowing anything in my direction, imagine if they had not! Dirt in the paint is a true sign of a plein air painting, some collectors even look for this evidence; most is removable after the sticky paint hardens a little
close up of grit on my canvas

 'Reflections of Italian Lake' 12x16 oil.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg.

When I sat on the west side of the Susquehanna River to paint the Harrisburg skyline with the Pennsylvania State Capitol building, I considered using the field of dandelion 'wishes' as foreground. After sketching my plan, I realized that the buildings would be dwarfed by the grasses and left them out. The buildings are barely visible in the distance here, but photographs lie. From this vantage point I could see each rooftop clearly.
This was my first use of a new 9x12 laptop box, it is only 2.5 pounds, so I lost 3 pounds by 'downgrading' from my French Resistance and I noticed the difference in how things fit, both in my backpack and in the box, it has a built in palette. I love how everything works for me with this box. My precious French Half easel may never see sunshine again.

I was there for the Camp Hill Plein Air Event, a week of painting central Pennsylvania culminating in a show, prizes and a quick paint competition on the weekend. I had applied for entry a few months earlier, was accepted and was able to stay with Laurene Buckley, and we both had a wonderful week.

A Capitol View, 12x16 oil on birch panel

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

VIsiting with the original Guerrilla Painter

A few months ago, I ordered a new paint box from Judson's Art Outfitters in Colorado. Poking around their website I discovered that Carl Judson would pass nearby; I took a chance and invited him to stay with us and paint with the NIagara Frontier Plein Air Painters. A few emails back and forth and we set up an evening salon with my group, he gently presented some history and his philosophy and listened carefully to comments and art stories. All evening a series of about 100 images rotated on the tv screen, providing a visual panorama of plein air.
Kath Schifano, NIagara artist, French Resistance

Painting the Falls, on the days when the ice is roaring down the river from Lake Erie has a special quality. Spending that day with Carl Judson added to the 'special' as we set up with our backs to the American Falls and could see the 'shoe between the trees before leaves filled in the view. Ice at the base of the Horseshoe was halfway up, about 90 feet deep, and another 5-6 feet deep on the fenced off lookout areas near the spray.
 Carl attracted a steady group of observers of the water falls and our paintings.
 This pile of equipment represents enough for two artists to sit, paint and eat lunch. The economy of space of the Guerilla Painter supplies has lightened my load considerably. When I started to paint out years ago, I could barely manage my own bulky set up even with a set of wheels, these two boxes were easy to carry with two chairs up the hill and through the fields without thinking about weight or bulk.

 Carl Judson and I in front of his mobile art shop [and traveling apartment], before leaving the area in Wilson. We had painted the Trillium walk in the morning, he was headed for Rochester Art Supply, one of our favorite artist road trips, followed by Canandaigua and Ithaca.