Successful New York Studio School Painting Marathon!

Hello, all! Hope you’re doing great!

I’m writing you from the lovely town of Plymouth, New Hampshire, nestled just to the south of the White Mountain National Forest. Carly (my girlfriend) and I are staying with my brother John, his wife Jessy, and their two adorable and sometimes wild children Lydie (10) and Grady (8) as we are fully engaged in Phase 3 of our summer 2015 adventure.

Phase 1 of the adventure involved my participation in the New York Studio School’s (NYSS) two-week, intensive “Arbor Vitae Painting Marathon” as well as Carly’s eventual arrival in NYC, her first time in the Big Apple! Before I describe my experience at the NYSS, I would be remiss not to extend a very hearty thank you to my good friend Andrew who allowed me to stay with him at his gorgeous penthouseĀ flat for the two week period. Not only did Andrew provide friendship, NYC expertise, shelter, and free parking (lucky me!), he also treated Carly and me to an extraordinary brunch at his restaurant, Red Rooster Harlem, which he owns with one of the world’s top chefs, Marcus Samuelsson.

The Arbor Vitae Painting Marathon involves, among other things, a focused investigation into color and the use of metaphor in painting. Approximately 24 students were enrolled in the course, and each day we meet at 8:30 a.m. and rode a bus to Old Westbury Gardens, Long Island, where we painted en plein air (in the open air) until catching the bus home at 6:30 p.m. Painter, Professor, and Dean of the NYSS Graham Nickson led the marathon, providing us with various painterly challenges and instructive critique along the way. We also completed work at the Studio School itself, taking our plein air efforts and transforming them in interesting ways. Below I provide images of the first three paintings I produced while partipating in the marathon as well as a brief synopsis of the ideas we were working with as we made the paintings.

The painting below is the first painting I made at Old Westbury. After a brief walking tour of the Gardens’ grounds, we were simply asked to locate an interesting motif and paint it. Starting around 10 a.m., we painted until about 2 p.m. when we had a critique. I chose this particular motif because the contrasting colors and the interaction of the major forms intrigued me.

Trees, Old Westbury Gardens

“Trees, Old Westbury Gardens,” 2015

Post-critique, we were asked to complete a second painting of the same motif incorporating some of the ideas and concepts we talked about. In this next effort (see below), I attempted to bring out more form within the trees themselves, especially the lower-left one as it extends towards the viewer. The waning light, however, made this task somewhat difficult as the forms darkened and became less distinct.

Trees, Old Westbury Gardens II

“Trees, Old Westbury Gardens II,” 2015

The final painting in this initial series (below) was completed in the studio. We were asked to reverse the color of one of the first two paintings in order to produce what Graham calls a “synthetic painting,” one not derived directly from the motif but instead based upon our experience of the motif, in this case, referencing previous studies and taking them in new directions. Reversing the color refers to using the “opposite” color, that is, a color directly across from another on the color wheel. The opposite of red is green, of blue is orange, and of yellow is violet.

Trees, Old Westbury Gardens III

“Trees, Old Westbury Gardens III” (reverse palette), 2015

The results of the exercise, though not entirely unexpected since I am familiar with such a task as reversing the colors, still proved interesting. Like others, I found myself mixing colors I may not ordinarily mix and using them to depict objects that would not normally receive such colors. The implications of this task are far reaching. For me, it suggests a path of greater freedom of expression, where I control the creative process rather than act as slave to the motif, the latter of which I certainly do not do but sometimes fall victim to. The motif, however, is incredibly important as an initial source of inspiration, one already harmonized by the forces of Nature.

Please visit my website periodically to read more about my experiences at the New York Studio School as well as other artistic adventures.