Thursday, May 31, 2012

Natural Beauty on Maryland's Eastern Shore

     We just returned from a wonderful visit with family on Maryland's Eastern Shore, in an area just about equidistant from the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay. Fascinating day trips abound there. The marsh shown in the first photo is just one scene from a large preserve called Blackwater National Wildlife Preserve, near the Chesapeake Bay, where we observed numerous osprey, about 6 bald eagles, countless egrets, maybe a dozen great blue herons, and many other birds. I so enjoyed seeing the birds and soaking up the beauty of these wetlands that I mostly left the camera in my backpack rather than trying to capture a blurry image of each one. 
     The other three photos (including the nesting osprey--click to enlarge) are from an afternoon at a county park and beach on the Chesapeake Bay near a wee town called Nanticoke where the Nanticoke River flows into Tangier Sound. Notice the heavy cloud bank to the north contrasted with the nearly clear sky to the south; the changing clouds are a magnificent feature of the Eastern Shore--due to the influence of two major bodies of water and numerous inlets, rivers, and wetlands. My kind of place, in other words. 
     Given the laundry, errands, etc. awaiting my attention today, I will leave more description and photos for a future post. Loved being with family and seeing so much natural beauty, but it's great to be home--particularly since a major tropical storm came through Jacksonville in our absence, giving us a bit of worry. Fortunately, we suffered no serious damage to our home or our trees--although it is taking Mark quite awhile to clear up tree debris in the yard.

Question of the day: Do you actively seek out bird sightings, or mostly enjoy the experience when it presents itself?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Rewarding Painting Workshop Taught by Roger Bansemer

This past weekend, I attended a two-day landscape painting workshop in historic St. Augustine, Florida, taught by the noted painter, Roger Bansemer. The paintings in this post are by Roger, one done as a demonstration each of the two days. (By the way, I am trying to set up this post on the new blogger format and having trouble setting up the post the way I want to. I'm not sure how it will turn out--sorry if it's a little strange.) 

Bansemer's instructional painting television program has recently begun showing on our public tv station, and I took a look at his website after viewing an episode. Lo and behold, he offered a painting workshop over Mother's Day weekend only about a 45 minute drive from our home. I liked his painting style and his easy-going, yet very informative, manner on the television program, so enrolled in the workshop, hoping he would be a compatible teacher for me.

The workshop exceeded my expectations. As regular readers know, I tend to paint slowly and cautiously and to get overly fussy with detail in a detrimental way. Roger Bansemer was the perfect teacher to push me to a bolder, more "painterly" approach and to quash the fussiness right from the start.

Each workshop morning began with a lovely breakfast buffet, provided by the staff and volunteers of the St. Augustine Art Association, where the workshop met. Then Roger began the demonstration painting of the day, based on a photograph. He used acrylic paints, as I do, but welcomed students who were working in oils as well. His instruction covered all aspects of landscape painting, beginning with choosing a scene, then establishing the overall composition, balancing values (lights, darks, and in-between values), using a limited palette of colors, and other basics. As he spoke, he illustrated the method in his demonstration painting and kindly tolerated and answered our wide-ranging questions. 

My photos show each of his two demo paintings in an early stage and then at the end of the day after he had gone beyond the initial demo stage, using his lunch period and other free moments during the day to flesh out the piece. To begin, he rubbed a burnt sienna tone into the board as a mid-tone base. Then, he established the major dark areas, some of the lightest lights, and continued to fill in, working all around the piece in a balanced way. Clicking on any photo will enable you to see it enlarged.

After showing us the basics and answering questions, he turned us loose to work on our own chosen paintings and circulated from one student to the next, guiding each person's work. The workshop was very helpful to me, providing new skills, inspiration, and tips focused on my individual needs as an artist.
Question of the day: Isn't learning and stretching ourselves one of the most enlivening activities we can pursue?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Castaway Island Preserve--Another Amazing Jacksonville, Florida Park

Looking for some new reference photos for landscape painting, I recently visited the Castaway Island Preserve and found it fascinating. My photos don't fully capture its charms, I fear, but have given me much raw material for paintings. Sometimes all I need is good background information (a unique tree, a winding channel in the salt marsh, a particular bird) to meld into a composition that represents the area without copying any particular spot exactly. Although I had neglected to check the tidal schedule for the day, I was in luck to be there when the high tide was just receding. Thus, the marsh was quite wet, and birds, crabs, and other critters were active.
This wonderful small preserve includes both woodland and salt marsh ecosystems with views out to the intracoastal waterway, which runs between our off-shore beach island and the North Florida mainland in this area. We are parched for rain, unfortunately, and have some wildfires in the area. The day I explored Castaway Island, smoke hung in the air--sad to see and smell. However, I did the photo documentation I could under these conditions and have a nice packet of about 4 dozen prints to carry along with other photos to a painting workshop I will be taking this weekend. I hope to start two 9" x 12" canvases at the workshop.
In one photo, you see the dock at the end of the park area, where a woman had put a something on a line into the water (crabbing perhaps?). The intracoastal waterway is in the smoky background with a sailboat and a powerboat passing each other, going in opposite directions. Another photo shows the beginning of the path to Castaway Island (a short bridge crossing a channel in the marsh is the only clue that one is has crossed to an island). On the island part of the preserve, there are about 12 informative big boards along the main path, each one describing the life of one of the preserve's "survivor" species--other than that, the area is quite untouched. Two other photos show the wetlands, grasses, etc.--one includes a great blue heron fishing (actually blue-grey in color) which will take sharp eyes to see, even if you click on the photos to enlarge them.
For this visit, I took the paths through the salt marsh; the park provides extensive boardwalks over the wettest areas, helping to protect the natural habitat as well as making exploration convenient for the visitor. Another time, I'll explore the wooded areas further from the intracoastal. We are fortunate indeed in the Jacksonville, Florida area to enjoy a rich variety of habitats and to have many thousands of acres in these areas protected in preserves and parks.
Question of the day: Isn't it amazing how deep the creative and spiritual renewal available to us when we explore natural areas?