M. Stephen Doherty

M. Stephen Doherty
The editor of Plein Air magazine at work

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Painting Changing Light on the Landscape

Croton Reservoir, June, 2010, oil, 9 x 12. Collection the artist.

After painting on location for about 16 years, I can finally get past the challenges of controlling the oil colors well enough to record what I see and, instead, I can focus on the momentary conditions of light, atmosphere, and mood. That makes the experience more satisfying and the paintings more appealing to observers.
Recently I went back to a foot bridge over the Croton Reservoir to paint a familiar scene, and I spent about 2 hours capturing the layers of greens influenced by the light and the distance. I knew from the moment I started the painting that the most important aspects of the scene were the way the sunlight cut between the first and second arc of trees and the clouds bleached by the hot, mid-day sunlight. Painting the land formations depended on balancing warm and cool greens (warm: ultramarine blue + cadmium medium; cool: Winsor blue + cadmium lemon), as well as the dark, middle, and light values; and recording the cloud pattern called for softening the edges of shapes painted with warm whites (titanium white with a touch of transparent oxide red) and blues (ultramarine and Winsor blue).
Lots of people stopped as they were biking and jogging over the bridge, and they made both stupid and profound comments. One woman asked if I had painted the picture, making me wonder if she thought I bought it a Wal Mart and brought it to the location; and a serious biker stopped to ask if I might sell the painting. The man didn't actually purchase the painting, but I was flattered that he thought my painting captured all the reasons he enjoyed nature.
P.S. Everyone who stopped to admire my painting was pleased that I eliminated the telephone wires crossing over the dam.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Suggesting Motion in Landscape Paintings

Schneider's Willows, 2010, oil, 9 x 12.
While photographing Bill Schneider's workshop on composition in his Illinois studio (www.schneiderart.com), I took a couple of hours to paint a large willow tree next to a pond in the back yard. I designed the arrangement of shapes to suggest the movement of a gentle breeze that was coursing its way across the lawn through the trees and causing the branches to brush along the surface of the water. I'm writing about Bill's five-day class for the fall issue of Workshop magazine (www.artistdaily.com).
Bill studied with Daniel Gerhartz (www.danielgerhartz.com) and has a large collection of his work on display in his home. It was fascinating to see so many of Dan's figure paintings in one place, and I was in awe of the way he uses a few strokes of thick paint to define the elaborate figures, costumes, and backgrounds of his paintings.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thomas S. Buechner 1927-2010

Still Life by Thomas S. Buecher, 1998, alkyd, 14 x 11.

Portrait of Clare Doherty Deyo, by Thomas S. Buecher, 1998, alkyd, 14 x 11.

Portrait of Michael Lindsay Doherty, by Thomas S. Buechner, 1998, alkyd, 14 x 11.

I lost a great friend and mentor on Sunday with the death of Thomas S. Buechner. During his long and distinguished career, he had been director of the Brooklyn Museum, President of Steuben Glass, Director of the Corning Museum, and a board member of many foundations and art organizations. But I'm sure what Tom would prefer to be remembered as is an artist because he always managed to stay active as a painter of landscapes, still lifes, and portraits.
I first met Tom in 1979 when he took me to lunch in the King Cole Room of the St Regis Hotel so we could begin an interview that resulted in one of several articles I wrote on his work for American Artist magazine. We continued the interview aboard the Corning Glass corporate jet when Tom took my to his studio in Corning, and I never stopped learning from him over the course of the next 30 years. He introduced me to plein air painting, did portraits of my two children, sold me still life paintings, and gave me valuable advice about editing the magazine.
I often quoted Tom in my editorials, blog, and lectures because he said relevant and quotable things. For example, he remarked that "the older I get, the more attractive the subject matter becomes that is closest to the bathroom." And when telling me how to make small plein air paintings look important, he said "if you want it sold, frame it in gold." But aside from offering those amusing quips, he had a friendly way of challenging me to do my very best work. I'm sure he did the same with others.
I had lunch with Tom last fall and he said he didn't remember every saying the things I attributed to him, but he appreciated the mention and wanted me to continue giving him credit for such sage and humorous advice. I certainly will do that.
I received a letter just a few weeks ago from Tom and he made no mention of the lymphoma that was bringing his rich life to a close, but then he wouldn't. I'm assuming he wrote to a number of people over the past few months as a way of saying good bye without really saying he was leaving. Instead, he thanked me for recognizing him as an artist and publishing articles on his use of alkyd paints and mediums, how he used photographs as source material and avoided the mechanical look of the photograph, traveling efficiently while painting supplies, and a number of other topics. He also urged me not to become a bitter old man now that I am semi-retired but, rather, to focus on the new opportunities before me. I will try to do that, always remembering that many of those opportunities were provided to me by the friend whose voice I will continue to hear and whose paintings I will continue to enjoy.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Painting Rushing Water

Continuing my efforts to paint bodies of water, I set up my easel along the creek by the home of my friends Jack Beal and Sondra Freckelton. I drew outllines of the major shapes with thin oil color mixed with Wingel alkyd medium on a 9" x 12" panel, designing the composition to suggest deep space and layers of atmosphere. I then blocked in the major shapes with more thin oil color mixed with Wingel, and then refined those shapes with paint mixed with a small amount of linseed oil.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Landscape Painting in Oil: Plein Air on the Croton River

I used my HD Flip camera to record the progress of a painting I did along the Croton River over a two hour period.