M. Stephen Doherty

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

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Landscape Panting: Capturing Mood

I focused on an intimate scene and emphasizes the balance of warm and cool, dark and light shapes in an effort to capture the mood of a late summer landscape in this 9" x 12" oil painting.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Plein Air Landscape Painting: Risking Failure to Make Progress

After feeling good about the waterfall paintings I did in the early spring, I needed to take chances with a different range of subjects, painting techniques, and levels of finish. Yesterday I picked up on some of the ideas expressed by artists I've interviewed recently, including Joseph McGurl and Jason Taco, and I was pleased with the results. 

Joe talked about building up fairly thick applications of oil color modified with fast-drying alkyd medium.  His point was that the physical texture of the paint can impact the levels of transparency and opacity, thereby adding a greater sense of space in a landscape and, at the same time, making it easier to suggest detail. During a recent trip to Italy, for example, Joe used Winsor & Newton underpainting white during the early stages of the painting process and then added Liquin impasto alkyd medium when he was ready to paint foreground shapes with thick oil color. He applied the thick paint with a palette knife and manipulated the texture to suggest grasses, stones, plastered walls, etc. (Joe's paintings from Tuscany are on view at Tree's Place Gallery in Orleans, Massachusetts) 

Jason Taco talked about using a limited palette of colors to achieve harmony and subtlety in his landscapes. He restricted his palette to 4-6 colors + titanium white instead of trying to managing a wide range of tube colors that might not intermix particularly well. His point was that if all the color mixtures are created from the same base, they are more likely to work well together. (Jason will be profiled in the winter, 2012 issue of PleinAir Magazine)

Whether one follows these recommendations exactly, the key points are worth considering. Joe's recommendation goes to the issue of using thin and thick paint to suggest space, texture, and form in nature; and Jason's point is that harmony and subtlety can be achieved by wisely controlling the mixtures of colors. 

Painting at the entrance to Rockwood Hall State Park near Tarrytown, New York. 

The scene I began painting at 8:00am on Saturday, August 13, 2011 

The initial block-in of the large shapes on a panel toned with yellow ochre.  

The completed 9" x 12" oil painting. BTW, I'm going to bring the trunks of a couple of trees down lower on the right-hand side to break up that monotonous line along the ridge. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Plein Air Events

I don't often get a chance to be a participant in a plein air event because I am too busy taking photographs of artists and collectors, but I was able to join a local event in Ossining, New York that took place at the Shattemuc Yacht Club along the Hudson River. The weather was perfect and the 30+ artists were great to meet, and I sold my painting of the boats and river. Not a bad way to enjoy a summer day!

Both paintings were done on 11" x 14" canvas-covered panels I toned with yellow ochre, and I added Liquin alkyd medium to my oil colors so the initial layers of paint would set up quickly enough for me to add details. I set up at 7am and waited to find out whether the overcast sky would clear up, but by 8am I made up my mind to take advantage of the subtle cloud shapes and occasional bursts of sunlight. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Painting Intimate Woodland Scenes

I got interested in the idea of painting streams of water running through wooded scenes because there seemed to be an intimacy and privacy about those beautiful locations. I also wanted to explore some new ways of painting on location, so in some of the paintings so I deepened the mixtures of oil color so they would be dark, moody, and subtle; and I allowed the warm tone of the red iron oxide underpainting to accentuate the sunlit areas.

As I painted, I imagined the trees becoming figures bending over to see their reflections in the water like Narcissus, and the rocks as bathers dipping their toes in the water. That helped me emphasize the feelings associated with being in a quiet, remote place where the forces of nature are at work.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Painting Landscapes: Village Scene

My friend Steve Griffin took me to some of his favorite painting spots in Easton, Oxford, and St. Michael, Maryland last week. Several of the sites were along the Maryland shore with views of sail boats in the water, but I was more comfortable painting a street leading down to the water in Oxford. Of course I had to include an "Oxford Fence" in front of the white house on the left-hand side of the 11" x 14" panel. The fence is made of rails that have a clover-shaped top with a small hole in the middle of the clover. Non-profit groups ask local artists to paint rails that can be sold to raise funds.

I may exhibit this painting in Plein Air Easton because as the awards judge I am entitled to display two paintings. Obviously my paintings won't be eligible for awards. That will make it easier for me to accept rejection in the face of all the extraordinary paintings on display.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Landscape Painting: Waterfalls #3

I  decided to focus on a more intimate waterfall scene along Perkins Drive in Bear Mountain State Park, one that offered an opportunity to explore compositional scheme of a central axis juxtaposed with strong diagonal shapes. Because I worked on a  10" x 8" panel, I could apply more layers of oil color, muting the tones and adding textural effects that enriched the surface of the painting. I used a stiff alkyd white paint towards the end of the process to add clean, light value shapes where the water was flowing around and over the rocks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Landscape Painting: Waterfalls #2

I painted this 12" x 12" plein air oil on two successive days because rain forced me to stop after the first 90 minute effort. I like the square format because it sets up a completely different compositional challenge than the standard rectangle. You'll note that I used a dry brush to blur the edges of the cascading water and to create mist in certain sections.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Landscape Painting: Waterfalls

I recently made a road trip to Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia to photograph plein air events and was able to paint some of the waterfalls in the hills of Georgia north of Atlanta and in Virginia just south of Charlottesville. I put together a short audio slide show about the paintings.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Immortalized in Times Square

 Persephone being banished to Haites (the New York Transit subway system) in Jack Beal's glass tile mosaic near the 1,2,3 subway platforms in Times Square

Steve Doherty standing next to his image in the Times Square mural

My friend, Jack Beal (www.jackbeal.net), included images of me, my wife, Sara, and our children, Clare and Michael, in the second of two mosaic murals he created for the Times Square subway station in New York City. Both murals (unveiled in 2001 and 2005) offer Jack's interpretation of the myth of Persephone being banished to Haites (signaling the start of winter) and then emerging from the underworld (or the subway system, in this case) to initiate Spring. The Doherty family is part of the banishment scene, and I'm filming the event from a camera crane.

I revisited the murals recently and took a photograph of me standing next to my image. No one took notice of me or my camera tripod because lots of subway riders stop to have their picture taken next to murals, and performance groups often use the sparking glass tile images as backdrops to their joyous music and break dancing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Studio That Respects Nature

I was looking for an energy-efficient studio to feature in PleinAir™ magazine and came across Gail Siegel's solar powered, prefab studio in Lafayette, Colorado. Gail is a jeweler, not a painter, but I think her studio could easily be adapted for use by other visual artists. 
Colorado jeweler Gail Siegel is one of a growing number of artists building prefab, solar powered studios that are relatively inexpensive to build and heat, make efficient use of space, and increase property values. 
“When I made the decision to take early retirement from my full-time university job, I spent 18 months doing extensive research about the best way to secure a work space,” says Colorado artist Gail Siegel. “I considered every option from selling my small timber frame miner’s cottage and buying a larger home with space for a studio, to renting a unoccupied downtown space, to constructing a garage with room for a workspace. None of those were really desirable options. I needed more space than was available in my cottage, and because I work with acetylene torches and metal I didn’t like the idea of having a studio in my home; the downtown spaces, while reasonable compared to other areas of the country, would still cost me $6,000 - $8,500 a year to rent; and the cheapest garages I could find would cost $50,000 - $60,000 to build, not including the cost of finishing the interior.”
Siegel happened to talk to a Jeff Scott, a neighbor who is president of SolSource, a company founded in 2004 that designs solar electric and thermal hot water heating systems for commercial, government, school, and residential structures. Scott encouraged Siegel to consider a prefab building with a roof that would accommodate solar energy panels. “He pointed out that I would qualify for an energy rebate, the solar panels might generate enough power to heat the studio and my home, the cost would be more reasonable than what I had been considering, and I would be reducing my impact on the environment,” she explains. “He told me about StudioShed, Inc., a company in Boulder, Colorado started in 2009 by Michael Koenig and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski that is doing innovative things with buildings that can be used as spare bedrooms, storage spaces, offices, or studios.”
Siegel extended her research to include prefab buildings and solar heating, and she began discussions with StudioShed about building an art studio in her backyard. “Michael Koenig, one of the partners in the company, has two Studio Shed buildings in his back yard so I was able to see what I might be getting,” Siegel explains. “He walked me through the entire construction process and helped me decide how my studio could be built. Eventually, I bought a 14’ x 10’ structure with a 9’ pitched roof and had eight, 235-watt modules and microinverters installed on the 11’ x 16’ roof to create a 1.9 kilowatt energy system. After all the preliminary paperwork was completed, it took StudioShed about four weeks to fabricate, deliver, and set up the structure.” 
After making all the major decisions, Siegel had to secure permits from the city of Lafayette, Colorado to lay down an insulated concrete slab with a central drain, build the  StudioShed structure, install the solar heating system, run electricity to the StudioShed, and upgrade the sewer system. “I didn’t anticipate having to dig up the back yard to replace the sewer line, but since I plan to install running water it was necessary,” Siegel explains. “I regretted having to cut down two trees to make sure there would be enough sunlight to heat the studio and house, but I was able to use some of the lumber to build an outdoor bench as well as using a large stump for forming metals. 
“ I had the building designed with a 3’ x 3’ window facing south to heat the form-insulated cement floor, and north-facing horizontal and vertical windows for indirect lighting,” Siegel goes on to explain. “Eventually I will build in cabinets, but I already had a 2’ x 5’ jewelry bench and a 2’ x 4’ soldering station so I was able to start working in the studio as soon as it was finished. Eventually I might start painting in the studio and offering workshops because the Studio Shed opens into my garden and a flagstone walkway where people could set up to paint or make jewelry.”
The current retail prices of an 10’ x 14’ Studio Shed ranges from $6,600 to $9,100 depending on whether the trim is Collins TruWood (as in the case of Siegel’s studio) or a combination of wood and metal. Smaller and larger sizes are available, from 6’ x 8’ up to  12’ x 20’. Options such as aluminum windows, French and sliding glass doors, garage doors, and clerestory windows are extra; and the cost does not include the cement slab on which the structure would be built. However, the prices does include installation by certified workers, and a discounted flat-packed kit is available for customers who want to build a SudioShed by themselves. For more information, visit the company’s website at www.studio-shed.com
“I haven’t had my property reappraised since I finished the studio, but I suspect I’ve added about $55,000 to the value because of the energy savings and the fact that the StudioShed could be used by the next owner as a spare bedroom, an office, or a studio,” Siegel explains. “That’s a value I never would have been able to realize if I rented a space downtown, build a standard garage, or convert a bedroom into a studio. Here in Colorado where energy costs are so high in the winter and people are becoming more environmentally conscious, this kind of structure is a real asset ... and a great workspace. If nothing else, my animals have loved it from the day the insulated concrete floor was finished.”
Gail Siegel took early retirement from the University of Colorado where she worked in the university art gallery and as director of community relations while maintaining her life-long interest in art. She now works part time for the Naja Tool and Supply Company in Denver which is Colorado’s largest supplier of tools and supplies for jewelry and metal artists. All of the studio furniture and 90% of her tools come from the Naja. 
For more information on StudioShed, LLC., visit www.studio-shed.com; for information on SolSource, visit the company’s website at www.solsourceinc.com and for information on the Naja Tool and Supply visit www.najatools.com. To see some of Siegel’s work visit www.silverfoxstudio.biz

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Awards Given in Blossom II. The Art of Flowers

The Jury of Awards met in Naples, Florida on February 9th to select the following winners in Blossom II. Art of Flowers sponsored sponsored by the Susan K. Black Foundation (www.bossomartcompetition.com). I was honored to be one of the jurors and to announce the prizes at the Patty & Jay Baker Naples Museum of Art.

The exhibition will begin it's tour to Tucson, Arizona; Shreveport, Louisiana; Chicago, Illinois; Bradenton, Florida; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Port Arthur, Texas  after it closes in Naples on April 10, 2011.

BEST OF SHOW AWARD and $25,000 CASH to:
Ms. Berry Fritz of McAllen, Texas for
Delft Blue with Oleanders, oil, 12 x 12.

Sue Clanton of Discovery Bay, California for
Huli Wigman of Papua New Guinea, transparent watercolor, 22 x 15.

Milly Acharya of Ithaca, New York for
Convallaria Majalis (Lily-of-the-valley), watercolor, 15-1/2 x 11.

BEST SMALL WORK AWARD and $5,000 to:
Susan Elwart Hall of Atherton, California for
Firecracker Mums, oil, 10 x 8.

AWARD OF EXCELLENCE and $5,000 to:
Jane Jones, Arvada, Colorado for
Parrot Party, oil, 20 x 20.

AWARD OF EXCELLENCE and $5,000 to:
Anna Killian of Pensacola, Florida for
The Fragility of Home, oil, 11-1/2 x 7-1/4.

AWARD OF EXCELLENCE and $5,000 to:
Nilton Mendonca of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for
Spring, oil, 20 x 24-1/2.

To review the other AWARDS OF EXCELLENCE and JURORS' AWARDS, visit the website:
www.blossomartcompetition.com or the foundation's website: www.susankblackfoundation.org.