Moody, Minimalist Landscape Painting

Posts tagged “oil painting

Art and Life in the Time of Coronavirus, May 12.

May 9: I  had thought to leave off posting until I complete my 6’x8′ commission and finish the blog description of the process, but find that I miss the diary.

Snow last night and today, actually quite dark and blizzardy at intervals this afternoon, alternating with sun flurries. It seems almost cruel that our spring is so delayed, when we crave the comfort of warm sunshine and a softer outdoor experience. For me, key to that is our screened-in back porch, my warm-season living room. A day in which I can have my siding door open to the porch and take my meals and do my online work out there is a good day .

But, while cringing on behalf of my snowy flowers and leafed-out plantings today, it popped into my mind that this weather might have its uses in slowing the spread of the virus. Warm days have brought with them prematurely reckless behavior. So maybe this prolonged chill will allow the curve to turn from its current level to downward, and save a few lives.

The news is not good at all and makes me despair about human idiocy, American and otherwise. So I unashamedly grasp at straws.

May 10th:

On this Mother’s Day, the first without our mom, I am fortunate to be doing the things that I have always chosen on this spring day in which I feel free to pamper myself. Sometimes the weather has been 45 and rainy and put a damper on my busy-in-the-yard plans, and yesterday’s snow would have been the kicker…but today we have partly sunny and in the 5os.

Ordinarily, I would have gone to Oneonta with my sister Carla yesterday, the Saturday before Mother’s Day, to have lunch and a nursery visit for hanging pots and annuals with our mom. I always brought flowers from my yard on every visit from April through October.

 

Mother’s Day bouquet from 2019, in the front seat of my car.

 

And later in the season, another.

When we finally scatter her ashes in multiple places, I hope it is during the growing season so that I can include some flowers.

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The crumbling world around us cries out for help…socorro, socorro! I can only think in small, manageable bits about it, or it threatens hopelessness that sabotages action. So, to begin somewhere, I created a fundraiser last week in collaboration with Albert Shahinian Fine Art. I  offered to give a small collage from the eleven left at the gallery after an environmental fundraiser last fall to anyone who sent me a receipt for a donation of at least $40 to a food bank of their choosing. They all were spoken for very quickly and we raised about $500. Albert sent them all out a few days ago from the gallery.

Just a start. I’ll be thinking of more, and ASFA is on board for more collaborating. I do like to use my art to raise money because it is my ready resource that folks value. These little pieces went mostly to prior collectors and a few to a student or mentee not in a position to buy a market-priced piece. I used only social media so for the next thing could readily access my best outreach resource, which is my mailing list.

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I am also involved in a fundraiser for the Island Food Bank on Martha’s Vineyard through my gallery there, the Louisa Gould Gallery. Her shows this spring and summer are an opt-in for gallery artists to join her in donating 10% of sales for food security, with every dollar raised going for $7 worth of food.

We just made a nice sale of these two pieces, accomplished through shipping, as the gallery has not yet reopened.

 

Chillmark View, 40″x40″, 2019.

 

Summer Inlet, 48″x24″, 2019.

Here is a link to the current online show of new work at the gallery:

https://www.louisagould.com/exhibitions/2241/1/BENEFIT_Art_Show_for_Food_Pantry.html

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My big studio project continues to be the 6’x8′ commissioned version of this 30″x40″. I am creating an in-depth description of the process for an upcoming blog post.

 

Largest “study” I have ever done—and in fact, a fully realized smaller version of the large piece.

 

Stay healthy, y’all, and let’s keep each other safe!

 

 

 


Atlas/Forms of Water 2019

As the finale of this show and thus this post, I offer a beautifully produced recording of my interview with audience Q&A by Brett Barry of Silver Hollow Audio.  This discussion ranges from my decades  of contemporary landscape painting to the environmental themes of this show to the gallery-artist  relationship.  You can listen here:

 

 

 

 

Water is ease, water is in our dreams, water kills. Water is 60% of our bodies and covers 71% of the planet. We float, swim, sink, ride on, drink, cook and grow with, own, fight over, drown in, boil, crave, gaze at, and are mesmerized by water. It bears repeating: Water is life.

 

Welcoming Sea, 24″x72″, oil on linen, one of the two largest pieces in the show, 2019.

 

Water use has also been political since the beginning of our time on earth. As thirst, water rights and fights; severe storms; droughts, fires, floods; and sea level rise become increasingly critical on much of the planet, I have been catapulted into creating an expanded rubric for water imagery in my work. This focuses in on our environment and the challenges it faces, while continuing to celebrate the beauty our planet provides.

 

After the Rains Came, 24″x36″, oil on linen, 2019.

 

Atlas /Forms of Water maps the environmental theme while mapping my body of work, revealing a web of meaning around and between the individual pieces that I create. The matrix that connects all of my landscape imagery is saturated with memory, both personal and collective. To make these connections, I have created a site map for the body of work on view.

Maps functions as an aid to find our way. In this context, I am mapping our bodies and states of water; the paintings in the exhibit; memory and self; and threats to our environment, among other, more elusive things.

 

Site Map/Forms of Water. mixed media/collage and printmaking, 48″x36″.

The Site Map has small monotypes running up both sides that are interpretations of the major paintings in the show. The four other prints are a conversation about threats from global warming: bigger hurricanes in upper left; sea-level rise in upper right: and stream/river flooding in the two at bottom, before and after.

At the top, I have included topographical contours, a loose and flattened version of the Escarpment that curves around Woodstock and then runs north parallel to the Hudson River.

Mountains are the first source of our surface water, and the painting below includes that form of water visible as the Catskill Mountains rising above the back shore, as well as mists, a cloud, and the Hudson River.

 

Light that Glows, 32″x60″, 2016. (Sold.)

Another new collaged map for the show is of the NYC watershed, water tunnels included. New York City has negotiated—and renegotiated, multiple times—a pass on national regulations that mandate the filtering of drinking water. This exemption is a huge deal, and requires constant monitoring and regulation of the watershed townships within the areas shown, and many mandates for property owners to keep the water flowing into NYC reservoirs clean. While this makes our relationship to our larger neighbor to the south a complex and co-dependent one, it also has transformed our stewardship of our land and streams.

 

Map Collage, Watershed. 12″x12″, 2019.

 

The below same-size collage from the year before is of the Hudson Canyon, which is essentially an underwater extension of the Hudson River, extending southeast until it drops off the continental shelf.

 

Hudson Canyon, collage on board, 12″x12″, 2018.

 

Also in mixed media/collage, “Forms of Water: A Taxonomy”. This small tintype drawer contains the following seven categories, from the top row moving down: states and phases of visible water; geographical bodies of water; wetlands; types of clouds; storms; waves; and human made forms of water.

 

Forms of Water: A Taxonomy, 17″x11.5″, 49 mixed media/collage pieces in a vintage tintype tray, 2019. 

 

Creating pieces in vintage boxes, drawers, muffin pans, and child’s blackboards has been one of my ongoing series for some years now. It requires a listening attitude to select and then bend the imagery to work with the support that I have chosen, starting the process in a different way from a blank canvas. In the below piece, the box and the piece of wood that I painted on had elements that determined both what imagery I chose and how I painted it.

Snowplows at Work, oil on board in vintage box, 3″x7″, 2018. (Sold.)

 

Dusk Drive in 12, oil on board in a vintage muffin pan, 18″x11″, 2018.

 

For decades now, I have been devoted to painting fog, suspended water that softens our landscapes, sometimes obscuring, sometimes defining:

 

Blue Dawn, 12″x36″, oil on linen. (Sold.)

 

Blue/Green Mountain Fog, oil on 4″x12″ board, 2019. (Sold.)

 

Many of my paintings depict wetlands, so gorgeous and vital for controlling flooding caused by excessive rain events, storms, tidal flooding, and sea-level rise; as well as filtering sediment in water and providing  habitat for wildlife. Visually, salt marshes in particular create color and shape that I return to paint over and over again.

 

Summer at the Creeks, 36″x24″, oil on linen, 2018.

 

Angle of Repose, 40″x30″, 2015.

 

Summer Reflected, 12″X12″, oil on linen, 2014.

 

Manmade forms of water are included in the show, as seen in the flood image near the top and in the vertical painting below, which depicts a wetland developed by humans to cultivate cranberries.

 

Cranberry Bog, 48″x24″, oil on linen.

 

The pieces in the show include landscape imagery in oil on linen; monotypes; small works in oil on board; water imagery using vintage boxes, blackboards, and other containers/support; and map collages.

 

Gale, 16″x16″, oil on linen, 2019. (Sold.)

 

Stillness, 16″x16″, oil on linen, 2019.

 

Flow, 16″x16″, oil on linen, 2019. (Sold.)

 

Drift, 16″x16″, oil on linen, 2019.

 

I was motivated in fall of 2016 to move towards creating shows that place my open, color-field landscapes within a complex experiential web. Three major factors came into play at just that time.

 

Sky Meets Water, 18″x24″, oil on linen.

 

The first was anticipation of a residency in Nantucket scheduled for that winter, and this dovetailed with the second, some thoughts about turning 60 later on in 2018. Given that my background is in contemporary art and that I have always viewed my progressions in landscape painting through that lens; my question to self was—what do I want to do, now, that I haven’t yet?

Among my answers to this question was learning monoprint and linocut techniques, which I now employ both for stand-alone prints and also for the Site Map. Below, some recent monotypes.

 

Color Field in Blue/Green, 16″x10″, Monotype, 2018.

 

Overlook with River, 8″x10″, Monotype, 2019.

 

Waterfall #2, Monotype, 14.25×7.5, 2019.

 

Reflected Sun #2, 10″x16″. (Sold.)

 

The third factor was key. Feeling profound grief over the outcome of the 2016 election, my mind returned repeatedly to the single biggest issue on the table, climate change. The conviction that time is running out here and that four years could be critical was decisive in determining the direction that my work has since taken. The acceleration of bad news in this arena since then is eye-popping—sea level rise predictions alone are much, much higher and sooner than was predicted while I was researching the topic in my February, 2017 Nantucket residency.

 

Moving Storm, 20″x62″, oil on linen.

 

Flooded Roadway, oil on 6″x6″ board, 2018.

 

Snow and ice appear in my work and in the context of Atlas/Forms of Water, depict one of the main three phases of water, solid.

 

Fields of Snow, 12″x12″, oil on linen, 2012. (Sold)

 

Ebullient Winter, 18″x24″, oil on linen, 2018.

 

Water vapor, the gaseous state of water, is invisible. The closest thing that is visible is steam, such as the image of a geyser below.

 

Geyser with Winter Sun, oil on paper, 3 panels of 4.5″/each, 2019.

 

Globally, precipitation has shifted so that many of the wet places are wetter and the dry locales are dryer. For this reason, I decided to create and include several pieces that depict water’s opposite, fire.

 

Fire #1, oil on 6″x6″ board. (Sold)

 

Fire #2, oil on 6″x6″ board. (Sold)

 

Fire Snake, oil on 4″x12″ board. (Sold)

 

My imagery is heavily weighted toward the Northeast of the United States, as that is where I have spent much of my life. But I could be anywhere on the planet, exploring the same themes, and I bring with me memories of living in the arid Andes and central Castile; painting in rain-soaked Western Ireland; traveling Northern California to capture the coastal golden hillsides of late summer; and returning to the Nebraska flatlands of my early childhood. It all informs the matrix. It is all water.

 

Red Sky over Tidal Flats, oil on 4″x12″ board.

 

Yellow Gleam, oil on 4″x12″ board.

 

Affinity/Dusk Shoreline, 12″x16″, 2014. (Sold.) My Affinity Series involves these steps: fraying the edges of a piece of raw linen and affixing it to a slightly larger board; priming the whole thing dark and then gridding with graphite; painting the image; selectively regridding over areas where the graphite got painted out.

 

Affinity/Lightening Storm, 16″x16″, oil on linen with distressed edges on board overlaid with graphite gridding, 2013.

 

2 Shores/Reflected Sun, 12″x12″.

 

Evening Shoreline, oil on linen, 12″X12″.

 

This show builds upon my Atlas/Hudson River Valley show in March of 2017, which you can read about here:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/atlas-project-hudson-river-valley-and-catskills/

 

Serene Sea/Quirky Cloud, 40″x40″, oil on linen, 2005/2019.

 

Overlook with Sparkling River, 16″x20″, 2019.

 

Soft Greys from Peaked Hill, 10″X30″, 2015. (Sold.)

 

We are collaborating with Riverkeeper and Catskill Mountainkeeper on a fundraising benefit October 12th, 5-8. That evening, 15% of sales will go to these vital local environmental organizations, as well as the proceeds of a raffle for this 12″x12″ painting:

Stormy Sea, 12″X12″.

(Note: Raffle was drawn on 11-16. Tickets were $20. We raised almost $1,300 from the raffle alone!) 

I was delighted to co-host this benefit for Riverkeeper and Catskills Mountainkeeper, as tie in to the environmental discussion of my Atlas Project. This a small way of giving back to those who are fighting to protect the gorgeous, biodiverse open spaces of land and water that I have been frequenting and painting for decades.
A number of people came to help make this event a success, a gift to ourselves; our children and grandchildren; and our own, beloved habitat. I gave a short talk on how this project came about; followed by Kathy Nolan of CMK, who will give us some pointers on how to reduce waste and our carbon footprint.
In addition to the raffle funds and the 15% of sales we donated that evening to CMK and RK, I  created a special edition of a dozen of these 3″x3″ and 2″x4″ collages–inspired by the verticals that I did for the Taxonomy piece in a tintype box—to be sold for $135/ea. that night only, as a way of offering an accessible price point. $25 of the price will go to the keepers.
 

 

 

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Spring into Summer 2018: News and Updates

Deep, happy, exhalation—spring is here!

I recently delivered fresh work to Louisa Gould Gallery on the Vineyard. She is currently hanging her first show of the season, including my new work, and then plans a big 15th anniversary show with a reception mid-summer. Here are a few of my additions to the gallery walls:

Brilliant Fog, 24″x36″.

 

Affirmation in Blues, 36″x72″ overall.

 

Meandering, 24″x36″.

 

In other shore news, I am very pleased to announce new representation on Nantucket at the Thomas Henry Gallery. I am still working on the pieces that will be delivered in early June, but here is a sneak preview:

Summer at the Creeks, 36″x24″.

 

Angle of the Cloud, 30″x36″.

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My solo show at Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham, NY, Atlas/Hudson River Valley, was very well received. I will continue updating the blog post on the show to label what has been been purchased, as the gallery has kept many pieces for follow-up viewing and acquisition. I have also labeled with a G the pieces still at the gallery.

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/atlas-project-hudson-river-valley-and-catskills/

Most of my spring sales have naturally come from this Chatham show, and have included oils, a pastel, monotypes, and a collage—a nice affirmation for all of these explorations. Here a is a handful of examples:

 

“September Dawn”, 12″x28″, pastel, the first with a red dot.

 

Sweeping Greens, 32″x68″, sold to the Emerson Resort and Spa.

Sold, happily, as a pair:

 

MVroman’s Nose/Green Fields, 8″x10″.

 

MSweeping Sky with Fields, 8″x10″.

 

Atlas/Hudson Valley Collage, 18″x14″, sold to the Emerson Resort and Spa.

This show was a wonderful experience for me from every standpoint. Parting words from them when I was done with pick-up—after expressing my deep appreciation for how well-handled every aspect of our interaction was—“happy artist, happy gallery”.

Those works that have returned to my studio are back on my available work post, as well a number of other pieces:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/available-workstudio/

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Iconic Cloud recently came back to me and I just touched it up, brightening both hillside and sky. I’ve done that a few times recently—must be a shift in my mood.

Iconic Cloud, 20″x40″.

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Here is a schedule of my workshops in Woodstock, Nantucket, and Provincetown. My color-mixing workshop has become very popular with painters of all levels and styles, so some version of that is being offered in the three locales.

JUNE 16-18, WSA: My last landscape painting workshop in Woodstock for 2018 is coming right up in June. Last year we had a really lovely time in this workshop for students with landscape painting experience. It’s a good one to repeat, too:
AUGUST 7-10, Nantucket at the AAN: A full-day color-mixing and 3 short-day Form and Content
SEPTEMBER 17-20, Provincetown at the PAAM: Also a one-day color mixing followed by 3 short days of of Form and Content
This will be followed by my show opening on the 21st at Julie Heller East, across from the PAAM.
My fabulous color-mixing group in Woodstock in April provided the feedback that the class would be even better as a two-day workshop. I also have wanted to extend the information by immediately applying it to painting, mixing and critquing palettes. So I altered the theme of my October WSA workshop to this:
OCTOBER 27-29, WSA: New workshop: Color Mixing and Composition for Painters:
Anyone who has taken my color-mixing workshop can join us for day #3 of this workshop, to explore more deeply the practice of color.
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I will participate in the Shandaken Studio Tour July 21-22. More on this as it approaches—it is such a pleasure for me to set up my studio as a gallery and host visitors both new and known.

Moving forward, a September show at Julie Heller East in Provincetown and the Luminous Landscape at Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck later in the fall. Plus some as yet unknown opportunities will likely arise, as they usually do…

 

Blue Dusk, oil on board in vintage drawer.

 

 


Atlas Project/Hudson River Valley and Catskills

My first fully realized Atlas Project installation opens at Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham, NY, on March 31st, 2018. Elaborating on my artist’s statement for my discussion below, I am also including photos of all of the work in the show.

 

Here is the gallery’s press release, nicely weaving together my previous artist’s statement about my paintings with my new Atlas Project statement. Thompson Giroux Gallery and I are very pleased to be pledging a donation from sales to benefit two local land conservancy organizations, a small thank-you to the earth for the beautiful vistas and open spaces that I have been painting for the past decades.

 


 

Forms of Water

Forms of Water, 30″x36″. (G)



The artworks in Christie Scheele‘s solo exhibition Atlas/Hudson River Valley take the viewer on a walk through the Hudson River Valley’s open spaces from Albany south to Manhattan.

In this exhibition Scheele brings together paintings, drawings, printmaking and mixed media and explores the personal and collective connection between our lives today and our increasingly fragile environment. Scheele continues her immersion into open spacious landscape painting. Using soft lines Scheele allows the viewer to sense and experience a particular place in our local environment; the way the light makes you feel at a specific time of day, how a place has it’s own color palette reflecting memory and process. Scheele’s use of color and atmosphere creates a suspended moment to experience the intangible power of nature.

With each destination on the “Site Map” we are invited to take an intimate look at how process, history and memory play a crucial role in our relationship to our natural environment.

In an effort to support our local land conservation initiatives, artist Christie Scheele and Thompson Giroux Gallery pledge 5% of any sales by the artist during Atlas/Hudson River Valley on view March 31-May 6, 2018 to benefit the Columbia Land Conservancy and the Woodstock Land Conservancy.

Please join us Saturday March 31st from 4-6pm for refreshments and live music by Josh Connors & Otto Gardnier.

For more information please visit www.thompsongirouxgallery.com or call 518-392-3336.
Thompson Giroux Gallery is located at 57 Main Street, Chatham NY 12037.

Gallery hours: Thursday – Monday 11am to 5pm, Friday 11am to 7pm.
Closed Tuesday & Wednesday
Closed Sunday April 1st

Image credit: Christie Scheele, “Forms of Water”, 2016, Oil on Linen, 30″ x 36″.


 

Land and water use have been political since the beginning of our time on earth. As these issues become increasingly critical, I have been catapulted —but also eased, nestled— into expanding the environmental discussion that until now has been mostly implied in my work, putting into context my decades-long celebration of the powerful beauty of our planet.

 

River with Lighthouse, 12″x36″, oil on linen.

 

Ebullient Winter, 18″x24″, oil on linen. (G)

My new Atlas Project maps my work while mapping the world, revealing a web of meaning around and between the individual pieces that I create. The matrix that connects all of my landscape imagery is saturated with memory, both personal and collective. To show these connections, I am working in one thematic grouping at a time, creating a legend, or site map, to each body of work. The Site Map is a key both to a given installation and to the region or theme that it explores.

 

 

The Site Map for Atlas/Hudson River Valley, the first of these exhibitions, is created with collage on a Rand McNally road map of the river valley, the Catskills, and our wider region. It contains numbered mini-monotypes of all of the oil paintings on view and corresponding map tacks showing the locale depicted on the map.

 

Site Map with Extensions, as it appears on the gallery wall.

 

Extensions of the Site Map include Mapping Memory, lino/mono prints of regional flora and fauna with written personal observations; a collaged and monoprinted map of the source of the river in the Adirondacks; a collage of the Hudson Canyon, extending 400 miles out to sea from NY Harbor; and a fourth extension discussing climate change and local impacts.

 

 

 

Using drawing, printmaking, pasteling, writing, and mixed-media along with oil paintings, I am exploring the interrelationships of process, history, and memory. These are revealed not only by air, land, and water but also by my materials and personal history as an artist, family and community member, and frequent inhabitant of the outdoor world.

The Atlas Project text is therefore a blend of natural history and personal memory.  For the Atlas/Hudson River Valley site map I decided to tuck the text of my stories into an envelope that I created with rice paper. You can see these along the left-hand side of the Site Map, and an open one below:

 

Detail from left-hand panel, “Mapping Memory”.

Other bits of writing get more into the life-cycle of the wildlife depicted. I chose the species included in the map based on my interactions with them but also on a long-standing fascination. We probably all have these — how amazing, to me, is the Red Eft, so bright among the fauna of the NE United States? How cool is the life-cycle? Here is my story about these creatures:

It wasn’t until recently that I realized that the salamanders that I caught as a child near Oneonta, NY, are the same creatures as the Red Efts that I greet after every rain or heavy dew on the trails of the Catskills.

They have three life stages: the first after hatching in ponds; the second when they turn from brown to red and lose their gills, traveling on land for several years to find a new body of water. Finally, in their adult phase the tail widens, and they turn back into a greenish-brown color, living and breeding as aquatic animals with lungs to complete their 12-15-year life span.

At eight I was enamored of catching and releasing in a pond that we swam in during summer months. On one occasion I brought two newts home in a mayonnaise jar, stocked with moss and bits from the bottom of the pond. I changed the water every day with nearby creek water and left the jar under a big tree on our lawn, dropping in small insects from time to time.

One day I spotted eggs in the moss. Such anticipation!

A few days later we heard young voices coming from our front yard just after dark, and looked out to see two boys walking away. The next morning, I found my jar empty of water and newts, the eggs drying in the sun.

 

 

Reflected Suns, 32″x48″, oil on linen.

Printmaking become an integral part of Atlas/Hudson River Valley. Below are two monotype versions of the image used in “Reflected Suns”, exploring the more graphic possibilities of the medium.

 

MReflected Sun #2, 10″x16″, monotype. (Sold)

 

MReflected Sun #1, 10″x16″, monotype. (G)

And the mini-monotype on the Site Map (placement of these had to do with compositional concerns, as the numbers and map tacks are what identify the precise locales):

 

 

The first energy and ideas for this project evolved in 2016. That fall, I was experiencing profound grief over election results and their potential to set policy that will accelerate climate change. I was also contemplating a scheduled residency on Nantucket in February of 2017, and my upcoming 60th birthday later on that year. The second two factors prompted a question—how do I want to expand and deepen my range as an artist? The first, my accelerating concern over the health of our planet, gave me direction.

This extension to the Site Map addresses the issue of global warming:

 

 

These two recent monotypes reflect a view of a section of  the Schoharie Creek valley in summer and then during the massive storm flooding caused by Irene:

 

MVroman’s Nose/Green Fields, 8″x10″. (Sold)

 

Vroman’s Nose/Flooded Fields. (Sold)

And two additional monotypes of our region:

 

MSweeping Sky with Fields, 8″x10″, monotype. (Sold)

 

MWhite Field #1, 8″x10″, monotype. (Sold)

 

The Nantucket residency produced a prototype Site Map where I first used the idea of making small monotype prints of the oil paintings to be included in the grouping or show. It is a very rich process, artistically, entering a new world as you are creating it, and also full of the discomfort of facing the unknown. To read about my residency, go to this link to my blog post:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2017/03/18/artists-residency-on-nantucketnew-atlas-project/

 

I so loved the collaging-on-a-map process while working on the Site Map that I decided to create some of these as stand-alone art pieces. The first, below, leaves much of the under-map showing, and in addition to pattern and magazine papers; samaras, wasp galls, and other bits and bobs, I hand dyed some of the green papers used for the Catskill Park area.

 

Atlas/Hudson River, 18″x14″, mixed media/collage on Rand McNally Road Map on board. (Sold)

 

I live in the High Peaks area of the Catskills, so many of the pieces in this show are images of the mountains, roadways, streams, and of course, the Ashokan Reservoir, seen above in blue within the Park.

 

Esopus Mists, 12″x12″, oil on linen. (G)

 

Indigos with Glowing Light, 18″x24″. (Sold)

 

Affinity/Dusk Road, 30″x30″, oil on linen with frayed edges on primed board overlaid with graphite gridding.

 

Another collage, also of the River, is more tightly composed and with more contrast than the first, and includes the small river towns of Kingston, Rhinebeck, Poughkeepsie, and Newburg.

 

Atlas/HV Collage, 2 panels of 16″x8″/ea.

 

For the third, following my own lead with the Site Map extension, I hand-died rice papers in varied blues to reinterpret the Hudson Canyon, the below-water extension of the river itself.

 

Hudson Canyon Collage, 12″x12″. (G)

 

The Hudson River originates in Lake Tear of the Clouds, in a remote area of the Adirondacks, as pinpointed in the upper extension, above. It empties out into New York Harbor:

 

Harbor with Soft Light, 13″x20″, pastel on paper.

 

Many images are Hudson views between NYC and Hudson, NY. The stretch between Poughkeepsie and and Saugerties is well-traveled in the summer by us in our small lake boat. Lower sections are often views from bridges and the train.

 

2 Shores/Reflected Sun, 12"x12".

2 Shores/Reflected Sun, 12″x12″, oil on linen.

 

Refracted Golds, 20″x40″, oil on linen. (Sold)

 

Downriver, 24″x24″, oil on linen.

 

River with Big Sky, 24″x30″, oil on linen. (G)

 

Rare Summer Silence, 20″x30″, oil on linen. (Sold)

 

River Island with Castle, 9″x36″, oil on board.

 

Gleaming Bridge, 20″x40″. (Sold)

 

Affinity/Shore Lights, 16″x8″, oil/linen/board/graphite gridding.

 

RedRiverShore

Red River Shore, 20″x30″. (Sold)

 

This is not a catalogue of all of the wonderful views of the HV and Catskills, but rather an organically created collection of a number of the paintings that I have done over the past 10 years or so of our region. In this way, the grouping is a bit of a retrospective.

I am frequently hiking and driving around both the East side of the Hudson, into the Berkshires, as well as the West side, reaching into of the foothills of the Catskills, providing sources for some favorite views of the river itself as well as farm fields and hillsides.

Triptych in Reds, 24″x24″/ea. panel, oil on linen.

 

Long Storm Cloud, 8″X28″, pastel on paper.

 

Meadow with Peaks, 14″X18″. (Sold)

 

Trees with Mist, 18"x48", $4,200.

Trees with Mists, 18″x48″, oil on linen. (G)

 

Mountain Sky/Blues, 24″x48″, oil on linen. (Sold)

 

 

“September Dawn”, 10″x28″, pastel on paper. (Sold)

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ParticularityPlace

Particularity of Place, 36″x36″, oil on linen. (G)

 

layersofmeaning

Layers of Meaning, 30″x24″, oil on linen. (Sold)

 

Snow Fields, 12″x12″, oil on linen. (G)

 

Snow Shadows, 12″x12″, oil on linen. (G)

 

The final study done for a large piece in oil, now sold, inspired by the Maya Lin Wave Field at Storm King:

Green Waves, 5″x28.5″, oil on paper.

My upcoming groupings will include Atlas/Forms of Water, and Atlas/Cape Cod, the former creating overlap with the place-based themes and requiring a different solution for the map (I am thinking maps, actually).

I alternate between focusing on aspects of this work that I am currently inventing and my continued immersion in my open, spacious landscape paintings, looking to draw it all together into a cohesive whole, mirroring the wholeness of life on earth.

 

Sweeping Greens/Jostling Trees, 28″x68″, oil on linen. (Sold)

A link to the Violet Snow article in the WoodstockTimes:

https://hudsonvalleyone.com/2018/04/02/artist-christie-scheeles-map-magic/

Many thanks to those who have helped this project along: my husband, Jack, for design and paste-up help; Kate McGloughlin of the Woodstock School of Art for teaching me monotype techniques; Mary Emery for inspiring my rediscovery of printmaking; The Artists Association of Nantucket for hosting the residency that advanced this work; Polly Law for brainstorming titles (including “Atlas Project” itself) and language with me; Jenny Nelson for being my sounding board; Loel Barr for showing me some of her cool collage techniques; Thompson Giroux Gallery for planning and mounting this large and complex solo show; Geoffrey Rogers for his expert framing; and Mark Loete for the perfect photographs of the Site Map and extensions.


Late Summer 2017 Newsletter

June brought two great-story sales. The first was of this piece, a favorite of mine since I did it a few years back. My husband delivered it to Louisa Gould Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard in early June and a few days later it was headed  to Madrid on a private jet. The collector even helped unwrap it after being drawn into the gallery by my 50″x90″ piece in the window.

Rolling Cloud, 44″x62″.

 

This octych has received a great deal of attention, including a blog post of its own. It was shown and appreciated at Gold Gallery in Boston, and then at Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck this past winter.

Green Waves, 13″x76″ overall, oil on linen.

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/the-evolution-of-a-new-concept/

In May I was contacted by a woman in NC who told me that she wanted to buy it, and had the perfect spot for it. She had read the blog post and loved the story. She had never bought original art before, except for one print. She found me through a google search.

After much back and forth, it turned out that she had seen the price on the small oil-on-paper study that I had done leading up to the final piece, and the actual cost was way beyond what she had anticipated or budgeted for. So I offered her some other, smaller pieces in the green palette that she prefers…and then didn’t hear back from her for a few weeks.

This happens with some frequency. For a discussion of why original art created by a career artist costs what it does, you can read this blog post:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/this-painting-costs-what/

In the end, she could not resist the piece and I could not resist making a price accommodation to enable her to have it, though it was still a huge leap for her both in cost and in faith, as she hadn’t set eyes on the actual piece.

My galleriest Albert Shahinian, who had the piece and is also an expert art handler, did the packing and shipping, and here is Green Waves in its perfect spot:

 

 

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My Atlas Project is gaining momentum and focus. I earlier began a description of the evolution of this  endeavor and got so carried away that I found I needed a separate post, which I will be working on going forward.

In brief, motivated last fall by a number of factors including an upcoming residency on Nantucket and my fears over an acceleration of climate change with the new administration in Washington, I decided I needed to marry more concretely my deep love of the outdoor world and its complexities with my visual expression.

The third and most complex grouping, Atlas/Hudson River Valley had a trial run during a recent studio tour/open studio. Each site map circles closer to what I want, this most recent one being a collaged road map with map pins showing the locations of the paintings in the grouping and monotype thumbnails of the same. Like the earlier versions, this folds up into a small map.

I ran out of time—this was an excruciatingly slow process, with many design elements and much trial and error—and didn’t get any of the written piece figured out, but in discussion during the open studio I figured out how to approach this in a way that has integrity with the map.

This will all coalesce into a large solo show at Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham, NY,  March 31-May 6 in 2018, of Atlas/Hudson river Valley and Atlas/Forms of Water. There will be many more paintings and therefore more thumbnails on the map; most likely an off-center extension at top right to show the source of the river in the Adirondacks; and a narrow extension the length of the left side to add written and visual detail about our area. The show will feature monotypes, collages, and pastels as well as oil paintings.

Overlook with River, 24″x36″, the last piece finished before the July Tour.

 

The Studio Tour overall was a sweet weekend with folks from my mailing list coming through as well as those who were new to me. Usually it is a low-pressure event for me and I have a lovely time at the outset setting up my studio for viewing. I had knocked myself out working on the Site Map and printing linocut wall tags for the Atlas Project this time around, but it was well worth it for how the deadline brought the project together enough for me to hone many aspects and trouble-shoot the things that are not yet quite right.

 

Front wall of studio arranged as Atlas/Hudson River Valley, for Studio Tour 2017.

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The day after the Studio Tour ended I was off for a week to teach on Nantucket. So lovely to see the island wearing its summer color, after spending two weeks there in February! I taught my composition workshop, Constructing/Deconstructing the Landscape, to a receptive and able group of six. These are the exercises that they had finished at the end of day #2.

For demo purposes I did several small oil-on-paper pieces, choosing subject matter according to the requests of my students:

Horizontal Wave, 5″x12″.

 

Warm Fall Fields, 5″x12″.

 

Dusk Palms, 5″x5″.

 

After my workshop was over I spent a long afternoon in the print shop, rediscovering what works for my imagery in monotype (there are always a row of failures before some successes). This is my favorite of the batch:

Monotype Sunset over Tidal Flats, 8″x10″.

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In June I had a discussion with some of the artists who I mentor about curating a show of their artwork, and got a very positive response. I contacted what I thought would be the perfect venue for a show of such an eclectic group of artists, the ArtBar in Kingston. The only slot Allie had open in 2017 was for August, so this exhibition of 18 artists had to come together very quickly!

It was interesting switching hats back and forth from mentor to curator, and there will be follow-up in my groups on my experience with the artists as curator. I have heard repeatedly from gallery owners that it is their quality-of-life choice to represent talented artists who are also easy and responsive to work with, so this is a theme that I pass along.

On the card, top to bottom: Betsy Jacaruso, Rebecca Darlington, Elizabeth Panzer, and Sandra Nystrom.

I selected the work and Allie, who owns the venue, hung the show. The opening reception was busy and the the comments very enthusiastic. The list of all of the artists involved: Polly Law, Sandra Nystrom, Rebecca Darlington, Linda Lynton, Linda Puiatti, Al Desetta, Betsy Jacaruso, Patti Gibbons, Lois Linet, Stacie Flint, Elizabeth Panzer, Dave Channon, Karen Schaffel, Julia Santos Solomen, Mary Katz, Loel Barr, Mark Loete, Cathy Metitchecchia.

This is my short description of the work I have done with these, and many other, artists over the years:

My mentoring work began as a way of helping other artists enter or expand their presence in the art market by providing support for both studio practice and exhibiting. The groups are a blend of coaching, support group, and targeted career advice for emerging and mid-level artists.

An article, written by Lynn Woods, will be coming out shortly on the show in the Kingston Times and I will add the link.

 I love two things the most, I think, about working with artists in this way. One is that the artwork is so varied, and as my artistic taste is too, it is a huge pleasure watching and sometimes helping these artists hone their voices into bodies of work that have depth and impact.
The other is that, in our overly busy and complicated lifestyle, I can inform, simplify and advise. So, while every venue, gallery-artist relationship and even many sales have their own unique wrinkles that make generalization difficult, there are guidelines that can help emerging artists streamline their approach and be more decisive in their responses—and feel better about the process.

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Coming up, very soon, this four-person show at the Nantucket Artists Association, a brainchild of Program Coordinator Mary Emery: Due East, 4 Woodstock Artists on Nantucket, featuring the work of Polly Law, Kate McGloughlin, Jenny Nelson, and myself; all artists who teach and/or have done residencies at the AAN. Dates are September 1-22.

https://www.nantucketarts.org/dues-east-woodstock-artists-on-nantucket1.html

A medium-sized oil-on-linen that will be featured in the show:

Color Field/Incoming Tide, 30″x30″.

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Recently finished, my second Atlas/Hudson River Valley mixed-media/collage:

Atlas/HV Collage, 2 panels of 16″x8″/ea.

 

And in oil, an image of the tide coming in over the tidal flats mid-Cape, always a moment of bliss for me:

Sky Meets Water, 18″x24″.

 

This piece fits into the Atlas/Forms of Water segment. It is a different type of category from Atlas/Hudson River Valley, and there will be overlap, making for a more dynamic installation.

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A few of my other sales so far this season:

 

Calm Crossing, 38″x70″, sold by the Louisa Gould Gallery.

 

Monotype/Wave#5, 8″x10″, sold by the Julie Heller Gallery.

 

Haybales, 8″x24″, pastel on paper, studio sale.

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Upcoming workshops are at the PAAM September 11-14, the loveliest time of the year to be on the Cape:

https://www.paam.org/workshops/summer-2017/?course_detail=abstraction-and-narrative-in-the-landscape&start_date=9-11-17

And the Woodstock School of Art October 28-30, also a stunning time of year for the locale:

http://woodstockschoolofart.org/course/color-mixing-landscape-painters/

Enjoy your rest of summer season and beginning of fall!


2017 Late Spring News and Upcoming Events

This spring my mind has been on many of the seasonal imperatives, like creating new work for my galleries on the Cape and Islands and sorting through and shipping or delivering their selections. It has also, after a huge jump-start on my Atlas Project during my residency at the Nantucket Arts Association, been very much on advancing that exploration; and the spring has been spiced up by a few other new projects.

Mountain Sky/Blues, 24″x48″, newest piece, of the Catskills from the river.

I have scheduled a talk to discuss my Atlas Project for July 15 during the Shandaken Artists Studio Tour, 4:30-6pm. I am currently developing the third sequence, Atlas/Hudson Valley segment. This means that, in addition to other work in my studio,  I will hang a grouping of each of the sections that I have been working on this year: Atlas/Forms of Water/Snow; Atlas/Island (Nantucket); and the most extensive sequence to date, the Hudson River and Catskills work and mapping thereof.

 

Red River Shore, 20″x30″.

In my studio work progresses on my third prototype map for this grouping, which will include mini-monotypes of the paintings involved; maps of various sorts of the area; and a number of other elements, both descriptive and visual. I am hoping that this map will be the working template that clicks for me so that I can use it for new groupings/exhibitions going forward. This involves lots of trial and error, applied problem-solving and then experimenting with the materials (maps, acrylics, printmaking, rice paper, collage, river mud, etc.).

I have found that when I pose myself a complex creative problem to be solved, following a simple process works quite well. I start by seeing how far I can think my way into it, often using moments when I am driving or walking, and when I hit an aspect or aspects that stump me, I plant those as a seed, and then let go of the conscious effort. Some time later—usually weeks—the answer will pop into my head, my subconscious having been at work on it all the while, sometimes aided by new information that comes my way in the interval.

Here is where I am so far with the latest Site Map and associated prints:

 

Work table with HV map in progress; site map for the Atlas/Island (Nantucket) grouping in the background.

 

Trees with Mists, 18″x48″.

 

Above and below are a few of the Hudson River & Valley/Catskills paintings that are part of the new sequence:

 

2 Shores, 12″x12″.

 

My new series is bringing me ever closer to the many aspects of the natural world that I have in the past observed, researched and delighted in. Which of these things and how they can manifest in the work is the adventure. As is true of most meaningful new endeavors, the space this holds for me is both stimulating and disquieting.

 

My first gallery show of Atlas/Hudson Valley is scheduled for 2018 at Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham, NY.

To view more oil paintings that are currently in my studio, click here:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/available-workstudio/

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During spring I am always preparing to deliver or ship new work to my galleries in Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and/or Cape Cod. Below are some new pieces at the Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard. She always has a beautifully installed grouping of my work on display throughout the year, so please stop by if you are on the island.

 

Summer Inlet, 48″x24″, 2017.

 

Sengekontacket Greens, 12″x12″, 2017.

 

Katama Field, 12″x12″, 2017.

 

Summer Wave, 12″x12″, 2017.

 

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My residency at the Arts Association of Nantucket in February resulted in many advancements in my problem-solving curve for the Atlas Project; a number of small paintings; and some monotypes (see my blog post on the residency):

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2017/03/18/artists-residency-on-nantucketnew-atlas-project/

The five monotypes hanging below are a the results of printing sessions in both Woodstock and Nantucket.

 

 

And a few others:

 

Monotype/Green Marsh, 8″x10″.

 

Monotype/White Field #2, monotype and pastel, 8″x10″.

 

Monotype/Wave#5, 8″x10″.

See more of my prints and pastels here:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/available-workstudioworks-on-paper/

 

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In April I flew to South Florida to do a large painting for friends with a new house there. I managed to pack in one big suitcase everything I needed, including the 16″x20″ version of the wave image that I had painted ahead of time. The one thing that did not fit in my suitcase was the 48″x60″ stretched linen canvas, which we had shipped from my wonderful stretcher-makers in Vermont, Brickyard Enterprises.

I had exactly one week to do this large piece and so, concerned about the possibility of things going wrong, I put in long days for the first several, working under an overhang in the pool enclosure.

 

 

Happily, nothing did go wrong, so we had a finished piece on the wall ahead of deadline and then I got to play, spending time at the Morikami Gardens and the beach (more wave paintings to come!).

 

 

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My winter-spring show with Albert Shahinian Fine Art wrapped up in early April. We had a nice run of of two receptions—one at the gallery and one at my studio; a number of sales of pieces small and large, old and new; and an interview with the Poughkeepsie Journal containing questions that I quite enjoyed:

http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/entertainment/2017/03/22/landscapes-art-artists/99454762/

 

March reception in my studio.

Several of the pieces that went to new homes from our show “Gallery/Studio: A Symbiosis”:

 

Glistening Greys, 10″X10″, oil on linen.

 

“White Trail”, 40″x30″.

 

Affinity/Duo/Palms, diptych of 2 paintings of 16″x8″/ea.

 

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I am teaching four more workshops in 2017, several of them new. In my workshops I emphasize composition as well as color, and share not only my techniques, but also an eclectic delight in many styles and aspects of contemporary and historical art.

The Woodstock School of Art:

June 17-19, Sat.-Mon, 9-4pm, Form and Content: A Landscape Painting Intensive
Oct.28-30, Sat.-Mon. 9-4pm, Color Mixing for Landscape Painters.
The Nantucket Arts Association July 18-20,Constructing/Deconstructing the Landscape;  and Mentoring for Artists, July 21.
Provincetown Artist Association and Museum, Sept. 11-14, Mon.-Thurs. 9:30-1:30, Abstraction and Narrative in the Landscape.

 

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I have plans for some new pastels in the near future—its a good time of year to approach these, with the studio windows wide open (ah, and I must mention sounds of birds and the creek behind my studio), mitigating any effects of flying dust. Below is a fairly recent one, in which I was pushing the color somewhat.

 

Turquoise Sky/White Cloud, 20″x20″.

 

Over the years I have at times felt pressure from some of my galleries to work brighter. I am very often a moody painter, though I don’t ever want to limit myself to any palette, locale, format, or mood. I do love a bright sunny day, but painting dramatic clouds and subtle, tonal color often draws me, and many of my collectors will follow me into that terrain.

With the pastel above, I set myself the intention of not going as dark along the horizon as I often do in a seascape, and in general keeping the colors more saturated or desaturated with white instead of grey. I wanted to see if I could make myself happy with a lower contrast, brighter image. And I did.

This is turning a request, essentially, into a creative problem. When people ask me how and whether being a full time, self-supporting artist affects my decision-making in the studio, that is part of the answer—that if I feel that I am being nudged in a particular direction, can I turn that into an interesting problem? And after I work that one out, what else can I do that is generated exclusively by, to use Kandinsky’s term, inner necessity?

 

Cotue of the Scalloped Edges, 6″x10.5″.


Artist’s Residency on Nantucket/New Atlas Project

As soon as my  residency at the Nantucket Artists Association was scheduled early last fall I launched into planning. I decided to work with exclusively Nantucket imagery while there, and this dovetailed with a larger plan to spread out into a fresh creative endeavor starting in 2017.
And so, I began developing a new rubric for my work that frames groupings of it thematically, calling it my Atlas Project.
Knowing that I would have access to the print studio at the AAN, and after having been reintroduced to printmaking by program coordinator and printmaker Mary Emery while on Nantucket teaching the summer before, I also began exploring printmaking in earnest, studying with Kate McGloughlin at the Woodstock School of Art.
 My new Atlas Project, just several months in, engages in a process of revealing the web of meaning around and between the individual pieces that I create. The matrix that connects all of my landscape imagery is saturated with memory, both personal and collective. To show these connections, I am working with individual but overlapping thematic groupings. The biggest challenge is to then create a legend, or site map, to the bodies of work.

The first sequence that I approached, before going to Nantucket, was Atlas/Forms of Water/Snow. Using drawing, printmaking, pasteling, writing, and mixed-media along with oil paintings, I am exploring with these sequences the interrelationships of process, history, and memory, as revealed not only by air, land, and water but also by my materials and personal history as an artist, family and community member, and frequent inhabitant of the outdoor world.

In late February, all set up in my studio on Nantucket,  I began work on Atlas/Island with painting in oil so that, in my process of layering wet over dry, I would have time to finish and safely bring home the pieces accomplished.


“Coatue of the Scalloped Edges”, oil on board in vintage drawer, 6″x10.5″ overall.

For some of these locales, I wrote a bit about them and later included these observations in the Site Map. Coatue is a stunning landform, and the perfect image for my box with the circular pull. These unusual scalloped edges of sand have been held in place for centuries. In perfect equalibrium, prevailing winds create waves that push sand out to the points, while currents move it in the opposite direction, depositing it on the bends.

“Moors with Mists”, oil on board in vintage tray, 5.5″x24″ overall.

The pieces on board in vintage boxes were not framed that way but rather painted to go inside of those particular boxes, adjusting color and feel of imagery to meld with the tray. I liked the lovely old boxes for this project as a nod to Nantucket’s intricate and unique history.

“Night Harbor”, oil on board in vintage tray, 5.5″x24″ overall.

With Night Harbor my observations turn to a personal memory of the sweet evening last summer when I experienced the view depicted. During the day, while I was teaching, my husband was catching fish. We cooked the fish at our friend’s modest house that looks out on the harbor from the outskirts of town,  the Creeks to our right. The three of us sat watching the fog roll in and out of the harbor for hours, barely speaking, until well after nightfall. Night Harbor is an image of the view off to the left of the lights on the wharves and Brandt Point.

 

“Dunes with Snow”, (Steps Beach), oil on board in vintage tray, 5.5″x24″, overall.

Steps Beach appears a few times in this body of work. I researched and wrote a bit about interdune ecology, described below after the second dune painting, a summer image in greens.

I did one piece using my Affinity format, since this image called for it both in color and in the strong horizontal and diagonal compositional elements.

Affinity/Madaket Dusk, oil on linen with frayed edges on primed board overlaid with graphite gridding, 11″x14″.

This pastel is a view from the ferry of Tuckenuck, the island just visible on the right, the sky a late-day winter sunset:

“Gleam over Tuckernuck”, 7″x11″, pastel on paper.

 

After several days at work on imagery with grey/blues or warmer color, I had a yen for some greens, so I did these three pieces, using reference collected last summer while I was there teaching.

 

“House on Madaket Marsh”, oil on linen, 11″x14″.

Madaket also appears a few times, as I am endlessly drawn to its varied topography.  I include the famous story of the formation of Esther Island during hurricane Esther in 1961, and it’s reattachment and detachment in relation to Smith’s Point over the years since then.

SummerDune

“Summer Dunes”, (Steps Beach entrance) oil on linen, 8″x20″.

The steep dunes on the north side of the island can be safely traipsed through and enjoyed going into Steps Beach. The scene above, a view off to the left between the two large dunes above the beach, is a thriving interdune habitat with just about every shade of green within. The mists tamp the colors down just enough to appeal to my subtle color sensibility.

I knew that dune grasses hold dunes and that marsh grasses both hold ground from eroding seas and clean water passing through; but I didn’t really understood how. Thanks mostly to several articles that I read from Yesterday’s Island by Dr. Sarah Oktay, formerly of the Nantucket Field Station, I now get it and am suitably impressed.

Dune grasses not only anchor sand that is there, they also trap windborn sand and hold it, building dune height. Then, due to their extensive system of underground stems, they are able to grow right up on top of themselves to trap more sand, and so on. Further, as the grasses below decay, soil begins to be built and other plants and small deciduous shrubs can colonize the dune. As these seasonally drop leaves that compost, more soil is built and plants with larger roots can attain purchase and now you have a healthy, diverse, interdune system that protects the shore from erosion during winter storms.

 

“Quaise Marsh”, oil on linen, 11″x14″.

Now, for marsh grasses, perhaps my most frequently painted subject in the past several decades. These grasses trap sediment and organic matter with every tide—cleansing the water—creating a kind of peat at their roots. They, too, can then grow up on top of themselves and this peat and gain height to keep pace with sea level rise,  protecting the shoreline from erosion. That is, they have been able to so far. It is unlikely that they will continue to succeed with the potential six foot rise predicted, at this juncture, by 2100.

Back to the residency. Finally in the print studio, I dialed in on which sorts of my landscape imagery work well in a medium that has a very lively feel. I had previously noted that the soft-focus of my pantings does not translate as well as my emphasis on very strong, minimalist compositions with bold shapes intersecting the picture plane, so I headed straight into this terrain. As before, the first two or three prints that I pull of a given subject matter are not wholly successful, so each print is very much a process of trial and error. This is quite different from my painting process, where I can and do always persist and tweak anything I am not completely happy with.

The imagery for the first two monotypes below came out of walks I did on Nantucket during my first week of the residency, at the Creeks, a lovely marshy area on the harbor near town; and the Moors. The third is an image of Madaket from last summer that I both painted and explored in monotype.

MWinter Creek, 10″x8″, monotype.

 

MMoors, 8″x10″, monotype.

 

MMarsh with House, 8″x10″, monotype.

I also worked on small monotype thumbnails, as well as a linocut map of Nantucket, to incorporate into my Site Map, printing one thumbnail each for the oil paintings that I did for this grouping of Atlas/Island. The map is the new element for me, still very much a work-in-progress, that knits each thematic sequence of paintings, drawings, and prints together, and gives info about the work and the locales. The below is the second prototype–the first was for Atlas/Forms of Water/Snow—and most definitely not the final template. The idea is to map both the subject matter I am working from and the body of work that results.

Site Map with linoprint map and map fragments of Nantucket; monotype thumbnails; tracings; writing and letterpress. The blue areas on the map show parts of the island that will be underwater                                                                 when sea levels rise 3 meters.

 

I am now, at home, hard at work on a third prototype of the site map, trying to integrate the thumbnails, maps, and writing in a more visually lush way. I’ll add it to the post when I am finished.

 To mount a cohesive show of the Nantucket sequence, or any other, of Atlas Project I will want to include some medium-sized and large oil paintings, something I couldn’t do in a short period of time and when all of my supplies and then finished work had to be carried back and forth by foot on the ferry.
I have been fairly obsessive about my work for many years. This very intense two weeks, however, brought my focus to a new high, working morning, noon and night. I broke it up with walks to see the island and my yoga practice…and that was it. I came up with solutions to things I was pondering about the Site Map in the middle of the night—and otherwise slept quite well— and arranged my waking work hours to feel a focused fullness; a kind of (mostly) calm momentum.

In my work I have always seesawed back and forth between the universal and the particular. With a new framework for the work I can continue to do this with individual pieces, while exploring an expanded conversation. Land and and water use has been political since the beginning of our time on earth. As these issues continue to become increasingly critical, I have been catapulted —and also eased, nestled— into creating the Atlas Project, a love-letter to our planet.

 I am grateful to the staff at the AAN, especially Mary Emery, for providing this opportunity and for all of their help. And deepest thanks to my husband Jack, who facilitated it all.

As 2016 Rolls into 2017…

 This is a time when we celebrate the start of a fresh new year, looking outward at loved ones and community for warmth, stimulation, and support. It is likewise a time of introspection, as we examine the  creative and life-of-the-mind pursuits, often solitary, that give the deepest meaning to our lives. 
 
Looking back at my art-related projects of 2016, a recent one was my blog post “Paintings of Infinite Worth”, in which I discuss four beloved paintings from last century.  Analyzing artwork is always stimulating and fun for me, and if I love the work, deeply felt. I feel lucky that I get to practice this skill while teaching; looking at artists’ work in mentoring meetings; in public talks —such as I did at the Provincetown Artists Association and Museum in September—and here on my blog.
It has been quite some time since I have done this with one of my own pieces, so I have selected “Calm Crossing”, painted last spring for my Martha’s Vineyard gallery, to deconstruct.
calmcrossing

Calm Crossing, 32″x68″, oil on linen (at Louisa Gould Gallery, Vineyard Haven, MA).

 I wanted this piece to convey the feeling of openness and welcome that the view of Martha’s Vineyard and the Sound have from the deck of the ferry, making it a more specific narrative than many of my paintings. I actually started with the cloud and color, testing as I went along—how turquoise and bright can I make this while still retaining the feel of the north Atlantic? Going quite literal and descriptive for a moment, the flatter the water the more it reflects the sky. So, how flat can the Sound between Cape Cod and MV actually be?
I have seen it pretty calm (the occasions when Jack always says, “See, our little boat would be fine to do this crossing on a day like today!”), so ultimately I felt free to just follow my own nose in regard to color and reflection.
Considering the relationship of the shapes, bits of the cloud come off the bottom center, angling towards the island, itself a low wedge shape. To the right, another wisp sits over the break in the land shape, but not so low as to feel that it is pressing down. As that cloud moves off to the right, below it a reflection of almost the same color moves diagonally left and down, so that the two shapes create a sideways V of surface tension that opens toward the center of the painting.
This kind of play in a scene that is otherwise a banded horizontal composition is what holds the surface together and keeps the eye happily circulating. Likewise, all of the subtle variations along the edge of the cloudbank, softer at the top,  invite the viewer to linger.
The context of the formal part of this discussion is that, with minimalism, there are few of the distractions that busy details create, so everything that is there must hold up to intense scrutiny. This also, then, connects to my analysis of the Rothko and the Frankenthaler in the Paintings of Infinite Worth post.
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In late summer and early autumn I spent some time simplifying, rearranging, and painting my studio. Since I started out by getting rid of two large pieces of furniture that stored multiple things, I was spurred to action by the resulting piles of stuff. Sifting through old files—show postcards; letters; consignment sheets from galleries long gone; grant applications—I found myself in an unexpectedly intense emotional state.
I am still trying to put my finger on this stew of emotion. It did not include nostalgia, interestingly, or even pride, but did produce a sense of…wonder? The files were evidence of the accretion created by so very much effort over many years, including a good number of things that I had forgotten about or forgotten the details of.
That such a number of seemingly random tidbits added up to something quite substantial —my life’s work—made me feel as if I am sitting atop this huge pile of career events; relationships; and hard work, and that all of that is now supporting me. It also strikes me now how this would be true of so many people of a certain age, especially those working in arenas where both work and success are largely self-generated. Further, as an avid reader of literary fiction, I can see that this is the stuff that novelists work with—details that end up coalescing into life narrative.
The most moving piece of paper that I found was a letter from my old friend Joan D’Arcy, a gifted arts writer who passed away some years ago. This letter was written shortly after her husband died, at which time I had given her a small painting.
Interestingly, in a  twist to this story, a few years later Joan told me how much her husband had loved this piece, her memory apparently having been reshaped by a conflation of events on the timeline. I never corrected her.
letterfromjoan
“…shames the obvious.” Such a gorgeous turn of phrase.
Sorting through my studio, I also took a good look at the few that are left of these pastel-on-primed-paper pieces from 1992, done during a period when the serene feel was not working for me. I remember vividly doing these, our small twins (finally!!!) asleep in the late evening.
Jagged Peaks, 20"x24".

Jagged Peaks, 10″x24″.

 

Brown Shoreline, 24"x20".

Brown Shoreline, 24″x20″.

 

Birdseye Shoreline,

Birdseye Shoreline, 10″x24″.

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Last summer I did, on a very hot July day, a demo at the Woodstock School of Art. It is hard to complete a sentence while working on a painting to start with—so much focus is on the progress of the piece—and on top of that the editing of a short video tends to break things up. Nonetheless, I am pleased with the result and hope that you enjoy watching.
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A new exploration for me this past fall has been working with monotype, a printmaking process wherein you work directly on a plate to create one-of-a-kind images. An experienced painter can often move fairly quickly along the learning curve with monotypes, so I have had great pleasure in the process and am happy with many of my results.
M/Dark Road, monotype and pastel.

Dark Road,  monotype and pastel, 10″x8″.

 

Monotype, Wave #3, 8"x10".

Monotype, Wave #3, 8″x10″.

 

Monotype, Fall Marsh, 8"x10".

Monotype, Fall Marsh, 8″x10″.

Additional images can be viewed at:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/available-workstudioworks-on-paper/

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 The development of the actual paintings always (naturally!) comes first on my list of what I love to do most. These pieces are among my own top picks from 2016, often because I remember certain challenges in the process of creation that led to a satisfying result.
Layers of Meaning, 30"x24", oil on linen.

Layers of Meaning, 30″x24″, oil on linen.

 

Glistening Greys, 10"X10", oil on linen.

Glistening Greys, 10″X10″, oil on linen.

 

"Lingering", 10"x10".

“Lingering”, 10″x10″, oil on linen (sold by Julie Heller Gallery).

 

Winter in Blue/White, 12"x12", oil on linen (at Albert Shahinian Fine Art).

Winter in Blue/White, 12″x12″, oil on linen (at Albert Shahinian Fine Art).

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I am very pleased to have new representation at Gallery 901 in Santa Fe, NM. Please check out the gallery if you are in town:

http://www.gallery901.org/christie-scheele/

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A number of my pieces have been gifted from one spouse to the other for the holidays. In the case of Trove/Atmospherics,  the story leading up to the surprise gift from a dear friend to her wife has twists and turns that have gone on for years (even though the piece dates only to winter of 2015):
Trove:Atmospherics, 35 panels of 3"x5"/ea., 30"x48" overall.

Trove:Atmospherics, 35 panels of 3″x5″/ea., 30″x48″ overall.

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I have just added some newly returned work to my data-base, and taken off the aforementioned holiday gifts. If you are looking for a large painting, this is a rare moment to peruse the many choices:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/available-workstudio/

Since I sold the piece in October that was on my large living room wall, I have had the pleasure of replacing it, temporarily at least, with this favorite that I recently had returned to me:

 

"Rolling Cloud", 44"x68".

“Rolling Cloud”, 44″x68″.

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Looking ahead, my thoughts are on the project I am developing for my residency in Nantucket in Feb.-March. This will involve an expanded and more experiential exploration of place, using drawing, printmaking, painting, writing…and who knows what else? Memory will be a theme.

Also coming up this winter, a special show/sale starting in early February at Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck, NY. More on this in a few weeks.

Finally, for those of you who do the drive from Kingston, NY up Route #28 to your home or weekend place, or if you just want to listen to a very well-produced culture/history/arts audio tour of the Catskills, check  out this piece by neighbor and friend Brett Barry of Silver Hollow Audio (who Catskills/HV/Berkshires folks will know from the segments that he does on WAMC). My bit is about half-way into it, but with Brett’s interview prompts that created the individual discussions followed by skillful editing, the whole piece is beautifully interwoven and well worth listening to.

http://drive28.com/

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I am wishing us,  individually and collectively, a year of truth-seeking and compassion; of finding community; and exploring our deepest joys.


Paintings of Infinite Worth

In the postscript to Umberto Eco’s dense and philosophical historical novel, The Name of the Rose, he observes: “…I would define the poetic effect as the capacity that a text displays for continuing to generate different readings, without ever being completely consumed.”

Such interesting language, and of course relevant to all art forms. I have often mused on the first part of this observation, knowing that the art that moves me the most and that I am intent upon creating invites interpretation and projection on the part of the viewer. But the second part is so delicious—“without ever being completely consumed.”

So which pieces from my formative years, my “comfort” art, can I point to that continue to nourish with new information, new sensation, never being finished?

The four paintings below send me into an almost conditioned swoon. So, pulling myself out of my art-induced trance, I will take a close, fresh look at them.

rothkountitled-1969

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1969.

Rothko said, “If you are only moved by color relationships, then you miss the point. I’m interested in expressing the big emotions—tragedy, ecstasy, doom.”

I enter into a Rothko like looking at the ocean. This phase can last for quite some time. Eventually, as the eye wanders toward the edges, my consciousness is popped back out again and onto the surface of the painting, the blues anchoring me to the here-and-now. The gorgeous uneven edges of the main shapes going into the brighter blue…they make me feel stirred up and moored at the same time, as does the color. On the whole, I would say, deeper than tragedy, ecstasy, or doom… way down deep, sub-verbal.

frankenthalermauvedistrict1966

Helen Frankenthaler, Mauve District, 1966.

“I have always been concerned with painting that simultaneously insists on a flat surface and then denies it,” Frankenthaler has said. The flat surface at work here is quite evident—and beautifully so. The mauve shape has the illusion of sheen that brings silk to mind. The most complex shape in the piece is without paint at all, bringing the eye firmly to the surface of the raw canvas. The small dark shape in the upper left looks like a piece of tape or paper placed on top, emphasizing flatness.

What is denying the flat in this piece? I see a subtle vibration in the mauve field that is full of movement, as if rippling in the wind, inviting the viewer to float into it.

What delights my eye the most is the interaction of shapes.  The edges are softly stained and jagged with lovely variation. Each shape is a statement in its own right, but all are nudging the eye toward the unpainted angular form as it moves across the canvas. The dark corner at the top left presses the eye down and into that shape. The spot on the lower right where it almost but not quite goes off the canvas also leads the eye back into the piece, and both of these elements create a needed tautness to the otherwise open surface.

It is nowhere clearer than in minimalist non-geometric abstraction how much a play of edge and composition can directly reach  the viewer’s heart. Without the descriptive content of a representational image, it is much easier to see how these shapes interact. There are good (dynamic, interesting, disconcerting, playful, assertive, and/or pensive) shapes and not-so-good (boring, overly regular, static, needlessly complex, and/or repetitive) shapes. Even more importantly, their interaction and directionality define the feel of the painting.

Matisse, The Red Studio, 1911.

Matisse, The Red Studio, 1911.

“With color one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft. “

Clearly, I love color-field painting. This iconic Matisse painting was already there back in 1911. It does as beautifully as any painting I’ve ever seen what a non-realist representational painting should do: both describe the space and flatten to the front of the picture plane. This is much like Frankenthaler’s observation above, made more complex by the descriptive aspect of the subject matter.

I have always delighted in the way that the white lines, created from negative space underneath the red, are the drawing element. (The grandfather clock is brilliant!) I am now noticing for the first time that it is the perspective, I think quite accurate, that really describes the room for us.

Whites and pinks punctuating the space and a handful of curved shapes keep the eye circulating and create clusters of compositional interest.

All of this is embedded in one, flat plane of red; a red so rich you can almost breathe it in.

schieleself-portraitwithchineselanternplant1912

Egon Schiele, Self-Portrait with Chinese Lantern Plant, 1912.

“Art cannot be modern. Art is primordially eternal.”

Shapes,  stunning shapes. This painting has a complex composition that still leaves the piece feeling open, mostly due to the reduced palette. The whites and almost whites along with the Chinese Lantern snaking up behind create the most startlingly interesting element of the piece, to my eye—the small white shape sitting on top of the shoulder of the figure.

There is narrative here both in the painterly treatment of the figure and in its placement and expression. Schiele depicts himself with his signature angular shapes and dramatic cropping. The harsh texture on the face projects a view of self while the subtler texture of the black shirt brings movement to the largest single shape in the painting.  One is pretty and the other is not.

The head is cocked and the gaze quizzical but challenging.

Knowing that Schiele died at the age 28 of the flu, and viewing this piece from my current age and perspective, I can’t help but feel that along with its pictoral brilliance, the painting projects a young man’s working-it-out doubts and hubris, all very raw.

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 Some of these emotions I remember feeling at 17 or 25, and other observations are fresh. Looking at these pieces today, I find the sensations that they provoke, familiar or new, are more exciting and moving than ever.

So it is a conversation that never ends.


Shape and Mood: 2 Paintings so Alike and so Different

In representational art, the formal aspects of a painting can contribute to a narrative or mood just as readily as the descriptive. This is a theme that I discuss often in workshops, talks, and here on my blog. I recently finished two paintings of the same locale and time of year—same day, in fact—using a very similar palette that illustrate this point well.

In fact, the difference between them really boils down to the mood that the shapes create.

In “Lingering”, below, the overall feel of the piece is warm and welcoming, despite the weather depicted being overcast. Putting ourselves in the scene, the misty/drizzly day creates a sheen and depth to colors in the marshes and a sense of intimacy—privacy, almost— within the landscape. On these sorts of days there are fewer people about; the air is thick and embracing; vistas tend to be limited. There is a boundary of trees at the horizon, enclosing the space.

"Lingering", 10"x10".

“Lingering”, 10″x10″.

On the formal side, the eye is led into the piece by the wide open shape of the tidal pool at the bottom left, and then is invited to move around by the directionality of soft edges and dispersed accumulations of detail. Variations of color within the areas of orange marsh grasses encourage the eye to linger. Sky and water are a mauve, relating to the coolest of the reds in the marsh.

I would describe “Lingering” as warm; friendly; intimate. And descriptive, for sure.

In the second piece, the color is the same but the feel is much bolder. Now we have a highly structured piece with assertive directionality. The eye is swept into the image by the strong zig-zag created by the edges of the marsh and moves back to a open area with minimal detail along the horizon. The detail that does exist is necessary to balance the composition, keeping the eye moving within the painting rather than being swept off to the right by the strong edges of the tidal creek.

"Edge of Discovery", 18"x24".

“Edge of Discovery”, 18″x24″.

The description of  “Edge of Discovery” could include abstract; expansive; dynamic. Movement within structure.

As I was working on these pieces–about a month apart—I decided independently with each that the image needed some interest in the marsh as it went back in space. To create this, I added the back tidal pools in both cases, and then the evolving paintings clicked into place.

Even here, with a similar solution to a common problem, the feel of these pools is quite different. In “Lingering” there is quite a bit of detail to the two glimpses of white, while in “Edge of Discovery”  the bit of water is minimal, austere (and right in the middle!), jibing with the overall reductive composition.

So, when we talk about mood in a landscape painting, we are discussing two things. One is the mood of the moment captured—how would it feel like to be there? The other is the feeling that the lines, shapes, and surface of the painting create for the viewer.

Color relates to both. It reflects the seasons; light; locale; and time of day of the views that we see around us. It also is inherently linked to mood and personal preference.

Kandinsky in his 1910 “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” posits that abstract elements have emotive power in their own right. In comparing these two paintings, it becomes clear how the shapes with their edges and directionality and the overall composition that they create impact the mood projected.

Unlike with color, many people are not consciously aware that these particular formal aspects are actively contributing to their experience of a representational painting. It is up to the artist to be adept at exploring the endless possibilities of these pictoral tools as the painting is being shaped, narrowing the gap between a good painting and an excellent one and finding variation in feel from piece to piece.


Paintings at Terrapin Restaurant/ Albert Shahinian Fine Art

I recently had an invitation to place my work in the newly renovated space of Terrapin Restaurant in Rhinebeck, NY. The designer, also a collector of mine, thought that my work work be perfect to bring views of the Hudson Valley into the restaurant, long known for its locally sourced food.

Immediately looping my gallery—Albert Shahinian Fine Art, located just a few blocks away—  into the process, we came up with solutions to some of my concerns. Lighting, in restaurants, is always a big one, as well as how to make clear to diners the names of the artist and gallery; that the work is available for purchase; and that a price list is available, without overly obtrusive wall cards and signage.

At chef Josh’s suggestion, we settled on using mostly farm field and meadow imagery.

Sweeping Greens/Jostling Trees, 28"x68", $7,500.

Sweeping Greens/Jostling Trees, the largest piece at 28″x68″.

Fast forward several weeks and the designer, JT, and Albert and I arrived for the installation. Dodging the still working painters; metal fabricators; and workers with a lift to do the lights in this vaulted space, we commenced hanging on the walls that we could, and Albert finished the job through the course of that week.

The fellows with the lift installing new lighting.

The fellows with the lift installing new lighting. First two paintings up in background!

 

Albert, genius curator and installer, hanging the third to go up.

Albert, genius curator and installer, hanging the third piece to go up.

 

After all was said and done, the space looks like this:

 

A view toward the entry.

A view toward the entry.

 

This view captures a little bit of the sense of space and light, with "Similar Figures".

This view captures a little bit of the sense of space and light, with “Similar Figures”.

Before the launch party, Abbe Aronson, PR person for the event, asked for comments from us and composed this:

 

 

ESTEEMED HUDSON VALLEY RESTAURANT TO UNVEIL NEW DINING ROOM 
IN COLLAB WITH LOCAL DESIGNER, ARTISANS
“FIRST LOOK, FIRST TASTE” PARTY SET FOR MAY 5TH

MODERN UPDATE OF “FARM TO TABLE MEETS BARN TO TABLE”

RHINEBECK, NY – After drawing gasps of appreciation for food, décor and setting for 15 years in its current location in the historic circa 1825 “First Baptist Church,” award-winning Terrapin restaurant is undergoing a stunning renovation in its main dining room, to be unveiled on Thursday, May 5th at a “First Look, First Taste” cocktail party.

“First Look, First Taste” celebrates not only the redesigned space but also the new spring menus in both the dining room and adjacent Bistro. The party takes place from 6-8 p.m. by invitation only, after which the dining room opens for reservations. As always, emphasis on organic, local cuisine shines at Terrapin, but now will be presented in a chic new setting that, while refreshed, still evokes key sensibilities of the Hudson Valley.

“It was time for a change,” said Chef Josh Kroner  who said long-time restaurant patrons as well as new guests were defaulting more and more to Bistro, not because they necessarily preferred the casual menu there but because the dining room had become known as ‘formal’ – “and that’s not the way I intend for people to eat at Terrapin.”

Enter JT McKay of bluecashew Design, an offshoot of neighboring bluecashew Kitchen Pharmacy and longtime friend of Kroner’s. “Josh was ‘farm to table’ before farm to table became a marketing term. That sort of food wasn’t a gimmick for him. So when we began to discuss the dining room redesign, we decided to give a proverbial ‘nod’ to this world.”

McKay continued, “There’s a real sense of bringing the outside inside with the new look here. We’re focusing on modern earth tones in the palette and using furnishings and design elements that evoke history and substance, so the two-inch thick red and white oak tables, which are old barn wood with contemporary finishes, are more than just reclaimed materials – they have real presence. Their age and history inform the energy of the entire room.”

Sweeping Greens", the largest piece at

Kroner added with a laugh, “I’ve wanted to collaborate with JT for years. The first time he came to my house, he rearranged all of the furniture and the lighting, so I know he was dying to get his hands on this place!”

Nearly all the key elements in the redesigned Terrapin dining room are new, including the lighting scheme, carpeting, place settings, metal railings and chairs, much of which are sourced locally and some of which are available for purchase through bluecashew  Wabi Sabi Wood (WSW), based here in Rhinebeck, was tapped to create the dining tables, the true anchor of the room now that the restaurant is abandoning tablecloths in lieu of a more updated look. Company co-owner Patrick Neri explained that in this project, Terrapin and WSW “have focused on bringing the highest quality ingredients into the hands of skilled craftsmen. WSW uses wood reclaimed from the hand-hewn beams of 18th century barns.  These beams once stood as trees in the Hudson Valley’s long forgotten old growth forests. The material represents some of the finest wood that ever grew from American soil. With these ingredients we built tables to be the foundation on which the craftsmanship of Terrapin will be displayed. Beneath every dinner plate lays a stunning display of hundreds of years etched in wood grain and patina. This truly will be ‘farm to table meets barn to table.’”

Paintings from Hudson Valley artist Christie Scheele will grace the new walls, curated and installed by Albert Shahinian  he of the eponymously named fine art gallery also located in the village of Rhinebeck. Says Scheele, “The single most distinctive aspect to what I do as a landscape painter lies in my ability to reduce a scene to its essentials.  This gives the viewer what is important, without the distraction, or visual clutter, of too much detail. Both by providing this overview and by using soft ‘scumbled’ edges, my paintings can quiet a viewer’s mind and evoke a direct response.”

She continued, “My work is, above all, about creating space—within the image of the painting, most often a wide-open vista—but also emotional and mental space for the viewer. The large, open space of the restaurant and the new color scheme in soft cream and a deep, slightly grayed green are perfect for my work. The elegance of the off-black metalwork that accents the room, with its strong, clean lines, also meshes beautifully with my strong, albeit soft-edged, shapes and sweeping contours.”

Moving Sky, 30"x36".

Moving Sky, 30″x36″.

Shahinian said working with Kroner and Terrapin was a very natural and important collaboration for the neighboring businesses. “Many of our gallery visitors ask us about dining in the village. For years we’ve suggested Terrapin as one of the top places to dine. It seems logical that part of a Terrapin ‘experience’ could suggest a visit to the gallery! There is synergy between such diverse businesses:  we both present high standards of quality, presentation, respect for our product and clientele, and offer high value for our visitors. One could say, ‘It takes a village to support a village!’”

With friends at the launch party.

With friends at the launch party.

Rhinebeck is a great town for a day trip, which could include a glorious stroll to the Hudson at Poet’s Walk; a visit to Albert Shahinian Fine Art; and dinner at Terrapin, where my work will be up for at least the next six months. Hope you make it!

 


Approaches to Abstracting a Landscape Painting

The specifics of how to create a less literal landscape painting seem to be a constant topic of discussion with my students, especially those who don’t come from an art-school background where the artist spends formative years in the mix, constantly exploring or discussing different ways of making art.

I have previously written about the toggle between formal concerns and storytelling in representational work in the following post:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/narrative-and-abstraction-in-representational-painting/

And about pure abstraction in this post discussing the shows of Ellsworth Kelly, Jenny Nelson, and Melinda Stickney-Gibson:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/three-abstract-artists-ellsworth-kelly-jenny-nelson-and-melinda-stickney-gibson/

Stepping further into how to break down this discussion, I see that most non-realist landscape painters are combining several ways of achieving this, and that the methods fall broadly into the two categories of what you choose to paint (and leave out) and how you choose to paint it.

In the image selection arena, the artist can either choose a view that had reduced detail for an open, minimalist landscape, or a macro view that has a prominent pattern —-for example, a rock cliff , sundappled water, or a glen of tree trunks.

The tools that the artist then employs in the painting process to emphasize abstraction can include simplifying, flattening, or distorting the shapes: reducing the amount of elements included; changing naturalistic color to non-literal choices; and/or unifying the surface with brushstroke or other technique to create overall  texture or pattern.

I have selected pieces from a number of contemporary artists who explore this terrain, many of whom I know or am friends with. In most cases artists are combining several of the approaches mentioned above, using pictoral tools that we, in this generation, have been fortunate enough to inherit and absorb from centuries of painting. The contemporary landscape painter then draws from the smorgasbord that art history provides and, putting it all in a sort of personal artistic blender, comes forth (usually over time) with their own version of the abstracted landscape.

Because the combinations are personal and often subtle, I have chosen to discuss each painting on its own merits rather than sift them into the categories introduced above.

I should add that I love gestural and color field abstract painting and generally am not so interested in realist landscape work. But having long ago chosen for myself a stylistic swath that lands somewhere in the middle, I find these explorations to be endlessly exciting, both in my own studio and in the work of other artists.

 

Stuart Shils, Fields near Ballycastle I,

Stuart Shils, Fields near Ballycastle I, 6.5″x7″.

I couldn’t resist selecting this piece of Stuart Shils, as I have also painted this dramatic locale in Western Ireland. It is just clear enough that in foreground we have farm fields, but the second shape is so peculiar that the mind could read it as abstract. So, by choosing to paint this bit of cliff that wends its way out into the Atlantic in a long curve, the artist has chosen subject matter that lends itself to abstraction and has also painted it in a broad, loose, and painterly way, emphasizing the color field aspect of the shapes within.

 

Deborah Munson, "Sparkle Square", pastel on paper.

Deborah Quinn-Munson, “Sparkle Square”, 12″x12″, pastel on paper.

Deborah has selected as her subject matter in this painting broad areas —and only two–that lend themselves to a patterned surface. It is key to the painterly beauty of “Sparkle Square” that the flecks of reflected light are varied in placement and shape, as are the shallow waves and subtly shifting color. Mystery is created by the dark shape of the shore. This is an example of the artist both selecting an image that is abstract in its simplicity and rhythm, and enhancing those aspects in the surface treatment.

 

Hannah Bureau, "Windham", 30"x30".

Hannah Bureau, “Windham”, 30″x30″.

Hannah, who also paints pure abstraction, selects material for her landscapes that has a feel that suits her sense of shape—squared off rhythmic forms that repeat within simple divisions of sky and land. In “Windham” I love the way the sky is so different from the ground—the sky like a Rothko and the ground a de Stael. At the same time, the mind reads them perfectly as an ethereal sky and cultivated sweep of land.

 

Eric Aho, "Ice Field",

Eric Aho, “Ice Field”, 80″x100″.

In Eric Aho’s ice series, the view is more pulled in than expansive, creating opportunity for very strong compositions that play with the formal elements of shape and line within a reduced color composition. The black shapes have depth when the eye reads them as descriptive—cracks in the ice leading to water below—but also emphasize the directionality of the fractured shapes as they point toward each other and the center of the piece. My eye delights in the play of shapes with this piece every bit as much as it does with a completely abstract painting.

 

"Blue Tidal Pool", 20"x24".

Christie Scheele, “Blue Tidal Pool”, 20″x24″.

As I have long influenced by the mid-century generation of American color field painters, this piece of mine reads as near abstraction, sitting on top of the picture plane almost before it reads as landscape. My selection of tidal flats as subject matter—already so stark and minimalist—is the starting point, enhanced by flattened shapes with subtle variations in color but no descriptive textural detail. The strong horizon evokes a vista, but turn this piece on its side and you have an abstract painting.

 

 

Wolf Kahn, "Orange Radiance",

Wolf Kahn, “Orange Radiance”,

Brighter-than-literal color is not of itself abstract, but combined with the simple fields of color that Wolf Kahn is known for creates a painting that sits right up on the surface plane. In addition to his famous barns, Wolf has also worked extensively with the repeated motif of tree trunks moving across the canvas, creating the patterned effect discussed above. In some paintings this is a more regular and more pronounced repetition, but I particularly liked the color in this piece and the way that the folliage is treated as diffuse scrubs of color. Look carefully, though, and you can see that as soft-edged as these shapes are, they are very particular, varied, and elegant.

 

 

 

Arnold Levine,

Arnold Levine, “Waves at Jenner”, 16″x20″.

“Waves at Jenner” uses brush stroke to create both an energetic expressive field and at the same time capture the feel of big surf crashing on rock, all of this using low-key, tonalist color. To my eye, the mind reads the scene perfectly for what/where it is, but the white strokes are actually more abstract than descriptive, sitting up on the surface of the picture plane. Arnold works in both abstraction and landscape painting, and this piece falls beautifully somewhere close to the middle of that spectrum…but rather closer to abstraction.

 

Heather Bruce, Sea #3, 14"x16".

Heather Bruce, Sea #3, 14″x16″.

Heather very much starts with the first strategy, reducing the content not only by choosing the simplest sea and sky imagery but also by eliminating detail within that. The subject is just recognizable, mostly because of the horizon and the gleams of light in the sky. The color is dense and murky–and also gorgeous—evoking one of those heavy weather days, but even more so a color field painting that sits on top of the scumbled and blended surface.

 

Jeorg Dressler, "Outlook

Jeorg Dressler, “Outlook XVI”, 18″x36″.

In “Outlook XVI”, as in other work by this artist, the soft blend is a wet-into-wet technique starting with a little more detail than many of the pieces discussed here. The surface is so heavily blended, however, that the subject matter takes a back seat and the viewer’s attention is brought to the movement that Jeorg made to achieve this effect. The result, in a descriptive sense, feels both like moving weather and as if we are witnessing the scene from a moving vehicle. As a whole, the technique crates both dreamy narrative and energetic abstraction.

 

Steve Dininno, "Boardwalk,

Steve Dininno, “Boardwalk, 7″x9”.

This monoprint of Steve Dininno’s is a study in monochromatic color and and reduced detail. To abstract an urban view—a scene that is inherently busy—certain light/weather phenomena are generally employed. In this case the image is being swallowed in fog, allowing the graphic elements to swim out of its implied depth even as the lines of perspective lead the eye forward into the scene. That there is so much interest in “Boardwalk” while at the same time so much empty space is a clear demonstration of the power of the less-is-more phenomenon, when skillfully done.

 

Donald Elder, "Untitled Landscape #0154, 12"x16".

Donald Elder, “Untitled Landscape #0154, 12″x16”.

These trees and, I presume, a light pole, are about as un-fussy as they could be. They, and the blended and scumbled surface relate to the Wolf Kahn piece. However, the eye here is funneled back in space, much like in the Steve Dininno above, and the analogous color composition is quietly moody. The foreground blacks help anchor the piece, creating contrast within the otherwise low-light scene. This piece balances beautifully between capturing the mood of a moment and place and pure, delicious painting.

 

Kate McGoughlin,

Kate McGoughlin, “Winter Sky Ashokan”, 8″x8″.

In this piece Kate uses surface texture to work the sky into a color field that is only just recognizable as a cloud bank. The shape of the shore is simplified, color exaggerated, though she did create a juicy reflection–so much a part of the land-into-water visual experience. The water is quieter than the sky, as is often the case. The white line that was scratched into the pigment on the left is a lovely graphic element that is entirely non-literal. Examining the elements, there is clear back and forth between those that are more descriptive of the scene and those that are more abstract.

 

Thomas Sarrantonio, "Transition",

Thomas Sarrantonio, “Transition”, 50″x60″.

Thomas is doing several painterly things in this piece that move it away from realism. There is clear patterning and brush stroke both in the field and the sky above that break up the surface into rhythmic abstraction. Combined with the soft band of fog in the middle distance,  this creates a duo perception of paint sitting on top of the picture plane and a recognizable field/sky with atmospheric perspective. The relative symmetry of this image also illustrates the point that when a painter reduces the number of elements, those that remain hold an enhanced interest.

 

Staats Fasoldt,

Staats Fasoldt, “Fair Street”, 11″x14″.

Staats is a master at relating shapes and creating light. Similar to my aesthetic, the number of shapes tend to be reduced and surface of them flattened, but the outlines of the shapes themselves have a good deal of subtle variation. In this piece, the paint handling within the shapes is also beautifully varied, the strip of light in a way that describes light itself and the shapes within the buildings in a more abstract manner. The blur on the left encroaching on the foreground building also seems to be more about the movement of the watercolor than about any recognizable visual phenomenon.

On the whole, what makes these all good paintings is that they are successful in capturing both the feel of the scene depicted and the surface, compositional, and color interest of pure painting, allowing the viewer to delight in both aspects. As for all painting, drawing ability is essential, since the artist needs the hand to do what the eye requires; creating dynamic compositions made of compelling—and usually highly edited— shapes, palettes, and surface.

Occasionally, there is an element that is barely or not quite recognizable…but interesting or gorgeous. My comment to my students when this emerges in their work is “I don’t know what that is…but I really like it so I don’t care”.  This observation would apply to the irregular light shape on the right in the Fasoldt piece and the field in the Sarrantonio. In many of the other pieces, there is an element or shape that we think is probably this or that…but we are not sure: the cliff in the Shils; the dark shore in the Munson; the orange band in the Kahn—field or hill?; the tidal pool in my piece; the light pole in the Elder, and so on. These mysteries serve to create complex interest as the mind works to accept the mixed metaphor that they provide.

 


 

I would like to mention the galleries that I share with many of these artists: Julie Haller Gallery in Provincetown, MA; Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck, NY; Gold Gallery in Boston’s South End; and Edgewater Gallery in Middlebury VT–check them out to see additional work!

 

 


Available Work/Studio/Oil on linen and board

This post, designed primarily for the galleries and consultants that I work with,  serves as a data-base for oil-on-linen paintings that are currently in my studio. As work sells or is consigned I will remove it, and new or returned work will be added.

My website– created by Stephanie Blackman Design—was beautifully designed as a calling card. Since I create/sell/move work around frequently, it was never my plan to keep it current at all times. With this data-base I will have a comprehensive selection for you all to peruse and can reduce the number of emails that I send showing dealers my currently available work, as those become outdated quickly also.

HorizonwithRisingClouds30x60

Horizon with Rising Clouds, 30″x60″, $7,500.

________

BlueMountain

Blue Mountain, 12″x12″, $.1,300

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Commanding Angles, 12″x24″, $2,200.

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Sunset Reflected, 12″x36″., $2,800

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Approach at Day’s End, 12″x36″, $2,800.

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Boats @ Rest, 12″X36″, $2,800.

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Often I am expecting some work back imminently or have a painting on the easel that is almost finished, so please feel free to inquire if you have a particular need: scheeleart@gmail.com.

For works on paper (pastel; oil on paper; mixed media/collage; monotype) consult this blog post: https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/available-workstudioworks-on-paper/

ThingsPastEsopusValley

Things Past/Esopus Valley, 30″x30″, $4,000.

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Things Past/Hunter Mountain, 30″x30″, $4,000.

________

MountainRoad

Mountain Mists, 24″x24″, $3,200.

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WarmFields

Winter Brilliance, 30″x40″, $5,000.

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ShorelinewithBLues30x40

Shoreline with Blues, 30″x40″, $5,000

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Tree with Mists, 18″x48″, $4,600.

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Interwoven Stories, 30″x60″, $7,500.

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Layered Reds, 30″x40″, $5,000.

Additional work can be found at my galleries: Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck, NY; Gallery Jupiter in Little Silver, NJ; Louisa Gould Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard, MA; Butters Gallery in Portland, OR; Thomas Henry Gallery on Nantucket, MA; and Thompson-Giroux Gallery in Chatham, NY.

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Moving Sky, 24″x48″, $5,000.

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Sunset in 5, five panels of 8″x8″/ea., $3,400.

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Summer Mists, 40″x40″, $6,500.

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Turquoise Light, 30″x40″, $5,000.

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Contrasting Sunset, 18″x52″, $4,800.

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Downriver, 24″x24″, $3,200.

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Affinity/Flatland's Drive, 18"x18", $2,000.

Affinity/Flatland’s Drive, 18″x18″, $1,800.

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Embracing Pink, oil on board, 3 panels of 8″x8″/8″x10″/8″x8″, $1,800.

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Marsh at Dusk, 14"x16",

Marsh at Dusk, 14″x16″, $1,500.

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Affinity/Return at Dusk, 12"x24".

Affinity/Return at Dusk, 12″x24″, $2,000.

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Light into Dark, 12″X24″, $2,000.

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Layered Clouds, 20″x16″, $2,000.

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“Smokey Sky”, oil on a vintage slate.13.5×9,5, $1,000.

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Affinity/Dual Twister, 10"x10", $900.

Affinity/Dual Twister, 10″x10″, $900.

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GleamingSkyoverProvincetown

Gleaming Sky over Provincetown 11″x14″, $1,300.

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River Gleam, 12″X20″, $1,600.

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Small Studies in Oil on Primed Paper

I began using small oil-on-primed-paper studies as a teaching tool in my September 2013 workshop at the Provincetown Artists Association and Museum.

At work on one of the studies for

At work on one of the studies for “Blue Above”. (Photo courtesy of Carol Duke.)

As you can see above and below, I did several versions of the same image, moving elements around, encouraging my students to do the same.

Version

Simple version, tidal pool coming off the bottom and corner of the picture plane.

It is not just a question of what is included and what is left out–though that is always a major consideration in my work (see https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/contoursdistillations-a-solo-show/   for more on that conversation). Even in this very reductive composition, there are many variables. What, exactly, is the shape of the tidal pool cutting toward us, and where does it leave the picture plane, both on the left and on the right? How high or low is the horizon line? Cool greens, warm greens, or both? Back shore more compressed and lighter, making it seem further away, or larger and darker, bringing it forward?

Version with suggestion of houses in back land form.

Version #2 with suggestion of houses in back land form, and Long Point lighthouse on the right.  Tidal pool moves off the right side. (Sold)

I decided to go very white with the sky in the large piece, since I love the shore phenomenon of bright blue sky overhead and white at the horizon, which is due to the many miles of atmosphere, denser close to earth, that we are looking through.

Blue Above, 12

Blue Above, 12″x36″ , currently at the Julie Heller Gallery, Provincetown, MA.

None of these versions is any better or worse than the other—they are just different. The choices that I made for the larger oil were largely mood-driven. For example, I opted to emphasize the simplicity of the major shapes by omitting the lighthouse and bits of detail on the back shore. Including them would have made it a more descriptive piece, which I do from time to time. But at heart I am a minimalist, enjoying the open feel that these compositions bring.

First set of small

First set of small studies. (Mostly sold; two are currently at Edgewater Gallery, Middlebury VT.)

I soon saw that the studies function nicely as small paintings in their own right if I finish them the same way I do a larger piece. They look great framed with a mat and under glass, though I have also exhibited and sold a number of them mounted on board, sealed to be airtight, and presented without glass, such as the below.  I did a grouping, example below, for a small works show without any intention to do them larger—some of them are images I already had done as pastels or larger oils. Switching it up!

Tidal Flats at Dusk, 6

Tidal Flats at Dusk, 6″x6″, sold by Thompson Giroux Gallery. (Sold)

 

Study/Triptych in Reds

Study/Triptych in Reds, 3 panels of 5″x5″/ea., private collection.

I decided to leave out the soft water-shape in the larger version, mostly because I knew that I was going to frame each panel separately and I felt that the simpler field dividers would work best, carrying the horizontal sweep of the composition through the strong verticals of the frames and the wall space between.

Triptych in Reds

Triptych in Reds, 3 panels of 24″x24″, currently at Gold Gallery, Boston.

 

 When I do these studies, I don’t do them to copy them later in a big piece, but rather to familiarize myself with some of the elements. I have my students do several of the same image, and until they do they really don’t get the concept. It isn’t to come up with the perfect study to be copied, but to move things around and look at the results to see what sections work best, comparing all of the studies. Having done that, choices will still need to evolve organically with a larger piece–and just the size difference can really influence this process— but you now have the advantage of  having posed key questions to yourself.
Study/Intervening Bay

Study/Intervening Bay, 7″x7″, private collection.

In this recent piece I moved the front tidal pool a bit over toward center in the larger piece and had more room to play with the blues. It became clear that in the 24″x24″ version I needed to clearly differentiate between the three groupings of marsh grasses to indicate far, middle, and close proximity, using color to establish distance. Why? It just didn’t look right to have them all on the same plane in this particular image. This, though, is something that in another painting I might love—allowing all of the shapes to sit right on top of the picture plane, functioning as a color field painting.

Intervening Bay, 24″x24″, private collection.

The study and the large version each ended up where they needed to, and different from each other in subtle ways.
Study/Open Road #1, 4.5

Study/Open Road #1, 4.5″x14″. (Sold)

These two are quite similar, the main difference being the enhanced distance in the road that I created with the larger piece.

Open Road, 20

Open Road, 20″x60″, available at Gallery 901, Santa Fe, NM.

 

Sometimes after both—or all of—the pieces are finished there are things that I prefer about the study. In the following two, it is the differences in size and materials themselves that create a somewhat divergent feel.

Study/Sunset Sea, 5″x5″ (at Thompson Giroux Gallery).
One element to be considered is that the texture of the paper is more assertive in a small piece, and often a bit more matte, even though my linen also has tooth and the paint is applied to the same dark, absorbent ground. Here I feel that the study is more painterly and the oil-on-linen more photographic.

Yellow Band, 36″x36″ (at Julie Heller Gallery).
With the following pair, the study is simpler and more illustrative than the larger piece that came after.
Study/Skyline

Study/Skyline, 7″x7″,  (at Thompson Giroux Gallery).

In the larger size I needed to add more buildings, and I opted to make it more atmospheric. It turned out to be very useful to have established the front detail in the small piece, since I wasn’t at all sure how it was going to work out or even if I wanted to include it. I liked it well enough in the study to follow my own lead in the larger oil.

Skyline with Lifting Rain

Skyline with Lifting Rain, 20″x20″ (sold by Edgewater Gallery).

Here are some pieces from my current collection of studies that I haven’t yet done large. I will do this with some, and others will remain in small format only.
What I choose to paint next is driven by a complex set of considerations, partly mood-driven and partly tending to the needs of my galleries. Yet sometimes I love to not over-think it, changing direction at the spur of the moment. Any of these could be explored in large canvas at any time, and/or my next large piece might be of an image that I did not approach first in small format.
Study/Mountain Contours

Study/Mountain Contours, 4.5″x14″, currently at Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck, NY.

 

Study/View from Little Mountain, 6

Study/View from Little Mountain, 6″x8″, currently at Edgewater Gallery, Middlebury VT.

Study/Lake Mists, 5

Study/Lake Mists, 5″x5″ (currently at the Tenderland Home, Phoenicia, NY).

 

Study?Gleam over Tidal Flats,

Study/Gleam over Tidal Flats, 6″X10″. (Sold.)

 

Study/Green Valley

Study/Green Valley, 6″x10″.

 

Study/Late Summer Light, 5"x7.5".

Study/Late Summer Light, 5″x7.5″.

 

Study/Meadowlands with Mists.

Study/Meadowlands with Mists, 3.5″x10.5″. (Sold.)

I was so enjoying the color on the above that I decided to do a version without the industrial detail in the back landform.

Study/Fall Marsh Mists, 4

Study/Fall Marsh Mists, 4″X8″. (Sold)

And then I wanted to simplify even more and use the soft lavender with greens instead.

Soft Summer Light, 4"x8".

Soft Summer Light, 4″x8″.

Additional pieces (updated since the publication of this post):

 

Study?Yellow Bush, 4"x14.5", Edgewater Gallery.

Study/Yellow Bush, 4″x14.5″ (at the Tenderland Home).

 

Study/Waterspouts, 6"x9".

Study/Waterspouts, 6″x9″ (at Julie Heller Gallery.

 

Study/It Looks Like Rain, 6"x9".

Study/It Looks Like Rain, 6″x9″.

 

Study/Summer Marsh, 5"x12".

Study/Summer Marsh, 5″x12″ .

 

Study/ClusteredCLouds, 5"x12".

Study/ClusteredClouds, 5″x12″. (Sold.)

 

Study/White Fields, 5"x11".

Study/White Fields, 5″x11″ (Sold).

 

Study/Grey Dawn, 5"x7".

Study/Grey Dawn, 5″x7″.

 

Study/Winter Warmth, 7"x7".

Study/Winter Warmth, 7″x7″ (sold).

 

Study/Se.rene Winter, 5"x11"

Study/Serene Winter, 5″x11″ .

 

Study?Reservoir from Little Mountain, 4"x12".

Study/Reservoir from Little Mountain, 4″x12″ (sold).

 

Study/Green Fields, 5"x13".

Study/Green Fields, 5″x13″.

 

Study/Glowing Sky over Fall Marsh, 6"x8".

Study/Glowing Sky over Fall Marsh, 6″x8″ (at Tenderland Home).

 

The study below illustrates another use for the small format, as it was a a study for a commissioned painting (something that I have always done in a small pastel or oil to iron out the imagery that has been chosen by the collector):

 

Study/Resting Clouds, 4"x14".

Study/Resting Clouds, 4.5″x12″ (sold).

 

Lifting Clouds, 18"x42".

Lifting Clouds, 18″x42″, (private collection).

 

You may have noticed that some of the oil-on-paper pieces have a deckled edge and some have a clean edge. This does not translate with the large oil-on-linen work, but instead is something that I’ve been playing with in my pastels for a number of years. Some images have shapes within that relate to the uneven edge, and others have a more linear sweep to the composition. Those that have the deckled edge are framed showing it, and the others have the mat coming right up to the edge of the image.

I never like to over-plan. But even though I got along just fine without these studies for years and years, I have to say that for myself and for my students, they can have a liberating effect. Once you have internalized some aspects of what you are doing, it is much easier to proceed with confidence and an exploratory attitude.

“Contours/Distillations”: a Solo Show

“Contour/Distillations” has been extended to October 11th.

contours:distillations

We are tremendously drawn by stuff. The content of our lives—acquiring possessions; taking care of or replacing said possessions; packed schedules; busy brains—loudly demands attention. What we need the most for balance is intervals of the absence of our stuff, and yet it is hard to reset and choose openness over content.

“Blue Tidal Pool”, 20″x24″.

Creating space in my life is an ongoing project, and has long drawn me both to spend a great deal of time outdoors and to paint my landscapes in an open and minimalist manner. This approach quiets the mind, evoking a direct response. Abstract elements can elicit deep, complex feelings, (a theme beautifully explored in Vassily Kandinsky’s 1910 “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”) and larger, flatter shapes with soft edges awaken the wide-open feeling of being outdoors in our atmospheric world.

Tree/Mist, 18

Tree/Mist, 18″X48″.

Delving further into the less-is-more discussion, I think that less is different. If there are many details to look at in a painting they tend to compete for attention, creating an experience that remains purely visual or intellectual without going deeper. With fewer elements and more open space, both the emotional and formal content have enormous impact, often visceral. At the same time, what is there has to hold up under analysis, as there is no hiding.

Layered Clouds, 20

Layered Clouds, 20″X16″.

My process in the studio is comprised of long swaths of time in which I am intensely focused and living within the emerging painting, punctuated by intervals of scrutiny and analysis during which I observe the elements with as much distance as possible. This rigor is, ultimately, what allows the viewer to sink into the piece—-many small just-so decisions to create a seamless whole.

Diagonal Flux, 36

Diagonal Flux, 36″X36″.

The landscape inevitably holds powerful associations, so painting it becomes a back-and-forth between exploring the narrative and focusing on the formal elements of shape, composition, surface, color, and edge. In this body of work, drawn from the past several years, I am presenting the most open, color-field aspect of my work. Viewers can bring their own memories to these paintings, as mine are only suggested, or simply experience them as a conduit for feeling.

“Affinity/Dusk Road”, 30″x30″.

Both the above and below are from my Affinity Series. These pieces start with fraying the edges of raw linen; gluing it down to the board; priming with dark primer, and gridding the whole thing with graphite. Then I do the actual painting, and when it dries some selective regridding. The series evolved from the desire to manipulate my support in a way that moves my other choices in a more abstract direction, and brings attention to the surface.

“Affinity/Black Trees”, 30″x30″. (Sold)

Sometimes, as in the new postcard piece, “Tender Reds”, there are more shapes included. I see this as being a rhythmic approach—repetition of similar shapes moving across the surface of the painting.

“Tender Reds”, 32″x70″.

This piece is less minimalist, but just as abstract. The reduced palette with a white sky allows it to hover between a dreamy in-the-moment being there and an on-the-surface color-field painting.

If one were to consider this as a totally abstract piece, the exercise would be to turn it sideways, or upside down. Compositionally, upside down would work very well, but not sideways—too strong of a horizon line, now going vertical. This would be true of every painting I do—abstracted, but not abstract, and usually with a clear horizon line as an anchor.

“White Trail” has a number of horizons, but the strong line in this piece moves on a skipping, slightly diagonal vertical, emphasizing the format. This piece, too, has a sense of rhythmic repetition of forms.

“White Trail”, 40″x30″.

I have been exploring for this show how a large composition can be successful in small format with these oil-on-paper pieces.

“Study/Gleam over Tidal Flats”, 6″x10″.

“Study/Mountain
Contours”, 4″x14″.

“Study/Sunset Sea”, 5″x5″, oil on primed paper.

Quiet, tonal color is most often my choice, as it tends to sit back, creating emotional space and allowing for introspection.

“Autumn Bay Mists”, 18″x52″.

But every so often I like to move to stronger color to intensify the timbre of the experience. Whites work well—like a thirst-quenching drink of water— when paired with strong, saturated color.

“Sunset Reflected”, 12″x36″.

Most of my pieces have quite a bit of contrast, moving from an atmospheric white or off-white (often tinged with a bit of Mars Violet) to a true black. I find, though, that low-contrast pieces can be intensely riveting in a different way, kind of like a full-throated, low hum. “Evening Shoreline”, below, is an example of this.

Evening Shoreline, 12

Evening Shoreline, 12″X12″.

“Continuing Progression” is really a study in monochromes. The detail of the row of trees on the right, seemingly very subtle, actually pops more because of the reduced palette.

Continuing Progression, 24

Continuing Progression, 24″x48″. (sold)

The body of work presented represents the core of my thinking, my base of operations. Albert Shahinian Fine Art, my gallery of longest standing, is the perfect venue for this theme-based exhibition, having shown, over the years, every possible exploration that I have launched from this base.

I hope you can join us for the reception on July 25th and my talk on August 2nd to see all 40 pieces and hear more about landscape, form and mood.

Link to a short but sweet article on the show by Paul Smart in the Almanac:

New paintings by Christie Scheele on view in Rhinebeck

The installation and reception, below:

Installation shot, wall with Affinities.

Installation shot, wall with Affinities.

With and old friend at the reception.

With my old friend Deb at the reception.

Installation shot, wall with postcard piece.

Installation shot, wall with postcard piece.

Additional work in the show:

Drifting CLouds, 20

Drifting Clouds, 20″x20″.

Approach in November, 6

Approach in November, 6″x24″.

“Lush Mists”, 12″X36″.

Hill Beyond Hill, 3 panels of

Hill Beyond Hill, 3 panels of 24″x20″.

Winter Field, 10

Winter Field, 10″x30″. (Sold)

Dawn Headlights, 12

Dawn Headlights, 12″X36″.

Cranberry Bog, 48

Cranberry Bog, 48″x24″.

Stormy Sea, 12

Stormy Sea, 12″X12″.

Glowing Mountain Mists, 20

Glowing Mountain Mists, 20″X30″. (Sold)


“Mutable/Immutable”: Solo Show at Chace-Randall Gallery

mu·ta·ble
ˈmyo͞otəbəl/
adjective

1.
liable to change.
“the mutable nature of fashion”
synonyms: changeable, variable, varying, fluctuating, shifting, inconsistent,unpredictable, inconstant, fickle, uneven, unstable, protean.
This word is by far the more important of the two, though oddly the less well understood.

im·mu·ta·ble
iˈmyo͞otəbəl/
adjective

1.
unchanging over time or unable to be changed.
“an immutable fact”
synonyms: fixed, set, rigid, inflexible, permanent, established, carved in stone.

 

Affinity/Winter Sunset, 36"x48", $6,500.

“Affinity/Winter Sunset”, 36″x48″, 2014.

 

This body of work explores themes of change and the eternal in the landscape, nature revealing the mutable and the immutable.

Fleeting moments of weather and light have long been my focus. Time of day or year and interplay with clouds; light and shadow on landforms or water; and serious weather events continue to visually intrigue and inspire, making no two scenes alike.

Beyond the always shifting moments of dramatic or calm atmospherics and the impact of humankind on the land is also,  however, the immutable. However changing, the earth has always been there for us.

Our source of nourishment in every way, our lands, rivers and seas are the visual imprint that I work from every day, every week, and every year. Attempting not to judge but rather to see, I adapt imagery that is only sometimes  classically beautiful. The paintings then become another immutable, as I have distilled that image into a moment of time, offering it to others for contemplation.

The work in the show

Choosing the piece that will go on the postcard for a solo show is always a juggle. Generally speaking, though, the artist and galleriest select a piece that is not only a stand-out painting, but also sits stylistically and thematically near the center of the body of work,  thus representing it well. We settled on “Turquoise Light”, below.

"Turquoise Light" , 30"x40", 2014.

“Turquoise Light” , 30″x40″, 2014.

Often when there is water in an image, I work the detail of waves and currents just enough so that it reads as such, preferring to let the eye skim over the water and settle on other spots in the painting.

One consideration is similar to having a field in the foreground: where is the viewer in this scene? If the water, marsh or field start basically at the viewer’s feet, there needs to be more foreground detail or vignetting than if the picture plane starts further off.

In “Turquoise Light”, we are sitting (in our boat, presumably!) right on the water, which is a major focus of the piece.  Far from encouraging the viewer past it, the water catches the eye with an array of subtle color shifts, reflections, and movement. When I paint an area with this much complexity I look at it as an abstract painting, surrendering to the process.

I also enjoyed that the sky and water are so different, even though clearly the sky is throwing light on the water.

MountainRoad:Fireflies

“Mountain Road/Fireflies”, 30″x20″, 2013. (Sold)

One of the last pieces that I finished in 2013, the vertical movement in “Mountain Road/Fireflies” plays with the implied movement of the car headlights coming towards us. These solitary scenes of rural roads evoke a common experience, often creating a sense both of looking at the car and being in it. With the vertical format and complex sky, I am drawing attention to how the mountains don’t always block the sky—they can lead our eye to it.

 

"Intervening Space", 20"X20".

“Intervening Space”, 20″X20″, 2014.

The square format of “Intervening Space” is echoed in the composition, which leads the eye back into the painting with every shape and line. There is also a back-and-forth between the painterly illusion of depth created by arial perspective that draws the eye toward the distant hills, and the feel that the composition and relatively flat shapes create of the whole painting being right up on the picture plane.

I love playing with those two ways of experiencing a painting, counterbalancing the illusion of space in a landscape with the reminder that this is also a two-dimensional, abstract object comprised of areas of color.

For more discussion of the narrative and the abstract, see my post on the topic:https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/narrative-and-abstraction-in-representational-painting/

"Mountain Sky with Mists", 24"x30".

“Mountain Sky with Mists”, 24″x30″, 2014.

An interpretation of the view from the fire tower on Overlook Mountain, “Mountain Mists with Sky” reveals the transitory and the solid. Fog is a beloved subject, shifting even faster than clouds, and mountains feel eternal even if, geologically, they are not.

 

Mists from Palmer Hill, 12"X36", 2014.

Mists from Palmer Hill, 12″X36″, 2014.

The farm fields that you see from Route #28 at the base of Palmer Hill in Andes are a favorite subject of mine, and no show at Chace-Randall is complete without some fresh version of this scene. In the interpretation above, we are in a lovely misty summer day, rain and fog just beginning to lift but still obscuring a mountain that rises behind the horizon of the fields.

 

"Interwoven Stories", 30"x60", 2014.

“Interwoven Stories”, 30″x60″, 2014.

This is a  most amazing view, looking Southeast as you summit Palmer Hill coming from Andes. I have painted it only once before, some years back, quite differently.
Fortunately, since I work from a combination of imagination, memory, and photographic reference, I could access all of these, since there are now many trees blocking a full view of the fields.
Of special interest is the way that the sky and the fields interact, creating the illusion both of motion that extends the scene beyond the canvas, and a compositional directionality that pulls the eye toward the center line of the mountains.

 

"Memory's Waters", 16"x20", Cooper Lake in summer blue/greens.

“Memory’s Waters”, 16″x20″, 2013. (Sold)

Something about the depth of the reflections in
“Memory’s Waters” brings me back to moments of contemplating water during every summer I have ever known. I was also taken with the way the sun catches on the front shore on the right and then moves back into shadow on the left in this image of Cooper Lake in Woodstock.

 

Cloud over Shoreline, 12"X12".

“Cloud over Shoreline,” 12″X12″.

A dark cloud in front of the sun over the Hudson River shoreline. These high-contrast images are both brooding and ethereal.

 

Sunlit Sandflats, 12"X12", 2014.

“Sunlit Sandflats”, 12″X12″, 2014.

While for my shows in Andes I mostly focus on our gorgeous local mountain/river/farm field imagery, I always like to include a few pieces that interpret other locales. This small piece was inspired by a photo that owner/director Zoe took from her favorite beach in Florida, and evokes for me the sandflats of mid-Cape Cod, where I spend so much time in the summer.

 

Stormy Sea, 12"X12".

Stormy Sea, 12″X12″.

The most minimalist piece in the show, and very low contrast. I love exploring this terrain.

 

"Affinity/Return at Dusk", 12"x24".

“Affinity/Return at Dusk”, 12″x24″, 2014.

We are often coming into the Roundout Creek from the Hudson at dusk after an afternoon in our small lake boat on the river. As a smaller estuary, the creek is smoother and reflects the sky stunningly (much like a tidal pool compared to the ocean), creating opportunity for the painter. A big fan of deep, dark blacks to create mystery and contrast, I love the sense of being surrounded by the shadows while moving along the softly sky-lit water.

 

Affinity:FlatlandsDrive, 18"x18".

“Affinity?Flatlands Drive”, 18″X18″.

Often with my Affinity Series I select imagery that has strong linear elements that relate to the frayed edges and overlaid gridding. This is clearly the case in “Affinity/Flatlands Drive”, the composition created by almost straight horizontal edges and two strong diagonals. If this were an abstract painting, the straight lines of the road coming off the picture plane on the lower left would be too harsh, but with the implied movement of the headlights coming toward the viewer as a narrative element, the road is instead a quirky plus.
"Affinity/Stepping Out", 8"X8". (Sold)

“Affinity/Stepping Out”, 8″X8″. (Sold)

"Affinity?Storm at Sea", 8"x8".

“Affinity?Storm at Sea”, 8″x8″.

“Affinity/Winter Sunset” (at top)  has similarly strong horizontal and diagonal shapes, with more emphasis on the interlocking wedge shapes that I love so much. (Shape preference can be as strong a personal choice as color for the painter.)

 

"Westerly Sky", 16"X20". A perfect example of the right angles and straight lines of the NYC foreground meshing with the soft diagonals of the sky.

“Westerly Sky”, 16″X20″.

I also like to include an urban landscape in my shows. “Westerly Sky” captures the view from lower Manhattan that I have painted a number of times,  along with another favorite view of the West Side Highway and Hudson River.

In abstract terms  the piece plays with the right angles and straight lines of the foreground buildings in strong silhouette interacting with the soft diagonals of the sky. The  foreground feels very stationary against the sweep of the clouds.

 

"White Light/ Red Light", 24"x24", (Courtesy Chace-Randall Gallery).

“White Light/ Red Light”, 24″x24″, 2014. (Sold by the gallery on 5/14.)

I finished this piece toward the end of a long, hard winter. And yet, I enjoyed myself immensely while painting this snowy scene, which explores how the snowstorm changes the light, both ambient and headlights/traffic lights. The way that the trees dissolve into texture in the background is unusual in my work, and echoes the treatment and shape of the manmade lights pulsing at the viewer, almost leaping off the picture plane.

 

"Soft Summer Greens", 30"X36", 2012.

“Soft Summer Greens”, 30″X36″, 2012.

“Soft Summer Greens”  captures the sunlit but desaturated color of a hazy summer day, using a complementary palette. it also, with the distant purple hills, creates a color bridge from the stronger summer greens that am using in some pieces in this show to the warmer palette of others, such as  “Sunlit Sandflats” and “White Light/Red Light”.
The landscape that we gaze at during any given moment has, in the vast majority of cases, changed repeatedly through geological and historical time.
Even during the time that I have been painting the landscape—24 years—trees have grown up to obscure a favorite view; floods and storms have changed a stream or shoreline; or a miniature golf course gets built in a gorgous field surrounded by mountains.
And yet, gazing at what lies outside of our doors brings us a sense of the eternal, allowing us access to our more grounded and connected selves.
In the end, both the mutable and the immutable in nature combine to form an experience that mesmerizes, stimulates, and soothes.

Staying Fresh

How do we do it?

I have been working exclusively with landscape imagery since 1990, and painting full time since about 2004. I like nothing better than to be in my studio working, and since I have multiple galleries that all need work, that means a good number of landscape paintings over the course of the years.

So how do I keep it fresh, avoid being bored (which would surely show up in the work), not fall into painting the same painting over and over again?

This is a big question for artists who have a market for their work. Some do just that—paint the same thing, essentially, for decades on end, though realists and plein air painters often have a great love for minute changes in subject matter and locale and keep themselves happy and entertained with these shifts. No judgement here from me–the happy or engrossed artist is the key to good work.

We have all seen artists in the blue chip realm who disappoint with a new body of work (will Susan Rothenberg ever be able to delight me as much as she did with the early horse series?) And yet, the custom of many decades now is for an artist to work serially, ideally moving gracefully and yet compelingly from one body of work to another, maybe over the course of a few years (and often marked by the solo at their major gallery, when it is assumed that that work will leave their studio and never come back, making it easy to start a fresh series). Preferably, from the market standpoint, there is some stylistic or thematic continuity from one series to the next.

I found my true niche with my minimalist mode of landscape painting back in 1990, and a few years later felt a need for opening up my explorations. I addressed it then by expanding the range of my subject matter and palette. Initially, I had avoided anything overtly dramatic, keeping to tonalist color and flat light, and the first shift brought me into a complex sky, or a brighter, blue-sky day.

(The photos in this post may be more current examples, since I have not even begun to get all of my pre-digital slides and photos scanned.)

"Rare Summer Silence", 20"x30".

“Rare Summer Silence”, 20″x30″, (courtesy Gold Gallery), an example of the sort of palette and light that has drawn me from the beginning.

Sky in Motion, 24"X20", $2,800. (GG)

“Sky in Motion”, 24″X20″ (sold by Gold Gallery), which shows the kind of complex sky that beckoned a little later on.

 As the years passed and I felt ever more firmly in the saddle of my approach, I dared take on subject matter that borders on the cliche for a landscape painter—sunsets, a beach path, fluffy white clouds, even a sailboat at rest. I enjoyed the challenge of painting these subjects while avoiding the melodramatic or sentimental, at first by aided by instinct and later with a clearer understanding—which I now teach—of how this can be achieved.

Sunset Sea in Red/Gold, 20"x60", $6,500.

“Sunset Sea in Red/Gold”, 20″x60″, (private collection).

I also played with format. The first time I did a vertical landscape I had never actually seen it done, and I found it quite daring. Later, I explored extreme verticals, as well as horizontals.

Cranberry Bog in Reds, 48"x24", 2013.

“Cranberry Bog in Reds”, 48″x24″ (courtesy Gold Gallery).

The next time I felt restless, I still thought of subject matter, now manmade elements.  I started with phone poles, and moved on to urban images, road imagery, and then grittier industrial imagery. In 2003 I had a show at Albert Shahinian Fine Art, then in Poughkeepsie, called “Manmade”.

ExhuberantStorm

“Exuberant Storm, 30″x36” (sold by Chace-Randall Gallery).

"Conviction of Beauty", 12"x

“Conviction of Beauty”, 14″x40″ (courtesy Albert Shahinian Fine Art).

Bridge Crossing in Violets

“Bridge Crossing in Violets”, 12″x12″ (courtesy Butters Gallery).

A few years later, I pondered how to get my love for the grid into my work (bearing in mind that my background is in contemporary, not traditional, art).  On first glance, it seemed that there were only a few ways to incorpoarate this with landscape imagery. But I decided to just get started doing these first ideas, and eventually it became clear that there were many ways to bring the landscape and the grid together.

River in 5, 5 panels of 10"x10"/ea.

“River in 5”, 5 panels of 10″x10″/ea., (sold by Albert Shahinian Fine Art), one image stretched over a number of panels.

"Trove",

“Trove”, 35 3″x5″ oil-on-panel paintings (private collection). In order to make these separate images hang together and not be too busy, I used at least some reds in each piece, and toward the end I painted six or seven very minimalist black-and-red images to create a sort of matrix for the brighter, more complex pieces. Also, some of the images had already been explored in larger pieces, usually in a different format, and revisiting them was a pleasure.

"Rainy Road/Fireflies", 3 panels of 12"x12"/ea. (sold)

“Rainy Road/Fireflies”, 3 panels of 12″x12″/ea. (sold by Gold Gallery), three versions of the same stretch of road and close to the same moment in time, with implied movement and a non-linear nod to film.

Somewhere around 2002, once again contemplating my next move, I began to use vintage boxes and other distressed objects as my support, selecting imagery and palette to mesh with the elements already present in the object.

Approach, oil on vintage blackboard, 11"x13.5"

“Approach”, oil on vintage blackboard, 11″x13.5″ (courtesy Chace-Randall Gallery). Elements and color in the image reflect grain, texture and color present in the frame of the blackboard.

This series sometimes requires applied problem-solving in to addition visual/aesthetic decision making, and I  enjoy the stretch of the brain.

Many of these pieces have been set in lovely old compartmentalized boxes, trays, or pans, which means that they also explore multiple-panel imagery.

"Mountain Fall in 6, 5"x18" (courtesy Albert Shahinian Fine Art).“Mountain Fall in 6, 5″x18” (courtesy Albert Shahinian Fine Art). This appears to be an old coin drawer from a cash register. At first I thought of putting small panels within the compartments, but that obscured the lovely curve at the back. Finally, I created flexible pieces of backed linen that follow the curve. I had to take them in and out a number of times while I was painting them, since being set back changed the light and therefore the color substantially.

When I was preparing to do my Cyclone Sampler, I spent a great deal of time just figuring out what I was going to paint on before nestling the tiny panels into the compartments of the box (I settled on bevel-cut 8-ply matboard—bless my framer—that I sealed front and back with multiple coats of matte medium, since I did not want to put glass over this piece). A spontaneous decision at the end, purely aesthetic, was to leave a few compartments empty, avoiding the feel of a catalogue.

Cyclone Sampler

“Cyclone Sampler”,21.5″x10.5″, (collection of the Tyler Museum of Art). Unlike the expansive feel of my single-image landscapes , this piece shows the vast energy of many twisters tightly contained within the grid.

 This series has as many possibilities as the amazing things that I come across that fire my imagination, though I often have to stare at the object for up to a year before I decide what I want to do with it.

Irrigated Fields, (sold by Albert Shahinian Fine Art).

Irrigated Fields, 4″x18″(sold by Albert Shahinian Fine Art).

My most recent addition is the Affinity Series, oil paintings on linen with frayed edges on board overlaid with graphite gridding. I don’t even remember the exact thought process that brought these into being, but it started with the idea of manipulating the support. I was enjoying both selecting and adjusting the subject matter to the individual vintage object that I was using in the pieces in that series, and was interested in creating a more specific support myself, forcing a considered mesh between it and the painted imagery.

Generally the imagery that works best with the frayed edges and gridding in the Affinity Series is either very minimalist or has strong linear elements.

Affinity/Boatyard, 10"x10", 2014, oil on linen with frayed edges on board overlaid with graphite lines.

Affinity/Boatyard, 10″x10″, 2014, oil on linen with frayed edges on board overlaid with graphite lines.

That I ended up with graphite gridding as an overlay was a circle-back to my longstanding interest in the grid, bringing the viewer’s eye to the surface of the piece and creating mixed associations. Some of the latter I hadn’t even thought of, like the historical use of gridding to aid with proportions while transferring a small image, or maquette, into the larger finished piece, an association that other artists have pointed out to me.

Affinity/On the Grid, 36"x48", (courtesy Gold Gallery).

Affinity/On the Grid, 36″x48″, (courtesy Gold Gallery). In this very recent piece I pushed the gridding quite a bit, moving to black instead of graphite and actually spending more time very selectively gridding than on the earlier painting portion.

Many pieces now are some combination of these series. For example, often the frayed linen on board of the Affinity series works well in an old box.

"Factory at Work", 7>5"x3.5" (courtesy Julie Heller Gallery).

“Factory at Work”, 7.5″x3.5″ (courtesy Julie Heller Gallery).

All the while, I have continued to paint my wide-open landscapes on linen. Doing all these other explorations makes a small new slant on a salt marsh or hillside painting feel exciting and fresh, even though I have been painting this imagery for 24 years.

"Blue Light", 20"x60", 2014.

“Blue Light”, 20″x60″, 2014.

I love expanding the repertoire, adding both new versions within a body of work that reflects longstanding interests and, every so often, a whole new series. In my week-to-week, month-to-month, I juggle these series simultaneously, rather than consecutively, keeping myself riveted to what is developing in my studio.

The constant is the landscape.

"White Light/ Red Light", 24"x24", (Courtesy Chace-Randall Gallery).

“White Light/ Red Light”, 24″x24″, (Courtesy Chace-Randall Gallery). Sneak peak at a new piece going into my upcoming solo, opening May 24th!

What is next? (I have several ideas just taking shape, so not sharing yet!)


Painting Workshop: Considering Composition

My recent workshop was themed “Landscape and Mood”. Color pops to mind for most when considering mood, but I emphasize composition, shape, edge, and directionality of shape/shapes even more.  I have observed that many developing artists—even beginners to painting—bring certain things to the easel that seem to be innate. Color preferences and type of line or gesture that a given hand tends to make are often so. Composition, however, generally needs to be fully  brought into the conscious mind to be mastered, with much analysis that comes from moving elements around to see how they serve the whole.

In representational painting, the placement of the components of a piece greatly affect the mood, as well.

I encourage my students to look at the narrative aspect of their composition, but also to examine their work in progress as an abstract painting. Are all of the shapes interesting/pleasing to the eye? Do they relate well to each other even if not touching or near? Are they not repetitive, like the bumpety-bump of a caterpillar? Too regular a curve, like a bowl, rather than a subtle S-curve with lots of variation? Do the shapes create directionality within so that the eye circles around the piece and doesn’t fly off and get lost? Are the edges varied?

In order to better show all of this to my students and have them experience it mindfully, I added some new exercises to my recent workshop at the Provincetown Artist’s Association and Museum. First I demonstrated  and then the group did small color/compositional studies on primed paper designed to be done fairly quickly, with multiple versions of the same image, moving elements around. Instead of repainting the piece until you get things where you like them best, each version is left as is so that they can all be looked at and critiqued as a grouping before beginning a larger piece on canvas. The studies serve not necessarily to pick the most successful one to follow, but as a means of becoming familiar with the variables of the image so that the larger painting can be approached with more confidence and awareness of the choices that it presents.

As vehicles for learning, the small pieces can also stand on their own.

Thanks to my PAAM student Carol Duke—both a painter and a photographer—-I have a nice sequence of photos showing many of the exercises, demos, and steps I currently employ in this workshop.

This group was particularly lovely, though I always get great students (good hand; good eye; great questions; supportive of one another; usually a developed studio practice, sometimes a very open and enthusiastic beginner).

Below, working on small compositional studies with subtle variations in placement to explore these elements before starting the larger piece.

DSC_5196

DSC_5224Showing various ways of handling edges (so important!): embedded; lost and found; wet-on-wet; scumbled; hard over soft.

DSC_5237

Above, my studies and students dark-gessoed paper, ready to begin theirs. Below (my photo), first small studies completed. 

WSPTown2

DSC_5341Beginning my 12″x36″ piece.

WSPTown13Everyone setting up at their easels to begin work on larger paintings.

DSC_5571

Mixing colors from primaries. We all have our tubes of favorite mixtures, so the true derivation a given color we mix on our palette can be confusing—-so many ways to arrive at it!  Going back to mixing from primaries clears away a great deal of confusion, and is way more fun than it sounds. Hue, value, and tone are all covered, and all requests are fulfilled (Naples Yellow! Mars Violet! Olive Green—bring it on!)

DSC_5592

Final critique, which includes suggestions for where to go with unfinished paintings. This time we moved around to the wall behind each artist’s easel. Progress and breakthroughs happened on different days for different students, but everyone had at least one! And epiphanies—well, those often bear fruit later on…

I love what I learn from my students! Agnes, returning for the forth time, had this advice for another artist who wanted to create for herself the silky surface that I developed years ago—“If you can’t hear the brush as you work it across the surface of the dark gesso {with tooth}, you are using too much paint.”

How come I never noticed that?!

On the subject of surface, I do find that this is another aspect of  painting that seems to be innate to the artist. Many students come into my workshop and want to learn how I create my surface. The process is something that I developed years back through trial and error and experimenting with materials. I teach every step of it, but like to encourage an artists with a lovely painterly hand to go with what they already do well. From there, we build, returning to the emphasis on composition and organizing/simplifying detail.

DSC_5573Packing up…till next time.

RichnessofBlue“Richness of Blue”, finished in my studio. So glad that I didn’t include the lighthouse and jetty in this version…just simplicity. The other variables that I explored originally in my studies were placement and angle of the tidal pool and where it goes off the edge of the piece on lower right; size of back shore and strip of water beneath it; and color of sky.

For more on how I develop a piece, see my blog post;

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/painting-demonstration/

And for more discussion of landscape and mood, including analysis of mood in specific paintings of mine:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/landscape-and-mood/

About our emotional experience while painting:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/painting-teaching-and-the-emotive-self/


Perfection

In the most lovely rejection that I have ever received, the galleriest involved set me thinking when he wrote of my pieces,  “…I find many of them really perfect.”

I was intrigued by how much food for thought this simple comment gave me.

Perfect still means…well, perfect. And yet the word has acquired a bad connotation in some instances, becoming almost not PC. We are frequently chided for trying to be perfect; that the effort to perfect something is a bit rigid; and that perfectionism is soul-destroying (and probably elitist).

Affinity:WhiteonBlue

My process involves laying in a slightly transparent layer of paint during which time I find my composition and colors; move shapes this way and that; paint things in and paint them out and maybe paint them back in again differently, or elsewhere. After this layer dries, I continue with a second, making any needed changes that I didn’t catch the first time, and creating richer color, more complex edges, deeper blacks, and subtlties of surface and shape.

This second layer feels as if I am polishing the piece like a gem, bringing out the luster and so making visible the intricacies of composition, shape, color, and edge that weren’t fully developed before.

So yes, I am indeed trying to make my painting perfect. The process is done when the whole and  every part of the piece hit my eye just so and vibrate to deep satisfaction, pure joy, or uninterrupted absorbtion as the eye travels around the canvas.

This version of perfection (and of course there are others) is a process of refinement. In my version, the compositions and shapes are  softly flattened, and detail is reduced. My feeling about minimalist work is that what is there must be just so because there is not a lot of detail to distract the eye.

SandflatswithCloudbank copy

While reading the introduction written by my  brother-in-law Harold Augenbraum for his recently published book,  The Collected Poems by Marcel Proust , I was struck by his closing observations, including that the poems “…were not rewritten many times, and they represent a shortening of the distance between creator and reader, not a lengthening”.

Mulling over this concept, I asked myself why a creator would want distance between themself and the reader/viewer. Surely we don’t want to hold our audience at arm’s length?

The answer is to create a space, a sort of moat, where our viewer can plunge in and participate. A leap must be made not just from creator to audience, but also from audience to creator. This open space, though, in my case, is actually created by the process of refinement, which allows all of the parts and aspects of the painting to unite to invite the viewer in to spend time.

SundrenchedSaltmarsh copy

There are probably as many permutations of perfection, through refinement or directness, as there are artists and creators in other fields. I love hearing discussion of how they strive to arrive at their perfect.


The Marker Piece

I have been puzzling over what makes a piece a standout within my body of work. It is not a question of “better”, nor of “favorite”. There is consensus around these pieces, and the five I have selected (more in future posts!) have also withstood the test of time—they date from 1993 to 2008.

A major attribute that makes these paintings stand out is that they all push a particular direction to the furthest point along my spectrum. There are a number of avenues of exploration that have held my interest over the course of years, allowing for many subtle permutations along the way. These five paintings epitomize the categories that they represent—signposts, in their way, whether they came early or later .

Dark Castille, 42″x60″, 1992. (Private collection.)

My plan for this piece was to do a scene of Castille, complete with red soil and olive trees. (I much later did the image with additional detail as a pastel, which I also consider a marker piece, as discussed below.) This was all before I started working on the dark ground  that has long been part of my technique, so I created an underpainting with black oil to create the mass of the the large landform and used a light grey in the sky. I carefully scumbled the top line  to embed the tree shapes and hill into the sky.

When I returned to my studio ready to work back into the now dry first layer, I was struck by how powerful the piece was in just black and white, and so decided to find a way to honor that simplicity. Brushing a little thin almost white into the sky created a soft vibration there, and setting the piece on the floor, I added a wash of deep green, leaving the edges of the piece black.

This piece went so far in the direction of a totally abstract, minimalist color field painting that once it was finished, I felt thoroughly satisfied and never again felt the need to take another piece quite so far in that direction. With “Dark Castille”, I managed to wed landscape imagery with the open feel of  a Rothko.

Red Fields, 20″X24″, pastel on paper, 2005. (Private collection.)

“Red Fields”, hewing more closely to the original reference, pushes my palette in exactly the opposite direction as “Dark Castille”. It is not only one of my brightest pieces ever, but also has a larger range than most—quite bright blue in the sky. resounding reds, then into rusts and greens, both olive and sage. The matte surface of pastel on paper is ideal for creating a brighter and more inclusive palette that feels rich rather than jarring. Like the first version above, the treeline at the top of the hillside is the kind of focal point that I find absolutely delicious to paint. The detail and rich color in “Red Fields” makes me profoundly happy.

Rainy Road/Fireflies, 3 panels of 12″X12″/ea., 2008. (Private collection.)

“Fireflies” is simply the blurriest painting I have done to date. The softness captures the resonant beauty of a rainy summer day in the Catskills, tonalist greens and blues deepened by the low light. Since I have been doing paintings incorporating approaching headlights, I have been astounded at how different the points of light can be, depending on atmospherics. Here, they are oh-so-soft, and yet they buzz around the picture plane with a great deal of energy.

This effect is achieved because this triptych is, rather than one image divided into three panels, actually three different paintings. As I was working on them separately, I repeatedly brought them together to check on how they were interacting, establishing variation in placement of headlights, horizon, roadway, and other elements. The eye is thus invited to travel around laterally  between the panels, complimenting the implied movement of the headlights moving toward the viewer..

Divided Fields, 24″X72″, 2008. (Private collection.)

“Divided Fields” sparks two of my favorite discussions. One is about the summer palette of blue sky and green field or grass, and the other is about minimalism and color field painting.

This piece explores flatness and abstraction in a manner different from “Dark Castille” . The picture plane is divided up into long, horizontal wedges within the hillside, and the sky functions partly as one horizontal shape, and partly as clouds/blue sky. The upward direction of the clouds brings the eye back down to the horizon, while their diagonal directionality creates a rhythm  that helps the eye sweep along the expanse of the entire piece, almost like reading—left to right. The flatness is far from absolute, with lots of soft scumbling and hue variation to create vibration within the planes of color.

All of my pieces create mood, though I do not aim to create narrow, specific emotions so much as broad, subtle and complex resonance. Moody, tonalistic paintings are second nature to me, loving as I do weather and dense atmospherics.After some years of that exploration, however, I wanted to be able to also capture the sheer joy of a sunny summer day. The open, abstract nature of “Divided Fields” pairs strong blues and greens with the assertive lines of the field divisions to walk exactly the line that I am after—a duality of  delight in time/place/season along with the pure pleasure that planes of composed color can provide.

Dark Cloud, 40″x50″, 2006. (Private Collection.)

“Dark Cloud” also  has a reductive, color field affect, but departs from the pieces discussed so far in the dynamic of the cloud. There are only three shapes in the whole piece, including the negative space of the sky, and the cloud is the most assertive of them.

Clouds can be, and be painted, in countless ways. In this painting I pushed the cloud into the most dominant position of any piece that I have done, partly by creating just a single cloud, and partly by its size and color. I worked the subtle variations within and at the edges the way I do with any cloud, so that they are embedded in the sky rather than seeming to float on top of it. Yet, this cloud is clearly read as a shape that dialogues aggressively with the wedge of hillside below. The landform holds its own, in turn, by being totally black and having a tree lifting into the sky in such a way that the cloud seems halted by it. With this strong play of elements, “Dark Cloud” contains an edge of tension resulting from both narrative and formal elements.


Town and City

The  urban landscape in my work is very specific, since I am forever a minimalist. Views are therefore often from afar, and affected by atmospheric effects or late light. Towns with just some architectural elements framed by the natural are easily softened and embedded, the manmade embraced by natural bodies of water; mountains or fields; stands of trees.

The city that I have painted most frequently is New York, having lived there for a decade and flollowing that living close enough to be in and out with some frequency.  Well traveled paths and views like the West Side Highway and views looking West to New Jersey crop up often, and most likely will again.

My path to urban imagery began many years ago when I introduced phone/electric poles and lines to my landscapes, creating  straight lines and  a mood that plays with the notion of what is idyllic, accepting what is. Since then, I have moved on to include many other signs of human habitation and intervention in my landscapes, including my headlights/road pieces (see the post “Roads and Bridge Views”, archived in the month of  November, 2011); industrial imagery; and towns and cities. We spend so much of our time driving through terrain that contains or is comprised of manmade landscapes that to forever edit out these objects or scenes seems like an unnecessary effort, especially when the play of light and atmospheric conditions can make them so compellingly beautiful.

“Westerly Sky”, 16″X20″. A perfect example of the right angles and straight lines of the NYC foreground meshing with the soft diagonals of the sky. (Courtesy of Albert Shahinian Fine Art.)

“Snow in the City”, 18″X18″. The sounds of tires muffled by the snow, very little echo—a transformation of the urban landscape. (Private collection.)

“Skyline with Grasses”, 20″X20″ A view from the Meadowland’s. The Pampa’s Grass heads in the foreground required a great deal of work to read properly and yet let the eye sail over them to the skyline beyond. What I love the most about this piece is that it is so quiet, the urban imagery creating a subtle energy as backdrop to a drizzly shore day with the smell of marsh and salt air. (Private collection.)

“Sunset Roofline”, 24″X30″, a much closer view than I normally do. When living on East 27th Street, I spent time every day practicing T’ai Chi on the roof of my building, an experience that provided a sense of openness and sky not available at street level.

Below are several West Side Highway pieces. The approaches to New York City, bound by water on all sides, are the perfect urban images for me, contrasting reflective spaciousness with the dense, geometric patterns of a city.

“On Ramp”, a West Side Highway image with filtered winter light gleaming on the Hudson. (Private collection.)

“Exit Ramp” 24″X18″, the strong diagonals creating a dynamic composition and a gleam on the Hudson a dramatic backlight. (Private collection.)

Below are two pieces with vantage points that are so far off that the painting is much more vista than urban…and yet they reveal a hint of city.

“Lonely Ship/New York Harbor”, 30″X36″, a moody/joyful take on the harbor and  shores of Jersey and Staten Island. (Private collection.)

“River with Big Sky”, 24″X30″, a view looking south from the Tappen Zee bridge, the sky—one of my favorites, ever— dwarfing the land and water, yet pointing gently to the  distant skyline and river banks.

Provincetown is an equal parts mix of happy, busy people and glorious bay, harbor, and beach with tidal flats. The density of humanity is part of the point, and is even reflected in beachcombings, where, along with shells and rocks and feathers one can find  beautifully weathered pieces of plywood and bits of patinaed fiberglass.

“Provincetown”, 20″X30″, looking back at the wharf from Fanizzi’s restaurant one cold December day. Often the shore, if it is just water, sky, and maybe beach, has the same range of color and light in winter as in summer. Here, the only telltale sign that it is winter is the lack of moored boats in the harbor. (Courtesy of the Julie Heller Gallery.)

These three small Affinities of Provincetown are a blend of town and beach, like Ptown itself. (Private collection.)

“Gleaming Sky over Provincetown”, 11″X14″, the approach that I love so much. The sky is always doing some fabulous island-y display. (Courtesy of the Julie Heller Gallery.)

“Evening Lights”, 12″X24″ a soft sunset above the first lights of the evening. (Courtesy of the Julie Heller Gallery.)

Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard is another beautiful town by the sea, busy with humanity but with wide open views of Nantuket Sound and it’s own harbor.

“Ocean Park Fog”, 3 panels of 10″X20″/ea., the park surrounded by beautiful old ship captain’s houses. The source of the fog is the sound on the left, out of sight. (Courtesy of the Dragonfly Gallery.)

“Serene Seaview Morning”, 18″X24″. Even though the sound and dunes on the right take up a large portion of the image, the piece is very much structured by its manmade elements, with the straight horizon of the sea echoing the vertical line of the phone pole. A much larger row of houses exits on the left than I have shown, edited to heighten the solitary feel of the painting. (Courtesy of the Dragonfly Gallery.)

Finally, a last NYC painting that is much busier than I usually do. As I was painting this piece, the Jersey shoreline seemed to compel me to keep adding lights!

“Light Exchange”, 24″X40″. T the sunset reflects on water and clouds, a complementary palette of soft purples and oranges.


Commissioned Artwork

Several times a year, I am approached by a collector  who wants a particular kind of image in a size/format that I don’t have available, and so a commissioned piece is the route to go. I recently finished two and am about to start another, so being currently on my mind, I thought I would discuss the process. In many cases, the collectors have work of mine and/or have known me personally for some time, but in others, it all goes through a designer or gallery, and I don’t have direct contact with the buyer. The pastel sketch (really a small, complete version of the image), mentioned below, can sometimes be eliminated if all concerned are very clear on the imagery desired. The description that I share with galleries and collectors is copied below. I have developed a process for creating a commissioned artwork that has so far worked out very well for all concerned, and goes as follows:  The collector finds a piece or several related pieces among the photos of my completed work (either sold or in the wrong size) that they like.  They then determine the size of the piece that they want, and whether they would prefer an oil or a pastel.  I give them a price quote for that size and medium, and then we discuss the imagery that they are drawn to, and how it would relate to the format of the piece that they want (horizontal, square, or vertical). The new piece can have color similar to one of my finished pieces and the landforms of another, and could be the same scene as a square one, but in horizontal, and so on.  One thing that I won’t do is exactly duplicate an already executed piece in the same format and medium. Once I feel clear on what I’ll be doing, I do a small pastel, to scale, of the scene that has been worked out. (I will keep this pastel and frame and sell it afterwards, as it is done on spec and not included in the price.)  After the collector has approved the sketch,  I will need a deposit for half of the price of the piece, and then I will begin work on the large finished painting or pastel.  It usually takes me 2-3 weeks to complete the big piece, depending on what else I have going on.  Final payment is due upon delivery, and I will handle framing in my usual way, or the client can use his/her own framer if they prefer.  Of course, I can only do commissioned pieces within the range of my own style.

A Recent Straightforward Commission

I recently completed this vertical piece of the sun behind a cloud creating a reflected gleam as the water hits the sand at bay’s edge.

Gleam at Shore’s Edge, 48″X24″.

A designer in NYC who I have worked with for years, thought that it was the perfect image for clients who have bought my work over the years and were re-doing their dining room—except that it was too narrow. Therefore, I painted the below, with many small differences in addition to format.

Shoreline Gleam, 48″X36″.

It was great fun to look at both pieces in the end and observe which things I liked better about which piece, and also what elements and affects are simply different.

An Early Corporate Commission

Years ago JSO ART Associates commissioned a piece from me for the first-class lounge at Kennedy Airport for American Airways.

The pastel triptych was based on a version of the pastel below, an image I have explored a number of times in different ways.

“Evening Calm”, pastel on paper, 22″X28″. (Private collection.)

The finished piece, pre-digital camera for me, has been moved  (from a building since torn down), but still  graces the wall of an AA hospitality lounge at JFK . (I love it when my art has history!)

I also did these two commissions for JSO within e few years of the AA one, both based on earlier pieces of mine, yet quite different upon completion.

A Complex Commission

A couple who already owned a handful of pieces of mine saw “Contrasting Shapes” online and wanted to purchase it. Upon finding out that it was sold, they decided to commission a piece of their own reservoir view.

Contrasting Shapes, 24″X72″. (Private collection.)

After a great deal of back and forth, many photographs of their nearby view, and lots of discussion (all very pleasant, as they are lovely people—always a plus!), we decided on a triptych (for length and interest) that emphasized the folds of the mountains. We also cleared out a few trees (virtually!) to be able to see more water. I did a few pencil sketches to firm up what was going to be in the painting (like the notch on the left) and to get the shape of the water right. Then I did the pastel, 6″X18″ (which I appear not to have a jpeg of).

Painting the final piece involved a great deal of detailed decision-making, since the collectors had been studying and admiring this view for years and were interested in accuracy. Often, when I paint, various details get omitted or changed to serve my vision of the whole, but in this case I had to do both—capture each mountain accurately, while also satisfying my own need for simplicity. The monochromatic palette was a big part of the solution to this duality of intent.

“Catskill Embrace”, titled by the collectors, three panels of 24″X30″/ea.

A Recent Commission and Two from Many Years ago

A  couple from Washington, DC (also consistently delightful to work with) commissioned their first piece of mine about ten years ago. Having a longstanding affection for the Catskills, they wanted a 24″X48″ painting of the Esopus, our local stream, at dusk. First I did the pastel version, to scale, below.

“Mountain Stream”, pastel on paper, 12″X24″. (Private collection.)

The final version is below (excuse the bad jpegs of some of these older pieces—I did not really understand the process with my first digital camera).

“Esopus Eve”, 24″X48″, the first commission.

And in place, in their beautiful new house.

A year or two later, they decided that they wanted an image of their own town. After seeing a few pictures of their (then) home, I pitched the idea of a vertical, to fit between two windows in their living room.

The second piece in their collection, “Monument”.

They were recently interested in acquiring a new painting (number six, by now). They had looked over a number of pieces of mine online, loving two that were not the right size for the wall that they had in mind. The husband contacted me, and together we decided on a commissioned piece that would combine elements of the two that they had liked, which would arrive as a surprise for his wife.

Serene Summer Cloudwatch, 24″X48″.

The new cloud painting in their living room.

Another Straightforward Commission

A decorator that I have worked with for years had a client who liked “Winter Brilliance”, below, but needed something smaller and more horizontal. They also decided on a pastel.

Winter Brilliance, 40″X50″.

Since the new piece mostly involved a shift in format, we skipped the pastel phase. Of course, there are plenty of other differences between the two pieces in color, shape and details.

November Golds, 22″X48″.

A Commission for my Biggest Collector

The collector who now has 37 pieces of mine (and has a wonderfully decisive and generous nature) between her apartment in NYC and her weekend place in the Catskills wanted a large piece, either urban or road/headlights, for above the couch in her apartment (you can see that wall in my blog post, Open Studio and House Party). She liked the vertical piece below, so we decided on a horizontal triptych with a similar sky.

“Travel at Sunset”, 20″X10″.

The pastel triptych.

“Sunset on the Road”, 3 panels of 5″/ea. (Private collection.)

And below, an installation shot of the finished piece.

“Sunset Travel”, each panel 20″X20″.

A Change in Palette

During one of the shows that I had with Art Forms Gallery in Redbank, NJ before they closed several years ago, someone very much liked the postcard piece, “Autumn Seaside” which was already sold.

“Autumn Seaside”, 30″X48″. (Private collection.)

He was interested in a similar piece, a bit more horizontal, that had more greens in it, so I did a pastel like the above, working more greens into the areas that already have them.

THEN, it turned out that the collector wanted serious greens—as in a summer palette, so I did the pastel, below.

“Gladness”, pastel on paper, 12″X24″. (Private collection.)

Finally, the finished piece.

“Summer Seaside”, 24″X48″.

It might look as if these commissioned pieces are a major part of my work (and there are quite a few more than these), but the examples I have discussed have been done over many years. Only once did I find the process difficult at a certain point, and understood that the collector was seeing me as a style and pair of hands to execute her vision. After that I became more careful to be clear that I make the necessary aesthetic decisions as I am painting, after the initial discussion has taken place—which most people assume, anyway.

I quite enjoy doing these collaborative pieces every so often, always making sure that the image that I am painting is something I would be interested in doing anyway.

Afterwards, I am happy to be back in my studio making choices in my usual fashion, following only the interior logic of my longstanding process.


Landscape and Mood

I recently taught a workshop at the Woodstock School of Art emphasizing mood in landscape painting. Since then I have continued to ponder the subject.

The course description.

All painting is about mood, and the landscape as subject matter sublimely so. In this workshop, we will break down what elements of a painting create strong currents of serenity, nostalgia, joy, melancholy, and subtle combinations of these. Color, content, and composition all contribute to the mood of a painting, so we will do exercises in color-mixing and composition, as well as discussing how these elements coalesce into the feel of a landscape in front of reproductions of some of my favorite landscape painters.  In the studio, using photographic reference, we will be free to explore the mood of any palette, season, or time of day, aiming not to manipulate but to be sensitive to the mood we are creating.

Some of my ponderings.

I dislike art (in amy medium, including writing) that is sentimental. So the comment above about not manipulating the mood is key, since that might be a good working definition of artistic sentimentality–art that overtly tugs on the heartstrings. Also, art that sets out to evoke one emotional response, instead of a complex response.

Further, when the artist dials in very specifically on one emotional narrative, the viewer is not given room to project their own feelings, as too many doors have been closed. In my workshop, I observed that in bringing mood into our decision making, we are not setting about, for example, to do a painting that evokes bittersweet-nostalgia-at-the-end-of-a-long-day, but instead something much more open. Since we are working in a visual medium, we can work viscerally in part, and then use our skills in composition and color to enhance the feel that we are developing in a painting.

An analysis of the  mood of eight paintings (as I see it).

The new painting below is clearly a mood piece. Dusk tends to do that, and the headlights imagery is realtively specific within my vocabulary. It is a poigniant time of day to be driving by oneself, and that is what the imagery evokes, so in this case we have a strong narrative, made dramatic by the highly contrasted darks and lights, warmed by the reds. The composition also affirms  the story, since all of the shapes and lines either point to or frame the headlights.

“Crossing at Dusk”, 24″X48″, courtesy Thompson/Giroux Gallery.

“Counterlit Blues” is a mood piece of a different type, dreamier and less specific. Still, no sentimentality! The shapes all glow, and have horizontal/diagonal lines that are inherently elegant and lead the eye gently around the canvas.