Tuesday, February 03, 2015

A New Direction

 Above, Bee Balm, acrylic with metallic gold background,  6 x 6 in. cradled wood panel.

Three Bees, mixed media, 6 x 6 in. cradled wood panel

Artist are always reinventing themselves. During the past two years I have ever so slowly seen my aesthetic evolve, my practices and process change and my interests shift.

There's no resisting it anymore, though I did experience quite a bit of resistance from my own inner critic, for quite a long time.  However, with the pieces you see here, pieces that have been let loose in the world, (the two bee pieces currently in a group show at Maple & Main Gallery, called, Celebrating Bees) and the next two destined for a show at Maple & Main that I am curating called , Natural Influences, there is on going back , nor do I want to.

Three Bees, above, is a mixed media piece and that's the direction that I have now set out on. I am no longer content to simply convey the natural world thorough conventionally painted landscapes. I'm now seeking far more intimate and personal processes, practices, imagery, and imaginings in my work.

The deep, spiritual connection that I have to the natural world can now only be expressed through unique artworks that are purely and personally my own.

 Snowy Pursuit, mixed media, 8 1/4 x 7

Everything I'm doing now is a result of what I've learned about nature in the past few years, the many hundred of hours spent in nature making observation and interacting with nature.  It is also a result of the reading and research I've done, as well as the soul searching I've done and continue to do.

Most importantly it's a result of the work I do in my sketchbook which is the the most important part of my artistic practice. Visit my sketch blog HERE

Waiting Owl, mixed media on board, 14 x 18 1/2

I don't know when you'll see a traditional landscape from me again. I suspect that I'll paint a few at least this year.  However, I hope you'll stick around to see what new, and amazingly unique things I produce as I travel down an entirely unknown road, experimenting, exploring and pushing out into uncharted territory. I don't know what will come of it or where it will end. I just know that my muse has been tugging me in this direction for a very long time and it's time to be brave, let go and follow her. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Field of Goldenrod - Bear Mountain Reservation, Danbury, CT

Click image to enlarge

Field of Goldenrod, 40x60, acrylic
copyright Jan Blencowe 2014

This painting was the centerpiece of a recent solo show called The Nature of Things which explored how we can develop a connection to the spiritual through nature.

I've loved this field of golden rod on Bear Mountain in Danbury, CT and it became the basis for a smaller work which is currently in a small works exhibit at Handwright Gallery in New Canaan, CT

Click image to enlarge

Golden Field, 11x14, acrylic

I'm sure you can see similarities and differences.  Larger works allow for detail to be painted loosely but read as detailed, mostly because you need to stand back several feet from a five foot painting to take the whole thing in.  So in the top most painting, Field of Goldenrod, things look very natural and real, yet if you walk up close to the painting you see that the application of paint is loose and impressionistic, it just comes together when you stand back to view thew piece as a whole.

In the much smaller Golden Field, the impressionistic handling of the paint is more obvious and the brushwork appears much larger in comparison to the size of the canvas, and becomes a more important part of the look of the piece.

I have a third painting of the golden rod in the works right now and will be able to share that with you soon.

Let me know which of these you like best in the comments! I'm curious to see what you think.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Acrylic Painting Process

This is the beginning stages of my latest painting. It's 3 feet, 4 inches, by 6 feet !!!!

People often want to know about my painting process, and I'm happy to share that, and hope some of you will find it helpful.

The very first step is actually priming the canvas. I rarely use white gesso, so the first decision (after subject matter) is to decide what color gesso I will use. For this painting I decided on buff titanium, to underscore the warmth of the scene, which is a field of golden rod in full bloom.

Two or three coats of gesso and then a day to dry before beginning.  Next I draw in the scene. I use different things to draw, for this particular piece I used Staedtler Karat Aquaqrell Watercolor Crayon, light gray. This is generally just a line drawing for placement and contours.

Next, I do a monochromatic under painting using Old Holland green umber. That's what you see in the top photo.  Once that's dry, I give it an isolation coat, made from Golden Soft Gel Medium mixed with water. The isolation coat seals everything down and creates a nice surface to work on for the next layer.

The block in is next. This step allows me to indicate large areas of local color. The block in can be approached in a number of different ways with acrylics. For this painting I chose to glaze in the color areas using Golden High Flow acrylic paint. This allowed the brush work from the under painting to show through and that allows all the textural elements created with the large bristle brush I used to remain visible. This is very helpful in a painting with such a large foreground area.

One more isolation coat. The painting will sit over night to allow the layers to cure, and tomorrow the real painting  process begins!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

October Dusk New Large Connecticut Landscape Painting

October Dusk, 30x40, acrylic view on my website

A few posts back I showed the under painting, the  beginning,  of this piece and just realized that I never showed you the final version, so here it is. 

October Dusk, reminds me how beautiful my own neighborhood in southern Connecticut really is. Mighty rock formations deposited by a glacier, 10,000 years ago , are slowly breaking down under the pressures of weather, freeze and thaw and the incursion of opportunistic plants that make their home in any crack big enough to capture soil washed into it by run off and melting snow.

Trees that are bent by the force of the wind, clinging to the hillside spread out their branches to collect as much sunlight as possible during the spring and summer. In the autumn the leaves are a glorious color lit up and made even more spectacular by the rays of a setting autumn sun.

This painting was an absolute joy to work on. It brought me feelings of happiness and satisfaction reflecting, as i was painting,  on the beauty of my lovely little neighborhood.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Academic Artists Honor Award

Today I was honored to receive the Academic Artists Honor Award, the top designation in the Oil/Acrylic division, for my painting Climbing Up. Truly an honor to be recognized in such a top flight exhibit of contemporary realism.

Since its inception in 1949, Academic Artists Association has grown from its modest beginnings to a national membership of more than 250.

Realism as defined by the Academic Artist would be representational art work encompassing a wide range of art from soft impressionism, through detailed photo realism in watercolor, pastel, oil, and acrylic mediums. Sculpture is also exhibited in stone, bronze and many modern and unique mediums.
The Academic Artists has stayed on track by continuously promoting quality fine art and offering these extremely popular national exhibitions to the public.

In 2009, Academic Artist Association was recognized by "Art Calendar" a national publication, in an  article titled  "The Pursuit of Prestige".  An excerpt from it states:  " a short list of Prestigious Professional Art Organizations in the U.S. [and] while there are certainly more, these 13 are some of the most well known", and goes on to list  The Academic Artists Association  right above Salmangundi Club in the Aesthetic Idea category.  

I'm delighted to say that I am a member of both the Academic Artists Association and the prestigious Salmagundi Club in New York City. 

You can learn more about the Academic Artists Association HERE

Climbing Up, 30x36, acrylic, copyright 2013 Jan Blencowe

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Under Painting of more Tall Trees and Rocks

WORK IN PROGRESS, the under painting, 30x40

Hello Again

It's been three months since I've been at the easel to paint. Family issues have kept me away. If you've had a loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia you'll know what I mean.

I have been busy with creative pursuits though. I mean what would I do without my art?  I just didn't have the energy or focus to be working on large scale pieces these past few months. But I have been doing a great deal of sketchbook work, block prints, mono-prints and other fun things to keep me happy!

I've been having so much fun with those things that I've set up a new blog just for my sketchbook, illustration and design work. If you have a moment check it out! It's a happy place The Sketchbook Hypothesis: making art makes you happy

If you're on Facebook you can find the The Sketchbook Hypothesis there too! 

Painting Trees and Rocks 

I'm back to painting trees and rocks and continuing on with my Woodlands series. Trees and rocks are both fascinating to me. Trees can somehow find a way to grow in the most inhospitable locations, they bend in the storm, survive droughts, offer their canopies as shelter for birds and other wildlife, produce fruit and nuts, send their roots down deep to find nourishment  in the earth.  They leaf out, blossom, blaze with color, go dormant for the winter, then begin the cycle again. They live, they breathe, the grow, and finally they will die. But even in their death their stately form will provide a sanctuary of food and shelter for woodpeckers, flickers and tree swallows, among others. 

When I'm painting trees even in this early stage of the painting, I'm thinking about all these things and I'm moving my brush in ways that try to convey all that I feel about the trees, standing tall and reaching towards the sun. I push upwards, twisting and twirling the brush point, allowing the wavering of my hand to make a mark to record the vibrating, surging life of the tree. 

Rocks are a different matter all together. On the surface they seem firm, immovable. But I know rocks and I know better. Most of the rocks in Connecticut were born in the far north thousands, even millions of years ago. They were dragged from their homes by an enormous glacier during the last ice age and deposited here when temperatures began to rise, and the glacier melted, 10,000 years ago. The 10,000 years they've been here are less than the blink of an eye in geological time. For me they are like sleeping giants, resting were they were freed from the ice. Though they seem so, they are far from firm or immovable. They are patient, though. Sun and rain, ice and snow, wind and weather will wear them down over time. They will break apart and be scattered over the land. They will become rubble, then sand, and eventually mix into the earth and trees will grow in them. 

For now they are big, and firm, patient and long-suffering, enduring all that comes their way. For that reason I paint them with respect, for I wish I were more like them. Each brushstroke is thoughtfully and firmly placed on the canvas while all the while I think of the rocks and their stoic character.

Perspective and Point of View

I'm taken lately with upward looking points of view in my paintings. I'm not sure if that represents the idea of an upward struggle, or if the height is meant to emphasize how dwarfed we are by the forces of nature. In any case it means something, I just haven't unraveled it yet.

I did want to say though, that point of view or your perspective on things is something very important to consider when you are painting. No one sees or feels things exactly like you do and it is important for you to find out what your unique vision of the world is because that's what makes your art valuable. 

Check back for more updates on this painting!

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Salmagundi Club Spring Auction News


Every Spring and Fall the Salmagundi Club in NYC has fundraising auctions. These are terrific because they benefit an historic art club,help me pay my club dues, and give YOU an amazing opportunity to purchase my paintings at extraordinary prices! This year is especially important because an amazing renovation of the main gallery is nearly complete at SCNY. Preserv Building Restoration is the firm handling the renovations as they specialize in historic preservation projects, and the beautiful brownstone mansion that houses the club falls under that category. The newly renovated gallery will be the showplace of Greenwich village, and give SCNY members a magnificent space to showcase their art.

The best news is that the auctions are also on line and that allows everyone to have an opportunity to bid! There's also the live auctions and a beautiful auction dinner, if you're in NYC and feel inclines to participate in the excitement of a live auction.

There are three auctions: Fri. Mar. 14, Fri. Mar. 21, Fri. Mar. 28
I don't know yet which paintings will be assigned to which auctions that info should be coming down the pike soon...however these are the three paintings that I'm offering. They are each 8x10, and will be sold framed and range from 12 x 14 to 12.5 x14.5 in size in the frame. they are all lovely plein air paintings of Connecticut locations, Hammonasset, Madison, Stoney Creek, Branford, and the McKinney Wildlife Refuge, Westbrook.

 September Song SOLD

 Changing Weather SOLD
 1 Bid already On Line bidding is open. Live Auction Begins 4pm. Mar. 28

 McKinney Wildlife Refuge SOLD

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Bear Mountian Gold ~ New England Landscape Painting

Bear Mountain Gold, 30x36, acrylic
© 2013 Jan Blencowe 

It's been a long time since my last blog post, and that's partly due to my commitment to make creating art a top priority, and computer stuff a lower priority. Such a difficult task to have a balance between making and marketing! 

Anyway, here it is...my latest painting, Bear mountain Gold!  With plenty of snow piled up on the ground right now, I have to say that I'd be delighted to return to the gorgeous October day that I hiked with my son, sketched these boulders and the blanket of golden leaves in Bear Mountain Reservation.

A few newsy items to share....I have work at Art Essex Gallery, Essex, CT for their Invitational Exhibit until mid-Feb. You can also find my latest charcoal drawing, below, in NYC at  the historic Salmagundi Club's annual Black and White Exhibit.

Acadia Starlight, charcoal on paper,
© 2013 Jan Blencowe
My painting, Tall Trees, recently returned for the National Arts Club in NYC from the Catherine Lorrilard Wolfe Art Club Exhibit is now in the 70th Connecticut Artists Exhibit at the Slater Memorial Museum in Norwich, CT. The opening reception is Sun. Feb. 9th 1-3pm, if we're not besieged by a snowstorm again!

Tall Trees, 36x34, acrylic
© 2013 Jan Blencowe


It's that time of year again, the annual spring auction at the Salmagundi Club, NYC and on-line, so even if you're not in NYC, you will not have to miss an excellent opportunity to purchase my work at very collector friendly prices! I'll have more info on that soon! Stay Tuned! If you haven't "Liked" my facebook art page yet then please do, because that's where you'll find the most up to date auction info and everythingelse too! 
Here's the LINK

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Journaling and the The Art of Thanksgiving

Sketchbook page with river otter,© 2013 Jan Blencowe, Sharpie fine point marker, Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle colored pencils,Uni-Ball Signo white pen, Stillman & Birn hardbound Zeta sketchbook 8.5 x 11

I have a hard time with the current gratefulness craze. You know, write down five things every day you're grateful for...there are journals, books, posters, cards, coffee mugs, etc. etc. as well as more than a few art projects making the rounds trying to cash in on this so called, attitude of gratitude. Sigh.

Gratitude is a very healthy and good attitude to cultivate but it, like so many other good and virtuous things can easily be cheapened and turned into a trite cliche, like Let go and Let God, or What Would Jesus Do?

All of these things are rather deep and profound meditations...until you start to see them plastered on tote bags. At least for me that kind of commercialization makes me back away from the idea being offered up and run  the other way.

I have a lot of challenges in my life, a lot of serious struggles and things that you would be hard pressed to actually be grateful for, and in light of those challenges people quipping about being grateful for coffee, paperclips, and their iPhone make me go numb. Partially because it seems so forced. Gee, let me see, I need to get my five things written in my gratefulness journal today...uh lets see...clean socks.....etc. etc.

The ability to experience true, genuine gratefulness from the inner most core of your being is not something that you can cultivate by enumerating five silly things each day. It's something you can only  experience if your heart is open to wonder, joy and the love of God in the universe.  You enter into the experience of gratitude when your heart and mind are still and your ego is tamed and you are willing to humbly receive.

Today I was wondering if I would be able to muster up some thankfulness for Thanksgiving, or if I would be trapped in a more cynical frame of mind, thankful only that I was able to take life one day at a time and not be completely swept away by overwhelming circumstances. 

Then it happened. 
I saw him. 
A magnificent, glorious river otter. 
Large muscular and sleek.

I had been quietly sitting on a bench in the woods behind my house sketching the cold, gray of November along the pond edge, and I heard a loud snap. I looked up and quickly scanned the water in front of me, which was cold and covered with a thin skin of ice. There, not 30 feet from me was a beautiful, whiskered river otter with a fish in his mouth. The crack, was him biting down on the fish breaking the bones! (I was at that moment truly thankful that I had binoculars with me so I could really get a good look at him!)

This beautiful, wild creature drew forth from me such a deep, flood of gratefulness and joy. Why?  Because right there I saw something of incredible beauty: the natural world, perfectly created and ordered, working exactly as it was meant to work, a web of life humming along, and I was reminded that the love of God in the universe stretches to every living creature and to the very rocks of the earth and the depths of the sea. There is life, there is death, there are fierce struggles in between, but there is also the all encompassing wisdom and love of God enfolding it all, and for that I am truly and deeply grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 08, 2013

New! Connecticut Bird & Wildlife Monoprints

This is the postcard invitation for a show that I'm in that opens next Friday at Six Summit Gallery in Ivoryton, CT ~ Please stop in if you're in the area!~

See MORE Wildlife Monoprints on my WEBSITE 

I'm very excited about these new monoprints I've been working on. Printmaking is something that I studied in college while working on my BFA. I loved woodblock printing, struggled with intaglio and never got to try lithography.  Printmaking is challenging because there are so many technical/mechanical aspects that need to be mastered before you can really get expressive. And speaking of expressive, as a painter I gravitate to the more painterly types of printmaking and monoprints are THE most painterly of all the printmaking processes.

Creating Monoprints

I've been using the new Gelli Plate, which is destined to replace the gelatin plate of old, for its ease of use and durability.

Monoprinting is pretty free wheeling, (at least the way I approach it! ), and includes painting directly on the plate, stamping (including using natural objects like leaves, twigs and moss, and stamps I design and carve myself ), using stencils both pre-made ones and ones I design and cut myself, found objects and stuff I build and create to make patterns and textures. All of that goes on directly on the plate and then it may also be applied to the print itself. It's complicated...but fun!

Wildlife Art

Years ago I wanted to become a wildlife artist, but quickly realized that that genre in America is dominated by photo-realists and I had no desire to go down that path. I wish American wildlife artists and organizations would follow the example of the British and take wildlife art out of the choke hold of nit picky photo realism and embrace a more exuberant and comprehensive vision for wildlife art that speaks to the soul of humankind. 

Check out what the Brit's are doing in the Society of Wildlife Artists across the pond! Click HERE and scroll down the page. 

Despite the fact that the wildlife genre is still dominated by photo-realists I've decided that that shouldn't keep me from painting a subject that is meaningful to  me, and I'm moving forward creating my own brand of wildlife art. 

These monoprints are the first step in that direction!!

Barn Owl at Dawn, monoprint, 9x6,
© 2013 Jan Blencowe 

 Northern Flicker, monoprint, 10x8,
© 2013 Jan Blencowe 

 The Egret's Flight, monoprint, 8x10,
© 2013 Jan Blencowe

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Painting of the New England Woods and Rushing Water


It's been a long, long while since I've made a blog post. That's because of a number of things going on in my life, my need for a less busy lifestyle with less "shoulds & oughts"  and also because I've been locked out of blogger for some very complicated reasons for several months.  

The blogger thing is fixed, but my desire for less "shoulds & oughts" and the stress and guilt they bring along with them has not, so I will be posting again,  but less frequently. That should be good news for most of you since I'm sure your in-boxes overflow every day just like mine does!

I'm also going to try to keep my posts mercifully brief unless I have something really valuable to share, that needs a longer explanation. Look for interesting posts that come in installments and will only take a few moments out of your busy day.

Above is my latest large, landscape painting in the Woodlands Series, Spring Rush. Last spring we had some periods of very heavy rains and that along with all the snow melt created a torrent in what is usually a nearly dry creek. 

The power of the water was incredibly even at this small scale!  Makes me shudder to think what a real flood is like. Yikes. 

A few on site preliminary sketches for your edification and delight!

Note how the second sketch begins to really distill a complicated scene, giving me the bones of the situation and provides the basis for the large painting, showing the movement of the water, the force and the placement of the large rocks.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Boatyard View: A New Plein Air Painting

Boatyard View, 8x10, acrylic on Canson Board, copyright 2013 Jan Blencowe
View it on my website HERE or
$350 + tax and $20 s/h

There aren't many this summer, but every chance I get I'm out there painting. This was last week end late in the day at Hammonasset State Park. 

Lot's of things are happening right now for me some are wonderful and some are very stressful. I'll spare you the stressful family stuff, as I'm sure you have your own, and who really wants to focus on that anyway? The positive things we do to combat stress, anxiety or depression are the very things we need to be focusing on.

Nature Study

I've taken a step and made a commitment to become a certified naturalist.  I'll be dedicating the next 3-4 years to a home study program through www.kamana.org  

At the end of each level I will receive certification for that portion of the program.  This is something that I have wanted to do for a very long time...a lifetime really, ever since I was a very little kid. So that is keeping me busy.

Then there's the vegetable garden. I've already harvested some delicious zucchini and made low carb zucchini bread, and cucumbers and made some really easy and delicious refrigerator pickles.

Next up we have my plans to landscape our entire property with native plants to provide food, shelter, nesting areas and general habitat for wildlife of all kinds. I've already had a consultation with a landscape architect who specializes in native plants and I'm very, very excited about this. 

Of course, just having the plans drawn up is expensive (but very worth it for a project this size) so my recent painting sales have brought me about half of what I'll need for that and I'm counting on additional sales this summer to fund the rest. (Thus, the Studio Sale of small paitntings on ebay this summer). As for the actual installation of our woodland-orchard-meadow native plant project that will be completed over a series of years. However, I am very serious about restoring the land that was disrupted and cleared to build our home and I am determined to see this through.

Nature Journaling

I continue to work in my nature journal everyday documenting all the amazing marvels I see everyday. My naturalist training course has taught me how to activate all my senses and see, hear, and feel so much more when I am outside as well as how to walk in the woods without making a sound! 

If you'd like to see my latest nature journal than click HERE

Here's a sample in case you don't have time to look at the whole thing...

On the Easel

I have a new big 30x40 on the easel which is just a partial  under painting at this point. I was inspired by the little creek at the end of our street that suddenly burst into a rushing river after all the recent rains we've had. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Zen Garden Plein Air Painting

Zen Garden, 5x7, acrylic on mat board, unframed
$135.00 + 12.00 s/h 

I'm trying to make the most of my time this summer especially when the sun is out! Early this morning I sat in my Zen garden in my pj's just as the sun was peeking over the tree tops and painted this, tranquil scene. The garden is going into its third year and the Japanese maple, Crimson Queen, is  filling out and looking so lovely and graceful.

A few days back I was sketching the garden in my sketchbook and I wrote this...

The true purpose of Zen is to see things as they are, to observe things as they are, and to let everything go as it goes.  ~ Shunryu Suzuki

Such wise words. How often we see things not as they truly are but as we fear them to be, or as we imagine they should be. And how much courage it takes to just let everything "go as it goes" but how freeing when we do!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Small Floral Paintings for Sale

SPECIAL SUMMER STUDIO SALE!!! These are selling as a set. Check it out on eBay HERE 
Bidding starts at $100

 SPECIAL SUMMER STUDIO SALE!!! These are selling as a set. Check it out on eBay HERE
 Bidding starts at $100

 On the Auction Block

 I RARELY sell on eBay, but the studio needs a good cleaning and I need more space! 

I have baskets of small paintings from my Painting a Day years which I am auctioning at a really good price so if you've ever wanted to own one of my paintings NOW is the time and since I'm selling them in sets you can own 2 or more!!

Look for more SUMMER STUDIO SALE eBay auctions through the summer.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Some BRAND NEW Plein Air Paintings

 Happy Hour, 8x10, acrylic on sealed Arches cold pressed  watercolor board view or purchase on my website HERE
copyright Jan Blencowe 2013

 June Marsh, 8x10, acrylic on sealed Canson board, view or purchase on my website HERE
copyright Jan Blencowe 2013

 Evening Marsh, 4x10, acrylic, on sealed Canson board, view or purchase on  my website HERE
copyright Jan Blencowe 2013 

Rocky Outcrop, acrylic on sealed Canson board, view or purchase on my website HERE
copyright Jan Blencowe 2013

Summer Painting and Sketching

Summer is here! And I am BUSY!!  I'm working daily in my sketchbook which I'm going to show you some of soon.  Working outdoors in my sketchbook is a pleasure for me and is creating a lovely dovetailing of projects I'm pursuing right now. 

Working en plein air in Nature 
First, it allows me to work directly from the landscape "en plein air" through pencil, ink and watercolor sketches, which are every bit as valuable to do as the actual paintings above. Second, it's driving home the point that the paintings above are really only sketches themselves, and as such should stay fresh and loose without being fussed over. Third, and this is a BIG announcement, I've embarked on a course of study that will lead to me becoming a certified naturalist, that is  One versed in natural history, especially in zoology or botany.

Fufilling Dreams
This is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream that has been buried under so much else since I was 7 years old and attended the  Young Naturalists summer program at the Tackapausha Natural History Museum in 1969! You are never to follow your dreams! Being a landscape painter, a sketcher, an a naturalist seem to fit together perfectly for me and bring all my passions full circle and connect one with another. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Landscapes Through Time, with David Dunlop, Season 2

 David Dunlop on location painting for Landscapes Through Time

Landscapes Through Time, with David Dunlop,  Season  2

I just backed new Kickstart project to produce a second season of the Emmy Award Winning PBS program David Dunlop's Landscapes Through Time! You can back the project for ANY amount. I chose $100 because I LOVED the first season, and have watched it many times over and because I think it's such a shame that producers have to go out and raise their own money for arts programming. What is wrong with our society when our TV's are flooded with incredibly stupid reality shows and arts programming gets.....nothing!!! There are all kinds of perks for backing at different levels so choose what's right for you but please back this project!!
Go to Kickstart HERE and back the project. This opportunity ends May 31, 2013 so please don't wait.
Tags: painting, art history, inspiration, plein air, landscapes, instruction, education, David Dunlop, landscapes through time, PBS, 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Spring Woods: A New England Landscape Painting

Spring Woods, 24x24, acrylic, copyright 2013, Jan Blencowe
View on my website HERE

A New Series of Woodland Paintings

It's been a long, snowy, cold winter and spring has taken her sweet time in coming. New England can sometimes be that way.  But finally, as May arrives so has spring. As the woodlands come to life I find myself pursuing a series of paintings that focus on the woodlands. The rocky coast of Maine has been temporarily put aside as I travel down a new path,with new landscape paintings  being created along the way.

Painting a Complex Subject

The density of woods, with so much underbrush, and so many saplings and trees makes for a complex subject matter. There are a lot of overlapping objects and a lot a skinny branches and tree trunks. Creating believable, receding space, and simplifying the tangle are important considerations.

The Joy of a Woodland Painting

For many years I either tried and failed at such subject matter or passed over it, preferring a wide open vista. But now I've finally come to a place where I feel I can tackle this subject with skill.

I love being in the woods, they have such a magical atmosphere for me. They also bring me right back to many happy childhood memories. And that is the important aspect for me. I have a deep  memory of the woods developed over the course of my life and it's that wellspring that is tapped when I paint the woodlands. There is nothing more important than drawing on something inside yourself if you are to make paintings that strike a chord in someone else's heart.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Painting New England's Landscape and Trees

Tall Trees, 36x24, acrylic, Copyright 2013 Jan Blencowe 
view on my website HERE

Painting the Colors in Trees

Color is becoming increasingly important in my new work. Manipulating the properties of color allows me to say a great many things about my subject, both descriptive and emotional. 
The properties of colors of course are hue, value, temperature and intensity and those four elements are more than enough to provide you with an entire vocabulary for painting.
Color itself is also a property of light. So when you want the appearance of bright sunlight, strong color is what you want not light tints made with a lot of white paint.
Trees in high summer can be notoriously difficult to manage due to the overabundance of green. But even then, the careful artist/observer will seek to find all the variations of green, especially variations of temperature.
This scene is a September timer frame when the understory and younger trees have begun to turn fabulous autumn colors further expanding the colors in the trees.

Painting the Density of the Woods

If you've ever walked through a New England woods you know what a dense tangle you will find. Most of the woods near my home in coastal Connecticut are new woods, they are growing on what used to be farm fields and pastures.  There are tall old oak, beech, hickory, tulip, and maple trees and plenty of poison ivy vines, thick and hairy climbing up them.
Then there is a dense tangle of shrubby understory, and finally plants that grow on the floor of the woods. All of these layers, top to bottom and receding in space create a tangled mess for the artist to paint. Elements must be edited, and the most characteristic preserved. Order must be imposed on  the chaos while still creating a believably naturalistic scene.
In this piece flickering brushwork helps to create that sense of density and abundance of leaves, and branches overlapping a thousand times over all under changing dappled light.

The Beginning of the Painting, Tall Trees

Though the final painting is filled with vibrant color and impressionist style brushwork this painting of tall trees in the New England landscape began in my usual, rather classical way, with a monochrome under painting and a grid.
The grid is important to help establish proportions and the green umber under painting on a buff titanium ground is earthy and warm and perfectly suited in its transparency to mark out the large territories of  dark, light and medium values.
Notice that there is essentially no detail in the under painting and yet the subject still reads convincingly. I say it all the time, if the painting isn't working now in this early stage, piling on paint, color and detail is not going to fix it. The foundation of the painting is here in composition and value structure.

More Wooded Landscape Paintings

We have a wonderful beaver pond on or property edged by woods. I have hundreds of watercolor sketches of it in all seasons. I'm toying with the idea of making my next landscape painting a large-ish diptych of one of those scenes showing the woods and the pond and the wooded hillside beyond.
I'm also considering going back to the square format for some landscape paintings, a choice which I think brings a more modern take on the traditional landscape.
Stay tuned! 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Two Maine Landscapes in National Exhibitions

I have been very honored this week to find that two of my recent Maine landscape paintings have been juried into important national exhibitions!
Above, Schoodic Low Tide, 24x30, acrylic on linen was juried into the National Oil & Acrylic Painters 1st Open On-Line Exhibition. Just slightly over 1/3 of the 408 entries were accepted into this exhibit.

This Maine landscape painting, Climbing Up, 30x36, acrylic on canvas, has been juried into the National Society of Painters in Casein and Acrylic Annual Exhibition which will be held at the historic and beautiful Salmagundi Club in NYC May 6th - May 24th, 2013.
These are both very prestigious exhibitions and I am very gratified that the work that I have been dedicating myself to is being recognized in this way.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Breaking Apart: Painting The Landscape of Maine

Breaking Apart, 24x18, acrylic on linen panel, copyright 2013 Jan Blencowe

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In the last post I showed you the under painting for this piece done in a lovely color called green umber made by Old Holland.

A few things are going on for me right now in my practice.

  • One, I'm honing in on subject matter that documents changes in nature. Here the breaking apart of granite boulders over time, through the slow, relentless, renewing processes of nature. All these are elements that can be found in the landscape of Maine and incorporated into a painting.

  • Second, I'm focusing on very rich, high chroma colors balanced by very rich but neutral colors. This has been a key for me in really capturing what the eye (or my eye anyway) sees in nature. There are some amazing colors in nature but there are also many indescribably colors, muddy browns and reds, grays of every hue, beige and tans that are mottled and splotched with the impossible to name green-blue-gray-silver-lavendar of lichens, moss, fungus, seaweed, spider's webs you name it. Colors in nature are very complex because the relationships between things in nature are very complex. Bringing these Maine landscape colors into my painting in a deliberate way builds authenticity since I am drawing on my own direct observations when working there on location.

  • Third, broken, impressionistic brushwork. Here, I think the Impressionists got it absolutely right. In nature, in changing sunlight we see flickers of light, spots and dots where light is falling and is caught on the highest parts of an object, and then spots of shadow colors in many shades where light does not fall to a greater or lesser degree. It's the mosaic of light that really defines a landscape painting.

  • Fourth, simplification or if you will abstraction. Informed by the light I am reducing the actual forms of objects to patterns of light and color. So while the whole painting reads as realism, the individual parts of it are really abstractions of the light and color I can perceive. Now I am looking at my landscape painting as a piece of art governed by the principles and elements of art in an isolated way, not just tied to the objects they will ultimately represent.

  • Fifth, I am working towards a synthesis of my plein air paintings, my watercolor sketches done outdoors and my studio paintings into a coherent consistent body of work. 
It's all pretty exciting to see your own work grow and develop. As Picasso says, you must follow the paint!

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Beginning of a Maine Landscape Painting featuring Rocks, Water, and Pine Trees

Here's a peek at what's going on in the studio today! 

It's very unusual to see a landscape in a vertical format.  It used to be unheard of, but in the modern art world it has made its appearance, and though you can find plenty of examples of successful vertical landscape paintings, it's still not nearly as common as a horizontal format which naturally lends itself to the landscape.
Choosing an unusual format like this is part of my quest this year to create paintings that have very interesting and unusual points of view. Scenery, as beautiful as it may be, doesn't always make for a compelling  work of art. I'm pursuing methods that will produce landscape paintings as rich and powerful as nature herself. Shoot for the moon and if you miss at least you'll land among the stars!

How it all Begins

Old Holland's Green Umber is such a lovely color for a landscape's under painting, especially on a canvas primed with Daniel Smith Buff Titanium Gesso. Really beautiful, subtle, warm, earthy beginning to work from when painitng pine trees and coastal rocks. Next comes an isolation coat, then the hard work really begins as I get the painting established. I'm sure the rocks will give me fits, all the plane changes, minute color shifts and texture are a challenge, but I always like the way they look when they're done! Plus they are just SO Maine.
Stay tuned for painting progress updates!
 Don't forget to visit my website too!  www.janbencowe.com