At the reception for the Artist in Residence Exhibition last Sunday, the most common question viewers asked me was "What is a nocturne?" (This was second only to, "What do you mean by Ghost Chickens?" See my post from 12/7/17 for the answer to that one.)
Simply stated, nocturne paintings capture something about the twilight or night time. It was already known as a musical term when James Abbott McNeill Whistler first used it in the titles for several paintings in the 1870s. Nocturnes aren't that common and I have 5 of them in the show right now at the Cheltenham Art Center. I suppose that might strike some as strange.
What caught my eye during an evening pass of the Wall House in my car, is the window lights. They almost make this old house seem inhabited in the gloaming.
This was the last painting I completed for this year-long residency at the Cheltenham Center for the Arts. Personally, it marks the end of a body of work where I worked hard to keep focused, and now I look forward to a little experimentation and outdoor adventure. Watch out for the plein air cyclist!
This tree is the same American Elm featured in my last post, except at night. Which brings me to the theme that emerged in my work for this artist residency... night and day.
There is something I find very pleasing in the way that the dark layers of paint allow the lights to shine.
I find it hard to believe that the end of my residency at the Cheltenham Center for the Arts is upon me. The studio, the community, the commute along the creek... pretty soon will not be a part of my daily routine. I am so grateful for the support I have received in building this body of work!
All of the paintings feature aspects of my hometown, both during the day and at night. I hope you will have a chance to see the exhibition between May 20 and June 12. The reception is on Sunday, May 20th from 2pm - 4pm.
Including figures in a landscape painting is a challenge. Why include them? Scale and interest. Do I include them in my landscapes? I'm working on it. Look, there are a few in this painting!
Howard Watson first brought this concept onto my radar last year. It was a profound moment when I realized how the narrative of a work could suddenly become so much more. For example, instead of just showing a spring house, I could tell a history that there used to be a chicken coop in the upper part of the structure by including some chickens. See Ghost Chickens.
In this painting here, I was first interested in how the light creates the space at this time of day. However, when I added those commuters who are coming off the train and either walking home or going to one of those cars...there is a whole new story. In fact, is that you in my painting? Maybe.
I'm currently attending a short course at the Wayne Art Center with Mick McAndrews on this art of putting figures in a landscape. Mick is a great guide. (See his amazing work here.) So, I feel there will be more figures to come in my work.
Be careful, if you haven't already...you might find your way into one of my paintings.
So, High School Park got a new sign. Now rather than just being inside the heads of those who know, anyone from anywhere who drives by Montgomery and High School Road can know that this is, in fact, a park. It's so simple yet so profound!
It's a new year and I find this always to be a rich opportunity for goal setting. As I develop my watercolor painting practice, my next step up is to work larger. I have dearly enjoyed painting a (usually) 5 x 7 inch work each week for two years (plus some), but I feel a need to change the pattern. Gasp!
In 2018, as I paint larger, I'll post every other week.
'West Chester Storefront Nocturne' is my first plein air nocturne painting. I completed it in October during the Brandywine Valley Plein Air Competition, so I had the support of at least another 20 artists working on the same street at the same time. One looks less crazy if others around you are doing the same thing.
How does one paint outside at night, you ask? Well I did a little research and I found that the best way to see what I'm working on is to wear a baseball hat with lights. Luckily, my dad had supplied my son with one (which I borrowed) in a nice camouflage print. I was styling!
I pulled up this painting because I am currently working on another nocturne painting...which I hope to finish for next week!
In order to prepare for the culminating exhibition for my painting residency, I've been pushing myself to work larger.
It takes a certain kind of faith. I usually finish paintings the same day or at least the same week that I start them. This one took me over a month! I had almost lost hope that I could realize my vision. I am very glad to report that it came together this morning in Howard Watson's watercolor class at the Woodmere Museum.
Howard, in his unique way, encouraged me early on to put some creatures into the scene. I believe he had said, "Nice scene. I like the cows."
I chose chickens instead of cows for a specific reason. This work began as a plein air drawing of the root cellar at the Richard Wall House in Elkins Park. In colonial times, that supreme era of self sufficiency, the top room was used as a chicken coop. There haven't been chickens here for some time, but don't they just look right at home?
Elkins Park, Pennsylvania is my home and my muse right now. Here is a view at twilight with the party lights of White Pines in the foreground.
This painting is a small study as I prepare for a series of larger paintings for my residency project. It'll be for sale this Sunday at the Cheltenham Art Center from 11am - 4 pm. Feel free to come by and say hello!
What I find most fascinating about the meadow on the top of the hill in High School Park is the fact that under less than 2 feet of soil there is a buried high school. Erected in 1904 and used as the Cheltenham School District High School until 1959 (Go Panthers!), it went up in flames in 1995 and what was left was imploded in order to create the park.
The meadow is mowed each year. This juvenile red maple somehow escaped trimming several years ago to show its spectacular autumn foliage last week before our deep freeze. It's shallow root system isn't bothered by its underground neighbor. What I think is Indiangrass in the foreground captures the light like a brilliant autumn flower that I feel like I'm discovering for the first time this year.
This may be my last outdoor painting for the season since I moved my operations back into my studio last week. But who knows? A 70 degree day may come our way some time in the next few months!
As I was enchantedly drawn out my door to witness this kaleidoscope of color, High School Park (located just one mile from my house) provided me with a lovely semi-private outdoor studio this week. The birds kept me company while I painted this and one other painting.
The ochre area in the foreground is part of the newly installed rain garden which has opened up the back area of the park. Not only will this work ecologically enhance the site, it also has opened up some space to create a great view of the autumn trees.
It is extremely impressive what the group of Friends of High School Park have done in the past few decades to take an abandoned high school building site and turn the space into a reclaimed ecological treasure.
Again, I'm feeling lucky to live in Cheltenham Township.
Literary intrigue, check. Historical insight, check. Local geological feature, check. This week's local discovery again took me to uncharted territory slipped in the cracks between the paths I've worn well my whole life.
Juliana's Cave, a well known location to children of Cheltenham Township's past, I hear is visible when the foliage has fallen if you take a chance to slow down while driving on Chelten Hills Drive near Church Road. It is located on the other side of the rail road along Tookany Creek. However, in the days before the rail road tracks were laid, local lore has it that a young girl who lived with the Shoemaker family at the Wall House would frequently wander off to read in this cave. Her name was Juliana. She must have enjoyed this well sheltered spot that didn't seem so lonely with the soft sounds of the creek nearby.
Local historian, Tom Wieckowski, told me about the cave during a tour my husband and I took of the Wall House this week. Thanks, Tom!