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!
I've been putting a lot of miles on my car this week, traveling to various sites in the Brandywine Valley in order to paint competitively.
Who knew plein air painting could be a sport?
It's been glorious. I've finished and framed 7 paintings so far (including this Bearded Billy). After training this summer, my supplies and technique have been primed, including a temporary framing station in the trunk of my car.
The most intense moment so far was the Quick Draw yesterday where I created a work then had 12 minutes to frame it before I ran it to the submission station in just under the two hour deadline. Whew!
Today is the last day so I need to get myself to the assigned location, Winterthur, which is also the location of the art sale this weekend. 40% of all proceeds go to Children's Beach House, a Delaware non-profit that supports children with special needs. Come check it out if you can! The show will be up until 3pm on Sunday.
Off I go!
As an 8 year old, I remember entering the grounds. Behind a high stone wall along a road without a sidewalk, it seemed like we would need special permission to enter.
Inside, I was a young art student. Carving linoleum, I made a print of an owl. I remember the balconies within a large room of the stone mansion. I remember waiting in the rain for my mother to pick me up and listening to "Stepping Out" by Joe Jackson.
Some things come full circle. Now I teach drawing classes in that same mansion, Alverthorpe Manor. I've been promoted from student to teacher at the Abington Art Center housed there.
After teaching my morning class last week, I made this drawing of a side of the building I don't always visit, feeling grateful that Lessing and Edith Rosenwald gave their estate to the township for local cultural and recreational use.
Imagine stumbling upon this mansion in the middle of a suburban neighborhood behind an ornate metal gate and surrounded by ivy.
I first laid eyes on it when I was about 16 years old. I was probably driving to my friends house down the street. She didn't know anything about it.
Several decades later when I moved back to the area as an adult I finally began to learn some details about its story from a few articles that were published in the paper around 2010. It just so happens that its story includes both the Titanic and the National Gallery of Art.
This 110-room, Horace Trumbauer design, gilded era mansion named Lynnewood Hall was built for the Widener family in 1897-1900. Peter was part owner of the Titanic. George, Eleanor and Harry were passengers. Eleanor survived. Joseph's massive art collection was given to the National Gallery of Art in 1940. Shortly after, the family moved out. The mansion still stands but much like a sleeping kingdom. I finally stopped, got out of the car, and spent some time with it and my easel this week.
It's currently for sale for $16.5 million. Any takers? And if so, can I come over to get a closer look?