Sunday, December 12, 2010

Apples and Sherry

If you live where I do on the North Shore of Long Island then you are aware, as am I, that everything outside is brown. Just brown. Certainly I could go down to the water and find some different color. Perhaps I’m being lazy? I am in the process of getting myself outfitted to paint outdoors in the winter but am not there yet. If I thought I could withstand the elements for 2 hours I would be doing just that. I miss the outdoors.

But I also love the way light falls on things. It doesn’t matter much to me what the thing is as long as the light is nice. And I love to paint apples! Boy do I love to paint apples! I am not, nor will I ever be, a sherry drinker but we have this bottle in the house as a substitute for rice wine for stir frying and I liked the shape, value and color.

So, let me say it now…I no longer wish to paint from photographic reference. I want to spend the rest of my days painting from life. I think of myself as a landscape painter but, if the landscape is not exciting me, I will set something up in the studio and paint it.

And I am happy with it.

But I am waiting for it to snow outside!

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Planting Fields

The leaves are down. The vibrant orange and red colors of autumn have come and gone. A sad time for landscape painters? Not in the least! In fact this is a very exciting time for me because I love trees and I love them even better when I can see their “skeletal” form. I love the way they come up out of the ground and rise high in the sky and I especially love the way they grab the warm sunlight and reflect that back to me. Surrounded as they usually are by cool mauves and grays they seem to radiate heat which is a welcome feeling on a cool day.

Both of these paintings were done on the grounds of the Planting Field Arboretum which is only a couple of miles from my house. “The former estate of William Robinson Coe and his wife, Mai, Planting Fields spans more than 400 acres and includes the estate house Coe Hall and other architecturally significant estate buildings, greenhouses, vast woody plant collections and the woodland trails”. It is a magnificent place to wander through and look for the right composition.

“In the Valley of The Giants” was painted at the westernmost end of the park where many grand old species of trees grow freely.

“November Lindens” was painted just off of the main path not far from the entrance. There is a row of about 6 beautiful lindens which line the path along with an old and very picturesque split rail fence which is in various states of lovely disrepair.

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Red Oak

This morning dawned cold, damp and rainy here in NY. Perfect on site painting weather! I tossed the gear along with my rain slicker into the car and headed over to the Planting Fields Arboretum which is only a few minutes from my house.

With everything on my back and slung over both shoulders I headed out of the parking lot in search of something to paint. The Planting Fields is home to many different species of beautiful trees and I was looking to take advantage of the last of the Fall color which is rapidly falling to the ground.

As soon as I got my gear set up it started to drizzle so up went the umbrella which normally keeps the sun off of my panel and palette but did an adequate job of keeping everything dry today.

One of the things I love about painting at the Planting Fields is that if you are unsure as to exactly what species of tree you are painting all you have to do is to walk over to and read the identification plaque nailed to the tree. Hence my title: “Red Oak” 12 X 12 oil on canvas.

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Presence of Options

I live my life in a fairly rigid and structured way. My wife would probably disagree with that assessment. She would probably prefer something more along the lines of “borderline obsessive-compulsive” as opposed to “fairly rigid and structured”. Let’s just say that I like to plan and prefer when things develop as planned. You already get the sense that I am often set up for trouble.

Yesterday morning started warm and sunny, unusual for this time of year in NY, and I set out to paint at one particular location that I like. It is on Bungtown Road in Cold Spring Harbor and presents a nice panoramic view of the harbor as well as the steeple from St. John’s church rising out of the background. I have painted here before but we still have quite a bit of fall foliage on the trees and I really enjoy revisiting favorite motifs in different seasons.

I arrived, parked the car, grabbed my gear and, after a short hike, arrived at my destination. And it looked awful! The sun was low in the sky, right in my eyes, and everything was backlit and a nasty gray. Disappointed I stood and for just a moment thought “now what am I going to do?” I recall reading somewhere that the presence of options is the sign of a healthy mind and quickly decided that I would …go somewhere else?

Feeling rather proud of my new found flexibility I headed back to the car. As I was loading my gear back in I suddenly noticed this lone bright yellow maple which stood on a small hill just out of the parking lot. Lesson learned? Don’t think Paul…just paint!

Note that this painting is already sold.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Reflecting on Reflections

“Reflections” was begun as a demo for my Thursday night landscape painting class at The Art League of Long Island. Normally I don’t expect too much from demo paintings because my attention is distracted by trying to explain what I am doing instead of just doing it. There is a different zone that I (and I suspect most artists) get into when I am inspired to paint something from nature as opposed to when I have to try to explain every single stroke, why I chose that particular color and/or value, why am I using a knife, etc.

Aside from those distractions this was painted from a photograph that I shot earlier this year when I was painting on site at this great spot that I visit often in Bayville, NY. I am not too fond of painting from photographs anymore but the restraints of an evening landscape class make that a necessity.

That being said, there was something I liked about the way this was going about getting on the canvas. There was a looseness and freshness and I was aware of attempting to make the painting try to be mostly about the way the clouds reflected in the foreground water. There is a stillness and peace that I liked about this from the start and I tried to carry that through to the finish.

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Axiom

I’m not sure if this is a saying or not but it should be in so far as it applies to on site landscape painters. It would be worded along the lines of “it’s great to know nice, generous people who live on beautiful otherwise hard to get to property situated on the edge of Long Island Sound”. As sayings go this one might be a tad cumbersome but you can get a sense of my excitement.

Friends of my brother in law own just such a property and were kind enough to let me wander about and set up my gear this past Saturday morning. “East Toward Caumsett” was originally set up and designed as a vertical 12 X 9 because it was low tide and I had a lovely sandbar in the foreground that pointed very nicely toward my focal point tree in the middle distance. Then the tide began to come in…fast! It was as if a dam had broken somewhere upstream. My sandbar vanished in a matter of minutes! As a result my vertical 12 X 9 became a square 9 X 9. I read somewhere that it really is not a matter of survival of the fittest but more survival of those capable of adapting. If you paint landscapes on site you have to be willing to adapt…especially when the tide comes in and swallows huge chunks of your composition.

I felt an immediate bond with this beautiful piece of land and have been granted permission by my generous hosts to return which I look forward to doing from time to time.

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


I was invited with a group of other painters to paint on the property of my friend Jamie Grossman in Palenville, NY. Palenville is about 3 hours north of me and is in the heart of The Catskills. I will jump at any opportunity to paint in Upstate NY especially during what is the peak of the fall foliage.

Jamie’s beautiful land features a small stream which courses over a couple of small waterfalls and empties into a beaver pond at the edge of the woods. Jamie led us on a short tour of what she felt were the best painting locales and I fully agreed with her assessment. Most people set up at the falls which was motif number one. Not being one to want to paint in traffic I thought I might like to paint the beaver pond but Jamie advised me that the afternoon light was much better down there.

Then, while walking back along the stream, I was suddenly taken by the effect this one old tree had on me. It’ old branches were covered with a copper colored lichen and it was not lit the way it appears in my painting. In fact there were a lot of broken clouds that day so the sun would come out blazing, go in behind the clouds, come out blazing, etc. It was almost like clockwork…every five minutes it would change. It was not until I had my easel set up that the sun first hit my tree and I was even more amazed than I had been initially by the almost defiant last stand that this old fellow presented to the elements. As an aside I am very pleased to say that this painting has been named to the FAV 15% of entries in the October Bold Brush online monthly competition. This is the fifth time this year that one of my paintings has been honored in this way and the sixth time overall. It doesn’t happen too often but I like this painting!

After a bit of lunch and a rest in Jamie’s lovely house it was time to head back out to the beaver pond. Jamie was right…the afternoon light was great but I’m sorry to say that after about fifteen minutes of work the cloud cover thickened up and I lost my light. I rather liked what I had going and felt, as I always do, that the subdued light seems to match the feeling of the onset of autumn. It seems to make the colors more vibrant and real.

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Try as we might to stay focused, to stay on point, to try to follow our desires and to try to make progress…Well, everyday life has other ideas. John Lennon said “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.

That entire preamble might be a bit overly whiny. All that I meant by it was that instead of going out to paint over the past few days I was caught up in a family wedding. Please try to understand that when I don’t get to go out to paint I will dissolve into a worthless pile of self pity and woe. A bit too dramatic? Maybe, but I take what I do very seriously!

Some months ago my brother in law asked me if I would be his best man at his upcoming wedding and I very happily said yes. I love him very much and was honored to stand up with him. I was even happier when I learned, as he was marrying a Bonnie lass of Scottish descent, that we would be wearing formal kilts!

It was a great wedding and we had a great time. My wife and her sister were bridesmaids, it was a perfect day weather wise, and a great time was had by all.

However I don’t like to spend too much time away from the brushes. The rehearsal dinner was Friday night and the wedding and reception was this past Saturday and, as you might imagine, Sunday found me feeling…well, let’s just say I was in no fit state to drag my painting rig out and about looking for suitable landscapes to paint. As the day wore on and the cobwebs cleared I wandered downstairs to the studio and started to think about moving some paint around. If I’m not going to head outside but still want to paint from life (as opposed to from a photograph) then the only alternative is a still life.

I have a rather large pile of silk flowers and arranged them on my still life table in a shape that I found pleasing. I’m rather dead set against painting flowers in a vase most of the time. This sort of arrangement that I chose feels much more natural to me as if they were cut from the garden and just brought inside and laid on the table while a suitable vase is sought. I began this painting in what is an unusual manner for me whereby I simply started bringing the focal point flowers to a finish and just let the painting grow from there so that “Sunflowers” is approximately 6 X 13 on, as yet, un-stretched canvas.

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Greenport and an Open Cockpit

First, an announcement. I am very happy to share with you that my painting “Oyster Bay Cove 2010” has been included in the FAV15% of entries in the September FineArtStudioOnline Bold Brush monthly competition. Translation: I am in the top 15% of all entries for the month of September. This marks the fourth time I have been recognized this year and the fifth time overall. My thanks to everyone at FASO for this much appreciated honor.

This past Saturday was my kind of day. The car is packed, Its 7AM, I’ve stopped for an egg sandwich at my favorite local deli and have pointed the plein air mobile to the east to participate in the second annual Greenport Maritime Plein Air Festival. This was a two day event but I was unable to attend on Friday. As the auction is Saturday at 6PM… well, let’s just say that the pressure is on to get something good on to the canvas. Time is short.

I’ve painted in Greenport a couple of times before (including this same event last year) and am always impressed by this picturesque village on the North Fork of Long Island. There is a lot to paint here but, if you know my tastes then you know that I like old boatyards. I think this has a lot to do with memories of time spent driving slowly through many marinas with my Dad so that he could enjoy looking at the boats. There is just such a yard in Greenport and I find myself there every time I visit. It’s my kind of place. “Out Of Commission” is an 11 X 14 oil on canvas and, I'm happy to say, did sell at auction on Saturday evening.

Sunday brought a different kind of adventure, an adventure sans brushes! My very old and very dear friend Mark Ranaldo who we have called Ope since we were children called recently and told me that he was of a mind to go flying. Not too far north of us is the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome where you can get a ride in an open cockpit biplane. I was a bachelor this past weekend and Ope announced that this was how I would be spending my Sunday. As it was his treat…

We arrived, signed in, got our safety briefing and, before I knew it I was flying at 1,000 feet over the eastern bank of the Hudson River in an open cockpit! What a thrill and what an amazing view of the surroundings. I don’t see myself as a competitive person but I did notice that, while I sat with my arms folded over my chest, a glance to my right found Ope hanging on to the fuselage with what I would best describe as a white knuckled grip! Despite this, upon landing and much to his credit, my old friend announced emphatically that he had not had enough and that we would be going up again. Immediately! So, Ope and I can scratch #1 off of our “Bucket List”. If you ever have the chance, give it a try. It makes for grand memories!

A friend of ours captioned this picture "The Wrong Brothers!"

Here comes our plane which is made of toothpicks and tissue paper!

I got this shot as we banked over the Aerodrome during our return approach. I am on the left side of the airplane and the left wingtip is pointing directly at the ground!

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, September 20, 2010

An English sky. Anytime I see a lot of activity in the sky I always think to myself “an English sky!” like the kind that Constable, Stobart and Seago used to paint with such a great degree of mastery. Usually it is just wishful thinking on my part. However this past Saturday bought just that kind of sky and I grabbed my gear late in the afternoon to set out to paint it.

Because I live on the North Shore of Long Island, NY it is not too difficult to find an unobstructed view of the sky. It is an island and we are surrounded by water so that long flat horizons are easily come by. But there is one spot that I go back to again and again because it just says Long Island to me and this is the spot I chose to paint my sky from. I have painted here before and I will paint here again. The view means something to me. Near the end, when I was about to start packing up, the sun dropped below the clouds and caused all the boats in the harbor to positively glow. I was thankful to be there at that moment.

On Sunday I had the pleasure of teaching a one day workshop out at Caumsett State Park. Arranged by Lori Hochberg at The Village Artist in Huntington, NY, we had a nice sized group of people who were interested to learn. We also had great weather and I think a good time was had by all. Here are a couple of pictures from the event as well as my morning demo.Many thanks to Robin Pedersen for the progress shots.

A red monochromatic underpainting.

Getting in a little true color and value

Closing in on the finish

And here is the final painting which I call "Caumsett Top Light"

Following are a couple of shots of the students enjoying the day. At the moment they are enjoying themselves because I am taking pictures and not criticizing their work!

Three plein air painters in the field

Lisa sketching

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I have been painting a lot lately. Really, I have. What I have not been doing much lately is blogging about these adventures so allow me to catch up.

A week or two ago I took my rig with me as Jan and I made our annual trip to the Scottish Games at Old Westbury Manor. Jan’s brother Tim is the bass drummer in a Scottish pipe band and we go every year to hear his band as well as the others. We are also not averse to a pint or two! As you may have seen from some of my previous paintings I am a big fan of the shapes that those white 10” X 10” E-Z Up tents make and how they glow in the sunlight. My thanks to the folks from clan Campbell for letting me set up in their midst.

This past weekend was Labor Day weekend and I go out of my way on holiday weekends to seek out large American flags. Holiday weekends also frequently see large gatherings at the American Airpower Museum which is on the grounds of Republic Airport in Farmingdale, NY. On this particular weekend they were celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and, to that end, had a number of aircraft from that era including this British Spitfire which because of its dark navy and white stripes just begged to be painted. Unfortunately, after I left, I learned that there was an elderly gentleman who had served as a German Luftwaffe pilot who was present signing copies of a book he had written about his experiences in a prison camp after being shot down at the Russian front. I would like to have met him. You can really feel the history at these gatherings. Many thanks to Steven Biegler for his kind permission to use his photograph here.

The humidity was low (for a change!) and I knew the light would be good in the evening so I set out for another favorite place to paint which is the Nature Conservancy’s Upland farm just outside of Cold Spring Harbor. I have painted this stand of trees before but do not tire of it. I was particularly pleased with the way the late day shadows seemed to gobble up the last of the summer of 2010.

I have a show coming up in November in Locust Valley, NY (where I live) and have been spending a lot of time doing small, local “cityscapes” in preparation for that show. Doing these “in town” pictures has gotten into my blood a bit and while this one isn’t in Locust Valley but rather Oyster Bay it is a good example of these kind of paintings that I’ve been doing. Painting in the middle of a busy town on a beautiful weekend afternoon presents its own unique challenges. Much to the chagrin of people looking for a place to park I found that my best point of view was from a parking space in front of a taco restaurant! Hey…I got there first!

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Fourth of July

I have always loved holiday weekends. Well, who among us does not...three days off with nothing much to do but celebrate the holiday, visit with friends, barbeques, picnics, fireworks, etc. A chance to feel free of what a friend of mine once referred to as "the golden handcuffs", wear shorts and flip flops and pursue a passion. For some that means sailing or gardening or even catching up on housework that has gone unattended. For me it means doing what I always do...paint outside!...but I do it with a greater sense of freedom.

I have one friend who has been after me for sometime now to come and paint the view from the deck of her house on the beach in Bayville, NY. Now, as every artist knows, every one of their friends believes that they and only they have the greatest view on the planet. The problem usually is that while a view might be very nice it does not necessarily translate into a good painting. But I knew the general area where she lives and thought the prospects might be pretty good.

I arrived to find what was indeed a very nice view. I did compress a couple of elements, such as the osprey nest which was just out of my view to the left, to add some visual interest but am happy with the feeling of this painting. What really made this an unusual plein air painting event was that my friend refused to allow my champagne glass to run dry! I call it "Beth's View":

Saturday, the 4th, found me heading out east very early in the morning for two reasons. First, I had a particular reason for wanting to paint at a certain place in Stony Brook, NY and thought a high tide would be necessary for a successful painting. High tide was at about 5:30 AM and, while I didn't head out THAT early I was assured plenty of painting time before low tide. Second, if you live on Long Island you come to fear the phrase "Hampton's traffic" and especially fear it on holiday weekends. The earlier the better. I arrived in Stony Brook at about 7:45 AM and, while I knew where I wanted to go and had a rough idea where it was, suddenly realized I didn't know quite how to get there. I pulled into a parking lot along the water and asked two nice women, who were out for their morning walk, how to get where I was going. After they gave me very thorough directions and resumed their interrupted exercise I just stood for a moment and looked at the view in front of me. I decided I didn't need to go any further, got out my rig and painted "The Fourth of July - Stony Brook, NY":

I had an appointment with a commission client at noon today in Cold Spring Harbor, NY and, in view of a forecast that promised temperatures in the mid-90's as well as increased humidity, thought it might be best to get my painting in early. I was given permission to set up my gear in the parking lot of a local yacht club. I loved the haze that was already in the air and the way it made everything feel hot and yellow. I also was taken with the brightly colored kayaks on the beach on the left hand side which I really just suggested with a couple of brush strokes. "Kayaks":

I'm pleased by the fact that I think you can see the humidity increase over the past three days of painting. I'm also pleased that I am not out in the heat now but am instead in the studio writing to you all and looking forward to the fireworks later on tonight! A happy and safe Fourth of July to you all!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Memorial Day. Two words which mean different things to different people. There is what I hope is the obvious meaning where we all remember and honor the courageous people who have fought to protect this country in both past and current conflicts. We owe these people our freedom.

But, for me, there is also the extra and implied meaning…the unofficial beginning of summer. Everyone has their favorite season and, to be quite honest, summer is not my favorite season. Summer brings humidity to the Northeast and I do not like humidity. So that we are clear, let me repeat…I DO NOT like humidity.

But what I do like to do is to paint outdoors and, while that can be done in any season, there is nothing like the promise of a full summer laid out before you. Most likely it is the vestigial imprint on my brain reminding me of time spent watching the calendar, counting the remaining days in the school year until I was free…FREE for two whole months! Memorial Day, to me, means freedom in a number of different ways.

The day promised to be a beauty and I knew immediately where I wanted to paint. I set off in the plein air mobile for Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park in Oyster Bay, NY. I had wandered through this beach on a few occasions in the past and knew it had everything I wanted for a painting on this day…blue sky and the blue waters of Oyster Bay, people strolling and relaxing and, most importantly, the American flag flying free in the slight breeze.

Monday, May 10, 2010


I’ve always read that no on site landscape painter enjoys painting on a windy day. I know some that will sit and paint in their vehicle in the rain or snow. But wind…that will have them running for the comfortable confines of the studio and a nice still life. Perhaps I should have followed their lead. This past Saturday saw the leading edge of a very windy cold front come through Long Island, NY at about mid-day. In fact, the real reason I went out to paint at all was that we lost our electricity as soon as the wind began to blow. We ended up being without electricity for 31 hours!

I had heard earlier in the week from a friend who works at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory which is located directly across the street from last week’s painting and blog subject entitled “Saint John’s Church”. The CSH Lab sprawls over many picturesque acres of what, years ago, was referred to as Bungtown. A bung hole is the hole in a watertight cask or barrel and a bung is the plug or stopper. Cold Spring Harbor was a whaling village in years past and Bungtown was the capitol of bung manufacturing.

My friend Sandy had told me that there were many nice views to be had at the end of Bungtown Road and she did not exaggerate. I managed to get myself set up in the lee of a large group of trees so that the 30-40 MPH gusts of wind were not too much of a factor.

If you read my blog regularly then you know that I always learn some valuable lesson every time I paint on site. This week the lesson was that if you set up in the lee of a stand of trees the sun will eventually drop below said trees casting shadows on your painting which will annoy you. As a result I had to keep inching my easel out from behind the relative comfort of the trees and into the teeth of the cold wind. I have a fairly high tolerance for physical discomfort coupled with a work ethic that compels me to finish any job I’ve begun. I gritted my teeth and soldiered on.

I was beginning to debate whether or not I was near to being finished and, quite frankly, my flinty resolve was beginning to crumble. At this point nature intervened by lifting my palette out of my very sturdy Soltek easel and carrying it twenty feet to my right, dropping it face down in the sandy path.

Painting session over.