Monday, June 2, 2008

Millbrook Paint Out

The weatherman warned of torrential rains and lightning. Ah, a perfect day for painting.

The weatherman was right. Clouds converged on the village of Millbrook for the 5th Annual Millbrook Paint-Out, and nearly 40 artists from five states attended this plein-air painting event. Each of us started a painting in the morning, and the wet paintings were auctioned at 5:00 the same day.

Jeanette set up under the hatchback of Trusty Rusty, but her watercolor washes just wouldn’t dry.
Garin Baker didn’t have an umbrella. He got most of his work done before the showers arrived, but his palette ended up a half-inch deep in water.

I was caught in the downpour. The two umbrellas, each on its own C-stand, kept the rain off the painting, but a cold stream headed down my neck. When the wind picked up I had to put my foot on the stands to keep them from tipping over.

Here’s the motif: the Farmer’s Market. The first photo shows how it looked in the morning when we arrived. The second shows how it looked when I was finishing up the painting. I was attracted by the variety of white triangular shapes, and the clustering versus blank areas.

I laid in the drawing with burnt sienna and a bristle brush over a color-tinted oil-primed 11x14 canvas. Corrections are easy with a paint rag.

The horizontal line at my index finger is the eye level, the most important line in the layin, even if it is not visible in the scene itself.

The foundation of the color scheme was venetian red and terre verte, two powerfully opaque pigments with weird tinting properties. I dipped into other tube colors here and there, but tried to paint almost everything with greenish and reddish harmonies in three or four premixed values.

This premixing is a huge timesaver for a complex motif, and it lends unity to the color scheme. The painting is almost entirely in bristle filberts.

I started with the sky and worked back-to-front. This was a miscalculation because I assumed that the market scene would be there when I got around to the foreground. But to my surprise they started folding up the tents at noon.

I hurried to capture the remaining tents and tables. The payoff was painting the reflections in the wet pavement. Note how the color of the puddle changes from green (under the trees) to red (under the truck and brick building).

Finally I painted the telephone wires using a watercolor round guided by the mahl stick. Here’s the final painting after about five hours.


John P. Baumlin said...

For me what makes that painting work are the puddles in the foreground that pick up those reflections beyond, and their shapes, which pull you into the painting.

I love your ability to take these ordinary scenes from life and make them extraordinary in a painting.

Tim said...

Absolutely gorgeous. I hope my friend Dan was there too! Since i was stuck in Sweden, i did my own little pleine air wishing i was with you guys! luckily for t me though it was around 77 F and bloody nice here!
i still can really get my head around the premixing of the values though. Or maybe you've gone in depth 'bout it somewhere else in this vast blog. Ill have to hunt about for it.
And by the way, the Kroyer/Skagen painters exhibit was amazing.

Cheers Tim

Erik Bongers said...

Extraordinary ordinary scenes indeed.
Makes me think of photographers Joel Sternfield and Stephen Shore.
Except that these photographers clearly want to illustrate american life with their seemingly ordinary views.
In the James Gurney paintings (to me at least) is seems more about the composition, the abstract shapes and colors.
I'm sure there are large format photographers that fit the analogy better.

Timpa: click on the 'Color' link in the INDEX section of the left margin. Read the topics bottom to top.

Erik Bongers said...

Another analogy: I noticed that quite often New York/Jersey weather and Belgian weather are about the same.
We had a sunny morning and a heavily flushed afternoon.

René PleinAir said...

This is exactly what plein air painting is all about!! go with the flow, be on the right place on the right time, and you did!!

It has a huge "Trevor Chamberlain" feel to it, awesome!

As Charles Sovek said: "A fine painting is a fragile gift sporadically given when you least expect it."

Your got a very nice gift Gurney, ...

Anonymous said...

Hey James,

Beautiful painting. I'm curious, What is that color, to the right of your white? Is that a mixed color or a tube color?


Raluca said...

just to agree with Rene and the comments before and add that:Jeannete look so sweet in this rainy picture!Great scene you capture in paint,I can feel the wett air!!

Jamie Williams Grossman said...

What an absolutely stunning painting! I love your color scheme and the crop of the scene that you chose. You truly know how to roll with the punches when it comes to weather conditions and things that come up in plein air work---like folks packing up shop and leaving the scene! I was hoping to also attend the Millbrook paintout, but (thankfully due to the weather) couldn't make it this time around. Perhaps we'll meet in the fall at the one in Rhinebeck!

Unknown said...

Love it! This is amazing.

Pilan said...

This reminds me of my home town. It is very beautifully painted.

Rich Williams said...

Good use of values on a dull day to bring out the vitality in the scene. I like your appoach in mixing colors to bring harmony to the painting.

eugubino said...

I really think these Provincial townscape and industrial scenes communicate something to us Europeans -like a less contrived Hopper perhaps .......Great stuff!
Paul Howlett Gubbio Italy

James Gurney said...

Thank you, Paul, I'll keep leaving the telephone poles in the pictures. And thanks everyone else for your encouraging words.