Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Fields Project concludes...

Yesterday dawned cloudless and beautiful, perfect for an airplane ride over the countryside to see the designs the "field artists" had mowed into a meadow set aside for the Fields Project. I enjoyed seeing the designs (you can see part of the Origami Cow in the upper left), but I found myself more fascinated with the patterns of green, dotted with tiny white farm buildings -- so many different greens!

Our schedule took us to a dairy farm this time, where pale yellow buildings stood out boldly against the sky.
Our farm hostess hung quilts for us artists, and five of us took positions around the grounds to incorpoarte the quilt patterns into the scene. It's been quite enjoyable working with the other artists, who, like me, have come from other parts of the country.
Tonight all the artists and the farm families with whom we've been staying will gather for a picnic, and tomorrow the Fields Project will conclude with a show of our work. I'm looking forward to seeing my family here in a few hours. My husband flew into Chicago last night, and he, my son (who lives in Chicago) and my son's girlfriend will drive out here to see the sights and get a "farm fix."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Fields Project, Continued....

Sometimes it takes a while to get your bearings when you're painting in an unfamiliar place. That has certainly been the case for me this week. I just hadn't been satisfied with anything I'd done because I didn't really know what it was I wanted to paint....until today. When I started seeing farm buildings as BIG GEOMETRIC SHAPES against a field of blue, I knew that was it, that was my subject!

These wonderful iconic red barns overlook a sea of golden wheat. So we were surrounded by primary colors: red, blue, yellow. The barns' owner, a gracious hostess who plied us artists with coffee and homemade fudge, told us her family has owned and worked this farm since 1830 -- about as far back as Illinois' original settlement goes.

As you can tell from these watercolors, the day was magnificent! Painting outdoors under big, shady oaks, a cool breeze and a blue sky filled with puffy white clouds is about as close to heaven as it gets.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More about the Fields Project

Tremendous thunderstorms pounded northwestern Illinois all day today, so I hung out at my hosts' house and worked from the images I had downloaded to my laptop from previous days' photo jaunts.

Above, the Rock River, which flows through the town of Oregon, IL. This is the site of the Black Hawk Indian War, the last Indian war fought east of the Mississippi and another shameful episode in American history. Deprived of their traditional hunting grounds when they were pushed into Iowa territory in 1830, the people of the Sauk and Fox tribes, led by Chief Black Hawk, crossed back over the river to hunt, fish and thereby save themselves from starvation. They were met by U.S. Army troops who slaughtered them. Today Lorado Taft's sculpture, the "Eternal Indian" marks the site of this sad event.

This is a scene along one of the county roads I've been roaming each day. Because of all the rain this area has had, everything is lushly green, green, green. I find myself mixing every combination of blues and yellows imaginable to try to replicate the intense emeralds I see.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Fields Project continued.......

Tuesday dawned cloudy and cool -- a good day for photographing wildflowers -- so I headed out to the Nachusa Grasslands, a 3000-acre native tallgrass prairie owned and maintained by the Nature Conservancy. The end of June is the height of wildflower season on the prairie. This is kind of landscape the emigrants to Oregon Territory saw when they headed west in their prairie schooners. The immense QUIET out on the Grasslands is balm to this city girl's soul.
When thunderheads showed up on the horizon, I headed back to my car where I could paint from the hatch of my Subaru Outback -- a pleasant makeshift studio as long as the wind didn't blow rain or mosquitoes in.

Here's a view of the eastern boundary of the Nachusa Grasslands under a glowering sky, in ink and watercolor.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Fields Project, Continued....

Monday began with a breakfast meeting in the town library, where a local historian presented the story of sculptor Lorado Taft, who founded the Eagle's Nest artist colony here in Oregon, IL
Made up of art faculty at the Art Institute and the University of Chicago, the colony painted here every summer from 1898 until 1942. Keeping this artistic heritage alive is one of the goals of the Fields Project.

One of the things the Fields Project committee does to meet that goal is to arrange painting trips for the artists to working farms. So later that morning, our group of artists met to paint at Stone Corner Farm, one of the few remaining vegetable growers in the area. The day started under a pleasant overcast, but by 10:30 the clouds had dissipated and we had full sun beating down on us. The vegetables loved it, but I had to beat a retreat to the shade, ending the morning with just this one small study from the garden.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Fields Project

I am one of eight artists selected to participate in The Fields Project in Oregon, Illinois, a nine-day program that brings artists from all over the U.S. to paint the countryside, fostering connections between art and agriculture.

It took me two very long, very hot days to drive here, arriving on Saturday just in time for the welcoming party hosted by the Fields Project committee.
I headed out Sunday morning under a slow, cool drizzle, so my painting start was tentative.....a quick study of morning glories followed by a dash back to the car.
The sky stayed overcast, but that just made the greens more intense. Lots of rain in recent weeks has turned all the crops -- mostly corn and soybeans -- shades of emerald and lime. And in the midst of all this: quiet, blessed quiet. The trilling of birds and frogs is the only sound around.
By afternoon the sun came out and sent me seeking shade. Outdoor -- "plein aire" -- painting in the hot and muggy summers they get here in the Midwest can get you stewing in your own juices. Lowden Park, catching the cooling breeze off the Rock River and full of shade and water fountains, was a life-saver.
I ended the day with this study of a dynamic doorway in a barn not too far from the farm I'm staying at. The white roofs of farm buildings against the blue skies and green fields are breathtaking; I hope to paint more of them as the week unfolds.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Illustrated Journaling in the Smokies

The Bascom Art Center in Highlands, North Carolina, was the scene for my first summer session of "The Illustrated Journal in Ink & Watercolor," held June 10-12, 2010.

Students work on their journals in one of the classrooms at The Bascom.

I give a lesson in how to work "wet-in-wet" with watercolor.

Highlands is a lovely little mountain town, with charming shops, nestled in the southern edge of the Smoky Mountains.

We sketched all over the campus, then retreated to RainWater, a mountain-top, parklike setting where a group of homes will eventually be built.

The view from there was awesome!
Student sketches the Smoky Mountains under a sky filled with rain.

But soon those clouds you see in the distance brought thunder, lightning and heavy rain, prompting our retreat.

This was my first time at The Bascom, and I found it to be a delightful place to teach. I'll be going back in October, to teach an advanced class in Illustrated Journaling, "MORE Journaling in Ink & Watercolor."