Something You Could See Every Day

Clouds Visiting Pickerings Field Watercolor 5×7

I went painting  as usual this morning.  I parked by the same field I painted a few evenings ago, but this morning the clouds had sunk down in the river next to the field, and the hills and fields were drenched in fog.

I figured this was a great way to get in touch with my inner Monet, working fast to beat the sunlight.  I focused on puddles on the paper and looking for the few sharp shapes and the music playing on the iPod became soft white noise.  The sun was coming up fast.  Ella Fitzgerald wrapped up ‘Lovin’ that Man’, and I happened to look up and toward the river just as Pavarotti began Bizet’s requiem and the clouds began moving from the field and river up to the sky.  I tried snapping a picture and/or video and then realized all I could do was just experience this heavenly moment.

It’s something that happens almost every cool morning along the Battenkill in Vermont, as it does along most rivers around the world.  I see it as I drive people to school, but today was the first time I really saw it.  I’ll be back tomorrow, ready to really see it and wondering if Monet was getting in touch with the same thing all those years ago when he painted the same lily pond over and over again.

My Giverny

My Giverny Watercolor, 12 x 16
My Giverny
Watercolor, 12 x 16

This is the field and the hills a few hundred feet down the road from the end of our driveway.  I must have sketched


And color penciled..


.. and magic      ..  and  watercolored.. photo              This road about a zillion times.

I should be bored with it.  But I’m not.  It’s my Giverny.  I know I’m no Monet, but I do know Monet spent a lot of time painting his own front yard too.



Road Work Watercolor, 8x10
Road Work
Watercolor, 8×10

This is my favorite view of the valley in back of the Norman Rockwell Covered bridge in Arlington VT, and it’s also my favorite time of year to see it.  The leaf peepers have gone back to the cities, and the only traffic on this road are a few morning commuters and a member of the road crew charged with getting this road along the Battenkill ready for winter.

Pleins, Plans and Automobiles

A Hay Oddity Watercolor, 5x7
A Hay Oddity
Watercolor, 5×7

So I learned a powerful lesson on Saturday.

The last outdoor art fair anyone should do in Vermont is Columbus Day Weekend.  And that’s only if you have a windproof, waterproof, and – you got it – SNOW proof tent to cower in when the weather turns south, or in this case north.

It was a good lesson and had me rethinking a new plan to paint au naturale in the mornings. Or maybe it was en plein air.  It was the one that won’t get you arrested, anyway.

A lucrative but frigid festival on Saturday turned my Sunday into a day planning a winterized plein-auto studio, complete with a table for my steering wheel and a setup for brushes and water in my cupholder (that’s totally normal, right)?

Monday was glorious, of course, but today a soggy bone-chilling morning greeted us.

I headed to Manchester after dropping the kids at school, looking for the perfect vista.

Manchester, VT is a bit of an oddity.  It’s a ‘gold town’, attracting skiers and designer outlet  shoppers, with a few middle class neighborhoods still holding their own.  You can see the majestic Equinox mountain, but you have to look over the inns and malls.  There are a few cows living next to the water treatment facility, and if you get further into sub-suburban Manchester – as I did this morning – you can see a few rolled bales of hay in the front yards of some of the well-kept and growing housing developments like the one I stopped to paint this morning.

I put the iPod on shuffle and the heated seats on high.  Every so often I had to turn on the wipers to see my subject.  An older gentleman walked by, giving me the hairy eyeball until he saw a brush in my hand and grinned at me. It’s an odd setup for painting, and it made this picture of a lonely hay bale at the edge of an otherwise conventional house development seem all the more appropriate. Keeping my grinning stranger in the painting walking down the road seemed appropriate too.

Go Big and Go Home

Little Green Mess
Little Green Mess

So my collaboration with Jean Glaser helped me get bigger, and for once, going bigger is a good thing.

Her suggestion for a change in grip (unlike so many others who have told me – with some reason – to just get a grip), got me drawing fast and loose and then out to the back yard to look for some scabby green apples to draw and paint along with the fake sunflower and pumpkin which are the only foliage that are safe inside our house.

Little Green Apples II, Watercolor 8×10

And I drew painted…

Little Green Apples Pen & Ink and watercolor wash 5×7

And painted and drew and, Heaven help me, even cleaned up my desk a little – but only in the drawing.

Now I can’t wait to go home and see what else is lying around the house and yard that may have seemed boring a few days ago.