Archive for August, 2009

On Location

Week of August 24

Denver-from-Apex-1-webLast Saturday afternoon I tried my hand at plein-air painting for the first time. Boy was it an experience, but not so awful that I couldn’t bring myself to write about it for a whole week. I just haven’t found the time. I filled my backpack with supplies before driving west on Colorado Highway 6 – destination Apex Park, Golden – to sit on the hillside on one of the summer’s hottest days.

It took months of endless bugging from fellow painters and teachers before I finally bought a large plastic rectangular palette that I store in my freezer, along with any leftover blobs of paint. I left it behind considering how impractical it would be to hike the foothills with, and instead folded a large piece of cardboard into my pack. This same piece of cardboard is to blame for my paints drying too quickly in the blazing sun which made it difficult to mix colors effectively.

Sitting on the hillside just off the Pick ‘n Sledge trail overlooking Denver was definitely a break from my usual routine of painting in a studio, or more recently, my apartment. Mountain bikers whizzed by for almost two hours as I tackled the skyline in scorching heat. My rear occasionally went numb from the hard, bumpy earth underneath. As well as providing sun protection, steadying my canvas on my knees caused little dents and bumps which helped me create interesting textures which are quite different to my usual palette knife strokes.

Although lacking a suitable easel and plein-air equipment was awkward, I really like this graphic image.


Short and Sweet

Week of August 17

Columbine-1--webI painted these Columbines last Saturday after a 5:20 am start to a morning spent volunteering at the Colorado Aids Project’s annual Aids Walk. The next day I had to help the PHAMALY group at the theater. For a change I took a break from one of my energetic, productive projects which lately have involved a lot of cooking followed by painting the end products, without leaving my apartment. I took photos of Colorado’s native flower while hiking Mt. San Luis earlier this summer and have them in mind for another cookbook image. I may end up taking the miniature canvases to South Africa as a gift for a friend who lived in Colorado.

Painting the Columbines was fairly straightforward. The biggest hassle was trying to stabilize the small squares on the large easels at the Art Students League. They both flipped off several times and landed face-down on the floor!Columbine-2--web

Lately all I have been able to think about is how much I am looking forward to my three week vacation in November. It seems like luxury to think about putting my feet up…not literally since I could never sit still for that long. I have a lot of work to do between now and then like attracting more followers to Plum2Paint, work projects and another conference to pull off, and compiling the cookbook. Coincidentally just yesterday my sister sent another South African recipe for me to include.

My Return to a Homemade Life

Week of August 11Sides---web

I spent last Saturday morning cooking up a storm in my tiny kitchen, crafting items for yet another still life composition for the family cookbook. The biggest recurring challenge of my summer crash course on painting food has been accurately capturing the perspective of serving dishes. Although I have yet to master it, the white buttermilk carton is spot on and I love the apricot jam jar.

Reading about the Iowans’ freshly baked bread enjoyed with jam and milk during the Great Depression prompted this menu choice. My own bread was equally delicious eaten with apricot jam, and fortunately the puddle of soup which almost resembles a form from a Van Gogh painting is far more appetizing than it looks.

Saturday afternoon flew by and childhood memories swirled through my head as I tried to capture the comforts of a welcoming household. Last week I bought a November plane ticket to South Africa which will be my first visit in seven years. Buttermilk is a common ingredient in the sliced Irish brown bread and zucchini and potato soup, as well as a traditional South African soup recipe which will be included in the book.  Saturday evening my arrangement looked like it was floating on the bare lemon yellow canvas, so I introduced a background piece of furniture to help anchor the scene.

Regular visits to 101 Cookbooks, La Tartine Gourmande and Orangette have inspired me to plug away at  capturing the many emotions associated with food. I enjoy these food still lifes and plan to keep at them long after the cookbook is published.

Zoe in the Snow

Week of August 3Zoe-web

A few weekends ago I escaped Denver to climb my seventh of the Rockies 14er peaks. My neighbor Stacy and I headed for the San Juan Mountain range in Southwest Colorado – destination San Luis – in her Land Rover. The beginning of the hiking trail to the 14,019 foot mountain peak is notoriously difficult to locate, and it was only during our return trip that we realized how many incorrect turns we had taken before arriving late Friday night.

I pitched my tent underneath the starry skies alongside the Rover which held Stacy and her nine year old labrador Zoe. There was not a cloud in the sky as we headed for the peak the next morning, accompanied by unusually lush greenery and wildflowers that provided great snapshot material. We shared the trail with two hikers on our ascent and only had to veer off the trail for a group of four on their descent, making this the least trafficked of my 14er climbs. We experienced howling winds as we closed in on the summit, and rested on the saddle before crossing the last stretch of scree towards the peak. I snapped this photo of Zoe who collapsed in a patch of snow which she began eating, and spread her bootie-clad paws in front of her. Even faithful companions need a break, especially on their 31st mountain climb!Zoe2-web

Painting Zoe was my first attempt at a pet portrait, and the process lifted me from the doldrums last Saturday morning after a depressing few days. I struggled with the awkward positioning of her front legs and the shadows her body cast in the snow. The different textures and patterns of her fur coat help delineate these areas, and I love the earthy color contrasts. I battled to darken Zoe’s collapsed right side which would have accentuated her tired gesture.

This portrait is proof that I can only gleam a certain amount of inspiration from within the confines of the three bedrooms that I call home. I hope Zoe’s mother will like this piece as much as I do when I give it to her. The three of us are tackling another peak in a few weeks… I wonder if another lightning bolt will strike.

For more pet portraits, please visit Jamie Rowe Photography.