Friday, June 29, 2012

Church Street House

oil on paper

I really enjoyed working on this one, despite the heat- it was about 95 degrees out, and I was standing in the sun. This large and attractive house is directly across the street from a Lutheran church, leading me to believe it used to be the parish house. I finished the painting at noon, when to my surprise the church bells sounded out the chorus from Beethoven's Ninth. 

I've got something new going on that I'm pretty excited about. I've put together my first art tutorial- "An Artist on a Budget". It covers what's in my toolbox of essential art supplies, as well as ways I've found to save money while still using quality materials.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Oil City, Little Grey House

oil on paper

One of the things I love about painting on location is the way the slim expanse of time I spend standing and working becomes a little pocket of memory. Even now, looking at this painting, I can remember the man who stopped to tell me now much he loves this view, and how St. Joseph's (seen here in the distance, looking a bit like a rabbit with very alert ears) has seen him through good times and bad. 

I also remember the 85 year old woman who came down off her porch three times to talk with me, walker and all. I remember exactly what she said- "Do you ever watch Bob Ross? He paints so fast and his hair is so curly. Well I guess he is deceased now." 

I remember the sounds, the smells, the quality of the light. It's almost as if I set up and meditated there. Nothing quite so peaceful yet so all absorbing as painting plein air, for me.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Artist Relocation Program in Oil City, PA

Early this month I drove across Pennsylvania from the east side to the west, and spent five days in Oil City, PA. Oil City has both an artist relocation program and extremely affordable housing, so I decided to visit.

When I first entered the city I breathed a sigh of relief, as my first impressions were positive. I knew that if I didn't find the place to be extremely paint-worthy, I just wasn't going to be interested, but one look at the city told me there would be plenty of scenes to paint. Oil City lies along the Allegheny River, is surrounded by dramatic hills, and seems to be watched over by the commanding and elegant presence of St. Joseph's Catholic Church.

St. Joseph's Catholic Church 

Here is another view of the same church, this time from below:

St. Joseph's Catholic Church

Oil City is divided by the Allegheny River into the "South Side" and "North Side". Beginning in the 1850's, barges were used to transport oil barrels down Oil Creek from Titusville, then sent on down the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh. Oil City was a boom town until the 1950's, and has suffered especially hard since the 1990's, when the companies of Quaker State, Pennzoil and Wolf's Head left town.  

Oil City, South Side

Oil City, North Side with Oil Creek entering the Allegheny

Most of my visit was spent painting outside, an excellent way to get a feel for a place as well as to meet the locals. I found the people friendly and down-to-earth. No putting on airs in Oil City! The people see what is right with their town, and also what isn't. Once while I was painting a beautiful panoramic view, a man stopped to tell me that he loves that view, and especially at night. Shortly after this an elderly woman came out of her house on a walker, carefully maneuvering her front steps to take a look at what I was doing. She pronounced Oil City as "dumpy". Since she is 85 years old and has lived here all her life, I imagine she is especially aware of all the changes Oil City has been through since the 1930s.

I visited the National Transit Studio building, where artists rent studios for .49 cents a square foot. It's an absolutely beautiful building, with space for art classes and two galleries.

National Transit Building

National Transit Building entrance

Gardens at the back of the National Transit Building

There are more than 25 artists in the building, and they come from all over the country, many of them from big cities such as Chicago and L.A. 

Okay, this is not a paid advertisement, so I'm not going to hide evidence of problems. While the National Transit Building is in good shape, many of the buildings downtown are empty or in sad shape:


The Empty Oil City National Bank

Some of the Victorian style homes are stunning:

While many, many others are in need of repair:

Still, $60,000 will buy you a very decent place, and how many towns can offer anything like that?

Whenever I'm in a new place it doesn't take me long to check out the local library. The Oil City Library is one of the best I've seen in a town of this size, large and comfortable and, of course, packed with books.

Oil City Library

A word about the food. If I move to Oil City, I'll need to grow a large vegetable garden or belong to a CSA. I'll also take monthly drives to the Wegman's in Erie to stock up on whole grains. Simply put, the local supermarkets and restaurants do not cater to vegetarians. 

That being said, the positives about Oil City warrant giving the place some serious consideration. The affordability of the housing and studio space, the 100% financing offered to artists buying a home in the area, the natural beauty of the dramatic landscape as well as the friendliness of the people are all powerful incentives for artists to consider relocating to Oil City.

If you would like to find out more about the Oil City Artists Relocation Program, you can email Joann Wheeler for more information, and put the words "artist relocation" in your subject line.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

View from Little Round Top, Evening

oil on paper
I worked on this painting from the top of "Little Round Top" for a couple hours after dinner, then watched the sunset. I'll miss Gettysburg.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Apple Orchard, Gettysburg

oil on paper 5.75"x7"
I'm starting to feel more settled after so many days on the road. Participating in the Gettysburg Artist Colony this past week was enlightening in many ways. For one thing, it made me realize how odd I am. Ha! Yes, shortly after arriving at a new location, the other artists seemed to be able to dive right in and paint while I would wander for 20, 30, 40 minutes trying to find something- I knew not what until it appeared. And to my embarrassment, sometimes nothing struck my fancy and I just didn't paint.

This...slowness of getting in gear always happens when I am new to an area, but all too often just plain happens. And if I'm not completely pleased with a composition, then a subject is just a collection of disparate little parts- gestalt never happens, and painting is as dull as sitting in a waiting room. Yet Gettysburg was SO beautiful!! 

Here is a painting completed at the Rose Farm in Gettysburg. I had snuck away from the group and arrived an hour early, giving me some lead time to actually get something done with the allotted time. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

View from Little Round Top

oil on paper
I'm back from five days of painting in Oil City, then four days of painting in Gettysburg, PA. Here is a view from Little Round Top, my favorite spot in all of Gettysburg. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Peony in Brown Dish

oil on panel

I'm painting plein air at the Gettsyburg Festival for several days, but am re-posting a painting from a ways back. This painting is now available for purchase.