One morning before work I went out to Natirar Park to do a site assessment for my ecology class. I puttered around in the frozen field for a while and then I made my way down to the Raritan River to jot down a few more notes. A great blue heron patiently waited on the partially frozen section of the river and it probably wondered why I showed up and when I would go away. I know that’s what I’d be thinking if I were a great blue heron. I got what I needed for class and high-tailed it out of there before I completely lost feeling in my fingers. I rolled up to the stop sign and I noticed a bright red barn across the street. I thought it looked interesting so I snapped a quick photo before making a left turn out of the park. The following weekend I tried to recreate the scene on paper, minus that awful street running through the middle. I took out the street and put in a field where the snow had almost melted away. I didn’t like the way the first attempt came out so I tried it again. Here are the results.
Its like one of those electronic games you play at the bar trying to figure out the difference between the 2 pictures….
In a previous post, I have included a painting of mine brook, late in the day, facing north. The image above is a quick watercolor sketch in the other direction. I was looking down from the 2nd floor apartment building and I only had about half an hour before the light would change. The daylight was so intense and it really lit up the big yellow house and the two red cars as well as the hill in the back of the house. A nice little picture, but I had covered up too much of the white snow to create the effect I was ultimately shooting for. In watercolor, once you cover up the white paper, you can never get it back. Applying white paint just doesn’t look right. This might be another one that deserves a 2nd attempt in the future.
Some say that the suburbs are boring. I wouldn’t know because I haven’t been bored since I was a teenager. But, I do think that the suburbs are annoying. You can’t even enjoy a quiet walk. Frantic people in their Mercedes and BMWs speed up and down quiet streets in a rush to worship their television, or maybe they’re on an important journey to the mall. But, I think beauty exists everywhere; even in the suburbs. After a good snow suburbia or any other place transforms into a beautiful new landscape. Trees, houses, and roads are blanketed in this magnificent cold, fresh, white powder, and you can’t help but feel a sense of mystery and wonder. I don’t mean to sound like Aladdin going on a magic carpet ride, but the feeling is coincidentally similar.
I am thankful for a few good recent snow storms in my neighborhood, which inspired this painting. The house on the right seems to be a “second home”; the light is never on, and there is hardly any sign of life other than an occasional pileated woodpecker in that big old oak tree. On one night in July this year, this place was rockin with about 40 strong, and that was the only time I have ever seen a human soul here. I could be totally off the mark of course, as this might be the residence of Count Dracula. No, perhaps it’s Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Oh, I guess I’ll never know.
The photograph above of Spiderman’s Aunt’s place left a bit of room for painting imagination….
The early morning sun lit up the old building across the street from where I was pushing snow off my car. I’m not sure what this building was originally built for; a courthouse perhaps? Today, it has been converted into a dance studio. I always admire the architecture of this building, as I pass by. In fact, I admire most structures that aren’t built in “modern style”. When I think of modern style construction I think of people building things in the fastest and cheapest way possible. Many of these modern structures lack character and creativity, so it’s refreshing to see something charming and unique once in a while. I chopped off the left side of this painting, as a result of an unsuccessful attempt to salvage a truly horribly painted tree. Perhaps I’ll try this one again some other time…
Landscape Arch (above) is one of the more well-known (and longest) natural arches in Arches National Park in Southern Utah. Sometime in the 90’s people were camping underneath the arch, when a giant piece of the arch broke off and came crashing to the ground. Luckily, no one was hurt. There are many natural arches, “windows”, and natural bridges found throughout the park. Water and other natural forces continue to shape the landscape, as old arches break down and new ones are born. This painting is a reminder that everything is constantly changing, and that Landscape Arch will inevitably come to an end, but at least it will remain on this piece of paper.
This is a quick watercolor sketch of the Hudson highlands in the distance and a glimmer of Lake Skannatati; one of the many lakes in Harriman State Park. The park is an outdoor paradise for city dwellers as well as suburbanites who travel here on weekends. The trailhead parking lot was a sea of screaming adults, kids, and clicking cameras. Walk about a mile up the red trail or the “long path” and all the noise and calamity fades away. It seems that most people “experience nature” from the comfort of their cars. On a beautiful day like this, the only thing that could make it better is a nice cold beer after the long hike!
Medium: Watercolor (image 6×8)
Materials: Winsor & Newton paints on Arches 140lb cold pressed block