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….
Mine Brook (above) is a brook that runs parallel (for a while) with the street I live on (today), and flows into the North Branch of the Raritan River. Attempting to re-create a place that is local is always more special than doing a scene that I have traveled to once (or twice), especially, if I don’t consider that landscape “home”. For instance, looking at a painting of a desert may not resonate with me the way it would with a resident of a desert landscape. I’m accustomed to hardwood trees like oak, maple, and hickory; rivers, streams, and slight rocky elevations (Piedmont); fields, swamps, and marshes in the lowlands. These types of landscape characteristics have engrained themselves in me as signs of home. This is not to say that people can’t find a new home in a new landscape. The painting of Mine Brook is embellished, of course, as it is the artist’s responsibility. In reality, the brook is more like a tiny trickle, which gives the impression that it will dry up by next morning. Yet, it continues to trickle on and after a good rain the brook comes alive with a strong steady flow once again…
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…
The Wick house is a simple old farm house, but I can’t seem to just walk past it without staring at it for half an hour. During the revolutionary war, the continental army used this place as a campground during the coldest winters on record. I usually visit the Wick farm in the winter when it’s easier to imagine the cold and hunger that these soldiers endured. The image above is a painting of the Wick farm in late fall on a cold foggy day. The woods surrounding the farm always give off an eerie vibe as if the presence of the men that served in the war is still there.