Monday, October 28, 2019



Ben and I head home from New York this week, and we are both a little sorry to go. While we miss home, our time here has given us valuable new experiences, as travel always does. We've both enjoyed making new routines and seeing life from a different perspective for a while. I predict that I will miss the rooftop more than I anticipate. It's been the ultimate outdoor studio for this subject matter--I can literally walk out the door and paint, only contending with a flight of stairs, no car, no hike, and no interruptions. I'll miss it. 

I thought I'd share about the various ways I begin a piece outdoors. Disclaimer: my process, like most, is in a constant state of evolution. I used to begin by "sketching" the composition and values with a dark paint and a small brush. For whatever reason, that doesn't do it for me anymore. I now sketch some thumbnails on paper, then begin the painting with a very light wash of Gamsol + a hue that compliments the subject matter and wipe away the light areas of my composition with a paper towel. I like the sculptural aspect of using my hands more directly on the panel and pulling away paint. Lots of "happy accidents" can happen during this time, hand strokes or ideas that I will keep in the final iteration of the piece. This method also gives me a good design sense, a Notan of sorts. Notan is a whole other post--but in short, it's a Japanese concept that explores the relationship of light and dark, and it is extremely helpful in understanding whether or not you've got a strong design.

Below is a piece I did on Thursday, before two of our daughters arrived for a weekend visit. This view is directly south of us, toward One World Trade Center. I began with a light wash of a violet. It's a little hard to see in these photos. The color doesn't matter to me that much--it gets completely covered--but I want something harmonious that sends me in the right direction for the overall composition. And I don't want the intensity to control me, so it's generally light--I can use this "armature" or not as I go.

Another few more examples (sorry for the formatting and photo quality--these are on-the-spot quick photos and I'm more focused on painting than getting a good photo when I take these):



This one had such strong light and dark patterns that this is how I began the wash, and wiped away from there:

As you can see, this start has more of a Notan quality to it than any of the others. You can accomplish this with thumbnails and a sharpie in you sketchbook before you start painting. I sometimes do that in addition to my thumbnail sketches, but the more quickly I can get to painting when I'm outdoors, the better chance I have to capture the light in the momentary scene that inspired me.

Happy Halloween, by the way!

-julie davis

Sunday, October 6, 2019

A moment in Maine and Vermont

I now understand the appeal of a real, on-time, colorful September fall. As a Texan, I know a long, hot summer, and I always appreciate when fall finally decides to reach us, but some lucky people get it way earlier than we do in Austin. Obviously, theirs comes with a long, hard winter, so I can't say I'd trade them, but real fall in September is terrific, and feels really, really good!

Since my husband and I are living in New York this fall, we've tried to explore areas that are relatively close. So, we took a long weekend drive to Maine and Vermont last weekend, and I took my plein air pack and thoroughly enjoyed the times I got to unpack it and paint.

The photo above is in Kennebunkport, Maine, down by the docks where they bring the lobster pots in from the morning fishing trip. While I was painting these lobster buoys, a couple of fishermen walked by and struck up a conversation with me. One told the other I was "memorializing McDougall's buoys." I guess I was. I sure enjoyed the piece.

This is near Manchester, VT, at the covered bridge near Norman Rockwell's home, and below is my process on a gorgeous barn near Barnard, VT.

I could've stayed for days and painted this barn from many angles. The autumn foliage was the icing on the cake. I got a lot of photos and sketches, and hope to get to painting more on this unique structure when we're home. For now, I'm back in NYC painting on the rooftop!

-julie davis