Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Know When to Fold "Em

As the song lyrics state, "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."

I have been working on my series of remarkable, survivor trees, From Just a Seed, for some time now. When I began, I was energized and excited about the prospect of continuing the series. As time progressed, my energy faltered.  While talking with a friend, I told her that when I finally finished the series, I was excited to start something new.

Early Autumn, Pastel, 9x9 inches, © Lynn Goldstein 

It takes a good friend to point out when we are off course. She asked why I had this arbitrary number of paintings that had to be completed. Maybe the series was done now. I can be a little bit stubborn. It took 5 hours for me to realize how right she was. 

As a result of her wise words, I put away the series and completed 5 paintings pronto.

I am not finished painting magnificent trees, but I am thrilled to be moving in another direction.

Why am I writing this? Because my work is all about helping people feel peaceful in a hectic world. If I don't experience harmony while working, negative emotions will likely show in the art that I produce. "Folding" on the series was a way to return to a calm space while making my art. I am hoping that will translate to others.

Triumvirate, Pastel, 12 x 9 inches, © Lynn Goldstein

So, have you have ever "given up" on something that wasn't working for you? How did that turn out? Let me know in the comments below.

Kissed, pastel, 9 x 12 inches, ©Lynn Goldstein

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Can I get a Witness?

No, I'm not speaking of the classic soul singing of Marvin Gaye. Instead, my reference is about witness trees.

This past summer and fall, I visited Fredericksburg, Virginia. Fredericksburg is filled with history. Visiting Chatham, in Fredericksburg was a must in my quest for finding historic and amazing trees.

Chatham Manor is the only private home visited by both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Clara Barton and Walt Whitman also visited when Chatham was used as a civil war hospital.

Many trees on the land surrounding the home are designated as witness trees. Witness trees are trees that were living during the Civil War. None are quite as interesting as the catalpa trees at Chatham. At least 200 years old, they are located in the yard facing the Rappahannock River, very close to the home. Legend has it that when doctors were amputating limbs from soldiers, there was no time to waste, and the arms and legs were thrown out the window of the home onto the lawn. The Catalpa trees seem to have captured in their trunks the horrible pain that the soldiers endured.

For my next painting of historic and amazing trees, I have begun Catalpa-1810 to remember the pain of our Civil War, and to celebrate the survival of the country and the survival of some magnificent witnesses. I am also celebrating my love for trees.

One of the reference photos that I will use to paint Catalpa - 1810

Isn't it interesting that the leaf of the Catalpa looks like our symbol of a heart? 

On the easel-- The start of Catalpa 1810

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

4 Beginnings to the Same Painting Subject

I love teaching. The experience stretches me to think in different ways. Last week, I wanted to show my new students how the background color of a painting can change the appearance of the end product. Thought that it would be fun to share it here.

First, I want to tell you what inspired these paintings. In December, I was able to visit Panama. My father lived in Panama during WWII, so it is a place that I have wanted to visit for decades. I like to walk in places that I can imagine he did. I was not disappointed because the lush landscape was beautiful.

One morning before sunrise, I roused myself from bed to attempt to see some of the exotic birds in the Gamboa Rainforest area. With flashlight in hand, and looking out for snakes, I ventured out. One particular tree seemed to be the place to go. There was a cacophony of noise coming from the branches, which was a clue to me that some good bird action must be going on there. While standing quietly, looking into that particular tree, I turned around to see the sun beginning to rise behind me. Both scenes took my breath away. The noise I was hearing in the tree was being made by a multitude of birds, while what was at my back was a magnificent rising sun. Magic!!

Making these paintings helped me relive that magic. Hope you enjoy them too.

This was the first pastel painting that I did in the experiment. I began with a green background.
"Panama Skies Magic #1,"  6 x 4 inches, Pastel on Uart Paper, © Lynn Goldstein 
Detailed closeup so that you may see the green background peeking through

After doing the painting with a green background, I realized that a yellow background
would be a good choice because it would give me the glowing color that I wanted.
I used the exact same palette, with the exception of an added shot of turquoise and dark purple.
"Panama Skies Magic #2, 12 x 9 inches, Pastel on Uart Paper, © Lynn Goldstein

Here's a detail so that you may see the yellow peeking through.

For this 3rd painting, I used a purple background. This one was the most difficult because that purple fought with the glowing sky that I was trying to portray. I am satisfied with the end result which started to become more abstracted.
Again, I used the same palette for each painting.
"Panama Skies #3," 12 x 9 inches, Pastel on Uart Paper, © Lynn Goldstein

See that purple peeking through the pastel layers? 

As a result of the purple background painting, I decided to do one more and abstract the image even further.
Since I enjoyed using the yellow background, I did that again.
"Panama Skies Magic #4," 6 x 4 inches, Pastel on Uart Paper, ©Lynn Goldstein

One more closeup so that you can see the background color (yellow) peeking through.

Friday, December 30, 2016

George Washington's Tulip Poplar

Tulip Poplar 1785, Acrylic, 36 x 24 inches © Lynn Goldstein

Is it odd that I actually liked writing term papers? Research is fun for me. I realize that that is one of the reasons that I love leading tours at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. In order to share the art and the history with visitors, I am required to research. 

My love of research is why working in series makes since for me.  For the "From Just a Seed" series, visiting the historic and amazing trees is part of the fun of making the work. Finding out where the trees are located, and a little about the history of the trees feeds my love of research.

One of the things that fascinates me so much about this project is learning more about the individual species of trees. There is endless fascination in the variety of leaves, the structure of the trunks, and the growth patterns. The history related to the specific trees I have found has also been inspiring because some of these trees have quite a background.  With that in mind,  "Tulip Poplar" captivated me.  Here's the backstory:

This painting represents a famous tree because it was planted by one of the most famous people in American history. It is located on the Mount Vernon estate and was planted by George Washington. Now, I love George Washington. His life was astounding. In fact, I have read at least 2 books about our first president this year alone. I always share an image of him when I lead tours. He looms large for me. 

On the grounds of Mount Vernon, Washington used a very symmetrical gardening plan. If there was a tulip poplar on one side of the garden, there would be a matching tree on the other side. If you visit Mount Vernon, you may see this tree on one side of the bowling green, which is the large expanse of yard as you enter the Mount Vernon estate. 

For this painting, I wanted to show how the tulip poplar shoots up into the sky. In the lower right side of the painting, you will see the beauty of a tulip poplar in autumn, while in the upper left side of the painting, you will see the leaves of the tree. Each painting in this series provides a little story about an individual tree. 

Tulip Poplars are native to the east coast of the United States, and can grow up to 160 feet in height. 

Here are a few photos (excuse the quality!)  to show you the work in progress: 

Found it!!

Monday, November 21, 2016

How working in a series feeds my new big dream

Detail of American Elm in the From Just a Seed series, Acrylic, ©Lynn Goldstein

When I first began making art, I couldn't understand why anyone would want to work in a series. I mean, goodness, there are so many things to be interested in and to paint. I had a lightbulb moment when working on my Reaching series years ago. I realized that when working in a series,  I really got the opportunity to grow while studying something that truly interests me. This is one of the reasons that I have begun painting the series From Just a Seed. That's not the only reason, though.

For years I was concerned that making art was a narcissistic pursuit. Well, I got over THAT!

However, I still dream that my art can do more than it does. I can do more than I do to make this world a better place. So, my goal with From Just a Seed is to help focus attention on the importance of the environment and trees. To fulfill that ambition, I am looking to work with an environmental non-profit. What I envision doing is having an exhibition with the organization where part of the proceeds of the sale of my work would be donated to that organization.

This is a big dream to me, and it spurs me on as I continue my series. Six paintings completed with more to come!

If you know of an environmental non-profit that sounds like a good fit, let me know in the comments below, or check out my website and just hit "contact me". To do that, click here.  

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

It's ALL in the Journey

Working on my most recent series of paintings, I am finding that the research is as much fun as the painting process. Traveling to find historic and amazing trees has yielded some surprises. Last Tuesday was a perfect example.

Getting out the door in the morning to drive south to Fredericksburg, Virginia would not normally be on my list of things to do,. That said, I wanted to see the Virginia Champion Yellowwood tree at Kenmore Plantation, and the weather was just about perfect for a visit. Traffic was heavy, but moving on Interstate 95, and I made it to Fredericksburg just in time for the site to open for visitors. 

A well-dressed woman greeted me upon my arrival. I am sure that she thought that I was there to visit the home, but the grounds were of more interest to me during this trip. I asked her if she could direct me to the Yellowwood tree. She looked puzzled, but pointed out some men not too far away, indicating that they could help me. These men seemed to know exactly what I was looking for and directed me to... wait for it... a SAPLING! My disappointment was palpable. I had driven over an hour and the tree was gone. Turns out that the Champ had died a few years ago, and the sapling was a replacement. This is where the story takes a positive turn.

The Yellowwood tree at Kenmore Plantation

A cutting of a branch of the Champion Yellowwood tree. sigh. 

As a result of the death of the Champion tree, I asked if there were other historic trees on the property. That was when I was introduced to the Director of Gardens and Historic Landscapes there. She spent over an hour with me showing me some outstanding specimens. Here's the kicker. If the Yellowwood had been alive, I would have taken pictures and hi-tailed it out of there. Sometimes things that appear to be negative can yield great rewards. 

Here is a picture of the Southern Red Oak at Kenmore Plantation. This beauty will figure into my upcoming work to be sure.

Southern Red Oak at Kenmore Plantation

Friday, September 30, 2016

How to Block in a Pastel Painting -- Revisiting an Old Favorite

Many feel that making art of the same subject may be boring. I love revisiting old favorites. Why? Well, It's fun to see if my working style has changed, how my memories of a location may have been altered with time, and also to reactivate fond experiences and feelings from the past.

Just recently, I completed a painting inspired by a visit to a friend years ago. When I went to her home for the first time, my socks were blown off by the beauty of a vacant lot next to her house. After going on and on about the beauty, my friend exclaimed, "That! It's just a bunch of weeds!" Clearly one woman's weeds is another woman's wonder. Here is the progress of the painting, "Kelly's Surprise Revisited."

Pastels used for the painting. 

This piece was started as a demonstration for my students.
You can see the preliminary sketch next to the red value under painting
Beginning the block in of perceived color

Adding more perceived color

More color added. You will see that I have established my darkest areas and my lightest area (the sky)

A bit of detail being explored

More detail...

The finished painting. "Kellys Surprise Revisited," Pastel, 12 x 9 inches © Lynn Goldstein