Monday, December 28, 2009

69) Autumn Gold

11 x 14” watercolor on 300 pound cold press paper - $125

The first of November brought an unexpected warm autumn day. The harvest had past, throngs of pickers gone, the store doors closed for the season and yet I loved this short time of the year at the orchard. Despite the maples, oaks and birch having lost their mantles, the apple trees cover the 100 acres of the orchard with a sea of yellow and orange … an Autumn Gold. Just a few apples cling to the branches with a carpet of fallen fruit making for slower walks.

With one last painting before the arrival of winter in me, I sat down at the north end of the orchard on that Sunday afternoon. Georgia’s patience waned and I painted quickly. The red tailed hawk circled slowly above while the distant call of Canadian Geese winged south. This is the final work of my third year creating at the orchard. Like the geese I was preparing to leave this marvelous place for a new home, closing with the gold, purples, blues and reds of the trees I had been blessed to sit beneath for three wondrous years.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

68) Harvest Time With Pumpkins and Mums

11 x 14” watercolor on 300 pound cold press paper
Not For Sale, click HERE for reprints and cards

The last Friday in September sitting outside by the Cider House Store just as the orchard was opening for the day. A row of pumpkins lined the front of the deck on one side with mums on the other. Orange ran throughout the picture from the pumpkins to the shadows in the gravel to the nearby woods and their early signs of autumn foliage. The store sells so much more than apples, pies, cider, and donuts (though this would serve the community just as well if that is all they offered), also are found shelves lined with Vermont products including maple syrup, salsa, shirts, and greeting cards. As an artist I so appreciate this support of the local economy, a passion of Shelburne Orchards.

67) Liberty Harvest

11 x 14” watercolor on 300 pound cold press paper - $125

Late on a September afternoon about two hours before sunset I drove down to the Liberty block in the northwest corner of the orchard. I love this space with two short rows of trees tucked between a stand of sumac and the field of buckwheat. The gentle sound of Lake Champlain could be heard nearby, much like placing an ear to a sea shell.

Before setting up to paint I jogged through the Liberties to the lake with Georgia. The water was still warm enough for a swim, the last of the year. As I walked back to paint I smelled the ancient odor of cut hay, sending me back to younger days at my grandparent’s farm. A constant chorus of crickets followed us while the warmth of the late summer sun filtered through the branches.

As I set up to paint I looked east across the field of buckwheat towards the runway section to see a low cloud of dust kicked up by the orchards “49” (a 1949 Chevy pickup truck). As the truck moved along the runway a circle of seagulls (really “lakegulls”) circled in the blue sky above the dust. Occasionally one of the gulls would arc downward into the settling cloud. Soon the truck appeared with Pat and his friend Nick (a recent arrival to work the harvest).

This painting found in me the desire to work quickly with little detail. I wanted to play and represent the inner bigness of this happy place. The two trees (as with most of the Liberties) were heavy with fruit. The ground shifted in shadow with the movement of the sun towards the horizon leaving oranges, yellows and blues in the grass.

After 45 minutes I took a break to walk barefoot in the grass with Georgia. The coarse wild blades gave way to soft rows of mowed grass, it seemed odd that something alive would be painful while the dead cuttings were soothing on my feet. As I returned to continue the painting I picked up a Liberty apple from the ground. The dark red skin exposed a bright sheen with just a little polishing from my shirt. The white flesh was tart and Georgia stuck close to my side as I tossed her bites from the apple.

Unlike other compositions I spent little time in detailing the branch structure of the trees. Their gentle curves melding with the shadows interested me. In the right hand side tree is a “bug trap” (the orange curved rectangle with a red circle) used to capture bugs that infest the trees where they can be studied to determine what species inhabited the trees, and possibly attacked the apples. As I drew near the close of the painting the clouds began to morph into their variety of colors, this time a pale yellow that would later darken into rose and purple before falling into night.

66) Young Fruit

11 x 14” watercolor on 300 pound cold press paper
Original sold - click HERE to purchase reprints or cards

Two young trees from the many rows that run alongside the runway. Tall metal poles add support to each tree while corrugated plastic tubes protect tender bark from the gnawing of mice teeth. Many trees are grown to sell, finding their way to a yard or farm far and wide. I am happy with the simplicity of this work, the focus on the young trees and soft blue-green sky.  The visual angle is one looking from ground level slightly upward.

65) Jersey Mac and Clover

11 x 14” watercolor on 300 pound cold press paper - not for sale
Click HERE to purchase a reprint or cards 

Near the organic section stands a Jersey Macintosh, a single tree full of apples.  Despite its small size, I was amazed with the quantity of fruit (compared to much larger neighboring trees) and the bright red coloring of the apples. Throughout the tall grass around the Jersey Mac, clover and chicory grew.  As it was an early evening in August the chicory had closed their tiny blue blossoms for the night (much to my disappointment).

64) Gate and Maple

11 x 14” watercolor on 300 pound cold press paper - $125

Mid July sitting on the lawn of Tom and Katra’s home looking towards the south. The red wooden gate stood open gracing one of the entrances to the orchard. A lovely maple shades the corner of the lawn by the gate. Earlier in the day Tom mowed the lawn leaving noticeable lines in the grass creating an interesting geometric dimension to the painting.

63) Buckwheat Field and Elder Lady

11 x 14” watercolor on 300 pound cold press paper - $125

Early June, sitting among the “elder” trees near the Gate House looking west. The apple tree in the painting reminded me of J.R. Tolkien’s Ents, or maybe a tree from the Wizard of Oz or a character from an early Walt Disney cartoon. The branches resembled creaky arms suggesting that at any moment the trunk would lift up and march down the hill towards the newly planted buckwheat.

In the background the willows stood out against the dark trees lit up from the westward shifting sun. I tried to capture the warmth of this light on the woods, earth and buckwheat field.

62) Elder Lady 5

11 x 14” watercolor on 300 pound cold press paper - $125

Click HERE to purchase reprints or cards

Late May, sitting with the oldest trees near the Gate House looking west. These elder ladies have so much character. Unlike the younger trees, their sprawling branches have fewer limbs and leaves. Yet after almost a century of life each lady still produces. I am intrigued by the angles of the branches, some natural and some created through years of pruning. Even the scars from cuts long ago display beautiful orange red swirls in the late afternoon sunlight. The bark glowed a rosy red through the purple grey bark. In addition to the variety I was happy with the contrast of these colors.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

61) Rolling on the Deck

11 x 14” watercolor on 300 pound cold press paper
Not For Sale, 
click HERE to purchase reprints or cards

On an early Sunday evening late in May I settled down to paint the front porch of the orchard store, “Cider House Farm Market”. I was drawn to the trees for sale, the older “balled” trees (left hand side) and the babies or whips potted in large black plastic containers (right hand side held in apple crates). Equally, I found the contrast between the red siding of the store and the flanked spray of greens of visual interest.

Shortly after starting this work Nick arrived with Kevin Clayton and Peter Swift, the trio known as the “Meat Packers” for a practice session on the porch. I smiled as renditions of “Wagon Wheel” by the Old Crow Medicine Show wove through the air, amazingly I heard the song for the first time the night before while driving home … somewhere between “déjà vus” and serendipity!

Look closely and you can see Nick on mandolin, Kevin on guitar behind the second post and Peter on base obscured between the young burlap clad trees. They graced the orchard store and those fortunate enough to pass through the orchard gates as dusk arrived.

60) Bee Hives, Wind Sock and Bloom

11 x 14” watercolor on 300 pound cold press paper
Not for sale, click HERE to purchase reprints or cards

The orchard inspired me to rise early in hopes of capturing the eastern sun. The day was bright on this mid May morning during the height of the bloom. I set up on the runway just south of the wind sock whose multicolored tail hung motionless with the still cool air. Just south stood stacks of bee hives. These guests had yet to start their daily work in earnest. I stood behind them at one point and leaned carefully forward with my ear an inch from the wooden backing, I heard a low hum resonating from over 50,000 bees per hive … what an awesome sound and feeling! It is a sad sign of the times when there are insufficient numbers of bees to pollinate the orchard, which is why Nick brings in these hives during the bloom.

The sun drenched the dull colors of the hives while the blossoms exploded from the dark branches. Both the ground and sky brought about contrasting blues, yellows and greens.

Monday, June 15, 2009

59) Liberty Bloom

11 x 14” watercolor on 300 pound cold press paper
Sold, click HERE for reprints and cards

Early May in the north western most corner of the orchard. Here are the Liberties, a variety that Nick has committed to growing organically. As I spend more time at the orchard I learn more about the multitude of varieties. The Liberty bears lovely yellow fruit with red stripes. It is a hardy apple and considered one of the more disease resistant apples (to learn more visit The Backyard Gardener).

Although the sky was without clouds, the late afternoon was cool. With such a dry spring the bloom has been wonderful, though some trees are late (as with the tree on the left) … “late bloomers”. One of my favorite times to paint is 2 - 3 hours before sunset, as was this day. The late afternoon sun kissed the bark on each tree in a unique way. One of the two tress displayed a rose pink bark and the other a golden yellow. The blossoms that once had inhaling the blue tint of the sky, suddenly took on a shade of crimson. I am overwhelmed at times in how the landscape can suddenly morph from one set of hues to another, sometimes subtle and other times stark. It was challenging attempting to capture the movement of colors while time was fleeting.

The background was interesting with the tilled soil radiating warm shades of orange, dancing with the complementary blue above, and the lime green grass slicing between the upturned earth and the far away blur of trees. I labored with sections of this work, leading to over painting, though the vitality of the two Liberty trees made for a happy ending.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

58) Harvest Gold

11 x 14” watercolor on 300 pound cold press paper - $125

Just a day before Halloween another warm and dry autumn day. The foliage is stunning throughout Vermont with red and orange maples or yellow birch, yet the most amazing site of the season was sitting in the orchard surrounded by what Cindy called the “Harvest Gold”. Thousands of apple trees all turned to a gold tinged with crimson, woven round blue and purple branches. Even the willows competed with warm waves of yellow and rose. The green grass seemed so vibrant with shocks of sumac red, delivering a complementary visual jab. Clouds spun between a purple and aquamarine sky.

Last year I missed this time at the orchard, I had thought I had seen every transformation of this space. As in life, I was humbled at the realization that I should never assume that I have “seen everything”, and so art was a wonderful teacher. Sitting just below the Packing House looking east I tried to capture the bounty of colors and tones. The playing of light was just as magical as the wide palette. Overwhelming and yet such a find for the last water color painting of the autumn.