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.