Sunday, October 4, 2009

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.

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