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Salem

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Fog Over Croisan Valley

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Fog Over Croisan Valley, Original Painting of Salem, Oregon by Jenny Armitage

Fog Over Croisan Valley (17 x 23 watercolor) $600

This painting is a little closer to home than most of my recent work.  I see this view every morning on the way home from my walk down Croisan Scenic Trail.  The trial occupies a long thin, Salem park with our neighborhood a hundred feet above it and Croisan Creek a few hundred feet below it.  The path is beautiful in all seasons and rarely feels nearly as close to town as it is.   It’s particularly evocative in the fog.


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Salem Art Fair and Festival Opens Friday

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Brass Candy Trio, Painting of Brass by Jenny Armitage

Brass Candy Trio (13 x 22 watercolor) $600


The Salem Art Fair and Festival
opens tomorrow.  I’ll be there with both my instrument paintings and my Europe trip paintings.  I’m in booth 141 at the south end of the park on outside corner on the west (High Street) side of the fair.

The fair opens at at 10 a.m. Friday the 19th and runs 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and  Saturday.  Sunday the fair runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.   Admission is $5.00 per day or $10.00 for the weekend.  Children under 12 are free.  Admission is free for all ages on Sunday from 2 p.m. on.

"Pilgrims at the Gate" a watercolor of Canterbury by Jenny Armitage

Pilgrims and the Gate (watercolor 15 x 20) SOLD

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Foggy Morning on the Old Railway Bridge

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Foggy Morning on the Railway Bridge, a Watercolor Painting by Jenny Armitage

Foggy Morning on the Railway Bridge II (12 x 17 watercolor) $300

I’ve always heard that art is therapeutic.  And perhaps it is for some people, but not for me.  When I’m depressed, I get in fights with paintings and I lose all sense of self  judgment.  Everything I paint, I deem of no value.  Sometimes I’m right.  Sometimes I’m not.

I painted these three almost identical views of the old Salem railway bridge about two years ago during a fit of depression.  They are the survivors of perhaps six different attempts.  I doubt the ones I threw away were all that much different.  In the end I put the project aside in frustration and painted other easier things.

Foggy Morning on the Railway Bridge III Painting by Jenny Armitage

Foggy Morning on the Railway Bridge III (12 x 16 watercolor on clayboard) $250

About a week ago, when getting ready for the Silverton Fine Arts Festival (last weekend) and the Artisan Village at the Oregon State Fair (next weekend),  I discovered that I had sold so much this last year, that I was in some danger of not having enough art to fill the space.  So I looked back through some of my older work for things to frame and found these old bridge paintings.  Looking at them now, I can’t figure out why I didn’t like them.  They do exactly what I wanted them to do.  They capture the foggy morning atmosphere, and they give a sense of how much the trestle draw bridge feels like an open cathedral.

Foggy Morning on the Railway Bridge I (12 x 18 watercolor) $300

Because version number two was painted on clayboard, I didn’t even have to frame it to hang it.  The painting got a surprising amount of attention considering that I hung it on the back side of my booth.   Several people asked if there were prints available.  So I promised that by this evening I would get the painting on line.  And here, they are.

 

Painting on Paper

 

Painting on Clayboard

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Archway to Nowhere

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Archway to Nowhere a watercolor painting by Jenny Armitage

Watching the Photographer (10 x 14 watercolor) $200.00

I took the photos for the painting on the same Sunday I took the pictures for The Three Choppers. The alley is about a block east of The Book Bin on Court Street. My husband and I refer to this as the alley with the archway to nowhere because of the freestanding brick archway leading to more alley.

I had taken photos of the alley earlier, but the young woman photographing the plumbing caught my eye. It was only after I’d snapped the shot that I noticed the gentleman watching her curiously.


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Shadows, Glass, and Leaves

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Shadows Glass and Leaves (12 x 14)  $100.00

Shadows Glass and Leaves (12 x 14) $100.00

Driving down Commercial last summer, I was struck by the shadows of leaves on a stucco building.  I reached for my camera and discovered I’d left it at home.  I drove home hurriedly to get it.  My daughters in the back seat were remarkable patient with me as I drove round the block twice looking for a parking space.  Only eight or nine pictures later did it dawn on me what I was photographing.  It’s a local mortuary.  Never mind,  the shadows and the glass bricks were beautiful.

The shapes were so simple that I drew them freehand onto the watercolor paper.

Most of the painting was done in what I think of as controlled wet-into-wet painting. First I moistened the the small area I wanted to paint and then I dropped the wet color in. I created each glass brick this way.  After the paint dried I went back with a wet brush and  added the darker shadows to each brick. I used phthallo blue, cobalt blue, cadmium yellow, and yellow ocher.

The shadows on the wall are two separate layers of controlled wet into wet.  The first layer was phthallo blue, deep red rose quinacridone, dull a hair with cadmium yellow.  The second layer was cobalt blue and deep red rose.


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Challenging Myself: One Subject, Three Moods

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Queen Anne Nods to Shirley Jackson (11 x 15) $150

Queen Anne Nods to Shirley Jackson (11 x 15) $150

I set a challenge for myself this week.  The idea was to paint a single subject in a variety of moods.  The subject I choose was Deepwoods Estate, here in Salem.  I took all of the photos for the painting in the same light and although the various aspects of the building gave me different ideas, the photos don’t convey much feeling to me.

Its Greener on the Otherside (10 x 13) $125.00

Its Greener on the Other Side

Porch reference photo

Porch reference photo

I began with the front porch. I aimed to emphasize the softness of the light and the romance of the building.  I also wanted to draw the viewer into the painting.

As you can see from my reference photo, my depiction is a little fanciful.  I limited my palate to yellows and blues to mimic the soft shadowy light under the porch and the golden sunlight beyond it.

I think the painting works.  The most common comment about it is that the viewer would like to step through the porch into the garden on the other side.

Turret and Copula (11 x 14) $150

Turret and Cupola

Turret Reference Photo

Turret Reference Photo

Next I painted a detail of the roof-line from in back. This time I tried to contrast the harsh glittering light with the shaded parts of the building.

Because I intended to include many hard lines and less subtle variation in tone I looked for a place where the contrast between light and shade was particularly striking. But I didn’t want it to look like graphic art, so I poured this painting to ensure that the solid expanses of color were lively rather than flat. Once again I exaggerated, the light in the reference photo is not nearly as stark as the light I painted.

I like this painting, but it turned out rather softer than I had intended.  I may try it again with an orange and blue palate.

House Reference Photo

House Reference Photo

The latest painting in this series is of the whole house.  I’ve always found Victorian and Queen Anne houses a little creepy.  Like wrought iron, they can be both sinister and charming all at once.  On a bright sunny day there is nothing really creepy about the Deepwood House, but it does have a swallowed by the woods feel to it.  Despite a generous lawn, there are few places where you can see the whole house.  Instead what you see is patches of house through the trees.

So in order to bring out the sinister feel of Queen Anne archetecture, I pulled the trees in closer to the house and darkened the edges where the trees and house meet visually.  I also distorted the shape of the house stretching it upwards to about fifteen percent more than it’s real height.  Finally I chose a very earthy palate for such a pristine white house:  burnt sienna, raw sienna, yellow ocher, phthalo blue and cobalt blue.

I poured this painting too because I wanted a lot of variation in tone. But pouring produces hard lines at the edges of the mask. The result had too many hard lines for the shadowy woods.  I did so much scrubbing of the edges, washing over, and detail work that painting doesn’t feel poured to me.  But the more I painted the darker it got.  I finally had to stop for fear the house would no longer read as white.

I showed the finished painting to my husband yesterday.  He said he really liked it, but then added tentatively, “Isn’t it a little eerie?”  Yes, yes it is.  But I don’t think it’s so eerie that it’s a caricature of the house.


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Turret and Cupola

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Turret and Copula (11 x 14) $150

Turret and Copula (11 x 14) $150

Back to the Deepwood Estate but with a very different feel.  This is the west or backside of the house looking up at the turret and the tallest roof peak.  The afternoon sun brought the architectural details into graphic relief. I decided to play with the posterized nature of the light by pouring this painting.

Pouring watercolors is much like batik dyeing.  First I mask all the white areas of the painting.  Then I literally pour cups of paint across the paper.  After the first pour dries, I mask all the pastels and pour darker paint.  Then I mask the medium values and pour again with yet darker paint.   Once the painting is dry, I lift the mask and add the darkest values and the details.

In this case I used phthalo blue, deep red rose, and new gamgee for the first pout.  I tried to keep the yellow on the cupola.  In later pours I used only the deep red rose and two blues Phthalo and French ultramarine.  I saved the french ultramarine for the final pour.

I masked the sky after the first pour and overlaid it with cobalt blue when the mask was removed.  The details are all heavy purple and magenta mixtures of phthalo blue and deep red rose.


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It’s Greener on the Other Side of the Porch

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Its Greener on the Otherside (10 x 13) $125.00

Its Greener on the Other Side (10 x 13) $125.00

Built in 1894, The Deepwood Estate is a lovely example of Queen Anne architecture.  But to my mind, the gardens are even better.  There are four acres of these and they get better every year.  The indoor and outdoor Deepwood Estate meet on the front porch.  Steps from the porch lead to both the front and back gardens as well as the house and separate glassed-in porch.

Looking up at the porch from the front, I was struck by how the trees on the other side glowed in sun.

After cropping my reference photo to emphasize the the view of the backyard, I spent sometime correcting the photo’s perspective.  After transferring my sketch to the watercolor paper I built up from light to dark reserving the white paper where the sun hit the porch wall.

The palate was phthalo blue, a little cobalt blue, hansa yellow light, hansa yellow medium, and burnt sienna.  I tried to keep the porch shadows as blue as possible to emphasize the green and yellow of the view on the other side of the porch. And I exaggerated the porch shadows to increase the sense of depth and to show off the green and gold trees. I used the sienna very sparingly and only to gray down the blues and greens.


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The Mill Reflects Upon Itself

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The Mill Reflects Upon Itself (13 x 16) $200

The Mill Reflects Upon Itself (13 x 16) $200

I love the way old glass distorts reflections. This is the second painting of reflections in old glass I’ve done at the Mission Mill Museum.

The old woolen mill is well worth the visit. Most of the original equipment remains inside the mill house and the mill wheel and machinery remains operable. One of these days I’ll have to paint the whole building. It’s bright red and looks like a stack of buildings piled up like crates rather than a single structure. The effect is charming and oddly reminiscent of a child’s toy.

In the meantime I remain fascinated by the glass. Here, a dye house window reflects the mill itself. I love the abstract designs created in the window panes.

I created the siding with multiple washes of paint. I began by painting the shadows in french ultramarine blue. Then I washed all of the siding with with a mixture of deep red rose grayed down a little with phthalo green. Next came Da Vinci’s burnt sienna, followed by HWC’s burnt sienna. The first is really very orange and the second verges on red. I didn’t wash the highlights with the redder sienna. Then I washed the shadowed siding in burnt umber followed by cobalt blue. I like the resulting glow from all of those translucent layers of paint.

I used much the same process for the reflected mill, except that I didn’t use any burnt umber and the final layer of deep red rose.


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Counterweight II

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Counter Weight II (10 x 14)  $100

Counter Weight II (10 x 14) $100

This is an extreme view of one of the counterweights in the West Salem Bridge towers. The bridge is no longer a working drawbridge, but the massive counterweights remain in the towers, hanging over the pedestrian way.

I painted the tower entirely in combinations of Prussian blue and burnt sienna mixed on the paper. The sky is indanthrene blue wet into wet.


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Counter-Weight IA: A Pouring Demonstration

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Pouring is one of my favorite techniques. It literally means to pour paint across the paper. It can either be the atmospheric beginning to a painting or a major part of the painting process. Some people use it to create abstract shapes to suggest the painting subject. But however much pouring is used, it provides transparent color passages that can be gotten in almost no other way.

The method I use most frequently was popularized by Jean Grastorf in her book Pouring Light: Layering Transparent Watercolor. Her technique uses multiple masks in much the same way batik uses multiple wax resists.

When I first began painting I used her pouring and masking method as an aide to help me paint with contrast, because it forced me to divide my picture into five distinct tonal values or less. It also helped me loosen up about color. These days I pour only when I think the subject of the picture will be enhanced by pouring.

Sunday I photographed just such a picture, one of the counter weights to a local railway drawbridge recently converted to a pedestrian bridge. The silhouetted subject is perfect for pouring.

Working Photo

Working Photo

After one false start detailed in the previous two posts I had a drawing of the bridge I liked. I began the painting by transferring it to a block of Arches 140 cold-pressed paper. (Because removing mask is hard on paper I always use the more durable 140 weight cold-pressed paper when pouring.) My photo of the bridge has loads of minute detail. In my cartoon I simplified. I want the silhouette of the bridge tower and counterweight to predominate. Too much detail would take away from the graphic nature of the image.

After making the cartoon I taped off the edges of the painting and began masking the sky plus everything I’d like to remain white. The trick to masking is to use nylon brushes and to soap the brushes frequently. This keeps the mask from gumming up the brushes and saves your quality brushes from rack and ruin.

Once the mask was dry, I mixed three cups of very thin paint: cadmium yellow, phthalo blue, and Windsor red. I deliberately choose staining colors, because mask lifts pigments. Then I wet the paper (an important step as otherwise the paint tends to run off the paper without staining) and poured the yellow straight across the top of the tower. I tilted the paper right to let the paint run off and wiped up the excess. Then I poured the red just below the yellow, tipped the paper, and cleaned the excess again. Some of the red bled into the yellow making orange. Then I poured the blue the same way across the counter-weight adding a dull purple where the paint crossed the red paint I had just poured.

After the First Pour

After the First Pour

When the paint had dried completely, I masked all of my lightest values and poured slightly thicker paint over the paper in roughly the same places. After the paint dried I masked the medium values and repeated the process with milk-thick paint. When the final pour had dried, I pulled the mask off, revealing a bold but rough painting in vivid color.

After the Mask Came Off

After the Mask Came Off

It’s all brush work from here.

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