Saturday, October 15

En Plein Air

As a wife and mother of three young boys I do not have the freedom to paint whenever I would like. Most days it is a coordinated effort between chores, school runs, and other activities and obligations. In order to be prepared at a moment's notice I have a full assortment of art of supplies on-hand in my, yes I’ll say it, mini-van. Extra clothes and shoes for the kids, various snacks, plenty of juice boxes, bike helmets, two Razor scooters, a stroller, bug spray, and of course my camera all line our moving art studio. While the fall weather remains enjoyable, the kids and I are always ready for an outdoor excursion.


Erica Dale Strzepek, Cheshire Lake Autumn Morning,
Watercolor, 6x12 inches, ©2011

I found myself presented with an opportunity to paint earlier in the week as my youngest was fast asleep in his car seat long before his usual morning nap. With my other two boys at school, I drove to Cheshire Lake along the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail to paint en plein air. Using the back of the mini-van, I laid out my materials to capture the 8:30 morning light on the lake. The grey looming cloud cover expected for the day had not fully presented itself. I observed boaters battling rough choppy waves created from the brisk breezy fall air that swept across the water. Two fishermen tried their hand at a morning catch while I painted and drank my coffee. I worked quickly with loose strokes and knife work to complete a 6x12 scene; all the while my youngest was fast asleep.

Erica Dale Strzepek, Autumn Morning Sky,
Digital Photograph, ©2011

With one composition down, I opted to move to the opposite calmer side of the park to capture an old warehouse quietly reflecting on the water’s edge. I parked at the end of the boat ramp and was part way through my setup when my son awoke. We continued our mother-son pseudo tailgate party as he sat in his stroller eating his snack of sliced strawberries, dry cereal, and orange juice. I painted a bit longer as he threw bits of snack to the birds overhead. As the morning lingered, more people arrived to take in the park. A couple out bird watching spotted a hawk and were taking pictures. A group of ladies gathered for a fast paced walk while several men readied their biking gear for the trail. Also out was a friendly couple from New Jersey with whom I struck up a conversation. Up for the beauty of the fall foliage, Nessa Neilson Morse was also a watercolor artist. She too was racing the morning light and grey looming skies to capture reference scenes with her camera to paint at a later date. Swapping our artistic experiences, website information, and love for the scenes of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, Nessa commented how great mini-vans were for painting on the go.

As my son finished the remains of his sippy cup, he let out several screams indicating “I want to go now.” My second composition incomplete, I knew for now my morning painting en plein air was over.

Still planning to take in some foliage throughout the Berkshires or your own trek on the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail this season? Stop by the Adams Free Library, 92 Park Street, to see my exhibit of original watercolors on display through November. For library hours call 413-743-8345.

For a limited time I am offering free shipping from my Etsy Shop, where you can find many of my new autumnal pieces. Enjoy the beauty of the season and get a head-start on your holiday shopping! Coupon code [FALL2011FS]. Offer expires November 5, 2011, domestic shipping only.

Sunday, October 2

'Tis the Gift to Be Simple

With autumn upon us, I find artistic inspiration during the simplest of tasks; picking up my kids from school, attending an evening soccer practice, walking to our local public library, or picking up mail at the post office. Especially beautiful in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, each autumn day brings a new composition from the quickly changing life of sugar maples, red maples, oaks, and elm trees. Autumnal colors delight my palette as I paint sweeping mountain backgrounds with perylene violet, gold and yellow ochre and muted greens. Foliage sings out in quinacridone gold, alizarin crimson, and cadmium red with interruptions from evergreens or tall white birches. The scene is complimented with skies of ultramarine blue with occasional wispy horse tail clouds.

With camera, paint, and palette in hand, I find the cooler weather a wonderful time to be out with my boys enjoying nature’s beauty and plentiful treasures. Greylock Glen sits at the base of Mt. Greylock in Adams, Massachusetts. The park has areas for hiking, walking, fishing, and of course abounds in potential artistic composition. Shallow running streams reveal rocks of local white limestone and sparkling granite which dance in the water with the fallen crimson maple leaves. Twisted bittersweet vines hang exposed bearing clusters of golden husks opened to reveal bright red fruit inviting birds to dine. With their season over, dried wildflowers drop seeds to return again with the spring renewal, now many months away.
Leaving the Glen, the view looks towards town and the valley. Family farms dot the landscape and far away cars move along like toys. Jaeschke's Orchard is a buzz with the apple harvest. The front of their orchard is adorned by carts filled with colorful maroon and yellow hardy mums. I find the simplicity of the area so beautiful.
Enjoy along me my favorite season. For a limited time I am offering free shipping from my Etsy Shop, where you can find many of my new autumnal pieces. Coupon code [FALL2011FS]. Offer expires November 5, 2011.

Planning a foliage ride through the Berkshires? Stop by the Adams Free Library, 92 Park Street, to see my exhibit of original watercolors on display through November. For library hours call 413-743-8345.