Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cottage Series

"Red Maple at the Hubbard Cottage" 12x24, oil

I live about five minutes away from the Roosevelt-Campobello International Park. Some of you may have heard me mention it in the past, since I do paint in the natural areas a great deal. But the centerpiece of the park, and what most tourists come to see, is the Roosevelt Cottage. FDR and his family vacationed on the Island over a period of 56 years. But the Park has other cottages, too, all of them lovely and with interesting architecture. By the way, "cottage" is a bit of a misnomer, since they are all quite large, typical of Victorian-era summer retreats for the moneyed class.

As part of my plan to paint larger pieces, I am embarking on a series of paintings of the park's cottages. I enjoy painting old buildings, and it's a great opportunity to be so close to these beautiful specimens. Today, I posted myself by the Hubbard cottage. (Interestingly, I wasn't the only artist around; Ken Burns' film crew was at the Roosevelt Cottage shooting for an FDR documentary.)

What attracted me to the Hubbard is the huge red maple out front. It really dominates the landscape, and the dark reds in its shadowed boughs are a nice contrast to all the "spring greens." I blocked in the tree mass first, using just Alizarin Crimson and Chromatic Black. I adjusted the colors with a bit of Phthalo Green and Chromatic Black, and then warmed up the greens ever so slightly to make the shadows more complex. Highlights I made with Cadmium Red and white, warmed with a bit of Cadmium Yellow Deep. I'm sure there are other colors in there, too, added for variety.

I have to admit, I took off the wheelchair ramp on the side closest to the viewer. Was that a mistake? At the time, I thought it was a modern addition to the house, but now I think that perhaps FDR might have used it in his day when he went over to the Hubbard's for coffee.


yeti3670 said...

I have been following your blog for about a year now. I purchased a copy of your plein air book. I would like to know your reasoning for removing the wheelchair ramp from your painting, no matter who it belonged to.

Robert LeHew

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

Thanks for your note, Robert. Removing the ramp was purely an aesthetic decision. I wanted to give the cottage an "old" feeling, and since such ramps were rare back in the days the cottage was built (1890s or so), it had to come off. Sometimes, I'll leave in such features, especially if I want to give the piece a more contemporary feeling. I'm not opposed to leaving in the occasional telephone pole, etc., if it suits the composition and the time.

Catherine Meeks said...

I agree with the decision to leave off the ramp. I feel that, in the same way that a telephone pole can sometimes suggest a religious tone, the ramp introduces an element that may distract from your intended statement.

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

Thanks, Catherine!