Saturday, March 18, 2017
"Red tail in the winter field" by Hilary J. England
Oil on canvas, 8" x 11"
I painted this one before the blizzard, but with all the bad weather, wasn't photographing much. I really love the peace and serenity of the open, empty winter fields. The cold day gave way to the whiteness of the bleached, winter landscape and then there was the beautiful, contented hawk just sitting there. The bird seemed very undisturbed by the day, or even the human (me) in proximity to him. He just was enjoying the moment too. He sat for quite a bit before quietly gliding away.
The weak winter light makes it hard to capture the scene, because the light can be blinding even in its high weakness. The shadows on the hay were interesting and still pulsating. I had to move fast to capture all the essence of the day, and before my feet froze up too much too. It's always my feet -- my hands seem to be impervious to most of the cold!
Spring should be here next week, and I am very much looking forward to the flowering landscape!!!
Thursday, March 16, 2017
|"Early moonrise over the winter field" by Hilary J. England|
I have been patiently waiting on Spring, as we all are I suppose. I don't mind the change of seasons at all, but when the end of Winter comes, we are usually all ready and chomping at the bit to move into the next season, and I am definitely no exception.
I have been more subdued this season, maybe because the month of February was so raucous with a lot of tumultuous news for me and my family. Things are calming down now a bit, and I find myself just ready to do something: and that simply means more work. More art.
So, I hope you enjoy this little study of the early moonrise over the dead field...with the new life just below the surface of dirt, waiting to spring alive with the first warmth of Spring.
Thursday, March 2, 2017
|"Enchanted forest in PA" by Hilary J. England|
oil on canvas, 12" x 16"
It has been difficult for me to get out regularly this year and paint, and that hurts me deeply. February was an incredibly difficult month, with several very bad, seemingly back-to-back events that happened to people I love, and I was literally rolled as if by a tsunami. I am glad February is gone.
But, on the last day of February, I was able to put the evil month behind me with a soothing painting of the local forest. Sitting in the gentle quiet of the woods, on a soft, rotting stump, watching the light filter through the trees. It healed my soul and made me able to put my armor back on and get back into the swing of things!
So, I think that is what much of art is: a way to voice the voiceless feelings in our soul. The things that wound, and the things that heal. To mourn, and to be grateful. To rage at our powerlessness, but to regain and reclaim a little bit of our control and translate it into something beautiful and comforting.
I look forward to a good year from this point forward :-)
Sunday, February 5, 2017
|"The red cat and his girl" by Hilary J. England|
oil on canvas, 18" x 24" x 2", 2017
The winter always gets me down a little, especially after New Years'. This year was a particularly mean one, with all of the depressing stuff going on in the world, on every news station, 24 hours a day. I have retreated into a quiet zone of Gene Tierney, Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart, Tyrone Powers, and friends, and also, decided that a painting of fervent love was necessary. So, I observed our once removed red cat, Dante, and his girl, Maddie. No matter how many kisses Dante receives, he loves them all. Never a complaint, never an angry "meow" -- he loves and loves his kisses and his kiddies. He is a true friend to his loving family.
Initially, I didn't think it much through. I have really been driven by chiaroscuro these days, and more intense light. The backlighting on this pose was just to delicious to resist, and a bit unconventional, so I had to just go with it, good or bad. And, I happen to like the end result--I think the dramatic light worked for the composition, and to show the fervor of their love.
I was once staunchly against the use of black in my paintings, as were the Impressionists, using Van Dyke brown and ultramarine or another combo with Van Dyke brown, if I wanted to achieve a truly dark tone, because I felt black was too flat, and too cold, but I have been employing Ivory black lately, and I feel the warm, brown undertone is really good for dramatic compositions, and so, the ban on black paint is officially over. My obsession with studying light and it's nuances is really piquing now, so look for more to come, at least in my figure work. In my landscapes, I'm still about things being bright and airy...I guess it's just a way of pleasantly looking at the world in a state of hyper beauty!
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
|"Cardinal on the old fence" by Hilary J. England|
Oil on canvas, 8" x 11"
So, again, I was working with a limited palette here of Van Dyke brown, Cad red deep, Ultramarine, Indian yellow, Titanium white, and Burnt Umber. I was able to catch this pretty quickly, and substitute the driving rain (and change it to snow) and the washy white background that was melting fast, and make it into a snow scene. The bird was very cooperative. He basically just sat there, by himself, looking pretty satisfied. Well, I guess he had eaten a lot of seeds and was content.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
|"Cardinals in the snow" by Hilary J. England|
oil on canvas, 8" x 11"
I have been very busy as usual, but not too busy to stop and enjoy the falling snow and the visitors that appeared at the bird feeder right after: a group of social Cardinals. They were so sweet, and seemed to be having a brunch or some sort of little get-together after the snow ended.
It isn't always easy to set up and capture a scene quickly, but you do get used to it after years of practice. I have a very basic pochade box, and I paint very quickly, utilizing a limited palette many times. This time was one of those times. I used only Van Dyke brown, Ultramarine, Cad Red deep, Indian Yellow, and Titanium white. This allows for a rapid study without too many color choices that can become troublesome if you are trying to do a basic study.
I love cardinals--they are one of my favorite native birds, as the are both stout and elegant, and of course, their color. This was a very enjoyable painting for me, and I don't mind painting in the cold. As long as you take certain steps and precautions, painting outdoors in winter is not a miserable experience. Always make sure your head and feet are warm and dry, you keep your medium covered so it doesn't gum up, and work rapidly if it's really cold (your paint can actually get inconsistent and "gloppy"). Other than that, enjoy!. I always do. Be sure to bring a thermos of hot tea, coffee, or whatever you like that's hot. It helps both for your body and your soul <3
Sunday, January 15, 2017
|"Fourth of July" by Hilary J. England|
oil on canvas, 24" x 36" x 2"
I finished this larger studio painting the other day, but the weather was sloppy, and it prohibited me from photoing outdoors, which I prefer, so I had to try to make do with an indoor photo session. My verdict: Not so much, haha.
Anyway, I really enjoyed doing this painting, both from studies, and par Coeur, because it put me into the mindset of warmer days as the snow was falling. I, of course, had to go out and paint in that snow, but I'll post that painting tomorrow. One painting at a time!!! Let me not run away with myself.
Here's to dreaming of warmer days and summer evenings~
Sunday, December 18, 2016
|"Study of the snowy creek" by Hilary J. England|
oil on canvas, 16" x 20"
I have been busy working away these last few weeks since returning from the North. I did get a lot done, and am wrapping up this term and look forward to the break (I am working on my Master's too). I am also putting together a new Arts project for 2017, and it's going to be a big one, so there needs to be a good deal of research and coordination and thought and planning...but I'll talk more about that after New Year.
The winter weather is always enjoyable to me. I know other people hate it, but I love the peace and quiet and purity of winter and snow. There is something heavenly and ethereal about a fresh snowfall, and I will always love the bright, blinding paleness of the winter landscape.
Of course, I do aim to keep warm, but going outside and getting rosy cheeked and cold always makes lolling on the couch watching Christmas classics all the more delicious, with less guilt!
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
|"First snow" by Hilary J. England|
oil on canvas, 12" x 16"
I am looking forward to more work in the beautiful weather. Of course, when it gets too snowy, then I will continue to work inside. But for now, the snow is just a nice primer for Christmas and New Year :-)
Saturday, December 3, 2016
|"North forest in near Winter" by Hilary J. England|
oil on canvas, 11" x 14"
I have been so busy lately, I kind of fell off on photographing my stuff. To be honest, I just had a case of the "f-its". With all that was really going on, and just returning from the North on Thanksgiving, I was kind of jet-lagged and not feeling anything really. Just kind of blah.
So, I did very much enjoy the peace of the Arctic, and looking out into the moonlit night at the reindeer silently crossing the tundra, and the mystical desolation that was not desolate at all really. I am glad I could see that. Every trip to a new place is a gift, and I don't take that for granted.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
When reaching Narvik, it was so beautiful, as the train pulled into the station. The last couple of hundred of kilometers was breathtaking, with large snowy mountains and deep fjords with the deepest steel blue water I ever did behold. The young German mountaineer in the dining car was holding court and he informed us that this mountain range is actually part of the Appalachians in the USA. Whether this is true or not, I have no idea, but it sounded interesting enough.
After offloading my things, I wandered around Narvik for a bit. It is an interesting "city" but more like a fishing village that has now grown and modernized over the years. Locals told me that Nazi Germany had a naval station there, and other interesting tidbits of information.
I had the one night to view the lights, and I was anxious for that. The local people told me it may be possible that night, since it was supposed to become clear at midnight. The lights usually were best viewed between 2 and 4 a.m., so I knew I would be in for a long night.
I stayed up like a sentinel on watch on the roof of the resort, waiting and waiting. Nothing. Around 2 a.m. I saw what looked like a faint green glow in the sky, and I began to wonder if my eyes were playing tricks on me, because I wanted to see these Northern Lights, and they were a no show. This glow of green kept pulsating and disappearing for the next 45 minutes. Then, at around 3 a.m., the green lights grew and expanded, with a long green line forming in the center of the sky. It pulsated and wriggled like a holographic snake, and then long, yellow pulsations and hints of orange and red came forward all at once. It was beautiful and so exciting I was overwhelmed: The lights had arrived!! I sat and watched them for a minute or so, completely enrapt, and forgetting all else. I felt such a strong connection to the universe at that moment, it brought tears to my eyes. And, I totally forgot about my camera. I snapped to it, and grabbed up my camera, and just as quickly as they had appeared, they were gone. I had missed my opportunity to photograph them. I sat there and laughed at the irony.
So, the crazy person on the roof, waiting for the lights to arrive like a acolyte waiting for a UFO, had missed the money shot. I began to laugh and laugh, but I didn't care. *I* had seen them, and nothing else was really important -- whether or not I photographed them was really not the point of the journey. It was to personally witness them, and I had. Mission accomplished.
The mountains of Norway
I woke up and had arrived in Stockholm. The country side of Sweden is also very beautiful, somehow reminding me of home when I saw the pine trees that lined the farmlands. I hopped off at Central Station, and immediately went and stowed my luggage and headed out. I walked along the streets of old Stockholm or "Galma", and was very intrigued. It was very quaint and filled with people, and you feel the "Christmas" in the air. It is "Black Week" in Sweden and Norway-- their equivalent to "Black Friday".
There was a choir of singers on the steps of one of the beautiful cathedrals, and they were singing very heavenly Christmas hymns, and I listened to them for a few songs, and then went to find a coffee and sweets shoppe. This is not hard, since cafe and sweets are a Swedish specialty! I tucked into a delightful little nook of a shop, and had a latte and a chocolate cake. It was like a chocolate mousse with coconut shavings on it, and it was very good. After sitting there a while and warming up, I moved on, going through the whole quarter in a loop, and trying to see as much as I could in the few hours I had there. By around 2 pm, I had complete my tour, and headed back to the Central station to pick up my luggage, and head to my hostel.
The train ride from Stockholm to my hostel was almost an hour (I had made sure I took one close to the airport), and it was a really nice ride through the city and out into the suburbs of Stockholm. I reached my destination, and stood there for a moment, confused. Why had I been dropped off in front of an old Jumbo jet? I looked across the street and saw the Radisson, and other chain hotels, and looked around again. Great. Where the hell was this place. I stood there, disgruntled, for a moment, until I saw a young blonde guy with a backpack walke by. He walked slowly up the path to the Jumbo jet, and then up the steps that led to the door. It dawned on me suddenly, "Is THAT the hostel?" I just started laughing. "you've got to be kidding me!".
I walked up the path, and yes, sure enough, it was the hostel. It was a converted Jumbo jet, called, duh, "Jumbo". I knew I needed some coffee! I stood at the bottom of the jet, and there was a cargo lift up. I rode the lift, and came to the reception desk, that said, "shoes off please" and "Welcome". The young lady at the desk was wearing a flight attendants' uniform. She smiled warmly, and processed my reservation. She then showed me to my "cabin". I was delighted. It was a most comfortable little room, with a very comfortable queen sized bed, overhead luggage bin, additional sleep space or storage above, a flat screen tv, and other little comforts, including a sweet smelling goosed-down quilt. I was very impressed.
Sunday, November 20, 2016
It was tough initially. I was overexhausted, and my plane had arrived late. This caused considerable stress as I had to make it to city center and board within a half an hour, and that did not seem possible. I shelled out the extra $35.00 for the high speed rail, and made it nearly to the minute.
After boarding, I was shown to a sleeper coach, with four other women in it. I am usually shy of strangers, so this was another somewhat stressful thing, as I was assigned to a top bunk. I considered sleeping out in the regular seating, so I would have easier access to a water closet rather than climbing over four other people, but the women departed suddenly after midnight to one of those barren, Arctic stops, and I was left on my own in blissful peace.
The next morning, we chugged along at top speed, winding our way from Sweden to the Norwegian border. Some friendly German tourists, as well as couple from India, gave out advice as to where it was best to see the lights, but that would not divert me from our prescribed course. The idea of being stranded on one of those lonely, frozen stations was terrifying.
So, we arrived in the town of Narvik in the early afternoon, and had several hours of sunlight. The temperature was 6 degrees C above freezing, but reports said, "feels like -6". It really didn't feel that bitterly cold, so we were able to walk around the city a little bit, but we didn't make it too far. It wasn't the cold or wind, but the fact that the entire city was a sheet of ice! Apparently, they had freezing rain before the train arrived, and the walking conditions were treacherous. The idea of busting my ass in Narvik was not pleasant, and drove us into a Chinese restaurant, where we were able to enjoy a warm meal of Norwegian Chinese food, which is not altogether different from Chinese anywhere else. A bowl of egg drop soup, that was somehow modified to include some chicken and corn in it (I know, sounds strange but was oddly good) and a steaming cup of green tea, and then back to the hotel to do a little catching up.
This area, actually all of Norway, is hideously expensive, and to make matters worse, there is a 25% tax on everything. So, I will NOT be enjoying much of the food or anything else here, because I refuse to pay $75 for a small meal that doesn't even include some kind of alcoholic beverage, since I am a tea drinker. Hell no. It's just the principle of it.
So, that's it for now. Waiting to see if Aurora shows up soon :-)
Friday, November 18, 2016
"Kiwi" by Hilary J. England,
3" x 3" x 2" oil on canvas, 2016
Saturday, November 12, 2016
|"The marker" by Hilary J. England|
oil on canvas, 8" x 10" 2016
I was able to get outdoors for a little while and just settle and think. I saw this scene, on the outskirts of the local memorial park, and it was peaceful and reflective and appropriate given that it was Veteran's day, and all that has ensued in the last few days with the Presidential election, etc.
It just felt good to be back to plein air working. I have been pretty tied up with inside work, including working away on my Master's degree coursework, so things are pretty busy, and a moment to reflect is always lovely.
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
|"Blueberries" by Hilary J. England, oil on canvas, 3" x 3" x 2", 2016|
So, I went to go drive to a nice spot and just do some painting in this gorgeous weather and lo and behold, I realized all of my gear is in my Subaru, which also happens to be out by my Dad, getting the brakes done. So, rather than getting irritated, I decided to make lemonade from the lemons situation, and add to my still life collection of individual fruit paintings.
I found what's left of some decent blueberries on the bush (they were beginning to shrivel, but some were still nice) and decided that would be my next fruit. I was able to get this one done pretty quickly, about an hour or so, and I still feel better than I would have if I had hung around all day like a wraith watching the Election debacle unfold on one of the those terrible news outlets. So, it was a win-win all around for me.