Nicholas Baxter

Blog posts tagged “Connecticut”

On The Road 11: New England Plein Air

At the beginning of this month I travelled back to my homeland of Connecticut, hoping for late winter weather mild enough to endure some outdoor painting of the classic New England scenery I grew up with and now become nostalgic for after these last 7 years in the ecology of central Texas. I wasn’t disappointed, as Mother Nature provided a few days of sunshine with the slightest hint of spring.

Colder than it looks, trust me.

Colder than it looks, trust me.

My first opportunity was a very brief session in the late afternoon golden hour at Killam’s Point in Branford, where it was not just barely (baarrrely) warm enough to endure a stretch of time standing still with finger joints stiffening by the hour and legendary March breezes dropping the wind chill as the sun sank into the water of western Long Island Sound. The lapping of the waves into stony sand and the smell of seaweed washed ashore were both adequately satiating to my coastal longings despite the useless frozen digits and deep chill creeping into my core that didn’t fully thaw until much later that night. While far from my finest work, I appreciate the challenges overcome in order to paint something even this rough.

"Killam's Point Sunset", oil on panel, 6.5 x 5 inches, 2016

Killam’s Point Sunset, oil on panel, 6.5 x 5 inches, 2016

The following day was mercifully a bit warmer, especially being away from the coast, in the forest interior of Meriden’s Hubbard Park where I happened upon a softly babbling stream early enough into a failed quest to reach the summit of the small mountain that the park envelops. Up on that mountain, at the edge of a cliff, stands tiny Castle Craig, which overlooks the park and the rest of New Haven County to the south (and which I have never been to, despite growing up practically in its shadow in nearby Cheshire), and I hoped to reach it easily in order to paint the scenic vista of my homeland. But the limited daylight hours and weight of my painting gear upon my surgically repaired lower lumbar were enough to keep me resigned to the forest below, where I was thankful to find a secluded and easily accessible place to paint a forest interior that I’m quite pleased with. Juxtaposing the smoothly blended flowing water with the rougher chunks of loose alla-prima paint technique has become one of my favorite effects to attempt in my young plein air painting practice.

Hubbard Park easel

Late Winter Stream At Hubbard Park, oil on panel, 8 x 10 inches, 2016

Late Winter Stream At Hubbard Park, oil on panel, 8 x 10 inches, 2016

Summer Plein Air Adventures

This summer marked my first serious foray into true outdoor (plein air) landscape painting, in an effort to deepen my knowledge on the visual effects of atmosphere and natural light. This endeavor also conveniently bridged a longstanding divide between my love for exploring the outdoors and my love of painting.

Until this year the two had been almost always mutually exclusive, routinely prompting an internal conflict on beautiful days over whether to satisfy the urge to paint in the studio or the urge to go outside. But I finally confronted my fear of alla prima painting and began the difficult process of learning this completely contradictory painting technique to the one I’ve trained in for over a decade.

muddy creek session

Although discouraging at times, I couldn’t be happier with my experience so far; it feels like a whole new artistic world has opened up to me…the proverbial kid in the candy store phenomenon. I feel reinvigorated creatively, which any artist knows is a joyous feeling, and I’m excited to see how this new painting discipline evolves my artistic vision.

For now I’m still entrenched in the learning curve, looking forward to each new (and challenging)

outing, where I’m slowly gaining the experience needed to bring this vast new body of knowledge back into the studio for larger and more ambitous works in my usual indirect layering technique (ala the Hudson River School methods).

So here are my favorite plein air studies from this summer, a few of them completed at an incredibly fun workshop taught by Thomas Kegler in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. All are oil on panel and sized either 8 x 10 or 9 x 12 inches.

 

purple trail-lowres

“Purple Trail”, Sleeping Giant State Park, CT

"Muddy Creek", Lockhart State Park, TX

“Muddy Creek”, Lockhart State Park, TX

"White Mountains Sunset", North Conway, NH

“White Mountains Sunset”, North Conway, NH

"Cathedral Ledge After A Storm", North Conway, NH

“Cathedral Ledge After A Storm”, North Conway, NH

bridge and creek 8-15-lowres

“Bridge To The Studio”, Lockhart, TX

"The Hill Country From Mt. Bonnell", Austin, TX

“Hill Country Sunset From Mt. Bonnell”, Austin, TX