Nicholas Baxter

Blog posts tagged “Texas”

In The Studio 5: Reworking Plein Air Landscapes

Something I’ve never been a fan of doing is revisiting older paintings after some time has passed. The process of reconstructing or even merely re-approaching the original mindstate, inspiration, and vision for the painting feels spiritually regurgitative in some unclean way. Like digging up a dead issue in a relationship with your partner. I’ve never been one to want to dwell in the past, favoring the pursuit of new goals and the exploration of new territory over the retread of old ground.

But since embarking on a landscape painting journey over the past few years I’ve seen some of the masters of the genre doing just this–picking up old plein air studies to breath new life into them, perhaps making them more presentable as a truly finished piece to a buying audience–and had stared at some of my early plein air studies long enough to realize how I too could push the sense of drama or atmosphere in them.

View From The Studio, before (L) and after glaze layer.

Not to mention, more hours logged in the practice of landscape painting, more hours logged studying weather and outdoor light with more intention and discernment, has had the natural and inevitable effect of expanding my critique ability of what I’ve previously done as well as eased some of my fears about ruining those original results. This shift is the tangible, or at least quantitative, proof that learning is happening–awesome!

So in a brief fit of discontented boredom lately I pulled a few early landscapes off the wall and put my glazing knowledge learned from many hours of studio still life painting to use on some formerly alla-prima studies that looked a little flat.

Oil glazing truly does replicate the phenomenon of translucent–but not completely transparent–atmosphere that we live in and see through every time we gaze into the distance. Which makes it a perfect tool in the landscape painter’s skillset. For advanced stages of realism in any genre I find it to be absolutely indispensable, and enjoyed the practice of applying it to my new pursuit of landscape painting mastery.

A little 4 x 6 inch study of my former backyard bridge, given a more dramatic late afternoon shadow treatment.

On The Road 12: Spring and Summer Plein Air Adventures

I’ve been so busy painting in the studio for an upcoming exhibition of all new still lifes (announcements soon!) that I forgot to post about my spring and summer landscape painting fun.

Part I: April

At the beginning of April I was in Arizona, where as soon as I get out of Phoenix, I’m reminded why it’s one of my favorite nature states: so much variety of vast and mentally cleansing wild terrain! On this trip I had the good fortune of being able to paint the low desert in the south and then venture north of Flagstaff to paint the completely different high desert plains.

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Salt River, Tonto National Forest, oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches, 2016

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High Plains, Wupatki National Monument, oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches, 2016

Part II: May

In late April I headed to the motherland of classical art for some work and pleasure. First stop was Venice, where I was too busy to paint, but caught some great iPhone snaps (not hard to do basically anywhere in Italy) with my now-antiquated 5s .

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As the calendar turned to May, I traveled with friends to the lush hills of Tuscany, where I had the opportunity to experience the best views the entire region has to offer–from the mountains further inland (overlooking Leonardo’s birthplace Vinci) to the stunning Mediterranean coast–and produced these two plein air studies.

That's me underneath the arch. Photos courtesy of Luca Natalini

That’s me underneath the arch. Photos courtesy of Luca Natalini

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View From Monsummano Alto, oil on canvas panel, 8 x 10 inches, 2016

Lerici Sunset, oil on panel, 4 x 6 inches, 2016

Lerici Sunset, oil on panel, 4 x 6 inches, 2016

In between travels I managed to squeeze in a plein air session while home in Austin, on the occasion of a few artist friends being in town. We made the short drive out to one of the city’s little natural treasures, McKinney Falls State Park, which boasts some active waterfalls and a variety of interesting rock formations with a kind of outer space vibe.

Lower McKinney Falls, oil on canvas panel, 8 x 10 inches, 2016

Lower McKinney Falls, oil on canvas panel, 8 x 10 inches, 2016

Part III: June

In June I ventured to the altitudes of Lake Tahoe for the first time, and got roasted by the deceptively strong summer sun while painting the beautiful vistas of Heavenly Mountain and Emerald Bay.

Western View From Heavenly, oil on panel, 4 x 6 inches, 2016

Western View From Heavenly, oil on panel, 4 x 6 inches, 2016

Emerald Bay, oil on panel, 11 x 5 inches, 2016

Emerald Bay, oil on panel, 11 x 5 inches, 2016

On the eve of my departure I caught an ultra-quick sunset session as the haze from California wildfires filtered out some magical orange and pink rays. Since I only had time to block in a quick impression of the scene, I revisited the piece after I returned home in order to smooth everything out and push the atmosphere.

Lake Tahoe Sunset, oil on panel, 11 x 5 inches, 2016

Lake Tahoe Sunset, oil on panel, 11 x 5 inches, 2016

Part IV: July

In July I visited Ireland for the second time, but first as a plein air painter, and was excited about the opportunities for new environs. The Emerald Isle did not disappoint as I found my way into the mountains south of Dublin for a quick session, then to the picturesque Howth coastline just north of the city, which had me most nostalgic for my boyhood summers on Cape Cod here in the States.

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Keeping my painting out of the rain.

Mountain Stream With View, oil on panel, 11 x 4 inches, 2016

Mountain Stream With View, oil on panel, 11 x 4 inches, 2016

One of the only moments of the day without any tourists in the shot.

One of the only moments of the day without any tourists in the shot.

Baily Lighthouse at Howth Head, oil on panel, 8 x 10 inches, 2016

Baily Lighthouse at Howth Head, oil on panel, 8 x 10 inches, 2016

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.

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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.

 

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“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

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“Bridge To The Studio”, Lockhart, TX

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

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

Perception Of Being

This week I’m making the final preparations for my exhibition of new paintings in my current home of Austin, Texas, getting everything framed, printed, written, and ready to go. Here’s the press release for the show, which is a two-man effort with my friend and fellow Austin artist Jeff Ensminger. Stay tuned for more information on available originals, prints and other stuff, as well as pictures from the opening party.

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Nick Baxter: Perception of Being

Jeff Ensminger: Into the Void

 

Exhibition of new works at Mindzai Creative, 2001 South Lamar #D, Austin, TX 78704

November 21 – December 3, 2014

OPENING – 8pm – 11pm Friday, November 21

 

Mindzai Creative in Austin Texas is pleased to present a dual exhibition of new paintings by two Austin fine artists and tattooers, Nick Baxter and Jeff Ensminger. Both artists have worked over the past year to create a new body of work for the show, each with their own cohesive theme and symbolism. The unveiling of these paintings will take place at the Mindzai warehouse and gallery space in South Austin from 8 to 11 pm on Friday, November 21st. Both Nick and Jeff will be in attendance, with originals for sale as well as limited edition giclee prints and posters, along with live t-shirt screen printing featuring a design from each of their painting series.

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Nick Baxter’s series titled Perception of Being consists of twenty oil paintings on board, each sized at 9 x 12 inches and depicting a lone human heart on a background of pure white. Each of the twenty hearts features a unique variation or visual effect representing one of the many complex emotional or feeling states of the human experience. Conceptually, this series references the philosophical study of phenomenology while also being inspired by modern scientific research into emotion-based changes in the electromagnetic fields generated by the heart. Nick reduces these ideas into a simple and universally recognized symbol in order to describe and document the ephemeral aspects of the human condition.

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Jeff Ensminger’s series titled Into the Void consists of eight acrylic paintings on paper and wood, ranging in size from 12 x 12 inches to 36 x 36 inches. The paintings depict two-dimensional representations of three-dimensional black holes, also known as Penrose diagrams. These diagrams capture the relations between different points in space-time to illustrate the environment of a wormhole connecting two universes. Using green geometric grid patterns atop realistic depictions of deep space, Jeff’s series visualizes the Penrose diagram in a stylized way that is highly influenced by 70’s and 80’s science fiction films and literature.

Nick Baxter has been tattooing professionally and showing fine artworks since 2000, first in Connecticut, and since 2008 in his new home of Austin, Texas. Known for his innovative approach and color surrealist style in the tattoo medium, he has also gained recognition as a realist oil painter, having exhibited two solo shows at Last Rites Gallery in New York City since 2010, as well as in countless group exhibitions around the country and abroad. More biographical information and a complete CV can be found at www.nbaxter.com or his tattoo-focused website www.nickbaxter.com. Reach Nick via email: contact@nbaxter.com

 

Jeff Ensminger has been tattooing professionally and showing fine artworks in the Texas area since 2002.  His tattoos and artwork are known for their balance of modern realism and traditional tattooing fundamentals, creating a unique aesthetic sensibility with time-honored craftsmanship. You can view his works at www.jeffensminger.com. Reach Jeff via email: info@jeffensminger.com

 

Gallery contact: atx@mindzai.net

On The Road 4

 A few weeks ago I spent two quick but relaxing days in the Middle Of Nowhere, rediscovering my medium format camera with some long-expired film, then hoped and prayed for some advantageous developing defects (which can be unpredictable on old color film). Lacking traditional darkroom access and skill, I get high resolution scans of my negatives, and do all editing in the “digital darkroom” with Photoshop CS4. For the non-purist photographer, this mixed-media, mixed-era process creates a satisfying blend of traditional and modern aesthetics, while exponentially increasing one’s creative options.

Guadalupe Mountains, West Texas

(Mamiya 645E medium format with 80mm f/2.8 on Kodak Plus X-Pan Pro 125. Negative scan to digital, Photoshop)

Marfa, Texas

(Mamiya 645E medium format with 80mm f/2.8 on Kodak Portra 400UC. Negative scan to digital, Photoshop)