Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tuesday Afternoon at Wave Hill

My set-up at Wave Hill with towering trees in the background.

After a long stint in the studio working on a  demanding deadline, I felt it was time to get out and paint some landscapes at Wave Hill, minutes from my residence in the Riverdale area of the Bronx. I was eager to study the effects of color and light in nature. In the interests of self-study, I know that this will pay off in the fast-paced storyboard work I do, when I am often called upon to quickly create color frames at the speed of light. 

Wave Hill is a gem for lovers of horticulture, nature, landscapes and the Hudson River. Originally built as a fieldstone house by lawyer William Lewis Morris in 1843, and expanded by publisher William Henry Appleton between 1866 and 1903, in subsequent years Wave Hill was rented as a summer home by Teddy Roosevelt's family as well as Mark Twain. With  breathtaking view of the NJ Palisades and Hudson River, along with its meticulous garden vistas, it is easy to see why Wave Hill has been a haven for lovers of quiet, tranquility and beauty. Tuesday offers free admission, which I took advantage of.

I love this book of landscapes, inspiring to look at on my short breaks. 

I packed my painting gear which included my new Julian half-box easel and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an apple (I get hungry when I work outdoors). Although there is a lunch truck on the premises, I need to have nourishment close to where I am set up. 

New visitors to Wave Hill may not realize that if you park down the hill in a small open lot near the Riverdale Country School, you can get Wave Hill's free van shuttle to pick you up and save you a parking fee and a hike. I took advantage of this, lessening the burden of carrying easel, paints and books. Be sure to drive past the front gate and let the attendant know you will need a ride, otherwise you will be waiting there forever as the shuttles don't run automatically. Be grateful to your driver, as they are most likely a volunteer.

I set out to find a shady spot. I learned from past experiences that when I paint in direct sunlight, it becomes impossible to see the difference between shade, light, temperature and intensity of color. I have returned to the studio surprised to see the results did not match what I thought I painted.

My new Julian Half Box easel. Lighter to carry than
my full-box, I transport my oil tubes in a canvas carry bag.
I did this study in about an hour. 

By no means an expert on identifying trees, I found a majestic gum tree, towering over the skyline. When working in oils on landscapes it is important to paint quickly and capture the sunlight before it changes. In that spirit and inspired by one of my favorite landscape books, I worked on 9x12 Scholastic Art Canvas boards I had collected from when I taught the Grumbacher Painting Workshops. These are perfect for small studies.

I did a total of three studies and spent more time than I wanted on each of them. A friendly chat with an avid Wave Hill visitor rekindled my confidence, as he seemed drawn to my painting and commented on the colors he liked in my second painting. Interestingly enough, as we were marveling at the light cast on the Palisades, he recounted how geological studies suggest that the New Jersey Palisades were once a part of the Moroccan coast a billion years ago, and therefore share an identical structure!

Although the Palisades are barey visible in this shot, believe me, you can
see them with little effort from other positions.
Here you can see the GW Bridge in the distance.

It is easy to paint in the peaceful surrounding of Wave Hill. The groundskeepers are clearly dedicated to the property and can be seen hard at work on the grounds throughout the day.  I was sure to bring a small trash bag to carry my lunch remains off with me, and was fortunate that I could reposition my easel to another shady spot nearby for each painting without having to fold it up.

Carrying three wet paintings and my gear  back to my car
was tricky and proved my gym membership is paying off.

I got myself into a small dilemma by having three wet oil paintings to carry. Fortunately, my easel comes with a canvas case that has back straps attached, so I was able to carry it like a big backpack. I left my paintings near the guard shack and this time hoofed it down the hill to get my car, not bothering the volunteer van driver. I often hike up this hill on morning constitutionals around hilly Riverdale. The stone walls on one side of the road, the dense trees, and the sound of running water trickling downstream belies the Bronx location. 

Follow the iron fence down the winding hill to get back to the free parking lot.

All in all productive Tuesday Afternoon to sharpen the skills, breathe the fresh air and refresh the soul before my next deadline.

No comments: