Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dog walk sketch

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Golden Binky

I found this little gem in my studio.  This was my daughters binky which she seldom used but I thought it was interesting to paint at the time.  

5 x 7 inches acrylic painted on canvas paper

Friday, August 16, 2013

Adventures in one year of Landscape painting Part 2

Overcoming the odds

 I regained my composure and applied more paint reassuring myself that this mess on my canvas was going to turn out okay.  A man with his girlfriend was looking on curiously and asked me how long I had been an artist.  Not thinking clearly about his question, I responded “for an hour and a half or so…”pausing in midsentence, I corrected myself.
“Oh since high school but this is my first ‘plein air’ or outdoors painting, "
 "I like it and I want it, will you sell it?" 
"Um, this is my first painting and it’s really NOT that good," I stated, uttering the dreaded statement of apology that experienced painters advise newbies to avoid: never apologize for how bad your work may appear!   "No really,” he responded. “I want it because it’s a reminder of this day." 
My head filled with the Rocky themed music, the part where Rocky Balboa knocks out Apollo Creed.  I couldn't believe that I was actually talking about selling a painting, being such a rookie out on my first excursion.  

Self Reflections

A few days later the experience got me thinking about how exotic it is to see someone painting a canvas from life in public.  For the painter, it can be a herculean effort just to gather your gear and get to a location, let alone make a picture that you are happy about. Non painters seem to have the misperception that painting is just a leisurely way to pass the time, often failing to understand just how much effort and hard work it takes to create an image from observation.

The painting is a reminder of a place, but it’s also a unique interpretation that reflects the artist’s mental thought. It triggers a memory, an emotion, or a mental space where you can be immediately transported.  So yes, the painting is a continuing reminder and valuable. And the man who bought my artwork seemed to understand that. In a later email, he said, “That was an important day, and having something that was also created on that day, at that spot, would be great. And the fact that it was a beginning for you, too, for a new type of art … that is cool, too.”

My return

A year later, I returned to the harbor and painted the same scene. I was excited and nervous about the day. It was like a finals exam for which one could never have enough preparation.
Would I be crestfallen with my result or pleased about my progress?  During the year, I stayed the course by painting outside at least one day each week, by attending workshops, reading landscape painting books, and studying blogs of a few professional landscape painters. I have started daily thumbnail sketches on my daily dog walks as well as attending a local atelier school a few hours a week.  
It’s tough to squeeze all this in with the rigors of family commitments and childcare, but struggle is what art is about.  It’s never an easy proposition to make pictures.  Sometimes the pictures turn out good. Some sell, some don't. But the reminder of the struggle of making the picture is even better. 
And after all, in my first plein air excursion, I sold a painting and had my lunch stolen by a dog.

Me (left of center in black)standing watching a demo by Stapleton Kearns

First plein air painting 2012
Same scene a year later of the Harbor in Canton

Jason Witte is from Baltimore, MD and will be exhibiting his work from the past year at
September 7, 2013 7:00 to 10:00 pm at

826 West 36th Street
Baltimore, Maryland
Open Studio: Thursdays 5:00 - 7:00 Fridays 4:00 - 7:00 (with 1st Friday Celebrations)

Saturdays 11:00 - 6:00

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Adventures in one year of Landscape painting Part 1

It’s funny how a click of a mouse can change your life. There in my Amazon shopping cart was an easel. But I was hesitant.  At 40, I was experiencing a midlife crisis of sorts. Do I get a brand new red sports car or a tattoo? Nah, I decide to get a used French easel, and focus a year of my life on landscape painting. As an artist, I needed a new challenge and a way to weave more creative time in my busy life.
Painting outside in the elements would be intriguing; it would grant a brief escape from my responsibilities as a stay-at-home dad. While being at home with two kids under four and another on the way is a rigorous job, it’s fulfilling in ways I cannot measure. There are days you can do no wrong in your child’s eyes, and other days where peanut butter applied the wrong way to a sandwich will spark an ugly tantrum. But as an artist, I still felt driven to make progress in both painting and parenting skills.    

Maiden Voyage with the New Easel

I loaded my gear including a packed lunch from home and arrived at the waterfront park in the Canton area of Baltimore.  I planted my easel on an elevated spot and began to study the harbor.  Two men behind me were casting fishing lines along the edge of the harbor firmly holding onto their bottle-necked beverages, wrapped in wrinkled brown paper bags. On a nearby bench, a homeless person muttered senseless political commentary. The repeating calls of fussing seagulls could be heard in the distance.  I was in good company.

I reached for my brushes, canvas, and palette along with medium and turpentine thinner. By now there were a few curious onlookers making comments, "Hey are you going to make a painting?"- "Are you an artist?  - You must be really good, man. "

The scene before me contained many blues and ultramarine was a logical color choice. The first step was to mix a color string of differing ultramarine values.  I applied my paint but struggled to capture the shimmer of the water and it’s the reflections. It felt like a mess.

By now my stomach was grumbling so I pulled out my lunch. I took a bite into my sandwich, plotting my next move on the canvas. Suddenly I felt my sandwich being yanked out of my grasp by a 45 lb., American Labrador.  Within seconds the dog swallowed my sandwich and nearly toppled over my easel while sniffing for more. The owner, nervously offering smiles and apologies, corralled her dog on the leash and walked away. 

Once I got over the initial shock, I became annoyed.  What nerve of the dog owner to have her dog off leash, and let it to steal the lunch of a starving artist.  Starving, well that’s a little dramatic. I had water so at least I wouldn’t die of thirst. 

Thursday, August 08, 2013

I seriously need some framing elves

So I got a bunch a frames yesterday and needed to get start on my upcoming show:

"Into the Landscape, a year of painting outdoors"  September 7 2013, 7 to 10:00 PM at artistunderground studio
826 West 36th Street
Baltimore, MD

I forgot the intense work and little details that go into framing. It takes some focus handling the glass and mattes. You have to disassemble and reassemble. Fortunately,  yesterday the sitter was here giving me few hours to frame at least 1 piece with out kids needing something or climbing on my back.   I'm including a few of my oil pastel studies along with many of my paintings.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Snow Painting

Here is my finished piece from Snowcamp this past January.  I think its a winner, and I have provided a reference photo to give you an idea of how an artist might change a view when finishing a piece in the studio.
 I knew something was special about it but it took me some meditation to find the answer. The bottom photo I am left of center dresssed in black  in my warm cabellas.