|Kurt Plinke, Artist and Naturalist|
Between the Waters
life, Art and The Nature of things on the eastern shore
Plein Air Easton!... Actual Fruit... Using Green in a Painting... Upcoming Workshops.
Before I start, I want to mention this weekend's watercolor workshop at the studio here near Greensboro. We'll be painting a Chesapeake workboat and it's reflection. Read more about it below, or here.
It is high summer here on Maryland's Eastern shore. The air is close and hot. In your ear there is always the not-so-subtle low hum of millions of mosquito wings in the close, wet air as the sun travels towards the horizon each evening. Here in Caroline County, a lingering odor of natural fertilizer, hanging in the heat is almost always at the edge of notice. While some of the things of summer are not the most pleasant, as July drips sweat on it's way to August, some of the best things in Maryland happen. These are the fruits of summer.
Plein Air Easton! One of the best of all of the fruits of summer is the nearby huge event that is Plein Air Easton! Last summer, I was insanely fortunate enough to be juried-in as one of the fifty-some artists participating in the event, spanning more than a week. The level of painting that takes place during this brief span is awesome. Artists like Tim Kelly, Patrick Lee, Trey Finney, Sarah Linda Poly and so many others boggle the mind at their ability to creatively interpret what they see. The paintings produced during this competition/festival are some of the most beautiful you will ever see anywhere. And to know that they are painted outdoors in brutal Eastern-Shore-in-July conditions where the humidity is over 90% and the temperatures exceed 100 degrees most days is the truly amazing part. Watching a plein air painter feverishly working to capture an azure shadow on a canvas while standing on a hot tar road (or roof, in Patrick Lee and Bradley Milligan's case), is amazing. This year, while not a juried artist, I participated during the week as an artist thankfully selected to display in the Local Color show taking place in the gallery at Downtown Easton's beautiful Tidewater Inn. Also during the week, I joined the juried artists and many others in the annual Quick Draw challenge, where the artists completed a painting, on location, in less than two hours. This year I think I completed my best Quick Draw painting, a fern hanging in front of a store near The Tidewater.
Actual fruit... Some of my favorite fruits actually grow wild behind and around the studio here outside of Greensboro. Blackberries, big and plump and sweet are ready for picking right now along the brambly tangled hedgerow at the edge of the woods. They are a summer delight in one way, and a bane in another. While they are delicious, the blackberry canes are studded with long, recurved spines, like fish hooks waiting to catch you as you reach for a dark shining berry in the shadows of the brambles. I bet I've picked three quarts of the beautiful little morsels this year, at the same time looking like I got into a drunken brawl with a sackful of angry badgers. My arms are covered in cuts and little puncture wounds from the dangerous spines.
Another fruit that I have come to love, and that grows wild in the same place as the blackberries, is the Purple Passionflower. Growing on a sprawling vine with beautiful tropical-looking flowers, the fruit develop as summer progresses. Before they are ripe, the tennis ball sized fruits are solid and green, and smell terrible. But when they are ripe, the fruit wrinkles a little, and is filled with small sacs of juice. The juice is amazing, and is one of the primary flavors in the drink, Hawaiian Punch.
I gather grocery bags full of the ripe fruit each year, extract the juice, and freeze it as ice cubes. The cubes, two to a glass with a little vodka, makes a great passion fruit martini. I suppose there are other ways to use the delicious liquid, but I don't see a reason to try anything else. It's that good.
Using green in a painting... Now that summer is fully here, I'm faced with a dilemma. Everywhere I look, bright greens are everywhere. And that is great. Summer should be filled with green things growing, like the blackberry canes and passionflower vines. But for some reason, I prefer the subdued shades of autumn. Even when I'm painting a forest scene, I find I'm adding violet or burnt sienna to my greens, toning them down a little from their natural brightness. I had a discussion about this the other day with fellow artist Jim Rehak, who loves painting bold colors. We agreed that I naturally paint more along the lines of Wyeth, with a limited palette of subdued colors. I'm okay with that, but I want to work towards expanding my palette, and broadening my own preferences.
This Weekend's Workshop... If you haven't already signed up for this Saturday's watercolor workshop, "Painting a Chesapeake Workboat and it's Reflection," you'd better hurry. There are a few seats left. This should be a good day. We'll start with a bring-a-dish potluck lunch at 11:00. After we eat and talk, we'll head to the studio. There, beginners and more seasoned watercolorists will look at how to create realistic reflections, how to thoughtfully reserve whites in a painting where no paint is used, and how to make water look like... well... water. Not always easy, but the way we'll do it on Saturday will be straightforward and simple. Paper will be provided, and if you are a rank beginner, you can borrow a palette and brushes for the day. Sign up soon by calling (410) 200-1743 or emailing email@example.com. See you Saturday!
A Workshop Full of Fun, What's Going on Out There, Painting as Fast as I Can, Shows Around the Shore, & this Month's Featured Painting (with a special low price)
First, July's watercolor workshop at the studio... On Saturday, July 29th, we'll be painting a Chesapeake Bay workboat as it is reflected in calm water. An easy painting with some interesting techniques, including masking out whites and an effective way to accurately depict reflections in water. This is a great project for both novice and experienced watercolorists. To reserve a chair and be a part of this one-day workshop experience, contact the studio at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about this and other workshops, see here.
What's Going on Out There... Last month, I watched the Pink Lady's Slippers progress through their blooming cycle, beginning as a couple of small, unfurling wide green leaves. Then, a flower stalk began to poke it's way up from the center of the whorl of leaves. As the big bud at the top of the stalk opened, the bright pink flower began to nod, looking like some sort of weird shoe dangling at the end of the flower stalk.
The Lady's Slippers were one of many species of flowers to be found in the woods in late May and early June. The trees had not fully leafed out, and plenty of sunshine managed to reach the forest floor.
Now, however it is early July. The sun is shining brightly and longer. Even so, the woods are a dappled place of deep shadows, and the woodland flowers are few and far between. Now, the flowering plants are more prevalent in open spaces, along road edges, in marshes and in fields. Chicory, Queen Anne's Lace (really a wild carrot) and some early Asters dot open areas with bright splashes of blue and white. As lightning bugs begin to fill the sky with bright flashes, they are echoed in the marshes with the occasional big bright flower of the Marsh Mallow. Escaped Daylilies, free from their original garden homes, drift in orange-yellow clumps along the roadside. Down near the river, the scorching red of Cardinal Flowers surprise the eye with their brilliance. Summer has arrived.
Painting as Fast as I Can... With Summer and warmer weather here, I've felt the urge to really get out there and paint what I see. This season, my goal is to paint faster, and to work to create more dynamic compositions as I paint both in the studio and en plein air. Oddly, while I have been working to paint faster, I found that for some time my painting has been in a rut, and I produced no paintings that I wanted to show anyone. The saving grace is that there is always the other side of the paper to try again. But now, I'm beginning to feel that I can see a light, and I'm heading towards it. I'm using different brushes, more contrast and really looking at the stories behind what I paint. I'm trying to get out of my "horizontal versus vertical" compositions and I hope that by the time Summer really heats up, I'll have some new work that I really like.
Shows Around the Shore... I'll be a part of several plein air festivals and galleries over this Summer.
- I'll be a part of the Plein Air Easton! festival as part of the Working Artist's Forum in their Local Color show, located in Easton, Maryland's Tidewater Inn on July 21st, 22nd and 23rd.
- The Riverwalk Arts Center in Milford, Delaware will include several of my paintings as part of a two-month gallery exhibit entitled "Play." The arts center is open most days.
- The Foundry in Denton, Maryland features a number of my paintings as part of their gallery rotation. I just added a number of new paintings to the gallery there.
- Artists paint OC, a Plein Air event in Ocean City, Maryland starts on August 9th and runs through the 13th. During the event, I'll be traveling around the Ocean City area, painting en plein air. A closing exhibition of the paintings completed during the competition begins at The Center for the Arts in Ocean City, running through the remainder of August.
- One of the best events in Denton, Maryland each year is Summerfest, August 18th and 19th. As I do every year, I'll have a booth at the festival. This year, my son, Lloyd Plinke, will share the booth, displaying his sculpture and blown glass. His work is beautiful, interesting and very affordable.
Kurt Plinke: About Life, Art and the Nature of Things on the Eastern Shore
I write about things I've noticed, places I've been, plans I've made and paintings I've finished or am thinking about.
See recent naturalist observations I have posted on iNaturalist: