A Tale of Two Neighbors. (And Many Dandelions.)

garden gnome-scott freemanThis morning as I was out digging dandelions in the sun, I noticed myself unconsciously making choices. It set me to thinking about human action and freedom.

I’m quite fond of the quirky little piece of downtown property where my wife and I live and raised our family. I love my wife’s garden. I love our art studio. I like our fruit trees. I like that our yard is not fenced in. And I really like that there is no Homeowners Association (HOA.) This allows me to do things like dig a pit and cook a turkey in the ground at Thanksgiving. Or to add outdoor art to my property. Our “inner city” neighborhood has a lot of cool, creatively embellished properties, and a lot of urban farming going on. Several neighbors keep chickens and bees in their backyards. These are usually among the best kept properties. I love this.

Of course there is the occasional trashy property as well, and the occasional display of poor taste. This is part of the cost of freedom. I think it is a small price to pay.

This post is a brief tale of two neighbors. It’s a story about the dynamics of living in community. (I’m pretty sure neither of my neighbors reads my blog.)

I will call my neighbor on one side, Harvey. Harvey is a middle-aged, single guy. We’re buds. We’ve talked a lot about life, God, politics, and stuff, in a dude sort of way. I like a lot of Harvey’s views, though he can be a little pugnacious. But underneath his crusty, cigar-smoking exterior, as human beings go, he’s a good man. He volunteers his time and resources to help under-privileged kids. For years he has worked with the deaf community in one capacity or another. He has purchased my art and books on several occasions. He has given us pecans from his farm in another state. I like Harvey.

A few years ago, Harvey adopted an enormous dog. A black lab, or something. I’ll call him Dogzilla. Dogzilla is clueless and friendly. I’d say he’s a little too friendly. He often escapes his pen and comes immediately into our yard, snuffling around and peeing in our garden, where we grow food that we intend to eat. Dogzilla produces enormous poop that doesn’t decompose because Harvey feeds him cheap dog food. Sometimes at night, I’ve noticed Harvey letting Dogzilla out for a potty break, while he enjoys a cigar in our shared alley. Recently, I shoveled all of Dogzilla’s petrified poop back into Harvey’s yard. I haven’t told Harvey about this yet, but if he doesn’t like it, I’m looking forward to the conversation where he explains why he has a problem with me putting his dog’s poop back into his yard.

Harvey pieced together a make-shift pen for Dogzilla. The makeshift pen is quite large and consists of five-foot sections of chain-link fencing, held up with bungee cords and stacks of cinder blocks, with a tarp thrown over part of the fence for shade. With dandelions and goat heads growing all around. It looks like crap. It’s very reminiscent of a third world slum, or a refugee camp. Of course, I have nothing against third world slum dwellers or refugees, but I don’t believe that Harvey and Dogzilla are in a crisis situation. Unless you count the dandelion crisis. But even so, that’s really a first world problem.

So that’s on one side of my house.

Then there is my neighbor on the other side. I’ll call her Betsy. She is an interior designer. Her house and yard look like a greeting card scene. She’s like Martha Stewart without the prison record. Her property has been on the annual Loveland Garden Tour. It’s like a Disney movie over there, with rabbits and birds and butterflies hopping and flitting about. When I step out of my house to go to work in my studio, if I happen to glance over to the right at Betsy’s property, I often break into song.

Betsy is also a great neighbor and a giving person. She is from an old Loveland family, and it’s fun to talk local history with her. My wife and Betsy exchange gardening plants. I have painted several paintings in her sanctuary-like backyard during plein air art competitions. (I have never asked Harvey’s permission to paint in his “yard.”) During winter, she always has her snow removal guys do part of my sidewalk. At Christmastime we exchange Christmas cookies, and hers are amazing, and ridiculously Martha Stewart-like. (Harvey does not give us cookies, but that is probably a good thing.)

That’s the other side of my house.

So, when I went out for my first springtime dandelion digging, guess where I started digging first? I headed directly to Betsy’s side of my yard. I wanted to be sure she didn’t have to wonder if I was going to get rid of the dandelions next to her property. (Her yard is dandelions-free.) She has never complained to me about my sometimes lax grounds keeping. She doesn’t have to. Because she treats her property with care, it makes me want to do the same. Not out of guilt, or shame, or keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, but out of respect and appreciation for the effort and creative care she puts in. I’ve noticed that she likes to entertain guests in her garden, and I would like to not be the jerk who ruins the sanctuary vibe that that she has going on over there. All of this is unspoken. I could completely neglect my property, and the world would keep turning, but the fact that she cares helps me to care.

Isn’t so much of life like this?

All of us struggle every day against entropy and degeneration, in every aspect of life. The physical universe is winding down. Left to itself, our environment gravitates toward disorder and decay. Civil society naturally tends toward confusion and degeneration. Even the genes in our cells are continually mutating, causing our bodies to degenerate and eventually lose function. But we fight against this. By intelligence, creativity, and work, we rebuild, restore, support, and hope. Ultimately, our only hope for salvation is an intelligent, loving, regenerative Life-Source existing outside of creation, commonly referred to as “God.” But whether or not we believe in such a God, most of us still hold onto hope. I find this bittersweet.

For me, every creative act is worth something. While even our hoping and dreaming is imperfect, every hope and dream in the face of futility testifies that we were created for life, love, and goodness. Creative acts affirm life. Caring acts make the universe make sense to our neighbor. Loving acts transcend the futility of our hopeless trajectory, in some small way. To me these things signal that there is something better to come.

I’ll close with some gardening tips from the apostle Paul:
“…whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:7-10.)

dandelion

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Watercolor Out the Wazoo!

Perchon-watercolor detail-scott freeman

In previous posts I’ve talked a bit about a crazy watercolor technique that I like to use. I was once unenthusiastic about watercolor because I generally found it to be wussy and boring. Then, when I worked at Hallmark I found some guys using watercolor in a way I had never seen it used before. Eventually I took a work shop from these guys, (Craig Lueck and Johne Richardson,) and fell in love with the medium of watercolor. I remember the first night after the workshop; I dreamt of blushes of watercolor flowing into each other.

So, over the years watercolor has become a secondary medium for me, right behind my favorite medium of oil paint. However, since the beginning of this year, I have worked almost exclusively in watercolor due to the list of projects and commissions I’ve taken on. Furthermore, I’m scheduled to teach this crazy technique this coming January (2015) in a Saturday workshop at Schissler Art Acadaemy, in downtown Loveland. So I’ve definitely got watercolor on the brain right now. (Which, I admit may have been a better title than Watercolor Out the Wazoo.)

In the course of pulling together some samples for Schissler Art Academy, I ended up going through a lot of past work, and I think it’s fun to look at as well as being fun to paint, so I thought I’d show some to you. A lot of it is available in greeting card format on our ZAZZLE SITE, and also as fine art prints by contacting me directly. I even still have a few select originals around as well, for those of you who have money to burn. (The originals are several times more expensive than prints.)

For those of you who are art nerds, I’ll say that I pretty much only use oils for my fine art. However, I use watercolor for a whole range of artistic expression, including fine art, but also for my commercial illustration, which includes my children’s storybook illustration. In fact, watercolor is almost exclusively what I use for commercial illustration, because I feel this technique presents a unique and striking look. Following is a survey of some of my favorite pieces from over the years.

 Masters copies:

The Visitation-watecolor by Scott Freeman

“The Visitation” based on a 16c painting by Mariotto Albertinelli. 6 x 8 inches. I would be willing to have prints made of this one if someone asks, because it’s one of my favs. The original is in a private collection.

Sometimes I like to take an old Master’s composition and translate it into watercolor. For me this is an act of appreciation, kind of like a musician covering a classic song. Someday maybe I’ll post the originals alongside the reinterpretations.

See a previous post on The Visitation. (left)

The Music Lesson-Scott Freeman

“The Music Lesson”
based on an 1877 painting by Frederic Leighton. 6×5.25 inches. I have prints available of this one. It’s also available as a note card on my Zazzle site.

Native American-watercolor-Freeman

“Native American Portrait”
5×7 inches. Based on a 1910 black & white photograph by Carl Moon.
  1 of a set of 3. Framed original available for $700.

Watercolor studies- Scott Freeman

Left: Study after Johannes Vermeer’s (1665) “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”
6×9 inches. I have prints available of this one.
Right: Study after Frederic Leighton’s (1864) “The Painter’s Honeymoon.”
5×5 inches. Private collection.

Plein Air Pieces:
I almost always paint in oils when I do plein air events, but occasionally I’ll do a watercolor painting. Here are a couple that I was able to photograph.

Perchon-Scott Freeman

“Horse of a Different Color”
4×6 inches. Painted at a riding stable in Estes Park, Colorado. A composite of 3 white Perchons who took turns posing for me. Original sold. No prints.

Santo-Sedona AZ-watercolor

“Santo”
Painted from a statue on the grounds of a Catholic church in Sedona, Arizona.
Framed original available for $400.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artist demos:
When I teach a watercolor workshop, I generally do a demo throughout the day. Below are two that I liked enough to document.

watercolor demo-Scott Freeman

“Light and Fashion”
8×10 inches. Demo for a watercolor class.
Unframed original available for $200.

American buffalo-watercolor

“American Bison” 5×4 inches. Demo started in class and finished at home. Original sold. Available as a note card on our Zazzle site.

Children’s Book Illustration
I’ve been doing a lot of book illustration lately, especially with the recent launch of my online kids’ book company. Below are some of my favorites so far.

Mount Fuji-kids stotybooks-Freeman

“…and she flew away to Mt. Fuji in a breeze.”
Full spread from the upcoming book, The Adventures of Nathaniel and His Father’s Globe, by Beth El Kurchner.
8.5×17 inches. Original spoken for.

 

kids story books-The Cocky Rooster

Select illustrations from my newly released kids’ storybook, The Cocky Rooster.

I just found out I need to get new tires for my car in addition to several unexpected expenses. So I guess that means it’s time for a SALE.

+ I’ll sell any of the prints mentioned above, unmatted and unframed for $25 (includes shipping & handling.)
+ When I have matted prints on hand, I’ll sell them to you for $40 (regularly $60 – $80.)
+ Framed pieces are already discounted, as listed above.

My fine art giclee prints are reproduced using archival watercolor paper and inks.
I’m not set up to sell prints and art online, so please email me if you’re interested: scottnmollie@yahoo.com
I may not have to charge for shipping depending upon what you want and where you live.

For easy online purchases:
+ You can browse our Zazzle Store HERE
+ You can purchase my newly released storybook, The Cocky Rooster, HERE!

I’ll keep this sale going until my next post – (probably in a couple of weeks.) THANK YOU for your support!

Portraiture

Lisa blg

I find portraiture to be a strange genre in contemporary culture. It’s not really my business as to why someone wants a portrait; if someone wants to commission me for a portrait, I’m happy to paint one. Do most people want portraits of themselves in their homes? I doubt it. A couple of times I’ve had guys wanting me to paint their girlfriends, as a gift for their girlfriends. I’ve felt obligated to ask if they had reason to believe their girlfriends would want a portrait of themselves. Do you see what I mean? Portraiture can be a tricky genre. I once saw a home where, in the master bedroom, a large portrait of the wife’s mother hung over the couple’s bed; Hmmm…I think I would hang a portrait of my mom somewhere else.

I can tell you several reasons why people might want portraiture. I’ve had several parents commission portraits of their children. (But I generally only do older children for reasons that will become clear later.) I’ve also had parents commission portraits of themselves to leave to their grown children someday, and I think this makes sense also. Some collectors simply love the human face – the psychological impact, or the personality or stories that a face might suggest. The human face is a powerful carrier of emotion. Oddly, when I first moved to Loveland, which at that time was even less racially diverse than it is now, my gallery sold 2 or 3 portraits of beautiful black women I had painted. I’m not really sure what was going on there.

A few times I’ve had the sobering honor of painting infants or children who have died, for the parents who lost them. I consider this a weighty endeavor because these parents will only have the painting, photographs, and memories by which to remember these children.

Finally, a lot of artists seem to especially enjoy a beautifully painted portrait. Portraiture is an unforgiving subject matter. If one can balance the technical aspects of good drawing, composition, values, color, edges, and paint-handling without losing the grace and sensitivity that painting a human face requires, that is something to appreciate. Over the years I’ve sold off a few unframed portrait studies to artists and students for a couple hundred bucks each, because I know they can’t afford a full price portrait, nor do they care who the subject is. They’re just interested in the art of it.

I’ve been participating in plein air festivals for several years, and I usually paint a portrait during the Quick Draw event (click here for a fun Quick Draw story.) I do this because the public seems to enjoy watching portrait painting. Despite the fact that the Quick Draw models are usually dressed in cheesy period clothing, I usually sell these, and I’ve won several awards for them.

My Approach to Portraiture

I generally only paint from live sittings when doing portraiture in oils. There are plenty of other artists out there who will do a portrait from photographs, and this is certainly logistically easier. However, I find there is an authenticity and spontaneity that results from a live sitting that is very difficult to achieve from a photo. Also, coming to my studio for a sitting creates an experience to go with the painting.

At the Kansas City Art Institute I studied primarily under a painter named Wilbur Neiwald. While my studio work has now taken a departure from Wilbur’s approach, I find his approach to be unparalleled when it comes to portraiture. Wilbur taught a fascinating direct-study painting approach that by-passed traditional aspects of art instruction such as anatomy, perspective, and color theory. In fact he believed these things can sometimes hinder a painter from seeing clearly. Even today, because of what I learned under Wilbur, when I teach a class I tell students it’s a “seeing class” as much as it is a painting class.

Boiled down to its simplest description, Wilbur taught that all we really see are color relationships. That pretty much encompasses everything else, if you think about it. So when I paint an oil portrait, I’m simply seeking to paint one color in its proper relationship to another. If I basically get down the color relationships in the size and shape as they appear in front of me, a likeness appears. It’s almost that simple.3 Portraits

The frustrated-Hallmark-artist portraits 

Scott Brown blg

“Scott Brown”
Yes, this guy worked at Hallmark. He wore black every day and rode a Harley. It was always refreshing to see him; kind of like bumping into Thor in the lingerie section of a department store.

My previous post describes my 10 years as a Hallmark greeting card illustrator and designer. For me, one of the enriching aspects about working there was that were so many great painters there. A lot of these painters ultimately desired to be full time fine artists, but many us had families to support, so we worked at Hallmark instead; because it’s notoriously difficult to make a decent living as a fine art painter. But we found outlets, and made opportunities to pursue painting “off the Hallmark grid.” One of these opportunities, open to anyone, was a Wednesday lunch hour painting group. I thought of it as the “frustrated painter group,” (not because the group was frustrating, but because our dreams of being fine artists were frustrated by the realities of life.)

Roxanne blg

“Roxanne”
One of my favs that I will never sell. Roxanne had exotic features: amber eyes, reddish brown hair, and a lovely almond-shaped face above her willowy neck; so fun to paint! Something gelled for me in this painting.

Hallmark was a fairly cosmopolitan environment, full of interesting people. Every Wednesday we would ask someone from the company to come and sit for us for an hour. Artists could paint or draw in the medium of their choice. Every Wednesday. For a couple of years I organized the model list as a ploy to discipline myself to attend every week.

When I first joined the group, I could not paint fast enough to finish a painting in one hour. However, after regularly painting a portrait a week, over time I eventually was able to consistently get a result I was pretty happy with. For me, an hour is still too short of a time to really nail a portrait, so the time limit forced me to loosen up. There’s just no time to get picky in an hour. I came to enjoy the spontaneity that came across in these portraits.

3 more portraits

Left: ” Tracey” – I like the loose spontaneity of this one.
Middle: “Wale” – This guy was from Uganda. A writer, I think.
Right: “Cathy” – My lovely next-door-cubicle neighbor. I kinda wish I still had this one.

Loveland portraits

Redhead wpblg

“Redhead”
I lost the likeness on this one, but I like the painting.

I’ve continued to do portraits sporadically since leaving Hallmark to become a full time artist. A lot of my commissioned portraits are gone before I can have them photographed, but shown here is a sampling of portraits I’ve painted since moving to Loveland.

Come visit me and I’ll paint your portrait if you like!

I now tell people a sitting is two and a half hours long. (You get breaks, and I have good music.)

I charge extra for cosmetic improvements, though not as much as a plastic surgeon would.

I’m kidding. I don’t do cosmetic improvements. At least not on purpose.

You must be brave – sitting for a portrait is not for the faint of heart.

bald guy blg

“Bald Guy”
This was a demo piece done at the opening of Wild’s Art Center in Loveland

Unless otherwise noted, all portraits in this post are roughly 9 x 12 inches, and are painted in oils, from life, in a single session.

Self Portrait blg

“Self portrait” – 8 x 10 inches
This was painted from a photograph, (don’t tell anyone.) I thought a portrait in my plein air painting hat would say something about me. In this painting I wanted to try my ridiculously large brush and experiment with the paint handling.

New Painting: Street Band – Berlin

I don’t want to give too much away in advance of our show that opens in November, because I want you to come to it. But by way of a preliminary announcement, I’d like to share a couple of new pieces I just finished, and describe how the exhibit is developing.

Mollie and I are calling the show, Zeitgeist: Paintings Inspired by Germany. (Zeitgeist is a German word meaning spirit of the times.) The show will open at the Loveland Museum-Gallery on November 9 in the downstairs Foote Gallery, and will remain open until February 23, 2014. On the evening of January 10, Mollie and I will be doing a joint demonstration in separate media. She will demo re-purposed house paint, her primary medium. I will demo watercolor, my secondary medium, (because it is so fun to watch!) We’ll take turns talking and painting while the other’s work is drying. We really don’t know if this will be fun, or chaotic and dizzying for people, but we’d like for you to come and find out.

The Zeitgeist exhibit will present work representing both the external landscape of northern Germany and visions from our internal mindscapes. Some views were painted en plein air on location, other pieces were inspired by people, places, or art we experienced. My crazy wife is busily working on 3 large paintings that will not fit in our van (sigh.)

Following are two pieces I recently completed, both inspired by our visit to Berlin. I posted earlier about a midnight stroll I took in Berlin one night when I was too excited to sleep. These pieces came from that night as well.

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Street Band – Berlin
Scott Freeman, oil, 14×16 in.

I enjoy painting urban nocturnes because of the isolated, lively colors that one simply doesn’t get in the daylight. This scene of a street band is a small painting that reflects the spirit of Berlin that I saw that night. Just a group of guys playing music on Alexanderplatz, (plaza) the site where the largest anti-government protest in East Germany history occurred, just days before the fall of the Berlin wall in November of 1989.

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One of my favorite graffiti images from Berlin.

The second piece, below, is an appropriation – an assemblage of street art, none of which originated with me. I hope I didn’t commit any crimes in collecting these pieces of urban subculture. Certain areas of Berlin were covered in Graffiti and plastered with posters and announcements. I was kind of keeping my eyes open for a cool poster from off the street, but one that I could remove intact without being an inconsiderate jerk. Down an alley, I was happy to finally discover the pink elephant poster which had mostly peeled off the wall because of the rain. So I helped it off the rest of the way. I love the juxtaposition of the anti-capitalist blog leaflet ( the wolf) over the Club Maxxim image – a wonderfully ironic statement for pluralism and freedom.

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Animals of Berlin
Appropriation, Scott Freeman

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The Perils of Peeving a Plein Air Painter

I ‘m not jealous of Jeff Legg. Really.

Sure, a Jeff Legg painting sells for about 12 times what a Scott Freeman painting of comparable size sells for, but I’m not jealous. It is true that Jeff bears the title of “Signature-Master-Royal-Highness-Whoop-tee-Doo-Painter,” (or something like that,) in the OPA, an organization that has never accepted any of my work in either its national or regional shows. But how could I be jealous of a guy who would do something like what I’m about to tell you?

For the past several years I’ve participated in an autumn plein air painting event in Estes Park, Colorado. Like me, Jeff is pretty much a local guy, when he’s not off winning top awards, or rolling around in the storehouse full of 100 dollar bills, which I assume he has somewhere. Jeff is not primarily a plein air painter. My guess is that he does the plein air event just for the fun of it, and to enjoy the camaraderie of little people, like myself. For a painting god, Jeff is a humble and down-to-earth guy.

At these national plein air painting festivals there is an event that bears the embarrassing name of “The Quick Draw” event. (Get it? Like a cowboy? ‘Cause a lot of these festivals happen out West?) Except that we don’t draw. We paint. Some organizers have noticed this and called their events “The Quick Paint,” which is only slightly less embarrassing, because it’s still awkward but without the clever, cowboy double entendre. But now nothing can ever be done about this because Quick Draw events are big crowd pleasers and a lot of fun, and the plein air crowd is familiar with the term. I think they should call it “The Stress Out” event.

The way it works is, all of the participating artists gather together at one location and set up their easels. Usually there are a couple of models dressed up and posed, but artists are free to paint whatever they want to. The caveat is that we can’t work from photographs, and we must all start with a bare canvas.

We start when the gun goes off. (OK…the whistle, but this is theoretically the only time an actual gun could be used in the event. If they’re going to call it a Quick Draw, I think they should at least use a gun, so I’m going to say “gun.”) An hour and a half later, when the gun goes off again, we lay our brushes down, frame our completed paintings, and the work goes up for public auction. It’s all live plein air and alla prima; often impasto and sometimes contrapposto with chiaroscuro, but only rarely trompe l’ oeil. With Antipasto typically following. (This sentence exhausts my entire repertoire of pretentious French and Italian art terms.)

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Shots from a Quick Draw event in Estes Park, Colorado – from left to right:
1) Getting started 2) A view of the crowd & fellow artists 3) FOCUS! 4) This is the stage of the painting where I wonder if I should give up painting & be a greeter at Walmart 5) Nearing the end.
– photography by Carrie Eagan

Quick Draw events are actually quite fascinating if you are interested in art. Patrons can walk from artist to artist and see how different artists approach the craft of painting. Often little crowds will gather around artists as their paintings begin to take shape. It’s quite fun. It is not forbidden to feed or talk to the artists. Plein air painting is kind of my thing, and I’ve won several awards at Quick Draw events. Since I’ve done quite a bit of portrait painting, I usually paint a model because the public seems to enjoy watching a portrait take shape.

Jeff Legg, on the other hand, is known for his sumptuous still life painting. One year he brought his own blue vase and a cut cantaloupe to the Quick Draw event, and set up a small still life on a rock ledge. I thought this was a cop out, but I didn’t say anything. But one of the participating gallery owners did say something. The complaint was along the lines of, “That’s not fair because he might’ve painted that vase before.”

This was a ridiculous complaint, because all of the landscape painters had painted mountains and trees before and nobody was complaining. Apparently, Jeff quietly made a mental note of the complaint.

It didn’t help matters that Jeff’s painting won an award. Third place. I took second. Just sayin’. Yes, the OPA reject placed ahead of the awesome OPA Master painting god. But in all fairness I should probably mention that my starting bid was $400, and his was $2400. And he sold his. Not bad for an hour and half of work. Then he went over and tried to buy it back from the buyer because he could’ve gotten more for it in a gallery, which only further proves that Jeff Legg inhabits a different reality than do I.

After the Antipasto we all went home, Estes Park closed down, snow fell, spring came, summer went, and the next plein air event rolled around. The morning of the Quick Draw event arrived. The park in downtown Estes buzzed excitedly and filled up with art lovers. Jeff Legg arrived and set up his easel in front of a freaking bush. When the starting gun went off, Jeff stared into the bush and began to paint intently.

As the hour wore on, the hushed voices of onlookers expressed puzzlement that Jeff seemed to be painting not a bush, but a turquoise vase and cantaloupe on a ledge! They stared into the bush, but there was no cantaloupe. No vase. They walked around the bush. It was like some sort of smart-alecky miracle! For me it was one of the finest moments in the history of poorly named events. I don’t think Jeff won an award that year because everyone was so confused, but more importantly, he didn’t break any rules!

I spoke with Jeff a couple of years later, trying to express how that story has made my life better. He humbly justified his actions, saying, “Well…all painting is done from memory. I just remembered what I was painting for a longer period than everyone else.” Brilliant. How could I ever be jealous of Jeff Legg?

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Painting the model during a Quick Draw event in Sedona, AZ.
– photo by Tim Poly

I regret that I have no photos of Jeff, but you can view his work at http://www.jefflegg.com (There is no charge for viewing Jeff’s work online.)

Paintings: My 2013 Governor’s Art Show Entries & Their Stories

The 22nd annual Colorado Governor’s Invitational Art Show and Sale opens April 27th in Loveland, Colorado, at the Loveland Museum Gallery. Following are my four entries and their stories. For those who live nearby, in conjunction with the show I will also be performing a new Art Theatre (live painting) piece at the Bill Reed Middle School auditorium at 2pm on Saturday, the 27th. Admission is free for this event but you must have a ticket. For info, visit: http://www.governorsartshow.org.

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“Luneburg – Co-existence of Centuries”
oil on canvas, 12 x 36 inches, 2013 – Scott Freeman

 Luneburg – Co-existence of Centuries:

Luneburg is an historic town in Northern Germany, officially founded in 956. Luneburg’s salt trade made it an important and wealthy town during the Middle Ages. Unlike many German towns, it was left undamaged during World War 2, and its old town square has many well-preserved buildings, the oldest of which dates to around 1400. Pictured in the painting is St. Michael’s Church, which opened in 1409 and schooled Johann Sebastian Bach for a time. J. S. sang soprano in the boys choir at St. Michael’s.

The painting was created from a plein air study I did while in Germany last summer. When I set out, I had a particular view in mind that I wanted to paint; a view that I had noticed the day before while touring the city. But as is sometimes the case, when I arrived with my painting gear at the location, the view wasn’t as inspiring as I had remembered it. I took a walk and found the above view down an alley a few blocks away. Of all the cityscape compositions I’ve stumbled across in my painting career, this is my favorite so far. I could give my reasons for this if anyone is interested.

This painting was actually painted for an upcoming art exhibit that Mollie and I are preparing. The show will go up in November at the Loveland Museum-Gallery, in the Foote Gallery, and will be themed around our Germany trip.

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“Calm Before the Storm”
oil on linen, 24 x 30 inches, 2012 – Scott Freeman

 Calm Before the Storm:

A few years ago I illustrated a children’s book. I happened to be looking over some photos I had shot for that project, and realized there was some great reference there. This painting is a reworking of one of those photos. I think painting and music compliment each other in many ways. In addition, many musical instruments are beautifully shaped and crafted.

For years I was a purist, refusing to work from photos. While I still prefer working from life, I definitely no longer feel constrained to only paint from life, and I feel that my earlier practice was good foundation for whatever I want to do next.

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“Jammin'”
oil on panel, 14 x 24 inches, 2012 – Scott Freeman

Jammin’ :

One night I was enjoying a house concert in my neighborhood when I realized that the composition and lighting on the guitar player were extraordinary. I asked to borrow someone’s camera and shot a few photos. This painting is the result.

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“Monument Valley Roadscape”
oil on panel,11 x 14 inches, 2011 – Scott Freeman

Monument Valley Roadscape:
On the way home from a plein air festival in Sedona, Arizona, I drove through Monument Valley for the first time, and knew I wanted to paint the buttes in the valley. I secretly hope this painting doesn’t sell as it’s one of my favorite landscape paintings to date.

Snapshots From My Plein Air Painting Adventures

Some of my life’s most satisfying moments – both creatively and spiritually – have occurred while I’ve been painting alone in the mountains. The incandescent moments are rare. Plein air painting can be physically demanding and full of frustration. My plein air adventures usually include fighting the wind, or trying not to get fried by the high altitude sun, or eaten by insects. Or trying to avoid hypothermia as the temperamental mountain weather plunges, or staying hydrated when it rises. Many times I’ve finally been forced to shut the easel and wait out a rain, hail, graupel, or snow storm. I’m not complaining. This is what I signed up for when I moved to Colorado 11 years ago to become a plein air painter. I’m just describing how it is.

When I’m at an exhibit with my fellow painters, and we’re all cleaned up and dry and eating appetizers in an air-conditioned art gallery, it must seem to our friendly patrons that we’ve been out playing all week!

“Plein air” is French for “open air”. Plein air painting has become something of an American art movement over the past couple of decades with plein air festivals popping up all over the country. I first learned about plein air painting during my 10 year stint working at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Missouri. Hallmark had a wonderful library on site, staffed by some smart ladies who purchased the coolest books having to do with the arts and creativity. I spent a lot of time there and eventually stumbled across the movement. I soon identified some favorite painters, whose work I looked forward to seeing in the magazines, foremost among them being Matt Smith.

PA Conejos blg

From time to time Hallmark would reward their artists with “creative renewal” trips. One year I was selected to go on week long trip with five other guys to a cabin in the Conejos region in the Colorado Rockies, near the New Mexico border. I have loved the Colorado landscape since childhood. Our family used to vacation there every summer at my mom’s cousin’s working ranch in Canon City when I was a boy. Everything about those vacations was magical for me, but I was a kid then, and had not yet begun to think about painting.

This Hallmark trip would be my first chance to try my hand at plein air painting in the landscape I loved, and I was stoked. When the time came, just being out in that landscape again was wonderful in itself. I lugged my gear out into the mountains, not really knowing what I was doing, and my first couple of attempts were pretty fruitless. But then one evening I had the first of those transcendent painting experiences. I was standing on a high bluff, which had taken some doing to get to with my gear. I had already been rained on and submerged in fog, and was wondering if I was wasting my time. Eventually I was able to start up again, and I got lost in my painting. It was late afternoon and I soon noticed that the air temperature was perfect. A whisper of a breeze lightly rustled the million pine trees around me and carried their scent along. As I was looked out across miles of space, the sun’s last light began to color the mountains pink and violet. In the canyon below me some coyotes began to call. I was hooked.

There are a lot of things to do in the landscape: hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, camping, photography, rock-climbing, floating, fishing, hunting. I enjoy many of these things. However, most of them entail moving through the landscape to some degree. I once realized that of all the things I can do in the outdoors, for me plein air painting amounts to the ultimate act of appreciation. It requires me to spend hours taking in one selected spot in nature; hours dedicated to the study and discovery of what I’m seeing. As the small, wonderful revelations unfold, in one sense I become part of the environment in a way that doesn’t happen when I am moving through the landscape. This means I get to see things that others don’t often see.

I’ll tell you one of my favorite painting memories. A few years ago I was in a competition in Rocky Mountain National Park near my home. Afternoon is usually my favorite time of day to paint because the light can be quite dramatic, and I had decided to start a painting on Trail Ridge Road in the Park. Trail Ridge is the highest continuous road in the nation, at around 1100 to 1200 feet in elevation. The ecosystem at this altitude is quite different from lower elevations, and looks somewhat barren and otherworldly. It even sounds different up there. This is the region known as “tree line”, the environmental limit beyond which large trees cannot grow. The stunted trees that do live here struggle to survive and are buffeted year round by extreme wind and cold. They are called “krummholz” (crooked wood) and are known by their twisted shapes and scarcity of limbs on the windward side.

This particular evening I had been painting for a couple of hours when the sun disappeared behind some low clouds. The tourists on the overlook began to get into their cars and drive away, and soon I was left alone, small and invisible on an enormous tundra field. In front of me the tundra stretched out before dropping precipitously down into a richly wooded pine forest. Rising up beyond that was a wall of high mountains, bare at this altitude, except for the glacier patterns that I had been painting. This particular evening was quite still. In this landscape and altitude even the smallest sounds carry unusually far, and I was listening to the picas call out. My painting wasn’t going well, and I worked feverishly as I knew that soon the little light that remained would be gone.

Suddenly I looked up to see that an enormous herd of elk had silently emerged from below the drop-off. They covered the field in front of me, feeding on the tundra and slowly meandering toward me, completely unconcerned about my presence. Soon they crossed the road and I was surrounded by them. At just that moment the full intensity of the setting sun broke through a gap in the clouds so that it seemed to be resting on the mountaintops. It bathed the landscape and elk herd in a spectacular golden light, stretching their hundred elongated shadows across the landscape and into the darkening distance. My brush was still as I stood silently, thanking God that I could be there at that moment.

That is why I paint the landscape on location. While plein air painting no longer makes up the bulk of my work, I think I will always continue to paint outdoors for the joy of being and painting in the midst of creation.

Following are a few examples of my plein air works with a few notes if their stories are interesting. Unfortunately, since a lot of my plein air work is done at festivals, I often don’t get good documentation of the work before it sells. All of these are oils.

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Thunderhead Over Lumpy Ridge – 8×10”

A little afternoon study painted from the town of Estes Park during the Plein Air Rockies competition.

ImageDawning Light – 18×20”
This chapel, near Rocky Mountain National Park on Hwy 7, is one of the most beautifully situated pieces of architecture I know of. It appears to emerge from the rock. The story behind it is that a local Monsignor saw a comet hit the earth one evening in 1916. The next day he went looking for it and instead came upon this enormous boulder. He determined to build a chapel on it. After nearly 20 years, and fighting with the Colorado Highway department to keep the rock intact, his dream became a reality in 1936.

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Mustang – 6×4”
I never do animals, but I was at an artists party at a ranch and we were supposed to paint. So I followed this guy around, talking to him and trying to get him to stand still. He didn’t.

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Mountain Portrait – 5×7”
Of the places I’ve been, Sedona, Arizona is probably my favorite place to paint the natural landscape. The geologic formations and colors are amazing, yet they rise out of a lush environment. This little painting was done from the street on the opening day of a plein air festival.

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Evening Concert – 18×20”
Cathedral Rock is supposedly the most photographed site in the country. Indeed, to complete this painting I returned to the site 3 times, and every evening there would already be photographers there, setting up and having a little party. We were all waiting for the sunset to light up Cathedral Rock during the last few minutes of daylight.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Sedona, there is a very visible interest in UFOs, energy vortexes, and all things New Age. Cathedral Rock happens to be one of the main “energy vortex sites,” and I happened to be painting this piece on Oct 31rst. Under a full moon. Just sayin’. At one point I looked up from my painting to see the opposite bank of the river, (pictured here,) covered with about 30 people, kneeling with their faces to the ground. I don’t know what they were doing but it seemed very Sedona-ish.

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Bell Tower – 10×20”
I had a long skinny canvas that I needed to use, and this seemed like a good composition for it. This was painted during the Sedona festival’s “Quick Draw” event – a timed competition where artists complete a painting in 2 hours while the public watches. You’re disqualified if you keep painting after the closing whistle sounds. It’s pretty fun. I’m not a fast painter, and I don’t often like my Quick Draw pieces, though I’ve won several awards for them over the years. This day I decided to ignore the rules when the ending whistle blew because I thought the painting would be worth completing to my satisfaction. The blue tiled dome drew me to this view.

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Red Planet Diner – 9×12” (lame photo)
This painting explains why I don’t do early morning paintings during plein air events – I love painting lit up urban views at night. I was drawn to this one because of the crazy lighting of this place. Everything inside looked bright pink and violet. Also the whole thing is so Sedona. Sedona’s gotta be the only place with a burger joint called the Red Planet Diner, featuring tables shaped like UFOs, aliens inside, and great 1950s architecture. I had hoped the owner would come out and offer me a free burger, but he never did, so I can’t vouch for the food. This painting won the Artists’ Choice Award, and was purchased by a local Sedonian.

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Feed & Grain – 11×14”
This was painted down the street from my house. Readers from Loveland will recognize the historic Feed & Grain building which the community rescued from being leveled. Part of the reason I painted this was to contribute to the sense that it’s a valuable piece of Loveland history. Plus I think it’s a cool building. I expected a local to purchase this piece but instead it ended up in Germany.

Thanks for taking the tour. If you’re a plein air artist I would enjoy hearing your favorite stories.