Seasons change

Tomorrow, Oct 29th, is the last day of  the exhibition “What the Trees Say,” and another exhibition, “TREEaction,” will start forming in Spring Street Gallery, with a reception on Nov. 7th.  It is a celebration of Saratoga’s trees and a meditation on the power of activism that Saratoga’s trees have inspired.

The now-ending exhibition of my work has called attention to the trees and the similar role they play in art and in the fabric of the city.  If we take them for granted, we won’t be inspired to advocate for the Urban Forest and follow through on the Master Plan.

With a shifting of artwork, it’s a good time to focus on the current change of seasons and how I’ve been inspired by it over the years. In my early work I  welcomed the vibrant color after a summer of greens  As with many trees in my works from the late 70’s, a number of the maples seen from my studio have disappeared. Click on the titles to see more about each piece (those with numbers have been in the exhibition).

Lines Down Lincoln                                            Autumn Down Lincoln

1977 Lines Down Lincoln_  9.5x8 in_wc_7029                  1978 Autumn Down Lincoln_12-5x 5 in_ wc_7104

For some, I emphasized the contrast between fleeting color and ever-green

Hanging on                                                 43. Autumn Patterns  (sold)

1980 Hanging On_9-5x8 in_wc_7333              1978 Autumn Patterns_4-75x7-25_wc_7106

In the way that I love that the first dots of spring color enliven the linear patterns of branches, I also celebrate the way that the last leaves cling and dance after most have fallen. In this watercolor, the simple strokes of paint  barely hold on to the space.

7. Fading Fall  (sold)

1978 Fading Fall_5-5x8 in_wc_7176

That time of late fall, with its pairing of color with the re-emerging  linear rhythms, has inspired several that make use of the lines of architecture that are activated by the juxtaposition with the trees.

37. Fall Porch                          4. Orange Out Front (sold)

1989 Fall Porch_13x9 in_wc_721.               1984 Orange Out Front_21x12 in pastel_254

And in the park I found the juxtaposition of the tree in its final flourish of color with the memorial for those soldiers who have fallen, each speaking to the passage of time.

41. October Memorial

1993 October Memorial_7-75x7-75 in_wc_1187

While this painting is mainly a celebration of color, I also had fun with using a raking light in a painting about raking and trying to control the color that has fallen

15. Raking

1988 Raking_48x36 in_oil on canvas_641

One fall, the color in my neighbor’s tree was so amazing that I climbed out on the flat roof to paint two studies of the light from the contrast of the bright orange with the dark limbs. In the first one I included the roof, and then abandoned the reference to free up the visual energy.

Fall Study I                                                     13.  Fall Study II  (sold)

medium_1182    1993 Fall Study II_8x10-5_wc_1183

As a last image, I’ll include a small study of the elm at the back of the Algonquin Parking lot. When years ago I painted it from far away, I thought it was a maple, since it was yellow and it was on Maple Avenue. Most of the beautiful maples were removed by the city years ago when work was done on the parking lots. Now that I know this is an elm, I see it as one of the survivors from the era of so many elms lining Broadway and around town.

44. Downtown Color

1992 Downtown Color_7x7-5 in_wc_1063

As with all trees, eventually they will be gone, and for this elm survivor, I will again have been an inadvertent historian of lost trees in the water color above and the more recent works, Fireworks Elm and Elm Ascent. I hope this elm remains even when the parking lot gets re-developed.  The work of the Urban Forestry Project will continue to advocate for the care of Saratoga’s trees and appropriate plantings. Meanwhile I’ll keep working on the paintings and hybrid works and paying attention to what the trees say..

Elm Ascent    Hybrid media, 2013

.diggory elm ascent  800px           anne at work 2



Morning Intersection

The wide, arching spread of the tree in front of the Saratoga Springs Post Office has always  delighted my eyes, particularly with the way that its curves echo the arches of the building’s architecture. I have photographed the pairing in several seasons and from various angles, and until today had not quite settled on which version to paint instead of photograph.  I particularly liked the angle from directly across the street, in which the lines of the crosswalk added a counterpoint to linear rhythms of the tree limbs.

Several months ago I finally saw the lighting that would bring out that relationship — the morning sun casting a curved shadow from the tree onto the building — and I knew I would be back to paint it. Finally today, inspired by the lightening of the color of the leaves at the top of the tree and the warm fall light,  I was inspired to spend four hours there (and another three in the studio) to capture the dynamic relationships in an 8×10 inch painting.

. oct 3 near finish 800px


I’ll explain here a bit of the process of creating the painting and the experience of standing on the main intersection in town, talking to people about both the painting and my current exhibition at the Spring Street Gallery that calls attention to the changing treescape of the city. That exhibition of 35 years of painting ends Oct 29th and will be followed by TREEaction: Art, Activism and Saratoga’s Changing Treescapes, which will include some works from the current exhibition.

Here is a photo of the scene, a bit after the shadow on the building had lowered. The front only stayed lit for about an hour, so I worked on that first after laying in the structure.


oct 3 post office tree


I laid out the basic structure on a gessoed panel, eliminating most of the street so that the composition closed in on the tree.

WIP Oct 3

As with other times that  I have been working on treesscapes related to the exhibition, I was intrigued by how my presence on the street, making art, affected how people observed the actual scene. Most assumed I was painting the building, not the way that the tree arched over the space and added so much to the whole scene. They took time to look at it and with my suggestions, looked at the way its shape magnified the curves of the architecture. And then looked up and down the street at other trees. Most had never even thought about what the trees contributed to the space. So a nice combination of Art and Activism

anne at work Oct 3

At the end of four hours, most was laid out, but I wanted to establish the shadow on the building, figure out better cars and distance, crisp up the  shapes and improve the sense of light with darkening the shadows and making the tree more interesting and volumetric.

wip after plein air

And then after working in the studio – :

oct 3 b near finish 800px

I’ll look at it in another painting session to consider what else needs to be done (or undone).

And then think about what other “intersections” of the tree and post office I would like to paint, draw or create hybrid images of.  I also like the way the tree fills the space as I look from my car, driving down church street. Or the winter version with the limbs spreading out like the structural elements of a fan. Or combine both ideas. The possibilities are endless.

winter  PO  141_0038







Changing Treescapes – A thirty-year perspective

As the exhibition of Saratoga streetscapes nears the time of installation (opening Sept 12 at Spring Street Gallery) I have been giving further thought to my musings in my first posting, in which I started thinking about what has changed and what has stayed the same in my work as well as which trees are no longer in the landscape.

Nearly 25 of the small works in the exhibition are from my first few years in Saratoga, 1977-1982, when my house and studio were on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Jackson Street. During those years, as now, a wide range of subject matter interested me (see my online inventory), but in those streetscapes can be seen the visual themes that interested me in all my work — the way that light defined a space and brought sometimes disparate things into relationship — and usually inspired by the elements of daily living rather than iconic scenes.

I’ll focus here on how the landscape has changed in my old neighborhood since the early 80’s. Many of the trees are gone. New trees have been planted. Change happens – and I make no judgement here on whether the change is a positive change. What matters is that the city’s new Tree Master Plan will support the use of appropriate, non-invasive trees as replacements are inevitably made.  (The titles link to other information about the pieces. All photos are 2013.)

Night Snow Corner, 1977

1977 Night Snow Corner_ 5x6in_wc_ 7035

lincoln and nelson IMG_8226 low res

The corner of Nelson and Lincoln has been filled with deciduous trees – no longer an open yard with a single evergreen standing sentinal at the corner.

———————  1978  Burdened with Snow

1978 Burdened With Snow_6-5x7_wc_7110

burdened motif crop

Many of the trees  are gone. The one in the foreground of the painting was taken down while I lived there. The house is clearly visible (I had liked how it peaked out from the branches). The alley looks wider and the fencing has changed. But the telephone pole remains.

——————1978 Early Morning Patterns       and  1981  Winter Filigree Both were inspired by the tangle of trunks and branches down the street, which are now gone.

1978 Early Morning Patterns_18x24 in_oil on panel_7119          1981ca Winter Filigree_12x18 in_7477

crop down lincoln IMG_8235  One of the maples remains, not in great health, but adding to the canopy and the street rhythms.


Just shifting my view to the left from the intersection, I used the motif of trees seen against Presidential Arms. One maple  by the street has grown substantially and has had its street-side branches trimmed. (this had been painted from an upstairs window)

1978  Night Acquaintance

1978 Night Acquaintance_ 5-75x6 in_ wc_7134


presidential tree IMG_8231

The parking lot trees have been replaced   1979   Two Trees

1979_Two Trees_12-25x13-5 in_oil on panel_7281

Presidentail parkingIMG_8234

—————Down Jackson two blocks for one more: 1978  Jackson Corner

1978 Jackson Corner_ 7x11-5 in_wc_7174

jackson with shadow

You can see that the tree in front of the house and the tree to the left of the house is in poor health and it appears that more trees fill the space to the right of the house.

If I were to return to the neighborhood to paint, I would find different elements to choose from. I would miss the variety that the evergreens introduced – both in shape and color. Another factor that might affect my choices is that I no longer would be reacting to a very  familiar scene transformed by a change of season.or time of day. That happens more in my new neighborhood on Circular Street.

I’ll write more on the artistic changes in another posting.






Seeing the Forest – Getting Organized

I have spent time this past week getting a new part of my website ready that will highlight the “forest” of paintings that I have done of Saratoga cityscapes in which trees play a major role. As I look at  early watercolors and sketches, I go back and forth between thinking about the trends in my work and just enjoying the individual pieces. While in preparation for the show at Spring Street Gallery opening mid-September (probably the 12th) I will be blogging about groupings of works, for now I am providing a link to the individual images and the background information that I have started listing about each one: 

you can just type in  but leave out the usual  www

You can either pick an image from the home page grid to look at, or move among them with the arrows. There are over 80 images to explore – the text will eventually sit better with the images – so be sure to scroll down.  But I am eager to get this out to everyone and get back to the painting part.  And I’ll figure out later how to connect comments to the images. Just be sure you mention the title of the piece you are commenting on.

As an August distraction – and sticking to my theme – here are a few racetrack paintings in which trees are part of the fabric – there are a few other ones on display now at Kettlewell and Edwards on Phila Street.





"Needing Paint" – Early Progress

With several sunny days in a row, I have  made a good start on “Needing Paint,” although as often happens, it has gone in a different direction than I expected – staying more as a colored drawing for now.

I  started on the 30th, just after posting my discovery of the motif. I chose to work on a square piece of MDF board with no coating so that I could try sketching with pencil and watercolor crayon on a firm, dark surface. For many years I have enjoyed working on similarly colored paper,  going straight for the light colors instead of building up darks. My intention was to try sealing the drawing with  a newly discovered clear Gesso (usually a pigmented white base for painting that helps the paint adhere). And then work with the contrast of the remnants of the underdrawing with the more finished paint on top. Well, I haven’t sealed the surface yet because I am liking the texture as it is. I still may try the Gesso layer and do more painting.

By the time I settled on a composition, the afternoon patterns of light and shadows had shifted too much to look at color, so I concentrated on the drawing elements and just s suggestion of the shapes of sky that would be paler than the front of the main house.

I introduced some of the light patterns of the spring green before ending for the day.
In this close up of the roof area you can see the textured marks of the watercolor crayons.
On Day 2, with only a few hours of the “right” light, I started establishing the colors in relationship to each other and discovered that by starting a bit earlier, I could use the patterns of shadows on the street to echo the filigree of the tree patterns. I had been worried that the plain street would be too stark in comparison. Yet starkness might be a good contrast to the tiny details. I may change my mind several times before it is done.

By the end of Day 3, I had declared the space more fully by adding details behind the houses and adding more details about the ground plane (the slope of the land). Some of the colors have been a challenge since I am working partly with the limited palette of the watercolor crayons. I’ll have to use paint to adjust the shadowed whites and blues on the houses. I  became fascinated with the section to the right of the main trunk where I began to emphasize the chaotic interaction of house, tree and sky. The shapes almost make no sense, yet that section  becomes one of the more interesting parts of the image.  I am liking the slightly unfinished look and may have to do several versions – finishing one more thoroughly or even developing one with my hybrid method of working in some bits of photography.



Spring in Saratoga seems to last only a brief time – from bare branches to completely full masses of green in a 10 days.  So early in the morning and late in the day, when I’m not working on this one, I’ll explore some other subjects.  On errands today I became intrigued by all of the flowering trees all over downtown and will both photograph and paint them.  They are difficult as a subject because they are so picturesque. But worth a try. Anyone who is following this blog could leave a comment about their favorite flowering tree or group of trees around town.