Two weeks ago I was asked by David Rau of the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, CT to be part of a holiday tradition at the museum. As a tip of the hat to the painters who made the Griswold famous as the original home of American Impressionism, for the last ten years they've invited artists to make small paintings on wooden artist's palettes that they hang on a holiday tree in the Museum. My wife Alice and I had visited the Griswold in March to see their current Arthur Heming exhibition. We loved the show and felt we were time traveling when we went through the older part of the Museum, the mansion house that housed the painters who made up the Old Lyme Art Colony. I wrote about that visit in an earlier blog post.
Back when the artists colony was in full swing at Florence Griswold's boarding house, many of the visiting painters would paint directly on the wood panels of the walls in the house's dining room and other places on the first floor. It has an informality and warmth to the presentation unlike anything you see in another American art museum. It reminds us that even famous old artists got hungry and liked to sit around a table talking and drinking coffee.
Griswold Museum sent me a palette two weeks ago and I got right to it. To get a better grasp of the composition I wanted I first tried out my ideas in vine charcoal on paper at the same scale and shape as the oil I would do. As I often do, I did a design based on memory and imagination
There are always some key images we carry with us from childhood all through our lives. One of the most vivid for me is my forested neighborhood in upstate New York. We lived way out in the country on the shore of Lake Ontario where there were few houses and even fewer lights at night. Every December a neighbor would place a string of blue lights on an isolated tall pine and keep them on all night. Lying in my bed I had an unobstructed view. These were the only lights to be seen out my window. Everything else was darkness and deep snow. In short it was magical to a kid's imagination. I smile now just remembering the feeling.
Here I am last week working on the oil painting at the left.
Next week my painted palette will be shipped up to join Griswold Museum's growing collection of painted palettes. The Museum will hold their annual holiday celebration December 6, 2013 - January 5, 2014 and my new oil painting will join the growing number of painted palettes on "Miss Florence's Artist Tree." If you're in the area I hope you'll go and see if you can find it among the boughs.