Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Northern Lights over Fredricksburg 1862

"Who would not pass on as they did, dead for their country's life, and lighted to burial by the meteors splendor of their native sky?

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

This artwork was inspired from the above quote from J. Chamberlain. In the winter of 1862, he & the 20th. Maine were involved in the Battle of Fredricksburg. Basically his unit was to charge across open ground, up to the heavily defended Marye Heights outside of the town. By the night of December 13,14 1862, he and the rest of the 20th. Maine lay repulsed, pinned down, under the Confederate guns on the Heights. That cold night as he and other survivors tried to comfort the wounded & bury the dead, the northern lights were seen to play above in the sky.

The first two images are sumi ink & conti crayon on a photo print. The period photograph is by Timothy O'Sullivan. It shows the town of Fredericksburg from the Union side of the Rappahannock River.

The rest of the images are ink on shopping bags with either oil stick or conti crayon.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Watercolors en plein air

Monocacy Battlefield looking south.

Last summer I was able to work on a number of watercolor sketches. The sketches are from visits to Antietam and Monocacy, Civil War battlefields in Maryland. I was fascinated with a number of aspects of working in the open air. First was trying to reconcile what I was putting down on paper as appose to what I was seeing. I believe that one must train hard to be able to observe a scene and accurately transpose it to paper. It is a very mechanical process but I found out that I was quite rusty! It becomes a matter of creating a visual shorthand where one can quickly translate the elements of sight on to a flat page. The boundaries of the page become the frame of the actual scene, but in a more fluid way than using a camera. Another observation was I found the page size dictated the scale that I painted in. In other words I tended to paint objects a certain size so as to get a given scene to fit on a page.
Another element that I need to work out is color. I found it rater difficult to work out proper color relationships between what I was seeing and what I could mix with my watercolors. Green was a particularly hard color to work with.
I hope to make some more studies this spring before there is to much vegetation, bugs, & heat.
View looking North East Antietam Md.
I was siting on the New York monument near the visitors center. This is one of the highest points. This was the location of a Confederate artillery battery during the morning phase of the battle. In the distance you can see South Mountain. The land drops away down to the sunken lane and Roulette's Farm.
View looking North West Antietam Md
This is from the same New York Monument as above. I changed my angle looking north. This part of the battlefield saw the most action in the morning. In the distance you can see the cornfield where most of the action took place. Also you can see the Smoketown road cutting across to the East Woods.
Hill in front of the Sunken Lane, Antietam MD
This is the hill that the New York Irish brigade appeared over and slugged it out with Confederate units holding the lane.
Sunken Lane, Antietam MD
View looking up the lane. I did not draw in the observation tower at the far end of the lane.

Two Views of the Corn Field Antietam MD.
The View is from the road looking North across the battlefield.