Posts Tagged ‘Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens’


Nicholas Gardens Along the Sinnissippi

August 7, 2014
Nicholas Gardens Along the Sinnissippi; Oil on Canvas Panel 9" x 12"

Nicholas Gardens Along the Sinnissippi; Oil on Canvas Panel 9″ x 12″

Another day at The Nicholas Conservatory. I went with the intention of finding a design that could incorporate the recreation path. I used a fair amount of artistic license on this one. I removed a pole, a tree in the foreground, a strip along the path which is being prepped to grow prairie grasses, and trolley tracks. I also improvised (or exaggerated) the gardens. Busy place this morning.

About an hour and a half into this painting, the sun was starting to get onto my canvas. I turned my set up clock wise to shield my painting from the sun. If you will, I turned my set up from twelve o’clock to two o’clock. Not much of a change, but enough to confuse people. A couple women approached me to ask about seeing my painting. I obliged. One woman assessed my work but looked in the direction which my easel was facing. Although I was standing less than ten feet from the recreation path, I was facing the corner of the greenhouse ( just slightly off the right side of my painting). The woman asked if I was making up my scene and improvising based upon my feelings of this place. I was stupefied. I started to point in the direction of the scene which I was painting. The woman’s friend caught my inference and announced the news to the first woman. The woman then inquired as to why I was not facing my subject. I pointed skyward. The friend announced that the sun was the reason. Thank goodness for friends.

Feeling good about this painting, I headed home for lunch. Late morning clouds had moved into the area. Following lunch, Helen and I ventured over to Oak Ridge. I wanted to work on paintings of the sky and clouds. Helen wanted to sketch some of the wildflowers and trees. Good day to be painting.


Clouds Over Oak Ridge; Oil on Gessoed Paper 6" x 8"

Clouds Over Oak Ridge; Oil on Gessoed Paper 6″ x 8″


North Falls at Nicholas

August 6, 2014
North Falls at Nicholas; Oil on Canvas Panel 9" x 12"

North Falls at Nicholas; Oil on Canvas Panel 9″ x 12″

Getting ready for another Plein Air Workshop Sinnissippi Gardens at The Nicholas Conservatory. In advance of the workshop, I decided to create a few paintings at the gardens. I used one morning to walk the grounds with my scene finder and sketch book in search of designs. I returned the next morning to start this painting.

I enjoyed this design and had an added benefit, this spot is off the main path. People had to really work to interrupt my painting or stand in front of me. Working the rocks took longer than I wanted to spend. I lost too many of the early morning shadows and light effect. I had to return for a second day in order to complete this painting.

Interesting. This fountain has a deep pool at the base of the falls. For public safety, a short chain fence surrounds the pond to keep people away from the pond. Amazing how many people allowed their pets and small children to go past the fence and onto the large rocks which serve as a border.  Fortunately, no one fell in, although one older dog needed some assistance getting out.

One other disgusting note, at this spot is a water fountain. It has a taller fountain for adults, a shorter one for small children and one near ground level for dogs, or so I thought. One inconsiderate boob, found it humorous that her Labrador Retriever preferred to drink from the fountain intended for children. That dog licked that spigot thoroughly. Yech.


Sinnissippi – Wild Flower

August 25, 2013
Wild Flower at Nicholas Conservatory; Oil on Canvas Panel 11" x 14"

Wild Flower at Nicholas Conservatory; Oil on Canvas Panel 11″ x 14″

During a previous session at the Nicholas Conservatory, I noticed the play of the light and shadows on the fountain at the south entrance. I arrived early and this design jumped out at me. I liked the linear movements created by the roof tops of the structures and how the outlines of the foliage created a great contrast.

I started by quickly sketching an outline onto the canvas. After getting some colors and shapes established in the sculpture, I worked fast to get the background blocked in. I returned to the sculpture. I started to feel as though I may have bit off more than I could chew. I probably should have done a small painting or two of just the sculpture. It was more intricate than I had assessed. Finally got the sculpture near completion when I realized that it was getting near noon. I had lost the light effects that so captured my interest.

Returned the next morning. Moved quickly to make adjustments to the sculpture and get to work on the rest of the painting. Finished and headed home. Examining the painting at home, something did not look right. Took a day before I realized that I had neglected to add indications of the water jets. Back again to add the water jets which helps  give an essence of action and movement to the design.

During the first session, I had a very memorable encounter. I was painting in the parking lot of the conservatory and was stationed about thirty yards or so from the Sinnissippi recreational path. About 1-1/2 hours into the painting, four women out for their “power walk”, veered off of the path and were headed in my direction. I prepared for the usual line of questions when it happened. One women interrupted her other conversation to ask about my painting. She proceeded to look at my palette and ask “Are those acrylics?” I replied, “No. They’re oils.”. She responded, “Are you sure?”. I was stunned. I looked at her to determine whether she was pulling my leg or if she was  serious. My mind was quickly assessing a plethora of potential responses, some of which could have been regrettable. She caught herself and added, “Oh, yes, now I smell the oil. So Marge, as I was saying….”. And with that, the four women were on their way.


Sinnissippi Rose Garden

August 22, 2013
Sinnissippi Rose Garden; Plein Air oil on Canvas Panel 11" x 14"

Sinnissippi Rose Garden; Plein Air oil on Canvas Panel 11″ x 14″

I was preparing for an upcoming plein air workshop. We would be based out of the Nicholas Conservatory Gardens in Rockford. The redesign and rebuild project was completed last year.  I had not been out to see the park since to construction was completed. I decided to go and get a few paintings to help me get a feel for the park.

I arrived before mid-morning to see what was here and perhaps get a small painting. As I moved around the park with my scene finder, I made numerous sketches with notes of ideas. Time flew. Before I knew it, it was almost noon.

I came back the next day with this spot in mind. Unfortunately for me, the gardeners were not working on the roses this day which would have added a nice element to the design. Also, the roses were a few weeks past their prime.

Not the best painting, but it was fun. I realized that I should spend more time painting here. Lots of good possibilities. Also, a lot of activity. There were a lot of people strolling through the gardens and there was a lot of foot traffic along the adjacent fitness path. I felt very safe working here.  Key consideration when painting on your own.

I plan to get out here a lot more as long as the weather holds and perhaps beyond.


Sinnissippi Cascade

August 15, 2013
Sinnissippi Cascade; Plein Air Oil on Canvas Panel 12" x 9"

Sinnissippi Cascade; Plein Air Oil on Canvas Panel 12″ x 9″

Preparing for my plein air workshop, I decided to capture this view of one of the waterways at the Nicholas Conservatory. Found the design right away. Blocked in the main shapes and spent a fair amount of time segmenting shapes within the rock formations. Thank goodness I made decent notations to guide me through the shadows on and in the waterway. I worked the rock formations first, general notations in the water, then worked the foliage indications around the edges before finishing the water and falls.

I was set up at the edge of the sidewalk which left me as fair game for any people strolling the gardens. Not too bad, Had a couple people that seemed genuinely interested in my work. I did have one concern though.

A maintenance supervisor was working in the area and seemed to be keeping an eye on my activities. I wondered if he was concerned about me blocking the walk, or making a mess, or if he was going to make me move. As I was nearing the end of the painting, he finally approached me and spoke up. Seems that he was just curious about my work.

Tough to finish this work. By the time I was completing the work, I had full sun on my palette and my canvas.


Rock River by Whitman

August 14, 2013
Rock River by Whitman; Plein Air Oil on Canvas Panel 8" x 10"

Rock River by Whitman; Plein Air Oil on Canvas Panel 8″ x 10″

Crazy summer. The last week of July and I am bundled in a sweatshirt painting alongside the Rock River. This spot is about five feet off of the Sinnissippi Recreation Trail and two feet from being in the river. Busy, busy path this morning.

Hard to capture the clouds. As I started the work, the sky had clearly defined clods and eye leading patterns. I got the scene and cloud patterns sketched but by the time I was completing the block in, the sky had changed to being basically overcast. Cloud patterns and colors just were not there.

I forged ahead to capture the land mass, water and buildings in the distance. I saved the sky for last. I had to improvise and rely on my memory for awhile. An d then, it changed again. Clouds were more distinct. I moved quickly to get colors and values in place and adjusted. Before I could finish, it changed back to overcast.

Fortunately, I had enough of the color notes in place to guide me. Finished and headed home. As I neared home, you guessed it, clouds were back in force. Interesting day.