A Painting Retreat

I spent six days, more or less all day, painting with friend and fellow artist Cindy Griffith. It was demanding! It’s great to have company for something like this, not only for the critique (although that helps enormously) but also for the company. Who knows if I would have stuck it out otherwise? I think it would have been too easy to decide that I really needed to get some laundry done, or run into town, or (truth be told) just goof off.

I started with the unfinished painting already up on my easel.

  “Pastoral,” 11″ 14″. I did an underpainting in oranges and reds, which peek though here and there, adding a little liveliness to an otherwise quiet scene. The focus is on those beautiful clouds (which I enhanced, naturally!) and the relationship between the land and the road and attached path, with the barn something you notice later.

  “Golden,” 9″x 12″. After all that quiet, I wanted intense color, and this as it. In the late afternoon light, autumn colors glow. The task here was to create enough muted areas (the further hills and the shaded foreground) to make the bright areas pop. I like the result.

  “Lake Country Birches,” 12″ x 9″. Then I went to a scene from recent visit with my cousin. I’d brought a number of reference photos with me for this retreat.  Choosing one to work from is an interesting thing: what appeals to me one day might fall flat when I look at it another time. Rocks, birches, goldenrod, lake, and distant hills. I love the layering here, bringing the eye from what is right in front of you into the distance.

I’d warmed up enough, I decided. I took a deep breath and pulled out the photos for two paired paintings that had been eluding me. I’d worked on them twice before, and both times had been dissatisfied and thrown them out. As you can imagine, I was a little apprehensive about trying again! But this time they worked. I guess I learned something from those four failures. Here they are:


These are “Pasture Rhythm 1” and “Pasture Rhythm 2,” each 16″ x 20″. They are two sides of the same field, and I very much wanted to make twinned paintings that both stood alone and were clearly connected to one another. It occurs to me that this is a great metaphor for a good relationship! I am very happy indeed with the result. I used black paper and a light touch in the foreground to indicate texture.

After that challenge, I felt that I needed a little respite, and pulled out two mostly finished paintings that just did not quite work. In both cases, I liked the start that I had made, but could not figure out what was needed to make the paintings come togther. It’s amazing what ignoring a painting for a few months can do for your understanding of it! In both cases, I figure out what changes I needed to make without too much trouble. Here they are.

  “Judy and Lily, 12″ x 9”. This is a departure from my usual style. I was experimenting with making looser, more energetic marks and not blending. This does not mean that it was easy, however! I have two or three other versions of this that did not work at all.

  “Laden,” 7″ x 5″. Heavy snow and the cool blues and purples of winter. This little scene is right outside my window.

And next…..

  “Sky Song,” 9″ x 12″. I invented the swoop of the sky here, although the rest of the scene is pretty faithful to the actuality. I like the solid, still quality of the November earth contrasted with the uplift of the sky.

Apparently I had transitioned into the realm of spirit in my painting at this point in the retreat. I was drawn to another photo of sky, and decided that I wanted to change the cloud shapes so that they suggested wings. Here is my final painting from the retreat.

  “Winged,” 11″x 14″.

May these paintings feed your spirit as much as making them did mine.


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7 Responses to A Painting Retreat

  1. Karen Grace says:

    Love the Birches Mimi!

  2. Susan Bettmann says:


    So interesting to hear about your painting retreat and aesthetic choices. I really like the purple clouds, and your use of purple in general. Goes with the blue hair, I guess.

    Good to see you yesterday.

    Take care,



  3. jamie miller says:

    These are superb! I wish I had more walls! Love Jamie

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Michele.clark@goddard.edu says:

    As usual your process is very interesting to me. I love the progression to sky. More later. On the bus to nyc

  5. Judy Greenwald says:

    Thank you for Judy and Lili painting…beautiful work..Marcia you are a true STAR!!!!!!!! Judy….guardian of LILI

  6. michele j clark says:

    Just having time to think about this and view these. The swoop of sky ones particularly appeal to me. Great idea to have a retreat. I’m impressed.

  7. Nice paintings, I like the fall ones with the bright reds. I find it interesting that you can do all those different styles.

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