Tag Archives: winter painting

Stark Mountain

Stark_Mountain_Michaela_Harlow_www.michaelaharlow.comStark Mountain, 2014 – Michaela Harlow – Pastel on Cold Press, Deckle-Edge Paper, 20″ x 16″ 

Some of New England’s backroads have surprisingly accurate names. More a twisting, ragged trail than a meandering country drive, Stark Mountain Road seems particularly well defined on a cold, November day. Sharp, ledgy outcrop meets boney tree line against grey sky, bramble and biting wind.

I broke with my series today, inspired by a wintry drive.

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Thirty in Thirty, 2014: Fallow Field

Fallow_Field:copyright_2014:Michaela_Harlow:pastel_on_paper:michaelaharlow.comFallow Field, 2014 – Michaela Harlow – 20″ x 15″, pastel on paper (24″ x 19″) 

Driving back to my studio the other day, I was struck by the beauty of my favorite, golden-bronze-tipped native grass (Little Bluestem, or Schizachyrium scoparium), catching light in a snow-covered, fallow field. The vision stayed with me, as did the word fallow; a term I associate with both painting and agriculture. In horticulture, when a previously cultivated field is left to fallow, it is purposefully not worked —untilled and unseeded— allowing the land to rest for a season or more. To an artist, fallow is a synonym for ochre; a pale, yellow-brown  color, often associated with the landscape.

Because so much of my time is spent looking at and working with the land, I pay an above-average amount of attention to my neighbors’ fields and forests; noting subtle shifts from month to month and more significant changes from year to year. After so many seasons spent fighting the natural state of the land —in the name of cultivation and beautification— I have come to admire Mother Nature’s tenacity. Watching fields, forests and abandoned homesteads revert to their natural devices secretly thrills me. I cheer the arrival of velvet sumac after a wildfire and delight in un-mown cemeteries filled with native grass.

Fallow field …Wild and free …Filled with wind-blown flurries.


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Thirty-in-Thirty: Day Twenty Two

Rattled Birch ⓒ 2013 Michaela Harlow - 15 x15 - Pastel & Pencil on Paper

Rattled Birch ⓒ 2013 Michaela Harlow – 16″ x 16″, Pastel & Pencil on Paper

One of the many things that thirty-in-thirty accomplishes for me is that it forces me to stop seeking perfection in my work. When I’m focused on doing —the process of painting and drawing— and not on expectations, I lose myself. Letting go of my ego —pre-conceived ideas and anticipated outcome— and returning to a sense of joy is the most important part of this exercise. I rediscover why I paint: I paint because it feels good.

Rattled Birch ⓒ 2013 Michaela Harlow

Rattled Birch ⓒ 2013 Michaela Harlow – 16″ x 16″, Pastel & Pencil on Paper

It’s surprising to me, that this rigorous work schedule and focused discipline can bring freedom and happiness —but in my experience, this is absolutely true. The less I think about going into the studio —torturing myself with self criticisms, worrying about whether or not my work is good, or if I am growing as an artist— the happier I am to go into the studio and just work. Just work. Don’t over-think, Michaela. Just work. Let your mind go and the rest will follow. And that is exactly what happens. I just begin to work each day and eventually, even on the days when my mind is a bit noisy, I find my zone —my flow— and suddenly I am filled with happiness. The result of this crazy, daily exercise is that I force myself to paint for the sake of painting itself; to just do it. And lo and behold, all of the obstacles fall away, and I find that work feels like play again.

How awesome is that?

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Thirty-in-Thirty: Day Twenty One

Winter Wind ⓒ 2013 Michaela Harlow

Winter Wind ⓒ 2013 Michaela Harlow – 16″ x 16″ – Pastel & Pencil on Paper

Today was very cold and blustery, but the sun came out, illuminating swirling clouds of fine snow. The landscape looks soft, in spite of the biting conditions outside my door (beautiful to look at, but not so fun to walk in). I spent most of my day indoors, working in the studio.

I finished this piece early in the afternoon and continued work on an oil painting. Next month I will be focusing on larger works in oil on panel, and reducing my studio time and blog posts to three or perhaps four per week. I feel like I’m ready to jump off the paper.

Winter Wind Winter Wind ⓒ 2013 Michaela Harlow - Pastel & Pencil on Paper (matted)

Winter Wind ⓒ 2013 Michaela Harlow – 16″ x 16″ – Pastel & Pencil on Paper (matting a few to check fits)

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