Ongoing Art Project: Colors of Summer

As we head into autumn, I thought I’d show you some highlights from the summer edition of my daily abstractions project.

Colors of June

In some ways, summer has been the most challenging season for me to paint so far. After the rapid and dramatic transformations of the spring, with new leaves and flowers appearing practically every day, experiencing week after week of dense, green vegetation initially seemed a little monotonous. Nothing is stagnant, of course, so there were still plenty of changes, but they were comparatively more subtle.

Colors of July

The other challenge was the weather itself. With the climate being so warm and humid at this time of year, I usually only go outside during the early morning or late evening. As a result, I simply wasn’t noticing as many changes because I was only seeing the landscape during the times of day, when the sunlight is pretty limited. And when I was outside, I mostly noticed my discomfort rather than the landscape around me.

Our trip to New England brought new subject matter such as tide pools, family barns, and stained glass windows.

All that said, I still managed to paint something different every day. A summer trip to Maine provided new subject matter (and cooler temperatures) that revitalized my interest in painting, for starters. When I was home in Williamsburg, I looked to the morning or evening skies for quite a few sketches, but I also started zeroing in on details like tree bark, things I’ve noticed for a while but didn’t paint while all the spring flowers were in bloom.

Butterfly and birds’ wings are always good sources of inspiration.

Not that there’s any shortage of flowers. Colonial Williamsburg takes its gardening very seriously, so there have been blooms across the grounds all summer. The crepe myrtles have also been in bloom, providing delightful jolts of purple, pink, and white to a primarily green landscape. Their mottled bark has also been a source of inspiration, as they’ve been shedding recently to reveal fresh, new layers. And with the flowers come butterflies and hummingbirds, those delicate jewels of the sky, as some more flourish-inclined writer might say. During one visit to the Palace Garden, I managed to see at least three different varieties of swallowtail, in addition to painted ladies and other species, which was absolutely delightful.

Left: scene from the Windsor Castle Trail at Smithfield, which Brandon and I walked one day. Right: fields from the Virginia Capital trail, with the heads of deer peeking above the leaves.

I’ve also had plenty of opportunities to explore new places. Since moving to the Pointe, I’ve been taking bike rides along the Virginia Capital Trail, which provides all kinds of new scenes and subjects to paint.

Left: from a scroll of a koi leaping up a waterfall, on view in “The Life of Animals in Japanese Art” at the National Gallery. Middle: the Space Window from the National Cathedral. Right: The main sitting room in the tea house at the Japanese Embassy.

A trip to Washington, DC during the Keio program also took me out of my regular environment. While most of what I paint is based on what I see outdoors, these three blocks take inspiration from stained glass windows, painted scrolls, and a Japanese tea house.

Three different blocks incorporating splatter: tree bark, summer gardens, and old bricks.

Beyond painting different subject matter, I’ve also been experimenting with new types of mark-making, specifically splatter. What I’ve been doing recently is taking a brush, loading it with watered-down paint or ink, and flicking the bristles across the surface. It’s been particularly effective for abstractions based on tree bark or weathered bricks covered in lichen and moss. Obviously, splatter painting has been around for a long time, but as someone who has always felt compelled to meticulously render every painting with tiny brushstrokes, exploring this type of mark-making is a big step forward for me in my ongoing exploration of abstraction.

Colors of August

So that’s what I’ve been up to this summer. Stay tuned to see how I finish out the year with the colors of autumn.

1 comment

  1. Hi Sara, Abstract painting doesn’t do much for me but I enjoyed looking at what you have been doing this summer.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *