Downing’s Town, when to Finish?

The Downing’s Town painting is nearing completion, or to be more accurate, I’m going to stop working on it soon. I feel like I could keep painting it forever, as I do with most of my pieces. However, besides time constraints I have to consider the integrity of my work. If I did paint it forever, would it actually be improved? With my experience I’ve realized that the answer to this question is no. Still, it’s always a struggle to make a judgement call about when to stop working. Perhaps channeling Humphry will give me some ideas?



In the case of this painting, I know there are at least two things I have to do. One, is that I have to make the steps Humphry is on more distinct and less visually confusing, the other I will elaborate on next time!


Faces and People in Downing’s Town

Right now I’m in the process of painting the faces of the figures. One of the interesting elements of these figures is that all of the faces are being lit by different sources of light, so they all have slightly different coloration. Once the painting is complete, I’ll be able to fine tune this feature so that they all work together harmoniously, but still look notably different.


These figures in particular are Humphry and Moses Marshall, talking to Mrs. Downing, of Downingtown fame. At the time, it was common for Quakers to travel outside their communities and meet other Quakers from different areas to help preserve a sense of unity in a relatively  sparsely populated America.

Also depicted is Joseph Plum Martin, a revolutionary war soldier and author of a famous book about his life in the army during the revolution. He missed most of the terrible winter at Valley Forge because he was guarding Downingtown, (also known then as Milltown) an important supply depot for Washington’s army.

Phil and Francine Dague were the perfect models for my depiction of the revolutionary war soldier Joseph Plum Martin and Mrs. Downing. Phil, Francine, David Culp (Humphry) and Michael Alderfer (Moses) are all good friends and active residents of Downingtown today. Phil is a member of borough council and Francine is on the Board of the Downingtown Library  and very involved in raising money for the new library building – the point being this is another layer of inspiration for me in this work.

More than a year ago when I brought up my interest in doing a painting for this show that included Downingtown, Phil mentioned the intense activity in the area during the Revolutionary war and suggested we all visit the restored historic Anselma Mill for some ideas. I was spellbound, and immediately decided to feature parts of the mill from several viewpoints in this painting.

The people and places of Chester County –  inspiration is everywhere!

Snow in Chester County

We were more than a little worried about our ability to post something today, but thankfully both our power and internet stayed functional despite the outrageous blizzard. Though we may not see our poor truck until spring.

Snow Truck

Snow has yet to become an element in the world of Humphry Marshall, but my father did do some snow related and period appropriate work! I modeled as a snow-beleaguered soldier at Valley Forge, which later resulted in an excellent drawing. Thanks to the flexibility of art and the convenience of face obscuring headwear, I’m actually the model for both of the men on the left.


wash mem chapel & seb 063

More of Downing’s Town


This revolutionary  soldier is more of a background figure, though he is extremely important for the tone and composition of the work. By painting him as relatively schematic and lacking in detail he can serve as a bracket that contains and defines the raging fire next to him. Were I to give him more distinct features, it would totally change the flow of the painting.










The ultimate purpose of that picture of me looking into my orange coat! It ended up being more of a self-portrait than I thought it would be, I couldn’t help but connect with this figure at his forge. The role of the artist as a maker is extremely important to me; I couldn’t be an artist without also being a craftsman. The creative and the practical, the physical and the mental are ultimately inseparable.



Concept Drawings

It will be awhile before we actually start working on the gallery space and building fixtures for the area, which makes it important that we have a plan going forward for what the exhibition might look like. To do this I drew some sketches of my current vision for the exhibition. I imagine a lot will change between now and then, but that’s an important part of the process!


Exhibition Sketches 3









This is a point of interested I’m looking forward to designing, Humphry Marshall’s actual microscope, paired with a painting of him using it!


Exhibition Sketches 2












Coming Soon

Adrian and his son, Sebastian, will soon begin posting about the making of this unique exhibit.   See photos of each painting in progress and of their research at the Chester County Historical Society.  Check back to discover the amazing world of Humphry Marshall as it unfolds through the eyes of an artist.