Monday, December 31, 2018

Between Paintings

Keeping your hand and eye hot between paintings is important.  When your enthusiasm wanes temporarily, try to find ways to keep your skill set practiced.  For me, that means getting my sketchbook out.

One of the best books to help me with drawing skills is Betty Edwards' Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.  Now I look for negative spaces first.  Then I relate the next line to a line or angle in that space.  Then another line relating to the first line, and so forth. 

The claim "I don't want to be bothered with drawing; I just want to paint" rings of laziness and impatience to me.  Practicing the fundamentals should be part of a discipline that leads to better painting. 

Happy drawing, and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2018


I love to paint water!  But that requires some knowledge of reflections.

In this painting, there are two different considerations of values in reflections.  In the foreground boat, the shadow side of the lobster boat is lighter than the darker shadow.  In the background, the dark dock shack and pilings are reflected in lighter tones.  You must look carefully at the values of reflections before assuming what value they should be.

Also, look at the gradation from bottom to top and see that the closer to the viewer, the darker the value.  And as the gradation unfolds, it goes from cool to warm.

And last, the reflections of the dock link up to the boat to form a shape.

Always look and study values before beginning to paint.

Monday, December 17, 2018


Directing the viewer's eye to your major subject is an important consideration when composing your painting.  Sometimes you can use "pointers" -- lines that lead the eye to a certain spot on the surface of your painting.  Other times you can use color or size to attract attention to an area.  In this painting of a Venetian Canal, I used a method called spotlighting.

This technique depends upon values.  In this case, the focal point is the gondola.  A secondary subject is the light on the building on the right.  To draw attention to the highlighted areas, I've surrounded them with darks which creates a spotlight effect on the water and the buildings in the distance.  In addition, there is very little detail in the darks to distract the eye.  Describing every window or texture on the buildings in shadow prevents the eye from resting there.  The light summons your eye, and the silhouetted gondola stands out because of the contrast.

I've said it before; painting dark values requires a lot of paint.  Learning how to cover large areas of dark values is essential.  Paint quickly and make your brush go all different directions.  Painting fast prevents the paper from drying which is deadly to keeping a fresh look.  Mix a large puddle before you sail into the area. 

It also helps to have a value sketch as a road map to help speed up the application of the paint.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 25, 2018



I finally had enough energy to get my brushes wet today.  This scene had been on my mind for a couple of months, and after a conversation over lunch with a fellow artist, I was motivated to get back to what I love most: painting.

A word about the buildings on the shoreline.  The Catholic church in Boothbay Harbor is iconic.  Spotlights shine on it at night, making it prominently visible across the harbor.  In order to emphasize its importance, I subordinated the other buildings by not defining them too exactly.  In the past I would have carefully defined each structure which would subtract from the real subject which was the church.  Now I've only hinted at rooflines and reduced their value with a thin wash during the first pass of the sky area.  As a result, I think the attention stays on the moon, the church and the reflections in the water.

I call this loose, suggestive approach 'telegraphing.'  Say what you want in the shortest way possible.  Don't paint in paragraphs; paint in telegraph formats.

Thanks for sticking with me!

Monday, October 1, 2018


Here's a commission of a cottage owned by my landlord here in Boothbay Harbor.  It's an old fashioned authentic summer cottage with lots of interesting angles.  Normally, I don't take house or boat commissions, but this one had some features that I liked, namely the overhanging porch and the railing.

Fall is setting in here in Maine and the weather has prevented me from going out to paint.  Luckily, I had done the preliminary sketch and gotten the line drawing on the watercolor paper earlier, so I could use them as a reference rather than go out on location.  Another reason to do a value sketch first!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Reducing the Middle Ground

Yesterday was the last day of my annual Boothbay Harbor Workshop.  We went out to Ocean Point on a beautiful sunny day.  I chose a familiar subject:  the Clark House.

The flat, rocky shoreline was much longer than I made it.  I chose to reduce it so that I could include a more interesting foreground of a large rock and a tree that helped frame my subject.  Depicting every rock and ledge would have been self-defeating and detracted from the cottage.  And looking over and past something led the viewer's eye to the cottage as well.

I always feel free to bring objects in the landscape closer, to eliminate distracting elements, and to enlarge objects in the foreground.

Thanks to my wonderful and talented students for a happy week.  I hope you had fun and also gained some insights about painting techniques and procedures.  Let's do it again next year!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Sky Painting

Yesterday's painting was an example of a largely foreground painting of a beach.  Today I decided to show how a sky painting could be emphasized.

I started on dry paper to illustrate how a large space could control the viewer's eye path.  The horizon line must necessarily be low so the largest shape would be the sky area.  I painted the blue area, alternating from the overhead ultramarine blue and transitioning to a cooler thalo blue and then the flatter cloud areas near the horizon line.  I came back in and defined the clouds with warmer shadows on the underside of the clouds and then working up towards the top of the cloud with neutral grays.  Some were softened and others were left with hard edges.

The water was just a wet into wet, gradated wash so as not to draw you attention down to the water area.

The contrast area near the lighthouse was simply painted as a silhouetted shape.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Sky Painting or Beach Painting?

When approaching this subject, I found myself having to decide whether I wanted to emphasize the sky or the beach.  I decided on the beach, which included the lighthouse.

That meant, first, making the horizon line high.  The biggest shape is on the beach.  The lighthouse at Hendrick's Head Beach is a locator, but the emphasis is on the beach leading up to the lighthouse.

It was an overcast day, so I used the values in the sky to contrast with the light on the structure.  The local color of the beach was painted next in one big wet-into-wet wash.

The rocks near the center of the page contrasted in color with the blues surrounding them.  The seaweed washed up at the tide line formed a "Z" which leads your eye across the beach and back to the far shoreline.

The textural suggestions were used mostly in the foreground which enabled me to keep the background smoother and more subdued.  There is, however, color change in the tree shape to give it interest.

The dog gives animation to the beach, but also points to the lighthouse.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Boat Lesson

Today's lesson at my workshop was on boats.  First I gave advice on how to draw lobster boats and sailboats.  Then I did some value studies and the demo painting on location.

Contrast of values was key to the painting.  Note:  Reflections are often darker than the object above it.  Gradation of value was important to making the water recede.  The foreground water is usually darker and warmer than the water out on the horizon.  That's because you are looking down at the ground at the bottom of the water in the foreground.  The farther away from the viewer, you are only looking at the surface of the water.

The dark foliage on the island behind the boats helped the lighter shapes on the boats "pop".  Vertical objects receive less light than objects or planes that are horizontal than vertical planes.

Sizes vary.  The focal boat is the "papa", the sailboat is the "mama", and the far sailboat on the left is the "baby". 

Trees--Color, Intervals and Size

This was the first day of my workshop here in Boothbay Harbor.  After some introductory studies on shapes, especially cylinders, we caravanned to Knickercane Island for a lesson on trees.

As I drew the trees, I was conscious of the size of the trunks and tried to vary them.  The oblique second tree breaks up the vertical lines of the other trees.  And varying the intervals between the trees was also a consideration.

I also left out several trees that were really there.  If you don't believe me, ask my students!

Painting the trees I was also aware of choosing different base colors for each tree.  Nothing is more boring than dark brown trunks.  I painted the masses of foliage before I painted the trunks, too.

I once told my high school students who asked me if I believe in heaven, All I know is, if there aren't any trees, I ain't going!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018


One of the principles of art that I have rarely addressed is balance.  Balance can be formal (or symmetrical) or informal (asymmetrical).  When the elements -- line, shape, size, etc.--are positioned in mirror-like fashion around a central spot in the composition, the balance is said to be formal.  If the weight of elements appears like a teeter-totter  where a large, heavy presence is balanced by a number of smaller elements on the other side of the page, the balance is informal.

In this painting of two churches in New Brunswick, Canada, the two buildings are of similar but unequal size and weight.  The foliage on the right side of the page is larger than the two pieces of foliage on the left side -- the foliage next to the church and overhanging foliage above the church. Without the overhanging branches on the left side, the weight would shift to the right side and throw the composition out of balance.

Formal balance is present in patterned designs.  In painting landscapes, I prefer informal balance.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Lunchtime Series

This summer I've taken my sketchbook with me to restaurants, and while waiting for my lunch to appear, I've sketched the scenes around me.   I've described diners and d├ęcor.  In this painting, I took note of the cook preparing lunch. 

The dominant color note is cool.  The slicker is the warm contrast that focuses the viewer's eye on the figure.  I repeated the color in muted form on the left side of the painting. 

I've always been attracted to signs so the lettering was added to identify the Maine theme.

By the end of the summer I will have a virtual diary of my lunchtime adventures.  Painting in a series is a good way to focus your attention. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Close Ups

When on location, it's tempting to look around and include everything you see in your painting.  With a camera, at least you have a built in cropping device.  But sometimes when your eye is drawn to a particular element in the scene, it's a call to paint only that as your subject.

I've loved this turret on top of a building at an outdoor restaurant for years.  I've also painted the building just because of the turret.  This time I've decided to depict only the turret, zooming in on it to the exclusion of everything else.

Here's the sketch.  Tomorrow or the next day, I'll try the painting.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Plein Air Painting With a Group

Today was my friend's annual Artists on the Lawn painting event.  It was so much fun seeing painters whom I've met in the past, and painting on a beautiful day of temperatures in the mid seventies and a blue sky over head.  And best of all, at the very end of the day, I sold my painting to a couple who dropped by to see artists in action!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Keeping Your Drawing Hand Hot

This summer I've taken my sketchbook with me everywhere.  Setting up my easel has proved challenging after my heart surgery, and it's just easier to sketch than paint.  Here's the latest lunchtime sketch of a life-sized wooden pirate at the restaurant.

Tomorrow I am participating in a plein air event on my friend's lawn, so maybe I'll have a painting to post soon.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Familiar Subjects

This was actually the first painting I did this summer.  When getting used to painting outdoors again, it's helpful to begin with a familiar subject.  In this case, no drawing was required.  I just needed to get my brushes wet  again.  It can be scary when you've had to stop painting for a while.  Facing that white piece of paper is intimidating, even to the most experienced of painters.

But I did what I always do:  I think of the three major values and where to place them. Light, midtone, dark.  I decided not to draw first because I know the subject so well.  It was just fun to feel the slippery paint glide over the paper again.

Fear is the great enemy of the watercolorist.  Warming up with a familiar subject can help overcome that fear.

Saturday, August 11, 2018


Every once in a while I like to do an outdoor still life.  This one was done from yesterday's sketch.  Again, the hard work was done before hand in the planning stage.  Plan, plan, plan!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Using Strong Darks

Many watercolor students are afraid of strong darks.  They hesitate to use enough paint to achieve the dark value the first time.  Or sometimes it's just that they don't know where the darkest tones should be employed.  That's where the value sketch comes in.

In this outdoor still life, the life preserver ring and the block and tackle are my focal points.  The dark background of the wooden log supporting the ring helps focus the eye's attention on the life preserver.  The metal hook and shadows on the tackle highlight the front of the wooden tackle.

At this point the hard work of the painting is done.  I know where the lightest values are going to be and the darks that will surround the subjects.  Doing the drawing will be important, but the painting process is once again planned.  Study is its own reward!

Painting tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018


Contrast of values and contrast of colors will definitely direct the eye to a subject matter.  In this painting of a Friendship sloop, the sail is a warm, light value and its color is encased in a darker, cooler background. The neutrals in the background retreat so your attention stays focused on the sloop.

Try not to think in terms of subject, i.e. "I'm going to paint a boat and some water."  Rather, think,
I'm going to paint a warm, light shape surrounded by darker, cooler values.

Friday, August 3, 2018


I used to reject the notion of doing value sketches before doing a painting.  My rationale was that I could see the values in my head, so why do a sketch?  Then one day when I was teaching a workshop, I asked my students to do a value sketch.  One student did a light, scribbly line drawing with no clear darks, midtones or lights.  I took her sketchbook and turned her non-descript drawing into a sketch with very clear values.

With the values in place, you have a road map to how to proceed. Light values first, midtones next, and darks last.  In this sketch, it's also pretty clear that distance will play a role.  Far away tones in the background, midtones on the churches' shaded sides, and darker cast shadows in the foreground.

I've also learned to love taking my sketchbook everywhere I go.  I can almost always find something to turn into a sketch.  Looking out the window at lunch at an old Victorian house across the street and sketching it gave me a way to pass the time until my order arrived.

Proclaim your status as artist!  Take out your sketchbook!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Principles of Art.

Gradation, Alternation, Balance, Contrast, Harmony, Unity, Repetition and Dominance.  These are the principles of art. 

In this painting, my first in nearly three months being away from my brushes, I had to remind myself of the basics of composition. 

Repetition was easy because of the numerous onion top domes of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.  A secondary shape was the triangle, which repeated in the steeples.  The sun (or moon?) also echoed the circular shapes in the dome.

Contrast was created by the use of textures in the domes.

Gradation was employed in the values.  The light background was connected to the midtones in the center of the page and the dark accents were placed in the midtones to draw the eye to the major subjects of the piece. 

The gradation of smooth to active textures was also kept to the middle of the page.  I was careful not to place textures everywhere which would confuse the viewer.  Textures are not placed in the quiet areas on the outside and bottom of the page.

Unity was achieved by limiting the colors to the muted secondary colors of purple and green, with cool color dominating. 

Having words in your head while you paint will eliminate some of the confusion in the midst of the battle. 

P.S.  I chose this subject in honor of the World Cup Soccer Tournament that is taking place in Russia.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Workshop Opportunity

My 6th  almost-annual workshop in Boothbay Harbor, Maine will be held from September 10th - 14th.  Come paint the quiet coves, quaint side streets, lighthouses and working waterfront.  September is a great month to visit Maine; the summer tourists are gone, the weather is usually dry and warm, and the motel rates go down, making lodging more affordable.

So come see the place that has drawn me back for 39 years!  We'll have a relaxed, fun week of exploring color, values, even experimental approaches to the landscape.

For more details, contact me at : 

Hope to see you in Maine!

Friday, June 15, 2018

I'm Back!

Happy to report I'm back home after four long weeks of  recovery and rehab following open heart surgery.  There were a couple of touch and go minutes on the operating table, but a very fine, coolheaded surgeon saved my life!  So happy to be alive and home!

I took my sketchbook with me to the rehab facility, and was able to record some quieter moments there.  I took a short walk to a courtyard where there was a tribe of box turtles, adults and babies.  Here's the memory of a quiet afternoon watching them.

P.S.  The turtle is an apt metaphor for me these days.  Slow and steady wins the race!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Painting Your Situation

This week I'm facing a re-do of my aortic valve replacement.  The first replacement was too small, and I've developed breathing problems again.  Keep me in mind on Thursday.

One night, I couldn't sleep, so I got up and decided to paint a rather abstracted version of a heart.  I worked from a diagram but did no drawing first.  I avoided painting with red except for the very small area where the aortic valve is located.  I painted directly on the paper.

The abstract design is centered on the darks.  The high contrast sets off the white heart and arteries.

So, have a go at painting alla prima, directly on the page.  It will be liberating!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Painting From Photographs

This is the painting I did for the St. Louis Watercolor Society last night.  There was a big crowd, and I enjoyed teaching them some things I've learned about painting trees.

First, I encouraged them to really look at trees.  So many times people revert to painting trees from memories of their childhood efforts.

Second, I suggested that they do a value sketch of the tree or the scene and then paint from the value sketch.  That way you'll avoid getting caught up in the trap of painting local color.  You get to decide what colors to make the trees.  It will also tell you if your darks are linked in an interesting shape.

Here is the painting.  Thanks to the SLWS for inviting me!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Eliminating Background Elements

Sorry for the absence.  Travelling home, unpacking the car, and breathing problems have kept me from painting.

But here is the last painting I did in Florida.  A boatyard is a crowded, busy place.  In order to focus attention on one boat and the man cleaning its hull, I opted to leave out much of the busy elements in the background.  Instead, I chose a wet-in-wet approach to keep the attention on the boat.  I did include a second boat that juts partially into the focal subject in order to stop your eye.  The third boat is only hinted at because I needed a horizontal element.  Sky, clouds, shrubs and other boats were all eliminated.  As I said in the last post, the rights of the painting come first.

This coming Wednesday I'll be doing a demonstration at the St. Louis Watercolor Society.  That lesson will be on painting trees---what to do and what to avoid.  So look for that painting very soon!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Rights of the Painting

I painted this as the demo for yesterday's workshop.  I was working from a value sketch I did a couple of week's ago.

In designing the composition, I had to move the buildings on the right.  Where the light shape is at the bottom of the page, there is actually a road.  But the rights of the painting came first.  I was more concerned with the light shape instead of the accurate depiction of the scene. 

Another consideration was connecting the shapes.  The light of the buildings flows uninterrupted into the area below them creating an interesting shape.  The white of the lighthouse also leaks into the white shape.

So don't be a slave to the scene.  Adjust elements so that the rights of the painting come first!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Sorry that it's been a while getting around to painting this from the last posting. I took a side trip down to Bradenton to visit an old friend of mine.

This week I'm giving a workshop here in the Apalachicola area. This was the first demo I did for the class. I tried to illustrate the concept of granulation. The soft colors of the sky were created by painting wet-into-wet.  The softness of the sky made the dark, hard edged silhouettes of the fishermen cleaning their catch stand out even more dramatically.

  If you study the silhouettes, you"ll see that there is very little detail within the shapes of the figures. If you get the silhouette shapes right, details are not needed to describe the figures.

In the next post, I'll talk about painting the negative areas to define the shapes of the white or light shapes.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Painting Events in Your Experience

At sunset the other day, I went out to photograph the sun going down when these two fishermen came back from a day of fishing on the bay.  I loved talking with them as they cleaned their fish.  The pelicans seem to know that a treat is coming, and they gather below the cleaning table in hopes of getting some of the scraps tossed their way.

Tomorrow I'll paint the scene and will have a memory of a nice early evening.   Again, consider painting what happens to you.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A Bird's Eye View

Eastpoint is connected to Apalachicola by a five mile bridge and causeway.  Just as you get to Apalach, the bridge rises over the Apalachicola River to allow the shrimp boats room to pass underneath.  This view is from the bridge to the wharves below.

A high vantage point or bird's eye view is achieved by placing the horizon line high on the page. The resulting diagonals in this painting act as pointers.  I employed a secondary color scheme with the orange used on the focal point surrounded by neutral greens and violets. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Painting What Happens To You

Here at Sportsman's Lodge, it's pruning time.  I was somewhat dismayed at the timing since temperatures dipped below freezing for several days after the cuttings.  But what's done is done.

When I woke up this morning, I saw that the workman had left his ladder behind.  The green of the ladder against the red-orange of the palm tree drew my attention.

I had another subject in mind when I set up my easel on the balcony, but my eyes kept going back to the palm tree and the ladder.  I decided to paint an event rather than a subject.  As I've said before, sometimes you just have to wait to see what happens as well as what you see. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Fish Signs

Converting the drawing to a painting involves a number of decisions, among them, color choices.  I used a very limited palette of various blues and violets, contrasted by some neutral oranges.  Enough said.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Avoiding the Literal

The design and composition considerations should always take precedence over the literal in your interpretation of a scene.  Choosing which elements attracted you in the first place should determine where to place them so that they become the focal area.  Select what to leave in and what to omit when working from photographs.

Here is a photo of a dock scene in Port St. Joe.

I felt that too much attention was on the woodwork.  I wanted to emphasize the fish signs.  I completely eliminated the background roofs.  Then I added a separate pole for the light, creating another vertical.  I subtracted some of the parallel boards.  I shifted the fish so that they were mainly on the thirds. I used one of the ropes to rhyme with the vertical poles.    Here's the result.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Painting on Dry Paper

I've been painting on pre-wetted paper to form glazes of colors.  Today I decided to paint on dry paper, building values on values. This produces a totally different effect.  I thought it would be more appropriate for the speckled light of a forest and waterfall. 

The colors I used were ultramarine blue , burnt sienna, and a bit of mixed greens.  The colors were subdued, so values became more important. 

I am also holding a workshop here in Florida on February 13-15.  For more information email me at

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Back to Color themes.

I've painted shrimp boats here in Apalachicola for nearly twenty years.  This year, after my summer of color,  I've added the element of inventive color to this old subject.  The full moon was inspired by this month's super moon. 
It's been too cold to paint on location, so I'm painting in my room here at Sportsman's Lodge.  In some ways that's a handicap, but in other ways it forces me to invent compositions and colors that wouldn't be easy while under the influence of on-location realities. 

Happily I still have three weeks here, so I'll hope for some warmer weather to let me take my old friend, my French easel, out for a spin!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


A common approach to depicting pilings and stanchions, as well as trees, is to paint them all the same dark value and color.  Look carefully at the actual scene and you will see that there are lighter areas of the logs and darker shadow areas, as well as a variety of colors due to shadows, moss, and bleached surfaces.

In this painting of a dock outside my room here in Eastpoint, Florida, I was drawn to the pelicans roosting on a neighboring dock.  The variety of colors and values were especially attractive to me.

Basically it was a three color study:  cobalt blue, yellow ochre and burnt sienna with a bit of black thrown in.  Staying with three colors has its advantages, the primary one being unity of color.

Gradation of values and changing colors will keep the pilings from being boring.  Also, pay attention to the intervals between the verticals in the structure.  It looks like a fairly simple study until you take into consideration these factors.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Wet-Into-Wet Glazing

When you want a soft edge, painting wet-into-wet works well.  What never occurred to me was that once your first wash is completely dry, you can still achieve a soft edge by glazing wet-into-wet.

In this painting of rocks at Boothbay Shores, I painted the colors of the rocks and the beach first.  When completely dry, I lightly re-wet the areas that I wanted to paint in the shadows.  Be careful not to brush hard and disturb the paint underneath.  Then, while completely saturated with clear water, brush in the glaze.  Don't apply paint up to the wetted area or you'll get a hard edge.

This technique would also work well with shadows on trees where you want a soft edge.  Paint the local color of the lighted area of the trunk, let it dry completely, re-wet the areas where you want the shadows, then drop in the paint.  Be sure to make it dark enough, too.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Christmas Cards

Many years ago, I hand painted my Christmas cards for friends and family.  I used an eighth of a sheet and folded it in half.  Then I taped one half of the folded card to a board, making for a crisp white border.  Paint was applied quickly with very little mixing on the palette.  Here are some results.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 10, 2017


In my ongoing series of rocks on the beach, the problem of creating a sense of distance was solved by the use of gradation.  On the beach, dark to light values kept the area receding.  The rocks on the right were painted lighter and lighter as they overlapped.  And within each rock, the values gradated from the top down to where the spray from the breaking waves softened them.  In the sky, the values gradated from a light midtone near the breaking surf upward to the distant sky. Not including a horizon line kept the attention on the focal area.

I also used gradation of color.  The warm central rock overlapped the next rock which included some blue, the next three rocks got progressively bluer as well as less textured.

Gradation exercises can be found in most instruction books.  Just remember to employ the technique where it's needed.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


                                 Bay of Fundy Rocks

In this scene of some famous rocks in New Brunswick, Canada, I wanted to portray the solidity of the rocks and the softness of the beach and the water.  The hard edges of the rocks are contrasted with the soft edges of their reflections on the wet sand. Painting wet-into-wet requires a certain amount of courage. The tendency of the beginner is to come back tentatively with too much more water and not enough pigment.  Load your brush up with lots of moist pigment and make your strokes confidently.

  First, I painted the lightest values of the sand.  When it was completely dry, I re-wet the area and flooded it with pigment.  A quick hit with even darker values created the reflections.  And last, I took a dry brush and reclaimed the horizontal plane of the beach by dragging it through the wet reflections.

I liked the different sizes and shapes of these rocks.  The stark contrast of the values with the sky and the surf emphasized the solidity of the pillars.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Going Small

I usually paint half sheets (15" X  22"), but sometimes to force myself to paint simpler shapes, I pair it down to a quarter sheet or even an eighth of a sheet.  It compels me to paint faster with purer colors.  Here are some results.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

One More Road Trip Painting

I forgot to post this painting of a cliff in New Brunswick, Canada  near the village of Alma.  It was sunny but cold and windy that day.  I had to hold onto my easel with one hand and paint with the other.  Unfortunately my third hand wasn't available and the lid to my palette blew off the easel and down the parking lot about fifty feet.  Ah, the hazards and challenges of plein air painting!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Achieving Darks

The juxtaposition of lights and darks creates drama.  However, putting down the first dark values on white paper rarely makes for the darkest darks.

In this painting of a small lighthouse in New Brunswick, Canada, I put down the sky first.  I thought it was really dark.  But then I put down the background trees, and that glaze was even darker.  Finally, the dark shadows on the lighthouse itself were even darker next to the white of the paper.

Dark values are very useful in projecting the lightest values.  Glazing helps.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Post Plein Air

I've been re-adjusting to life in St. Louis, and have barely had time to think about painting.  But here's one I did based on a photo taken in New Brunswick, Canada of a lighthouse at Cape Enrage.

For a subject like this one, strong color would not be appropriate for the mood I wanted to convey.  I had to depend upon values to project the moonlit Bay of Fundy.

Mixing darks takes LOTS of pigment.  Do NOT skimp on paint when portraying dark values.  I mixed the darks on the paper to avoid a flat black. I glazed over an underpainting of green because moonlight has a green essence.  Violet is a warm counterpoint to the green, so I also applied that pigment to the dark area of the cliffside. I also softened the circle depicting the moon to imply a misty feel to the scene.

Inventive color is fun to play with, but it must be used to transmit a mood.  Neutrals are best to convey a more somber mood.