Friday, March 27, 2020


As many of you know,  I came to Apalachicola, Florida on Dec. 21.  I painted two paintings before I developed some serious health problems.  I'll spare you the ins and outs of how they eventually found out what was causing them and go straight to the sequence of events.

In late January, I developed breathing problems, and on Jan. 29th went to the emergency room in Apalach.  They decided to send me by ambulance to a hospital in Tallahassee.  I was admitted in critical condition.

They discovered I had a blood infection in my heart.  They back=tracked my symptoms and eventually traced it all back to my gall bladder.

The gall bladder caused my type 2 diabetes to flair up and led to ketoacidosis (acid in  the blood), which nearly killed me. Eventually the problem spread  and caused an infection of the blood in my heart (which also almost killed me.)  They took my gall bladder out.

To treat the blood infection in my heart and prevent a reoccurrence, they put me on an IV anti-biotic for 60 days.  I was in a critical care hospital to monitor my diabetes and continue the IV anti-biotic until two weeks ago at which time they transferred me to a rehab facility that could not only continue the IV treatment, but also build my strength back up through physical therapy.  I had occupational therapy and physical therapy for two weeks.

Yesterday the 60 days were finally up, and I was released after two months in three hospitals.  They drove me back to Apalachicola where I am now staying until the home health care is finished.

I'm hoping in a few more days I can do some painting in my room, and build up my strength.  I can't think of a better place to shelter in place.  My room has a kitchen, my motel own and friend brings me food, and I look at the bay from my balcony.

I hope this explanation isn't too lengthy, but I wanted to let everyone know that I am recovering slowly but surely.

Stay safe, everybody. Wash your hands, and stay six feet away from me!!  Good luck!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Getting Back in the Game

I'm back in my winter location, Apalachicola, Florida.  With packing, driving, unpacking, and Christmas,  I haven't had much time to think about painting.  But now things are starting to slow down.  To ease back into it, I did what I always do:  I got out my sketchbook.  Since it was Christmas, I thought it appropriate to sketch a church.  The Catholic church has an interesting bell tower, so here is the result.

Merry Christmas to all!  And a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Obliques and Interrupters

                                      "Assisi Hillside" 

I was browsing through old slides of my trips to Europe, and found this view of Assisi, Italy.  I was struck by two things:  the obliques in the scene and the towers that interrupted the obliques.  Three towers and one dome interrupt the dark line of the background hillside.  The light shape formed by the buildings are also surrounded by midtones that highlight the building shapes.  

I also considered the colors of the buildings and decided to contrast them with the quieter areas of foliage.  Since I knew that much of the foliage would be various gradations of green,  I decided
that the buildings, which were largely various shades of gray, needed to be a muted red to take advantage of the complementary colors of red and green.   Texture was only incorporated in the towers and some of the architecture, keeping the foliage areas relatively free of much texture.  

Again, I encourage you to alter the scenes in your photos to express a more dynamic expression of what you want to say about the subject matter.  Compose with your head to tell the story of what your heart responded to.

Here are the preparation sketch and drawing.


Monday, November 25, 2019

Painting In A Series


Lately I've returned to a favorite subject of mine:  trees.  I found an old photo of a woodpile in my neighbor's woods in Maine.  Color became the primary challenge.  

The color choices are mainly the complementary colors of yellow and violet.  

Note the shadows on the cut side of the logs.  In the past, I might have chosen one value for all of them.  By making half of the shadows darks and the other half midtones, there is more variety.  There is also a chance to gradate the colors to indicate the reflected light.  

I'm out of paper (on order) and with Thanksgiving coming up, I'll be taking a short break.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Starting with Photos

A friend in Maine takes a daily walk and posts photos of her surroundings.  In her photo of a marsh, there were only two lone pine trees.  Also there was no mountain range behind the trees.  I also needed something added to give a little life to the scene.  I considered a canoe or rowboat, but decided that would bring attention to the water.  I wanted the viewer to look at the pine trees.  I added one more tree for balance and then decided that some hawks would add some interest to the trees.

A very simple scene.  Study the background trees for changes in value and color.  Also avoid a treeline that becomes a rectangle. Give it a little oblique feel.  Study the water to see how a gradation of values leads to the highlighted area near the trees.

My tree series continues....

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Combining Elements

In composing this painting, I looked through my photos of Florida for more material to continue my tree series.  I found a photo of a banyan tree in Naples, Florida.  I liked the tree, but as you can see, it was in a parking lot.  So I went back to my photo file of Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida to look for another element to include.  The thatched hut seemed like an interesting choice.  It provided a balancing feature in the background without detracting from the main subject which is the tree.

The figures added a bit of animation to the scene as well.

When using photos, you are unlikely to find the perfect composition.  Think about combining elements from various photos.

Saturday, November 9, 2019


Most painters of watercolors adhere to the notion of painting from light values to darker values.  There is a special concentration on saving the lightest values.  This leads some to believe that the darker tones can be applied directly on white paper since the first light washes would be covered up anyway.

This painting illustrates my approach to getting to the darks by building up layers of color.  The first wash influences the second wash and the second wash influences the third wash, thus creating something in common throughout the shape.  

This approach involves some patience because the wash must be thoroughly dry before the succeeding layers are applied.  

Look closely at the foreground grassy area and you will see glimpses of the first yellow underwash.  Putting down the foundation color first also allows for the possibility of choosing how much to cover up in the second and third washes.  The common denominator color also changes when a variety of colors are applied over it.  Yellow as the base color changes when blue or burnt sienna or a mixed green is layered over it.

The same thing occurs in the foliage of the trees.  Yellow was the first wash and darker and darker values are painted on top.

Note also that these shapes are not concerned with individual leaves or blades of grass.  The textures are mostly defined at the edges of the shapes.  The layering of colors creates the interest, not the textures.

My friend Judi Wagner used to quote one of her teachers:  "Stay lighter longer."  It was good advice!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Foreground Shadows

As I've said many times, I look for ways to frame my focal point.  Foreground shadows are often the answer.  

In my previous post, I explained the combination of several photos to arrive at the final composition.  When I started to paint this though, I wanted to emphasize the shadowy foreground.  The mid-ground uses a spotlight effect with its light values and warmer tones.  I kept the sky and distant trees cooler and a bit darker to contrast the narrow strip of light, warm values.

All of the textures are in the foreground as well.  The sky and background trees are preserved as shapes and simple values.  Oftentimes, I see students wanting to define every leaf in the background, thus taking away the contrast in textures.  

I love trees!  More to come soon!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Combining Elements From Photos

On a trip to Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida with my friend and playwright Connie Schindewolf, I fell in love with this gumbo limbo tree.  I took several photos of it and the surrounding area.  In one, I liked the photo of the tree.  In another, I saw some tourists posing.  And finally I liked the house in the background.  I borrowed something from all three photos, and came up with this composition.

My point is, don't feel bound by one photo.  Use elements from several shots to form a composition that works.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Starting Up Again

                                   "Wharfside #3"

After a month of not painting and re-adjusting to life in St. Louis, I finally got my brushes wet again.  It's a bit intimidating after such a long break, and there's a bit of fear that maybe I've lost my mojo.  How to solve that problem?

I decided that I would pick up where I left off with a dockside scene.  Familiarity breeds confidence!

Color choice became my first and major concern.  I resorted to a tried and true process that I used many times this summer.  I chose to make my focal point a warm pinkish tone.  That meant that my first wash - the sky- would provide a complementary cool hue that leaned toward a greenish blue.  

Continuing with the warm tones under the dock further provided a contrast with the neutral blues in the water.

Sorry for the long absence.  I hope to be posting some more paintings on a regular basis.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Farewell, Maine

                                                            "Grimes Cove"

I'm back in St. Louis after a long drive home.  I had a very productive summer, completing 41 paintings and almost as many sketches during my four month stay.  

This is the painting I did on the last day of my workshop in early September.  Come join us next summer.  Farewell, Maine, until next year.

Saturday, September 28, 2019


Motif #1 @ Pratt's Island

This is another iconic subject that artists on the Boothbay peninsula often paint-- so often that we refer to it as the Motif #1 of the area.  It was even the subject of the advertising postcard for an exhibit of my paintings at a local gallery.

This time, however, I took many liberties with the old standby.  I eliminated a building on the left, thinking that if it were included, it would put more weight and emphasis on that side of  the painting than I wanted.  Also, in reality, the treeline is much higher.  I lowered it so the background wouldn't claim so much attention.  The transition to the sky area also lessened the importance of a larger, dark background shape.  The value contrast stayed near the focal point building as well.

Next, the additions.  Once I determined those two shapes, it became apparent that they needed to be broken up by something. Since I already had the pilings in the foreground, I decided to repeat the verticals in the background.  The logical placement of those verticals was directly over the building in the focal area, thus acting as pointers.  For the same reason, I moved the ladder so that it, too, would point to the little building.

Other additions:  The white rock in the foreground and the pilings that emerge from it were put there to create a white shape that breaks up the horizontal shoreline, and lets the piling lead up to the white of the building on the far left.  Imagine the dark reflections extending to the left edge of the page and you'll see that the shape of the water would have been a dark, uninteresting rectangle.  That oblique line also echoes the oblique line of the buildings, a repetition that was needed to contrast with the dominant horizontals and verticals.

This is a rather lengthy explanation of the components of this composition.  But I want my readers to know that what appears to be a random placement of the elements of the painting was really a series of deliberate decisions.  

Bottom line:  Don't always be tied to the realities of the scene.  Add, subtract and do everything you can to come in aid of the area you find most attractive.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Looking Around

                              Driftwood at Hendrick's Head Light

Hendrick's Head Lighthouse is often a subject of my paintings.  But, not only I, but also most everyone who paints it includes the beach.  This time I decided to try a different foreground.

I had often walked around  the area for a different viewpoint. This time instead of seeing this bush as blocking the view of the beach, I decided to make it and the driftwood the primary subject.  The lighthouse becomes a locator instead of the main subject.

Try looking past or around something that acts as both a frame and a major subject of your painting.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Hazards and Rewards of Plein Air Painting

Day 4 of my watercolor workshop in Boothbay Harbor.  The class went to Newagen's Town Landing.  It was overcast, and halfway through my demo, it started to shower.  I kept painting, though, but you can see the raindrops on the painting.  After I finished, we went to lunch, and returned to the dock. The sun came out and the students had good painting weather once again.

While I was painting, I told a story about a man who emerged from the trees on the island across from us about 15 years ago.  He was pushing a refrigerator and finally flipped it end over end down a ramp to the float at low tide.  He then put it in a dinghy, rowed across the cove to the Newagen Inn dock and proceeded to flip it end over end up the very steep ramp.  I said it was "ridiculous.  Just then I heard a male voice behind us say, "Well, not as ridiculous as someone painting a watercolor in the rain."  Turns out it was Refrigerator Man himself!  We all got a good laugh and funny memory out of that!

Also, the red house in the background was owned by Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West in "The Wizard of Oz."

Join us next September for more stories and laughs like this one!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Breaking Loose

After demonstrating my fairly conventional style to my class, I felt the need to break out of that approach and paint a subject from memory.  

Three days before there had been a glorious sunset over the Harbor.  So while my students were painting, I decided to paint a quick rendition of that scene.

First, I pre-wet the sky.  The orange came first, and was very quickly followed by the purple clouds that set off the orange.Then I pre-wet the water and dashed in some of the same colors.  Then I painted the island, the house and the trees.  Bingo!  Finished in half an hour.

Some times it feels good to break free of your typical style.
Speed can sometimes convey energy, so I like to just let the colors fly!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Entering the Painting

                                                        Hendrick's Head Beach

There are several ways that the viewer enters the painting space.  First, a pure color that stands out.  In this case, the lighthouse roof is red and is not repeated, so it grabs attention.  

Second is value contrast. The trees on the far shoreline are dark near the lighthouse's white.  

Third, pointers help the eye travel towards the lighthouse.  The wall curves around the foreground and mid-ground and ends up pointing at the lighthouse.  The clouds also seem to point down at the lighthouse.  And obviously, again, the treeline slopes down to the lighthouse.  

I also try to keep the viewer's eyes away from corners at first, so I try to find ways to eliminate light shapes there.  The foreground shadow was put there for that purpose.

This was Day 1 of my 2019 Watercolor Workshop in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.  More to come!

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Power of White Shapes

White is an eye-grabber.  Planning where and why to leave the white of the paper is essential in directing the viewer to the important part of your painting.

The size and shape of the white area should be planned out before you begin painting.  In this painting of Hendrick's Head lighthouse, the white area is small and interlocks with the midtone and dark areas.  The white of the lighthouse and the keeper's house leaks into the white area of the bay behind it to help form an interesting, uninterrupted white shape.  

The beach foreground is a midtone which is dark enough to contrast with the white shape.  The dark rocks in the foreground also help in the transition from dark to midtone to light.  

Scattered whites, dragged sparkles and isolated small whites are not shapes.  Be careful not to fall in love with these saved whites.  Too many of these popcorn whites only serve to confuse the viewer's eye and detract from the more important areas of more defined white shapes.

Value sketches will help resolve the question of where to place the whites in your composition.  They will also help you avoid popcorn whites.

Thursday, August 29, 2019


I'm happy and flattered when someone requests that I paint a certain scene.  They've seen my paintings and like my style, but the problem is usually they have a pre-conceived idea of what the painting will look like and what elements will be included.

Boat commissions are the worst.  Not being a sailor myself, at first I would omit certain gadgets and do-dads that were very important to the owner.  Eventually I learned quite a bit about the gear on a working vessel.

I also don't do portraits.  As John Singer Sargent said, "A portrait is something where there's always something wrong with the nose."

But a couple of days ago, I had a request to paint a subject I am very familiar with.  Grimes Cove at the beginning of Ocean Point is a favorite with local artists.  Yesterday I did a half sheet of the cove, emailed the image to the client, and she was most pleased!  

Things are beginning to slow down here in Maine.  Kids are back in school, so the families are gone.  The light has shifted, and there are plenty of parking spots downtown.  I love September in Maine.

Don't forget;  I still have openings in my workshop September 9th - 13th.  Contact me at  

Thursday, August 22, 2019

"Do You Work From Photographs?"

The Cuckold's Light

Well, sort of.  But when I do, there's always an intermediate step: the value sketch.

That's the way I work out two important things: the design and the values.  

Here's an example.  This view of Cuckold's Lighthouse which is located on a ledge off shore can only be seen by boat.  Since I can't set up my easel on board a boat, I took a photo.  Today I used the photo to make the sketch, and then painted it this afternoon.

The value sketch provides another important advantage.  I'm not a slave to color.  I feel free to modify or invent color to come in aid of the painting.  Gray rocks become a warm area to contrast with the sky and water.  I also added the sailboat for balance.

Try the intermediate step when working from photos, and then paint from the sketch!

Monday, August 19, 2019

A Second Painting

I used to be able to paint two paintings in one day easily, but, alas, I'm slowing down these days.
However, not wanting to waste the day, I painted two paintings at the Artists on the Lawn event at my friend Jan Kilburn's annual event on Saturday. There was a tractor across the road, and since Jan and her neighbor are building a new chicken coop on their adjoining properties, I decided it would be appropriate to throw in some chickens to the scene.

Today I decided to switch to my flat brushes again and the style that I loved last summer.  Two versions of the same subject:  one traditional, and the next, a little more colorful and free style.

Try to re-invent a scene with a different technique.  More colorful and looser.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Look Up!

"The Weathervane"

I've already discussed looking down for subject matter this summer.  Now I want to talk about looking up!

Yesterday was the annual Artists on the Lawn event at my friend Jan Kilburn's house/studio/garden.  While other artists were looking at the very beautiful flowers at eye level in Jan's gardens, I looked up at the roof of her house and saw this weathervane.

Choosing a subject because of its worm's eye view has several built in advantages.  First is that your perspective provides a chance to utilize obliques (diagonals) to create a bit more tension.  Second, the focus narrows a bit because there is not as much to see.  Third, architectural features are not as frequent as the ubiquitous flower painting.

While I was painting this, one of the other artists came by and admitted that she probably would have painted the doorway of the house, the flowers, the flower pots on the steps, and the trellis next to it.  I see this as a major drawback of most student artists.  The perceived need is to include everything that is in the scene while eliminating the focus on one specific thing.  If your title would be "The flowers, the flower pots, the doorway, the window, the steps and the trellis next to the doorway",   you've probably included too much.  Titling your painting ahead of time focuses your attention on what attracted you to the subject in the first place.

Bottom line:  Look up, look down.  Change your perspective in more ways than one!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Seasonal Flowers

Each year I paint daisies in June, Queen Anne's Lace in August and Rugosa Roses and Rose Hips in September.  Things are a bit early this year, so here are the rose hips at Ocean Point.  

Red and green are not only Christmas colors; they are also complementary colors.  The red of the fruit stands out because of the green, but I made sure to vary the greens, both in color and value.
I painted the red fruit first and then surrounded them with the greens.  

Friday, August 9, 2019


Water Lilies at Lobster Cove

Sometimes a painter will "own" a subject.  Every time I paint a sailboat, I am coming up against the work of Winslow Homer.  And yesterday I decided to paint the water lilies at the end of Lobster Cove which put me in competition with Claude Monet.  

The solution is to know your style and your own procedure so that the result will be consistent with your own style and technique.  First of all, I used my own medium.  Monet painted his water lilies in oil; I used my medium of choice: watercolor.  

Also, the  use of watercolor makes possible the wet-in-wet charging of colors and blending of colors at the edges of shapes in a way that isn't as easy with oils.

I painted around the blooms of the lilies and then painted in the pink blossoms.  To get that pink, I used a bit of Chinese white mixed with alizarin.  The pink contrasts nicely with the complementary color of green. 

The dark reflections also helped focus attention on the lighter blooms.  I had to paint fast so as to avoid hard edges and oozles.  Pre-wetting the area helped keep the area fresh so I could freely dash in the dark tones.  I also kept the number of lilies to a minimum to allow the dark shapes of the reflections to stand out.  For that reason also, I confined the blooms to the edge of the dark shape and mostly to the foreground. 

In conclusion, You can take inspiration from the subject matter of artists who came before you.  Just make sure you are true to your own vision of that subject.

Monday, August 5, 2019

The Power of Warm Hues

y choice of blues has altered slightly this summer.  I'm leaning towards the cooler blues: thalo, manganese, blue turquoise.  But what has also become clearer to me is that blue's complement, orange, can also intensify the blues, and vice versa.

In this painting of one of my favorite lobster boats in the Harbor, I looked a long time at the traps at the stern of the boat.  The longer I looked, the more I noticed how the brown traps had a bit of orange light shining through.  After putting down the sky,  the warmer clouds and the underpainting for the water, I immediately went to that area of orange.  I charged in a bit of greenish hue to break up the orange square and the result seemed to glow.  Inside the cabin there were also undertones of a duller orange.  Surrounded by blues, the orange areas took on an added aura of importance.

The other reason I painted the boat was because of all the textures protruding against the sky.  Lines and little shapes help describe the equipment on board a working lobster boat.

Finally, there was the decision, as always, to eliminate unnecessary elements in the background.  There were approximately 50 boats out in the harbor plus the shoreline and all the flotsam and jetsam on the dock.  I added one boat in the background for balance, and then the barrel on the dock for the same reason.  

Still, I'll bet your eye goes right to the rear of the boat and that glowing orange.  Grouping your warmer colors and surrounding them with cooler colors will surely help guide your viewer's eye where you want it to go.

As always, please share my blogsite with your artist friends and invite them to become a follower.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Seasonal Subjects

It's blueberry picking time in Maine!  I think the smaller, thinner-skinned blueberries here in Maine are juicier and tastier than the larger blueberries in Michigan.  

There are two ways to pick blueberries.   Bush blueberries can be picked by hand.  Ground blueberries are harvested by raking them in back-breaking fashion.  

This scene is just outside Bucksport, Maine.  Painting to follow!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Vertical Format

This old anchor is featured near the entrance to my favorite outdoor restaurant on Southport Island.  Once again, I listened to my heart and decided to paint its portrait.  

In such a simple outdoor still life, it would have been easy to place the anchor squarely in the middle of the page.  It would have also been easy to make the shaft of the anchor perfectly vertical.  But I considered the compositional elements of direction and balance to place the anchor slightly off center.  The oblique lines of the shaft and the chain fall roughly on the thirds.  The shadows also help balance the weight of the chain on the left hand side of the composition.

Vertical compositions are, percentage-wise, much less prevalent.  Landscapes tend to be horizontal while portraits tend to be vertical.  So even though this is an object in the landscape, I considered it a portrait.  Too much empty space would have had to be dealt with if I had painted this in a horizontal format.  I would have had to add more stuff on either side of the anchor.  

Choose your subject matter with your heart. Design your composition with your head.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Where To Start

When faced with a complicated subject like this, the first obstacle is not yielding to the temptation to quit before even attempting to draw (or paint) it.  Where to start?

Since the figurehead plays a dominant role, I began with the head and shoulders and proceeded down the robe.  Just an outline at first.  Later on, I filled in the silhouette of the figurine.

When I came to the supporting struts, I followed the curves to the bow.  That led up to the bowsprit.  I left space for the furled sails and proceeded to the vertical part that hangs down.  (Can you tell I'm not a sailor?)

Back to the bow and the hull of the boat.  I suggested the curve of the bow and the boards.

And last, but not least, the rope lines, pulleys, and netting.  This is what gives the scene its complicated look!

Bottom line?  Start almost anywhere and then relate the first lines to connected lines and so forth.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Heat Wave Sketching

When it's too hot to stand outside and paint, I take out the photos and sketch.  Seasonal sketches, such as The Peach Picker, are good subjects.  And since I haven't done any boatyard sketches this summer, I decided to do one in the relatively cooler temperature in my rental unit.

In the boatyard scene, I removed one of the figures in the photo.  The very dark background of the building behind the boat acted as a nice foil to the stern of the boat, so I didn't need another figure there.

Drawing and painting boats requires being able to show the curve of the boat both from front to back and from top to bottom.  Study the shadows carefully to see how they aid in the change-of-plane 

Value studies ease the process of painting by clearly defining where the darks, lights and midtones will be.  Scribbly lines may help with shapes, but only values will tell you what to paint first, second and third.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Animal Paintings

                                 Mallards at Oak Point Farm

I've never been much of an animal painter.   But about a week ago I saw this scene of some ducks on a pond near some trees on the bank.  I loved all the crooked twists and turns of the branches.  But I realized that the painting needed a more animated subject matter.  Some ducks floated by, and I had my composition.

I realize that most people buy paintings because of subjects that they like or that they've seen on vacation.  But that's not why I choose subjects to paint.  I respond to a location--the sights, sounds, values, textures and most of all, the light.  I like paintings not because of the subject matter, but because of the light, the colors and placement of the elements in the work.  As you can tell from my paintings the past two months, this summer my colors of choice are blue and greens, and my fascination with water--the movement, the reflections, and the colors--are the real focus of my subject choices, rather than the things being reflected..

This painting should not be considered an illustration of ducks by any means.  I'm more intent on things that comprise a painting than on a literal interpretation of the scene.  

In short, know your purpose and your intention.  Do you want to say something about light and shadows?  Interesting textures?  Brilliant colors? Subject matter is often a secondary consideration.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Dealing With Onlookers

There were times long ago when I was very irritated with people who came by to watch me paint.  I was self conscious enough painting on location without the fear that people were judging the early stages of my painting.  Little kids could be especially distracting.  They seem to like to point at things in the painting, often touching the wet paper.  Here are some of my favorite stories of tourist comments.

Once I was painting the local self-proclaimed Hot Dog King Brud Pierce.  I was nearly finished with the painting, including the sign on his motorized stand that said "Brud's Hot Dogs."  A woman came along and asked me what I was painting.  "Brud!  See the sign?  See Brud's big ears?"  She paused a second, looked across the street and said,  "Harbor Realty?"  Sigh....

More than once I have been asked "What are you painting?"   

"Are you an artist?"  is another favorite.  My answer is usually "That's for you to say."

Then there's the Sneak.  They don't want to disturb the artist, so they silently approach my easel.  Suddenly, usually when I'm making a crucial line, they'll exclaim their admiration.  Or sometimes I'll be backing up to judge the pattern in the painting and bump into them or trip over their dog.  Painting can be dangerous!

But yesterday's comment may just take the prize.  I was putting the finishing touches on this painting out at Ocean Point in East Boothbay of rocks and surf when a woman came by and talked and talked and talked, mostly about herself.  Finally, she asked, "I'm looking for a place called East Side Point that has a lot of rocks and you can see the ocean.  Do you know were it is?"  I literally rolled my eyes and said,  "You're looking at it!"

All that said, most onlookers are kind in their comments and ask if they can watch.  Sometimes I like them so much that I hand them my brush so they can pose in front of the painting while their relative takes their photo.  This week I was even invited to have dinner with a nice couple from Houston. 

Have fun painting en plein air!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Accuracy Trap


This very popular painting location features a lobster pound building.  I've painted it many times, too, sometimes with more successful results than others.  This time it wasn't the building that was my focal point, but the birch trees in the foreground.  The building was subordinated to a supporting element.

Because I wanted to emphasize the birch trees as my major subject, I eliminated as much texture in the background trees as possible.  But I needed the building to help locate the site, as well as give some interest to an otherwise uninteresting background shape.  Three problems presented themselves when incorporating the building while also subordinating it to a supporting element that didn't detract from the birch trees which were my focal point.

The first problem is that the building is painted green.  Trying to accurately portray the structure has always been a problem because the actual color matches the greens in the trees, making it  hard to stand out.  So I decided to change the color to white! 

Second, I reduced the size of the building so it wasn't as prominent as it is usually portrayed.

Third, I eliminated doors, windows and other architectural features that would attract attention to the background and elevate the importance of the building.  The inclusion of the building therefore was reduced to the purpose of interrupting the line of background trees.

So re-think the tendency to portray the scene accurately and "truthfully".  Keep the focal point in mind when selecting other elements to include.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019


                                        Summer Pond

Of all the colors in your repertoire, green is the one most likely to trip you up.

The worst mistake you can make is to use the same tube color of green everywhere in your painting.
So let's consider ways to vary the greens.

There are cool greens and warm greens.  Blue and yellow make green.  Add more blue and you get a cooler green.  Add more yellow and you get a warm green. 

Next consider altering the choice of blues and yellows.  Mixing an ultramarine or a thalo  blue with yellow produces totally different greens.  Starting with a thalo yellow green and combining it with some umbers will gray it down a bit.

Also think about charging in some burnt sienna or a violet.

And finally, remember that warm colors advance and cool colors recede.  Sometimes a blue in the distance will suggest green trees.

(This painting also benefits from the use of the complementary color of red or pink.  But that's another post!)

Monday, July 8, 2019

Three Things

                                    Spectacle Island

Three things make this composition work:  direction, color and value.

Other workshop teachers have often described their compositional devices in terms of letters.  In this painting, the letter A is present.  Both the large land mass in the foreground and the elements within it---the rocks, the log, and the textures-- point toward the island.

The contrast of color is also a factor in taking your eye to the island.  The single orange rock attracts immediate attention, largely due to its contrast to the complementary color blue surrounding it, but also because of its more or less pure quality.

Finally, the dark value of the island trees set up an obvious eye attractor.  Look closer at the dark value, and you will see a few specks of light that I left to break up the solid mass.  

The distant land masses and the undersides of the clouds provide the horizontal eye stoppers that I spoke about in a previous post.

If you have questions or suggestions about upcoming posts, please leave them in the comments section.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

It's Right at Your Feet

                                  Ocean Point Rocks

More and more when searching a location for subject matter, I looker closer rather than farther away.  Yesterday afternoon I went out to Ocean Point where there is a lighthouse, old Victorian houses, a charming stone chapel, and lobster boats that sail close to shore, all of which I've painted before.  But on this afternoon, I once again looked down in front of me.  The gleaming white rock and the rugged foliage appealed to me, and I've learned not to ignore my first strong reactions.

The obliques attracted my attention when it became time to design the composition.  The breaking surf provides the stopper horizontal.

Consider looking down, not out and beyond.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy Fourth of July!


                   Happy 4th of July!