Saturday, January 29, 2011

Plein Air and Enthusiasm

I'm a plein air painter.  But when the weather is windy and cold, rainy and cold, foggy and cold, or sunny, windy and cold,  painting outdoors becomes nearly impossible.  Since I'm a nearly compulsive painter, I drag out the photos and sketch books in a quest for a subject.  But somehow I always feel the enthusiasm factor wane, and that usually gets transferred to my hand.

Here I am in Florida, and I have found myself painting New England from photos because of the weather.
The longer this goes on, the tighter my style becomes.  Thus, this painting from a photo I took in Vermont two years ago.  If you scroll through my other paintings, you'll see that the color is subdued, the brushstrokes are more careful, and the long, vista shot has taken over again. 

I long for warmer weather to be able to see, hear, smell, and feel the subjects I choose to paint.  That is about to happen.  Thursday I leave for Bradenton and then Naples.  I need a shot of summer color, the smell of flowers, the contrast of sun and shadow, and the feel of sun on my skin.  I'm pretty sure you'll see the difference.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Eastpoint Shoreline

                    Eastpoint Shoreline
This is a small park, unmarked and hard to find, that has a great view of the working waterfront of Eastpoint.
The driftwood on the shore gives the place an unkempt look with lots of textures.  Hardly a place for sunbathers, it's a great spot for painters.

I'm waiting for the rain to clear so that maybe, just maybe, I can paint outside. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Diminishing Repeats

Between Eastpoint and Carabelle, Florida, the road hugs the Gulf for almost 15 miles.  About halfway, there is a stretch of beach that has the remnants of storm ravaged cypress trees and scrub pines.  Coming home after a day of photographing the waterfront in Carabelle, I again spotted the trunks which were dark silhouettes against an orange sunset.  Their shapes were so interesting that I just had to paint them.

Yesterday you saw the planning stage.  This morning, I took a deep breath and splashed away.  Mixing up  big puddles for the larger shapes enabled me to cover the sky and beach quickly so that I could drop colors into the "mother color".  After this was dry, it was simply a matter of adding the darks. 

This painting also illustrates the concept of "diminishing repeats."  By repeating the shapes of the stumps in ever decreasing size, you need less and less texture and fewer details.  The eye supplies the distant stumps with the details that appear in the foreground shapes.

Since the next few days look rainy and cold, I think I'll try a couple more of this motif.  I might try a more neutral palette next time.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


                                 Driftwood on the Beach
Sometimes after getting the composition and drawing ready, I deliberately wait awhile.  I've found that the anticipation of painting builds the adreneline or serotonin or dopamine or some kind of chemical that makes the act of painting very exciting.  Instead of anxiety, I experience a kind of high that eventually finds its way to my brush.

That said, here's the next painting.......waiting......waiting.....

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Shaking Things Up

                                 Sand Dunes of St. George - 6" X 11"

What to do when you have a painter's block?  Sometimes you need to shake things up a bit by trying something out of your routine.  A new brush, a different size paper, a new color, a different format (i.e. not always a half sheet or full sheet.).  Being out of your normal approach and using different materials can sometimes stir the juices.  Risk is a stimulant. 
Here's a different sized format, new colors, and new subject. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

In Your Own Backyard

Here on the grounds of Sportsman's Lodge, in Eastpoint, Florida, there is plenty to paint.  There are live oaks, palmetto trees, peacocks, and a small cove/creek.  The buildings are old and full of character.
So why drive all around looking for something to paint when there's plenty here on the Lodge grounds?

Here's a painting I did several years ago.  I took a photo of the scene yesterday and am including it, too.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Incidents Along the Edge

In this small painting, study the edges of the awning and you'll see that they are not perfectly straight lines.  Some students believe that the straight edge is to be desired, but the seasoned painter looks for ways to interrupt the monotony of a line.  Ed Whitney described this as "avoidance of monotony en route".  It's a subtle consideration but serves to provide a more interesting, if not exciting, shape. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Finding Subject Matter

I got to thinking about those poor red winged black birds falling out of the sky in Arkansas, and decided to paint some living birds.  John J. Audubon I'm not, but it was challenging to try something out of my usual repertoire.

Sometimes it's a place or region of the country that inspires an artist.  Sometimes, it's a person, sometimes, an idea about art; sometimes it's wildlife, and sometimes it's an event.  Take the time to reflect on what it is that has captured your attention recently.  Maybe that will help with any painter's block you may be experiencing.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Intuitive Color

                                                              Spring Point Light
After you've decided on a subject and a composition, next comes the decision about values and colors.
When I finished the arrangement of this painting, I had no idea what colors were going to be used.  I soaked the page, and then, without really knowing why, I reached for the lemon yellow.  I worked outward from there, mingling blue onto the yellow producing green and then on to blue.  As I worked down the page, I made sure to repeat some of the green in the sea.  I dashed in a bit of violet for relief.  From there on, the colors reflected the actual local color of the lighthouse roof and the rocks. 

Decisions have to be made quickly in order not to let the next color be introduced on a damp or nearly dry page.  It helps to know ahead of time that two primaries--blue and yellow--make green.  The green acts as a bridge, both in color and value.  Staying with those two colors resulted in unity.  But it was still basically instinctual to choose those colors.  This can't be taught, but it can be learned.  Practice and lots of painting is the key.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Arbitrary Color

In this painting of Marshall Point Lighthouse, the use of arbitrary color makes for a much more dramatic depiction of the well-known scene than a literal translation.  Favorite color combinations develop over time, and replace blue skies and white clouds that do little for a dramatic presentation. The values set off the carved out whites and make them pop.

To reinforce the point, the other side of this sheet contains just such a traditional attempt.  Often, the first failed try is the motivation to let loose and paint without fear.  I just get out the biggest brush I have and splash away.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Trinity Episcopal

Here's the painted result of yesterday's   drawing/composition.  Things don't always turn out the way we envision them, but that's okay.  There's honor in the attempt!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

From Photo to Painting

Here's a photo of Trinity Episcopal Church in Apalachicola.   I love the statuary in front which commemorates John Gorrie, the inventor of the forerunner of the air conditioning machine.  Oftentimes, I hesitate to paint something because it is obscured by  foliage or other objects, as is the case with the church.  But then I remember that I can move things around. I altered the position of the tree to reveal more of the entrance to the church.   Then I eliminated some of the base of the statue so there wouldn't be so much to attract the viewer's eye.  So here is the sketch that I intend to paint tomorrow.  We'll see how it goes.