Thursday, June 28, 2012

Windjammer Day

The annual Windjammer Days festival is held here in Boothbay Harbor at the end of every June.  This year the weather was rather threatening, but it remained dry all day.  I spent the day restaurant hopping so as to have the best view of the ships entering the harbor. Sketching and photographing was the best way to go due to large crowds. 

Keep that sketchbook handy!

Sunday, June 24, 2012


One of the major problems with painting plein air is deciding on color schemes. How many colors will you use and to what purpose?  If there are green leaves in the upper corner but green does not repeat anywhere else, you are creating a spot of disunity.  Taking the liberty to use color as a unifying factor requires deliberation and decision making to limit the number of colors to achieve a satisfying result. 

In this painting of Little River Beach near my cottage, I chose to push the color temperature to the warm side, using yellow ochre, raw sienna and burnt sienna.  To contrast that, smaller areas of blue were included in the first wash to provide relief and heighten the purity of the warm colors.  To create the dead fallen tree, I painted the negative space around it.  But because the first wash went over both the tree and the background, they had a commonality that created unity.

Select colors that unify rather than for their local color accuracy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wednesday Group

Here in Maine, we're expecting three straight days of 90 degree heat.  So the Wednesday Plein Air group painted at Grimes Cove at Ocean Point today.  I found a shady spot where I could catch a little breeze. 

Rocks are hard to paint.  Folks who haven't really looked at Maine rocks sometimes paint them round and soft looking.  I always look for the angular structure and hard edges to define their hardness.  Also, I also look for ways to link the shadows.  Colors go from warm to cool, so finding ways to place blues next to burnt siennna heightens the color quality.

Now I'm going to retreat to my dock with a cold drink to await the sea breeze that comes with the change of tide.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Arbitrary Color

"Well, Carol, That's the way it was."  In my workshops, this statement may be the most used explanation of color choices in paintings.  Trees are green, skies are blue and rocks are gray or brown.  If your goal is literalism or illustration, that's fine, but it sure doesn't say much about the color preferences of the artist and the feelings they produce.

Arbitrary..definition:    Depending on individual discretion and not fixed by law.  Determined by individual preferences rather than the instrinsic nature of things.

Choosing colors that please and that glow and that create unity should override any obedience to local color.  So trees can be red or purple, skies can be orange or violet, and rocks can be yellow.  You are the artist, and you get to decide! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Interlocking Shapes

Interlocking shapes are like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle: one positive shape fits into a negative shape.  In this case, the two pieces are the background shape (negative) and the pier and boat shape (positive).  If you trace your finger around the pier, the shack and the boat, you'll see that the shape interlocks with the rest of the painting by poking into that space.  In addition, the positive shape is an oblique which contrasts with the horizontals in the background and the foreground water.

The best shapes, Edgar Whitney maintained, are longer in one direction,interlocking and oblique.  Design deliberately, with this in mind.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Boothbay Harbor

This sketch of Boothbay Harbor nearly cost me dearly.  I had just had lunch at a dockside restaurant and was working on the sketch when a gust of wind lifted the top half of the umbrella with its heavy wooden pole and metal attachment which then crashed down on my head!  Luckily, a doctor and her husband were having lunch at the table next to me and came to my aid.  She pronounced me okay but predicted a knot on my head which has now appeared.  The price we pay for our art!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

First of the Season

On Wednesdays here in Boothbay Harbor, the Plein Air Painters of Maine meet at various locations around the peninsula.  This was my first Wednesday since I've returned.  It was good to be painting again with close friends whom I've known for years.  I chose to paint this woodshed.  I was reminded of my lessons before I left St. Louis, and decided to use the complementary color scheme, an easy choice since the pine trees were green and the fallen needles were red!

It's good to have the first one out of the way.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pure Colors vs. Neutral Colors

Now that the trip is over, I'm back to watercolor.  This one exemplifies what I was saying about complementary colors before the trip.  It also illustrates the fact that, in a mostly neutral color scheme, the pure color accents attract the viewer's eye.

Let me remind you, too, that my Maine workshop is scheduled for September 10-14.  Enrollment is limited to 16, so sign up soon!  For more information, you can request an online brochure by emailing me at  


Saturday, June 2, 2012

After 1,500 miles, I'm finally back in my beloved Maine.  And if ever there is an iconic landmark of this state, it's Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine. 

The weather has been so beautiful, but now we're in for 3-6 inches of rain over the next few days, so I may not be able to paint for a while.  Thanks for your patience and your support!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Motif #1

You can't leave Rockport without sketching or painting Motif #1.