Sunday, September 30, 2012

Limited Palette

This is the lobster pound next to Knickercane Island.  For years when I painted it literally, it was most unsatisfying.  Using local colors and adhering to actual colors, I failed at making a clear statement about the subject.  The sky was blue, the trees were green, is the building.  And that's the way I painted it.
I often wished that the building was painted another color so it wouldn't so closely match the trees behind it.

One day, the lightbulb went on.  What if the owners painted their shack white?  Then I could paint it white and it would stand out among the green trees in the background and form a more interesting shape!  So I made the decision to paint it white.  I also decided to render the trees in colors that were more in unity with the colors elsewhere in the painting.  Soon I had a limited palette that helped unify the painting in a way that literalism had failed to do.

Try a limited palette on a familiar subject.  Then try another limited combination.  Always consider the rights of the picture over literalism.

Tomorrow I start the wandering journey home to St. Louis.  If I find something interesting to paint or sketch, and I have the time, I'll post from the road!

Monday, September 24, 2012


The themes for this summer's paintings have been color and movement.  How do you make a two dimensional surface "move"?  I'm beginning to explore the curve as one element.  Curving lines are more dynamic by nature. The eye is swept along the edge of the curve more than it is by a straight, unbroken line. 

See if you can feel the movement of this breaking wave, the line of rocks, and the undulation of the broken surf.

Friday, September 21, 2012

You Just Have to Paint

Sometimes, you just  have to paint.  It's important to reflect on how to paint, what to  paint, why to paint or if to paint.  But mostly, it's just important to decide to paint.  No matter your mood, your philosophy, your need for money, your need for recognition..... If you don't have the fire in your belly to paint, you still have to paint because it's just what you do.  Painting defines you, gives you direction, makes you focused, and reminds you of who you are and why you get up in the morning.  I love the feel of the brush in my hand, the glide of the brush across the paper, and the thoughts in my head while I paint.  And that's why I just have to paint.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


In this painting at Cozy Harbor, I had about 25 boats to choose from.  I decided on three lobster boats.  The first important decision was to group them.  The second decision was to overlap them to form an interesting shape.  Then I painted around them to leave a white shape.  Finally, I wanted to show them in various positions to give some variety and movement to them.

I also decided early to leave the white sail on the left.  Its purpose is to break the long unbroken straight shoreline.  It also serves as an eye "stopper", keeping the viewer from wandering off the page. The buoy marker, antennae and stabilizer sail on the third boat also break up the straight lines and provide a stopper on the right shoreline.

You need to think about composition early on for the painting to work.  That will free you to paint freely.

Look for ways to repeat and group similar objects so that the viewer will know what your painting is all about.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


On the opening day of my Boothbay Harbor Workshop, I reminded students that the best way to achieve a breakthrough is to approach painting as play.   While this painting is no masterpiece, it was my response to a playful creation of a fellow artist here in Boothbay.

Mike Lewis is a fun-loving, wildly creative fellow.  His car is loaded down with coconut shells with painted faces, hubcaps, fishing tackle and netting, propellors, and other accessories.  So yesterday when I took my class to the newly built dock at Cozy Harbor and looked out at the small cove, I spotted a kind of Rube Goldberg craft that made me laugh outloud.

Two canoes had been tied together to form a kind of pontoon boat.  As small as it was, it sported three masts with some rather uncoventional sails.  Hung from various points on the boat were propellors, wind indicators, an orange life ring, flags, weathervanes and an umbrella on the stern.  The giveaway was a whale's head on the bowsprit.  Mike's signature flat sculpture is a whale with stones embedded in the mouth as teeth.  I just had to paint it!

Here is my less than serious depiction of Mike's floating Rube Goldberg!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Day 3 of my Boothbay Harbor Workshop.  Today we went to one of my favorite locations:  Brown's Wharf, which overlooks the working waterfront.  At first I thought my lesson on saving whites and establishing alternation might really confound the students, but they rose to the occasion, and most painted their best painting of the week so far.  Strange, because the subject matter was so complicated and texturally rich.

Saving a river of white that flows through the painting starts with carving out a big white shape and then eventually cutting into it with midtones and darks.  The goal is to create a checkerboard effect, alternating between dark and light (white)  If you add a midtone, each white shape should be touched by a midtone and a dark.

Here's my demo.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Surf Paintings

Painting surf believably is a difficult thing to do.  Since the waves don't hold still, it requires long looks to determine what is actually happening.  First I watch the top of the wave.  The next time the inside of the wave.  Then the reflection of the wave, and then the foam.  Sometimes the  wave will curl beautifully, but that can turn into a parody of a wave pretty quickly.  Other times the wave will crash into a returning wave and the color disappears into a wall of white water.  I love to watch the spray coming off the top of the wave, too.

Here are two surf paintings of Ocean Point.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Spot of Red

Every time I go to Brown's Wharf, I look at two things:  the red English telephone booth, and the old red Texaco gas pump.  Red attracts our eyes, as it does bulls and hummingbirds. 

I have a friend named Mark Mellor here in Boothbay Harbor who always includes a spot of red in his paintings. Alvaro Castagnet likes to fill his paper with red paint, especially in interiors.  I was always afraid of red because of its aggressive nature.  You just can't ignore it, so you'd better make sure that what ever it is describing is worthy of all the attention it's going to get!