Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Way It Was

Almost everything about this painting was just "the way it really was," a statement I often hear from my students.  But I made one crucial change.  The right side of the building was white, but the front of the building was a lime green with white trim.  It looks odd in person, so I felt little obligation to paint it as it really was. 

So this is just a reminder:  If something looks odd or unnatural, do not feel compelled to paint it "accurately".  Color harmony demands repetition and some contrast, but an odd color that doesn't repeat elsewhere in the composition will strike the viewer as unbelievable, as well as being out of harmony with the rest of painting.  Keep it simple, and keep it harmonious. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Life in the Slow Lane

Sometimes I feel compelled to drive around, sometimes for hours, looking for the perfect spot to paint.  Even this winter while staying in the guest house of some friends in Naples, Florida, I still drive around town searching out an interesting venue.  Meanwhile, right off my porch is a peaceful little pond with a mermaid fountain.  I've painted her before, and yesterday I just felt like staying close to home.  So I set up my easel on the shore of the pond near a banana plant and painted a familiar subject.  

I certainly simplified the background which featured a pool cage tall enough to encase full grown palm trees.  Try to say only a couple of things in each painting.  A painting is not a portrait of a place.  You must take into consideration all the "rules" of composition, and sometimes that requires leaving out things that don't come in aid of the focal subject.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Familiar Scenes

Many times when painting en plein air, artists return to old haunts and well known scenes.  I have sometimes felt bored and frustrated that I am forced to return to a site I have painted many, many times before. 

The challenge is to paint it in a new way, or from a slightly different angle or to use different colors.
You can also take a close-up view or a long view.  A bird's eye view or a worm's eye view.  This repetition forces us to re-think the approach and what we want to convery about an old subject.

I've painted this fountain in Bayfront Plaza here in Naples four or five times.  This time I decided to take the long view.  The surrounding architecture is always interesting to me, so this time I decided to include it.  The fountain is still the star, but the supporting actors of building, palm trees, street lights and distant statue were all interesting to me.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sensing a Series

When sketching, I sometimes detect a pattern as to the subjects I choose.  This winter, I take my sketchbook with me to lunch and have found myself sketching the restaurant or the bar area.  These may later develop in a "watering hole" series which they did two years ago.  It's good to keep your hand an eye busy while waiting for the weather to cooperate for some plein air painting.

You can see in many of my drawings that I tend to make the greatest contrast in values around the focal point.  The rest of the sketch tends to fade out.  This is a technique I employ in my paintings as well.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Painting Trees

Sometimes I think that people paint their "idea" of a tree instead of a real tree.  They rely on their childhood concept of a tree  instead of observing how an individual tree is growing.  The trunks are straight and the foliage looks like a balloon. 

The other major problem concerns the way foliage is painted.  I see artists dabbing at the paper, trying to depict individual leaves.  Instead it is more desireable to paint the mass of foliage.  You can indicate the individual leaves at the edge of the mass, but leaving space between each leaf results in a spotty mess.

Also, observe the values and color changes in the  big shapes.  Some masses are warm and lighter in value because they face the sun.  Others are dark and cool because they are in the shade of other leaves.

Trunks are not one color and value either. If you think a tree's trunk and limbs are all the same value and color, you will end up with a dark brown or gray everywhere--again, a child's version.  Look, and you will see pinks and blues and greens and yellow ochres. And the values depend on the sunny and shaded sides, as well as the cast shadows.

Look at different species of trees.  Think like a portrait painter when painting a tree.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Small World

While painting at the Naples Dock this morning, a couple dropped by and started a conversation. They asked me if I had a gallery and I said I did, but it is in Maine.  They said they love Maine and go there with their boat every summer.  I asked where, and they said, Boothbay Harbor.  "That's where my gallery is!"  They said they get off their boat and go straight to Gleason Fine Art.  "That's my gallery!"  Then they said they have bought eight of Andrea Peters paintings. And the last one they bought is hanging in their boat.   "Andrea is my friend,  next-door neighbor, and her husband is my landlord!"  Absolutely the definition of "small world!"

Here is the painting I did at the City Dock this morning. 

On The Road

The sketchbook is out again.  It's too difficult when I'm en route from one location to the other, so out come the pencil and paper.  Here's a scene I sketched while my friend Connie and I were having lunch under the trees at Mar Vista Restaurant on Longboat Key, Florida.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ideas and techniques

When choosing subjects, know what about the scene appeals to you so that you can exaggerate it. 

In this view of a New York City street, it was the golden glow on the pavement.  So I then chose neutral grays  to help emphasize that colorful area.  The placement of dark values in that area also draws your eyes to the area of greatest contrast.

In other words, firmly fix your idea of the scene before you begin to paint.  Purpose precedes and determines technique.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Sketches of Life

On the way down to Bradenton, Florida, I spent the night at Homosassa Springs Resort, on the river that Winslow Homer fished and painted.  This is the view of Monkey Island from their restaurant.

I've said it before:  Take your sketchbook with you to record your journey, your experiences, the things that impress and delight you.  Maybe the sketches will someday be translated to paintings; maybe, not.  No matter.  Concentrating your attention for 20 minutes on your surroundings is what being alive is all about.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The "L" Shape

The building in this scene is an L shape on its side.  I often use this as a pointing device, in this case, having the lower part of the building point to the multi-storied part.  The boat and the truck also point to the tower.  The telephone pole also joins with the boat to form another L.  (I later rubbed the bottom of the pole so it didn't look like the pole was groing out of the top of the boat!)