Monday, September 30, 2013

Arbitrary Color Choices

                                     "Sample's Pier"

Many times when I'm painting on location, people will stop and comment, "Ooooo....I love your colors!"  Some people may think, "The sky doesn't look that color." or "That building is gray; why are you painting it blue?" but I don't hear those reactions. 

I identify with the folks who say they love the color because color is a reason I paint.  Yesterday, the sun was warm after a week of gray, cold weather, and so I responded with a warm orange sky.  Since blue is the complement of orange, I used it on the buildings and pilings.  So this painting is just as much about the vibrating complementary colors as it is about a dock shack.

Today is my last day in Maine for the 2013 season.  I shall miss my days painting beside the ocean.  I love this place and its people.  Maybe that's as much the cause for the bright, happy color choices I made yesterday. 

See you all on the road!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Leaving Maine

Sorry I haven't been heard from much these past few days, but I have had router problems and haven't been able to post anything.  And it's a beautiful day here, but I must spend it packing the car to avoid packing in the rain on Monday.  But I'd rather be painting!

So this looks like the last painting of my Maine summer.  Never fear, though; I'm wandering home for about a week and a half, and hope to be able to paint along the way.  I'll keep the easel on top of the suitcases and try to squeeze in one or two, or three or four paintings from my travels.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Going With Your Gut

When painting with the Wednesday Painters in Boothbay Harbor last week, we were positioned near the iconic bridge house on the footbridge across Boothbay Harbor.  Everybody was painting the bridge house, but I turned to my right to the end of the harbor and saw the old clapboard houses with their sides lit up by the early morning light.  Try as I might to paint the building that is more identifiable with Boothbay Harbor, I kept coming back to the light on the side of those other structures.

So, I painted them.  And when I was finished, not one, but two people wanted to buy it! 

More often than not, these days when I arrive at a painting location, I look around to see what really appeals to me, not what should appeal to me.  If I go with my gut instinct, I think I have more invested in the experience of painting. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

For Better or Worse

When designing a composition, I am acutely aware of creating interesting negative shapes. In this painting of a scene near my favorite hot dog stand in Boothbay Harbor, trace your finger along the line where the sky meets the buildings and the islands, and you'll see that the sky shape and the land shapes are jig-sawed, and therefore, interesting.  I made a small but important change right at the end when I realized that the roofline on the foreground right building leads the eye off the page.  So I looked up and saw that there was a building behind it that could provide an eye-stopper as well as make the sky shape more interesting. Better.

The electrical fixtures and wires, as well as the rigging on the boat are not shapes, but do provide some textural relief to an otherwise static sky.  Better.

Figures always claim attention, and the placement of the man in the rowboat is enhanced by its contrasting surrounding of light values.  He is also surrounded by pilings, rocks, another boat and an island in which he becomes a sort of bull's-eye.

Design deliberately for maxim impact.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Shadowy Business

"Chimney Pond, Mt. Katahdin, Maine" 
For the past month, much of my painting has been a kind of series, not of particular things or scenes, but rather focused on shadows falling on things.  Shadows on roads, shadows on rocky ledges, shadows across beaches.  Here's a painting of late afternoon shadows falling across Mt. Katahdin at Chimney Pond.

Working in a series will open your eyes.  You will begin to see things that might have previously escaped your notice.  Find something that gives you pleasure or meaning and I can guarantee you it will result in a series of experiences and paintings that memorialize those moments and feelings.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mixing Color on the Paper

                                "The End of Newagen"

I love these two rocks at the end of Southport Island, Maine at Cape Newagen.  I've painted them in sun, rain, fog, and overcast.  Since this year I'm adding more color to my rocks, the challenge is to do a bold and colorful underpainting.  I limited my palette to cobalt mixed with Quin Gold for the tree tones,  and cobalt mixed with Quin red, and then adding Quin Gold for the rocks. 

So by limiting the palette, and varying the percentages of the colors, you get a variety of hues, but still achieve a harmony of color because you use the same three colors almost everywhere on the page.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Workshop -- Day 3

This day found my class literally in a fog!  But by the time I finished my demo, the fog had lifted and they were off and running.

Painting out of your comfort zone is always nerve wracking.  But I wanted them to at least think that there are other possibilities to approach a jumble of subject matter. 

The real scene had so many elements in it that it could be overwhelming.  So I asked them to pick one or two elements to emphasize.  I gave them one big hint, too: Forget the trees in the background. At tree-top level, they formed a rectangular shape with a straight line at the top.  Design the scene as a whole piece without encapsulating it with dark tree shapes.  Then it becomes more like a vignette,  in which the jumble of stuff touches three of the four edges of the paper.

I began by sketching in the scene, but quickly put down a first wash that ignored those lines.  The second wash was the midtone that started to find the big shape of the wharf and church.  Finally I started picking out some darks and textures to draw your eye towards the boat and its surroundings.

The key step, though, was the bold color application in the first wash.

Here's the scene and my renditions, both a half sheet version, and then a full sheet that began without a pre-planned drawing.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Workshop - Day 1

Excitement and nervousness mix on the first day of any workshop.  I began by giving a pep talk, and then doing some quick demos of value ranges, color mixing on the paper, and making suggestions about grays, greens and violets that could be used at our first location.

The day was sunny, but cold and windy.  I did my demo, and then the students had lunch (delivered by my able assistant Betsy Smith), but after doing their thumbnail sketches and drawing on the watercolor paper, we all trekked back to the studio and they painted inside, sans cold and wind. 

Critique followed, and I was very encouraged to see that attention was paid to the suggestions on technique that I had offered. 

Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer, and somewhere in Maine tomorrow, it may hit 90!  I look forward to the wild swing in temperature!

Here is the location where we painted, Hendrick's Head Lighthouse on Southport.

Monday, September 2, 2013


The theme of the last few weeks is August light.  The angle of the sun is slanting more and more.  The shadows are longer and more dramatic.  I look for that in every scene.

The high horizon line in this painting allows the land to dominate.  The light on the hill and the road are the "stars" in this painting, created by the shadows.

Values play a big part in the focal point of this painting as does the spot of red on the house. The foreground tree stops the eye as other lines lead to the house on the hill.

Most of the colors in this painting are grayed or "broken" so that they are grayed.  That allows the light areas to shine in their more pure states.

Values, colors, lines.