Sunday, February 23, 2014

Staying Ready

Last week, I rendezvoused with some old friends in St. Petersburg, Florida.  They were driving from Tampa, and I was coming from Bradenton.  I got there first and knew it would be a bit of a wait before they arrived.  Down by The Pier, I spotted a small regatta getting ready for their sail.  Their boats were on the beach, sails raised, waiting the signal that they had enough wind to launch. When I travel, I always pack the car so that my painting gear is readily available, so I was able to quickly set up my easel and begin to paint.

If you make your supplies reachable, you are more likely to use them when an unexpected opportunity presents itself.  By contrast, if you have to unpack the suitcases to get to your equipment, you will find a handy excuse not to paint.  If you keep your sketchbook in the car, you can also record a fleeting scene while waiting.

So stay ready!  You never know when a great little scene will present itself!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

In the Footsteps of the Masters

Last fall, I blogged from Chadd's Ford, Pennsylvania where I went to the Brandywine Museum to see the works of Andrew Wyeth.  While there, I also toured his studio and the Kuerner Farm where he painted.  Working from reference photos when I got home, I did my own version of the farm as it is today. 

Now I'm in Homosassa right on the river and creek where Winslow Homer painted.  There are even inexpensive prints of his work on the walls of my motel room.

I love to see the locations where great artists, especially watercolorists, painted their works.  When I was in Provence one summer, I was amazed to see that Vincent van Gogh didn't exaggerate the colors he saw.  In Venice, it was like walking the streets with John Singer Sargent.  And the hot lavenders of Joaquin Sorolla were everywhere in central Spain. And also last summer, I actually found John Pike's old studio and house.  Those woods looked awfully familiar!

One of these days, I'd like to see Georgia O'Keefe country.  Anybody game?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Straight Line, Broken Line

For many years, I thought that a perfectly straight line was necessary to produce an accurate edge.  But straight, uninterrupted lines are boring.  Broken lines or lines that pop up from their "straightness" are much more interesting. 

To achieve a straight line, I always chose a flat brush.  Now I find that using a round brush allows me to vary the edge because it is harder to hold the straight line if you are using the tip of a round brush. 

The broken line or edge provides a staccato rhythm that contrasts with the smooth unbroken passage of a straight line.  Contrast is needed.  If most lines are straight, adding a broken line or edge will provide relief.  If there is too much nervous energy from employing mostly broken lines, throw in a couple of very straight edges. 

Looking at this painting of the clock tower on Historic Bridge Street on Anna Maria Island, you will see not-so-straight edges in many places.  I wanted to avoid having the painting look like an illustration.  The negative space behind the bottom of the tower and the railing was the place to leave some bumpy edges. 

I think there is more movement in this painting because of the number of broken lines. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Working in a Series

A couple of weeks ago when I did a painting of the Apalachicola Bridge from below, I got lots of complimentary comments.  So today, when I went to Cocquina Beach on Anna Maria Island, Florida, I decided to paint the Longboat Key bridge and beach.  It was a lovely warm day, and the paint dried quickly.  I didn't bother with a preliminary drawing; I just did the first wash and started to paint in layers with no pencil guidelines.  I enjoyed the process and the freedom of painting without so much drawing ahead of time.

I still have some time here south of Tampa before my thoughts must turn northward.  But 75 degree temperatures make the frigid north seem like a fairy tale.  Unfortunately, soon I may have to fend off the cold like most of my friends north of the Mason-Dixon Line. 

Happy Painting!

Thursday, February 6, 2014


One of the most common problems I see in my students' work is depicting the greens in foliage.  The tendency is to overmix the greens on the palette which results in a dull, flat looking shape. There are several ways to avoid this problem.

Blue and yellow make green.  Use different blues and yellows in various combinations.  The variety of plants and trees will suggest which ones are bluer and which lean toward the yellow side.

Mix the blues and yellows on the paper.  Wet in wet will help mingle the two colors.

Remember that yellow is the first color to disappear in the distance.  The farther the foliage is from the foreground, the bluer and lighter will the trees appear.

When you place a green on the paper, pick up an earth tone or add a touch of violet for variety.

Try not to drag the brush to create too much texture.  Think shapes of foliage rather than individual leaves.  Show texture at the edge of the shape.

Look carefully at the color in front of you.  Pine needles can be green, but when they start to die, they turn orange.  Use both colors.  Observe before you paint!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Complementary Colors

Surrounding a color with its complement is one of those exercises that is very popular in art classes.  A red square surrounded by a green field will intensify the red.  A yellow square framed by a violet square will intensify the yellow.  An orange piece embedded in a blue field will emphasize the orange.

But sometimes we forget to apply the information we get with these exercises in our paintings.  Choosing local colors often pre-empts applications of color knowledge.  Using arbitrary colors for the purpose of intensifying pure color areas often results in more interesting paintings than using accurate colors.

In this painting of a jellyfish, I chose to emphasize the fish by using the complements orange and blue.  I used a cool blue--thalo-- and an ultramarine blue which has a bit more red in it to surround the orange.  That gives the orange an extra pop that gives extra intensity.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Negative Painting

Putting down a light wash of varying colors is easy.  Finding objects by painting the darker background is negative painting.  In this painting, I used warm colors around the focal point and then painted darker background values in cooler colors.    As the values got lighter, I also used more neutral colors as I worked outward to the edges of the paper.  The higher contrast of color and values were then around the focal area.