Saturday, July 26, 2014


Yesterday my friend Tracy L. who is visiting from New York City, came with me to Ocean Point because she wanted to watch me paint.  She had no idea how a watercolorist proceeds and was very attentive as I worked from light to dark, large to small, and  smooth to a more textured area in the foreground.

Early in the painting stages, a man came by and started the conversation by stating that he, too, was a painter.  But he was the kind of onlooker that I've come to know and dread over the years:  The Bore Who Came To Stay. He wanted me to look at photos of his oil paintings right when I was in the middle of a tricky wash.  Then he wanted to know how much I charged for my work, not because he was interested in buying, but because he wanted to gauge how much he should charge for his own work.  He didn't ask permission to take photos of my painting; he just barged forward and took them.

How to swat away such outdoor pests?  Sometimes, if they are standing too close, I "accidentally" splatter water on them.  I also have taken the painting off the easel to dry the first wash in the sun and purposely leave it long enough for them to get bored watching paint dry and exit.  If they begin taking photos, saying they are going to copy my work, I explain copyright laws and that they could be sued.  Then I ask them their name.

Most people are very considerate and complementary when they see an artist on location.  I enjoy chatting with interesting viewers.  Once in a while, if I really like the conversation we've had, I offer to let them pose in front of my completed painting with one of my brushes.  That never fails to draw smiles!  But sometimes The Bore Who Came To Stay will start to distract and annoy.  It's nice to have some ammo in your repertoire to shoo them away so you can get back to work!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Power of Neutrals

I'm still playing with the complementary colors red and green.  In this painting of a boatyard in East Boothbay, red and green are mixed to a neutral gray in most instances, the result being a painting largely dependent on strong values.  The two pops of pure color occur in the figures.   They stand out mainly because of the neutral grays.

Next I will switch to another complementary combination, either yellow and violet or blue and orange.  Experimenting with color will help you get over any painter's block you may be experiencing.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Complementary Colors

Red and green....Complementary colors.  Neutralized red, neutralized green, warm bridge house, warm beach, and that warm spot of red on the clam digger.  The red of the clam digger's shirt is contrasted against the green reflections in the water to his right.  Grays on the other buildings except for the bridge house which is bathed in warmer neutralized colors.  Also the footbridge itself is a neutralized red.  So basically, this painting is comprised of red and green complements, sometimes pure, but more often, the reds and greens are neutralized by the complement to form grays away from the center of interest.

The bridge house and the clam digger are both on the thirds with warmer colors, while everything on the outer edges is a neutralized gray made from those two colors. 

Complementary color schemes are only one of several subjects concerning color that I'll be teaching about at my September workshop here in Boothbay Harbor....Sept. 8th - 12th.  Please consider coming  to enjoy painting in this lovely area at a great time of year.  Contact:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Knowing the Reason

On Wednesdays, the Plein Air Painters of Maine meet in different locations around the peninsula.  Yesterday we went to Hendrick's Head Light, which we've all painted a hundred times.  So some of us painted the old Victorian house overlooking the beach.  And a couple of us chose to paint these Adirondack chairs.

Along with many other people, I love Adirondack chairs.  They're comfortable and look inviting.  But yesterday it was the light falling on these two--- on the top left corner, the up-facing arm rests, and the top of the seat---that took my breath away.

Knowing what enthralls, delights and summons you to your subject will give you a sense of purpose in your painting.  More and more often, for me it is the quality of the light that I seek to portray.

Stop for a moment and consider what it is you want to communicate.  Color and light are good places to start.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Importance of the Oblique


It's been said before:  horizontals are restful, verticals are formal and dignified, and obliques have energy.

     Obliques, which some people refer to as diagonals, guide the viewer's eyes.  Look carefully at this painting of Ocean Island, and you'll find lots of horizontals, a few verticals, and several subtle obliques.  The road is, of course, the most obvious oblique, and it guides you into the painting, stopping briefly at the focal point of the stone gate before continuing on to the trees on the island.  The bush on the left and the left side of the tree shape on the island also gently lead your eye back to the stone structure. The very small indication of some driftwood on the rocks is also an oblique pointer.    

One word of caution:  Diagonals cut things into two equal parts or shapes.  That's one reason to avoid starting them in corners.

Choose your placement of obliques carefully to come in aid of the composition.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Deciding What's Important

I have painted Fisherman's and Ram Island Lighthouse a hundred times and have always had the problem of the island competing with the foreground if I want to focus on the foreground .  The other day when I was painting it, it occurred to me that the problem was the red roofs of the keeper's houses kept drawing my eye out to the island when I really wanted to emphasize the calm waters and reflections in the foreground water.

Red is an especially powerful attention-getter.  So I just decided to eliminate the two houses out on the island.  The lighthouse became the "locater", but I subordinated it by its size and neutral hues. The larger shapes and the textures in the foreground then had a chance to take the spotlight.

Don't be afraid to eliminate some elements that are in reality there for the sake of keeping the viewer's eye on the elements that you want them to look at.