Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

This is the Catholic Church in Apalachicola, Florida.  But I love the old live oak in the foreground.
Again I've used the red-green contrast.  The red-orange tiled roof is warm with the rest of the painting fairly cool by contrast. 

Say hello to the New Year by getting out your paints and starting fresh.  Resolution?  Paint more in 2016! 

Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Achieving a Sense of Depth

If you want to achieve depth in your landscapes, I suggest overlapping planes and value differences.

In this painting of a canyon in Turkey Run State Park in Indiana, the darker foreground overlaps the lighter, steep rocky wall in the distance.  The overlap and the receding values emphasize the coolness of the canyon before it opens up into the light.

A third way to achieve a feeling of depth is to have the distant tones become more cool as they fade into the distance.  However, this painting gets warmer in the background which opens up the vista.

Think of values first and color second.  Overlapping is a great tool to accomplish the sense of distance.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Linking the Darks

Linking darks is one way to create more interesting shapes.  It can also help lead the eye around the painting as well as stop the eye.

In this painting of another Parke County bridge, the foreground shadow leads into the dark reflections in the water.  That takes you up to the reflection of the bridge and then to the dark shape of the bridge.  Linking the bridge to the dark trees prevents the shape from becoming a boring rectangle.  It also tends to stop the viewer's eye, sending it back to the bridge.

I've become more aware of the importance of darks in my compositions.  Students have a difficult time committing to darks or using enough paint to achieve a dark value.  In watercolor, the old ad that said, A little dab'll do ya  does not apply!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Bridges of Parke County

I've travelled to Parke County, Indiana several times.  There are more covered bridges in this county than any other in the United States.  In my series featuring bridges, I've shifted my attention from Acadia to Indiana's covered bridges.

Not only has the form changed, but the textures have, too.  Acadia's bridges are made of stone; covered bridges are made of wood.  The textures in the Acadian forests have been replaced by more simplified shapes in the landscape of Indiana.

The complementary colors still apply, though.  Pink has given way to barn red which is a nice foil to the different values of green.

I love bridges!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Change of Seasons

In the continuing series of the Bridges of Acadia, I decided to change the season from summer to winter.  I put most of the scene in shadow to cast a spotlight on the bridge and the foreground trees.

Look at some of your old paintings to see if they could benefit from a change of seasons.

And Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2015


Verticals portray stability and formality.  Horizontals convey peace and harmony.  Obliques (some call them diagonals) create tension and interest. 

I try to incorporate obliques in some portion of most of my paintings.  Once in a while it helps to include a shape that zig-zags through the painting.  This not only creates tension; it can also be a pathway to various points of interest around the painting. 

The light shape in this painting leads the eye from the lower right to the little falls back to the figure and then up to the pink rock wall.  Several verticals stop the eye and return it to the zig-zag shape.

Compositional considerations are the components of good picture making.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Painting in a Series

There are advantages and disadvantages in painting in a series.  Advantages include not having to decide on a subject.  You can concentrate on composition.  Color becomes less of a problem because you can draw on choices you made in the previous works. In the series The Bridges of Acadia, I was able to explore the contrasts of the complementary colors red and green.  Using pink helped set off the dominant greens. 

Disadvantages also come with repeating those two colors and the subject.  As you become more comfortable with developing color choices and applying them to your subject, there also comes the risk of becoming rather formulaic.  So deciding when to end a series will keep you on your toes and lead you to new explorations of color as well as subject matter.

Still, I like to paint bridges.  Maybe next I'll attack the trite subject of covered bridges.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Value of the Value Sketch

I continue to say it:  Plan your watercolors with a value sketch.  Know where your lights, midtones and darks will be so you can plan your painting strategy.  Here's another carriage road bridge in Acadia National Park.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Achieving Depth

Here's another in my series of  paintings of Acadia National Park.  One of the unique features in the park is the carriage roads built by John D. Rockefeller.  The stone bridges are a charming focal point of the roads.  This one is at the northern end of Bubble Pond.

Value, color and overlapping planes help achieve the feeling of depth in this painting.  The distant trees are light and cool, forming a shape with very little texture.  The  nearer trees are well defined and darker silhouettes.  The bridge is overlapped by the birch tree in the foreground.

The pinkish tones of the bridge and the road contrast with the cooler tones of the woods, pushing the structure forward. 

The shadows across the road keep your eyes on the area under and beyond the bridge.  And of course, looking past or through something always helps to  create a feeling of depth.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Leading the Viewer's Eye

In this depiction of shoreline flotsam and jetsam, the focal point is the driftwood and small tidal pool. I decided to use line, color and values to lead the eye to that area. 

Examine the lines first.  The small foreground rocks, the seaweed, and the shadows all lead to the driftwood.  The warm color in the seaweed, as well as its darker value, also draw attention to the log and the little pool of water.  The values in the distant rocks serve to emphasize the big flat light rock. The foreground shadow in the lower right hand corner helps direct the eye to the lighter area of the beach. 

Design with purpose!

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Power of the Oblique

In this painting of a lake in Acadia National Park, the fall colors are an obvious subject.  However the scene becomes a compositional challenge which I solved through the use of line, specifically the obliques. 

Study the lines that point and link areas.  The birch tree trunk acts as a stop sign (see previous entry).

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Stopping the Eye

Sometimes we inadvertently include lines that point off the painting surface.  Our eyes need a stop sign to keep them from wandering over to the edge of the page. 

In this painting of Otter Cliffs in Acadia National Park, I wanted the emphasis to be on the breaking surf and the flat rocks catching the light.  On the left the vertical rock formation stops the eye as does the foliage.  On the right the tree is the stop sign.  Also to keep them from forming a "goal post" look, I angled one of them inward toward the center of interest.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Value Studies

When I have time, I like to do value sketches.  That gives me a road map for what I need to paint first, second and third. Here are some value studies from my trip to Acadia National Park.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Advance, Retreat

Warm colors advance, cool colors recede.   The rocks in this painting reflect that time-honored maxim. 

The first wash was very simple in shape.  The second wash defined the rocks.  Still, the underpainting defined the warm foreground and the cool background shapes. I mixed the colors on the page rather than on my palette.

Also, there were contrasts in the verticals and horizontals. 

This coming weekend I'll be in Acadia National Park painting these very rocks!  I can't wait!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Trouble With Greens

                                   "The Sunken Garden"

Of all the colors on a watercolorist's palette, it seems that greens give us the most trouble.  Oftentimes, I see my students produce repetitious greens that are dull and lack life. 

Many times I will begin foliage with a wash of yellow.  That will be the base light wash.  On top of this you can place blues (because blue and yellow make green), mixed greens, warm greens, and violets. 

It also helps to find ways to gradate the foliage from light to midtones to darks.  Study the upper right hand corner of this painting and you'll see what I mean.

If you are balancing two masses of greens, it is helpful to make one side dark and the other lighter; make one side warm and the other cool; and one side larger in shape than the other.

And don't forget that the complement of green is red.  The pinkish tone of the brick sidewalk provides a perfect foil for all that green. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Breaking the Lines

                                   The Clark Cottage

A straight, unbroken line is boring.  I look for ways to interrupt the line to provide variety and create a shape that interlocks with its surroundings.

For example, look at the top and bottom of the tree shape.  The top line is broken by popping up some trees and varying the intervals between them.  If it were a straight line, it would also create a sky shape that is a triangle.

The bottom of the treeline is broken by the houses which also avoid forming a straight line. 
The houses themselves break both at the top and especially at the bottom where the largest cottage protrudes from the rest.

Also study the rocks and you'll see that I broke lines there also.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


                                 "Leading the Parade"

For the past few months, I've been concentrating on the first stage of the painting process.  Wet-into-wet in the first stage provides a contrast to the hard edges to come in the second stage.  When soft, wet-into wet areas predominate, the hard edges stand out in contrast, providing a focal area.  You can also use brush stroke directions in the wet-into-wet areas to indicate movement.  In this painting of a tug boat leading the windjammers into the harbor, the brush strokes are mimicking the obliques of the sails.  The water is also gradated with the wet-into-wet technique.  Some of the sails are described with hard edges while others are 'lost' in soft edges. 

I used to use a large brush to achieve the wet-into-wet technique, but now I use a small natural sponge to pre-wet the paper.  The paint seems to soak in better once the sponge removes the sizing on the paper.  The second stage must be applied when the paper is completely dry to accomplish the hard edges.

Monday, September 7, 2015


                                   Rocks at Grimes Cove

To get the feel of sunlight, you have to paint the shadows.  In this painting of the rocks at Grimes Cove on Ocean Point, I started with an underpainting that described the basic shapes of the rocks while varying the colors from orange to blue, contrasting and complementary colors.  On the second pass, I placed emphasis on the contrasting values.  The shadow sides of the rocks and their cast shadows contrast with the lighter tones on the beach.  The dark reflections in the water also contrast with the light, sunny area of the beach. 

This scene never gets old because I love the challenge of using it to explore different goals. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Letting the Light In

Yesterday I found a photo I took during my trip to Jackson, New Hampshire that I thought I would paint.  The unrelieved area of trees, however, made more of a static, rectangular shape.  Since the stream is in the White Mountains, I decided to leave a portion in the upper left to help identify the location.

I also moved the rock that was in front of the fly fisherman.

Here is the photo and the painting.

Friday, September 4, 2015


                                             Barrett's Park

In this painting done in my workshop last week, the subject is the red canoe. Leading the eye towards the craft was the challenge.

First, I chose to make the canoe red, a color that always draws attention.  More important, I had several elements that pointed to the canoe:  the treeline, the wall, the shoreline, the clumps of seaweed left at the high tide line.  Looking over something is another way to frame a composition so that the viewer's eye will be directed to the focal point.

I know this spot well, but didn't paint it on-site due to a rainy day.  I felt free to devise strategies that would frame and point to the canoe.  So, don't always depict what's there.....Use your compositional skills to subtly lead the eye to where you want it to go.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Painting Trees

                                   "Knickercane Island"

A landscape painter should be fairly well versed in how to paint trees.

Learn how to overlap simple washes to create a feeling of depth in background foliage masses.

Silhouette nearer trees.

Highlight foreground trees with color, size and texture.

Study other landscape painters you admire to see how they render trees.

My annual Maine workshop is over.  We had a great day yesterday at Knickercane Island painting....what else?   Trees!

Thursday, August 27, 2015


This is my annual workshop week here in Boothbay Harbor.  The weather hasn't been very cooperative, so we've been painting in the studio.  One of my students brought some photos she had taken of rowboats.  I was particularly drawn to one with a dark cast shadow on the beach.  Since I had just given a lecture about clearly stating dark values, I chose to paint that rowboat.  But, I invented the rest of the scene: the bottom of a fish shack, rocks, the two buoys, and the schooner out in the bay.

After years of painting the Maine coast, I have a repertoire of items that I can draw upon to add to a scene that needs a little jazzing up for compositional reasons.  Keeping a sketchbook to record objects and lighting effects has helped.  Practice your drawing!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Painting a Poem

This past weekend I was invited to be part of an outdoor exhibit at the home of friend and fellow artist Jan Kilburn.  Before I left home, I decided that I would paint the barn across the road from Jan's house and gallery, but I needed some chickens in the foreground so I sketched a few from photos.

However, once I arrived at Jan's to begin the paint-out, I spotted a red wheel barrow, and it immediately brought to mind a poem I learned my senior year of high school:

So much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

            ----- William Carlos Williams

So, I painted a poem! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Waiting For The Light

Every year, I anticipate the special light of August here in Maine.  The shadows lengthen and seem to deepen.  I begin to see familiar scenes I hadn't noticed before because of the way the shadows fall on and around them.  For instance, this scene is one I see every day when I go to the East Boothbay Post Office to pick up my mail.  But the day I went to Popham Beach, I saw it in the early morning light with the shadows falling on the white houses.  I quickly snapped a photo before my long drive south.

I've said it before and often:  Sunlight is best defined by the darks.  Be bold in the first wash.  Don't be fooled by the white of the paper into thinking it will be too dark;  you can always go darker in the next washes. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Popham Beach

1.  The Sky:     I wetted the surface of the paper thoroughly with a natural sponge.  That kept the area
wet longer.  I painted the clouds and their shadows first, then cut around them with a variety of blues.

2.  The Beach:   In both the sandy part of the beach and the grasses bordering it, I went from rough textures to smooth.  The only detailed grasses are in the foreground; then
individual  clusters of grass, and out by the buildings, the grass was one big shape.  As I painted the grass, I was constantly switching from warm to cool, wet in wet.

3.  The Buildings:  I left the white paper on the sunlit side of the buildings.  Study the shapes there, and you'll see that there are a variety of shapes:  triangles, rectangles, and a backwards "L" shape.  I also left a bit of untouched white paper on the beach to help it relate to the buildings. 

Popham Beach is a great place to visit even if you are not a painter.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


                                 "Popham Beach"  15" X 22"

Capturing the feeling of sunlight is sometimes difficult, mostly because of our fear of committing to dark values.  It is the contrast between these light and dark values that is the best way to convey sunlight.

In this painting of some buildings in Popham Beach, Maine, the cast shadows on the roof and from the building on the left explain the direction of the light.  The cast shadows on the road also create a shape of light values that begins on the side of the building and then flows down to the roadway.  Squint your eyes and you will see that the light shape is an interesting pattern that interweaves with the dark values of the shadow areas.  It is this contrast that is central to creating the feeling of sunlight.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Seeing Past the Familiar

While having breakfast early this morning, I looked up and saw the long dark shadows crossing my backyard lawn with the light in the cove beyond.  This is the view I see every morning, but now that August light has arrived, it seems much more crisp and dramatic.  I got out my sketchbook and quickly mapped out the values.  Then I did the line drawing, and after lunch, it was off to the races!

Learning to see in values takes practice.  That's why the value sketch is so important; it helps you to see how to compose the scene with values first and color second.

I took great joy in sketching this scene this morning, as well as looking with joy at the light falling on the foliage.  This scene is so familiar that I could have dismissed it as too familiar.  Paint what you love!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Waiting For A Subject To Appear

Many times I arrive at a location that I know well, and may have preconceived notions about what I will paint and how I will paint it.  But other times, as I told my students yesterday, I will wait a bit and see what happens or what shows up before deciding what the real subject in the scene will be.

At this location a couple of years ago, it was a woman walking her dog when a flock of geese flew by overhead.  Yesterday, I was setting up to give my students a lesson when who comes wandering by but Carlton Plummer who lives just up the road and around the corner from my summer cottage.  Carlton set up his easel on the rocky beach and began to paint, so at that moment I decided that I should paint him into the scene.

Figures often animate a landscape that would otherwise be rather lifeless and bland.  Don't rule them out as an intrusion into the beauty of nature; rather include them as an element that gives scale and interest to the locale.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

From Value Sketch To Painting

In the last entry, I posted two sketches of my cove.  Here is the painting I created using one of them.

The value sketch is the place to figure out where your light, midtone, and dark areas will be.  It makes decisions easier about what to paint first, (light areas), second, (midtones) and last (dark areas and accent details.)  Don't confuse a value sketch with a drawing.  Drawings focus mainly on lines, not shapes of lights, midtones and darks.

                                                         Value Sketch

Line Drawing

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Painting In A Series

My summer cottage is at the end of a long cove.  There is a working dock across the way, and some of the debris from the fisherman's gear has washed up on the bank across the road.  An old rowboat has been washed over for a couple of years.  The remnants of a collapsed dock has also been rearranged by the rising and falling tides.  Old pine trees hang over the cove, casting their shadows and dropping the occasional branch on the mud flat. An old bucket is half submerged in the mud.  This may look like trash to some, but to me, it is part of the charm of Maine.

I took the various elements and placed them where I thought they would enhance a composition.  Here are the first two value studies in a series I'll call "Flotsam and Jetsam".  Paintings to follow.....

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Trees and Reflections

                            22" X 30"  - "Quiet Cove"

Once again the problem of being bold with dark values came into play.  I put down the wet-into-wet areas, then came forward with the light background trees, then the darker tree silhouettes, and finally the major trees in the foreground.  The shaded sides of the two trees on the left required a dark value on the left side and some cast shadows of different colors falling on the main trunks.  The values in the reflection also demanded some darks.  The problem is that some students are a bit timid about the darks, and again, don't have enough paint to create them. 

The clue is to place the midtones first so that the darks won't be so jarring.  Look at the highlighted part of the water and then look at the gradual approach to that area.  Putting down a dark value in a very light area is always scary because the contrast is too extreme.  Leading into a highlighted area by laying down a midtone gives you a chance to gradate to the highlight.

Also, with reflections;  be careful not to make a straight line mirror image of the object casting the reflection.  No matter how calm the water, there is still going to be some wiggle to the reflection.

A quick reminder:  My annual Maine workshop will be held from August 24th - 28th.  Tuition is still $400 for the full week.  Some openings for the first three days remain.  For a supply list or more information, email me at

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Removing Objects - Part 2

                            Wilson Chapel at Ocean Point

I have painted this chapel on Ocean Point numerous times, and always reported the fact that it was next to a large summer cottage.  I took great care to draw the complicated angles of the house next door.  The structure of the chapel was fairly easy to depict.  The problem, then, was always that the cottage began to assume the same importance as the chapel.

This time I decided to take my own advice and eliminate the cottage.  I also moved the foreground pine tree a bit closer to the entrance for compositional reasons. 

So let me reiterate:  Be willing to move or even eliminate anything that complicates the scene.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Eliminating Objects For Effect

                                     "Glen Cove"

I have a friend who laughingly commented that it's against the law to remove vegetation within 100 feet of the shoreline.  In this scene, painted from my dock here in Maine, I love the key tree, the rocks and their reflections.  In truth, there are a lot more trees and deep, dark woods, but I wanted the sense of looking through them to the sunlit grass on the far side.  I felt free to alter the scene slightly to emphasize the stars of the scene.

This is also a good example of simplifying the shapes of a large mass of trees in the background and the long blades of grass in the foreground.  Many students feel compelled to represent every leaf and blade with dots and stripes.  The shape is more important than the distraction of texture.

So subtract (and add) when it comes in aid of your composition. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015


Most students are really afraid to commit to a dark shape and value.  The first problem seems to be that they don't have enough paint on their palette to mix a strong dark and then put it down with authority.  The second problem is that they isolate the darks against values that are too much of a contrast.  The key here is to use gradation, gradually going from light to a midtone to the darkest value. 

Study the reflections in this painting.  The reflections of the tree shape on the shore go from dark to midtone to the reflection of the sun which is the lightest and the most colorful part of the composition. The ripples on the right hand side of the foreground have two shades of midtones leading up to the dark reflection of the boat.

So get some paint on your palette, mix up two complementary colors and have a fairly good sized puddle, and then strike in those darks with confidence!

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Spot of Color

Last night I woke up several times thinking about, even dreaming about the value sketch I did yesterday in preparation for today's painting of the Allagash Waterway.  I decided that the majority of the painting should be completed in subtle shades of warm and cool grays; and that the gradation in the water should gradually approach the highlighted whites of the water, both in the falls and below the falls.

The most bold decision came from deciding that the canoe and the figure needed some color.  I borrowed a page out of Winslow Homer's whitewater watercolors and chose to paint the canoe red.  If any watercolorist paints a canoe scene or a sailboat, it is going to call forth the image of many a Homer painting of those two subjects. 

Still, the composition is mine.  The canoe points toward the waterfall and the figure in the canoe also employs body facing to highlight the falls.  So both placement and color emphasize the two major elements in the painting:  the falls and the canoeist.

Again, study my value sketch to analyze the compositional planning that went into this painting.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Getting Ready

I'm still a strong believer in doing value studies to design the composition.  In this sketch, the waterfall is set off by the darker rocks, and the canoe and canoeist break the line where waterfall meets flat water. 

Now that the values are set, I'm going to give myself some time to think about the colors.  Planning makes all the difference.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Try, Try Again

The morning was frustrating at first.  I drove over to Southport Island to paint at the boatyard.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and I was eager to paint.  But from the start, I had trouble drawing the boats.  Then there was a treeline behind the boats which was, of course, a dark green which I thought I could play up as a value contrast.

The boats got worse when I started to paint, and the trees were a dark mess.  The shadows further frustrated me.  So I did what I sometimes do when I'm that frustrated:  I flipped the paper over and painted with much more abandon.

I had learned something about the shapes of the boats, and drew them quickly.  I decided to use the storage buildings behind me rather than those yucky green trees.  I also chose a more violet color for the shadows.  I strayed from the colors of the actual boats so that I could use the complementary colors of blue and orange. 

In other words, I was no longer a slave to the scene in front of me.  I could also paint more quickly in order to keep the washes fresh.

Lesson:  If you are frustrated with your first attempt, try, try again!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Catching Fleeting Effects

A sailboat sails on by you, and the clouds float away.  What's an artist to do?  My answer is always, Memorize it. 

The sailboat went by and I looked at it carefully and decided which details to include and which to ignore.  I liked the billowing sails and their reflection in the water.

The clouds were actually behind me, so I kept turning around to observe them.  I wet the entire area with my natural sponge, and then sailed in with some lamp black and ultramarine blue.  The far shore was just a shape that I created with gray and a touch of titanium white while it was all still wet. The island silhouetted trees were the same colors, but I just used more paint to create deeper values.

The trick is, I've found, is to go with your strongest attraction in a scene.  Then simplify everything else, eliminating any details that call your attention away from your chosen subject.  And paint fast!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Power of Gray

In this painting of the Bay Lady, a little Friendship sloop whose home port is Boothbay Harbor, I decided two things:  first, that the dozens of buildings on the far shore weren't important and therefore should not be rendered precisely or at all; and second, to make the focal point stand out, the background color should be muted while the little sloop retained some color.

While painting, once your eye wanders away from the focal point, the temptation is to include all sorts of irrelevant details.  Think of ways to tone down or eliminate those distractions.  Graying them and only suggesting them with a silhouetted shape are two ways to keep the attention on the focal point.

This is Windjammer Week in BBH, so I'm sure you'll be seeing more boats very soon!  And if you'd like to paint these scenes in person, sign up for my workshop in August!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Iconic Places

This is the Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library, right in the center of town.  Today the Plein Air Painters of Maine painted on the library lawn. 

The problems presenting themselves in this painting were several.  I arrived early to get the right light and shadows.  I also had to eliminate a tree and add some people to give the scene some life.

When I was about halfway finished, tourists started coming by and photographing my painting.  Then, a young black couple arrived in their wedding garb with a minister and two official witnesses to preside over the ceremony.  I was so close that I felt like a bride's maid!

 Technical problems again presented themselves.  Perspective, big shapes, color, and the addition of people were decisions I made before the brush hit the paper.  And being right in the center of tourist country, you have to deal with people who want to connect with the artist.  Sometimes I feel like I'm a representative for the Chamber of Commerce!

But get out there and take a chance.  Painting on the spot will only sharpen your drawing and painting skills.   Never mind the curious bystanders.  Most people are impressed that you're willing to put yourself out there, and they know they can't do what you're attempting to do.  Have fun!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Painting What I've Missed

After an absence of 8 months, I get nostalgic about the sights and sounds of Maine.  The little village of East Boothbay consists of a couple of boatyards, a restaurant that hangs out over the water, the post office in an old gray shingled structure at the bottom of the hill, and a general store and the Methodist Church at the top of the hill.

Since it was Sunday, and the post office was closed, I could park my car in front where I had a good view of the hill leading up to the church which presides over the small hamlet.  The road crosses a reversible falls which flows in and out of Mill Pond at high and low tide.  (I think I'll save that for next Sunday!)  The sounds of the seagulls and the gushing water tugged at my heart, and I spent a happy two hours painting the familiar sight that I see every day.

Getting the perspective right was the major problem in this painting.  The horizon level was very low, about at the point where the road begins to rise.  Everything above the horizon line slants downward.

As usual I painted a light wash as the underpainting.  You can see the first especially on the road, but also realize that the trees had a first layer of yellow green which I built upon in the next glazes.

The red foundation of the old church conveniently provided the complement to all the green foliage, and helps the viewer focus on the church.  The shadows across the road keep it from getting too uniform.  I even made up a shadow at the bottom of the paper to keep the composition from running off the page.  (More on the use of shadows in compositions at a later time!)

Paint, write, sculpt what you know and love.

Friday, June 12, 2015

In The Beginning

                                "Anderson's Poppies"

Many of my novice watercolor students ask me, "Carol, how do you know what to do first?"  Or "How do you know what to do next?"

Over the years, I've developed a checklist.  At first I literally wrote it out.  Then at the end of the day in my own little private critique, I would go through the list and see if I had paid attention to the elements and principles that are the building blocks of painting.

1.  Always start with clear values and shapes.  Have at least three values plus your white paper.
     A value study is most important.  Plan the large shapes; skip the accents and details.

2.  Decide what you want to do with color.  Will this be a predominantly warm or cool painting?  Or is a neutral palette called for? 

3.  Paint a light first wash with some color changes in it. 

4.  Think about glazing. Direct glazes are developed by charging color into an area of another color.
      Or, when an area dries, you can paint on top of it with a darker value.

5.  Plan your darks so they will be at or near the focal point. 

In this painting of a ceramicist's front yard which blooms with vibrant red poppies each June, you can see the first and second stages in which I developed the shapes, the complementary colors of red and green,  and the underpainting on top of which will later be painted the midtones and darks.  I try to start with a wet in wet technique so that I can choose to either keep an area soft or place hard edges on top of it.  Since flowers are soft, I tried not to dot the page with hard edges, but rather flowed on the orange-red suggestions of the poppies at the beginning on the wet page.

Also, since I wanted the tree trunk to remain warm, I painted it first and then painted the whole cool background around it.

Begin with a plan.  Paint with words in your head.  Not "house", "tree", or "poppies", but with wet into wet, color choices, values, and shapes.