Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Go Figure

Sometimes a landscape composition will benefit from the inclusion of a figure.  The fisherman in this painting anchors the scene, even though the painting is about the waterfall. 

I am convinced that most men who fish secretly do it because it gives them a manly reason to be out in nature.  The quiet (well, waterfalls aren't exactly quiet!), the beauty, the wildlife....all give a peaceful atmosphere in which to rest, to heal, to contemplate and to slow down.  Anyone read Hemingway?

A few years ago there was an obituary in the Boothbay Harbor Register that read:  "In lieu of flowers, take a young person fishing."  I didn't know the deceased, but I sure wanted to.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Less is More

                       "Morning Harbor"   by Maine Artist, Carol Jessen

As artists, we sometimes seem to think that the more paint we spread on a piece of paper, the more saleable it will be.  In depicting this quiet harbor scene, though, I felt that I had to convey the serenity of the scene by limiting the number of "busy" areas in the painting.   This painting was all about the warmth of a quiet morning light, and the reflections in the still waters.

A big wash of mostly warm color suggested the sky and water in the scene.  Cluttering up the painting with more objects would have only destroyed that  calm feeling.  It's not about buying a painting for the amount of paint expended in creating the work;  it's about selectively leaving out anything that would destroy the mood.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


                                  "All Saints By The Sea Chapel"
                                   by Carol Jessen, Maine Artist
Last week I gave a workshop in St. Charles, Missouri.  My students were great!  We had a fun time, and I hope they learned a lot, too. 

One piece of advice I gave them is to work towards the dark shapes.  In order to do that you have to know how to mix a really dark paint color.  And that requires a lot of pigment!

So many students are not squeezing out enough paint on their palettes.  You can't mix a dark with a tiny bit of paint. 

A couple of years ago I visited the Wyeth Museum in Chadd's Ford, Pennsylvania.  There was a special exhibit that taught me a big lesson.  As I walked around looking at wondrous paintings by Andrew and Jamie Wyeth and Rockwell Kent, I began to notice that much of the drama of their work was due to the ability to create very dark shapes to set off the lights.  Get a book of reproductions and study it and you'll see what I mean!

Speaking of workshops, don't forget my Maine workshop July 20th - 24th in beautiful Boothbay Harbor, Maine.  Here is one of many possible spots we may paint that week.  Please notice the dark shapes around the front of the church and especially the steeple.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Soft Edges - Hard Edges

                     "Tying Up" by Maine Artist, Carol Jessen

In this painting of a lobsterman tying up his dinghy, the sky area provides a foil for the hard edged shapes of boats.  Creating soft edges requires speed so the transition areas are still fully wet and not just damp or else a hard edge or jagged edge will result.  It also helps if you have some courage when hitting a wet area with a fully loaded brush of pigment.  Remember that if the paper is fully saturated, you need not bring more water to the paper when you dash in the color in that area.

You can also wait until the paper is completely dry and then re-wet it with a light stroke before hitting it again with a darker color.  The paint will spread and create a soft edge.

This takes quite a bit of practice to understand the ratio of water to paint.  It's like practicing the scales.  Skip at your own peril!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Aerial Perspective

                     "Mountain Village" by Maine Artist, Carol Jessen

Creating a sense of depth in a landscape depends on both value and color.

As things recede in space, they become lighter and lighter with ever so much more atmosphere between the viewer and the landscape.  Since the watercolorist usually proceeds from light to midtone to dark, the lightest value is the sky, the farthest plane is a light midtone, the middle plane is the middle to middle dark, and you will find the darkest values in the foreground.

Also in landscapes the coolest colors are likely to be found in the far distance.  Colors tend to become warmer as they advance toward the viewer.

In this painting of a little town in Germany where I taught for a year, I used a thalo blue-green, light toned color for the sky.  When transitioning to the farthest mountain, I switched to a warmer ultramarine blue which I grayed.  A little more ultramarine in the nearest mountain which is a little darker as well.  Finally the dark green foliage which surrounds the center of interest is warmer, too, because of the addition of yellow and burnt sienna. 

If you can begin to think in terms of these planes, your paintings will portray distance in a much more believable way.