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.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Back Home In Maine

First there was packing.  Then there was hauling all my stuff down to the car.  Then the long drive to New Hampshire where I had hoped to get three days of painting in, but alas, it rained the entire stay.  Finally I arrived in Maine, but there are always the start up chores:  banking, grocery shopping, gardening, etc.  Then the weather was rainy and cold.  Today, the chores were done, the weather was perfect, and I headed out to do what I come here for. 

What to paint my first day out?  I have certain go-to locations, and this time I chose the end of the pier at Sample's Shipyard.  I must have painted this two dozen times, but it's nearly a ready made composition, so I don't have to struggle too much on the first outing of the season.  I also have painted this boat every summer.  Getting back in the routine, for me, means going back to the basics: getting the drawing right, figuring out the values, and remembering the procedures. 

I'm sure that later in the summer I'll experiment again, and that will be fun, or maybe a challenge.  But for now, I just needed to swing the brush again!  More to follow without such a wait.  Thanks for your patience.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Rainy Days and Mondays.......

Sorry I haven't posted in a while.  I was packing up to travel east for my annual trip to Maine.  Now that I'm in New Hampshire, it decided to rain non-stop for the entire three days I've been here, so plein air painting was out.  I finally dug out my sketch book and went to the North Conway Railroad station and did a quick sketch with the windshield wipers going!  No instruction this time....just an apology for being absent so long, and encouragement to keep your sketch book handy!