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