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.