Friday, January 29, 2016

Working from Photographs

Here is a photo I took on St. George Island on the Florida Panhandle.  I liked the figure of the surf fisherman, and thought it would make a good painting.  My first attempt was more or less a copy of the photo, and was a miserable failure.  The figure was large, and the surf was confusing.  I decided to de-emphasize the figure and concentrate on the surf in the second painting. 

I placed the figure on the thirds and simplified the surf. I used some other source material for the surf. I also decided that the sky was too flat and formed an uninteresting rectangle, so I added some tension with the storm clouds approaching.   

Lesson?  Don't be tied to the composition or details in a photo.  Move things, combine things, change colors, anything to aid the painting.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


The lightest part of the painting is the oyster boat.  The retaining walls, which are a muted pink,  and the pink in the larger tree, contrast with the green foliage and the green boat.  The darks surrounding the light banana leaves punch them out. 

Study the compositional lines and shapes in this painting as well. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016


Here I am, in Apalachicola, Florida.  Last night we had a terrific storm; lightning, high winds and downpours.  The sun came out this morning, but the wind persisted, so I was once again forced to paint in my room here at Sportsmans Lodge. 

I looked through my photos of this fall and found one of a famous bakery/restaurant on the Hill, the Italian section of St. Louis.  Amighetti's is a well known landmark destination in a section of town where Yogi Berra was born, as well as Joe Garagiola.   The green awning and the building across the street with its cupola appealed to me, so I decided to paint that famous corner.

Take your camera with you to your favorite section of your hometown, and photograph the buildings there with an eye for the composition. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016


In my last post, I explained the approach of alternation which featured a mainly monochromastic value system.  Today's painting takes that same approach but in color.

Also in this painting, two other contrasts are present: soft edges vs. hard edges, and complementary colors (blue and orange). 

Interestingly, I had a gallery owner tell me today that she thought this painting was an illustration.  Any thoughts on that?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Alternation Patterns

In this painting of a dock in Eastpoint, Florida, I concentrated more on values than color.  I used basically three values and alternated them.  I tried to place a dark value next to a midtone which is next to a light value.  This checkerboard effect is also enhanced by making some dark  shapes larger than others.  It is the midtones that hold the painting together while the darks and lights help cast your eyes around the surface of the painting. 

This technique is harder than it sounds and requires planning.  The first step is to establish the lights by painting the midtones.  The darks are then placed strategically so that the three values are contiguous.

Practice this technique a few times as an abstract design to get the hang of it.  Try leaving large whites, small darks, and anchoring midtones.  Then try midtones that isolate small whites alternated with darks.  Practice, practice, practice.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Silhouette and Interlocking Shapes

An accurate silhouette can eliminate the need for details in the interior.  Additionally, if the silhouette is an interesting shape, it will interlock with the negative space and create more interesting shapes there.

Trace your finger along the edge of the tugboat shape and you will see that it avoids straight lines and static shapes.  Circles, rectangles and triangles don't interlock with the background and become boring shapes that create more boring shapes.

Also the shape of the tug is extended into the reflection in the water. 

Most of my value studies also concentrate on a silhouetted shape of some sort.