Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Emphasizing the Focal Point

If you can stop and identify what you want the focal point of your painting to be before you start to paint, there are there are at least three ways to emphasize that area.

First, size.  A large shape will obviously command more attention than lots of scattered shapes.  In the case of this painting of a lobster boat, I brought it closer to the viewer than it actually was.  If it were smaller, the water area would have increased, thereby diminishing the attention on the boat.

Second, color.  It was the bright yellow buoys and flags that caught my eye on site.  Emphasizing them required both contrast with more muted colors surrounding them, and the use of yellow's complement, violet. 

Third, elimination of background "noise".  On location, the rest of the harbor with its wharves, boats and buildings were all visible.  The temptation to be accurate and "truthful" is strong, but eliminating distracting objects is crucial to keep the viewer's eye from wandering away from your chosen focal point.

Naming the focal point prior to painting will aid you in deciding how to draw attention to it.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Surf's Up!

Boothbay Shores
At Boothbay Shores just around the cove from my cottage, I ran into a group of painters taking an oil workshop with Don Demurs.  It was almost high tide and the surf was up.  I decided to exaggerate the height of the waves, and to include a figure that wasn't there.  The sound of the surf lingered in my ears long after returning to the cottage, and the feel of the sunlight on my skin was a welcome warmth after the cool weather of the first half of the month.  The sensory delights of painting outdoors contributes to the overall painting experience and the eventual outcome of the painting.

Compositional considerations:  The top of the wave breaks the straight line of the headland.  The diagonals in the rock shapes and the surf provide tension.  The little figure gives a spot of life to the scene.  And the reflections in the wet sand supply a soft relief to the hard edged rocks.

It's summer!  Get outside and paint!

P.S. There are still openings for my Boothbay Harbor workshop
August 29 - September 2.  Inquiries:   Email me at   caroljessen@yahoo.com  for more information.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Leaky Light

About fifteen years ago, I was painting on Boothbay Common when it dawned on me that I didn't have to encapsulate the whites and limit them to the exact space within an object.  A shape could become more interesting if the light leaked out of the object and flowed into the surrounding area.

If that's hard to understand, look at this painting of Old Orchard Pier.  The lighted sides of the building "leak" out into the building next to it or the dock itself or into the edge of the surf.  This approach creates more interesting shapes than mere rectangles contain. Trace your finger around the whites and you'll see that the shapes that are formed by the leaky light are much more entertaining than a more accurate depiction of the scene.

 Also, the imprecise edges in the pilings and the buildings give some relief to a static rendering with  very rigid, straight lines.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Again...The Importance of the first wash

                                  Hendrick's Head Beach

I painted today with the Plein Air Painters of Maine.  As soon as the first clean washes were done, passers-by began to stop and comment on how much they loved the color.  They didn't say, Where's the texture?  or Where's the detail?  The simplicity of the clean, glowing color was enough to attract their attention.  Later, a couple came by and bought the painting.

Keep it very simple and untextured in the early stages of your painting!

Friday, June 10, 2016


Many painters like to go straight for the final color and skip the all important first wash of foundation colors.  The underpainting can do several things:

1.  It replaces the pure white paper with a colored light    value.

2.  It provides a color that, when other colors are place on top of it, creates a new hue.  For example,
yellow and blue make green, so why not put down a first wash of yellow and then, when it dries,
place a blue on top to make the green.

3.  An underpainting gives the painting a color theme.  When you leave some of it showing, it creates
a unity throughout the piece.

In this painting of Dingman's Falls in eastern Pennsylvania, you can see pinkish and yellow tones in the light tones of the rocks, and the even in the falls.  Also, I usually start any clump of foliage with a yellow wash first, even if most of it is covered up by subsequent washes.

I still have openings for my Boothbay Harbor workshop August 29 - September 2.  Email inquiries to

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


I've taken a leisurely trip back to Maine this year; six nights on the road.  On the way, I've stopped at several waterfalls, most enjoyably, Dingman's Falls in far eastern Pennsylvania, Jackson Falls in New Hampshire, and Small Falls, just south of Rangeley, Maine.  Yesterday I painted Small Falls.  Hazard of plein air painting?  I was gobbled on by black flies.  The suckers anaesthetize you and then bite until they draw blood, which is when you finally notice you've been attacked. 

Anyway, I should have gotten hazardous duty pay yesterday.  It did, however, force me to paint quickly.  But the scene was lovely and the sound of the rushing water was mesmerizing.  I stood on an old log bridge, relishing the warm weather and blue skies.

Now I'm here in Maine settling in for the summer.  Don't forget to sign up soon for my workshop here in Boothbay Harbor.....August 29 - September 2.  Tuition remains steady at $400.  Contact me at: