Sunday, August 28, 2016

Don't Overlook the Ordinary


I was sitting on my dock yesterday when I looked up the cove to my right.  Just then, a lone seagull landed near a big rock that I like to sketch and paint.  As he (she?) came in for his landing, I felt a tug on my heart strings for this very special place.  There are seagulls everywhere here and it's easy to get used to seeing them and taking them for granted.  But this lone bird symbolized everything I love about Maine.

It's nice to have an "idea" about a painting, but sometimes it's important to respond emotionally to your surroundings and let them become the motivation for your painting subject matter.

Working from sketch to the drawing on the watercolor paper has become a more important process for me this summer.  I can work out composition and value placement in advance in the sketch which helps me bang into the painting with quickness and confidence.

Next post.....the painting.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Exaggerated Color

The gazebo at the Newagen Inn is really a weathered, dark, gray brown.  Somebody once told me that brown is just a dirty orange, so I decided to push that idea to enliven the subject.  I painted the sky and then the gazebo first.  When I put down the first wash of orange, it was a bit shocking, but gradually after the blue background trees and the darker green foreground trees were added, the orange seemed a bit tamer. 

Another tip:  I pre-wet the page to paint the sky and while this was still wet, I dashed in the orange.  This resulted in a blurry, soft-edged area.  When it dried, I was able to cut around the gazebo with the darker values.  This approach, in which you don't stop at the edges of the gazebo, avoids a cut out, pasted-on look, as well as creating an undertone that gives the background and the gazebo something in common.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


The mark of a beginning painter is the unimaginative blue sky, painted with the same hue and value all the way down to the horizon.  No gradation or color change.  Clouds are not designed well to enhance the composition.  In watercolor, often Kleenex is used to blot out clouds, creating a surface that has been disturbed. 

Better to paint the clouds first and plan the placement of clouds.  Then, paint the sky around them while the cloud area is still wet to achieve soft edges. 

While painting with the Plein Air Painters of Maine (PAPME) this week, the sky looked rather threatening as the clouds moved in.  Being true to the atmosphere of the day, I decided to paint the bright area of the sky yellow and then paint the oncoming clouds a neutral gray.  When that dried, I was able to move down the page painting the background headlands and the negative spaces around the boat.

Deciding whether or not to include clouds is also important.  Since this painting was about the weather, clouds were there to tell the story.  No blues were required!

Monday, August 8, 2016


Repetition can occur with colors, textures, direction, line, and shapes.

In this painting of a flower stall at the Farmers Market on Boothbay Common, the triangular shapes of the tents and the roof of the gazebo repeat.  There is some variation in the size and colors within the shapes, but clearly the triangular shapes dominate the scene. 

The biggest value contrast occurs in the middle area where the figures are central to the focal point.  The colors are also more intense there and both the values and the colors gradate away from that area.

I kept the background trees quiet and simple so that your eye would travel to the center of interest.  The tree shape provides a clear edge contrast, but that's all it needed to do.  Notice, too, the subtle color changes introduced in that shape while the area was still wet.

I go to the Farmers Market on Boothbay Common every Thursday, but I usually only buy a handpicked bouquet.  The vendor at the flower stall immediately recognizes me, and always compliments me on the colors I choose and the textural variety.  So, again....paint what you love!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Simplifying Architectural Details

I've painted this iconic church in Boothbay Harbor for 37 years.  Each year I've struggled to portray the lovely details of its exterior.  The windows especially are charming.

But this year, I decided to simplify the depiction of those details.  I concentrated on the silhouette of the church and chose to emphasize the figures coming out of the church after Sunday morning mass.

Most of the "action" centers around the doorway and the statue of Mary on the lawn.  I decided to make that area the staccato textural interest of the scene, and hence, the biggest area of contrast in values.

Backlighting is a great tool for including figures. 

A note about painting plein air:  I painted with the Plein Air Painters of Maine today, as I do most Wednesdays in summertime.  However, this morning, I broke two of my cardinal rules.  Wear a hat, and bring something cool to drink.   I got severely overheated by the time I was finishing this painting.  Heat stroke is not something you want to fool around with.  I immediately went home and got into a cold shower!