Thursday, July 27, 2017


Yesterday, the Plein Air Painters of Maine (PAPME) painted at Shipbuilders Park in East Boothbay.  Not wanting to miss the comraderie of painting with my friends, I decided to go despite not wanting to paint at that location.  Instead, I brought the drawing of the birch tree and the day lily.  My friends were intrigued, because they said I was basically painting from memory. 

But the memory wasn't just of the actual tree and day lily.  The memory I was working from was the sketch I did of the scene.  A preliminary look at the object you want to paint involves doing a study that requires a detailed observation.  It also makes the painting procedure easier because you have already studied the shapes and made the compositional decisions ahead of time.

Study, compose, remember.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


It's mandatory that an artist pay attention to what attracts his or her attention.  I've passed by this old birch tree on the edge of our cove for years, but the other day the sun was doing its magic, and I really saw it for the first time.  Maybe it was the appearance of a single day lily next to it, but the textures of the peeling birch bark and the contrast of the colorful, soft flower were so mesmerizing that I had to attempt it.   Luck and concentration to all of us painters!

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Break From Color

This is the Fisherman's Memorial in front of the Catholic Church on the eastside of Boothbay Harbor.  To keep your eye on the subject matter, I decided to make the church a silhouette without much attention to the architectural details.  The darker silhouette of the old dory stands out against that lighter shape of the church.

I would encourage you to think about simplifying shapes and reducing textures in background shapes.
And interesting shape doesn't require much texture or detail if the shape is well defined.  Keep your eye on the focal point by eliminating texture and details in areas that are secondary to the primary shape.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Joy in Painting


The summer of color continues.  I'm really enjoying the process of painting, especially the first washes where the colors mingle on the page instead of being mixed on the palette. 

        Compositional notes:  Take care when composing roads or paths.  Try to avoid having leading lines go exactly to the corner of the page.  Use gradation of values to keep eye away from corners.  Use objects that protrude (like the sailboat) to break up lines. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Don't Be Afraid of Color

          It was a foggy morning at Hendrick's Head Beach today.  It was so foggy that you couldn't even see the lighthouse.  Realism would  demand a gray and white color scheme, but I hadn't painted in a week and was feeling quite happy to be painting with my friends, so I chose  a wild and vibrant palette.  Again, my motto for the summer is, Life's too short for boring colors.

           My approach was to wet the whole sky area with two applications of clear water.  Then I quickly went into the shape with a turquoise, wild fuschia, orange, and yellow ochre.  While it was still saturated and the colors were running, I turned the board sideways to let the colors mingle in another direction.  I used the same approach on the beach and the water.  When developing the rocks and trees, I re-wet the area to be painted so the paint would again mingle on the page.

         The purpose of the sun-like orb was to break up the sky shape.  I chose the brightest turquoise green to depict the shirt on the figure to contrast the reddish color on the beach and the rock behind him to gain maximum impact in that secondary subject.

         Try wetting the big shapes and then flooding them with colors.  Don't brush them back and forth.  One stroke in an area will allow the paint to run together and avoid creating 'mud'.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Big Washes

A common mistake I see in students' work is trying to depict every leaf and every blade of grass.  By doing that, textures start to take over and the focal point can be lost.  Rather I try to find the big planes and shapes in foliage.  I also find that in the front of the tree shapes warmer colors prevail, and as the clumps of leaves recede, I make them paler and cooler.    In the foreground grass area, I suggest the textures at the edges rather than making stripes of each blade.  This way, the eye has a place to rest.  Whisper the grassy areas; don't shout them to the detriment of the more important shapes in the painting.

I painted the sky shape wet-into-wet with a couple of color changes.  The tree trunks were my focal point and rather than painting them a uniform gray or brown, I painted them wet-into-wet as well, making lots of color changes
along the way.  The two sailboats are there to break the horizontal line of the horizon and stop the eye from wandering off the page.

Big flat washes, painted wet-into-wet, textures around the focal point, and clumps of foliage rather than a lot of unconnected dots to represent the leaves.  Non textured sky, sea and foreground grass in sunlight keeps the color and values around the trunks interesting.

Please like if you find these tips helpful!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Big Color

This summer my motto is going to be:  "Life's too short for boring colors."

I've painted this scene fifty times, mostly in traditional landscape colors.  But after this winter I decided to get bolder in my use of colors.  I've sent away for some new paints, all colors that I've never used before.  I'm going to try to experiment with big, bold colors.  Paint Happy!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The "Z" in Landscape Paintings

I spent my 4th of July morning painting at Boothbay Shores.  This is the causeway out to Ocean Island.  The stone gate is iconic and makes the scene instantly recognizable. 

I positioned my easel so that the rocky beach was prominent.  The driveway leads the viewer's eye out to the woody island.  The dark values and the dark midtones  take your gaze from the foreground up to the island, and then off to the left where the dark rocks are silhouetted against the sea.  This forms a classic "Z" technique.  Coincidentally, the gate breaks the more or less straight lines along the driveway and then interrupts the line of rocks.  Once you follow the line of darks, the bushes on the left stop your eye and lead you back to the gate.

This "Z" technique can also be used with light shapes as well.

A final note:  The pink tone on the roadway is echoed in the light rocks in the distance.  So the pink tone also forms a secondary "Z".  The pinks in the tree shape on the island break up the greens which could become unrelenting without the complementary color. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Limited Palette

I did this painting from my dock here in Maine last summer.  This was the image that I called up all winter when things got rough.  It is now on display at the Boothbay Region Art Foundation.

Local color is always a problem for me, especially isolated greens.  I often solve the obstacle by limiting my palette, in this case yellow ochre, burnt sienna and black, often referred to as the Velasquez palette.  Choose a few related colors from either the warm or cool side of your palette, and then concentrate on the values. 

(There are a few more weeks left for you to sign up for my annual Boothbay Harbor Workshop, September 4th - 8th.  Email me at )