Saturday, July 28, 2007

Plein Air Fundy Paintout - Day 5

This is the last day for the Plein Air Painters of the Bay of Fundy paintout. However, because I intend to use today for getting organized for the show, yesterday I painted what's most likely my final one. I went out to the Head Harbour Light with the intention of not painting the lighthouse. There's a wonderful herring weir visible from the lighthouse parking area, and the fishermen were repairing it and getting it ready for the herring run.

"Fixing the Weir," 9x12, oil


To me, this is an interesting painting because of the strong diagonals created by the weir, the boat and the waves. In order to balance this diagonal, I had to add some 'horizontal stabilizers' to the water - the horizontal brush strokes near the top, just behind the weir. The opposing diagonals created by the three loose stakes, just behind the boat, help, too.

By the way, when you're painting in a working harbour, it's important to lay your initial sketch in quickly. The boat, unattended and tied up to the weir by its bow, changed its position by 90 degrees moments after I made my initial sketch! It continued to rotate throughout my two-hour painting period.

(Not sure what a weir is? Check out this link and then this one.)

Tomorrow, Sunday, is the big day. Artists drop off work between 8-10, and we hang between 10-12. The Artists' Reception is from 2-4. Hopefully, it'll also be a big sale day!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Plein Air Fundy Paintout - Day 4

It's now Thursday, and our little painting event is gathering steam. I stayed home yesterday to watch the gallery, but meanwhile, I sat out in the wildflower garden to paint. Lately, the fireweed has sprung up and bloomed, and I love the way the colours glow against the darks of the fir tree. The image below doesn't do the painting justice, as I can't quite get the deep magentas of the fireweed to show well in the digital photo. So, imagine them deeper, richer!

"Fir & Fireweed," 8x10, oil
(click for larger image)
This morning, I went out to Liberty Point. It was a welcome trip, as it's a hot day, and Liberty Point is guaranteed to be much cooler than inner parts of Campobello Island -- the Point juts way out into the cold waters of the Grand Manan Channel. It was 24 Celsius (75 Fahrenheit) when I left the house, and all of 18 C (64 F) at the Point!

The fog was really thick right off the high cliffs by the water's edge. In the background you can see Sugar Loaf Rock, just a flat, grey presence in the fog; and in the foreground, the grasses and closer rocks, brilliantly lit from the sun.

"Bright Grasses, Fog," 9x12, oil

Friday is expected to be just as warm. (Interested in seeing what the weather is at the moment on Campobello? Visit my weather station.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Plein Air Fundy Paintout

This week is the first annual Plein Air Fundy paintout. We've got 12 artists from the Bay of Fundy region painting in Lubec, Maine, and on Campobello Island, NB, and in other places close by. (For more, see www.pleinairfundy.org.) The week will close with an opening reception for our exhibition on Sunday, the 29th, from 2-4 ET at the historic Mulholland Market in Lubec. The exhibition will continue through August 25th.

It's been a good weather week. Except for a bit of drizzle the first day, and a couple of mornings of fog, the sun's been out with just a few clouds around to keep the sky interesting. On Sunday, I painted at Upper Duck Pond. Here's the first painting, a 9x12 oil:

(Click on the images for a larger version.)

On Monday, I returned to the Upper Duck Pond with painter Deborah Healy. The tide went out while we worked, and the clamdiggers showed up with their big wheelbarrows and high boots to work in the mudflat. (I did not include the clamdiggers in my piece.) Here's this day's painting, another 9x12 oil:

On Tuesday, we had quite a bit of fog along the Lubec Channel, but it didn't deter my taking a student there - I'm also teaching a workshop this week - plus painters Lisa Bradbury and Martha Kierstead from our group. I did a demonstration in the fog of the "Lubec Sparkplug," the caisson-style lighthouse out in the Channel. You can just barely see the Sparkplug in the upper right. (Excuse the glints of light off the wet paint!) The painting is 8x10.

Finally, Tuesday afternoon I continued work on a painting that I'd started a few days earlier. It's only an 8x10, and you'd think it wouldn't take more than one session, but I needed to correct a few problems. I had been a victim of "creeping shadow" - the shadows moved on me while painting with the sun directly overhead. Those raking, straight-down shadows of windows and roof overhangs move, and if you're busy concentrating on some other area of the painting, you may not realize that the patterns have shifted. I fixed the issue in just a few minutes. Here's the painting, which is of my studio gallery and my wife's lovely garden in front. This is also an 8x10.


Last night, the artists in the Lubec/Campobello area got together for dinner at the Lupine Lodge. David Reeves and Tim Gaydos plus a variety of spouses and 'significant others' joined us for a well-earned meal.

As I write on Wednesday morning, we are again fogged in. But I can see a tiny glimmer of sunlight, so perhaps it'll be another great day!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tread Lightly

Once in awhile, you run into a day that pushes your palette into the 'high key' range. I had such a day last week. As I stood at the Mulholland Light, looking across the channel to Lubec, I decided the hazy day required a light touch. The clouds and sky, the distant landforms — everything wanted to merge into one mass.

My goal was to capture the lightness and warmth of this day, and the sparkle of sunlight on the water. I pushed all my colour mixtures to pale tints, reserving the only-slightly darker mixtures for the foreground.

The glint of sunlight on the water is pure Titanium White with just a breath of Cadmium Yellow Pale mixed in. (Somehow, this mixture always seems whiter than white!)

"Lubec, Hazy Day" 8x10, oil


(By the way, this week marks the beginning of the Plein Air Painters of the Bay of Fundy First Annual Paintout. I hope to start posting some of the week's paintings in a day or two.)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Workshop Paintings

One pleasure in teaching from my studio gallery is that my group is small (anywhere from one to four students), which means that I have time to paint alongside my students. One difficulty is that I usually paint to illustrate the day's lesson, which means I might be painting subject matter that doesn't always "speak" to me right away. However, it's nearly always the case that once I start painting, whatever subject I've chosen soon strikes up an intimate dialogue.

Such is the case with the following paintings. I painted them over the last two weeks during workshops and in my "off" hours. (As always, you can click on the image to see a larger version.)


"Undercut," 8x10, oil en plein air

"Skinning Shed, Morning" 8x10, oil en plein air

"Skinning Shed, High Tide" 9x12, oil en plein air

"Sugar Loaf Rock, Fog" 9x12, pastel, en plein air

"Head Harbour Light Rock" 9x12, pastel, en plein air

"Upper Duck Pond, Fog" 9x12, pastel, en plein air

"Glacial Erratic" 9x12, pastel, en plein air

Monday, July 9, 2007

More on Color Temperature

As I have remarked elsewhere, lighthouses tend to be troublesome subject matter for the beginner -- and ofttimes for the professional. If the lighthouse is particularly scenic, it's hard not to end up with a postcard.

The other day, I drove over to Lubec, Maine, to paint the lupines blooming in front of the old fish houses in the McCurdy Smokehouse Complex. Unfortunately, the road crews were out doing some sort of noisy work that involved a couple of backhoes, and they were right in front of my lupines! I decided to drive a bit farther out, to the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, where it would be quieter.

I've never painted this particular lighthouse before. I wanted to choose a view that featured the lighthouse prominently, but I also wanted the painting to be more about light than about the lighthouse -- especially since it was such a blindingly bright morning. The best way to accomplish my goal was to just focus on the relationships of color temperature in shadow and in light.

I have to admit, this one gave me a headache. I was very happy with the painting when I finished, but as it lingered on my "viewing mantle," I began to second-guess my temperature scheme. I painted the lights very cool and the shadows warm. But the warm, shaded side of the building just didn't seem to fit. Maybe, I thought, I had misjudged the relationship, and the shaded side should be cooler. So, I made it cooler with some violet. After looking at that for a day, I wasn't happy with that, either. I decided to try blues. Another day passed, and I still wasn't happy.

I finally used my colorwheel. I looked at my bright green grass, which is a blue-green, and found the exact complement -- a warm, brownish hue -- which I meticulously matched in value to the shaded side. To help in this value-matching process, I used a sheet of clear plastic over the actual painting and daubed samples of my mixture directly on it. This way, I was able to try different values, as well as color mixtures, without ruining the painting. It worked perfectly!

One unexpected consequence of this re-painting is the buildup of scumbled shadow colors, both warm and cool. It adds a very pleasing density and complexity to the shaded side.

"West Quoddy Light, Morning" 8x10, oil

(Click on image for a larger version.)

Post-Script: 14 July 2007

I posted this same painting in the Plein Air forum on WetCanvas, and I garnered lots of favorable comments. I also got some suggestions on it. One had to do with the fact that the horizon coincides exactly with the roof line of the building. I felt I should address this here, as other artists, well-versed in the rules of composition, may also note this.

One of the rules, of course, is that one should avoid tangential lines of this sort. Rule-follower that I am, I immediately noticed this rule-breaker, and so I moved around quite a bit to change my viewpoint to shift the horizon line. However, that tangential line made such a strong impression on me that I felt I had to capture it. So, I went back to my first position and decided to break the rule.

Why? The tangent gives the lighthouse, the three chimneys and the tip of the flagpole much more prominence than it would otherwise. My original vision, which still holds, is that the painting is about color temperature, as I noted earlier. But the lighthouse now makes a strong statement, adding to the richness of the painting. I hope you'll agree.