Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Image Transfer to Make the Drawing Easier: The Schooner Margaret Todd

The Schooner Margaret Todd
12x16 oil
Will be Available Starting July 1, 2017 at Argosy Gallery


I like to paint boats.  I paint a lot of them at my summer studio in Downeast Maine.  They say "practice makes perfect," but where boats are concerned, practice makes only "pretty good."  I think that, no matter how excellent your drawing skills, you'll always find some part of a boat that needs correcting.  Sailors will be quick to point out the errors in what you thought was a beautifully-proportioned boat.

This past week, I wanted to paint a picture of the schooner Margaret Todd, based in Bar Harbor, Maine, for the upcoming Acadia Invitational III exhibit at Argosy Gallery this summer.  I had reference photos and a plein air sketch of this ship, which is the only four-masted schooner still in operation on the east coast.  Painting a boat properly can be time-consuming, even if you are using photos and not working from life.  To make the job easier, I decided to transfer a photo to my painting surface rather than to draw the schooner by hand.

Contrary to popular belief, we painters don't freehand everything.  Image transfer or tracing is a time-honored method used by both illustrators and "fine artists" to get a quick, accurate drawing in place.  Projection is another method, but for the size of this painting (12x16) and the scale of the boat (somewhat small), I didn't need to project. But I did want the perspective and proportions to be correct.

The scene I chose to paint was very close to what my reference photo contained.  I knew that if I placed my eye level (or horizon) line on the canvas as it was in the photo, the transfer method would work.  It most definitely will not work if you start playing with eye level placement.  Next, I needed to figure out  the scale I needed for the boat in the context of the landscape.  I made some pencil sketches to rough out the design, and then I printed out three cropped images of the schooner, each a different size.



I placed these directly on my painting surface, with the landscape lightly sketched in, to see which size worked best.  After settling on one, I coated the reverse side of the print with compressed charcoal, taking care to cover all the areas that needed to be transferred.  Then I taped the print directly to my painting surface where the boat needed to be.  With a sharp, 2B graphite pencil, I then traced over the important parts of the boat—masts and hull—until I felt like I had enough information transferred that I could successfully finish the boat without this aid.



Here's the finished painting, without the frame.

The Schooner Margaret Todd
12x16 oil
Will be Available Starting July 1, 2017 at Argosy Gallery

We'll be painting boats my Rockland, Maine, workshop for Coastal Maine Art Workshops this July.  I hope you'll join me.  You can find more details here.   If that doesn't work out for you, we'll also be painting boats at my Lubec, Maine, studio.  Visit www.PleinAirPaintingMaine.com for details.

By the way, if you take workshops, I have a short survey that I'd like you to take.  It will help guide future seasons of my plein air painting workshops.  You can get to it here:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZZB8898

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