Sunday, June 24, 2007

Boats as Large Value Masses

One concept I stress to my students is the importance of simplifying the landscape into large value masses. This concept is easy to understand, but when you're looking at a pure landscape -- that is, one without buildings or other manmade objects -- it's sometimes difficult to see where one mass ends and another begins. What helps is to find a landscape with manmade features in it. Manmade features typically have sharp edges and well-defined shadows that make the job easier.

Lately, I've been painting a pair of fishing boats tied up to the North Road wharf. One problem with boats in a working fishing village is that they tend to come and go frequently, especially when you're trying to paint them! Fortunately, these two seem to be permanently docked. However, that doesn't mean they are motionless. Our big tides push them up and down, changing the perspective dramatically in just an hour. When I'm painting boats, I use small panels (5x7 or 6x8) and limit my time to an hour. Even so, the perspective changes enough in that hour that I must capture the large value masses accurately in 5 minutes or so. I use the rest of my time fine-tuning color and detail.

In these two paintings, my subject is the same pair of boats with slightly different compositions. The time of day (light angle) is the same, and since I painted them on two consecutive days, the height of the tide and thus, the perspective, are similar. You can see how I focussed on capturing the large value masses. Using manmade objects made it easier.

"Red Boat, Blue Boat" (6x8, oil/panel, en plein air)

"Red Boat, Blue Boat #2"
(5x7, oil/panel, en plein air)

(As always, you can click on the image for a bigger picture.)

Also, if you haven't heard about my new book, Through a Painter's Brush: A Year on Campobello Island, it is now available. For more information, please see my post on it. You can get to it by clicking here:

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