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Monday, July 28, 2008

2008 Eastern Regional OPA Show

Although this isn't about plein air painting, it's a piece of good news. I've just received word that I've had a painting juried into the 2008 Eastern Regional Oil Painters of America Exhibition. Here's the painting, which is a studio piece:

"Low Tide, Friar's Bay"
16x20, oil/canvas

I did this in the studio over the winter, using photos and sketches. I thought you might enjoy seeing two of the compositional sketches, which include a design I didn't use:

And also a thumbnail color sketch, which is about 3"x3", in which I worked out my color scheme. I did it in pastel.

It's an honor to get into any OPA show, whether regional or national. Competition is stiff!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rocks: Cracks and Planes

One of the most popular requests I get during my Campobello Island workshops is for a rock demonstration. Our 23-foot tides reveal fascinating rocks, skirted with rockweed, and their forms and color simply beg to be painted.

For this 5x7 pastel, I wanted to illustrate how I paint these rocks. Rocks are made up of planes, no matter how "round" the rockweed may make them seem. Bare rock, of course, shows this characteristic more readily. Cracks with deep darks further define the rocks. Finally, I stress that any round line must be indicated not with roundness but with a series of short, end-to-end, straight lines. I often use the edge of a hard pastel to create these lines.

"Rocks and Rockweed"
5x7, pastel, en plein air

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Complexity of Piers

Look underneath any pier in a working harbor, and you'll see a tangle pilings, cross-pieces and interstices clotted with seaweed. How do you paint all that detail? In this case, detail is best rendered simply or implied.

In the little pastel below, I chose to imply it. I thought of the area underneath the pier as a dark wedge of shadow -- even the part where the pilings look thinner with lots of light showing through. I painted it all as dark, and then 'carved out' the pilings with light where needed. In the part that needed to remain dark, I laid in slightly lighter vertical strokes, but let my stroke 'chatter' as I did so. This gave a roughness to the stroke to give the eye the impression that more is going on than it actually is.

"Eastport Pier"
5x7, pastel, en plein air

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Light and Fog

Regular followers of my blog will know that we've had an uncommon amount of fog lingering deep into summer. Some might consider this an obstacle to plein air painting, but I welcome it. There's nothing like the silvery light that can play over surfaces when the fog is drifting in.

One day, I went down to Herring Cove beach to paint the grasses. The barrier beach that protects Lake Glensevern, Franklin D. Roosevelt's old swimming hole, from the pounding winter waves of the Bay of Fundy is a healthy mat of grass. The grass extends for a mile, the full length of the beach. On this day, although it was clear on the ground, the fog was right overhead, casting a beautiful, silver light that was reflected from every blade.

"Light and Fog"
(from the beach looking out to Herring Cove and Great Head)
5x7, oil, en plein air

Monday, July 21, 2008

Larger Format in Pastel - Fog Regatta

(See the full, step-by-step demonstration of this painting on my Backpacker Painting blog.)

I knew I'd be teaching mostly pastel this week, so Sunday I decided to get out and hone my pastel skills. I also had an older, framed pastel painting that I wanted to replace with new work. Its frame holds a 12x18 painting -- twice the size of my usual 9x12 pastels! Also, I like this longer format. A 9x12 has a 3:4 (0.75) ratio, but a 12x18 has a 4:6 (0.67) ratio, which is more panoramic and thus more suitable for broad ocean views.

I packed up the pastel gear and headed over to Raccoon Beach, which has a wonderful view of the bold coast of Campobello Island. But as luck would have it, Raccoon Beach was completely fogged in. So, I drove back to the other side of the island, near Friar's Bay, where I remember glimpsing a bit of open sky. I headed for the top of Friar's Head and its observation deck.

I didn't realize that the Roosevelt Cup, an annual regatta, was going on. What a perfect opportunity! From my overlook, I could see the sailboats gracing Friar's Bay and the low fog that added an element of mystery. Although the boats were speeding along, I made sure to sketch one key boat in my initial sketch before fog or speed took it away.

Despite the come-and-go fog, I had a great view from the top, and it was fun to watch the boats as they sailed around Dudley and Treat Islands. (In the painting, you can see both, plus the "tidal dam" that Roosevelt and Dexter Cooper built for harnessing tidal energy.)

"Fog Regatta"
12x18, pastel, en plein air


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Just Sketching

Last weekend, during my workshop in Eastport, I told students that sometimes you run into a scene that might be too ambitious for your energy level. At such a time, a better option than creating a finished painting is a simple sketch.

We ran into just such a situation one afternoon at the Eastport Boat School. The number of old boats in dry dock and in various stages of renovation seemed overwhelming. I picked out a sardine carrier, The Medric, which was built in the 1920s. Her lines and color were beautiful with the late afternoon light.

There were plenty of other boats keeping her company, but I decided to zoom in and capture her alone.

"The Medric"
5x7, oil, en plein air

Friday, July 18, 2008

Lay It Down and Leave It

One problem beginning oil painters run into is muddy color - even if the paint mixtures on their palettes are rich and clean. Muddy color on the canvas can be the result of fussing too much with brush strokes and blending with the brush. One way to avoid this is to lay a stroke down and leave it.

This takes practice, and many strokes, no matter how perfect, need an edge or size adjustment. Laying down the correcting stroke beside and not atop the stroke to be corrected is the way to do it.

In my oil painting workshop this week, I demonstrated this for students with the following 5x7 painting. I carefully mixed paint and applied strokes, and did my best to get the strokes right the first time. It made for a fun challenge!

"Salt Marsh Stream"
5x7, oil, en plein air

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sedona Art Center Blog

I'm proud to announce that I've been asked to participate in a blog sponsored by the Sedona Art Center. SAC has asked instructors for the upcoming year to post entries as a way of promoting the workshops and the art center. If you visit the SAC blog, you'll see posts by me and the other instructors over the next several months.

I've made my first post this morning: Liberty Point Wave. I'll be posting every couple of weeks on the SAC blog.

As a teaser, here is the painting I posted:

"Liberty Point Wave"
5x7, pastel, en plein air

Friday, July 11, 2008

Zooming In

It seems not so long ago that I was touting the benefits of painting in a larger format. It may seem odd, then, that today I offer these two small paintings.

When I teach half-day workshops, as I am doing now, I find it difficult to paint a full-scale demonstration and still leave time for students to paint. So, I often scale down my demonstration to match the time available. To get a successful painting with this restriction, I also scale down my "frame." I like to zoom in so that my center of interest fills the frame, and then I zoom out just a bit to include a few other elements for a successful design. I try to use the fewest elements I can.

"Head Harbour Rocks"
5x7, pastel, en plein air

"Herring Cove Grasses"
5x7, pastel, en plein air

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Massing Daisies

When you paint a field full of daisies, it's important to keep two things in mind. First, the individual flowers are not evenly spaced, as they might be on some cheap wallpaper. Instead, they grow in clumps. Second, these clumps aren't evenly spaced, either. They make an arrangement - a design - in the grass.

All this sounds obvious, but it's easier said than done. Our minds want to impose order on seeming randomness, especially if the natural pattern is difficult to discern. I'd rather spend a few moments looking for the hidden pattern rather than impose my own. My own is usually a poor substitute.

Here is a demonstration I did this week for my students. I've painted this field by the sea umpteen times, and every time it's different! The daisies have really taken over the phlox we had a couple of weeks ago. Look how the daisies are massed, and how even these masses are arranged. They make a pleasing path to the distant fir tree.

"Daisies in the Field"
9x12, pastel, en plein air

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Pastel Journal - Self-Publishing

As many of you know, I'm a frequent contributor to both The Artist's Magazine and The Pastel Journal. This month, The Pastel Journal printed my article on self-publishing. The reason I mention it is that the article features my book, Through a Painter's Brush: A Year on Campobello Island, and how I went about getting it into print. A number you have asked how I did it, so this article tells the story! You can read it in the current (August 2008) issue.

I also thought you might be interested in this little painting I did last week. We had an intensely sunny day, so I sought out deep shade to work in. I found this nice pair of rocks tucked away beneath an overhang.

"Herring Cove Rocks"
5x7, oil, en plein air

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Sky Holes

For my students this week, I gave a short demonstration on how I paint trees. They wanted to know how to paint one without painting every leaf. On this day, we had heavy overcast -- just perfect to see the tree shapes against the sky!

I picked out one of the tall firs in our field. Using pastel, I painted it with my darkest green and a bit of dark magenta. I just blocked in the basic big shape. Next, I painted the sky with very light blues and pinks. With these colors, I adjusted the shapes of the boughs by painting the negative space around them. I also added dots of light where the "sky holes"are. To darken the smaller sky holes, I smudged the pastel a bit with my finger. Finally, I added lighter, green accents to the tops of the boughs to give them more form. Piece of cake!

"Fir in the Field"
5x7, pastel, en plein air

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Foggy Day Painting

We don't often have fog this late in the Maritimes, but we seem to be having it this year. When fog strikes and you're teaching an outdoor painting workshop, you have to be on your toes for paintable scenes. Although fog is pretty to see and I certainly have done my share of painting it, for the student it's best to avoid fog scenes. I prefer to steer my students in for close-ups. Close-ups, because they don't have hundreds of feet of fog between you and the subject, often have rich color.

Here's an oil demonstration I did today of an old boat nestled in the wild roses. For extra rich color, I used Thalo Red Rose for the roses.

"Laid to Rest"
9x12, oil, en plein air