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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Revisiting a Scene

Sometimes it's worth revisiting a place you've painted. You can continue to explore the scene's color and composition possibilities and become even more familiar with it. In a sense, rather than skating across the surface of a particular landscape, you begin to dive deeper into what it is that makes it unique.

I've been revisiting some boats I've painted. I like boats, and I'm having a lot of fun painting them. But perhaps more important, I can't keep my boat paintings on the wall! They keep selling.

Here's the "Simone & Rachel" - again. Different time of day, different tide, different light. And I enjoyed painting it the second time just as much as I did the first.

"Simone & Rachel II" 12x16, oil/canvas - sold

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Colors of Fog

"The Colors of Fog"
8x10, pastel on board

A search for paintable scenes in fog isn't always successful. Fog, however, can change the most familiar spot into something new. Today, I took the students over to Con Robinson Point, a place I've painted countless times, hoping it would offer some view in this unseasonably foggy July. As luck would have it, the rock outcrop, a familiar friend, was just barely visible.

We often think of fog as grey, and as a very neutral grey at that. For this piece, I did an experiment. I divided my scene up into three value groups - dark, mid-value and light - and then selected pink and green pastels for each value group. For the distant parts, I picked cooler pinks and greens; for the foreground, I picked warmer pinks and greens. Pink (or red) and green are complements, and when layered lightly, mix into a wonderful greyed medley. For variety, I added a hint of blue and yellow here and there.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Clock Ticks, the Tide Rises

"Out to Pasture
12x16, oil/canavas

When I go out painting, I don't normally put myself in a situation where I may have to move my easel. There's nothing more disruptive than having to break down and set up again when you're "in the zone."

Yesterday, I found the perfect romantic scene of an old boat put "out to pasture" over at the Head Harbour Wharf. Well, not quite perfect. To get to the best vantage point, I had to go down a steep slope and cross a bit of land that is underwater at high tide. We were at flood tide - that is, the water was rising - and the painting spot was about two hours from becoming an island.

The boat was the most complicated piece of the scene and demanded my focus. I long ago stopped taking a camera into the field to take reference shots. If I know I'm going to be tight on time, I try to get the drawing right and then make color notes for everything else. With these, and also several minutes of careful observation committed to memory, I can make a successful painting.

Sure enough, my painting friend and I got wrapped up in our work. When one of us finally thought to check the path behind us, we saw only a six-inch-wide strip of dry land remaining! And it was fast shrinking. We immediately broke down our gear and wrestled our way up the rocky path to safety.

The iron was still hot when I got back to the studio, so I spent about another two hours finishing "Out to Pasture".

The poet Wordsworth once said that poetry is "emotion recollected in tranquility." We can apply this to painting, as well. The plein air piece is emotion, directly stated and with what tools, physical as well as mental, that the artist took into the field. Often, tranquility (nor time) is available in sufficient quantity to bring poetry to the scene. For that, we have the studio.

By the way, lately I've been working on stretched canvas rather than panel, and in bigger sizes than I normally do outdoors. Because I'm painting larger, I'm using thinner paint, and the canvas weave gives me a softer stroke. Whereas my panel paintings tend to start off with a lot of hard edges that I need to soften in the finishing stages, these start off soft and need to have hard edges introduced.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Oil DVD Now Available - Backpacker Painting: Oil on Location

I'm proud to announce that the second of two companion DVDs to my book in now available. Backpacker Painting: Oil on Location again takes you to the red hills of Sedona, Arizona, where I show you how I paint the landscape en plein air using the medium of oil. You'll see how I simplify the landscape and along the way, I'll explain my approach to handling value, design and color.

Oil on Location is 52 minutes long and includes two bonus segments totalling 8 minutes.

Both DVDs are available for purchase on my website via PayPal for $40 (USD) each + $5 shipping (to US and Canada).

If you get the DVDs, you'll also want the book! The book contains lots of information that simply doesn't fit into an hour-long video. The book is available for $45+$5 shipping and can be ordered from the website.

By the way, you can combine shipping. Contact us and we will issue an adjusted invoice.

Painting demonstrated:
"Camelhead, Backlit" 9x12, oil, en plein air

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Little Knifework

"Fog Bank Off Mink Point"
12x16, oil/canvas

I usually work exclusively with a brush, but occasionally I'm reminded that a painting knife can provide useful accents in the finish. During one rainy day this week, I spent some time reviewing Richard Schmid's landscape painting video, the one in which he paints a lovely picture of a Vermont barn. The last hour of this nearly three-hour video was devoted to adding painstaking, miniscule accents and corrections with a knife. Although I can do it, it's rare for me to muster that degree of patience. (And maybe that's why his paintings sell for more!)

Yesterday was sunny, so I headed out to paint in one of my favorite spots, Upper Duck Pond. The name is a misnomer, since it's really a broad tidal flat. I've seen more clam diggers there than ducks. I like it for the rock outcrops that you can walk to at low tide. I found an unusual perspective down near the waterline, which meant I had to keep my eye on the tide as I painted. I also had to keep my eye on the fog - a bank of it sat ominously just beyond the last island the whole time.

I painted broadly and got the piece to what I considered my usual finish. But when I returned to the studio, I thought it lacked sparkle. Then I remembered Schmid. So, I picked up my knife and went to work, adding a bit of light green foliage on the main rock outcrop and a little bit of glistening water in the foreground. I was really pleased with how just a few dabs could improve the piece.

Here are some details of the knife work.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Even More Boats

"Brown-Eyed Girl"
16x20, oil

We've had a crop of bad weather lately, so I've been forced to the studio to do some large pieces for my upcoming show at Sunbury Shores Art & Nature Centre in St Andrews (14 August - 9 September). I'm into boats right now, so I pulled out some photos to work from. Here's a funny story about the photo "Brown-Eyed Girl" was made from.

I saw this photo the other week, and I liked the boat and the composition well enough to decide to start a painting. But I wanted to collect additional reference material, in particular some color studies, since we all know how photos lie about color. I seemed to recall having seen this boat still up on the flats the other day, so on our one sunny day this month, I went out to paint it. That day's effort became the 16x20 "Simone & Rachel," which I blogged about the other day.

When I went home to start the studio painting, I suddenly realized the boat in the photo was a different color! It was green, but the boat I'd painted (the "Simone & Rachel") was red. Closer analysis also showed a different name on the hull: "Brown-Eyed Girl." As I studied the photo, I saw other differences, too, such as the profile of the gunwale.

There's no point to this tale other than this: Painting may hone one's skills of observation, but you still have to pay attention!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More Boats

"The Simone & Rachel"
16x20, oil - SOLD

I've been painting boats lately. Boats can be complicated - they're full of compound curves. And boats can be undependable, because they go up and down with the tides, and they are likely to vanish when the fishermen show up for work. But I enjoy them. I like their shapes, especially when I have a big canvas and can let my whole arm swing as I sketch in their curves. I also like their proportions and consider them a worthy challenge. It's a good feeling when everything comes together just right!

The best boats to paint are the ones that are beached. If you can catch them at low tide, they will stay beached - it's not until the tide floats them that there's any chance of them being put to work. Today, I went over to Lubec to paint the "Simone & Rachel," which is exactly that kind of boat. I've seen it at low tide several times, and I reckoned that at today's low tide, it'd be there again.

Once I got it back to the studio, I spent the afternoon adjusting values and edges.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Painting Rich Color

"Waiting for High Tide"
9x12, oil

The sun has returned to Campobello, so yesterday we went out to paint boats. Few boats around here have that spanking-new, out-of-the-can paint job that you see in the marinas of Key West. Our boats are working boats, which means the fishermen paint them when they have time, which isn't often. But you'll always find wonderful color in the brightly-hued boat buoys and bumpers. These are made with synthetic colors you won't find in nature.

And you won't find the colors in my limited palette, either. I use a split-primary palette consisting of Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Red Light, Permanent Alizarin, Ultramarine Blue and Phthalo Blue. Trying to mix the right buoy color from these is impossible. The buoys are an orangey-pinky color, which is more of a secondary than a primary. Anytime you mix a secondary from the primaries, you automatically get a greyed version of the secondary. To get a really rich version, you must go for a tube color.

While painting "Waiting for High Tide" on location, I blocked in the buoy with Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Yellow Light and white. I knew I couldn't achieve the exact color I wanted, so the block-in was a memory aid for the studio. Once in the studio, I re-painted it with Grumbacher Thalo Red Rose, Cadmium Barium Orange and white. This made a big difference and got the effect I needed.

Here's a before and after photo of the buoy:

Also, please don't forget that my pastel video, one of two companion DVDs to my book, Backpacker Painting, is now available. You can find out more and order it from here:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Pastel Companion DVD Now Available

I'm proud to announce that the first of two companion DVDs to my book in now available. Backpacker Painting: Pastel on Location takes you to the red hills of Sedona, Arizona, where I show you how I paint the landscape en plein air using the medium of pastel. You'll see how I abstract the scene and "build" the painting using simple shapes. Along the way, I explain my approach to handling value, design and color - all so you yourself can use the same techniques in creating beautiful paintings on location.

Pastel on Location is 49 minutes long and includes two bonus segments totalling 8 minutes.

The DVD is available for purchase on my website via PayPal for $40 (USD) + $5 shipping (to US and Canada).

You can also see a one-minute preview on YouTube.

By the way, the Argosy Gallery in Bar Harbor, Maine, has invited me to be one of 30 nationally-recognized artists to participate in the 2nd Acadian Invitational Exhibition. The Exhibition will open August 7, 2010, with a gala reception at the Bar Harbor Inn. For more on the Argosy Gallery, visit The first exhibition, which was in 2006, had such luminaries as Charles Movalli, Kathleen Dunphy, Don Stone, Elizabeth Tolley, Ron Johnson and W. Jason Situ. I don't know who's on the list this year, but I'm really looking forward to the event!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Greys II

The rain just keeps coming. We had a dry moment yesterday, so I went out to paint the lupines. They've been particularly gorgeous this year (no doubt because of all the rain), but they're beginning to age. Down at the bottom of the driveway there's a particularly nice patch. It's next to a building with a porch, so in the event of a shower, I'd be able to reach shelter quickly.

I've missed painting the large pieces I did this winter, so I toted a 16x20 stretched canvas out to my spot. First, though, I prepped it in the studio with a wash of burnt sienna; I needed some warmth to offset all the cool colors I knew I'd be putting in. Nearly all the colors I used were greyed to some extent. I saved my richest, brightest colors for the lupines and the grasses. Back in the studio, they weren't quite bright enough, so I pulled out my secret weapons: Grumbacher's Permanent Rose and Gamblin's Radiant Green. I added a little white to the Permanent Rose to lighten it but used Radiant Green straight out of the tube. The beauty is all in the contrast of grey and rich color.

"Friar's Head & Lupines"
16x20, oil, en plein air

Here is a detail shot of the lupines: