Friday, July 24, 2015

Castine Plein Air Festival 2015 - Day 1

Dyce Head 9x12 oil/panel
by Michael Chesley Johnson

"Make hay while the sun shines," the saying goes. Today was sunny with a few clouds; for tomorrow, they are predicting showers. To make the most of the sun, I pushed myself and made five paintings. Three 9x12s before lunch; a 12x16 after lunch; and then a final 9x12 after an early supper. Was I tired? You bet!

Morning dawned clear and cool, and I was up early for coffee. Although there were a couple of hours of sunlight before the 7:30 canvas stamping, I decided to not scope out painting spots. After two times at the Festival, I have a good idea of possible locations. Instead, I lingered over a book, saving my energy for what I knew would be a long day.

Like a few other painters, I got to the canvas stamping tent a few minutes early to beat the rush. As soon as I loaded my pile of stamped panels back into the car, I headed down to Wadsworth Cove. The Cove is on the other side of Castine's little peninsula, opposite town. It's a popular beach, but it has good views, and I knew that early it would be empty of swimmers. Also, the clouds in the sky looked promising, and the Cove would be a perfect place for painting them.

For this event, I've decided to work exclusively with a small painting knife. I like the rich color a knife gives me, and also the fact that I don't have to clean any brushes. It's hard, however, to completely cover a surface with a knife; little white spots of any untoned canvas will shine through like Christmas tree lights To moderate this effect, I am toning all my panels with Gamblin's Transparent Earth Red FastMatte oil color. I just take a paper towel, dampen it slightly with Gamsol, and then work the FastMatte into the panel. This gives a warm background, somewhat like burnt sienna, and it dries fast enough that I can lay more paint on top without getting mud. I'm really pleased with the results I'm getting.

I did two paintings of Wadsworth Cove from the same spot; one looking south, and the other looking east. I like a location where I can get two or more paintings out of it without moving my easel! Only one other painter showed up here, and that was as I was finishing.

Afterward, I headed over to the Dyce Head Lighthouse. Here, there were several painters already set up. It was later in the morning and getting close to lunchtime, so I figured it would be a popular spot. I found a place to park and set up in front of my car. My timing was perfect, because the lighthouse and the keeper's cottage were lit from the left; any earlier, and they would have been front-lit; any later, back-lit. I took some liberties with a set of houses on the left. I chose to bulldoze them so I could have a view of the bay.

When lunch came, I wasn't sure what I was going to do the rest of the day. I was pretty tired already -- the sun really takes it out of you -- but lunch and a cup of Earl Grey tea energized me. I drove around and found a new spot. It's a little higher up with a view of the bay and, surprisingly for Castine, it's a vacant lot. This painting was a 12x16, and I blocked in the color with a big brush before going back to the knife. Large paintings made with a knife go faster if you can get color laid in with a brush first. (And I just used the one brush, so cleanup was quick.)

Now I was hungry again. I headed down to the town dock for supper at Dennett's Wharf restaurant. While enjoying my haddock sandwich, I decided I'd had it with painting for the day, so I took a walk afterward. My legs took me to the rooftop viewing area of the Maine Maritime Academy's wharf building. There I found four painters busily capturing the evening light. Feeling guilty that I'd knocked off so early, I dashed back to the car and retrieved my gear. I set up and painted a westerly view. Once again, the sky was my focus -- it was just so beautiful with the setting sun.

I'm only allowed to have six paintings in the show. But although I've already painted five that I am very pleased with, I'm certainly going to keep painting. You never know if a better painting might come along.

Castine Bay 12x16 oil/panel by Michael Chesley Johnson
Available - Contact Michael

Evening Clouds 9x12 oil/panel by Michael Chesley Johnson
Available - Contact Michael

Wadsworth Cove, East 9x12 oil/panel by Michael Chesley Johnson
Available - Contact Michael

Wadsworth Cove, South, 9x12 oil/panel by Michael Chesley Johnson
Available - Contact Michael

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