Cozy Harbor Inlet 11”X14”, oil on linen panel, 2014
What's on your bucket list? Mine keeps changing, and the current situation makes me want to revise it again. Some of the items I've done, so they're off the list. Some are ongoing, like learn to speak French. I've been working on that one for 4 years. Then there's learn to play the cello. That's been on my list for over 30 years. Maybe it's time to ditch it.
Bright Sail, Cozy Harbor 16”X20”, oil on linen panel, 2015
Another thing on my list has been spending the summer in Maine. Last year was the first time we did, and it was wonderful. This year, I'm not so sure. I hope it happens. Being in Maine for the summer, and out on the water a lot of the time, is a dream come true, a real bucket list success.
My Dream of Maine 20”X24”, oil on canvas, 2016
Then there's learning to paint. I wanted to do that since high school. I took evening classes in drawing early in my work career. I spent some time with water colors, which is how many people start because it seems less messy than the other options. What they don't tell you is that water color is the most difficult painting medium to learn. Then an artist neighbor suggested oil paints, as more forgiving (which is true). That was 20 years ago. I would have missed so much if I never tried it.
What's on your bucket list?
If learning to paint is on that list, I have an opportunity for you. Take a look at the beginning painting workshop I'm teaching in June. You can take it from your own home.
Dinghies at the Dock (Tenants Harbor) 12"x12" oil on canvas - available here
Maine has so many beautiful harbors. It doesn't matter whether you arrive by car or by boat, there is always something to see. There are several Maine towns that I first visited by boat, which is kind of cool. Tenants Harbor and Stonington come to mind. There are three dimensions to the beauty of these harbors; nature, buildings, and boats. All of these appeal to me, and the combinations can be quite stunning!
One of my favorites is Tenants Harbor on the southwestern shore of Penobscot Bay. It’s a quiet small town with a big wide harbor. As you come into the harbor you pass Southern Island, owned by the Wyeth family, where many of Jamie Wyeth’s paintings were created. There’s a big lobstering business in Tenants, and it's long been the home of a classic lobster shack with excellent lobster rolls. For many years it was Cod End but it's now owned by Luke’s Lobster who have maintained the original feel and good food. You can take a walk through the town with its classic Maine houses, but the harbor is the gem; lobster boats, many pleasure boats, little sailboats coming and going. It’s a delightful place to be in the summer.
View From Round Pond 8"x10" oil on canvas - available here
Round Pond is another Maine harbor town that I love, on the western side of Muscongus Bay. It’s a pretty little town with an excellent restaurant. They let us paint in their yard looking out over the harbor. There's also a lovely church, and of course, lobster boats, and sailboats.
Merchant's Row (from Stonington) 8"x8" oil on canvas board - available here
Another harbor town that I love is Stonington, on Deer Isle on the eastern side of Penobscot Bay. South of Stonington is one of the most beautiful pieces of water in the state of Maine, an area of beautiful unpopulated islands, called Merchant’s Row. The scenery is stunning. Stonington is a bigger town than Tenants Harbor and Round Pond, with a number of restaurants and shops, an opera house, and the ferry to Isle a Haut. It's a beautiful place, with lovely architecture, and scenery that has been painted by many people.
Paintings in this post are available in the Downeast Collection, here.
Lucky Lady III 10"x10" oil on canvas panel
I've rarely painted from the same photo three times, but there was this Lucky Lady...
I first saw F/V (fishing vessel) Lucky Lady off Boothbay Harbor in 2009. What a great lobster boat! She was red, that always gets my attention. The stern man had on Grundens, yay! Another pop of color. And the weather was fine, bright blue water and sky, with a nice reflection. It was perfect. I snapped a photo as we passed by in our boat, and later painted her.
Press play to see the three versions of the Lucky Lady
Versions I and II are 6"x6", version III is 10"x10"
That first painting of the Lady sold quickly to one of my favorite collectors. And then about a year later, I got an email from a very nice woman inquiring about the sketch I'd posted before doing the painting. Her friend was buying the boat and she would've loved to buy the painting, but she saw online that it was sold. I offered to paint the Lucky Lady a second time for her friend and we did the deal. She gave it to him for his birthday and he loved it! I was so pleased.
Two of my other favorite Casco Bay lobster boats
The Sternman 16x20 and Blue Boat 6x8
Well, life went on, and then one day a couple of years later, I turned off Route 1 onto the road to South Freeport, and after a few minutes, what did I see in front of me on a Brownell trailer (that's the kind that carry big boats)? Yes! It was the Lucky Lady. I was thrilled. I followed the trailer to the boatyard, and was lucky enough to meet the owner who'd been given my painting. And I saw the nice renovation that he'd had done to turn the Lady into a cruiser. I was very pleased to see the boat was still red and still called the Lucky Lady. And to celebrate, I painted her again. My son always loved the Lucky Lady paintings, so Lucky Lady III now hangs in his kitchen.
Board Girls, Stripes, and Tubular all 12"x12" oil on canvas
It may seem frivolous to be thinking about the beach while we're in a pandemic, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one thinking about it. Since I can't go there myself, I've been looking through the beach paintings I've done over the years and dreaming of sun and sand. And lots of people to draw...
Sittin In the Sun, 4"x5" gouache on paper and sketch
The way I got into painting people on the beach was through drawing. When I’m at the beach I’m often sketching. It’s challenging to try and sketch people as they're sunning themselves. They look like they’re on their towels or in their chairs for the duration, and then poof, they move or get up. So I try and do my drawings in just a minute or two.
What Is It? and Shell Seekers 6"x6" oil on canvas/board
Other times I walk down the beach with my camera or phone clicking away, panning so that no one thinks they are being singled out. And they’re not, since in my drawings and paintings hopefully they are recognizable as people, but not as themselves!
On the Beach and Beach at Trouville, 6"x8" oil on canvas/board
Whatever we get at the beach, whether it's a lazy relaxing day, a vigorous swim in the surf, or only a sunburn, it's always worth it go. And that shower to rid ourselves of the sunscreen feels sooo good when we get home.
FYI, the Downeast Collection is now available here.
Delivering the Catch 9"x12" oil on canvas (Stonington, ME)
Someone asked me the other day what the word "downeast" means. To many people it simply means the coast of Maine. So what's that like?
It's brightly colored buoys bouncing in the waves; the smell of bait and diesel as lobster boats make their way along the rocky shore;
the forlorn horn of a navigation buoy out in the bay, especially at night, when sound seems to travel farther;
the salt infused taste of a lobster roll or a bucket of steamed clams;
and the wonder of the land and seascape, islands dotted here and there, with maybe a schooner anchored in a quiet cove.
Detail of Buoy 5 6"x6" oil on canvas
In fact, downeast (or down east) is a term that originated in the early 1800’s. In the summer the prevailing winds on the coast of Maine come from the southwest. It’s easiest for sailing ships to move in the same direction as the wind, called heading downwind. So ships traveling from Boston to ports in Maine travel downwind, and those ports are located east of Boston, thus down east. In fact, Mainers will still say they are going up to Boston, even though it’s more than 50 miles south of the Maine border.
Gorgeous granite islands at the entrance to Seal Bay on Vinalhaven
While in general terms, people use downeast to mean any coastal place that's northeast of Boston, more rigorously, it’s the area northeast of the Penobscot River, including Hancock and Washington counties, and the Canadian Maritime provinces New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Due to the tough winter weather, it was one of the last parts of the state settled by Europeans, but has some of the most wonderful natural beauty on the coast.
Entrance to Seal Bay 5"x7" oil on gessobord
I treasure the time that we get to spend downeast each summer, usually on our boat. And looking at the paintings that it inspires take me back there every time.
Lobster boats on their moorings in Stonington, on Deer Isle
Detail of Pumpkin Knob (The Nubbin) 5"x7" oil on panel
I confess, I’m a morning person. I love to get up as soon as it’s light. Whether I head out immediately to take a walk, which is what I’m doing these days, or if I simply make my breakfast and enjoy it in the peace and quiet, being up early starts my day right. I know there are night owls, but I don’t know how that works. By 9:30 PM I'm usually missing half the plot of whatever mystery we’re watching as I doze in my chair. I'm not complaining, It's worth it to be awake all the hours of the day that it's light.
Tidewater Clouds 8"x10" oil on canvas
One of my very favorite things to do in the early summer mornings when we’re in Maine, is to gather my painting gear and head down to the neighborhood dock, and do a quick painting before I’m in the way of those heading out on their boats. There’s just something about that time of the morning, it’s still, you can hear the gulls squawking, you can smell the mud flats at low tide, that really earthy but not unpleasant smell, you can hear the put-put of the diesel engine on a lobster boat, and if there's any breeze, the lap of the small waves on the rocky shore. You can practically taste the salt in the air. Being out in the early morning is such an immersive nature experience.
Sturdivant Island Summer 5"x7" oil on panel
We have a couple of benches at the end of our pier, very convenient to sit on while painting, but you have to be careful not to loose a brush or a knife in between the slats. It’s high up above the water so you can see quite far. Cousins Island, Sturdivant and Basket islands. And our own little rock of an island, which used to be call Pumpkin Knob, now called the Nubbin on the nautical charts. If you look the other way, you can see up towards Freeport, and the bridge to Cousin’s Islands. Truthfully, I usually leave the bridge out of paintings... These early morning painting sessions are such a treat.
The video below from last summer shows the view from the dock. Maybe you can see some of the paintings above in the video. You might even see your own boat!
Detail of Dinghy-4 in Blue and Green 5"x7" oil on canvas
I've painting a lot of blue lately. Just like I've been wanting to be by the water, I'm drawn to the color blue. It's probably because in times of trouble, I look to things that are calm and serene, like the sky on a cloudless day and the water reflecting it.
Summer Marsh 8"x10" oil on canvas
Have you ever noticed how the sky is a darker blue high up over our heads and can be almost light blue-green at the horizon? And how the blue of the water becomes darker when there's a stiff breeze? There are so many blues! Peacock blue, swimming pool turquoise, the blue of lilacs, deep cobalt blue, the purple blue of shadows on the snow, I'm sure you can add many more.
Detail of Spring Marsh Reflection 5"x7" oil on canvas
How does the artist paint all these blues? The easiest way is to start with the two blues shown below. Then with the help of some white, two yellows, and two reds we can mix all the colors of the rainbow, including all the blues, greens, and other colors in these paintings. Learn more about this limited palette here.
phthalo blue (left), ultramarine blue (right), and below mixed with white
Detail of Promise of Adventure 12"x12" oil on Raymar panel
While we've been stuck at home, I find myself needing to be by the water. In an earlier post I showed a video of a favorite nearby walk, which is a favorite largely due to the water view. Yesterday I saw a bright green canoe on the far shore...
Detail of Diligence 6"x6" oil on Raymar panel.
What is it about water that attracts us so much? And put a boat in the water and it's even more compelling. Which reminds me of a discussion I once had with a fellow in Castine, at their plein air event. He was admiring a painting I'd done of a small sailboat, and I asked him "Would you like it better with a person in it?" His instant response was "No!". When I asked why, he told me that what appealed to him about the empty boat, was the promise of adventure, that he could hop in, grab the oars and take off. If someone was already occupying the boat, it wouldn't be his adventure. I love that!
Detail of Bright Sail Cozy Harbor 16"x20" oil on canvas.
I love painting boats, all kinds. And I love being in them too. But I have to admit, most of those I paint, don't have anyone in them. So I guess I feel the same way as the guy in Castine. There is one situation though, where it's good include some people, and that's when I'm painting a boat portrait for the owner. In that case I want to paint their adventure as well as their boat.
Our son's dogs, Clara and Troy
On my morning walk the other day, a fellow and his dog moved off the trail to give me 6 feet of social distancing. I smiled and commented on his beautiful dog, and he said " If there is one group of critters on this planet that is over the moon with happiness these days, it's our dogs. What could be better for them than to have all their favorite people home all the time?" Isn't that the truth? And it goes for any pet that enjoys the company of their pack.
Having them around is good for us people too, especially now, when we can only enjoy the company of our human friends and family via the telephone or video conferencing. A head or paw on the knee is a reminder that someone cares and that someone needs us too. Since our beloved airedale died, my pet interaction has been with our son's two rescues, and I love them. I'm looking forward to when I'll be able to join them on their daily walks again.
I've also enjoyed the experience of painting people's pets, mostly dogs, and some cats too. Pet portraits are fun for several reasons. Animals have interesting shapes, and I love to draw them. There are lots of angles, and spots and varied coloring add to the puzzle. There's something there to hold onto when you start to draw.
To create a pet portrait, I usually start with an under painting in one color, showing the darks and lights, which is my map for the color layer. It's a huge help, and part of the process I teach my students for any painting. Next I begin the color layer with the darkest of the dark paint, in fairly large shapes, and move to the lightest. Then, while the painting is still wet, a top layer of detail, and I'm done. Above and below are some examples of that process.
Another fun thing about painting pets is that these paintings are usually commissions. In a commission I get to learn a lot more about the subject and what it means to my client than happens when I create a painting based on my own preferences. I get to hear about the animal's personality, and stories about their antics. A successful painting is one that means something to someone, to a particular person or family. Pet portraits give me an opportunity to create that meaning for those who've lost a pet or are intent on treasuring their current furry friend.
For 10 years of previous blogposts, click here.
Keeping our distance isn't easy is it? I've been texting and on video calls a lot this last week. And it's been good to catch up with friends and relatives I hadn't spoken to in a while.
One of the things that's keeping me sane is a nice long morning walk. The video above is from an old kid's camp that belongs to the town of Westford, MA. What a great place for a hike! I think I see some paintings here...
You can see that drawing is pretty important for this kind of painting. And contrary to some thinking, drawing is not actually that hard. For those of you who'd like to give drawing a try, I've got something for you below. Download the line drawing file and print it out. Now turn it upside down (mast pointing downward) and place it on the table in front of you. Take a sheet of paper and a pencil and copy my drawing.
Now turn your drawing right side up and take a look. What do you think? The beauty of this exercise is, if you don't recognize what you're drawing, it's much easier to draw. By the way, this is also a great exercise for kids. And coloring the drawing is fun too.
For 10 years of previous blog posts, click here.
Bobbi - Painter. Sketcher. Teacher. Boat and Dog Lover.