If you’re a boat person, you’ve probably seen a boat that grabbed your interest and held on. The same can happen if you’re a car person or a bird person. You catch a glimpse of something interesting, and then pow! It’s just so perfectly proportioned, a wonderful color, and you want to get closer and see more.
That’s what happened to me when we picked up our morning for the night in Buck’s Harbor last summer. I fell in love with someone else’s dinghy. But that’s OK, because I don’t want to own it, I want to paint it! I’ve shown you some drawings I did of this special boat a few posts back. It’s time for some paintings.
Lapstrake Dinghy 5"x7" gouache on paper
My first attempt was a gouache on paper study that was a blast to work on. Gouache is a water based paint, a lot like watercolor, except that it’s opaque. I’ve used it on and off for years, and it felt right for my first painting of this boat. I took the liberty of changing the color of the big sailboat that she came in with for a more interesting color scheme.
Next I decided to go bigger with a 9”x12” oil painting, and started with a value underpainting, above. While that was drying a few other boat paintings came and went, and when I got back to this one I was in knife painting mode.
First, I painted the boat, and then started on the reflection. In the video above, I show how I work with the knife to paint the reflection, using a jig I made to hold the painting so that I can turn it around while I work.
And in this video, you get a closeup view of the painting so that you can see the texture created by the knife strokes. To me, they add a whole new dimension to the work.
The Owl (and Maybe) the Pussycat 10"x10" oil on canvas panel
Last time we visited the town of Ilseboro on Little Cranberry Island I got a good photo of this lovely rowboat with a nice lobster boat behind her. The rowboat is quite the classic. When I posted the finished painting on Instagram, I learned that she's a Jarvis Newman design built by the Newman and Gray Boatyard on Great Cranberry Island, just across the passage. It's always a treat to find out these details. Sometimes, I change the color of boats when I paint them, but these two looked interesting as they were. And I also sometimes change the boat names, as I did here.
My value underpainting with revised drawing
I frequently start a complex painting with a value underpainting. That's a monochrome painting where the shapes have different levels of light or dark, which we painters call values. Having the value shapes rather than a simple drawing makes it easier to apply the colors with the correct values. In this case, I put the piece aside for a while, and when I came back to it, I decided the shape of the rowboat wasn't quite right, and adjusted it with the blue painted lines.
A video showing how I paint from a black and white photo.
Painting from a black and white rather than color photo is another approach that helps me to get the value of each color right. I generally start with the darkest colors and the most complicated shapes in the middle of the painting, in this case, the boats and the reflection, and work my way outwards.
Testing the values in color of the water and sky
Once I have the boats and reflection done, I start on the water, testing the values in the nearest and farthest water, and begin filling in the darkest colors first. In this case, I also put in the farthest land to make sure the value was right against the boat, and tested some color in the sky.
Having decided to name the rowboat Owl, it was pretty clear that the lobster boat will become the Pussycat. I'll wait until it's dry before lightly painting the name.