White Dinghy Bow 5"x7" oil on gessoboard
I've painted this boat at least six times. And taken many pictures of it, as it turned on it's mooring in Casco Bay. It was built by a local lobsterman to take him to and from his lobster boat, the Foxy Lady. It's a classic skiff, one of the more common type of boat used by lobstermen. Skiffs have a flat bottom, pointed bow and flat stern. They can travel in shallow water, which makes them easy to take ashore. They are a subset of dinghies, whose name comes from their use rather than their shape.
Waiting for the Lobsterman 6"x6" oil on canvas panel
Above is my first painting of the white skiff, from about six years ago. This is the only painting where I included the engine, which was fun to paint, with it's chunky shape and tiller. I also love the red water line on this boat, very cheerful. And I was drawn to the shadow side being just a little darker then the water.
Dinghy in Blue 6"x6" oil on canvas panel
Above, I decided to go a little crazy with color. That's one of the great things about painting. As long as you get the values right (how dark or light a shape is), you can use any color you want for that shape. I often work from a black and white photo to do this. In this case, the canvas was toned bright pink, some of which shows through both the water and the reflection. I couldn't resist painting the boat yellow, and setting it off with a bright violet blue.
White Dinghy Stern 5"x7" oil on gessobord
I think this is the most recent painting of my favorite skiff, it's from last summer. Maybe it's time to paint her again. Every painting of this boat I've created has been sold. So either she's a beauty, or my attraction to her makes me paint at my best. She features in two of my note card sets, available here on my website.
Farm Pond Pines 6"x6" oil on canvas panel
One of my artist friends pointed out to me that tomorrow is National Making Life Beautiful Day. My skeptical side asked if every day has some kind of label. Probably. But since as a painter, most days I do get to make life beautiful in my choice of subjects, I kind of liked this one. So I started thinking about the dimensions of making life beautiful. Beauty in the visual comes to mind first, but there is beautiful music, and beauty in deeds, and there's making things beautiful for someone else.
Peony Garden 6"x6" oil on canvas panel
For many, flowers are the quintessential beauty in nature. Peonies are my favorite. And they've just started to bloom this season. Their blooms don't last but a couple of weeks, which makes them even more special. They come in white and shades of pink and red. If you're near Portland Maine they'll probably be blooming at Maine Audubon Gilsland Farm any day now. What a way to make life beautiful!
Distant Pink 6"x6" oil on canvas panel
Painting outside is a special way to enjoy a beautiful life. Being both focused and immersed in your subject matter does something to the artist's mind. The resulting painting isn't always great, but the experience is fulfilling.
The Meadows 6"x6" oil on canvas panel
Maybe tomorrow I'll take some peonies to my mother-in-law, send out a few notes to friends, and finish one of the home beautifying projects on my to-do list.
For more ideas on making life beautiful, check out this article by art tile potter Marina Bosetti.
Lobstah 8"x8" oil on canvas panel
In June, in our neighborhood in Maine, we have a lobster bake. It's a tradition that everyone loves. Sometimes there are extra lobsters, and people take them home. One year I did that and rearranged my take-home-lobster on a plate in a few different ways so that I could paint him.
With Pie 8"x8" oil on canvas panel
The way the lobsters are cooked has changed over time. Traditionally, they were baked over a fire in a nest of rock weed, which is the seaweed you see uncovered at low tide. Eggs were placed in the nest with the lobster, and used as thermometers. When the eggs were done, the lobsters were done. There are always clams as well, but they didn't make it home to be in the paintings!
Dinnah 8"x8" oil on canvas panel
In addition to the lobsters, clams, and eggs, everyone brings something. We start out with delicious appetizers. I almost always bring deviled eggs, which don't last long. Another favorite is a sort of chili rellenos bake that is cut into squares. It's totally yummy. And there's a seafood cheese dip that's very popular. If you're not careful, you won't have room for the lobsters. Oh, I almost forgot, for those who aren't crustacean fans, there are burgers and hot dogs.
Blueberry Pie 8"x8" oil on canvas panel
And finally there's dessert. Pies of many kinds, always brownies, cookies, watermelon, and fruit salad. I know I'm forgetting something.
I wish I could invite you to join us...
I took this photo with my phone on a beautiful summer afternoon. I'd like to crop it for a painting, and I want a compelling composition. I can see one problem already, the horizon is in the center. When looking at a photo or painting, our brain is attracted to the interlocking abstract shapes. And it is attracted most to assymetry, and irregular spacing. So a painting with half sky is less appealing that one that's mostly sky or mostly not sky. So I'll try cropping the photo to see what those two options look like.
I've put a grid on the photo to divide it into thirds horizontally and vertically. A good way to avoid putting things in the center (symmetric = not compelling) is to use the rule of thirds, which says that placing important elements of the design 1/3 away from the edges is the most appealing to our assymetry loving brains.
In the above image, I've cropped the photo to put the horizon on the bottom third line, and also placed the gap in the trees on that line where it crosses the right vertical third line. Now we've got a composition that's mostly about the sky. I could have lowered it even more to put the top of the trees at the bottom third line and gotten more of the clouds in the image.
In the above image, I've put the horizon on the top third horizontal line. The gap in the trees is still on the top right. Now we've got an an image that's about the marsh.
In the above crop, I've moved the gap in the trees to the left, bringing in more of the dark water and foliage.
It's actually easier to see the interlocking shapes if we use a black and white image and posterize the values (meaning limit the number). I like to use 4 values.
Above, the original photo in black and white, and posterized using the Pixlr app. For instructions, look here.
Below are the posterized images of the cropped images above. Using both the photos and the black and white posterized versions, which composition do you find the most compelling?
Note: While the rule of thirds grid is very useful in cropping for a good composition, a grid with an even number of columns and rows can be more useful for creating a drawing from the photo. Even making a grid with one vertical and one horizontal line through the middle of the photo will be a great aid to getting the drawing onto your canvas. And turning the gridded photo upside down also helps a lot, because you can no longer see the objects, but are simply drawing shapes. Below is an example for the mostly sky crop above. Note that you can put the grid on the color photo, black and white photo, or the posterized image, whichever is easier for you to use as a reference for the drawing.
You can add a grid on your phone or tablet with Grid # on Apple and Artist Grid on Android. For an 8"x10" painting, use the app to make a 4 by 4 grid on your device and then save, or screenshot it and crop, and you are ready to go. You can draw from your device or print out the image with the grid. For larger paintings you may want more grid lines. The apps let you choose the number.