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.
Demo - Jackson Dinghy
8"x8" on 3/4" gallery wrap canvas
Practice - Jackson Dinghy
8"x8" on 3/4" gallery wrap canvas
On Saturday I did a demo at the For the Love of Art event at the Drawing Room at Anthi Frangiadis Associates in Marion, MA. It was a lot of fun, with engaged viewers who asked very good questions. It had been a couple of years since I'd done a full painting demo, but lots of hours teaching with minim demos had happened in between. Luckily I also remembered something I'd learned in my previous career, after not doing very well on panel discussion that I tried to do off the top of my head: preparation is key! Here's my advice and what I did to prepare:
- Choose subject your audience can appreciate. I prefer to do demos from life, but that has to be balanced with what my audience would like to see. In this boating community, I knew what my subject needed to be, even though it was the dead of winter!
- Choose a painting that you've painted before.
- Practice the drawing several times over a couple of days. A solid drawing makes for a stress free demo. My goal was to draw from the photo and then to add a grid and compare my drawing on the canvas with a photo that also had the grid as a way for the viewers to check my accuracy. So I practiced drawing on paper from the plain photo and then adding the gird and fixing my mistakes. It was instructive!
- Practice the demo painting, i.e., paint the whole thing. This was important because it had been a couple of years since I'd painted the original. I had to remember how to mix all the colors so as to not waste time experimenting during the demo. And I found that my current process (with a value under painting and two layers of color) took more than 2 hours, so I shortened it to one layer of color for the demo.
- I didn't practice what I was going to say. I could talk all day long about the painting process!
Interestingly, even with the explanations and answering questions, the demo was less than an hour and a half, so all was well. And I enjoyed it! That's good because I've got another one scheduled for an event in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, in June.
Liqueur and Clementine
8"x6" oil on canvas panel
Available at Yarmouth Frame and Gallery
Drawing into the yellow ochre background with the wipe out tool, zoom in to get a better view
First thin color block-in
Second pass with color
When painting a glass object, it can be hard to capture the small changes in value between the glass, edges, and background if you do your drawing in dark-ish paint, like I usually do. that problem can be solved by using an initial under painting that matches the value of the background, and drawing into it using a wipe out tool, like the one made by Kemper.
Thanks to Robert Abele for showing me this method!
Laphroaig and Glass
10"x8" oil on canvas panel
What to paint in winter? Thinking about Valentine's Day coming up I got out a bottle of brandy and a couple of glasses. Hopefully you'll see that painting in a few days. I thought I should practice first and so grabbed a bottle of my favorite scotch, Laphroaig, and a single glass.
I set up the still life next to a window, with a black backdrop and a white linen napkin as the base. and took a few photos since the light was changing fast. Here are a few process shots.
Value under painting in yellow ochre and ultramarine blue
Putting in the darks
First pass of color (note the change to a purple background)
Painting the background a different color than what I could see was of course not such a great idea. I immediately knew that the bottom of the glass was now too dark. So the next morning I went to JoAnn Fabrics and bought a piece of purple fabric to replace the black.
Notice also that the bottle leans a little in the process photos and the ellipse at the top of the glass is crooked and bigger on the bottom then the top. So I had to fix all that. For a discussion of how to get the ellipse correct in this kind of painting, see this great post by my buddy Carol L. Douglas.
Bobbi - Painter. Sketcher. Teacher. Boat and Dog Lover.