Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sleeping In

"Sleeping In"
12"x12" oil on Raymar panel

The wind on the coast of Maine comes up in the afternoon and generally dies at sunset. Early in the morning it’s usually very calm, and that’s when fisherman (lobstermen included) go out to do their work. But not always. We’ve run into some interesting situations, cruising the coast in our boat over the last 25 years. 

For example, why is no one lobstering on Sunday? I’m always taking pictures of lobster boats, and especially like to see them working. But in the summer they don’t appear on Sundays. Maine state law explains why: 

Closed Period - Title 12, Section 6440
It is against the law to raise or haul any lobster trap during closed periods.
  • It is unlawful to haul lobster gear from ½ hour after sunset until ½ hour before sunrise between June 1st and October 31st.
  • It is unlawful to haul lobster gear after 4:00 pm Eastern Daylight Savings Time, Saturday until ½ hour before sunrise the following Monday morning from June 1st to August 31st, both days inclusive.

Who knew? Now I know why these boats are sleeping in!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Stonington Green"

"Stonington Green"
8"x16" oil on Raymar panel

 Under painting for "Stonington Green"
Note that I widened the lobster shack and the pier and added the lobster boat.

There are a number of iconic scenes in Stonington, Maine, at the bottom of Deer Isle. Many painters have enjoyed painting them, and they hang in fortunate houses across our country. It’s a beautiful place to visit, and I feel lucky that my first few visits were by boat. That’s the way life should be.

This house, with its green paint and matching lobster shack on its wharf is one of those scenes. This particular view is from the shore side, and you can see it if you walk from Billings Marine into town as we often do. I have a lovely painting of it by Alec Richardson. He stood out on the rocks a bit to the right of this view. I started this painting over a year ago, toned the canvas and did a pencil drawing. And it sat. And I looked at the view again as I walked by last summer. And the other day it reached out to me and said “It’s my turn! Paint me.” And so I did.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Painting "My Dream of Maine"

Everyone has a dream of what Maine means to them. For some it’s the lakes, for some it’s Katahdin, for others it’s the shore. For me, it’s the boats and harbors. The first time I saw these houses in Cozy Harbor, I’d been to a paint out with the Plein Air Painters of Maine and the Plein Air Painters of the Southeast. Plein air painting, popularized by the impressionists, means painting outside in the landscape, painting the scenes around you. We’d had a great time doing just that at Hendricks Head Light on Southport Island, near Boothbay Harbor. Someone remembered Oliver’s Restaurant in Cozy Harbor, and so we headed over there for lunch. Oliver’s is great, I recommend it.

One of the great things about painters getting together is the sharing of not only ideas about painting, but also places to paint. And so we moved on to a part of Cozy Harbor I wasn’t familiar with, the road that goes to Pratt’s Island. And once over the bridge to the island, looking back we saw the red lobster shack and houses. Several paintings were done on the spot, but there wasn’t room for all of us. I came back the next week, and set up my gear. My first painting focused on the red lobster shack.

 “Cozy Harbor Inlet”
11”X14”, oil on linen panel, 2014

As I was finishing my first day’s session, the most beautiful gaff rigged catboat sailed up to the little dock. And it had a red sail! I snapped a quick photo, and I knew I was going to have to do another painting of this scene, and include the boat.

“Bright Sail, Cozy Harbor”
16”X20”, oil on linen panel, 2015

I love this scene. The houses on pilings, the reflections of the pilings, the abstract arrangement of the roofs, the little red shack, the idea of boats coming by, people getting on with their daily work, and enjoying living by the sea. So last fall, I started looking for another view, and found it while standing on the bridge. Only quick photos were available from that vantage point, and I came back several times to view it at different tide levels. Armed with the previous paintings, and my new reference photos, I painted a third version, and I’m not sure that I don’t like it best of all. I’ll probably be back there again this summer, and who knows what might happen?

“My Dream of Maine”
20”X24”, oil on canvas, 2016
Available at Yarmouth Frame and Gallery

Monday, May 16, 2016

What's in a Name?

"Promise of Adventure"
10"x10" oil on canvas panel

Value under painting

I feel like this painting turned into a saga! It was done from a photo, and a pretty over-exposed one at that. The drawing was tricky, and finally after lots of grid lines and measuring of angles, Rob Abele gave me a great suggestion. I printed the section with the kayak on paper and cut it out, including the opening, and laid it over the dry painting and then traced the outline of the kayak over the one I'd already painted. Some adjustment was definitely needed! You can see the difference between the value under painting (above) and the nearly done version (below).

Nearly done, what's wrong?

I still wasn't satisfied. I felt that the kayak looked glued on, since it was much lighter than anything else in the painting. The fix was lightening the sand to be closer to the value of the kayak. I think it works much better with the lighter sand (top image).

Finally the painting was done, but I couldn't think of a better name than "Yellow Kayak". So I reached out to my Facebook friends and asked for some help, and got over 40 responses! Many of the names were just great and  I'll probably be able to use them for future paintings. Here's the list, which one do you like best?


Arrangement in Yellow and Green

Sunshine Waiting

Low tide
The Promise of Adventure


Awaiting High Tide

Waiting on High Tide

After the Lake

Summer Respite  (2)

At the Ready

Waiting for a Friend

At Rest

New England Ready


Ready to Roll (2)

Where’d You Go?

Yellow Kayak (3)

Waiting For You

Floating Bliss

Relaxation Station

Low Tide (3)



Ready for an Outing

Whatever the name of the boat is


Homestead Mooring

Four Steps Down

Lemon Drop


Dry Dock

Sunday Nap

Lemon Wants to Go for a Ride

Still Life with Kayak



Mellow Yellow

Dry Ground

Waiting for Adventure

After a Long Day's Journey

Above the Tide Line

Waiting in the Tide

Banana Boat

Monday, April 25, 2016

Painting Out West

"Pusch Ridge", Tucson
8"x10" oil on linen panel
"Saguaro Near Picacho Peak"
10"x8" oil on linen panel
Last week I was in Arizona for the 5th annual Plein Air Convention. It was amazing to listen to and to watch fabulous painters show us how they work. Some that I particularly enjoyed were Jove Wang, Matt Smith, Paul Kratter, and Lori Putnam. Bryan Mark Taylor gave a wonderful presentation on how we learn, and how one can learn to paint better, faster. Fascinating.

When circling to land, I was dismayed to see what looked like mountains made of dirt, which isn't too far from reality. But the plant life is so interesting, I didn't wish for granite rocks. We all fell in love with Saguaro Cactus. It takes 50 - 100 years for one of these guys to grow their first arm. Wow.

Each day there were paint outs as well as presentations. Above are my two paintings. Karen Ann Hitt and Bill Anton gave me advice on the second, and the painting is better for it!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ocean Blues

 "Ocean Blues"
24"x24" acrylic on gallery wrap canvas

"Ocean Hues"
16"x16" acrylic on canvas

I've been having fun experimenting with acrylics on big canvases. Last year I painted Ocean Hues (bottom - 18"x18"), and very much enjoyed it, so I wanted to continue the theme. This one is called "Ocean Blues" (top - 24"x24"). As I worked on it, it became a bit less abstract than my original intention, but it's about going where the painting wants to go, isn't it?

I'm off to the Plein Air Convention later this week. If any of you are going, please let me know, I'd love to meet up.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Cub Scout Questions

Hi everyone,

I’m back from shoulder surgery and some time off from painting because of that. The good news is that my shoulder is doing fine, and I’m hoping the soreness that used to come the day after painting will be gone for good!

A fun thing that I did while taking the time off, was to speak to a group of cub scouts who were working on their Art badge. Artists Corner and Gallery arranged this for me and set up the gallery for the talk. I was given some questions beforehand, but I was most impressed by the insightful questions the scouts asked during the presentation. We talked about their interest in art, and I was pleased to be talking to a group of budding cartooners! 

I set up my plein air painting gear and we talked about painting out of doors and in the studio. My iPad was passed around with photos of my small painting studio in my home. We talked about the pros and cons of oil and acrylic paints. I showed them a few of my paintings and we talked about choosing painting subjects.

A couple of the questions that came up during the talk really made me think. I was asked “What's the hardest painting you’ve ever done?”  I replied, that painting a new subject is often hard, and my approach to that is to do a few small quick test paintings to get used to the subject (see above). It’s much easier after that to do a successful painting. “What's your favorite painting you’ve ever done?” was also fun to think about. My current favorite is usually a recent painting that I particularly enjoyed doing, and I find that sometimes I have to wait a while before I can sell one of those. They are kind of like your children, it’s hard to send them out into the world!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Circles on Squares

"Circles on Squares"
6 blocks, 4"x4"x1 1/2" each, acrylic on cradled panels

Cradled panels drying on vitamin bottles

ArtRage mock up of the colors to be painted on each block
(ArtRage on an image of the painted blocks)

palette after painting the circles
airbrush medium was used to thin the acrylic

finished blocks

I'm entering a juried show at the new Artists Corner and Gallery in Acton, MA. The theme is Homage to Kandinsky's Circles, which you can see here. I decided to make each square on a separate small cradled panel. That way there are many ways to arrange them on a wall, or they can be stacked on a shelf. Pretty wild aren't they? I hope this piece gets in, it took rather longer than I expected!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Painting on a Time Budget Workshop

 Demo of tangerine on blue background
4"x4" oil over acrylic under painting

Acrylic under painting example

Yesterday I taught a fun workshop at Artascope in Yarmouth, Maine. Students had gathered to learn how to put together a regular painting practice on a time budget. I'm a big believer that painting small paintings regularly, and doing your best to finish them in one sitting is the way to go to see fast improvement in your work. I also think that an approach using a solid value under painting makes for better composition, and thus better paintings. This was the basis for our workshop. 

Even for our small timed paintings, like the tangerine above, we did value under paintings. In that case the under painting was in acrylic with the color added in oil or acrylic, depending on the student. Painting over a value study allows you to make sure the value of the mixed color is correct. Put a dab of mixed color over the value and squint. If the color becomes indistinguishable from the value background, it's the right value. Students did several of these, as well as value studies, and added color over a value under painted landscape.

Color over Value Process
  1. Notan thumbnails in sketchbook
  2. Draw to size on canvas
  3. Block in value under painting (3 or 4 values)
  4. Add color over value (squint to check for value match)
  5. Refine shapes and values
  6. Highlights and pizzazz
Disclaimer: I've learned most of these techniques from the wonderful teachers I've studied with, in particular, Anne Blair Brown, Lori Putnam, Marc Hanson, Peggi Kroll-Roberts, and Carol Marine. Please forgive me if I've left anyone out!

The Bedroom Studio

Bedroom studio with desk replacing the bed

Desk with Ikea "Alex" drawers and "Billy" bookcase

Cardboard boxes used for organizing things

Cardboard boxes slide away under the shelf

Brush organizers made from paper towel tubes

Shoe box of framing tools

As part of the workshop I taught yesterday on building a regular painting practice on a time budget, we talked about how to minimize the obstacles that get in the way of painting regularly. See the list we discussed at the bottom of this post.

I showed the above photos of my "bedroom" studio. For years I painted in this small bedroom, setting up my still life on a cooler sitting on the double bed which took up most of the floor space! Eventually we needed fewer bedrooms and I was able to move out the bed, install an old desk set up that was headed for the dump, and over time added a couple of Ikea items. But I'm still heavily invested in cardboard, as you can see by the organizers in the photos above. Note that even the taboret is a big cardboard box, and there are others around the room, taped shut, which are used to make stands for still life set ups. The fancy easel is new, for a long time I used either an aluminum Stanrite easel or my plein air box and tripod.

Make it easy to paint - get rid of the obstacles

Minimize set up and clean up

·      Studio in a bedroom

·      Easel

·      Masterson box for palette

·      Big flat box under the bed )to hold your supplies when not in use)

·      Cardboard boxes are great

·      Ikea is great

·      Ziplock bags are great

·      Paper towel tubes are great

·      Glass and plexiglass make good palettes

Be prepared

·      Decide what you’re going to paint the day before, anticipation motivates

·      Set up your still life the day before

·      Crop your photo the night before


·      Paint before you start doing anything else, especially before you get in the car…

·      Tell yourself you only have to do step x this session

·      Tell yourself you only have to paint for one hour


·      Paint small and finish in one session – achievement is a great motivator!

Disclaimer: Some of these ideas are mine, but many come from artist friends and teachers. Thanks to everyone for sharing!