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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Geese



Geese

These guys were wondering around Great Brook Farm in Carlisle, MA yesterday. It was literally too hot to paint, so I got in a few minutes of sketching. I need to study the backwards bend in the legs a bit more, but I think these capture their gangly sort of grace.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"Harbor Island"

"Harbor Island"
5"x7" oil on gessobord

Yesterday I drove to Boothbay Harbor to deliver paintings to The Gallery at Boothbay Harbor for the summer season. I couldn't resist heading across the harbor to a wonderful little park with a super view of the working harbor to do a quick plein air painting. Harbor Island only has three houses, two of which you see here. I am lucky to have visited this idyllic island some years ago when a friend owned one of the houses. I'm looking forward to going back to paint some boats from this spot.

Friday, May 21, 2010

"By The Lake"

"By The Lake"
6"x8" oil on canvas panel

I was back by the lake this week, working on this different approach to the reflection. Instead of using the device of a swath of water reflecting the sky, I worked hard to make the reflection darker and more blurry than the actual scene. Compare the above to these previous views of this scene, Houses by the Lake and Lake House Reflections. Which do you think works best?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Scouting Plein Air

"Mill Corner"

"Mill Tower"

This time of year I love to paint outside, usually before work in the morning. I also enjoy going on scouting trips to find places to paint. I scout at lunch or on days when it's dripping or otherwise not good for painting.

Above are a couple of sketches of today's scouting adventure.

So what do I look for on a scouting trip?
- inspiration - for me that usually comes from composition, shapes and colors that grab me. You might think it would be the light, but since I'm painting when the light is optimal, I am usually scouting when it is not.
- light - I use the compass in the car to tell me where the sun will be at painting time (morning or evening) and try and figure out what will be lit. I do pay attention when the sun's out and I see a wonderfully lit subject, and note it for later.
- location - for before work painting, the location can't be too far off my route to work, there just isn't time for travel.
- parking - I want to park close and well off the road, there's no time for hiking either, and I don't want have to worry about myself or the car being hit.
- quiet - quiet is wonderful, but it doesn't compare with beauty - if I like the scene I tune out the traffic or construction or whatever noise there is.

What do I do at the location I'm scouting?
- take pictures to crop later in putting together the exact scene
- sketch for the same purpose - this is far more useful, working through the composition tells me whether it actually is compelling

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"Princes Point Houses"

"Princes Point Houses"
6"x6" oil on canvas panel

Continuing the houses theme, I spent a couple of very pleasant hours this morning enjoying beautiful weather on Princes Point in Yarmouth while painting my neighbors houses. Those who are familiar with this scene will realize that something is missing (the dock), which is pretty funny since I was standing on it the whole time.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tweaks


"Houses at the Lake" top before tweaking, bottom after tweaking


"Marsh at Forge Pond" top before tweaking, bottom after tweaking

I try to step back and review these plein air sketches on site, but often I'm on a tight schedule and don't have time to do it properly. So I'll do a tweak after the sketch dries. Above are two examples. In "Houses At The Lake", I wasn't happy with the house on the right, it felt like a uniform blob of orange. So I added some shadows, lightened the right side, and widened the door to break it up a bit. In "Marsh at Forge Pond", I felt that the bottom of the left most tree had two much contrast, drawing my eye there, and the pattern of light and shadow at the base of the trees was too uniform, like a checkerboard. Both issues were fixed in the tweak. The trick with tweaking is not to do too much and overwork, the freshness of the original is easy to lose.

What do you think? Do the tweaks improve the paintings?

Note: any difference in overall color is due to inconsistent photography, not tweaking.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Lake Houses Reflections"

"Lake Houses Reflections"
5"x7" oil on canvas panel

I painted this early this morning when the lake was still. It was much warmer than Monday and Tuesday, when I nearly froze. Tuesday's was a whiper, and it was raining yesterday, so I was happy to be able to work this one out. The shapes of the houses and the trees is what keeps bringing me back to this scene, which I have painted before. It's always the shapes and the spots of color that attract me and that's what I try to capture. I'm pleased with this one!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New Puppies Drawings

"Cold Noses"
3"x3" ink on paper

"Nap Time"
3"x3" ink on paper

"All Tired Out"
3"x3" ink on paper


My friends Martha and Marne just got new Jack Russell Terrier puppies, Livy and Lulu. I visited Sunday morning to try and capture them in pen and ink. These are the best three out of seven attempts. They weren't as asleep as they look here, and squirmed, wiggled, and generally were cute as anything. I can't wait to go back for more.

Some notes about this kind of sketch: go fast, do another rather than overwork; less is more, just a few lines do the job; leave out the spots. The versions I'm not showing you are the ones where I didn't follow this advice!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Millpond Reflections in Process


Millpond Reflection Step 1


Millpond Reflection Step 2

I meant to post these last night along with the painting, but it was late... Step 1 is a quick drawing on the toned ground, and step 2 is at the completion of the first pass of color, before dealing with the sky and water. For me it's important to not do detail at this stage, but get the rest of the canvas covered. (When I run into trouble it is usually because I get sucked into the detail here.) The sky and water color has a lot of white, which I don't like to use until the other colors get a first pass. It's used to fix the final shapes of the greenery. Often the painting doesn't look too great at step 2, thenegative space sculpting of the sky/water makes a huge difference. After that I add some more detail to the greenery, and then, with luck, it's done!

Monday, May 10, 2010

"Millpond Reflections"

"Millpond Reflections"
6"x6" oil on canvas panel

I went back this morning to the same pond that I painted a few weeks ago, to see how it looks with later spring foliage. Big changes! And with more wind, the reflections came and went in some nice patterns. It was really cold. I wore my old leather gloves with fingers cut off, which worked great. I really love this spot, and I think my enthusiasm shows in the painting.



Saturday, May 8, 2010

"Pond Pine Reflection"

"Pond Pine Reflection"
6"x6" oil on gessobord

This pine is on the same pond with the wonderful houses I painted earlier in the week. I actually started this one last week, and came back to it after the previous few paintings. I learned some lessons here - about reflections and about getting that glow from the sunshine on the trees behind the pine. Reflections: show which is the reflection with a bit of water reflecting the sky. To make the glow read as being behind the tree: extend the foliage that is shining in the sunshine beyond the sides of the tree. I think it all works!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"Houses by the Lake"

"Houses by the Lake"
6"x6" oil on gessobord

This scene grabbed me the first time I discovered the shore of Winning Pond. All those great houses, and one a vibrant pumpkin color, with wonderful tree shapes, and a reflection to boot! The reflection lasted long enough for me to get the shapes roughed in, but when the wind blew it away, the mosquitoes left too, which was a good trade-off from my point of view. I was able to finish the painting in peace. My favorite part is the reddish tree and the white houses behind it. What's yours?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Russell Millpond East"

"Russell Millpond East"
6"x6" oil on gessobord

I painted this yesterday evening, just as some dark clouds were rolling through. It was a great chance to paint reflections on the water, and I had to move quickly. The sun was out as I set up, and I noted the light and dark area at the back that I wanted to focus on. It went behind a cloud while I was getting things blocked in. And then, wow, the beautiful reflection showed up as the sun came out and the wind calmed down. What luck! I can see a few things to do better next time, but I thoroughly enjoyed painting this and I like it, nice and loose.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

"Cousin's Island View"

"Cousin's Island View"
8"x8" oil on canvas panel

I painted with my friend Martha today. What fun. We enjoyed the marvelous views at another friend's house on Cousin's Island in Yarmouth. With the houses on a hill and the water below, every way I turned there was something to paint.