Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Novi

A Cape Islander style "Novi" entering the harbor in Alma, NB, Canada

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I'm pretty partial to lobster boats. Over the last few years I've started seeing and admiring a kind of lobster boat referred to as a "Novi", so called because they come from Nova Scotia. Last week, I visited Nova Scotia for the first time and was totally wowed. The Bay of Fundy is an amazing place! The extreme tides are most noticeable in a harbor where you can see the boats sitting on their keels with the pier walls towering over them.

Boats at low tide in Advocate Harbour, Nova Scotia. Note how they are tied to the pier to keep them upright when there's no water.

At the head of the bay the sand/mud/gravel is reddish giving the water a distinctive pink color. It's like no place I've ever been.

But back to the boats. There are apparently two types of lobster boats in Nova Scotia, developed over time to deal with the differing ocean conditions in the Bay of Fundy versus the Northumberland Straits (between northern Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island). The later are smaller and shaped more like the lobster boats we know in Maine though the fore and aft lines are straight and the bow is flare.

Northumberland Straits Lobster Boats by David MacDonald Boats, Doctor's Brook, NS

 "Martha Gayle" water color by Bobbi Heath - a typical Maine lobster boat

 "Diligence" oil by Bobbi Heath - another traditional Maine lobster boat - Freeport, Maine

"Sleeping In" oil by Bobbi Heath - Maine lobster boats in Cozy Harbor

The other type of Nova Scotia lobster boat is the Cape Islander style, aka the Novi. They often paint them bright beautiful colors. What a marine painter's dream.

Novi off Point Prim in Digby Nova Scotia.

We've got a small Novi in Yarmouth Harbor here in Maine, which I've painted several times. I have to confess that the bright blue color is a big attraction. Now that I know more about this style of boat, I'll pay close attention to the distinctive characteristics such as the vertical bow, and the notch on the gunwale amidships.

"Blue Boat" oil by Bobbi Heath - Yarmouth, Maine's own Novi

To read more about the evolution of Nova Scotia Lobster Boats look here

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I Think I'm Getting the Hang of It

 Wave demo by Poppy Balser

I've spent the last two days at a wonderful water color painting workshop with Nova Scotia painter Poppy Balser. I met Poppy a few years at the Castine Plein Air Festival, and have admired her work ever since. Her watercolors are beautiful and she's a great teacher. Our class of 12 got so much out of the workshop. After some value and paint mixing exercises Poppy demoed the above wave, in a mostly value sketch with just a little warmth on one of the rocks. Then we all gave it a try. One thing that Poppy stressed was always starting with a set of thumbnails and a full sized value study. While I may skimp on the first part occasionally (and regret it later), I always do a value underpainting when I paint in oils. Since you can't paint over the value study in water color, you've got to start on a new sheet of paper for the real painting. And Poppy often does both the full size value sketch and the color painting multiple times until she gets the result she wants. This was a good lesson for me, the impatient one.

Poppy demo-ing the wave

My efforts on the wave

After everyone got a chance to work on rocks and spray, Poppy moved on to mist and sparkling water. What a great demo! She demoed both the full size value study and the color version after showing us her thumbnails and explaining her choice for the painting. It was like watching a musician or a dancer, so lyrical and what a result!

Poppy's mist demo

I did several value studies of the mist photo that Poppy provided, and learned a valuable lesson about paint, which Poppy had explained earlier, with some Payne's gray that was an unpleasant greenish color. I won't embarrass the vendor by mentioning the brand. Ignore the name the vendor gives the color! The PXX number on the tube is the only thing that means anything, and even that is subject to different processing parameters that can affect the color, value, and consistency.

My efforts learning how to paint wet into wet, with Poppy's mini-demo at the bottom

And finally, I spent some time painting small versions of a favorite vista trying to understand wet on wet painting over a dry sky. I think I'm getting the hang of it.

If you'd like to study with Poppy and see a beautiful part of Nova Scotia, just a 2 hour boat ride across the Bay of Fundy, check out her next 2 day workshop, which is in June. I couldn't recommend it more.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Gotta Love the Beach

Board Girls
12"x12" oil on canvas

Above is another in my latest beach series, which will be going to Yarmouth Frame and Gallery for the show opening in June. If I remember correctly, the photo I worked from is from a very hot day at Old Orchard Beach.

Two painters who particularly inspire me to paint people on the beach, are Peggi Kroll Roberts and Alfred (Chip) Chadbourn. I love the way they abstract reality, and they do it completely differently.

Here's a lovely painting by Peggi, available on her website. I took a wonderful workshop with her a few years ago, and she talked about sitting on the sand under an umbrella, sketching and painting her daughters and their friends on the beach. Wonderful!

Chip Chadbourn was Yarmouth, Maine's most well known painter. He died in 1998 and I wish I'd had the chance to meet him. Both the Yarmouth Library and the Ogunquit Museum of American Art recently had retrospectives of his work. It was bliss. Such wonderful paintings! You can still see one of his winter scenes on the second floor of the Merrill Memorial Library in Yarmouth. Chip loved to paint beach scenes from masterful drawings that he did on site. His book, Painting with a Fresh Eye, is full of beautiful paintings and insightful and instructive text. And it's still available on amazon.

Here's one of my favorite beach paintings from that book.

Friday, May 12, 2017

At the Beach

12"x12" oil on canvas

I've been having fun painting beach scenes this week in anticipation of summer, not that it feels very near at the moment in New England! The new paintings will be available at Yarmouth Frame and Gallery on June 1st.

It's my third foray into this type of scene, so let's take a look at some previous paintings.

What Is It?
6"x6" oil on canvas panel

Girls Looking Out to Sea
6"x6" oil on canvas panel

Shell Seekers
6"x6" oil on gessoed paper panel

The Conversation
6"x6" oil on gessoed paper panel

What can we learn from this? First of all, the older paintings are considerable smaller than the new one, so the comparison is a little tough. What strikes me most though, is that the 2010 paintings are looser. Could that be related to the fact that I was painting several small paintings a week at that time? I think so. And I think the color is more subtle in the newest painting. What differences do you see?  Which style do you like best and why?

Monday, May 1, 2017

Does Your ToDo List Look Like This?

Does your ToDo list look like the picture above? Sometimes mine does. 

Above are the paintings I'm working on at the moment. Then there are show entries, gallery stuff, teaching plans, and the usual blog, Facebook, and Instagram posts to organize. Definitely multiple projects.

With multiple projects going at the same time it's easy to fall into a pattern of jumping back and forth between projects, and to feel like you're not getting anything done on any of them. Or, you could have the opposite problem, spending too long focusing on one, and then missing deadlines on the others. Here's a way to solve these problems.

This is what you’ll need:
- a pack of sticky notes (multiple colors are more fun)
- a pen
- something to stick them to (the fridge, a white board, a piece of cardboard)

Write down each project and the tasks required to complete it on sticky notes. It might look like this.

That's nice, but it's overwhelming. So set the project name stickies aside, and gather all the stickies for the tasks into a pile, it doesn't matter what the order is.

Take a sticky from the pile, any one will do, and put it in the middle of the board.

Grab another sticky and compare it to the one on the board. Which one is more important to do this week? Put the new sticky on the board either above (if it’s more important), or below (if it’s less important) than the original sticky.

Take another sticky from the pile. Compare it to the two on the board. Which one is more important to do this week? Put the new sticky on the board either above the other two (if it’s more important), or in between the other two (if it’s in between in importance), or below the first sticky (if it’s less important).

Now you’re getting the idea. Do this over and over until all the tasks you’d like to do are lined up, one over the other.

You can do this process for any time frame. For my art business, it works best to do it once a week on Monday morning. It puts everything in front of me, in order of priority. Once I've got all the stickies on the board, I can take a stab at drawing a line below what must get done this week, or what I think I can get done this week. If something doesn't get done, I use the sticky again for the next week.

For more details on the process, how to estimate, and how to make sure you're not planning too much for your timeframe, see the full process on my website here. And of course, this will work for any kind of project, it's not art specific. I learned it managing software projects.

Reference: Johanna Rothman, "Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects"

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Many Meanings of Spring

Painting out of doors

8"x10" oil on canvas panel

Spring brings so may things, the gardeners begin outdoor cleanup, spring cleaning commences inside, lawnmowers replace snowblowers, and those of us who love to paint en plein air head outside. I'm lucky this spring to be able to do that on the New England coast all the way from Westport on the southern shore of Massachusetts to Rockport on Penobscot Bay, where I'll be tomorrow painting with Carol L. Douglas. And yes, we will be in a boatyard,  just as I've been today helping to get our boat, the Fair Tide, ready for launch. I love hanging around in boatyards, there's lots to see, and usually lively conversation. And everyone is working. I wish my house was a clean as the sparkling wheelhouse of the lobster boat that is parked in front of ours!

The white shrink wrap that covered one sids of Fair Tide a few hours ago,
ready for me to roll up and put in the dumpster for recycling.

Jack stands holding up a sailboat while stored at the boatyard.

But back to the top. Goose is a lovely lobster boat that lives in Westport Harbor, manned by Captain Mike and his little dog, Goose. I'm not sure who is named after whom. There used to be another goose in Westport Harbor, who was a friend of the local swan. But this year the swan arrived with a lady swan, and that particular goose is no longer welcome.

All the best to you and whatever spring brings your way.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Make Way for Illustrators

An original drawing from Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, published in 1948

One of the most popular books in American children's literature is Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, about a mother duck and her babies and their walk around the streets of Boston. This book provides the title for an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston of original sketches, drawings, and paintings from McCloskey's books. And it's a delight for those of us who love the work of this author illustrator. In our family the favorites were Burt Dow, Deep Water Man, Blueberries for Sal, Time of Wonder, and One Morning in Maine. The illustrations in McCloskey's early books were drawings, due to the high expense of publishing in color during WWII. The originals of those drawings shown in the exhibit are simply beautiful, and the paintings which appear in later books are lovely. I may have to go back and see it again before the exhibit closes on June 18th.

Cover of Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day, published in 1985

Seeing the McCloskey exhibit brought to mind another children's book whose illustrations I loved when our son was young, Good Dog, Carl. The story is told by the illustrations, there is no text, which makes it great for non-readers. The pastel illustrations are beautifully done by Alexandra Day (Sandra Louise Woodward Darling). I just discovered that since Carl was a good dog in 1985 there have been 14 more Carl books published. I've got some non-reading to do! 

Cover of The Night Has Ears by Ashley Bryan published in 1999

And finally I'd like to tell you about the latest author illustrator that I've become acquainted with, Ashley Bryan. I came to know of Bryan through his friendship with Henry Isaacs, and had the pleasure of hearing them speak together. His paintings are rich and colorful and I'm just starting to dip into his books. The first black student at Cooper Union, Bryan recognized a void in African American children's literature which he has filled with 50 books. Last spring when I was in New York City, I immediately recognized his work commissioned for several subway stations. What a treat! Bryan has work in the current show at Greenhut Galleries in Portland, ME.

Thanks to Bruce McMillan for his explanation of the illustration publishing process.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Learning Something New

White House, Monhegan
 watercolor 4"x5"
Bobbi Heath

I got an email the other day from a colleague in my former technology life. It said "it looks like you are having more fun than anyone I know". And I think she's right. It's because I get to learn something new every day.

Here's a case in point. Haven't you heard it said that watercolor is harder than oil and acrylic? In my experience it's true. But there are some scenes that just call out to me for watercolor, particularly those on the water. Winslow Homer's Caribbean paintings come to mind. I also think we learn a lot when we work in more than one medium.

So I'm excited to be attending a workshop next month with accomplished watercolorist and friend, Poppy Balser. To add to the appeal, it's in Cornwallis Park, Nova Scotia! 

Here are a few of Poppy's water colors, which are inspiring indeed.

Poppy Balser

Poppy Balser

Poppy Balser

Poppy's workshop in May is full, but she's teaching again in June and September. For more information take a look here.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Sense of Place

What is a sense of place? The term has been used in different ways, but I'm talking about the sense of place that we strive for in landscape painting, a feel for the earth and vegetation, and the architecture and people that makes this place different from others. When I travel to paint, I'm searching for this sense of place, and trying to bring it home on my canvas.

Bahama Clouds
8"x10" oil on Raymar panel

Last month I enjoyed a trip to Grand Bahama with painters Carol L Douglas and Joelle Feldman. We painted with Cali Veillieux, and stayed at her rental cottage in the beautiful and charming German Holiday Park in Freeport.

So what was different about the Bahamas from our New England perspective? It was nice and warm! The next thing that hit us was the beautiful blue green ocean and the big weather that kept floating by above our heads. And of course, the vegetation was different. We needed different colors for the palm and jacaranda trees than we were used to.  And there was still a lot of destruction from hurricane Matthew. The poor jacaranda tree below (my favorite painting from the trip) should have been decked out in wonderful blue blossoms, but it was just happy to be alive.

 Jacaranda Tree
8"x10" oil on linen panel (not quite finished?)

I love the palm trees, and there are so many different kinds! It took a bit of practice to even come close to painting the foliage believably. But it was fun trying. 

8"x6" oil on Raymar panel

I don't think you can truly get a sense of place when you are visiting for a short while. But you can try, and in that trying learn something about the place, it's people, and their struggles and dreams. Cali and her friends do have that sense of place, and for them this is a beloved island. To us it was beautiful and a wonderful respite from our weather at home. More paintings and some new Bahamas friends in another post.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Abstracted but not Abstract

Painting, drawing, making and loving art

There are many abstract paintings that I love, for example, the Elegy to the Spanish Republic paintings of Robert Motherwell and the later paintings of Franz Kline, I'm especially attracted to abstracts that are black and white. It's the bold composition that grabs me.

But what almost intrigues me more is abstraction in representational painting. There are several contemporary artists whose work captivates me in this regard; Maine oil painter, Henry Isaacs, British pastelist Tony Allain, and Scottish mixed media painter Claire Harrigan.

What do they have in common? There's a lot of color, for sure. They're bold. and the abstract shapes are beautiful. But there's also a level of simplification that very much appeals to me.

I'm trying to add a level of abstraction to my representational work. Here's a piece from 2011 where I used a patchwork kind of approach. My current thinking is to let the drawing do more of the talking. Stay tuned.

French Farm
8"x8" oil on canvas panel
Bobbi Heath

Monday, February 13, 2017

Preparing for a Demo

 Demo - Jackson Dinghy
8"x8" on 3/4" gallery wrap canvas

Practice - Jackson Dinghy
8"x8" on 3/4" gallery wrap canvas
Available here

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 your 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.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Liqueur and Clementine

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!