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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Flattening the Landscape


There's a problem with this painting (OK maybe two problems). The first problem came to my notice when I sent a photo off to friend. She thought that there was a meadow in front of the trees on the right. Hmmm, it's supposed to be clumps of small plants floating on the water. Smaller than lily pads, bigger than algae. I asked myself why it doesn't look right. And to aid in the analysis, I went back to the scene, got out my trusty grid on plexiglass, and did a quick outline on top of the grid of what I was seeing.

Despite the fact that the reflection is different (it wasn't as windy this morning as when I painted the piece), it's pretty easy to see the problem now. The floating plants on both sides take up too much space vertically. They need to flatten out. I decided that those on the left weren't too bad (even if they don't look like the drawing on the plexiglass) and focused on the right side.


Above I wetted the dry painting with solvent and redrew the shape of the clump of plants in ultramarine blue.


And then I repainted the reflection on the right and added a few floating clumps in front to enforce the idea. I hope it looks more like floating plants to you now.

The plexiglass grid is an excellent tool to tell you when your drawing has gone wrong. And one of the most common ways drawings go wrong in landscape painting is when we are attempting to show a horizontal surface receding into the distance. Marsh paintings are particularly problematic. When this goes badly wrong, we appear to be hovering over the scene rather than looking into it.

You can make a plexiglass grid very easily. You'll need a piece of plexiglass from the hardware store. At my store they were happy to cut it for me. You'll also need a Sharpie permanent marker pen to make the lines and a ruler. You'll want a dry erase pen for drawing your scene, so that you can erase it. I made a bunch of these for my students in my recent drawing class and they've been put to good use.

To use the grid, you first need to check the aspect ratio. My plexiglass grids are 6"x8", so for this 8"x10" painting, I marked off a quarter of an inch on each side, making the grid 6"x7.5" (an 8x10 aspect ratio). Hold the grid in front of you until the view is enclosed by the grid. Holding steady, quickly sketch the shapes. Now move the grid back and forth in front of your painting until the painting fills the grid. Now you can see where your drawing has gone awry.

And actually, you don't need the grid if all you're trying to do is see whether your drawing has any issues. The plexiglass itself with the dry erase marker will do the trick. But the grid can be helpful in laying out your drawing, and in seeing whether your horizon is straight and whether the sides of buildings are vertical. And of course, it's better to do this at the drawing stage instead of painting over a problem.

The second problem is the slash of sky reflection in the water, it's a bit crooked. I think I fixed it well enough.





Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Demos Are Fun

Clouds Over Harbor Island
9"x12" oil on canvas panel
Windjammer Days 2017

Doing a demo is a great experience for an artist. It's a bit intimidating the first time, but once you realize that people are really interested in the process, not looking for a masterpiece, and will ask interesting questions, it's a lot of fun. I've set myself a goal of doing four demos this year, in addition to the small ones I do while teaching. Last week was my second, so things are on schedule.

Carol L. Douglas, Ed Buonvecchio, and I were among the artists demo-ing at Boothbay Harbor's Windjammer Days last week. We were fortunate to be able to set up across the harbor from the main part of town, where we had a sensational view of not only the passing windjammers, but the moored lobster boats and Harbor Island. We were in Fisherman's Memorial Park, in front of the Our Lady Queen of Peace church, which dominates the skyline of that side of the harbor. We had lots of visitors, and lots of explaining to do. I particularly enjoyed Carol and a young man who helped her identify each of the windjammers. Not that she needs much help, she's a regular at the boatyard where several of them live. I was busy mentoring his older sister, who wants to be an artist. It is so much fun to take our work out to where people can see it happening, and help them understand the process.

 American Eagle sails past a tug
Photo courtesy of Carol L. Douglas

 Carol paints the island
Photo courtesy of Annette Koziel

You may ask why we didn't paint an actual windjammer. It's much easier to demo something that sticks around for a least a few minutes, which the windjammers did not. The point is to be there for the people, not to paint the technically most difficult subject you can find. But it was tempting...

I love painting in this particular spot. The island is what the word picturesque was meant to describe. I've painted it before and will likely again.

Harbor Island
5"x7" oil on gessobord
painted in 2010

And before I go, I'm excited to tell you that I'll be co-hosting the Artists Helping Artists blogtalk radio show this month with Leslie Saeta. It's such an honor to do this, and I'm thrilled. I have learned so much from this show over the years. Though the focus is on art marketing, there have been many shows interviewing artists and people who artists depend on. One of my favorites was the interview with Robert Gamblin of the Gamblin paint company. If you aren't familiar with this show, do check it out. The archives are a real treasure trove for artists.

You can listen to the show live, or to past shows which are all archived, at the link below.
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/artistshelpingartists

And you can also listen to the AHA show, as it's called, as a podcast.

This week's show is "How to Use Lists to Organize Your Art" at 11AM tomorrow.


Monday, July 3, 2017

Happy 4th of July!

Fishin' on the Fourth 
8"x10" oil on canvas panel

The fourth of July is a big holiday in our neighborhood in Maine. One of our neighbors started a tradition years ago - a parade followed by a cookout. It's a blast. The kids decorate their bikes for the parade, everyone gets involved, and a nice loop is made around the neighborhood. There's even a beautiful old flag carried by its edges, a man on stilts, drummers, and a lady liberty.

The pledge of allegiance

Lined up and ready to go

 They're off!

I feel so privileged to live in a place where everyone gets along and can celebrate together.  This year, I take up the mantle of Lady Liberty from my friend Diana who just had her 85th birthday. I hope I can carry it off as well as she did.

Have an enjoyable fourth!


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Meet the Press





Stonington Green 8"x16" oil on Raymar panel

This morning Carol L. Douglas sent me a link to an piece in the Bangor Daily News. And I'm thrilled to tell you that my painting, Stonington Green, was the image chosen to accompany the article on the upcoming auction to benefit the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries.

As an artist, I'm regularly asked to contribute artwork to raise money for worthy causes. Usually I'm happy to do that. And it's particularly enjoyable when the cause is near and dear to my heart. That's the case here. Formerly the East Penobscot Resource Center, the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries has a mission "to secure a sustainable future for fisheries and fishing communities in Eastern Maine and beyond". I hope that my paintings of lobstering and Maine fishing communities are documenting a way of life that will continue, and they are dedicated to that.

 My contribution to the 2016 auction, with Stonington in the background

But back to the auction. It's a very cool event. This August, in addition to their traditional decorative lobster buoys, like the one I painted last year, the auction will include paintings by some of my favorite Maine artists. And that's not all. Nautical experiences will be on the block as well. You can bid on a guided boat tour of Deer Isle-Stonington, one of the loveliest stretches of water anywhere; a course at the fabulous WoodenBoat School; a fly fishing lesson; a day on the water learning how lobstermen work; and the opportunity to be named in mystery novelist Katherine Hall Page’s next book. What a great line up!

To get all the details, check out the Bangor Daily News article here. And thank you, BDN and the Maine Center for Coastal Maine Fisheries, for using my painting in your story!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Painting Pets - As Good as a Dog Kiss

I’m not usually crazy about commissions, and a people portrait painter I am not. But I love to paint pets. There’s just something about animals that live with humans that is so lovable. The texture and color of their fur and the distinctive varieties of their head shapes really gives me something to hang onto in the drawing and painting of their portraits.

Troy 
8"x8" oil on Raymar panel

This is Troy, he’s my son’s younger rescue dog. He’s not quite two, and the most lovable guy you could ever meet. All he wants to do is play. And when it’s hot out, he droops after about a mile of walking. In the winter, the world is his snow cone.


Clara
8"x8" oil on Raymar panel

And this is Clara. She's about four, and she's the boss. Troy may tornado around and try to get her to play every minute he can, but when she says it's time to stop, he stops. She's one of the best trained dogs I've ever met, due to spending a year living with an expert trainer before my son adopted her. The two pups are quite a pair and lots of fun to have around.

There are a lot of good pet portrait painters out there, but there's one that I’d like to highlight. Paint Squared is the website of Elizabeth Fraser. Her pet portraits totally inspire me. She really captures the personality of her subjects, and her color, well it’s fabulous. I interviewed Elizabeth a few years ago and it was really fun to learn more abut her and how she works.


Pet portraits by Elizabeth Fraser


To create a great pet portrait you need a really good photo. Here are a few tips on how to take one from the references listed below.

- Use natural light, and make sure there are some shadows visible.
- Get down to their eye level.
- Get in close.
- Keep their eyes sharp, focus on them.
- Be patient, and take lots of photos. You can always delete the bad ones.

9 Pet Photography Tips
How To Take the Best Pet Photographs
How to Photograph Pets





Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Successful Opening

My four beach girls paintings at Yarmouth Frame and Gallery
each 12"x12" oil on canvas in floater frames

I went to two exhibition openings this weekend, both of which I felt were successful. That got me thinking, what makes an opening a success? There are some basics, like great artwork of interest to those who live in the area, and pleasant, well-lighted surroundings. And of course, having the event publicized by the artists and the venues. Simple finger food and a little wine are also great. 


Teaming Up by Joelle Feldman at Yarmouth Frame and Gallery, Joelle also has paintings at the Wild Salamander show.

One thing that makes for a good turn out is having the artist(s) present, which was the case for both of the openings I was at this weekend. In one case, it was a show for four artists in the same medium, at a local art center venue, where they regularly have classes and workshops, and exhibitions by groups or individual artists. In this venue there are no “gallery artists”, though it’s such a lovely venue that I imagine there are artists who book it regularly. The other is a gallery that has a stable of gallery artists, and four or five openings a year. Both were very well attended.

The Wedding Tree by Lisa Regopoulos at the Wild Salamander Art Center

The shows were hung differently, but both effectively. In the case of the four artists, each artists work were separated into groups of two or three paintings, and the groups were distributed throughout the venue, so the viewer moved from one artist’s work to another and back again as they went around the three open rooms. Because the work was all in the same medium, it held together really nicely. And by the time I’d seen everything, I felt I could identify each artist’s work with ease. In the gallery case, the space was nicely divided by movable walls into a number of niches for viewing the artwork. Each artist’s work occupied one or more wall of one of the niches. This allowed for lots of hanging space, and easy movement of viewers between the different spaces.


Lobster Rafts at Dusk by John Bowdren at Yarmouth Frame and Gallery


How do you get people to linger, to chat with the artists and each other, and to really look at the artwork? In both cases, the artists were actively engaged in answering questions and discussing individual paintings with the visitors to the exhibitions. It was also very nice to see students of the various artists come to the shows, and great to chat with them.

All in all, I very much enjoyed both of these shows, discovered a few new artists whose work I love, and got a chance to discuss artwork, methods, framing, and upcoming workshops.

The two shows are open for a while yet, and very worth taking a look at.

Nature’s Delight at the Wild Salamander Art Center in Hollis, NH, through June 24:
http://www.wildsalamander.com/whitty_gallery.html

Rise and Fall of Light at Yarmouth Frame and Gallery, in Yarmouth, ME, though September: http://www.yarmouthframeandgallery.com


For more information about my paintings and upcoming classes and workshops, please visit my website.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Stripes!

Stripes!
12"x12" oil on canvas

I've had fun painting the beach girls, and delivered four paintings of them on Tuesday to Yarmouth Frame and Gallery. You've now seen all but one. There will be an opening for the new show on Saturday from 4-7. I'm looking forward to it, since I missed the previous opening due to a snow storm. Please join us if you can. Yarmouth Frame and Gallery, 720 US One, in Yarmouth, Maine.

I've written before about the artists whose beach people paintings have inspired me, but I was also inspired while working on mine by a couple of printmakers working in silk screen (serigraph). Every year, I buy an Alan Claude Maine calendar, and I try to do it at the Portland Sidewalk Art Show, so I can say hello to Alan. I love his poster style Maine scenes, with their dimensional light and shadow and wonderful color. My one experience with planning a woodcut left me with an appreciation for the process of teasing a minimal number of colors and values out of the reference image. It's a bit like doing a puzzle. Here's an example of Alan's work:

 Lobstering at the Nubble by Alan Claude, serigraph print

Serigraph print by William Mitchell

Another serigraph artist I admire is William Mitchell, who works depicts New Hampshire's scenic beauty. While both these artists work mostly with landscape subjects, their work still influenced mine on the four beach scenes. I wanted to abstract the shadow on the turn of the girl's legs and faces into a set of values rather than blending them into a range. Once again the restriction to a discrete set of values/colors fascinates me! I have a set of cards that I bought from William at a Button Factory Holiday event a few years ago. I doubt I'll ever send one to anyone, because I just love to look at them.

To see all of my beach girls paintings, visit my website here.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Your Art Collection


My Dream of Maine by Bobbi Heath
24"x24" oil on canvas

Have you been thinking about buying your first original painting? Or about growing your collection? There are lots of things to consider when buying a painting. I was recently interviewed by Adam Ziemba for an article on this subject, called 7 Expert Tips You Need to Know Before Purchasing Art.  I thought I’d give you a synopsis here. But first I'll show a few paintings I particularly like by some favorite artists.



 Rising Tide at Wadsworth Cove by Carol L. Douglas 
12"x16" oil on canvas

Bright Red by Joelle Feldman 
4"x6" pastel on sanded paper


 Winter Evensong by Poppy Balser
7"x11" water color

Bluebird Day by Suzanne deLesseps
14"x11" pastel on paper

Below are the seven tips I gave Adam. For more information on each tip, the article is here on Adam's website.
  • For me the most important thing to consider when buying a painting is that it speaks to me.
  • My husband and I buy artwork in galleries, directly from artists, and online.
  • When I buy my first painting from an artist, I like to see six or eight paintings by that artist to make sure the one I’m drawn to is consistent with their body of work.
  • Buying paintings online is a great way to have a variety or work to choose from, and many artists find it a very effective sales channel.
  • When considering a painting online, be sure that you understand the size of a painting.
  • If you find an artist you love and would like them to create a commission for you, don’t be afraid to ask if that’s a possibility.
  • Buying a painting is an investment in enjoyment, both for yourself and for your family.
For information on upcoming events, available paintings, and classes and workshops check out my website here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Maudie

Maud Lewis, Canada's Grandma Moses, her work, and the new movie

Harbour Scene by Maud Lewis

If you're a painter who lives in the US, you've probably heard of Grandma Moses, whose work was discovered in a drugstore window in upstate New York. Did you know she has an artistic sister in Nova Scotia?

 Maud Lewis painting available on a magnet at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Maud Lewis in front of her house

Maud Lewis (1903 - 1970) was a Canadian folk artist whose mother taught her to paint Christmas cards in watercolor. She met her fisherman husband when he advertised for a house keeper. They soon married and moved into his small one room/loft house, and she sold her painted Christmas cards with him on this door to door rounds. Arthritis restricted her arm movement, so most of her paintings were small, though a few 24"x36" are known to have been painted. Lewis painted with bright colors, with no paint mixing. Her subjects were what she saw around her or remembered from her youth, the people, animals and countryside. She was prolific and painted almost every surface inside their house and a lot of the outside. 

The couple's original house and furnishings are now in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. There is a memorial constructed of steel (quite lovely at night) in Marshalltown, near where the house originally stood, and a replica built by a local fisherman Murray Ross a few miles away. Artist and local resident Poppy Balser took Carol L. Douglas and me to see the both of those in Nova Scotia last week.

 Maud Lewis house replica by Murray Ross


A book, a play, and several documentaries have been about Maud Lewis. The movie Maudie made its debut at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. To be released in the US this June, you can watch the trailer here. I am looking forward to this movie!

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.