Secret Beach...

Secret Island 20x36sm


I’ve been having a lot of fun painting islands and seascapes this summer. It’s a tough subject because it can change so quickly, but it’s also fun to try to capture the different ways weather and light effect the water. A little wind can change the color of the water dramatically. Clouds will make everything grey, but very colorful greys with tints of green, pink blue…

One of the joys to painting on site is studying the way nature works, and trying to puzzle out why there might be a certain blue stripe in the water, or a pink tint in the sky, or how glare on the water changes color from one place to another. To study the scene as a painter I am looking for shapes and colors. My natural curiosity can take over. All I need is the visual information to describe the scene in paint, but I also like puzzling out how the world works.

I love painting on site and trying to capture fleeting moments. It’s great to sit in nature and study how things change throughout the day. As much as I enjoy this, it’s still a struggle every time I start a new painting. People often come up to me and say, “Hey, looks like you’re having fun!” Sometimes I am, but often I’m just buried in a maze of questions about what colors I really see, how I should mix those colors, Is my brushwork too clunky, where are the weak parts of this painting, is this painting a lost cause, did I spend enough time planning a strong composition? The list goes on and on. In my best moments I can get lost in the act of seeing and translating into paint. When someone mentions how much fun I’m having I just smile and nod, but I’m tempted to tell them how confusing and frustrating it is to paint, how hard the work is.

The painting above is 20×36,” and is a perfect example of a painting that had me second guessing every choice. The sky clouded up once I started painting and the water went steely grey. But once in a while a little sun would peak through on the horizon and glare would shimmer through. When I packed up I wasn’t sure if this one was successful, but seeing it the next day I was very happy. And after a few more days I realized it’s one of my favorite paintings this summer. This painting is at Dowling Walsh Gallery in Rockland, ME.

Coastal Waters...

Coastal Waters 12x16sm


Even though it can be hard to paint a dull light like this, the sky and water can create some interesting subtle effects. The water can pick up brownish tints in place, or sometimes lean towards greenish-grey. And the sky has purples and yellows tinting into the dull white of the clouds. I can spend a long time on a painting like this, looking for those small shifts in color in the scene, and then trying to mix the right color for the painting, but it can be worth the effort if a good painting comes out of it. I’ve enjoyed playing around with these atmospheric scenes this summer. This painting is 12×16.” The island is Curtis Island, in Camden Harbor.

Corner House...

Corner House 16x20sm


Sometimes I drive through the residential neighborhoods of Rockland looking for painting ideas. There are a lot of really interesting old homes in various states of repair. This is one that looks a little worn down, but I really like the overall structure of it, and the cool greys look great contrasting against the spring greens. The drawing can be a bit overwhelming on a house like this, especially when I’m trying to paint it on site. I try to keep the detail to a minimum, while making sure all of the big shapes are accurate. In a painting like this, it’s the variety of color in the grey house that is most fun to play around with; from purple and blue greys, to ochres and warm brown greys. All of those dull colors add up to a much richer overall impact when placed next to each other. This paintings is 16×20,” oil on canvas.

Birthday Boy...

Cake half eaten 12x16sm


I had a lot of fun painting this cake still life over the winter. It’s a small one, 12×16.” I used this cake in a few of my still life paintings, but this was one of my favorites. The cake is so festive, and the tablecloth was surprisingly fun to paint. In fact it’s not really a tablecloth, but is wrapping paper posing as a tablecloth. I like the look of the half eaten cake, and the many stories we can come up with to explain it. But to be honest, I would never walk away from a single bite of cake on my own plate. I’m posting this painting to celebrate my birthday this week. Cake paintings are fun, but I’m hoping I’ll get the real thing too!

Light on the water...

Penumbra 18x24sm


I love painting back-lit objects, and especially back-lit boats on the water. The contrast of the dark masses create a foundation that pops into a vibrant image with the addition of some carefully placed highlights. Even though I’ve painted this type of scene before, I always think I can get it just right if I try one more time. This was a recent day in Spruce Head, ME. I painted some studies of the skies and islands as clouds blew through and cleared out. As the day got later and clear skies took over, I couldn’t resist painting this view. The light gets strongest on the water as the sun gets lower, which unfortunately means I’m racing to keep up and get my painting blocked in. Even though there is a lot of contrast between dark and light objects in this type of scene, I want to rely more on rich color, and the warm and cool differences. Color temperature makes the sense of light in a scene pop more than anything else.

This painting is 18×24″ and will be on display at Center for Maine Contemporary Art, and available this summer through their fundraising auction in July.

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