Harbor Glare...

Harbor glare 16x20sm

 

Ever since moving to Maine, I’ve been playing around with how to paint light bouncing off water. I love the drama that comes with the contrast of a backlit scene. One thing I’ve noticed is the color shifts that happen within these strong highlights. The highlights on the boat here have a bit more pink in them. Some boat highlights are a bit bluer. The light in the water has a warmer, more yellow tint. Even though the first impression is just dark and light difference, the color changes in these highlights is what makes the painting feel more alive. I have to look carefully to see these subtle changes in color, but one of the benefits to painting on site is taking advantage of subtle color that is more elusive when working from a photo.

 

 

Around the Bend...

Around the Bend 12x16sm

 

I love this winding road. I painted this scene once before, maybe eight years ago. The view opposite this is a beautiful ocean view of a group of islands, but I love the way this road snakes through the landscape. The power lines and shadows also help lead the viewer back into the picture. This was a quick study of fleeting light. There was a lot of drawing to make this painting work, but once I had that down I just tried to match the big color shapes. The brushwork is simple and straightforward but sometimes that can make for my favorite paintings. This one is 12×16″.

Flags over Rockland...

Flag Days 20x16sm

 

It’s not easy to paint in town during the summer, but I really wanted to paint Main St with all the flags hanging. It was a bit hectic dealing with the traffic and noise while working on such a busy scene. It’s hard to paint a scene with so much detail, so I tried to simplify as much as I could. I can’t ignore the architecture all together, but I have to be strategic about what needs to be included. I try to base my decisions on where I see contrast and shadows, without feeling I have to explain each brick or piece of trim. Instead of painting the architecture as I know it works, I have to stick with painting just the shapes of color as I see them. Simplification is important whether I’m dealing with flags, buildings, signs or trees. My paintings seem to work best when I can see the worl as just shapes and colors.

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.

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