Sunday, April 23, 2017

Don't have everything you need to paint? - don't worry

Here is a sketch I completed today at a local stream.  I've also included a page from my sketchbook to further illustrate some ideas I'll pursue later in the studio.

This sketch represents the bones of what I'll work from later in the studio.  A number of things added some challenges (some avoidable, some not) to this day of sketching.  

My brush carrier had opened and most of my brushes had spilled out in the car.  Rather than go back I decided to forge ahead.  Another "mistake" I'd made was setting up directly in the sun - but this was the view I wanted to capture.  The paints dried very quickly in the pallette as well as on the paper.  Oh yes - I also did not bring my easal or paper towels.  So basically I brought myself and a partially stocked paint box :)  I hadn't restocked since my last outing.

Many year ago, any one of the above factors would have caused me to get frustrated and potentially not to have done any painting at all.  I've now painted enough that the act of painting this on location has developed, for me, a visual memory of the scene/location that will assit in final painting.

I remember a quote attributed to Picasso.  Someone had asked him what he would do if he were to run out of red paint (he was in the midst of a painting with a great deal of red I suppose.)  His answer -  "Then I'd use black"  In other words - he's express his idea with whatever material was at his disposal.  One of the things I strive for is to not let the medium get in the way of what I'm trying to express or capture if you will.

As soon as I completed the sketch I put down the watercolor block and my paints to dry before packing up. (This wouldn't take long in the sun).    I took the time to grab my sketch book, turn around and sketch a  couple of different views of the waterfall.  I will continue to develop these ideas into a finished painting or drawing at a later time.

The above picture is sketchbook page which illustrates the method I'e been using lately.  The middle of the page is blocked off for a standard size 8 X 10 drawing.  I then section off the border, which if I do decide to complete and frame the center image - the border skeches and notes would be covered by the mat.  The boarder sketches and notes are ideas for other paintings or notes on the location at the time of the painting. The sketches are tiny, but help me save time to work out design elements before starrting a finished piece.

These sketches are enlarged roughly 50%

Friday, April 21, 2017

New Hampshire Memories

This is my latest paitning.  It's another experiement with an old charcoal drawing that I completed after a trip to New Hampshire with my wife and daughter.  Both the trip and drawing were completed many years ago.  Like many of my drawings, there were things I really liked about it and things I didn't.  So I simply put it aside and moved on to other subjects knowing at some point I'd return to the subject.

This painting is gouache on paper (over the charcoal drawing).  I'm really learning to enjoy gouache, though I must admit that transparent watercolor is still my favorite!

Sunday, April 2, 2017


"Reflections" - Oil 18"x 24"

I've always been humbled by nature.  In particular the oceans and as in this scene - the mountains.  It's always amazes me how quickly the noise and concerns of everyday life disappear when entering the woods and exploring along a river.

I have fond memories of camping with family and friends, but I have equally fond memories of the times spent exploring alone and recharging to the rhythms of nature.

I thought about including other figures in this scene, perhaps a canoe or a cabin in the distance. However, as the painting developed, the emotion and mood I was reaching for was that of a solitary figure.  In terms of scale, the figure is a small portion of the picture, but for me it was a corner piece of the puzzle.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Old Country Church

Old Country Church
Pen and Ink 

I am fascinated by old churches.  The buildings and surrounding graveyards are full of so much history.   This drawing is an amalgamation of many churches and locations seen throughout my years of travel throughout New England.

If pressed, I would say the main inspriation for this drawing comes from the Spurwink Congregational Church in Cape Elizabeth, Maine (Built in 1802) and St. John. the Evangelist Church in Pembroke Maine, build circa 1855 by Irish immigrants who had come to work in the Pembroke Ironworks.

As I child I explored the church in Pembroke (it was left unlocked and open to any who wished to enter in those days) but at the time I was more fascinated by the surrounding grounds and cemetary.  The ground in front of the tombstones was depressed - where the old caskets had collapsed over time - and the thick woods surrounded the graveyard.  There was a bald eagles nest nearby.  I could never quite find it, but I saw the eagles for many many years patrolling the nearby Pennamaquan River which drains into Cobscook Bay.  It was a magical place to explore as a child.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Clouds Over Mountan Pond

This charcoal is 12" x 16" with a few highlights of gouache

Working in the studio today.

The bulk of this drawing was completed years ago and set aside.  That is something I will do from time to time.  Sometimes its because I've reached the point in a subject that I've reached the limit of my technical skills (In other words, I know what I want to achieve but I don't know how to do it yet) ,  More often than not, its because I am most inspired by source material (aka nature) so I'll work on a number of subjects at once leaving studio work for later.  

 I decided to experiment with this subject, adding to and changing the composition of the clouds, shadows on the mountains and reflections in the pond and some general touch up.

I also pursued some experimentation with tracing paper, pen and ink, on an oil composition of an Amish Farmer.  The two sketches below are future projects.  The top sketch is a compositional study for continued work on the oil of an Amish Farmer.  More on that subject in different posts.

The drawing below was also completed years ago.  A snowy hillside in Lewiston.  My next studio day of experiementation will involve this subject. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Find your own way, study with moonlight

I've always been fascinated and drawn to the effects of moonlight.  It always seems so mysterious to me.  In particular, in the winter, a full moon and frozen ponds and marshes would expand the world I could explore as a child.  It opened up corners of the woods often closed off in different seasons.  Even very familiar places seem different at night, and moreso in the moonlight.

I also vividly remember the brilliance of the moonlight dancing on the ocean - particularly in the cold winter air.

Here is a study for the second in the planned series of Androscoggin River paintings.   A night scene.  I've thought about doing painting series of a particular scene for years now and occasionally I've done it but in a time period of years not weeks.  I'm not sure exactly what has motivated me to purposely paint and draw this series, other than the incrdedible contrast of this change of season from Winter to Spring.

This scene was done primarily with indigo with a few highlights/ darklights with prussian blue.  I do enjoy monochrome painting as it really forces me to focus on value and composition - errors in which can sometimes be masked with the use color.  There's still work to do on the composition.

I've also been struck by the varied surface of ice on the river.  Some areas windswept reflecting light like a mirror - others still snow covered. The patterns of darker and lighter cracks in the ice definately lean to the abstract

One of the most common misperceptions about watercolor is that once you touch paint to paper, you cannot undo anything.  I've not found that to be the case - with very few exceptions.   You do have to plan your darkest darks and lightest lights out first but beyond that, I've found watercolor to be very flexible and suited to a wide variety of techniques.  Find your own way.  You certainly can learn from others but be confident and experiment - you will develop a style and method that is all your own.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

What to do after an art show opening? Paint of course

Paint of course!

I enjoyed the opening of the show at River Arts last evening.  So many differnt artists, styles, and media.  I spent more time studying abstract works than I think I've ever done before.  I don't know if its because some of my latest subjects (winter / ice) have had an abstract quality about them or not.

Had a great dinner with Ari and Julie and when we got home I headed down to the studio and began work on a new watercolor based on earlier studies.   First Pass at compositional study.

First pass at larger watercolor last evening.

Then I referred back to the sketches made on location and took a quick trip back to the location for a few more details.  I went back to the comp study and indicated the foreground river bank and trees.  As well as some other work on hardwoods on the island.


Below is the final painting with those details mentioned above and some ice build up where the current continues to etch away at the ice.  Will not set this one aside for reconsideration later.  

I rarely decide if a painting is complete and ready for framing immediately.  I find some time and distrance from a paitning provides me with a "fresh look" at the subject.  I don't like to pick or fuss over a painting - and usually finish a painting in one or two sessions - but one never knows.