Into the Light

Into the Light, 12" x 16", UART 400

Into the Light, 12″ x 16″, UART 400

Underpainting, hard pastel and alcohol

Underpainting, hard pastel and alcohol

After my recent paintings, that required a lot of drawing and concentration, I decided yesterday to do something that might be a little freer in nature.  I had been wanting to paint this scene from a bog in Marion, MA taken last Oct.  I liked the composition and the placement of the light.  I had a 12 x 16 mounted UART board and decided that I would begin directly by applying blocks of hard pastel–no drawing.  It worked fairly well, but I can’t say that I was terribly pleased with the underpainting.  In retrospect, perhaps one brown pastel applied with more or less pressure might have worked nicely.  But, it didn’t matter too much as I covered most of it up.

I used a combination of soft pastels and Giraults to lay in the sky and trees in the upper part of the painting. I tried to keep the strokes fresh and not overdone, particularly with the pine in the upper left corner.  Then a variety of cool and warm greens for the foliage and grassy roadway at the bottom.  For the sandy soil area of the path, I used a combination of grayed green, grayed red and blue violet.  Then used a very light pinkish Schmincke for the pieces of light.  The color was just right–light but not as warm as the yellow above.

The grasses on the left had a lot more light on them in the photo, but this could have been a distraction with the main area of light in the upper right, so I kept them a little muted.

This is not an award-winning painting!  But it was fun to do something a little more spontaneous and I may give this more effort.  I’m struggling a bit at present to find subject matter to paint.  This winter has been cold, wet, and gray and totally uninspiring! Sometimes I look at the amazing detail in many award-winning paintings and think I could be happy trying to achieve that.  But I know that I don’t really want to go that route. I call myself a “painterly realist” –not a photo realist — and I want to keep that in mind.

Anybody else having issues with subject matter or style?


Foggy Day, Port Clyde

Foggy Day, Port Clyde, 16" x 20", Pastel premiere white

Foggy Day, Port Clyde, 16″ x 20″, Pastel premiere white

Watercolor underpainting

Watercolor underpainting

While working on the Monhegan picture, I decided to look through my Port Clyde photos.  This one jumped out at me.  I know that I tried to paint it in the past but wasn’t successful with it. Can’t remember why.  But I decided I really needed to try it again.  I used a mounted sheet of white Pastel Premiere that I purchased at IAPS.  Since I learned that this surface doesn’t like alcohol, I used a watercolor underpainting.  And I found it quite useful for the grassy area.  I wasn’t too inspired by the other colors!  But I have to say that the surface felt really good when I started applying the pastel.

Compositionally, I made one change.  The building barely seen in the fog to the left of the others was highher up and not as wide.  I decided that this would look a lot better and help fill up the vacuum.  Otherwise, this is pretty close to the photo, whose composition I really liked. The other thing I really loved was that there were three orange buoys, a bright one with a duller to the right and a very light one to the left.

I used a very whitish Ludwig blue and a whitish Unison green in the sky, along with a very light violet.  I ended up using primarily very soft pastels in this painting–Great American red violets and browns, and other soft greens.  It was a nice change from my normal diet of Giraults!

Because this is a fog picture, everything has to be muted, except for the one bright buoy.  When I first began the buildings they were a little too dark.  I use grayed red violets, with grayed browns on over and used the pastels to try and indicate the shingles.  In the photo, the buildings are a very cool gray, but I’ve traditionally used more of a violet for weather-beaten shingles.  Getting the values right in the upper window was critical and I was pleased with the way it came out.  The roadway was done with Schminckes–grayed browns and violets.

For the grasses, I began using a selection of warm greens, some very warm, I also added a reddish brown into them, seeing this color in the photo. What’s really nice about the photo is that there are purplish flowers in the grasses on the left side, which nicely pick up the colors of the buildings!  So convenient!

I’m glad that I was finally able to do this painting as I really like the composition and the colors.

One problem, however. The paper buckled.  This is a problem!!! If the paper can’t take alcohol, then it really has to be mounted on something that won’t buckle with water. I plan to discuss this with Dakota Pastels some time soon, since this paper was developed for them. At the convention, the fellow who produces it said that he was working on making it alcohol-tolerant.   Has anyone else experienced this with their mounted boards?  This is the 4-ply.

Happy Day, Monhegan–Commissioned painting

Happy Day, Monhegan Island, 20 x 24, UART 320

Happy Day, Monhegan Island, 20 x 24, UART 320

Source photo

Source photo

Graphite drawing on board

Graphite drawing on board

Underpainting, hard pastel and alcohol

Underpainting, hard pastel and alcohol

Last week I spent three days in the studio working on a commission from a new client in Buffalo.  He was interested in Maine and sent me a photo from Monhegan Island to see if I could paint it.  I knew I could–although there was a lot in this photo that I felt needed changing!  The first thing I had to do was get rid of the people in the picture!  The dock was crowded with vehicles and people that I knew I didn’t want (and couldn’t draw!!!).  And there were way too many picnic tables as well.  I also didn’t like the positioning of the boats in the harbor, or the design of the house on the far island.  All of this needed to be simplified, moved, or eliminated.

Secondly, the light in the picture was flat and uninteresting. I couldn’t change it a lot as it would have been too complicated, but I tried to improve on the sky and make it a little more dramatic.  I did a drawing on paper, then spent a lot of time doing the drawing on the mounted UART 320 paper.  I did the underpainting with hard pastel.  For some reason, I decided to start with reds and decided I really didn’t like them!  I left it in the sky, but used blue in the water, browns for the buildings, and aqua for the road.  I didn’t have a clear color palette in mind.  I knew that I needed to stick with the actual colors to a great extent, so I just used what I saw or thought would be useful.  I sent the drawing and underpainting images to the client and he pointed out that the house on the right was more at an angle.  I appreciated that and changed it.

In painting the island (Manana), I simplified the house and decided to add a small dock and boat below it.  I really like the tiny little building at the top of the hill!  Not sure if someone lives there???  There is also what looks like a pipe running down the hill to the left of the rocks. Every picture I’ve seen has it (including those I took when there), so I decided to keep it.

When I got to the water, I had some challenges.  In the photo it’s really dark. The client wanted something more turquoise, but I said that it couldn’t look like the Caribbean!  So I began with blues, but added some warm green into them on the left, where the sun is.  I think that worked pretty well.  I also put more of the turquoisy green in the sky at the client’s request.  I moved the sail boat to the left of the middle building, almost right in the middle. But I it was better than where it was in the photo, and when I tried to place it more to the left it stood out too much. So I liked having it “attached” in a way to the building.

The house on the left and the truck were the biggest challenge.  I tried to change the truck, to remove the wooden frame on the back of it, and also to change the color.  None of this worked!  In the end, I copied the picture as close as I could and it finally made sense.  The road goes down a bit to the left where the truck is parked and the land to its right is on a little hill.  I didn’t see this right away but it finally made sense. I tried various colors on the truck, from a cool red that looked too purple, to blue, and finally to a dark shadowed red.  This was one of the last changes I made, after having added the yellow and orange buoys to the two buildings at the request of the client. I knew that I needed warm color on the left and the red of the truck was perfect, finally!

Another big challenge was the dock, since I was removing all the clutter!  What to put there?  I decided to add a fishing boat behind it and keep it simple.  For awhile, I had the dock the same color as the road and it was very much in competition with it.  So I darkened it and was much happier.

The aqua underpainting really worked for the road.  I left a little of it showing through and used various Girault ochres, then added a very soft yellow at the far end where it begins to turn.

I happily used a lot of red violets in the painting, in the distant rocks and in the buildings.  I hadn’t used them in my recent shore painting and I missed them!  They are a good base color for the weather-beaten shingle buildings, over which I added some browns.  And they worked well with the various greens and the ocher of the road.

This was a challenging painting.  I spent three days last week, then took a fresh look at it on Monday. It was then that I made the truck red and added some finishing touches.  The painting is now on its way to the framer’s in Buffalo.  I really enjoyed sharing my progress with my client, Devin and I think he really appreciated it.  His mother was an artist so he has an “eye”!