Monday, November 21, 2011

Photo Copy

I did the above painting as a commission, and since the recipient has no idea who I am, and is one of the rare few who doesn't read Maine-ly Painting, I thought it would be safe to post it.  To get this scene, I took a photo, projected it onto a blank masonite board, then carefefully traced the outline.  When it came time for the color, I used the photo as much as possible.

I'm totally kidding!

I actually went to this harbor and kayaked out to this boat at precisely the same time every day for a week and painted it from life using a small easel and palette I had set up on a bouy.

Fooled you again!

Okay, really, I did neither.  But this really is a portrait of a lobster boat converted into a pleasure craft, and my client wanted it to be seen in a harbor during fall.  Since the boat is currently up and out of the water for the winter, I had to use photos.  These are what she sent for me to use:


Next, I had to come up with a design for the painting.  I settled on a low-angle view of the boat because that's how I personally saw so many of these boats when I would paddle around Cundy's Harbor, Maine, where I lived for four years.  I felt I would be comfortable portraying it that way.

After I came up with an idea for the painting, I went back to my photo archives to see if I could get some usable reference shots of harbors and boats.  The viewpoint for almost all of my photos is from my kayak, or about three feet above sea-level.  I thought I could convert this one into my lobster boat:

Next came the harbor.  Again, I wanted something that was consistent with the perspective I was using for my painting.  This was actually taken at Oakhurst Island, right next door to Cundy's:

I simply changed the sun angle, and turned a beautiful spring day into fall.

Next came the reflections.  Remembering all I had observed while I sat and stared for hours at the boats moored out in the harbor, (and talked about in my last blog post) I faked it. 

So there's my painting, and I hope it makes a nice gift for someone. 

Now, I'm sure that if I actually was out and saw this boat in this setting in person, I'd notice a thousand things I could do differently.

But then it would be almost like copying a photo, wouldn't it?


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Upon Reflection

I do my fair share of paintings that utilize water and reflections, and as a result I get people who confide to me that they can't paint water.  So I say to them, "I can't either-- that's why I use canvas!  Ha, Ha!"

People don't confide in me much anymore...

Currently, I'm working on a painting that has a composition that is heavy on water reflections.  I'll show it to you some day, but right now it's in the "Jesus, what the Hell is that?" stage.  But it has made me think of some principles (because we all know there are no rules in art) about painting water.

Generally speaking, water is noticed by us as either a wave or a reflection.  The choppier the wave, the less it will reflect, while a smooth body of water is like a mirror.  I'll pass on talking about waves, Stapleton Kearns did a good blog post on that one.   I'll talk about the smooth water and it's mirror-like reflection.  That's how I think of reflections in the water: mirrors reflecting mirrors, reflecting mirrors.  Sound complicated?  Well, it is.  I mean if it was easy to paint then everybody would do it.

One of the best painters of reflections in my opinion (which is how IMO looks spelled out) is Sarah Knock, a local Maine artist.  Reflections have a decidedly abstract quality about them, and Sarah gets that beautifully in her paintings.  I've picked up a lot by studying her treatment of water.  I highly recommend you check out her art.

One thing I notice when folks paint reflections is that they think it's just an upside down image of the top half of the painting.  You can do it that way, but the drawback is a very flat looking painting.  Water is a flat plane-- like a floor. As such, it's best to keep in mind it follows the same rules of perspective.  In the case of water, the object being reflected is not only spread out on the surface, but the reflection we see is from the perspective of the water, not the viewers perspective.  For example, let's say we are looking at a boat that's a little below eye level to us.  From our view we can see straight through the windows.  However, that's not what will show in the reflection, because the water is at a different angle than us.

I've asked the renowned and highly talented court room sketch artist M. Fablian to illustrate this principle:

Another thing to keep in mind is that a wave is a rounded mirror.  Thus (I love using the word "thus") it will reflect the image of whatever it's facing.

Another example of this from Mr. Fablian:

Light too will have the same effect on a rolling wave as it would a rolling field.  One side will be highlighted, the other in shadow.  By the way, since the reflected light looses some oomph as it travels from the water to our eye, it will always appear a touch darker:

Now here's were it can get crazy:  The rounded side of a wave will not only reflect the light and image it's facing, but also the reflection of the wave in front of it, which is reflecting the wave behind it.  Mirrors reflecting mirrors, reflecting mirrors...  Got it?  Here's that principle as demonstrated by Picasso:

Now let's see how some no-name hack of an Illustrator by the name of Tom Lovell pulled this off:

I'm kidding, of course!  Tom Lovell was a painting God in my honest opinion.  (IMHO for texters)  Geez, you'd think he set his easel up under-water to get this view.  All the elements I was talking about are apparent in this painting.

I tried this whole reflection thing with a couple of my paintings:

So there you have it-- a few thoughts on painting reflections in water.  To coin a phrase;

Water, water everywhere--

And all of it's tough to paint!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Take A Trip Without Leaving The Farm

Inspiration comes from the doggondest of places, don't it?  Some may search high and low for that perfect face to paint, or travel around the globe looking for awe inspiring vistas to immortalize on canvas. 


I stumble out of bed...

I didn't set out to do this on purpose, but I just realized that I've spent the past two years painting scenes from around my home and studio here in Pittston, Maine.  It's not much of a property, just four acres bordered by a little creek named the Eastern River.  It bends like a horse-shoe and our property is the inside part of the shoe.  Our home is a simple Cape Cod style home built in 1830, and sits on top of a ridge.  The open land around it slopes down to the river.  Simple.  But for some reason, it has provided me with scenes that I felt compelled to paint.  Let me give you a tour of what I'm talking about.

At the edge of the river is an old pump house that looks like a dog house with a nice cement foundation.  It once was used when the drinking water for the house came from the river.  This was the first thing I painted after we moved here.

I painted it in Winter:

And in the Summer:

Speaking of the river, I have depicted it in Spring:

And late on January afternoon:

It does have a tendency to flood in the early Spring, so I painted that:

There's a big old maple tree in my back yard.  This is my portrait of it from the living room window in Winter:

The shade of the tree stretches across our root cellar door in early Spring:

We have a porch that wraps around the front and side of the house.  This is it, looking out from the inside of the house:

And now we're looking up at the house from my studio, showing the back of my garage (because there's just not enough paintings of garages in the world) and the porch on a lovely Summer day:

And this would be the front of the house in Autumn:

I also had a good time drawing this with white pencil on black paper:

I haven't forgotten the interior.  This is my piano in the living room:

And why wouldn't I want to paint our dressers in the bedroom?

Turning around from the viewpoint I used in Mirror, Mirror, this is the top of the stairs as late day sun shines up the stairway: 

Quite a bit of inspiration, not to mention inventory!  Like I said, I didn't set out to do a series, it just happened.  Be forewarned, though: I'm sure there will be more to come.  Because after all,  that's what I do:

I work at home!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hurry Up And Wait

Several weeks ago as I was watching TV while eating my usual breakfast of oatmeal, eggs with a mug of bourbon, I happened to glance away from Natalie Morales (something I rarely do) and saw a beautiful sight;  the way the morning sun had back-lit the big old maple tree that looms over my back yard.  I loved the way the leaves glowed on one side of the tree while on the other were a cool veridian.  I thought the way the lavender of the trunk played off against the golden green glow of the grass was really cool.  I was transfixed.  Something that I had seen countless times before now begged to be painted.  So as soon as Ann Curry came on, I quickly turned off the TV, (something I often do) and raced down to the studio to grab a panel to commence work.

I'd love to tell you how I turned out a masterpiece as a result, but the sad truth is that after a few days of work on it, the weather turned against me.  For what seemed like a month the sun didn't shine in the morning, if it came out at all.  In the meantime, the leaves dropped off the limbs and covered the grass.  By the time the sun made it's return appearance, the shadows had changed position, and the leaves were gone, altering my whole design.  I needed to work on it from life because no photo was going to catch the nuance of color I wanted to convey.  (Trust me-- I took a ton of photos, and not one was worth anything).  So now my panel sits quietly on a shelf in my studio waiting for next fall. 

This is the steaming mess as I last left it-- a hodge-podge of underpainting colors.  But I'm positive that next year it'll look really good!

I hope...

Mark Twain once noted that experience means recognizing a mistake the second time you make it.  Undeterred by the vagaries of Nature, I stumbled upon another scene that got me all worked up to paint.  But instead of relying on morning light, I needed to have afternoon sun.  And not any old sun, but the last ten minutes of sun from a clear, cloudless sky.  Hey, that's not asking for much, right?  Here's a fun thing to try on your own:  pick any time of day and see how often the weather is exactly the same from one day to the next.  Spoiler Alert:  It's pretty damn rare.

Here's where the picture stands one full month later.

Hell, the moon has gone through another full cycle since I started.  Oh well, at least I got a lot farther along on this than the other one. 

This one has a good chance to be  finished, though.  After all, I am almost done, and I managed to get some local color notes on it when I had the chance.  The good thing is that next week the clocks change so I won't have to wait so long for the sun to set.  And many of the elements really won't change that much.  Dead leaves are dead leaves, right?  The pumpkins won't turn into carriages, or anything.  

Will They?

Gues I'll have to wait and see.