I find this rowboat fascinating. Working on the gleaming wooden edge has been a challenge. To achieve "the look," I am using more vivid colors than first mixed. Once the rest of the boat is painted, I'll revisit this natural wood edge.
Sometimes it is difficult to pinpoint what inspires me to paint a scene. Is it the water, the reflection, the different modes of transportation or a combination?
Often it is my first impression. What caught my eye immediately was the teal green of the boat and its reflection in the water. I've saved it for almost the end. Not only does painting it now make sense, but I often "save the best for last." While having ice cream at the beginning of the meal may alleviate my sugar craving, it is far more satisfying to dip my spoon in the frozen dessert at the conclusion of the meal.
If I could paint all my wildlife in water, I would. However, not all animals like to swim.
But, when it comes to pieces reflecting living on an island, incorporating water is easy. This will be another painting going to the Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven on Martha's Vineyard.
The scene is from Vineyard Haven harbor. Three forms of transportation were in the setting: the wooden rowboat, sailboats, and the ferry which takes passengers and cars from Wood's Hole to Vineyard Haven. Some artistic license and I had a painting.
My niece texted me asking how I paint water so well. I joked, "water is wet, paint is wet. Easy."
Actually, I do have a few "tricks" which help me achieve the type of water I plan to paint.
1.) Analyze the different colors in the water
2.) Mix the various colors represented, a minimum of three in the same color group (3 blues, or 3 greens, etc.) Sometimes for a blue water painting I might have 5 or 6. If there are reflections, that number can be much higher. Having the colors pre-mixed gives me a chance to look them over ahead of time and see if they are good representations of the water I am trying to create.
3.) Keep in mind that all reflections are duller in the same color group as the water. For example, if the water is blue, the reflected color will be not as vibrant as the non-reflected color and it will be more blue like the water it is reflected into.
4.) Set aside enough time. I do not like to feel rushed when working on water. Having plenty of time for the critical blending stage will help the painting.
5.) Paint the blocks of color
6.) Blend the edges of the different colors, moving the blending brush in the general direction of the water lines, ripples, or waves. When it is mostly blended, a few gentle blending strokes at a 90-degree angle will add a natural feel to the water.
7.) Keep painting and blending until the water looks wet. Sometimes this means realizing a section needs to be much darker, bluer, greener, vibrant, etc. I might mix more colors to blend in. This is why I give myself plenty of time. Fortunately, oil paint does not dry right away.
It seems there are some parts of a painting which have to go through an ugly stage. Here it is the background tree. Blobs of dark green are doing nothing for me and I'd like to race to the finish line. But, I warm up my green tea, walk around the studio, and then it is time to mix up a number of greens from emerald to lime-yellow to slowly piece together a tree.
Now that the last roof is completed, I am starting on the sky. Usually I start with the sky and work my way down, but on this piece I took a more round-about approach. I'd love to tell you there was a brilliant reason why, but beyond the "it felt right," there isn't.
One of the things I like about painting scenes like this is that I get to play with colors less frequently used in my pieces of the natural world. I probably used more cadmium lemon in the underpainting of the flag than I have used in 8 months!
Piece by piece, step by step. For me, a painting like this can't be rushed. It is the detail which helps inform the story. Though it might seem tedious from the outside, the chance to work with some different colors to come up with just the right hue keeps me interested, even fascinated, with the process.
Since I spent almost every July as a child on Martha's Vineyard, (biking, swimming, hiking), it holds special memories for me. Mom and Dad retired there so I have been on the Vineyard every month of the year.
The Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven is my gallery home on the island. Owned by a dynamic and artistic Vineyarder, Louisa has been able to gather some of the island's best talent to showcase. Because of my long history with Martha's Vineyard, I am included in her slate of artists.
Wildlife is my main focus throughout the year, but each Spring I enjoy stretching my brushes and completing some of the scenes of Martha's Vineyard which bring a smile to my heart. I may come up with some bird pieces (one of the best places in the world to see endangered shore birds), but first up is a piece inspired by Cottage City in Oak Bluffs.
Sometimes I can't reveal what I am working on because it is a surprise. That is the case with my latest piece. The oil painting is a surprise gift for a client's wife's birthday. I certainly wouldn't want to spoil the event.
As each step of the painting proceeded, I e-mailed my client photos so he could see the progress. When I received the "WOW, it's perfect!" I knew the piece was a success.
Once the painting was finished, I took it to my framer and snapped a number of photos with frame options. Fortunately, the client thought one of the choices was a "slam dunk" and I ordered the frame.
(Note: the owner Holly Swanson of Spokane Gallery & Framing has over 5000 frame choices. It can be overwhelming but I take the subject matter and coloring of the painting into careful consideration before I make 5 or 6 preliminary selections. Usually the first group of framing choices contains the winner.)
I may not show this piece in progress once my client's wife sees her birthday gift, but know my brushes have not been idle.
I am not a miniature painter. There are those who excel in this very demanding discipline. But, there are times when I can not resist the challenge.
As I was working out my composition, I was intrigued by how it might work in a small format. How crazy did I want to be?
My palette looks like I have gone crazy with oranges, reds, and yellows. Mixtures of Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Yellow Deep. Quinacridone Coral,
Cadmium Red, Burnt Sienna, and Raw Umber are "dancing" around my
palette. Close up, some of the colors look neon bright on the painting. When I step back from the piece, it all seems to come together with soft warm browns.
Maybe daring myself to push into uncharted color territoryis the way to add extra life to my work and still keep it looking natural.
After seeing the reception of my pronghorn painting Track Team at my last show (it sold), I thought about how much I really enjoyed painting these stunning animals. In this piece, I am saturating the color more than I usually would to create the vibrancy I feel when seeing them in the the field.
Usually, I would paint each animal in its entirety before moving on to the next. This time I am taking a different approach by painting each color group on the herd before mixing the next. I'd like to give you a logical explanation why I have varied the approach but all I can say is that it felt right.
I knew exactly what I wanted to paint next. After thinking about it on our drive home from the Las Vegas show, I could clearly see it in my mind. Thinking of the gaps to fill from the last show's sales, it was an obvious choice to get this one ready for my upcoming show in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
After spending hours reviewing my reference and working out various compositions, it just wasn't working. Well, I had a second idea which I liked just as well. Nope, that didn't pan out either. Neither did the 3rd or 4th.
Time to take a break. This is when I ask myself the most important question, "If I could paint any subject in the world, what would it be?" The answer did not take long. (Of course I could have saved myself quite a bit of time if I had not been so stubborn hanging on to my first idea.)
Right before a show, things like blog posting are put aside while I finish paintings, pack, and complete the associated paperwork (flyers, description cards for paintings, etc.)
Below are two paintings which I did not get around to sharing on my blog. Both of them were among the numerous which found homes with past and new collectors of my work.
Now that I am back home, the first order of business is writing thank you notes to my patrons, ordering boxes, mailing paintings (most choose to have me mail the pieces because they flew in), entering new collectors in my quarterly newsletter database, entering interested parties in the database, and following up those interested in a commission.
And yes, this all comes before I unpack and wash clothes!
It is also right back to the easel. My next show is NatureWorks in Tulsa, Oklahoma Feb 24 + 25. Some paintings I can bring with me when I fly, but the bulk needs to be shipped Feb 14. There are several special pieces I want to complete in time.
One of the tricky aspects for the composition was the vertical position of the cub. To accomplish a sense of movement, the cub in the first panel had to be highest and the cub in the last panel needed to be lowest. The first and last panels were fairly easy, but the middle one took lots of adjustment. I'd try about1/2" lower, then 1/4" higher until the position just felt right to me. No mathematical equations, no measuring. I'd keep asking myself if I felt the cub coming down the tree. When I did, that was it.
The blue separating lines are painted. This is one gessoed panel. Actually, while I carefully created that blue to complement the sky, I now think it is distracting from the piece. It may be time to revisit that color decision.
Now to my favorite part, the lion. I was in the Selous in Tanzania and arrived after the cub was already in the tree. It wasn't too long before he decided he wanted to get down. It was obvious he did not know how and he wandered around in the crook of the tree.
I have a story I've wanted to paint for over 10 years and couldn't figure out the best way to portray it. With it rattling around in my head for that long I had almost given up hope.
Then the idea came to me.
The only way to tell the story was in a triptych style similar to my painting Movement.
In Movement, the piece is on one board and the borders are painted with colors from the foreground and background.
At this stage, the painting is almost finished.
The grass needs highlights, the cheetah need backlighting, the elephants need to be pushed further into the background and their legs blended into the grasses. And the final detail will be to glaze more reddish orange onto the cheetah. This will pull them further into the foreground and create more distance between them and the elephants. Using liquin the glazing will be subtle but hopefully effective.
18" X 36"
Note the bluish glazing on the elephants is similar to the sky color in the upper right of the painting.
Above I have the elephants roughed in. Once they are mostly dry, I can work on the transition from the grasses to their legs.
Like most times when I paint spotted or striped animals, (cheetah, giraffe, leopard, zebra, tiger, etc), I like to paint the spots or stripes first. Next, I'll fill in the background color and then revisit the spots, making sure the fur reads well.
From the outlines you can probably guess where this piece is going. There will be some challenges because I haven't worked out all the transitions. Numerous thumbnail sketches might have given me a couple of hints, but I opted to go right for my brushes. Sometimes diving in and trusting your intuition can yield the best results. Guess we will find out.
Safari Club International has named me the 2018 Artist of the Year. My painting Stars and Stripes Forever is the featured piece and will be auctioned at the 2018 Convention in Las Vegas, Jan 31 - February 3. In addition, 125 canvas giclees were made of the painting and will be distributed to Safari Club chapters across the country.
Happy New Year! I hope 2018 exceeds your expectations and is filled with wonderful surprises.