Monday, December 28, 2015

Pre-Winter Marina

Pre-Winter Marina In Progress
I returned to the town pier on another unseasonably mild December day.   The post-foliage, "pre-snow" landscape has been quite dreary, yet at the marina, the boat and water colors were as bright and vivid as any other time of the year.  This painting was intended to be a color study, an attempt to match the sky, grasses, water and dock as accurately as possible.   I think it was very close in person, although the photo may not seem that way.

This painting scene was very similar to the painting "Unloading Lobster Traps," completed just a couple of weeks ago.    The unloading of lobster traps continues.  Just how many traps do each fisherman work each season I wondered?  Given the constant flow of returning lobster boats, all weighed down to capacity with traps, and the Massachusetts Commercial Fishing Policy, a maximum of 800.

Pre-Winter Marina
The dark blue Four Sons lobster boat was returning to the dock.   It sat very low in the water due to the weight of the traps.     The bright orange coveralls of the two lobstermen contrasted well against the complementary ocean blue.   One lobsterman was steering to the dock while the other sat on the pile of traps in the back smoking a cigarette.    The Cygnet was docked alongside the pier to the far right, also busily unloading traps.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Gray Winter Bog

Inaugural Paint-Out with "Vanna"
The site of this paint-out was the Duxbury Bogs along East Street in Duxbury, MA.  The map and description in the previous blue link describes the three distinct types of landscape here, namely the "upland", the "transition area" and of course, the "cranberry bogs."  The forecast was "rain by noon," and I did finish by noon without ever seeing a drop - despite looking like it may rain at any minute.   I enjoyed swirling some pink, blue and lavender into my very gray-day sky.

Initial Set-up

Gray Winter Bog - Stage One

Cranberry bogs turn a deep rich purple color in late autumn.   I scooped up some alizarin crimson, held it up to the bog, and did a direct comparison.   The color was nearly exact, and the value of the bog was slightly lighter than the "out of the tube" color.  The intensity of the paint color was stronger and more vivid than the actual bog.   I decided I liked this pumped up chroma, so I used it "as is".

Bogs generally have a cool, moist and quiet feel to them, but substract the "quiet" part if it is 10 a.m., which was when I started painting.This bog is very popular for dog walking, giving me options for including a human/canine center of interest.   The pairs of Golden Retrievers were particularly colorful against the muted early winter colors.  The bright red hat of the owner also stood out against the dark pines.
Two Goldens and Red Hat

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Unloading Lobster Traps

Unloading Lobster Traps - Stage One
On this sunny November day there was a midday high tide at the Marshfield, MA town pier. Apparently this was a good time to unload lobster traps from boats to trucks and trailers because there were several fishermen doing the same thing.  And it made sense.  The boats were high enough alongside the docks to toss traps over easily, rather than hoisting them up by hand or crane from a low tide boat.  

Lady Jane and Dock Disappeared
I set up facing a lobster boat named "Lady Jane" that was docked north of where I was standing.   In deciding on the composition, I placed the boat to the left with the two big squares of darkness (under dock) to the middle and right.   A red pick-up truck was up on the dock and, compositionally, did its job balancing the boat.  Most of the first pass of painting was done with the palette knife (i.e., sky, water and pilings).  The boat and truck were done mostly with a pointed watercolor brush.

Easel and Lobster Boat Coexisting
There was a lot going on and the changes happened quickly!   The silver railings of the floating dock visible in the first picture above soon disappeared, as the Harbormaster arrived in his skiff, untied the forty foot dock and towed it away to winter dry dock (a good change to my painting scene).  A few minutes later the "Lady Jane" suddenly disappeared and a long pickup truck parked up on the dock blocking my red truck (not-so-convenient changes).

Unloading Lobster Traps
The biggest impact came when the lobstering crew in the last photo pulled up right next to me.   They said that my easel was fine where it was, but that my car was in the way.    I decided that the painting was far enough along to pack it in - or risk getting splashed with the flying traps!

Monday, November 16, 2015

South River Reflections

South River Reflections - Stage One
It was just one hundred feet off the primary Marshfield thoroughfare on Willow Street and it was a treasure.    My set up was on the small bridge which crosses over the South River at one of its narrowest points.   The day was lovely with sunshine, temperatures in the sixties and bright foliage starting to emerge. I was particularly attracted to the red and yellow watery reflections.

South River Reflectons - Stage Two

When painting trees and reflections, its a good idea to work them together, especially when the element and its reflection are the very same color.  For the reflections here, I used a dry extra soft brush, making single vertical strokes down from the water line.  Clean the dry brush of any paint (without spirits).  Repeat this along the reflected shore line until your entire water surface is thin and smooth.   If there is movement in the water, as there was here
South River Reflections
, long wide horizontal strokes can give a nice blur, emulating calm - but moving - river water. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fort Independence in Fall

On this autumn day, the air was cool but the sun was still warm.   I wore the long white down coat so the extra moist and salty air of Boston Harbor wouldn't penetrate.  I set up on the far end of the long fishing pier on the north side of Fort Independence on Castle Island.    This freestanding pier on pilings juts out into the Harbor.  I'm thinking that the simplicity of this composition belies the activity all around me.  Fun to watch, but it required some focus to keep to the subject.   Jets were landing at Logan International Airport, cargo canisters were being moved on the docks, and tugboats, ferries and water rescue boats cut through the greenish blue waters.

Fort Independence in Fall - In Progress
It's good to simplify at the outset, with a line sketch for placement.  Next, I blocked in all the dark areas.   The shaded fort wall on the right was made from smooth but mottled granite slabs.   In the foreground, the roughly hewn granite pilings were even darker (wet plus shaded) and thick

Walking the Island
 with sea mosses and barnacles.   The sky was next - done plein air style - via a thick coating of cobalt and white applied with the palette knife.   Elements of middle values were next, the rolling green slopes of grasses, the distant fort wall, the golden grasses on top of the fort and the sea water. Finally I worked the lanterns, the iron fencing and the walkers. And as always, there was a constant flow of walkers on the upper and lower paths.  After all, that's what you do when you are in South Boston; you walk the island.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Universal Remedy

Tea and Honey
The low November sun was pouring into my south facing windows, illuminating this little stool with the nice crackle finish.   Such a little stool, but casting such a dramatic design!   There was a strong contrast between the bright light and deep shadows while the sunlight was passing through the honey jar, casting golden abstract shapes of its own.   A varied pattern of shapes like this generally improves the composition for any painting whether it is landscape, still life or figurative.

As for the subject, tea and honey ... a universal healing elixir, no matter where in the world or what in the world the issue is.  This particular honey is special because it was given to me by a friend who is a fairly new at  beekeeping but has been successful in pulling lots of honey this year.     It's tone is very pale and clear in appearance and it has a deliciously floral taste. :)

Tea with honey can make you feel better - and maybe a painting of it could make someone feel better too.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Boston Skyline from Adams Shores

It was mid-September and we were enjoying wonderfully mild weather - great for painting out.   The Quincy Arts Festival brought me to the area so I sought out a new location to paint while I visited.   Merrymount is a small section of Quincy located on the southern end of Wollaston Beach.   It took a little searching for a water view that was not blocked by a residence.   Several Boston Harbor Islands were visible to my right from this location.   Check out this video that pans the location where I set up.

Boston Skyline from Adams Shores - In Progress
From this shoreline, there was a distant but clear view of the Boston skyline, the colorful Boston Gas Tank and Marina Bay.   The water was so calm that the tallest Boston skyscrapers were actually reflected in the water, a fairly unusual sight with ocean water.   I used my palette knife almost exclusively as I needed to apply paint thickly enough to cover the previous painting underneath (the bad pink roses above).

Boston Skyline from Adams Shores

A wonderful bonus was that I met some new friends who actually knew some of my cousins, both on my mother's side (Virginia and Jack) and my father's side (Pat and Eamon) of the family.  I will certainly be returning to this gorgeous and painter friendly spot in the future.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Spooner Swans

Gulls, Ducks and Swans
Spooner Pond often catches my eye when travelling along Route 3A toward Plymouth, MA.   A stoplight across from the water sometimes allows time to see the swans that live there.  It was late in the afternoon on this cloudy November day when I decided to pull into a parking area along side the pond and get a better look.

Spooner Swans - In Progress
There were water fowl everywhere so there must have been plenty of fish.  There were probably 100 seagulls sitting on the roof of a small office structure next to me, and a few dozen ducks were quacking in circles below where I stood. 
Swans were also swimming around - more swans than I have ever seen at one time (ten).   They say swans mate for life and before this, I had only seen one adult pair per pond.   So it seemed amazing to see such a large group in one place.  This had to become a painting.   I set up and worked on the "post-peak" foliage and reflections all the while enjoying the interactions of seagulls, ducks and swans.   The swans were the last element to be added, seven in all.  You know, so that I have the option to give the painting a very obvious title!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Rocks and Seals

There is a section of rocky coastline between the Green Harbor River and the Brant Rock neck section of Marshfield, MA that has become home for a small seal population.   At low tide, the seals can be seen sunning themselves on the more distant rocks.  They actually looked like rocks themselves, except that the shape was a little different - two pointed ends (head and tail :)).

The seals were the highlight of this paint out, along with the mild temperatures and calm seas.  As for the painting, there were challenges.  I've been painting a lot of rocks and surf lately so I mistakenly thought it would go smoothly.  I set up on the (sinking) sand, near the (rising) water line, just down from the (windy) opening along Ocean Street.   I began sketching the myriad of rocks and boulders connecting the abstract dark shapes across the scene.   Fast forward one hour...the easel blew over and I couldn't seem to get set up the same way again.   I painted for a few more minutes holding the board in my hand, working around the sand and gravel on my palette.  Arrggrrhhh!  I remind myself that a bad day painting on the beach beats a great day in an office every time!

The painting was only about 60% complete when I packed up.  The remainder was done in the studio - and it still isn't quite done.   I'm sharing it now, but I think it needs something.   Maybe a unifying toned glaze to tone down the bright areas on the rocks.   I welcome your critiques as always. 

Here's a paint out bonus...
a short clip of the seals.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rocks Along Ocean St

Rocks Along Ocean St - Phase One
The day after a storm moves away is typically a great day to paint at the ocean.   On this painting day, the wave action was impressive, yet the winds had died down and the morning sun was sparkling from the horizon line to the shore.   Along Ocean Street in Brant Rock, Massachusetts I discovered a nice low concrete platform to work from.   The air was charged with moist energy from the pounding of the surf.   As if plein air painting on a beautiful day was not relaxing enough, the waves had settled into a loud eight second rhythm that was downright therapeutic.

Rocks Along Ocean St - Phase Two
Although the rocks look complex, they were painted loosely, probably not very accurate, except that the further rock were small and the closer rocks were larger and redder.
Two important tips in painting rocks like these:   Restate the cracks after completing the painting first pass.   These darks go a long way in setting off the earthy tones and the shaded foam of the sea water.   Make the foam dark enough, deep blue even.   Although wave spray can be quite light and bright, the floating ocean foam is never white.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

More Rock Formations

More Rock Formations - In Progress
Rock Formations and More Crashing Surf
This is the first of two paintings done on a beautiful day in October.   I was painting out with a group of five other New England plein air painters.  The rock formations we saw at Beavertail Light in Jamestown, RI were comprised of layers of shale and coal that are common in the Narragansett Bay area.   I liked the rugged look of the rocky layers that had been worn down from the pounding surf.  The tidal pools were helpful painting elements because they could be situated to enhance the painting design.  In this painting I think they helped create a stronger abstract design quality.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Rock Formations with Crashing Surf

Rock Formations with Crashing Surf
Today's paint-out took place approximately 77 miles from home, at the southernmost tip of Jamestown, Rhode Island.   This green space is surrounded by impressive rock formations which protect Beavertail Light, the third oldest lighthouse in the United States.   The rugged rock formations and high surf were spectacular, and reminded me of the Pacific shoreline, complete with a distinctly turquoise tint.  I was meeting more plein air painters; in total there were six of us.   We all agreed that, although it was a long ride, it was well worth it.   And as I have said on more than one occasion, plein air is as much about the experienced place and time as it is about coming out with a (great?) painting.

What a spot!  The access road encircles the lighthouse and is situated above the rugged and complex cliffs.   Openings in the guardrail permitted access to the tops of the rocky cliffs and a very active surf thirty feet below.   The eastern morning sun was causing a tremendous glare just to the left of the canvas.   The 9x12 viewfinder was clipped to the right, so fortunately I wasn't looking directly into the brightness.    It definitely was a tough day for my eyes.   I did wear sunglasses throughout most of rock sketching.   When it was time for true color matching I was forced to remove them.   The painting shown was the second painting of the day; it's closer to finished than the first.   I'll show painting number one once I get a chance to view it in the studio.

Click on the link for a short snippet of the panoramic view.  The land mass in the distance is Newport, Rhode Island.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Workshop Studies

Cataumet Cove
This week I was one of the lucky painters who participated in a workshop with contemporary realist painter Joseph McGurl.     The workshop was information rich - covering everything from composition to paint application to framing and even today's challenging art market.   If you are ever given the chance to participate, jump at it!

Seagull on Boulder

Despite the - almost - constant mist and rain, we got four painting studies done using some of the techniques, tips and strategies that this amazing artist uses.    It is always a bit unnerving to try new methods (custom view finder, acrylic underpainting, atmospheric glazes), but in the spirit of breaking out of our comfort zones, Joe challenged us to do just that.     He circled through the group offering assistance several times during each painting session, keeping us moving along on our paintings - what was working and what aspects needed attention.
Cataumet PO 02534
My favorite part of the workshop were the demonstrations. I was absolutely mesmerized during both the plein air and studio work.   I remember sitting at one point staring at his illuminated canvas and thinking how fortunate I was and that it was a gift to be able to see this painting in-progress (soon to be on display in New York for international audiences to appreciate.)   His approach and methodology are uniquely his own.   I don't think it was shared so that they would be precisely emulated, but rather to be considered within our own signature styles.  New tools for the toolbox.

Misty Garden Cherub
I've included my four painting sketches, Marsh Cove in Cataumet, Big Boulder, Cataumet PO 02534, Misty Garden Cherub.  All four need work, but here are the post paint-out versions.

Monday, September 28, 2015

First Day of Fall in Boston Public Garden

First Day of Fall in BPG
Students, tourists, lunch walkers, street people, retirees, young and old; it seemed like everyone was taking advantage of the picture perfect weather on this, the first day of fall.   As usual I parked at a meter on Charles Street and set up just inside the entrance to the Boston Public Garden.    Looking down the central path I could see the famous orb shaped lanterns and the sculpture of George Washington on horseback.  

First Day of Fall - Ending Stage
This iconic Public Garden view has probably been sketched, painted and photographed thousands of times.  Well add one more painting to that - however - never before was it painted today.  The composition has the viewer entering on the left along the dark diagonal edge of the path and travelling directly to the people and globe shaped lanterns.   Multiple orange canna lilies towered over bright gold green caladiums.   These colors were even brighter and more vivid against the huge dark purple beech tree.  The transparent darks of the beech are catching glare so in this photo the beech does not look as dark as it really is in the painting.  Before I post to the website, I'll need to get a better (non-glare) photo.

First Day of Fall - Boston Public Garden
What the painting does not show is that on either side of the easel were (six foot) tall rose bushes with six inch blossoms.   The scent of roses was a heavenly bonus for the duration of the paint-out.

Photo of Maureen Painting
(by Photographer Samson Chen)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Snowy House Across the Marsh

Snowy House Across the Marsh
(Black, White and Torrit Grey)
Each year the Gamblin Oil Colors Company runs a contest in which participants are challenged to create a work of art using only black, white and a custom color made by Gamblin called "Torrit Grey".     And each year, the entries that painters come up with (using just values without color) just amaze me.  Perhaps it is the very nature of being constrained that gets the creative juices flowing.  I'm not talking about me, but check out this link for last year's entries.

This will be my third time participating.  I've been busy preparing for a winter snow show, which got me thinking about the limited palette of winter - almost like a Torrit Grey.   Thus I used an old winter reference photo to paint the Snowy House Across the Marsh in Torrit Grey.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Haymarket - In Progress
In New England, late summer and early fall is especially wonderful for those who enjoy the farmers' market.      At this point, the limited growing season is winding down, and the local markets are bursting with their bounty.   Everyone becomes a "foodie" seeing the exotic (and ordinary) fruits and vegetables in tall glorious piles.

Not only are the prices unbelievably cheap, but the variety is amazing at the location of this painting, Boston's Haymarket - an institution in Boston since 1820.    It really is the ultimate Farmers' Market.   "Eye candy" was the term that jumped to mind as I walked through the market, trying to drink in all this the "out of the tube" color.  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Rocky Shores

Rocky Shores
A rocky shoreline on a perfect summer day - it is never the same and never boring.   When we set up (about 3 hours before low tide), the rocks were barely visible at.  Gradually, the water pulled away revealing the rocky shoreline.   Seagulls and cormorants selected their favorite rocks, and some foraged through the seaweed. 

I mostly used my palette knife to capture the full sun and full pink glare off the water.   The extra brights formed a stark contrast with the dark rocks. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Jetty at Scituate Light

Backlit downpours
It was a beautiful sunny Saturday as we drove north on Route 3A to Scituate Harbor and historic Scituate Light.   There were no bad views, so given the heat, I set up on the highest point of the granite rip-rap looking toward the long "L" shaped jetty.    There were nice breezes and lots of tourists passing by.  The noon sun illuminated the horizontal surfaces and the glare off the water was exceptionally bright.   The warm gold and sienna boulders were fun to paint and I used my palette knife to butter on the streaks of colorful granite.  

Jetty at Scituate Light - In Progress
About an hour into the paint-out, the wind got stronger and a large, dark storm cell approached from the west.The thunderstorm was apparently one of the few showers that occurred on the South Shore of Massachusetts that day.  It was quite spectacular to see because from this vantage we could see it approach and move along the long expanse of shoreline.
Jetty at Scituate Light

I had just painted my first two distant figures when I realized that I had to break down my gear and dash to the vehicle.  With the painting about 80% complete, I had enough to finish up back in the studio.
It looks as though this young guy is trying to talk his friend into adventuring further out onto the jetty.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

August Mayflower II

August Mayflower II
Another painting of the Mayflower II you say?   Well yes, because I love painting at the Plymouth waterfront in summer.   It is not just a pleasant and comfortable location on a hot day, but it is truly and international cultural experience.  I talked with people from Canada, China, Great Britain, and Turkey.  Interest in the arts is truly universal and like music, it is a way to find common ground.

I did consider other scenes, but I liked the high tide reflections of the warm yellow Mayflower II and the trees.  
I credit the picture below to a fine emerging photographer who was kind enough to take pictures and allow me to use them.   His photography is beautiful and if you are interested in seeing more, visit his website:
Maureen Painting Mayflower II Scene

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Back Bay Rose Garden

Back Bay Rose Garden
This painting is the third of a series of small works of Boston's Back Bay.  The Back Bay is known for its rows of 19th Century Victorian brownstones.  Boston's Back Bay was literally a bay at high tide, and marshy tidal flats at low tide.  That is until the "make land" project was executed in the early 1800's.  Train cars loaded with "fill" travelled into the area west of the Boston Common and eventually was transformed into viable residential land.  Today, the affluent neighborhood and upscale shopping district draws thousands of tourists throughout the year.  There are lots of tiny front gardens carefully sculpted and manicured to match the fancy residences beyond.

In this scene, the herringbone pattern on the brick sidewalk points into the cityscape.   This corner rose garden was catching bright light while the right side of the tree lined street beyond the roses was a nice contrast of deep shadow.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Back Bay Front Garden

The squares of green space in front of each of the exquisite old properties in Boston's Back Bay may be small, but most are neatly manicured and dressed up with flower boxes, planters and stonework.   This property is located next door to Newman Prep School and is an example of these 'mini" formal garden.   The warm sunlit brick is a stunning backdrop for the greenery.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Back Bay Flower Box

Back Bay Flower Box
Although I can easily live without the noise and traffic, I do thoroughly enjoy the grand old architecture of Boston's Back Bay.   Most of the residential brick fronts are impeccably manicured and some of the floral displays are spectacular.   I decided to paint an understated scene instead of one of the more ostentatious displays.    The canvas was small at 6x6" so a sweet and simple black flower box became the center of interest.    The bright pink and yellow flowers and English ivy cascaded over the edge casting pretty shadows below.   The nice old wrought iron is a Back Bay signature design element and is included in this small work.