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.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Two Trees at the Landing

Howland's Landing - Stage One
We returned to Howland's Landing in Duxbury, MA on this hot, sunny day. The variety of subjects here make it a perfect plein air painting location.  There are wooded areas on the uphill side, the ocean inlet with a wide (low tide) sandbar, and of course plenty of shorebirds, boats and people.  

Two Trees at the Landing - Stage Two
I set up under a very old cedar, its thick evergreen habit providing a dense, shady location.   The trees in front of me were very dark, in stark contrast with the bright sunny water and boats beyond.  The warm gold grasses in front of me had that sun dappled look that is so pretty.   I staged the background first in order to avoid contaminating the bright sky and water with the inevitable super-darks.   I sight-sized the trees from about five steps back; see Stage Three photo and the size matching of the trees can be seen at the top...  

Two Trees at the Landing - Stage Three

Two Trees at the Landing
Like most paint-outs, the fun is as much about the sensory experience of a unique place and time, as it is about turning out a painting.  I do like how this turned out though!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bridge and Cedar

Bridge and Cedar - In Progress
"Free, Fun, Fridays" is the name of a program in the Greater Boston for which many organizations and "not-for-profits" offer complimentary admissions/passes.  We took advantage of the free parking at World's End in Hingham this past Friday.  We hiked the trails and saw amazing views of the Boston skyline and then we settled in at a picturesque spot to paint.

A mature, old cedar near the entrance caught my eye, but I also liked the bridge which crosses over the outlet from the Damde Meadows Tidal Marsh.  I found a spot where I could include both of these nice features in my painting design. 

Bridge and Cedar World's End


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Two Megs - Boston Fish Pier

Two Megs - Boston Fish Pier In Progress
Today was the day;   I found a parking spot along Northern Avenue at the Boston Fish Pier!   I have often driven by this waterfront area looking for a metered space and until now haven't been able to score one.   Large fishing boats and trawlers are typically moored along the pier one after the other for the length of the 100 year old fish pier.   The sturdy working boats had all the signs of their age and hard work.   Far from pristine, they had a rustic look that lends itself to the (sometime) rustic look of plein air via palette knife.

Two Megs - Boston Fish Pier
On this day a "white" fishing boat called "Two Megs" was the closest to my painting location along the Boston Harborwalk.   It was early morning and the water was primarily deep green-gold, except for the reflections of the undersides of the boats.   The complex scene had me doing a visual scan for the simplest, biggest shapes.   Most of the scene was in shadow. The vanishing lines of the fish pier building were established, and then it was easy enough to rough in the entire bottom of the canvas with darks.   Sight sizing allowed me to get the right proportions for "Two Megs".   I then placed the most strategic dots of lit color over the thin dark base.    

It was a lot of fun to paint here with a steady stream of school aged children walking past with their camp counselors.  They had great comments and suggestions!  I thought about feeding the meter again and working longer on this one, but it is very easy to overdo (ie wreck

) a painting once it is two hours in.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Boston Harborwalk at JFK Library

The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library on Columbia Point in Boston was my destination on this hot summer day.  I almost didn't stay because it seemed too hot and sunny at the sun-scorched concrete frontage.     However, below and to the rear of the of JFK Library complex was a nice stretch of the Boston Harborwalk.   There were 42 four inch steps between me and the harborwalk, minor but not insurmountable given the amount of gear I in tow.  (I had my large traveling plein air bag on wheels.)  Once I arrived at the bottom of the steps along the breezy (and shaded) water's edge, it was very pleasant and well worth the extra effort.

Boston Harborwalk at JFK Library - Stage One
I decided to face east looking out straight out over the water.  The land masses on the horizon line were really three separate land masses that only looked like a continuous island.   The grassier section of land on the left was Spectacle Island;  the darker mass in the middle with thick tree cover was Thompson's Island; the rightmost landmass was Squantum, a section of Quincy, MA.  The thick humid atmosphere muted the blues of the sky and the distant shoreline.   The summer sun lightened up the greens in the water around the pier.   The center of interest became the central group of pilings, bound with rusty red metal bands.   I played up the red for extra punch.

Boston Harborwalk at JFK Library - Stage Two

 I met some nice people who worked at UMass Boston and were taking a walk during their lunch break.   One of the gentlemen knew a former colleague of mine - going back twenty years now.   Yes, it's a small world.... but a painting in progress unites people.
Harborwalk at JFK Library

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ames Pond Willow

Ames Pond Willow
This is a little painting done at Ames Pond in Tewksbury, MA, but it really could be anywhere.   The heat from the past few weeks has burned patches of grass in the foreground; that's a legitimate reason to get generous with "non-green", specifically raw sienna.  The late afternoon sun was lighting up the goldenrod that bordered the pond as well.   

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Gardening Gloves and Warm Flower Blossoms

Gardening Gloves and Warm Flower Blossoms
This painting used to have pinkish purple mums with pink trimmed gardening gloves.   Although I always like the composition with the trowel casting the shadow on the sideways clay pot, the painting just didn't work. 

Color temperature was the problem.   Another five years of painting under my belt helped me spot the issue straight away when I came across it the other day.   Warm flower blossoms and rustic clay pots are teamed with blue gardening gloves, transforming a floral painting dominated by clashing purple mums into a new more harmonious blue/orange scheme.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Graves Light

Stage 1 -Composition and Layers for Water
I have always been fascinated with the Boston Harbor Islands.   As a native Bostonian, there was always something mysterious about these land masses just off the shore from the city.   I've now visited several of them and have decided to start working them into some paintings.

This large, studio painting was developed from a photograph that I took in March. My late afternoon flight had swung out wide and to the east of Boston's Logan Airport affording amazing views of the Boston Harbor Islands.    The amount of snow cover was unprecedented well into spring, and was quite evident from the air.  (...just a distance memory now.)   Snow and ice clung to the harsh and rocky shore of Grave's Light and the lack of much color emphasized how barren and inaccessible this island is (now privately owned).

Stage 2 -More Water Layers and Foam

I played with the cropping of the photo to get a strong layout.   It is sometimes good to have the darks interconnect across the canvas.   Perhaps it gives a strong "groundedness" to the scene.   Is this true even though the subject is an island? Yes; I think so.  At least I hope so!

No excruciating detail on how this painting was developed because there was a lot to it.   I will just mention that the water was not painted in an "alla prima" or "direct manner."    Rather it was done using an indirect method of building up many layers of transparent darks over a few weeks.    The brushwork echoed the pattern of the ocean swells.  Within the swells there was chop which was handled in some of the subsequent layers.  By repeating the process of layering/glazing the water, the hope was that a complex undertone effect would be achieved, giving the effect of deep ocean water. 

The lack of light, except for the lighthouse, some seaspray and the tops of the rocks made it more dramatic, but it also means this has to be hung in a well lit location.   
Graves Light