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.  https://youtu.be/JHEUJSNiqCA

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.