Thursday, March 31, 2016

Boston Waterfront Nocturne

Boston Waterfront Nocturne
The Boston Harbor Waterfront has become a world class attraction over the years.  The extensive Boston Harborwalk weaves in and out of each wharf and is just magical on a warm summer evening, especially if you enjoy the person/people you are with!

This scene depicts Rowes Wharf on just such a night.   The Boston Harbor Hotel and the Custom House were brightly illuminated and the colorful dock lights sillouhetted the luxury boats and yachts.   The watery reflections contrasted beautifully against the inky black water.    This iconic Boston scene would trigger wonderful memories for anyone who has seen it, and especially I think, from this angle

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Spring Bog after Snow

Spring Bog after Snow - Stage One
Spring Bog after Snow - Stage Two
This winter we've had less than average amounts of snow (thus far), so yesterday's spring storm provided some clean white trim to the landscape.   At the cranberry bogs, the deep crimson winter color looked stunning against the bright white and blue snow.  

Spring Bog after Snow - Final
I had a new revelation about painting in the cold.  I have decided that I paint more efficiently if it is cold and windy.   Perhaps I don't stop and watch my surroundings as much if the temperature and wind are harsh.   This painting was 90 percent complete at the 90 minute mark.   The colors were thick and vivid, if only I can leave them alone once it is ready for a frame!


Here's a 360 degree view of where I was painting.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Menemsha Basin - Martha's Vineyard

Menemsha Fishing Village - Stage One
It was the second day in Martha's Vineyard and after a morning snow squall, the skies cleared and it warmed up to about 40 degrees.   We explored on foot in the morning, walking to the West Chop Lighthouse from our lodging.  We drove west both for touring and searching for a nice spot to paint.  

Menemsha Fishing Village - Stage Two
We eventually arrived at Menemsha Hills and stopped at the small fishing village. The Menemsha Basin was surrounded by a small fishing village with docks and fishing boats and all kinds of colorful piles of traps, ropes and barrels.   Although it was picturesque, absent was the typical marina activity since it was still "off season."    The fairly calm water created beautiful, reflective ripples of all the colors.  Clouds gave way to a beautiful blue sky and some solar warmth (not enough though).

Menemsha Basin - Martha's Vineyard
The scene for my painting was somewhat complex, but I tried to be more attentive to the major elements, the fishing boat, dock and fishing shack.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Self Portrait

Black and White Start
I enjoy painting humans and would paint them more if I had the resources and a model readily available.   I've painted people from photos, but just as with landscapes, the camera tends to distort color and lose subtle details, thus, a live model is best.   The most available live model I have is me, so I once again this winter, I painted myself.  :)

First Pass at Color
I spent considerable time experimenting with the setup for this self portrait.   I have always loved the chiaroscuro style in which light dramatically contrasts with the shadows/darks.   I attempted to achieve this strong contrast by setting up a spotlight and turning off all the other light sources.    I stood in front of the large mirror in my studio and trained the spotlight on my face so that one side of my face was illuminated and the other side only had partial light.   Two full spectrum lights illuminated my palette and the canvas.    During the painting process, I alternated between two kinds of lighting in order to get the true facial shadows, 1) just the spotlight and 2) all three lights: the palette, the canvas, and facial spotlight.

Lighting at Easel
I started with a charcoal likeness and spent a lot of time placing facial landmarks, measuring and re-measuring.  If this stage is wrong, it can only get worse from here.   Once I was satisfied with the drawing, I used a spray fixative to seal the charcoal.  After an initial underpainting, I began the layering process.

I used the glazing technique for the flesh tones building up many layers of transparent color.    My tendency is to make my people too red, thinking ruddy Irish complexions.    Careful color comparisons reveal that we often have more greenish, grayish undertones, especially on flesh planes that are perpendicular to the light source.

Vezina Self Portrait
And I thought I knew what I looked like!  After all, I see this face in the mirror everyday (well at least most days:)).  So why does it seem difficult to objectively assess if the likeness on my canvas hits the mark?    If you know what I look like, you will quickly realize that the painted image is the reverse, since I used one mirror, not two mirrors.  Perhaps years from now when - or should I say if? - this is hanging in one of my children's houses, they will know to wedge it in a hall corner next to a mirror!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Little Bridge Oceanside - Martha's Vineyard

Little Bridge - Martha's Vineyard
It was my birthday weekend and my (incredible) husband surprised me with a trip to Martha's Vineyard.    He had revealed that we were going to be painting en plein air on the trip, but did not reveal the destination until just before we left.  Woohoo - Martha's Vineyard!   

Our painting gear and luggage fit easily into our painting van.  We headed for Woods Hole, Massachusetts where we drove right onto the ferry.   I loved it!  It was so easy and convenient, and surprisingly inexpensive, considering how it simplified things. ($121 round trip for two adults and vehicle). 

Paintmobile and Wind Blocker
Our first painting destination was the "Little Bridge Oceanside" situated at the northern most end of the Martha's Vineyard barrier beach on the eastern side near Oak Bluffs.   It was about 30 degrees and very windy, so we set up with some beach shrubbery and our vehicle blocking the northerly winds.   The bridge crossed over one of the two openings along the barrier beach to the cove on the other side.   

Little Bridge Oceanside - In Progress
Framing the scene seemed difficult because of the many challenges and choices.   My tendency was to "want it all" but I knew that would be too much for a short paint out.   Plus, including too wide of an expanse plays down the importance of the many elements.   I decided to zero in on the bridge and rocks because of the extreme darks underneath the bridge.   On each side of the little channel there was rip-rap that transitioned into jetties pointing eastward into the ocean.  

The sky color I had captured was right on the first try, but somehow, sand - no make that gravel - got onto my palette.  When I spread the sky color with my palette knife, I found that gravelly grains were scraping lines into my nice smooth clouds.  Arrgghh...sometimes debris in a plein air painting can be interesting.  This wasn't.   I did recover, but I probably lost the initial freshness and color, resulting in more blending than I would have liked.   
I worked each of the painting elements, the last element of which was the bridge railings.   I made angled cuts right through the pale, thick sky to the farside buttress.

Three boulders in front of me were rim lit so they were to be the center of interest.   Additionally pigeons landed on them at one point which I really liked.   Imagine, not exotic Martha's Vineyard seabirds, but pigeons.  Yes, I liked the irony of that.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

River Channel from Bay Ave

River Channel from Bay Ave
This painting depicts a favorite scene not far from our house, with the marina situated on one side and the beach and dunes on the other.   It is the outlet of the Green Harbor River into the Atlantic Ocean.    The grasses were brown, the sand was beige, the water was grey and the rocks were dark shades of all those colors - a February color scheme!  The only non-drab area in the scene was a stack of newer looking lobster traps that were bright yellow and orange, sitting amid hundreds of older seaweed enveloped traps.

Cold Front that Ended Paint-Out
The challenge given this day's mostly gray skies was to capture the winter grayness but also depict "the moment" when rays of sun illuminated that the area around the new yellow lobster traps.

A downpour ended this paint out abruptly.   The clouds were quite ominous and the wind gusts may have been in the gale range as it actually blew the back doors of my van shut.   Amazingly, I had just stowed my palette and the painting fell to the ground right sideup.  It's the little things!  :))