Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Carol and Red Ribbon

Christmas Carol and Red Ribbon
All the Christmas decorations are up and over the years, like many people, we have added to our collection.   I selected a few favorite items and combined them on the still life shelf in my studio.   This still life features some "rustic" pieces (a basket, greens, pine cones, berries and a book.) 

In our house, "A Christmas Carol" is a favorite, both book and movie (George C. Scott version :)).  That is why this was the volume featured in this Christmas still life. 

See Starry Snowman (previous post) blog for the photo of my studio still life shelf with two still life set ups, one of which is this featured piece.


Starry Snowman with Shiny Accents

Two Still Life Groupings
With all the Christmas decorations around the house, I could probably have picked a shelf or table and set up my easel and paint a still life.   I played it safe though (oil paint can be a bit dangerous - and permanent) and chose a few items to stage on my still life shelf in the studio.   I don't find playing with composition particularly easy, and I had selected a number of shiny things bulbs, sparkly ribbons, and a few "rustic" pieces (a basket, greens, pine cones, berries and a book.)  Intermingled on the shelf, they were not harmonious and in fact, they conflicted.

 Once separated into two groupings, each cluster looked much nicer, and thus the two different paintings. 

The first photo shows the shelf with both still life set ups.


Starry Snowman with Shiny Accents

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Roses Oval

Pink Roses Oval
Being in an art supply store, for me, is like being a "kid in the toy store."   I am usually shopping with specific intent (and a list) but I am easily lured toward impulse buys when it comes to art supplies.  One such impulse was the purchase of the oval canvas used for this painting.    My original idea was to use the oval for a portrait, as was popular in the nineteenth century.   In preparation for the portrait, I underpainted the canvas - at least twice - during the several months it spent hanging out in my studio.   I never did execute the oval portrait, but eventually decided to use the surface for this pink roses bouquet.  Yes, another pink roses painting!

I wouldn't have guessed that the shape of the canvas would disrupt a comfortable painting "flow," but it did!   Not having straight edges made me feel like the painting elements were floating, and their placement seemed "off."    Initially the roses were painted sitting in a vase until I realized that the weight and groundedness of the vase was the problem.  It had created an imbalance so the vase had to go!   As soon as the vase was wiped off, there was instant harmony within the rounded edges.

Learning never stops does it?  This experience showed me some compositional attributes of subject space versus "white" space, and of course beyond that, it demonstrated that its fruitful to try new things often!


Friday, December 1, 2017

Kayak Rack

Kayak Rack at the Pond
This pretty little spot along the pond offers many "painting-worthy" vistas.   I liked the late afternoon sun patterns on the various elements, trees, kayaks, and the bed of pine needles.  A simple vertical kayak rack was built by affixing wooden braces between two large trees near the water's edge.    Not only were the kayaks colorful, but the late October foliage added brightness to the scene as well.    Near the kayaks, a sitting area had been constructed, a platform with an overhead roof.  Nestled here were two Adirondack chairs and I'm picturing a peaceful afternoon nap for the owners.


Thursday, November 30, 2017


Redbull and a Chapstick (Original) and she's good to go.   A great fitness trainer gets to know you and let's you know them.   Those of us benefitting from her level of expertise learned that if we met her halfway, success was inevitable.   We may have complained - but she never did. Her influence has resulted in countless physical transformations which is no small thing for people desperate to be healthier and happier.  How was it possible that she maintained a level of energy and positivity day-in and day-out that most of us can only talk about.  Her sharp intellect (which she denies) and comedic timing kept our routines from being anything but routine.  She may not understand just how much we all love her - for her expertise - yes, but for being a "larger than life" figure helping us meet the new day, or end a long, hard day with crunches and a smile.

Thank you for your extraordinary drive, commitment and friendship.   You will be missed, so here's to your continued success in your new endeavors!


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Powder Point Bridge from Duxbury Beach

Duxbury Crossover East Facing

It was a beautiful November day, mostly sunny, although a little brisk.   I drove across the Powder Point Bridge in Duxbury to the (now open) restricted parking area next to the Harbormaster station.    I was still deciding if I was going to paint or just take pictures as I walked up the beach path, (a.k.a. crossover) and stopped to observe a fantastic 360 degree view. 

Duxbury Crossover North Facing

The ocean with big rolling breakers was to the east; the barrier beach penninsula was the scene to the south; Duxbury Bay and bridge were viewable to the west; and the continuation of the barrier beach leading to Marshfield was to the north. 

Duxbury Crossover Southeast Facing

I was snapping pictures so I am sharing a few here. 

Power Point Bridge Long View - Final
I walked back to my van and changed into my long winter down coat.  Now really, why wouldn't I paint?   I decided to aim for a color study of the bridge with golden seagrasses in the foreground.   I used only one palette knife for the whole painting.   Super thick paint meant rich color and bright light, in addition to very easy clean up.   As for the color matching, you'll notice that the light source was to the right (southeast) so the sky and water is brightest there.   There is a  gradual and natural darkening of the sky and water one the right with hints of bluish-purple as well.


Set Up
Powderpoint Bridge Long View - Stage One

Powderpoint Bridge Long View - Stage Two

Friday, November 10, 2017

Autumn Bounty with Bottles

Autumn Bounty - Drawing Stage

This is a fairly large painting at 24 by 36 inches.  I mounted the canvas myself.  I have been dissatisfied with many ready-made canvases as they can be poorly gessoed, mounted crookedly and not tight enough.     I had not yet made a single brushstroke, yet
this painting had extra labor invested, and that was nothing compared to what was to come.

Autumn Bounty - Stage Two
My hydrangeas were hardly impressive this summer producing few blue flower heads.  With the arrival of autumn however, the few greenish blossoms started turning color, pretty combinations of blue, green, pink and maroon - foliage?   I cut the flower heads, leaving extra-long stems, and displayed them in a tall turquoise vase on my dining table along with my oil and vinegar bottles.   I started adding more bottles and the last of the tomatoes.   What else,what else...onions, avocados, apple garlic.   So colorful!

Autumn Bounty - Stage Three

Each day the ever lowering of the angle of the sun had created a colorful and shiny display.   By mid-afternoon, the sun illuminated the vase, green bottles and red fruits.  I sensed a new still life coming on and started rearranging the objects in various ways - at least six or seven change-ups before settling on this arrangement.

 The biggest challenge and one that makes the painting unique are the abstract shadows, the reflections in the glass top table and the sunbeams pouring in from the window on the left.   You may have to click on the picture to better observe this detail.


Autumn Bounty with Bottles

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Fenway Park - Behind Bleachers View

Night Game at Fenway
This Fenway Park scene depicts the view from the tunnel between Bleacher Sections 40 and 41.    It's always a thrill to emerge from the darkish concession area to the mesmerizing and colorful buzz of Boston's Fenway Park, especially at night.    The energy of the crowd is contageous and the setting is like no other in Major League Baseball. The classic Fenway Park sign with its vintage red lettering is boldly emblazoned over the homeplate area. 

The painting has some strong angular lines but also rounded and fuzzy areas such as the figures and the crowd.  The warm orange lighting from the concession area under the stadium seating contrasts nicely with the cool day-toned type of stadium lights.   The World Series just ended, but finishing this painting has got me looking forward to spring training already!


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Pink Roses in a Black Pot

Pink Roses in a Black Pot

My fixation on pink roses continues.   How many colors can be injected into a pink rose?  More than I may have thought at first.   It turns out that lavenders, blues, reds and golds can accent the coolness of pink, and break up the monotony of pale pink and blue green leaves.  As long as the value scheme is correct, any color could work, technically.   This one started out as an abstract, but eventually evolved into a somewhat realistic capture.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Boston Hatch Shell Reflections

Boston Hatch Shell Reflections - Stage One
I found a parking spot on Beacon Street in late morning as I was heading to the Copley Society to drop off some paintings.   This spot was just a few yards from Arlington Street and the intersection that leads to the Arthur Fiedler Footbridge over Storrow Drive.  I've wanted to paint along the Charles River for some time now, but I had myself convinced it was not really accessible, and would involve too much walking.   This was my chance though, and it did require some hiking. 

Boston Hatch Shell Reflections - Stage Two
I placed my gear on wheels and headed for the famous Hatch Shell, a half-moon shaped outdoor stage located on the Boston side of the Charles River.   The green space here is also known as the "Esplanade."  There were several little footbridges over the parallel waterways and I painted one that was bathed in sunlight.   I painted from the next footbridge over. 

Mounted State Police Unit Passing By
Although leafy trees largely obscured my direct view of the Hatch Shell stage, its golden sunlit reflection was visible in the water.  As is often the case with plein air, the scene was loaded with elements to the point of being chaotic.  As the painting progressed though, the wildness was tamed down by the rhythm of color mixing and palette knife strokes.  With reflections, they are best developed right in synch with their subjects and not as an after-thought.

Boston Hatch Shell Reflections

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Weir Farm Slopeside Pair

At the Weir Farm in Hingham, MA annual Farm Day was coming up, and in the days prior to the event, painters were invited to set up on the premises and capture a scene.    The parking lot at the top of the hill has a beautiful view of the Boston skyline to the north and I did contemplate tackling that.  But I thought, why paint a city skyline when a bucolic hillside with Belted Galloways is just a 90 degree glance in the other direction?


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hydrangeas and White Aster

Hydrangeas and White Aster
I love having fresh flowers in the house.  They can be wild blooms (a.k.a. weeds), flowers and roses from my garden, or a professional bouquet.    The arrangement in this painting was sent to me by a very special lady who wanted to come to my Studio Sale, but could not make it.    She sent me this beautiful arrangement to wish me luck on this undertaking.  It was the ultimate in not necessary, but I did get maximum enjoyment from them.  Thank you!

I loved the unusual color combination of blue hydrangeas, white asters and lime green mums.  It even had a couple of pieces of driftwood as accents.   I immediately began plotting when I was going to have time to capture the blooms in paint, given the amount of time needed for the sale and post sale activities!

Bright September Beach

Bright September Beach - In Progress

Hurricane Maria hardly influenced our weather here in New England, bringing only some tropical fog bands.  It took a right turn and headed out into the Mid Atlantic when it was just 400 miles south of Cape Cod. 

Bright September Beach - After Paint Out
The storm did pump up the surf this week though, resulting in big, long, rolling, four-foot waves.  The rhythmic crashing of waves were mesmerizing and the fresh ocean scent of salty moisture was heavenly.  It was a perfectly sunny September beach day and the perfection of the scene had the pull of a giant human magnet; I had no choice but to give in - gather up the gear and set up for a quick paint session.

These warm autumn days are glorious and knowing that the weather will not last, I ventured out to the beach access and let the sun and water reflection wash over me. That wasn't all that washed over me.   The salty moisture in the air coated my hair, skin and clothing... and come to think of it, probably my painting and palette.  I read somewhere that the air at the beach is super charged with negative ions from the pounding of the waves and the propelling of moisture into the air.   I never get sick of this view, or of painting it.   I hope my blog readers do not get sick of seeing it.  Every one of them is different - really!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Cut River View from Pearl Street

Cut River View from Pearl Street
I met my neighbor around the corner at the recent art sale and she extended a kind invitation to paint from her property anytime.    Well I didn't wait very long and on this warm September morning I packed up my gear on wheels and strolled over.    The property is barely visible from the main road, but once I got to the end of the street, I saw the view my neighbor gets to enjoy every day.    It is a vast expanse of salt marsh with the Cut River winding through it.    I set up facing north-northeast and in doing so, I could position the dark patch of cedars to the right (my house is directly behind them, by the way ;)), and I could include the extensive span of marsh that stretches to the Beach St Bridge on the far side.  This time of year the marsh grasses become almost irridescent, the breeze making waves of green to gold to yellow.    I worked mostly with the palette knife for fast and thick coverage.  I still would like to better define the houses on the far side, pump up the gold and refine that overlapping grasses in the foreground.

Harbor Park Along Green Harbor River

Harbor Park - Stage One
Harbor Park is a new open space near the town pier in Marshfield, MA.  It boasts a beautiful 300 degree vista of marsh, river, marinas and docks. The picnic tables have a nice, solid overhead shelter, which came in handy the last hot day I painted there. On this day I wanted to capture the Dribeck Road bridge that passes over the marsh.   This time instead of painting from Harbor Park, I set up in the town pier parking lot and faced north so that I could paint Harbor Park itself along with the bridge.

Harbor Park - Stage Two
There was quite a bit of activity by maintenance crews, cleaning and mowing, and I later discovered from a Harbormaster staff member that these were preparations for the local television station, Fox 25's "Zip Trip."     The marsh grasses were just beginning to turn gold and even though it was a mostly cloudy day, this spot was simply gorgeous.    No wonder it was to be showcased on television.

Harbor Park from Pier
My tip to the television crew would be to not set up where I was, as toward the end of my paint out, the wind shifted to the west, thereby enveloping me in the odor of the "tuna head" barrel.    I was almost done at that point and here is the progress so far. I plan to tone down the blue on the bridge before it gets framed.

Duxbury Beach Day for 100th Anniversary DAA

Duxbury Beach Day

The Duxbury Art Association is celebrating their 100th birthday this year.  The organization has a number of commemorative activities in motion, one of which is a travelling exhibit of donated 10x10" works of art.   The painting in this post is my donation to the event, so it may appear in a local venue sometime soon.     The scene is a long view of Duxbury Beach Reservation from the end of the beachhouses.   On this day there were dozens of people along the shoreline, their colorful beach attire and umbrellas illuminated in the bright July sunshine.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Peacefield in Full Bloom

My first paintout at Peacefield, the homestead of President John Adams and First Lady Abigail Adams, was exactly three years ago, in August of 2014.  The National Park Service oversees the property and does a nice job interpreting the Adams Legacy as well as maintaining/preserving the house and property.  The Rangers welcomed me, and since not all organizations are accomodating of a painter who plans to place themselves in the middle of a tourist area, I was very grateful for their hospitality

My favorite feature of Peacefield is the 18th-century style formal garden. Thousands of plantings, colorful perennials and annuals to enjoy line the gardens.  As I mentioned in the previous Peacefield blog, a rose bush planted by First Lady Abigail Adams in 1788 continues to stand guard; it leans on a large trellis to the south of the larger garden.  To think that I was walking upon the same soil enriched by the hands of such historical icons was truly inspiring.

Peacefield in Full Bloom
Inspiring also was the graceful old house and presidential library.  Similar to the last paint out, I set up on the far west end of the garden to maximize the split of light and shadow, a wide view so as to include foreground light.    I began by establishing the darks and lights in muted greens and grays and rusts.  I labored a bit over the mansion and library since accuracy is important for famous structures.

Finally, I was ready for the best part, the colorful blooms.  The sun illuminated the bright and vibrant petals - "oil-paint-right-out-of-the-tube" bright.  I liked how the rows of flowers and hedges led into the library and residence. This is not a great photo because of the wet paint glare.   I'll make some studio fixes and put on the website soon because this painting is my entry to the "Best of Quincy" Arts Fest next weekend.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Celebrating July 4th on July 3rd

Each year as we celebrate our great nation's birthday, Green Harbor really comes alive.   Summer holiday revelers pour into Marshfield, MA, especially the areas where land meets ocean.    It is a local tradition to have the fireworks extravaganza on July 3rd rather than July 4, a nice warm up for the Fourth. Words simply cannot describe this spectacle, nor can a simple 6x6 inch painting.   This annual party has to be experienced live and in person to digest the full, old-fashion experience.   This painting is merely a sliver of the scene, but one that I liked because of the greenish white glow of the handheld sparklers.   The figures are in a semi circle mezmerized by their sparklers.  Others are sitting on the seawall watching the non-stop fireworks.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Summer Bouquet

Summer Bouquet
One thing I love about summer is the abundance of flowers.   It's not just the cultivated blossoms that are peaking right now, but the many unplanned wild flowers growing here, there and everywhere.   Arranged in a simple clear glass vase, the wild weeds(?) compliment the garden blooms nicely.    I hoped that the rustic bunching of multiple kinds of blooms would translate to loosely painted blooms as well. This bouquet has common tansy buttons, cilantro flowers, pink petunias, magenta lantana and white cosmos.

The shadows were first and the most important shadow color of the whole painting, I think, was the "dark white" of the shaded cosmos petals (radiant violet, permanent green, and pink).   Achieving the shadow color of the starring flower - the primary center of interest - would give the painting credibility, even if the rest of the painting was executed with wild abandon.  I always hope for wild abandon, but seldom can resist bringing it back under control.  :))

The shadow mass on the dark table was roughed in next with a darker indigo color.  The "non-shadow" background was a light value made from the same pinks, greens, blues and yellows embedded in the flowers.  Finally, the reward...applying the bright clear petal colors.   Wherever possible, I tried to paint a single petal with a single brushstroke that fully overlapped its background.  It's funny how applying a single effective stroke is more difficult than fussing over an area with many strokes.   It really is a mindset.  Plan, then one and done!  In other words, the more spontaneous it looks, the more calculated it was - for me anyway.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Green Harbor Yacht Club

Green Harbor Yacht Club - Stage One
Green Harbor Yacht Club - Stage Two
This modest building is home to the Green Harbor Yacht Club.   It started out as a gray day, which is fine for paintings with architectural elements.   While working on the building rendering, the lines and angles of the roof lines and windows are more easily captured.   Once the sun broke out, I was ready to apply the sunny lights with my palette knife.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Old Barn at Willow and South River St

Antique Barn - Stage One

We are very lucky here on the South Shore of Massachusetts to have such a varied landscape - woods, meadows, marshes, beaches, and bogs, along with several rivers that empty into the Atlantic Ocean.   Our seaside town has done a good job preserving open spaces, which allows access and full enjoyment of these landscape features.     The town has been successful in acquiring land parcels for preservation and in many cases they are strung together forming contiguous land masses, and the number of beautiful walking trails continues to grow.

Antique Barn - Stage Two

There is an old farmhouse and barn which sits along a stretch of a (new?) walking trail along the South River in Marshfield, part of a 34 acre conservation parcel that the town now owns.   Up until today I had only caught a glimse of the antique farmhouse from the road.  It looked overgrown with weeds and twisting vines but we took a chance and pulled into the driveway, a turnoff from South River Street.  The "driveway" was more like a cartpath with its tall grasses snaking along between the antique (1700ish) farmhouse and the large salt hay barn.

Maureen Packing Up
As soon as we reached the opening at the back of the house and the front of the barn, we knew that we would stay and paint this beautiful spot.   There were several worthy subjects, but the scene I settled upon was the sunlit barn.   Its old graceful lines were remarkably straight considering its age.    I stood in a shady thicket of trees that was slightly uphill from the barn.    Dark green and burgundy cedars framed the edges of the scene.   An old window shutter opened and closed shut with the occasional strong breezes.  It cast a long vertical shadow on the clapboards below in the open position.   The challenge was to make - yet another - antique barn painting that would stand out from all the other iconic barn paintings.   I think my painting style is defined enough to know that it will be different from the rest because it has my painting style ie. signature, like it or not!  :)

Antique Barn
A handful of hikers and a mountain biker passed by, but other than those visitors, it was mostly solitude. One of the hikers shared that he had been instrumental in supporting the town's open space acquisitions and expressed that he was glad that this interesting and historic barn was being captured in paint.  I was too!


Friday, August 4, 2017

Jumping Off the Beach St Bridge

High Tide Beach Street Bridge
One of the most popular activities of summer in Green Harbor involves an old concrete bridge, a high tide and enough gumption to submit to a cold, salty, and swift current.     I have no idea what age is typically "old enough" to take the plunge at the Beach St Bridge.   I do know that I've seen smallish tykes standing there, as if frozen, deciding if this is the day they will have come of age.  I have seen adults similarly frozen, standing on the conduit pipe deciding if this item on their bucket list is worth it!

In the painting, the span of water is wide is because the scene is literally at sea level - from a kayak.   No I'm not painting from within the kayak but from a photo I took.   This vantage has a view all the way through to the Cut River and marsh on the inlet side.   The dark bobbing heads are shaded by the bridge.  Often there will be a Mom or Dad standing off to the side taking a photo of the moment of truth, when perhaps they are probably there to supervise.  At least that would have been my story to my kids.

Monday, July 31, 2017


Paddleboarding is quickly becoming one of the most popular water sports.   I'm told that paddleboarding is a great workout because it exercises the core, and anything these days that works the core, is good!   (Don't forget the other trendy health nugget, get your protein!)  Well several neighbors have paddleboards and I've received multiple offers to borrow one and try it anytime, and I think I will.   That is sure to be entertaining for the summer beach crowd!

This painting depicts my neighbors, a little girl and her aunt, who as you can tell, are very active and fit. For this family, the definition of going to the beach does not just involve plunking down and tanning from a beachchair, but rather it invariably includes some form of fun, physical activity -sailing, kayaking, paddle games etc..  Like most people who choose to live here, they love the ocean!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Cliff Walk Newport - Gazebo Framed by Foreground Rocks

Maureen Painting at Cliff Walk

Cliff Walk View - In Progress
This year we drove to Newport, RI in late June for a weekend getaway and painting trip.  There are hundreds of scenes worth painting and settling on a location is tough.   Our love of walking invariably pays off in that we often spot on foot places to park and set up that would be easily missed while driving.    This spot was at the halfway point of Cliff Walk at a dead end street.

Cliff Walk Newport - Final
The day was glorious - bright and sunny and just warm enough.  This scene faces northeast, so the sun and water glare was to my right.   It did get easier to see as the sun moved, but my eyes did take a beating.   I remember stopping to look around and thinking, what an amazing world, and how lucky are we to be surrounded by all the elements of nature we revere - sun, ocean, breezes, roses.   After painting, we followed the trail to the southern terminus before looping back to take a more unbiased look at our freshly painted works.

Newport Lobster Shack

Newport Lobster Shack in Progress
I am now thoroughly familiar with the shape of those fryolater vents used by restaurants as this is the third one that I've painted in three weeks.   The setting for this painting is along Long Wharf in Newport, RI.    I posted Six Boats and a House that Floats a couple of weeks ago.   That painting was executed from the rooftop seven floors up. This painting was done closer to sea level, and actually from the same building.   Not only was it fun to watch the sailboats, charter fishing trips and lobster boats coming and going, but it was amazing to see the Lobster Shack crew processing hundreds of the bright steamed crustaceans for their open air restaurant.   I can attest that these people work hard!   Just a few yards away, folks lounged around the decks of their massive yachts, hardly working.  On vacation, I'm sure. :)

Newport Lobster Shack

As for the painting, the dark, moist pilings formed a solid base for both the pier and the painting composition.   It may be why the tangle of objects on the dock looks especially colorful.  I buttered on a thick hazy sky with the palette knife, and I carved out the dozens of boat masts, with my rubber tip tool. There were literally hundreds of masts, but I think if I had painted too many, oil paint chaos may have been the result.