My teacher and friend Marie Natale held a two-day workshop this week. The first morning started out gray and cloudy, but we went ahead and it cleared up beautifully.
I started a second painting, planning to capture more sparkle on the water--getting the right ratio of water to pigment continues to be the major challenge--but the wind kicked up and we moved to a more sheltered location.
This time I made a loose sketch of the scene, which I think helped me try to arrange the space ... though I still overdid it somewhat: I'd like to reduce the the grass shapes to just a few large shapes.
The Red Store is a very popular--and very high end--cafe and small grocer. Back in the day it was a mom and pop general store; now they sell their fresh squeezed juices for like $8 a glass. On a weekend morning people stream in and out without a pause. An idyllic setting, but I can't help but feel a little conflicted! Maybe that's why I can never do a decent painting of the place ... or maybe it's just the hard to reproduce red it's painted!
I did a nice sketc of this scene: keeping the building in the background and focusing on the Joe Pye weed in the foreground. But when I transferred the drawing to the watercolor paper, I made the building too prominent. So I redrew it (below) but by then I'd lost interest.
Haven't decided if I'll try to salvage this or not. Maybe not, because I really don't care about it!
Joe Milligan, who is teaching a plein air class here for the summer, brought us to this little tucked away spot, just a block off the busy beach drive. There's a shady path, overlooking a tidal marsh, that leads to a path to the beach. The dunes are unbelievably picturesque--I'm guessing they've been built up and native plants added--and I plan to paint them this fall when it cools down a bit.
It was low tide when we were painting, with flat muddy areas and shallow water that was nearly white.
With all the layers of grasses and brush going back into the distance, I was concentrating on trying to use color to convey atmospheric perspective.
But I'd say this isn't quite finished ... I'm not sure if I'll finish it--it looks too busy to me. I feel like I either have to consolidate and simplify some of the grass/brush shapes OR go the other way! If I could paint like John Marin, I think I'd really have something here!
This is the scene I'm always told would be a big seller. So, typically of me, I painted it, finally, after hanging my paintings in a group show in West Cape May. I intended to have a painting of this subject ready to go ... but didn't make it.
Different areas have different color lifesaving boats: in the north end of town they're white, at Cape May Point they're blue. I'm guessing it's to facilitate lifeguard competitions. It might also facilitate a series of watercolor paintings.
Pleasant day painting at the state park with Joe Milligan, who has been teaching a plein air class here this summer. One of the things Joe has done is get me to re-add Payne's gray to my palette; he uses it so well.
I liked this scene so much I painted it again when I got home, but contrary to what usually happens, I think the one done on location is "better": it's crisper, drawn better. But the little one's not bad--the subject matter carries it!
Back to a subject I feel a little more confident about. And you can't go wrong with blue and orange.
I think I am finally figuring out how to paint all that stuff on a fishing boat, all that stuff that I don't what it is and can't really make out. It could be looser, fewer hard edges, but I've hit on a method of picking out a few larger shapes to delineated and then just breaking up the spaces around them.
Where did July go? Between the heat wave (no AC), an unusually heavy workload (why doesn't that happen in winter?!), trying to get together some new paintings for two--yes, two--group shows (the owner of the gallery scheduled them both for the same two weeks!), and trying to keep the plants in my yard alive ... it's been a muggy whirlwind.
I don't know if I should say I finished this painting or that I'm finished with it. I guess it doesn't matter: Both are true.
Started another painting of some little houses along the back bays here.
I made a tactical error right off the bat, painting the shady side (the light is coming form the right) of the buildings too early; they're too gray, maybe too dark, and maybe confusing. If I had waited till later, I think they'd be more integrated. But I'm going to keep going because 1) maybe I'll come up with a "fix"; or 2) maybe it won't be so noticeable when the painting is done.
I forgot all about my plein air class last week! But I made it this week, if a little late.
I set up and started drawing Burcham's farmhouse.
I was about to start painting when I turned around and looked behind me: there was a tractor path in the grass, hazy trees in the distance, and barn swallows flying everywhere.
I decided to try something I've heard about from several people lately--do a little warmup painting.
It started out so well ... I was trying to think of John Singer Sargent, of his brushwork and color choices--I just added one of his favorite colors, viridian, to my palette, and there's a touch of it here; but I didn't get his values or composition. May try to tweak it and paint it again.
Still have to add the swallows, but I need to do a little research first.
By the way, the warming up did help, I think. It was getting dark so I didn't have much time, but I did put in washes for the sky and distant trees and I think they came out very fresh and unfussy.
I'll post a photo next time--too dark for photos now!
Every day is not a winner, as my mother used to say. I like some things about this painting--the grasses, the muddy shoreline and it's reflection in the shallow water. But there's a stiffness to it--too many hard edges?--that makes me call it a miss. worth trying again, wetter and looser next time!
Another couple of abandoned paintings below ... same problem as the one above, I think: despite a nice passage here and there, too ... too something!
I joined a plein air painting group and when I met them at the Cape May Harbor I was not sure what to paint. Settled on these work boats. I couldn't see them very well--they were far away and backlit, so I thought that would be the challenge: painting something I could barely see with enough detail to make it recognizable.
After I got home, I darkened the lower left a bit because I thought it didn't register as water. Also, I got some advice to that effect--to darken the water or to crop the bottom; both good suggestions--from a Facebook group I recently joined, The Accidental Watercolorist.
The first painting I put on the page was the one below. I like the subject so much, and was pretty happy with the blue-grays, but I was just dissatisfied and couldn't put my finger on what was wrong. I posted it to The Accidental Watercolorist and gota lot of 1) encouragement and 2) good practical advice--about color, atmospheric perspective, etc.--that I will definitely follow when I re-do this one!