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!
My second week painting at Burcham's farm. This is the rear view of the farmhouse, which sits atop a hill. Next week I hope to do the front view...
I painted this on location--being intermittently bit by flies!--but I held off on the shadows until the next day, at home. I masked the tree trunk with tape so I could paint the shadow freely and sweepingly.
I had taken a picture that has a painter sitting by the tree and wanted to include her, but I couldn't find the photo!
Brandywine Shoal Light, a favorite subject of mine.
I drew four lighthouses in the Delaware Bay--two one the Jersey side, this one and Miah Muall, and two on the Delaware side, by Cape Henlopen: the Breakwater Lighthouse and the beautifully named Harbor of Refuge Light. Thought they'd make a nice set for my upcoming art show.
I propped up the drawing so I could look them over for about 24 hours before I started painting; they looked okay to me.
The wonkiness always becomes apparent after painting!
I think I am going to have to work on how I draw lighthouses.
Last Sunday I took a plein air class on the beach in Cape May with Joe Milligan. Joe had the very good idea to have a class from 7:30-10 a.m., 10 a.m. being when the parking meters go on and the beach tag inspectors begin their rounds! Although Cape May was so pleasant I am going to buy a beach tag! (I usually go to the free beaches in the Wildwoods.)
Joe had a great lesson planned; we painted a scene he had painted previously.
I normally paint skies pretty simply, and all prima--all in one go, but after class Sunday, I think my skies are going to get more interesting!
A little early morning plein air painting with my friends Diane and Karoline; the three of us will be exhibiting our plein air paintings in mid-August.
We went to Poverty Beach, at the northern end of Cape May, a beach with lovely dunes and rough surf!
Diane and Karoline has both just gotten back from painting trips, to France and Tilghman Island, respectively, so we had a lot to talk about ... and also managed to get in a good hour or so of painting.
Once again my main shrub, a bayberry that had a wonky northward-leaning shape, came out looking like a Christmas tree. Really need to pay more attention!
I took a photo of this young woman leaving the beach last summer. (For once, I didn't get caught!) There was a bike rack and several more bikes, which I left out.
The underbrush was so dark, that's what made the image appeal to me ... but I think it needs to be darker yet, and less "green." Floating in more intense color on prewet paper may help me get the effect I'm envisioning. There's still too much anxiety in my attempt to hold on to edges: My ideal watercolor looks like it just happened!
I did kind of manage the effect I want in the spokes on the bikes: I didn't mask, just painted quickly and loosely, and didn't try to adjust or correct.
My plein air class decided to meet indoors yesterday afternoon because the forecast called for thunderstorms, so I decided to stay home and finish this.
Still working on finding my way with the dune grasses and fences--though this is the best fence I've done to date! I feel I have a way to go with the grasses; while these aren't bad, I want to find a balance between making each clump discrete and letting them run together more, letting color or value, rather than shape, delineate them.
I signed up for a six-week plein air class that meets Tuesday afternoons at Burcham's Farm, about half hour north of me, on the Maurice River. It's a beautiful property, lots of green, though so it'll be a little challenging for me.
The instructor paints in gouache and the other students are oil painters.
I started with the 8x8 above to try to reduce the overwhelming to something manageable!
I took just a little piece and tried to just concentrate on values.
Prior to class tomorrow I hope to study a few watercolors by Edward Hopper, who had such a lovely, unfussy way of painting grasses!
We, and our paintings, got rained on a bit, but we kept on painting. In my case, the raindrops added texture to the rusting hull of the Alexandra L.
In Bill's case the rain dappled the light in his sky! Bill always paints on a full sheet; while I usually use quarter sheets--or smaller. I usually finish or even overwork my paintings; he takes his home to finish later.(You can see Bill's paintings here.)
William Yerkes, 22x30
A little painting of the muddy low tide shore that I started to keep myself from picking at my boat painting.
Above I cropped out the part of the painting that I didn't like (and so didn't finish): the red boat really got away from me ... made a couple of bad decisions, which is okay, especially when painting on location, where I never expect to come away with a painting I like; it's more about the experience, and hopefully finding a subject I might revisit.
I revisited this subject the very next day, on location again ... Still not entirely happy.
Next time: 1) nothing on the horizon and 2) no black rigging! I initially liked the black rigging because I wouldn't have to do more negative painting, but it just looks flat and messy to me. Maybe a midtone gray next time.