Morning at Fort McClary

On Sunday I was encouraged by Lennie Mulaney to join the NH Art Association at their weekly plein air outings. I truly enjoyed the weekend’s competition and decided to tag along today. We met at Fort McClary in Maine around 8:30 am. Several signs said the park didn’t officially open until 10 am and we joked about getting arrested for trespassing as painters. After a quick look around, I set up my easel on the far south side of the fort.
McClary Setup

The large rectangular stones are leftovers from the building of the fort’s walls. After the end of the Civil War, construction was ceased because the McClary style of fort was deemed out of date. The stones were left haphazardly stacked in a few piles around the property.McClary Step 1

I wanted to include both the stones and the fort in my painting and as luck would have it I found a location that delivered a great composition. The stones in the foreground pointed straight back to the fort, drawing the viewer’s eyes in.McClary Step 2The focus of this piece was color. I wanted my darks to breathe a little more life than they have in the past. Once I’d blocked in all the major shapes I focused on color comparison. I brought a lot of warmth into my shadows with Cadmium Orange and broke out the Cerulean Blue to help provide some interesting cools. Since my last few paintings have been somewhat dark I thought these two colors could work to bring more light into my painting.

Fort McClary 7:22:15

Fort McClary 5″ x 7″

Towards the end of the painting a couple masses of clouds collided just behind the fortress, creating a rolling, chunky column that brought some variety to my background. I have had almost zero experience painting clouds from life, but I threw them in. It was a challenge. I swiftly brushed out the purple darks and by the time I was ready to put in the mid-tones the clouds were out of my composition. I watched them float away to the right, still painting, imagining them still behind the fort, still painting, developing the fluffy transitions from darks to lights, still painting, and I was turned sideways by the time I was done.

I’m extremely happy with the final piece. It’s another one of my tiny 5″ x 7″ canvas panels and I’m really starting to fall in love with that size. Lots of work can be done in a short amount of time, making them great for studies.

If you’re interested, you can purchase the original, unframed panel for $100. Send me an email at thewritingmann@gmail.com!

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