It seems like this is becoming more and more of a summer blog. I know I express my regrets each year about that, but it’s definitely difficult to find the time to work on art during the school year. Between teaching and taking classes myself, my time is limited. That said, I did draw a decent amount in the sketchbook that Sarah got me for my birthday last summer. It’s pretty much full now. I need to finish up one sketch and then I’ll make a video of it. I also started an oil painting featuring my friend and his dog. So stay tuned for all that.
It’s been interesting to see how the artists I follow have reacted to the pandemic. A lot of them have flourished. And then plein air painters like Michael Chamberlain have had to pivot a little bit and do process videos in the studio. I’m happy that the start of my summer has coincided with the opening up of New England because it gives me the opportunity to get out and paint outside. Unfortunately, it seems like with the increasing number of cases that many states will return to isolation. Hopefully, we can stay level headed up here in New England and maintain caution. I’d rather enjoy summer in a limited capacity than not at all.
On the 12th Sarah took a half-day and we went slightly north to join her family at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm. Her family has been living up in that area for several years now and I’m surprised we have not been to Laudholm until now. It’s a beautiful and historic farm that has been converted into a museum with hiking trails and beach access. We’ve been up there a few times since the 12th and have enjoyed it so much that we purchased a membership. I may wind up doing most of my plein air paintings there.
The first painting I did was a small 4×4″ study of the waves off Laudholm Beach. I probably spent 2-2.5 hours on it, which was longer than I intended. Water is tricky. Sure I’ve painted the ocean before, but I’ve never really concentrated on waves.
This study made a few things clearer for me. The whitecaps are the lightest part of waves. The spaces between waves are usually a midtone and the darkest part is just beneath the whitecaps. It took me the entire painting to really figure that out. Whereas a building or tree is stationary, the waves move and are never the same, so I spent a lot more time just staring at the ocean and trying to figure out the general construction of waves. I also realized that there’s a bit of translucency at the tops of waves where the light comes through and turns the water aqua or green. I think I’ll grab some more 4×4″ panels and do wave studies throughout the summer. I also need to work on the transition between the ocean and sand.
A couple days later we were back in the area and went to Mother’s Beach in Kennebunk. The tide was high and I climbed over a few rocks to find a tide pool to paint. This was another study and the panel was only 5×5″.
We were there just around noon, setting the sun right above me. I had very little shadow to work with. This is usually why I paint early in the morning or in the afternoon. Heavier shadows are easier to paint and give a subject more depth. With the sun coming straight down, I struggled to clarify all the planes of the rocks. They became more unified under the brush.
My biggest takeaway from this study was the way water changes the color and tone of a partially-submerged object. The lightest tones of the rocks were above the water. The darkest tones were where the water met the rocks. Then as the rocks continued underwater the tone lightened to mid-tones.
We returned to Laudholm on the 26th and I did a larger painting. We arrived right before high tide and in about 2 hours the tide chased us away. I suppose the changing environment is the beauty and challenge of painting outdoors. It was annoying to leave though, because the 2 hour mark is when a painting usually begins to take shape. It’s at that point that I’m able to refine details and play with color relationships more.
I’m mostly pleased with the results. As per usual. When you make something you always know where the faults are. I would’ve liked to fiddle with the rocky shoreline more. It was darker than the ocean but I think I pushed that too much. Laudholm is also very windy so I paint there without an umbrella, and the direct sun causes the painting to look much lighter than it actually is.
We plan on going up to Kennebunk for the 4th so I’m hoping to get a couple more paintings done soon. It would certainly be nice to update this blog every Monday. Also! I’ve been fiddling with this website to include a gallery where you can view finished paintings. More updates should be coming soon as I reorganize things. I’ve had this blog for 7 years or so and it’s time to change things up a bit.