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Sketchbook Tour and Painting Rye

Yesterday I was out at Rye Beach getting ready to paint and I came to the realization that I’ve spent almost every morning this summer outside. I painted a decent amount last summer, but I feel that being closer to the seacoast has encouraged me to plein air paint more. I also focused more on writing last summer, so I spent most mornings at my computer.

My summer break is now halfway through and I feel like I’ve accomplished a good amount, so I’m hoping to keep the pace for the rest of the summer.

Last Tuesday I went with the NHAA plein air painting group to Rye Harbor State Park. When I left our apartment it was sunny and warm, but the ground was wet from some overnight storms. As I got closer to the coast a heavy fog set in and it was hard to see more than 100 yards away.

I was excited to set up and paint the boats in the marina next to the park, but I didn’t want to fight the fog, so I chose a different view.

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You can see how foggy it was in this first photo. The tide was out and forming large pools in the rocks and I was attracted to the variety of grays.

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Around the time I wrapped up, the sun was sneaking through the clouds and changing the lighting. I spent only 2 hours on the painting and called it quits. Though after I’d packed and went around to look at the other artists’ work, the fog settled back down and the sun disappeared. I suppose I could’ve kept working.

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This was a leftover 8×10″ panel, so a little smaller than the 9×12″s I’ve been working with lately. I’m gonna have to look up more paintings of shorelines, waves, and rocks. I need to see how other artists have tackled those subjects.

In between plein air paintings, I’ve been drawing in my sketchbooks. I’m slowly getting better at using watercolors.

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One afternoon I sat down and drew my cup of tea. This was a break through illustration. I finally figured out how to tackle the combination of ink and watercolors.

A couple days after my birthday I traveled down to Boston for the day for a free entry promotion at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. On my way in I stopped in Harvard and sketched Memorial Hall.

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I think limiting the size of my sketches has helped me develop an understanding of watercolors. I can fill in the entire drawing quickly and practice mixing colors and see how they interact on the page.

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At the Isabella Stewart Gardner I sketched the courtyard. Since it was free entry, it was incredibly busy, but I was able to find a bench to hangout on as I drew. You can see this sketch and all the others from my first two sketchbooks in my first sketchbook tour video.

I’m now on my third sketchbook and I’ve already finished a few drawings in it.

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Above I sat with Sarah in Portsmouth and did a sketch of her. It came out nicely and I’m excited to fill this next sketchbook up and show it off.

This Tuesday I went out again with the plein air group. The meeting point was Odiorne Point boat launch, but I’ve already painted there this summer so I decided to go down the road a bit to a spot I’d seen the day before.

Near Rye Beach is a tidal inlet that snakes past some houses and tall patches of grass. The composition is ready made.

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I wanted to include the water, the houses, and the boat, so I had to really pull my perspective out and draw things smaller than I was seeing them. Painting on a 9×12″ board forces decision making.

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It wound up being a two day painting. I reworked the water twice on the first day and then twice again the next. I’m still not entirely satisfied with it. If I had backed the perspective up even more I would’ve been able to include some darker parts of the river and I think that would’ve helped make the water convincing. As I’ve painted water this summer, I’ve discovered that the reflections are often much darker than I originally expected. I’ll have to keep that in mind for the next ocean painting.

My paintings this summer have felt very cohesive in their colors, but I’m afraid they’re becoming a bit stagnant and my paintings are appearing more illustrative than realistic. They’re much more saturated than paintings I’ve done in the past. For my next couple of paintings I’m gonna mix up the colors I use. I’m really still painting with the palette that was prescribed to all students in my UNH art classes. I think it’s time to branch out.

While I was working on this painting, several of the people that live in the houses came out and talked to me. One nice couple later invited me inside to show me other paintings they had of the same perspective. One was a winter scene and the other a summer scene and it was interesting to see how the shoreline has changed throughout the years. Apparently there used to be an old barge that was parked against the left hand shore. It’s now gone and nothing remains to indicate it had ever been there.

 

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A Year Gone By

It’s been basically a year since I last posted. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been painting or drawing though. I managed to squeeze in a few things. So here, let me walk you quickly through everything that’s happened since last summer.

If you follow my Facebook page then you probably saw me post some progress shots of a self-portrait. Well, I finally finished it.
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I wanted to create a portrait that was earthy and gave me practice with my reds and skin tones.

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I took a reference photo and made my life a little difficult with the angle of my head. It’s slightly cocked and it was difficult making sure everything worked to properly show that angle.

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You can see in these early shots how my glasses are ridiculously askew.

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I went too detailed with the face from the beginning and should’ve spent more time focusing on proportions before worrying about tone variations.

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I enjoyed painting the checkered shirt and mixing up the differences in values between the lit and the dark sides.

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The hat was the thing that gave me the most trouble at the end. It’s a straw hat but I didn’t want to put too much detail into it and take away from the focus of the face.

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Here’s the final version. I’m gonna have to retake this photo due to glare.

It took me a few months to finish the portrait working on it off and on when I got a little time. While I was working on that at home I was out doing plein air painting as well. When my friend invited a bunch of us to Star Island for his proposal to his girlfriend I went early and spent the morning painting the buildings on the island.

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The annual plein air competition hosted by the New Hampshire Art Association came up shortly after and I spent the whole weekend running around Portsmouth painting buildings.

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This first painting is of the main downtown area. I got halfway through it and wasn’t happy with the way it was turning out. I used it as a learning experience and moved on to a different location.

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I moved down one of the side streets and decided to paint the cars parked in front of all the old buildings.

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I painted it over the course of two mornings and I feel like I did a good job of capturing that early light. My favorite part of the painting is the right side where I experimented with different greens for two trees leaning out over the sidewalk.

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For my last painting of the competition, I went to the residential area and painted a house. While I was working the owners came out and were kind enough to talk to me about their house and even offered me the opportunity to come and paint their backyard garden whenever I wanted.

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I finished the house up and had just a few minutes to spare before the deadline. There is one more painting I haven’t included here, because almost a year later I sold it and forgot to photograph it first. It was the painting I won an honorable mention for. I’ll see if I can get a photo from the owners.

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After the competition I continued painting outside and spent one weekday in Newburyport painting a junk heap.

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There it is in the background in all its glory.

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I particularly enjoyed the jumble of this painting and having to pick out what shapes to paint.

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Later that summer I joined a plein air group to paint the tall ship that had docked in Portsmouth.

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I was playing around with a new canvas board and the painting came out very soft. Again, I will try to get a better quality photo.

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There she is!

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At the tail end of last summer I joined my friends for a beach trip and painted the coastline of Hampton. Just a quick sketch and study of the rocks. I was trying to be as simple as possible with my shapes.

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During the winter I went with my girlfriend to Boston and while she went to the Museum of Science with a friend I went over to the Museum of Fine Arts and found a sculpture to draw. It was Nydia, the Blind Girl of Pompeii by Randolph Rogers.

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In the spring I had a booth at an art show in Exeter alongside my girlfriend’s brother. We both wound up selling a good amount! It was a positive experience though a lot of work. While at the show I painted a small rose bush I’d bought.

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Finally, last Wednesday I returned to joining the plein air group. I met them at Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth and painted an old boat lying beside a house. I really focused on composition in this painting. I attempted to use the darks of the foreground to frame the lights of the background. I think it was decently successful.

That’s all for now. I have a couple other things to share from my sketchbooks, but I’m pressed for time. Tonight I’m going down to Lowell for an open figure drawing session. Hopefully now that my first year of teaching is out of the way I can be more consistent with this blog.

Oh! I’ve also made some more cheese recently. I’ll have to post about that. And my trips to Paris and NYC. Guess I still have a lot more to write about. Stay tuned.

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Beards, Mustaches, and Mr. Smooth-Face McKinley

I recently had a relaxing weekend at home and was able to get a good amount of work done. The final projects for my M. Ed. are due in a couple weeks, so I spent most of my time on those, but when I needed a break I did some reading and worked on my presidential sketches. I finally finished Harry Ammon’s James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity, after picking through it for two months. Perhaps it’s time to turn back to fiction for a little while. I think I’ll dive into Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Somehow I’ve never read that classic.

For my sketches, I worked my way from Chester A. Arthur to Theodore Roosevelt. Looks like our presidents used to sport some awesome facial hair. I had too much fun rendering President Arthur’s mutton chops.presidentialportraits - 9

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I included Grover Cleveland twice because he came before and after Benjamin Harrison, even though only the first portrait is official. But the second was painted by Anders Zorn and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to study one of his paintings. My goal is to finish all the sketches and then paint over them in Photoshop. This’ll give me an opportunity to experiment with the digital medium, but also a chance to study the color and brush work of the original artists.

Perhaps when I’m done I’ll upload all the portraits in a single collage or poster.

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Presidential Portrait Sketches

 

Way back at the start of the summer I vowed to read the best rated biography of each president. Why? Well, we kept getting stumped on presidential questions at bar trivia and I was tired of ignorance. I used bestpresidentialbios.com as my guide and started with James Thomas Flexner’s four-volume exploration of George Washington’s life. I read two of the four on a road trip to New Orleans and once I’d finished the series I decided to adjust my plan. I would read the best ONE-VOLUME biographies. Flexner’s work was amazingly comprehensive, but the sheer word count almost drove me to insanity. But I finished and moved on to John Adams: A Life by John Ferling, and then Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham, and then James Madison: A Biography by Ralph Ketcham. I’ve taken a break since Ketcham’s work to read a bunch of fiction, but when I resume I’ll be turning through the pages of James Monroe: The Quest For National Identity by Harry Ammon. Basically, I’ve been president obsessed this last year.

The other night I was listening to The Washington Post’s great podcast Presidential and decided to do sketches from the official presidential portraits. I used a brush pen in my moleskin sketchbook, spending about ten minutes on each portrait. Look for more to come! And if you like founding fathers and also happen to like musicals, check out Hamilton.

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Forty and Lightbulb Sketches

Yesterday I dropped a couple paintings off at the New Hampshire Art Association for next weekend’s The Art of the Landscape show. While I was there I picked up a prospectus for next month’s 16th Annual Joan L. Dunfey Open Juried Exhibition. I’ll probably submit my most recently finished painting and the one I just started today.

Here are a few sketches from the development process:

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I wanted to see how the lightbulbs and the forty ounce would work together. After a trial and error period of arrangement I finally decided on a setup that clicked.

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With graphite and charcoal I sketched out the still life. I think this process will greatly help my painting. I learned a few things about the way lightbulbs are shaped. Now time to paint.

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Studying Composition

Though it’s been many months since I last worked on my children’s book, my desire to finish it has not dissipated. On Monday I sat down and reviewed my old pages and made the decision to start over. Several changes were necessary. A minor point of the story needed to be brought forward, the whole story needed to be trimmed down, the art style needed to be changed, and most importantly I needed to focus more on composition. If I want this book to stand out, it must be more than simple characters on a page.

To begin this revision I went online and searched for compositionally strong paintings to study.

Bierstadt Study

Since I will be participating in a plein air competition this coming weekend, I thought to use the time to also study landscapes. I found Looking Down Yosemite Valley by Albert Bierstadt and spent a quick thirty minutes doing a half-page sketch. When I finished, I began designing the new page layouts for my books, using for inspiration and reference: The Art of Walt Disney by Christopher Finch, The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, and Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Layout & Background.

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The next day I loaded up Still Life with Apples and Fruit Bowl by Paul Cezanne and continued practicing. Again, I kept the study short and sweet.

With the plein air competition in Portsmouth almost here I’ve begun hand making business cards to hand out to the curious. I’m sure there will be lots of people coaxed out of their homes by the warm weather. It’s going to be an exciting weekend. I even went this morning and walked around for two hours to find possible painting locations. I may have to go again on Thursday. For those interested in the event, check out the New Hampshire Art Association website.