I painted this a few days ago while we were in Bristol RI. There are a lot of old buildings in this charming little town. From the vantage point of the town dock (where I painted the last post) the old buildings looked like layers of colored greys stacked atop one another. The jpeg came out a bit darker and more saturated despite my photoshop edits! I guess I need to read the book.
Postscript: This painting has been revised since this post. The above painting is the new version.
I am trying to find more interesting abstract patterns in my plein air work. I loved the colors of this old fishing boat on the pier in Briston RI but it was the interesting shapes that initially caught my eye. It is really the underlying value structure of a scene that will make or break a good painting. I really like this one as the idea reminds me a little of Milton Avery, one of my favorite artists. While it definitely does not look anything like an Avery I think I was trying to achieve a similar goal. I found a great quote from Milton Avery on a terrific blog about art history :
"I always take something out of my pictures, strip the designs to the essentials; the facts do not interest me so much as the essence of nature. I never have any rules to follow. I follow myself. I began painting by myself in the Connecticut countryside, always directly from nature . . . I have long been interested in trying to express on canvas a painting with a few, large, simplified spaces." Milton Avery.
I am revisiting the topic of sketching in response to fellow artist Loriann Signori's recent post about sketchbooks. She has asked people to submit posts about their sketching process along with examples. She will compile all the submissions she gets which should be an interesting read. I find it very interesting to see how other artists work.
I use different sketchbooks for different purposes. I usually have three or four sketchbooks going at the same time. I use a large sketchbook as shown in my last post to work out compositions from reference photos in preparation for larger paintings or when I have more time to sit and actually do some in depth drawing. My little notebooks are used on site when I am painting plein air or if I just want to put something down as a reminder for a later idea.
I try to keep a small sketchbook and a 6B woodless graphite pencil and/or a ballpoint pen with me at all times. I have three little sketchbooks because I am constantly misplacing one or all of them. And I can never find the pen, the pencil or the pencil sharpener. When I paint plein air I always spend ten or fifteen minutes (at least) doing thumbnails and notans. (There is a lot of information on notans on the internet. Loriann actually has some good posts on notan.) Usually these sketches are just quick two value studies of various compositional ideas. Sometimes they are just scribbles like the ones below.
Most artists will tell you that sketching is an integral part of the painting process even if you are an abstract painter. Drawing is a fundamental skill that will definitely improve your painting. I highly recommend keeping a sketchbook with you and taking the time to do a few sketches a day even if they are just notes for yourself!
I started this on site at the Newport Shipyard docks where all the big fishing trawlers and small boats are docked. I couldn't stay long though as it was just too hot to stand in full sunshine with no shade. I have an easel umbrella but it seems to only work in less than 5 or 10 knots of wind which is rare around here. I like the colors in this. The jpeg doesn't really pick up the subtle grays in the background but I like the soft effect in the further structures. Things look a little busy in the lower right hand corner which I didn't intend but I will leave it for now. If this ends up being a bigger piece I will soften that area so it doesn't draw so much attention.
Hope everyone had a great 4th of July! I am back in Newport RI for the summer. I love it here: the boats, the light, the breeze. I love it all. I am eager to get out and paint and it looks like today will be a nice day for it.
In the meantime, I wanted to post a couple of pages from my old sketchbooks because I have been devoting a lot of time to sketching lately. Sketchbooks are a great place to work out ideas, try different compositions and practice your value skills. Sketching forces you to think in terms of value. You can achieve the entire value range with a 6B pencil and an eraser. I often sketch when I don't feel like painting or when the weather is too bad to go outside. You can sketch from your reference photos or just sketch whatever is in front of you. It's a great exercise to try to make a composition out of something simple or ordinary like a chair or a table with flowers. The images here are a couple of sketches from an old sketchbook. The sketch above was from a photo I took of our neighbor's little girl several years ago and the ones below are of simple scenes in and around the house.
I hope everyone likes lobstermen and lobster boats because that's what I am going to be painting for the rest of the summer! I haven't really devoted myself to a single subject in a long time (since my Caribbean Market Women) and I think this one has a lot of possibilities. I will be heading to Newport Rhode Island in a couple of days where there is still a small fleet of working fishing and lobster boats. Some of these fishing vessels are huge. The colors and shapes are wonderful and will provide lots of possibilities in terms of color and composition. I'm really looking forward to working from life on the docks (though the smell can be overwhelming)!
I just received notice that my other little "Lobster Fellas" painting was accepted into the Salmagundi Club's national show this summer. This is a prestigious show and I am very happy to have a piece accepted into the exhibit. The National Arts Club in NYC, where the show is usually held, is undergoing renovations so the it will be held at a gallery in Chelsea. There are lots of galleries in Chelsea so there will be more people able to view the exhibit. I'll post details as we get closer.