Thursday, March 29, 2012

Keeping It Simple

Beautiful Dreamer    9x12    oil
I found this old, sleek, wooden-hulled, marlin boat (I was told) marooned high and dry on a hilltop in Conn Harbor/Aransas Pass.  Couldn't help thinking how she must have once been the apple of some happy fisherman's eye.  That's how I came to naming it "Beautiful Dreamer".

This is a plein air study, and I hope it appears deceptively simple in execution, but there was a significant drawing puzzle to solve in getting the boat to look right.  The cabin structure and rear of the boat had to be worked out in their relative parts and tilted perspective, or the boat would present an awkward disjuncture.

When I see there's a bit of a drawing problem involved in a subject, I'll usually begin with a dry brush indication of that area using something like Burnt Sienna.  The only medium I use for this is a very small bit of Liquin, to give better control of the range of marks I need for line and tone indication. I can easily wipe-out and re-state these until I'm satisfied.  The Liquin also sets up quickly, making it easy to paint over.

Once this rough indication is in place, I can confidently apply my pre-mixed colors to the main shapes. In my pre-mixtures, I try to closely approximate the hue, value and chroma I want for representing the light and shade in the various parts.  I try to place these "best guess" colors as simply and directly as possible into their "spots" without too much concern for edges.  If all this appears to work, I go ahead to adjust shape accuracy, edge variety and color/temperature variation within shapes.  (Notice how the hull grades from a cool violet at the bow through the warm red mid-section, finishing in a fairly neutral gray at the stern, without much shift in value.)  I like stuff like that!  The other thing I found interesting was the warm bounce of color from the ground-plane illuminating the shadow side of the hull and cabin, while the darker shadow on the front of the cabin is cooled by the light from the sky.

The foreground needed something to lead the eye to the focal area ( the cabin ).  The ground was a hard-baked caliche with natural grasses and weeds.  I simply arranged the bare ground patches into a pattern directing the eye into the picture.  All of this is done with the intent of getting the simple essentials of the scene in place.  This type of study, and a snapshot or two of the subject are everything I will need to make a larger studio painting of this beautiful dreamer.


  1. Love reading your thought process. Big would be GREAT! :)

  2. I look forward to seeing this one done in studio. Go big sir!