When I arrived in Rockport, Mass. this morning I knew I was going to sketch this scene. Little did I know that this was the ultimate artist’s subject of the New England coast. This fishing shack was built in 1884 and dubbed Motif Number 1 by the painter Lester Hornby. I hope I did it justice.
Today was the first time I painted on a suspension bridge, hanging over the Queechee Gorge in Vermont. Every time a truck rumbled by I was afraid all my stuff would go tumbling over the edge so I hung on tight to my brushes. It’s hard to take a photo of a vertical spread in the Moleskine so I’ll have to scan it when I get home.
I have been looking at a lot of water lately as I painted at different yacht clubs and marinas for the past few weeks. I find that I often overwork the water and it loses its freshness. One of the reasons I didn’t post my first sketch from yesterday was that I messed up the water by painting a big area with a wash that was too dry (there’s nothing worse than dry-looking water!). Today I decided to tackle it head-on by choosing a spot at the Baie d’Urfé Town Hall where I faced the pond in the foreground and the lake in the distance. Of course I placed my chair carefully so as not to incur the wrath of the red-winged blackbird who tried to peck out my eyes last week. And then I spent a good long time just looking at the colours and the values of both the lake and the pond.
Today is one of those days when I struggled with a painting and I had to trash it and do something new. I had the bright idea that I would sketch the farmers who were distributing my weekly basket of CSA vegetables. I love those lively “people in action” sketches. Also a disaster. I really don’t know how artists sketch people at events. I’m hoping that someone at the Urban Sketchers Symposium will reveal the secrets of that skill to me in Santo Domingo. Last resort — sketch the vegetables in the basket that I received from the farmers who I couldn’t sketch.
I have looked at these boats at the yacht club many times and even started several drawings. But each time I attempted this I got caught up in the details of this complex subject and I wasn’t very successful in my rendering. Today I started with a different idea — just try to capture the essence of these boats Shari! What is the essence of a sailboat? Masts, booms, rigging, sails, and hulls. The rest is just details (at least for a sketcher). So lots of verticals and even though the masts are not very accurate and the rigging sometimes leads to nowhere I think I can safely say that most people will understand that these are sailboats.
The Adirondack chair is a true summer classic. You can buy them all over the place these days or make your own from a kit. They even come in a coloured PVC version, but these old guys are made from wood. The problem with them is that they have weathered to an even grey, as has the lattice behind them and they are sitting on grey brick. Doesn’t make for a very lively sketch. So I had to be a little inventive with the colour here, using lots of winsor violet, raw sienna and cobalt blue.
Continuing with what seems to be my theme of the week — boats — I took a drive out to Hudson Yacht Club this morning. Capturing these boat shapes is a new challenge I have given myself. Drawing them is so difficult. They curve and dip and there’s all that rigging. First I started with a pen but quickly realized some correction might be needed so I took out my pencil instead to do the drawing. I will most certainly go back there to sketch soon because I think I’ve painted all there is to paint in my neighbourhood and there are lots of great spots around Hudson — Oka in the distance, the yacht club, beautiful old houses and farms and even Finnegan’s market before it gets too busy on a Saturday.
These days there’s lots of manganese blue in my paintings because, as I found out the other day, this colour does not dry quickly in the palette. I filled the reservoir with some fresh tube colour before leaving home and it leaked all over. I didn’t realize that it was much more runny than my other pigments. Now I add it to everything in the hopes of using it up and happily I quite like the greens and blues it makes.
I am often asked what makes me choose one site over another and how I choose what I will paint each day. The answer is simple. When I go out to sketch I am looking for a centre of interest for my painting—something that will anchor the composition. Today it was easy to find. Enough said.
It’s hard enough drawing the hull of a boat but drawing it while dealing with shad flies is even harder. They flew into my palette, landed on my sheet, stuck to my clothing and tried their best to get into my mouth. It’s like this every year if you live near the lake but thankfully the season is short, as is the lifespan of the fly itself. Sometimes they are so abundant near outdoor lights that city crews need to sweep them up in the morning.