Monhegan Headlands ~ Final Stage

Since the painting sat for a few days and the paint was dry I brushed on a coat of retouch varnish to the entire surface.  This brings the colors back to life and also allows new layers of paint to adhere better.  In order to warm the painting up a little and add some depth and translucency to the water and sky, I glazed a thinly diluted wash of olive green over the entire water and took it up to the lower third of the sky using a mixture of turpentine and linseed stand oil. 

Placing some smaller clouds close to the horizon line helps create distance and depth.  From here on I’m continually adding colors and blending.  Lighter purples are added to the distant water, progressing to darker purples in the water in the foreground.  A light Yellow Ochre and white mixture is added in the distant water, as progressively darker yellow ochre is added to the water in the foreground.  Same goes for the overall slate blue in the water. Detail picture below.

Monhegan Headlands water close-up.jpg

I used the same technique in the sky as I did with the water.  Along the horizon line you will find the lightest dabs of color, from Yellow Ochre to violets to light blue to a mixture of Viridian Green and white.  All of these same colors were added by dabs in a progressively darkened mixture the closer I got to the top of the painting. Detail picture below.

The distant headlands looked too drab so I punched them up with Cadmium Medium Yellow and white.  At that point it was way to strong so I took a thin coat of Permanent Magenta with white and glazed over the rocky cliff in the yellow areas.  This created the softness, a kind of haze over the distant rocks and patina that I liked.  This was when I first started to feel close to what I originally envisioned.

Monhegan Headlands sky close-up.jpg

I softened the tree line on the top of the headlands to have an atmospheric feel along with the grassy areas on the cliff top.  I wanted the main focus to be the most defined which is the rocky coastline from the middle of the painting on down. 

Monhegan Headlands.jpg

At this point I signed my name.  I’m going to live with it for a week or so and study it on a daily basis.  I find that if I spend time studying it, I can spot things that I didn’t notice before because of being to close to it for too long.  If I can’t find a place that I want to take a brush to then I’m done!

I hope you enjoyed seeing this painting in progress.  I will give it at least a few weeks to dry and then I will brush on several coats of Damar Varnish as a finishing coat.  This helps give luster to the painted surface and also helps protect the painting over time against scratching, dust and dirt.  Thank you for being interested in my work.  I’m on to the next project!

Monhegan Headlands from Start to Finish ~ Stage 2


The next step is adding in the white water and foam along the coastline.  I mixed Flake White (lead) with Titanium White.  The Flake White helps tone down the brightness of the Titanium White and creates a softer look.  I added just a tad of Viridian Green to the foam area.  This helps create the transition from white foam to shallow water indicating turbulence in the water. 

At this point I have ultimate lights and ultimate darks.  Now my goal is to work within this range adding mid-range colors by adding dabs of color, blending a little with a bigger dry brush, adding more dabs of color, blending etc…

The cloud formations are a mixture of Titanium White and Yellow Ochre.  I placed various mixtures of purples, Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Orange, very little Ivory Black and Titanium White in the shaded part of the clouds, keeping in mind where the sun is coming from.  Cadmium Orange and white is also used to add variations of warmth in the lighter parts of the clouds.  Again after the dabs of color are added I take a dry brush and blend the colors together trying not to over blend which makes you lose the Impressionist appearance. 


I took variations of the ochre color from the rocks and placed dabs of it in the water to add some depth to the water, indicating shallower areas.  Overall I’m trying to keep a slate gray feel to the rocks, water and to a lesser extent the sky but the ochre helps to warm it up a little.  I don’t want the painting to have too cold of a feel.  I’m gradually planning to warm up the painting that at this point has a very blue feel.  I also added some light purples into the water which will tend to give an appearance of surface reflection of light. 

I’ve defined the rock formations more in the foreground and less so as they recede into the background.  Olive Green, ochre, purple, Ultramarine Blue are all used to help define the algae covered rocks. 

The next phase will be working on warming up the painting, adding pleasing Impressionistic colors, toning down any severity in the rock formations caused by stronger colors and the ultimate darks.  I don’t want to lose the contrast from light to dark but I also don’t want a severe looking painting.  I want to find a happy medium.  Letting some of the darkest darks peak through surface layers of paint can give the impression of a dark area without the dark area jumping out at you. 


I get very antsy at this stage, wanting the painting to move along faster.  Elements bother me, looking at unfinished areas.  This is why I never used to want anyone to see my paintings in progress.  I’d always have to explain the future steps I want to take and let everyone know that I’m not finished yet! :-)


Any comments or questions are most welcomed.  Thanks.

Monhegan Headlands from Start to Finish ~ Stage 1

This painting is on a melamine wood (masonite type) board that I primed with a couple of coats of white gessow.  A lot of the old masters painted on hardwood boards.  A masonite type product creates a more stable product than wood and is less likely to warp.  Eliminating the canvas weave is sometimes desirable in order to create a smoother surface and I go back and forth between board and canvas.

I printed out an 8” x 10” photograph to use for the drawing.  I used a proportional scale wheel to determine the enlarged size which came out to 20” x 28”.  Then I drew a grid on the photo and the board in order to help transfer the enlarged image onto the board.  The drawing is a simple outline in most cases, with details to be painted in after the first few coats of paint are applied. 

A little tip that I use at this point is to spray the pencil drawing on the board with Retouch Varnish before I begin to paint.  This keeps the lead from smearing into the paint and losing the lines when putting on the first coat.  It also makes the paint adhere onto the board better.


I used a mixture of ultramarine blue, mars black and a little white to outline the rock formation over the pencil to not lose the drawing while blocking in the underpainting.  I used these colors because they create nice variations of warm gray that as an underpainting will add a warmth to the cooler blues and greens that will come later. 


 As I fill in one area and start to establish values in the underpainting, creating light and dark and contrast, I compare it to the rest of the painting.  What looks like a dark value at first on the white board becomes less dark as the middle tones are established.  I then go back over the outline with darker blends of the same colors to keep from losing the outline as the paintings values progress.  This process was repeated several times in order to get the darkest and lightest colors established. 


I start to introduce some color at this point, bringing in some yellow ochre to the rocks and the distant headlands because the island during most seasons has a goldish hue to it.  The initial greens are a combination of ultramarine blue and yellow ochre and white.  This creates a green that combines the same blue that is in the rocks, water, and sky and creates a harmonious blend of color and balance throughout the painting.  The dark green algae covered rocks in the foreground and along the coastline become more defined by introducing olive green and purples. 


At this point it is hard to not jump ahead of myself and apply a bunch of color and try to move the painting along more quickly.  But I have a vision of where I want to take the painting and it requires a methodical step by step process, building up layers of paint, mixing in some glazing to create depth and shading. 

It is helpful to be able to visualize the desired finished product in advance in order to not waste a lot of time experimenting.  Although having said that, spontaneity sometimes creates some of the best effects in a painting.  In this painting I know I want to keep it Impressionistic and I have a good feel for the palette I want to use.  I’ll keep posting each stage of this painting until it is done. I hope you find my painting process interesting.  Any questions or feedback would be most welcomed.