Breaking Out the Fine Point Brushes~Focusing the Lens

Rose Covered ArborAfter my trip to Boston and photo shoot for the portrait painting that I have coming up, I refocused on finishing my second in a series of Annie Bettie’s Cottage paintings.  This painting has been very time consuming.  So much so that I took a break and painted Monhegan Headlands in between painting sessions. 

In the portrait photo shoot, a number of the shots I took were done in the manual mode.  Adjusting the aperture or f–stops gives a variation of depth of field, with the higher f-stop numbers yielding a greater depth of field (objects are in focus up close and in the distance).  The reason Rose Covered Arbor took so long is because I broke out the small brushes again to gain a strong depth of field.  Standing before the rose covered arbor, I wanted the viewers to be sensing all that surrounds them.  I took the time to define every leaf on the arbor, highlighted by backlight.  I concentrated on cast shadows, reflective light and ultimate lights and darks.  The leggy, potted geraniums in the darkest nook are reaching for needed sunlight.  Annuals are thriving in their porcelain pots.  The angle of intense sunlight through the picket gate casts a shadow that creates a complex maze with the linear perspective of the cobblestone walkway. 

The highlighted woodwork I kept light from the beginning (no dark undertones), which helps give a stronger contrast from light to dark.  I let painted areas dry so that I could work in the tiny details later without the paint being muddied.  Glazes were applied over flat colors to add depth and interest. 

The strong perspective, strong lighting and abundance of color all made me want to take the time to focus in on every little area.  All this takes time.  This is my natural tendency in painting, whether it is a landscape, a ship painting or portrait.  It requires more patience to paint realistically but afterwards I find the finished product very rewarding. 

I love going to museums and examining details of a masterpiece up close.  I get so close that occasionally I see the guards start wandering my way!  I never have enough time at a museum to sit and study all that I find interesting because I don’t want to miss the painting that is around the next corner. 

I end up doing the same with Impressionist paintings at museums, as I find the brushwork and use of color fascinating.  The great majority of my work now combines realism with touches of Impressionism.  Occasionally, I have the desire to put everything in focus as in Rose Covered Arbor.  When working on a painting that is so time consuming, I liken it to taking on a challenging 1000 piece puzzle.  Starting out it’s overwhelming, in the middle you think I’m making progress, and in the end the final pieces are the fun ones. I just painted in the final pieces, so to speak.

I hope you enjoy taking a peek past the charming arbor into the secret gardens that await beyond the picket fence.

Raindrops Kept Falling on My Head......

As we drove into the charming little town of St. Michael’s, Md., water was overflowing some of the parking lots out onto the street.  Light rain had followed us throughout the 4 ½ hour drive up the eastern shore from Williamsburg but apparently St. Michael’s had the brunt of the storm. 

I dropped my wife off for her weekend reunion with her high school friends. Staying at a beautiful second home that one of her friend’s owns, right on the water on the outskirts of town, their weekend would be at the perfect venue.  This casually elegant estate includes a guest cottage, pool, dock and power boat just waiting to be enjoyed! I drove with our two shih-tzus to my one bedroom cottage in the heart of town right near a working boatyard.  The contrast between the estate where my wife would be reminiscing with long time best of friends and my Sunset Cottage was stark.   

It’s an old, historic waterman’s cottage, with just enough charm to make the coziness livable.  It is perfect for someone on the run, taking photographs.  But mix in a rainy weekend, two dogs in new surroundings and the coziness becomes much more pronounced. :-)   Our shih-tzus, Gracie and Gatsby are shall we say somewhat spoiled!  They are used to their mommy being in charge and they weren’t quite sure where daddy was taking them.  This was going to be a productive working trip, lots of photographs taken, exploring and getting to know the area. 

Well, the weather didn’t cooperate for photography and doggy sitting is much more time consuming than one would think.  I couldn’t get WiFi the first day but all was not lost.  The pups and I got to know the area, driving through town, up and down side streets in the rain and discovered a town that has historic, charming architecture combined with a waterfront backdrop.  

The first night for dinner, the easy thing to do would have been to stay dry in my cozy cottage, make myself a peanut butter sandwich and watch the 15” wide screen TV.  My early research though had produced a must stop Italian restaurant called Ava’s that is highly rated.  I put the dogs out in the rain, loaded them in the car for the very short drive to Ava’s, as I didn’t want to leave them in unfamiliar surroundings for too long. 

I figured if the photography wasn’t going to work out at least I should enjoy some good food!  I had to try the meatball slider appetizer.  I fancy myself to be a meatball aficionado.  I also had to try the white pizza after it had been highly recommended.  Ordering was a tough decision because the menu was full of tempting choices.  The carry-out order was ready in 10 minutes max.  I got back in the car, drove the short drive back to Sunset Cottage, put the pups back inside, went back to the car and got the carry-out.  All made more challenging by the steady drizzle!

It turns out that the three large perfectly seasoned meatball sliders, served stuffed in a thin pita pocket with cheese, combined with an 18 ounce bottle of brown ale were exactly what this lonely bachelor needed!  Even as a carry-out order the meatballs were outstanding!  Much better that I pushed myself, made the effort and experienced the local cuisine instead of having a peanut butter sandwich.  The white pizza was also perfection and didn’t disappoint. 

The normal tendency for us after discovering a restaurant that does everything just right is to go back again and again.  It was killing me to not try Ava’s Big Cheese Veal Parmesan.  But while in seafood country, I felt it would be a crime to be in St. Michael’s and not try some of the local seafood.  This time I decided to try leaving the pups in the cottage. Eating a broiled seafood platter or a crab cake sandwich in the car might not be such a good idea and eating it cold back at the cottage didn’t appeal.  I did manage to take the pups on a good walk Saturday afternoon when the rain let up and they were feeling more comfortable at Sunset Cottage.  They missed their mom terribly though and every car door outside got their attention. 

Well I walked to the St. Michael’s Crab & Steak House and enjoyed a broiled seafood platter that included the crab cake I was longing for.  The fresh seafood was a real treat, again a reminder of our time spent dining on the coast of Maine.  As I sat at a corner table overlooking the water, by myself, I caught a quick glance of a yachting print to my back left.  It was a Tim Thompson limited edition print.  Then down the row of maritime art there was a beautiful harbor scene of St. Michael’s by John Barber.  Thompson and Barber, both talented maritime artists, have been very successful at marketing their prints and have become nationally recognized.  I appreciated that the restaurant was highlighting the art of contemporary maritime artists.  Unfortunately it wasn’t mine!  :-)

Sunday morning, after wolfing down a homemade cherry Danish that I had picked up the day before at a little bakery on Tilgman’s Island, I made one last attempt at exploration.  Mother Nature cooperated enough to get a few shots of the quaint harbor town called St. Michael’s.  I came to the conclusion that if I seriously wanted to capture the area on film, so to speak, the way to do it would be from the water.  Motoring around the many inlets and coves would make for much stronger images than what I was seeing.  The John Barber St. Michael’s print at the seafood restaurant I thought captured the area to perfection.  After seeing his exceptional work of the area and being familiar with his many wonderful Chesapeake Bay paintings, I thought to myself “What can I express that he already hasn’t?” 

In Maine it was easy for me.  I wasn’t aware of how other artists had interpreted the coast and I dove into my work with blinders on.  I couldn’t wait to move on to the next painting.  Around every corner was another harbor or lighthouse guiding me and inspiring me.   I’m trying to regain that enthusiasm.  Certainly the Eastern Shore is beautiful and worthy of putting on canvas but for now it is not calling me.   

Sometimes it takes rainy quiet weekends to take the time to reflect on ideas and direction.  What do I want to paint next?  What do I want to express in my work?  What subject matter inspires me?  What fulfills me?  What will sell? Did I go to the seafood restaurant and not Ava’s so that I would see the John Barber painting on the wall next to me to make me rethink future work?  Or was it just because I love seafood? :-)

I do know that it’s always good to be home and “Off the Road Again”.  I’m anxious to finish up the cottage scene that I’ve been working on.  I have an exciting project coming up, painting a double portrait that I’ll write about at a future time.  I’m constantly searching for direction and inspiration, trying to push myself and grow as an artist. Thank you to all of you for taking the journey with me, reading my blogs and being interested in my work.  That is inspirational in and of its self!

Painting Annie Bettie's Cottage!

This cottage has a southern charm to it just like its owner Annie Bettie.  Everywhere you look your eye catches an abundance of flowers in bloom, speckled sunlight and cast shadows.  The open porch with the ceiling fans is so inviting especially on a hot humid day.  The backlit filtered light, the rose covered arbor and the cottage itself all appeal to me aesthetically. 

Beyond the gate one discovers a variety of colorful perennial beds, potted annuals and a vine covered trellis.  On this side of the gated arbor, closer to the street that winds down to the marina, a white picket fence lined with yellow daylilies, pink peonies, purple irises and white daisies surrounds a more formal garden area with a crushed stone walkway where one can sit and reflect. 

We enjoy walking past Annie Bettie’s Cottage just about every day, as it reminds us of our wonderful former home in Camden, Maine and its “secret garden”.

This is the first of hopefully a series of paintings of this tucked away, quintessential cottage.