A Return to the Maine Coast

Gray Rocks Morning2
Gray Rocks, Morning, 20″x30″

Summertime creates a space to explore the landscape anew both at home and away. My favorite space is the Atlantic coast. There is nothing so exhilarating as surf and rocks, an environment of constant movement and change. The tide adding another element that won’t cooperate with the position of the sun when working on a large composition. But this flux is what adds the vitality to an image. Its ever-changing mode allows room for a creative force to emerge. One’s imagination is swept up in these elemental forces and one is compelled to activate internal resources to seize the moment. These personal energies recomposed on canvas create tension and momentum. Think of Bellow’s  “Manana”, or Homer’s “Proust’s Neck” or Waugh’s  “Shores of Gloucester”.

Returning to the shores of Acadia, Maine this year, I found myself focused on the activity and tension in the foreground as compared to the isolation and aloofness of a background element- an island, a far off coastal point or a raised plume of surf. This opposition of geography as well as of feeling, I believe, added a dimension to this year’s paintings. I relied heavily on rabatment to  create the force of diagonals in the compositions as well as the stability of the internal square to raise a perpendicular element.

Setting Sun Otter Point2
Setting Sun, Otter Point, 20″x30″

As regards to my color investigations, I had some interesting insights. Last year, I added English red to my palette, as recommended by Waugh in his notes, to add punch and warmth to deep darks. When this is added to ultramarine blue, one gets an intense purple that is deep in value and more earthy than the addition of a cadmium red. I also like the subdued violet-gray achieved by English red and cobalt blue. This I used quite extensively as a cool reflected light in the shadows. I also found that English red and viridian created a perfect neutral for gray rocks. So I maintained this on my palette again this year.

But I also wanted to expand my range within the dark register. When the rocky coast contains deep crevices, the shadows are quite dark and need a variety of temperature changes. Last year, I used the BV, manganese violet-blueness and VR, violet-redness of Old Holland make. This year I pre-mixed a BV of cobalt and Chinese vermillion and a VR from cadmium red vermilion and manganese blue-violet. These two colors were deep, the BV being cool and the VR being warmer. But both these colors were slightly neutralized, less purplish and related to ivory black more seamlessly. I did use some ivory black (Old Holland) for the deepest accents and with the addition of cadmium yellow for the green seaweed, encrusted rocks that are submerged at high tide.

View toward Great Head2
View Toward Great Head, 20″x30″

Another insight I had, related to the sky colors. I had superb weather this year. Almost no fog and only one or two mornings of a faint iridescent cloudiness that dispersed after 11 am. So the skies were beautiful, sometimes perfectly clear and other times with lingering light clouds. I found that in the early morning, that a combination of cadmium red vermilion and lemon-yellow added that early morning warmth which I then overlaid with a cool viridian and white- not attempting to achieve a single color to get this effect. In the late afternoon facing east, I found that cadmium red vermilion and viridian overlaid separately achieved the proper effect. This was the first year I used cadmium red in the sky. Before, I had always used a violet red, such as rose madder genuine, to achieve a more pink/ yellow effect. I also used very little blue in my skies this year. Instead, I used a blue hue created by viridian and BV (mostly manganese). Both the addition of cadmium red and the blue hue, related more to the rocks and sea and added a unity of effect.

Beehive and Halfway Mtn, 16"x22"
Beehive and Halfway Mtn, 16″x22″

Lastly, I made myself particularly conscious of the super-color. That is the color of the light in which the objects of the seascape are illuminated. In a sense, this is the color of the sky incorporated over the land or sea. When I had difficulty with an effect, say the gray rocks in the image entitled as such, I added this super-color to the various grays to achieve a unity within the variety of the rock forms.

These images are some of the results of my summer adventure in Maine.

View Toward Cranberry Island, 20"x30"
View Toward Cranberry Island, 20″x30″
Windy Surf, 16"x22"
Windy Surf, 16″x22″
Sunrise, Great Head, 16"x22"
Sunrise, Great Head, 16″x22″

Riverfest 2016


I’m happy to be exhibiting this month at Riverfest in Narrowsburg, NY, with my friend Jim Kingston.  Jim and I have belonged to the same figure painting group for the last 5 years and he has been a welcomed part of my artistic support network out in the Catskills.

As a student Jim Kingston studied the Brandywine style of Illustration under Norman Baer, a disciple of Howard Pyle. He spent his life in the world of humorous illustration, commercial artist and as a leader in transforming art-production into the digital age. Working in watercolor for most of his life he has transitioned to oil painting over the past 5 years. For more information on Jim Kingston visit his web site http://jimkingston.com

Judith Reeve grew up along the Delaware River, not far from Chadds Ford. At the age of nine, she met Andrew Wyeth. This meeting, in hindsight, was a pivotal moment allowing her to recognize the possibility of painting being a vital life-long pursuit. For more information visit Judith Reeve at http://attentiveequations.com

Come spend the day along the Delaware River and visit us and the many other talented artists exhibiting their works.

Analogies in the Key of Green


In the Key of GB

Summertime is a great season to get out and paint the landscape on site. But one of the challenges about the summer landscape, when you reside on the east coast, is the predominance of the color green. There is no avoiding it. During other seasons the dominant color can approach a neutral which allows for a change in key for each composition. Winter snow and its whiteness is a good example.

So if every summer landscape must have green in it the question becomes, how can I add variety to my images in the Key of green. When I refer to a Key, I am referring to an analogy in color. What is an analogy? An analogy occurs when one focuses the colors on their palette in a certain area of the color spectrum. An example of an analogy in the Key of Yellow would be to border the color Yellow with those colors that bracket Yellow on the palette. So my palette would be laid out as OY-Y-YG or O-OY-Y-YG-G. So if these are the dominant colors of my composition how do I balance an analogy like this so that the eye can find relief? The most common way would be to add the complement, which in this case would be Violet.

Robert Henri reflected on these types of analogies by painting many compositions in a certain Key as above. But one aspect that he added was a more subtle variety and range to the complement side that still allowed for the Key to dominate but also find a balance of colors harmonious with the Key. The examples I will use will reflect on Green as the dominate Key. The Key of Green looks like this:

Green analogy1

Henri took this analogy and added a range of more neutralized colors to act as a foil to the higher intensity of the Key that dominates the analogy. Henri created mixtures between the dominant analogy and the complement. Here is an example of an analogy in the Key of Green:

Green analogy2

The more neutralized colors are RObi, Rhue, VRbi. These colors are the mixes achieved by mixing an analogous color with the complement. Note that the Rhue must maintain its redness and is not completely neutralized. Another way to mix Rhue is with P+O. This gives one a clearer idea of its quality as a subdued red and less as a brown neutral. In this analogy, I found the VRbi the perfect color (a gray violet) to bridge the edge of green tree foliage against its’ background and also as a neutralizer on the ground plane. Rhue also came in handy for packed earth in the foreground of a field. These semi-neutralized colors reinforced the red complement without being too overt.

Here are some other analogies I have been using in the Key of GB or the Key of YG:

GB analogy

YG analogy

Note that in most cases, I used 3 colors set against the complement. But it is also possible to use 5 colors set against the complement. In these cases it is important to only mix the 3 core colors of the analogy because by mixing more than that you will lose the character of the analogy. The palette will begin to contain the missing colors that make a Key a strong statement. If I were to take the Key of Green and extend it beyond the GB to B, I could not take the blue and mix it with the red because I would then have purple and this would take it out of Key. Hence on the other side, I would end up with orange. Keeping purple and orange off the palette gives the Key of Green its character. But also note that these colors or near colors do appear as neutralized tones. When these colors are added to the composition one can feel the underlying energy they provide as a foil to the more intense colors of the dominant key.




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