We were fogged in for a few days while staying at a friend’s condo right on the beach. Fortunately, painting gear went along. Here are a few of about 15 pieces that were done over 5 days:
Just in case you don’t follow my travel blog Back Roads and Brushes, you might want to go here to catch an important update regarding our RV travel lifestyle.
Maybe there’s something to this outdoor painting stuff after all.
. I’ve never really considered myself a plein air painter. I start out with a pretty cool looking initial sketch, but then I seem to tighten up dramatically. I’m very rarely satisfied with the end result. I never use enough paint. I worry about details. The list goes on. My first – and only – organized paintout raised my stress level tremendously. Okay, I’ve only participated in one, but it was enough to almost sour me on painting on location at all. These folks are serious. Some of them do large finished paintings in just a few hours. They paint fast. And at the end, the paintings are judged, and displayed for sale. It’s easy to feel a bit inadequate. Interestingly, the one painting I currently have on display at the Rockport Center for the Arts is a plein air piece. Never thought I’d put a plein air in a gallery, but it’s a painting I like. That little 8×10 was done on the beach at Galveston, Texas while Nell was down at the water fishing. No pressure. No detail. Just having fun. Maybe the key for me is to make the painting secondary to just having fun. And that brings me to yesterday’s adventure. It started out as a nice day to just go somewhere and sit and paint. My expectations were not high. I thought I’d just do some quick sketches at the Port Aransas Harbor. Nell contented herself with sitting in the car out of the wind, reading and watching the activity by the harbor while I set my gear up near the docks. The view of the sailboat above wanted to be sketched, so I sat down, prepared to keep it loose and simple. I had barely gotten set up when I had visitors. I carry a little photo album with images of my work, along with a few business cards. I like for people to know that what they see on the easel isn’t what I normally do. Others stopped as I started sketching. And others as well. Another lady came up behind me, held up her camera and said she was an art teacher, and would love to have a photo of an artist painting on location to show to her students. A firm believer in art education, I said yes. And handed her a business card. Then Leon, the gentleman on the left, stopped to look and chat. Before long, Mike (center) emerged from the boat I was painting. As it turned out, these two men live aboard their boats fulltime and are neighbors.
Just across the dock from Mike’s 30 foot Catalina (the one I was painting) is Leon’s 30 foot Ericson (above). I had photographed both boats a couple of days earlier when we were roaming around the harbor. After a bit of fascinating banter between the two, part of it related to something about another boater considering a trip to Greece, Leon invited Nell and I to come aboard for a glass of wine.
We were given a tour below, and as you might imagine, the interior is very similar to an RV. In fact, a lot of nautical terminology is used in the RV world, such as references to landlines and the galley. It’s obvious that RV design originated from boats such as these. There is a large master bunk in the bow, a head (bathroom) and a closet, a galley (kitchen) along one side and dinette/lounging space on the other side. There are two additional sleeping spaces below the outdoor seats.
The slip rental, which includes water, is about the same as a reasonably priced RV site. Electric costs sound like they’re about the same. The harbor charges an additional fee for live-aboards. The costs appear to be very similar to living fulltime in an RV. The variable, of course, is the price of the boat or the RV.
Our host poured the wine and we made ourselves comfortable in the stern seating area. The earlier breeze had died down a bit, and with the canopy overhead to protect from the sun, we enjoyed some great conversation, learning more about the live-aboard life. Being surrounded by water, even sitting dockside, with the occasional sounds of sea birds, and the slight movement of the boat, felt pretty darned relaxing. And being invited by a total stranger to sit for a while and enjoy it was pretty cool.
Yep, there just might be something to this outdoor painting business after all, whether the painting itself gets finished or not.
No, I’m not posting those kinds of pictures, but it seemed like a fun title for a blog post, especially when I’m trying to just suggest the background, without any detail. I’ve been trying to keep my work a bit looser and sketchy, and I’m finding the backgrounds for such work to be a challenge. Here are a couple of recent examples:
Simplicity is important in these experiments, and I am forcing myself to avoid small brushes until close to the end. The study above may go a bit too far in separating the main subject from the background, but I think that’s because of the almost monochromatic, cool palette in that area that is so different from the foreground subject. It’s almost like two different paintings. Food for thought when I pick this piece up again.
“Oyster Boat” is another example of trying to keep things simple. In this one, I think the almost abstract background works better, probably because the same color palette continues throughout the entire painting. The brushwork is much looser and more expressive. It’s so easy to tighten up on a subject like this and start picking at details. I’ve tried to avoid that and just play with the colors and the brushes. This one is quite a departure for me, but I really do like it.
This painting sat unfinished for a few weeks. I’d say it sat over in a corner of the studio but, as you know, I don’t really have a studio. Unfinished paintings have a way of dropping out of sight at times, forgotten until I find myself going through a stack of them. This one started out with some potential, but then I started nit-picking and fiddling with details, both in the grasses and the barn itself. I wiped parts of it and went at it again, with more paint and bigger brushes. At some point, the light began to shine through and it turned out to be a nice little composition with some bold color.
The Michael W. Behrens is part of a fleet of car ferries that carry traffic between Aransas Pass and Port Aransas, Texas. They cross the ship channel that flows from the Gulf of Mexico to the Port of Corpus Christi. This is a fairly quick pencil sketch from a photo taken on one of our many trips over to Mustang Island and Port Aransas.
The next step was to sketch the scene onto illustration board. This was done directly with a brush and thin gouache, with no pencil layout.
The final 8×10 gouache painting was a fun, loose portrayal of the ferry sitting at the landing on the Port Aransas side. A fun little painting.