Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Behind the Art: Swordfshers

This week's feature painting is called "The Swordfishers"

Usually in going "behind the art" I deal with some aspect of painting water, reflections, how light behaves on water.  But today I will use this painting to illustrate effects of light and shade, since we have a strong sense of bright, overhead light, with equally strong shadows.

If we look at the man holding the harpoon, notice how much contrast there is under the shade of the bill of his cap.  Making this shade very dark gives the suggestion of how bright the overhead light is.  Furthermore, having good light and shade contrast helps to define the harpoon better.

I would especially draw attention to the interesting treatment of light at the tops of the sails.  First, we have the larger mainsail brightly reflecting the strong, overhead light.  That makes it contrast with the dark cloud behind it.  Then just in front of it we have the smaller foresail, which is not reflecting direct bright light, and contrasts with the bright mainsail.  And, of course, the lookout at the mast head contrasts with the bright sail behind him.  This part of the painting in particular shows how you can use light and shade to bring out features you are depicting and also to create a sense of depth to your subject.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Swordfishers

This week I feature an original painting "The Swordfishers"

Fishermen pursued swordfish with patience, skill and cunning.  Sliding quietly through the water under the power of sail, the swordfishing schooner approached swordfish, spotted just below the water's surface by a lookout at the mast head.  Far out on a platform extending from the schooner's bow, a harpoon was ready to be plunged into the swordfish with deadfly accuracy.

This painting recaptures a glimpse of our North Atlantic nautical heritage, a time when men pursued fish with sailing vessels.  Even after the arrival of gasoline engines, schooners held an advantage for pursuit of swordfish: silence. With no throbbing engine noise, the swordfish was not aware of the schooner sliding silently toward it, until the man with the harpoon, on a plank far out ahead of the bow, was able to thrust his harpoon into the swordfish.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Behind the Art: Reflections

This week's feature print is from my painting of Head Harbour Light, at the northern end of Campobello Island.  The lighthouse is painted as it would reflect morning light over a calm sea.  And because the morning light is so much a part of this painting, I called it "Head Harbour Morning"

There are a couple of points to look at "behind the art".  The first is to draw attention to all the different hues of "white" that we can experience.  On a bright sunny morning the contrast in hues is much more pronounced than it would be on a dull foggy day.  Notice on the shed at left how the "white" on the sunny side has an orange-yellow hue, while in the shade it is blueish purple.  On the lightouse itself, we have varying shades, depending how the different faces of the tower are oriented with respect to the light.

When we do a painting which involved the reflections on the water of things behind it, we noted that the colours of objects reflected are seen in reflections directly below.  A couple of good examples can be seen in this painting.  The reflections of the shed, seen on the tops of the ripples, clearly pick up the difference between reflecting the sunny end and reflecting the shaded side.  Also notice that the red cross of St. George, on the tower, is reflected directly below in the water, with the width of the reflected red being about the same as the width of the red on the tower.

Another feature in this painting is the rocky shore on which the lighthouse is built.  Rocks can have a lot of interesting colours to paint, as can be seen here.  And the different colour levels help to give shape to the rocks.

Also note the rockweed in the tidal zone comes up from water surface the same distance all across the painting.  Since the rockweed is closest to the water, the reflections of the rockweed are closest to the edge of the water.  This illustrates another rule of reflections: things above the water that are closest to the water, are reflected nearest to the horizon; things higher up, are reflected closer in the water.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Head Harbour Morning"

This week's feature print is taken from one of my lighthouse paintings which is entitled "Head Harbour Morning"

The lighthouse at East Quoddy Head, at the northern end of Campobello Island, New Brunswick, is locally known as "Head Harbour Light".  It is one of a hundred heritage lighthouses, worldwide.  Built in 1829, this wooden lighthouse, with distinctive red "St. George's cross, has become an icon of Maritime Canada.

The print is 11" x 14" in size, with an overall frame size of 17.5" x 20.5".  Non-glare glass protects the print, moounted in a white wood liner in a mahogany stained wood frame.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Behind the Art: Gulls

This week I featured a painting of gulls over the open sea:

Let's look at a few of the details in the painting to get behind the art.  First of all, as I noted yesterday, I wanted to convey the social nature of gulls and so painted several in the picture.  You might notice that their interaction is much more random than ducks, which fly together and act more coherently as a group, or sandpipers, which fly in flocks with remarkable precision.

Taking a close-up look at the nearest gull we see a few points about shading.  If you are shading, you need to remember that sometimes reflected light will lighten a shaded area.  Even though the area under the gull's neck is in the shade, it is receiving reflected light from the water, so it is lighter than other shaded areas.  Also this reflected light will have a bluish tint, as it reflects diffused blue from the water.

We get to see the interesting light gradients in the gull on the water too; it also creates reflections in the water in front of it, but these reflections are broken up by the ripples on the wave.

The lobster buoy creates reflections too. Again, note that the reflections occur on parts of the ripple that mirror between your eye and the colour in the buoy.  By planning these reflections carefully, we can create the ripple of the water flowing past the buoy.

A final point about painting water which we can note from this painting.  If you look at the background water (below), you will note that the contrast between the light and dark areas of the waves is much less in the background near the horizon than it is closer to the viewer.  The change in contrast is not as obvious in photographs, but consciously increasing contrast as you come to the foreground creates perspective just as much as drawing perspective in the shape of things. 

This change in contrast is sometimes called "atmospheric perspective".  And because water doesn't have the defined shapes of buildings, roads or fences, we need to use atmospheric perspective to give a sense of depth to a sea painting.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Gulls over Open Sea

This week I feature a new original painting "Gulls over Open Sea"  I have always admired Herring Gulls; they are powerful in flight, graceful and agile.  This painting is done with acrylic paint on canvasboard, framed with a mahogany stained wood frame with a white liner.  The painting is 16" x 20" and the overall frame size is 22.5" x 26.5".

Because they are social, I have depicted several gulls, most flying in different poses.

I have placed one gull on the water, shown about to rejoin his colleagues in the air

And to add Atlantic coast context (and a little variety in colour), I painted a buoy to a lobster trap on the water.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Groundhog Gale

This week instead of featuring one of my paintings, I am going to look back 35 years to revisit the most powerful storm to hit Grand Manan in the 20th century, on Groundhog Day, 1976.  Two storms converged and delivered intense winds sustained at between 100 and 120 miles per hour.  Fish stands and sheds were smashed to pieces, smoke houses blew apart as if a bomb had blown up in them. Cars were washed off wharves.  Waves washed over the roads (here at Pettes Cove, North Head):

Amazingly no one was hurt, even though damage on Grand Manan exceeded a million dollars. I remember this storm well.  Carman Cook and I had bought a small purse seiner; we took delivery of the Miss Web on Thursday, January 29, insured it on Friday, January 30, and lost it on Monday February 2!  I had been aboard early that morning and checked lines and put out an extra set of lines to be on the safe side.  But tremendous seas crashing over the Seal Cove breakwater tore the side of the wharf away and boats were set helplessly adrift.  Our boat was one of them.

Still tied to the Connors carrier Irene Greenlaw, the Miss Web washed ashore on rocks at the head of Seal Cove Sandbeach.

Over the next several days, when the tide was down, we stripped the equipment off our boat (we had bought the boat back from the insurance company).

On the next set of high tides, after the Irene Greenlaw had been towed off, we made preparations to have the Miss Web towed off on the highest tide of the month.

Towed to a boat yard in Grand Harbour, we had the vessel completely rebuilt, replacing a lot of the planking and rebuilding her more to our needs.

With the vessel completely rebuilt, it seemed only fitting to rename the boat too: