Maine: Curiously Yellow


"View of Rockland Harbor from the Mechanic Street Peninsula", by Robert Leedy, 2008, watercolor on Arches 140 lb. Hot Press pape

"View of Rockland Harbor from the Mechanic Street Peninsula", by Robert Leedy, 2008, watercolor on Arches 140 lb. Hot Press paper, 14.75" x 10.25"


The weather has been extraordinarily cooperative since I’ve been here. The first evening, as I arose from the dead after my marathon drive up here, I turned on the Weather Channel to get an idea of how the week might be. The forecast was not good. In fact, it was pretty bad as it called for rain and cloudy weather all week long. I cross-checked this with the local television station’s weather and the bad news looked badder…

Reality exists on another plane here in Maine.

Wednesday, we headed in to Rockland and painted from David’s friend, John’s place on the water. John is an ex-aircraft mechanic (I believe) and Master Tinkerer with a workshop (some less informed might use the J-word) sandwiched between two shipyards at the end of Mechanic Street. It is quite an interesting place and John is quite the collector. You could spend hours looking at all of the stuff inside John’s buildings.  John listens to opera while he tinkers. I get a kick out of what I call the “Copa Cabana” – a small shed facing the water where John has installed sliding glass doors, a sofa, artwork on the walls and reading material at hand; I guess John uses it for moments of pause and inspiration – or possibly just breaks from all of the “stuff”.  In any event, he is very nice  to let us invade his domain!

Mechanic Street is one of my favorite spots in Rockland. When I was here last, I painted “Mechanic Street Fog” at the end of John’s dock; I was excited about doing another painting of it and I am deeply saddened to realize it no longer exists – the poor little Red House fell into the water since I was last here.  

I recovered from my grief and moved on to newer subjects.

David did an interesting painting using an underpainting and complementary colors to create value through contrast and color. His subject matter was minimal and the painting was more of an atmospheric statement and play with color – a theme he seems to be working with in his current paintings.

This was an exercise of control and subtleness which are not very common factors in my work.

I started out with a yellow wash as an underpainting. It actually was quite yellow that morning – due to a bit of overcast sky; it was very warm and the yellow-cast light from the clouds seemed to accentuate this heat that seemed to come out of nowhere.

I used complementary colors to slowly build my painting. The yellow underneath replaced the typical white spaces that are used to create form in most other watercolors. This was a lesson in restraint for me. and was a good change from the unbridled painting of Tuesday – “Marshall Point, Maine”

It was hard not pushing the darks as I normally do.  The tugboats and ship are loosely treated and become mere abstractions of color that seem to appear as they might be some sort of marine subject matter. Whether they are or not, it is the visual interest that balances the rest of the calmer areas of the painting. The colors in the boats are more intense, relatively speaking, to the colors in the background.

After a nice dinner out with David and some fellow students at Rustica, an Italian restaurant in town, I headed back in the rain to the Craignair for another sound night’s sleep.

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