Maine: A Fish Out of Water

"Cactus Street Out of Water", by Robert Leedy, 2008, watercolor on Arches 140 lb. Hot Press paper

“Cactus Tree Out of Water”, by Robert Leedy, 2008, watercolor on Arches 140 lb. Hot Press paper (Unfinished)

Wednesday was the prettiest day since I’ve been in Maine. We were supposed to meet on Mechanic Street down near Outward Bound’s old office building near the public boat ramp. I got there early and met up with David who was just setting up for his demonstration painting. After the group arrived, David got underway and did a terrific painting of a few boats docked nearby.

The light was perfect and there were some very interesting shapes and colors that he incorporated into the painting. As usual – after a few hours –  we were let loose to begin our own paintings. I liked the same view and began a small painting.

I guess Wednesday was my bad day: my painting wasn’t going very well. I struggled with a palette that was not quite level and my colors were running into one another which caused them to run gray and towards the muddy side. There were large cumulus clouds that I picked at and the sky got much darker until I realized I had a painting that really wasn’t very interesting. I decided to scrap it and begin a new one.

It is easy to fall into a bad attitude and want to give up for the day. I had two hours left in the day and did not want to go empty-handed. I shrugged off the bad attempt and cleared my mind for a new start. The idea of two hours left was the only negative I was facing.

I decided to turn away from the waterside and walked over to where Allison was painting under the shade of a tree. She was working on a painting of some of the houses on Mechanic Street which have a very Hopperesque feel about them and are subjects I have painted before. I was interested in the roof line shadows of warm colors and contrasts with surrounding objects.

I wasn’t exactly sure of which house I wanted to paint. It was then that I turned around and saw the bow of this green sailboat on a trailer that was right behind me. It was framed up by a garage door and a dark, weathered building. The negative spaces created by the shape of the keel and the wooden cradle were very inviting. Then I saw the red Jeep which acted as a small counterbalance of color to the large green shape created by the hull of the boat.

“PAINT ME ! PAINT ME!” the boat screamed.

It is this kind of visual excitement that is crucial to a successful painting. Artistic enthusiasm easily translates into visual interest. Sure, I can be not as excited about a subject matter but when I am it definitely shows.

I worked large and I worked on Hot Press paper which dries quicker and gives off a rather “drippy” effect. It is necessary to work fast – the washes dry very fast and if you are not careful, unwanted hard edges will occur.

Again, I only had a couple of hours to work on this. I hope to finish it today or when I return to the studio.

“Cactus Tree” is the rather odd name given to this boat by someone and it is also part of my title.  I was a fish out of water when I had to deal with a disastrous painting. Cactus Tree was also out of water and a key player in saving my day on Wednesday.

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