Marco Island Sketches


Terrible photos but the best I can do right now.   I’m still getting used to this new sketchbook and the sketches didn’t come out so well.  I’m learning though and each one I’m getting more of a handle on things.   The most successful pieces come out of pretty thick paint.  The paper doesn’t really absorb much water and soft, wet-in-wet work doesn’t really happen. 

Oh – and painting palm trees is HARD.

Trinity College Oxford.

I fancied another Oxford scene as I’ve just matted and packaged up my final (and most successful)
Turl Street painting

.   This was unhelpfully labelled ‘Oxford Courtyard’ and I don’t recognize it so I can’t be more specific than that (Edit: A bit of judicious googling discovered it is Trinity College).  I chose this as it wasn’t too complicated (lesson learned previously) but had some interesting twiddly bits on the building and some really nice windows.   (11×14 Arches 140lb rough).

I started with a fairly careful drawing and focused on important edges and angles rather than putting in every line.  I was very conscious of getting the drawing ‘right’ but not so rigid that when I came to paint it was just painting by numbers.  I’ve been bitten by that before and it doesn’t end well.

The next step were some under washes that were pretty light in tone.    Most of my successful architecture paintings have been done this way and it’s a good way to get some color on and feel your way round the painting and not commit too much.  A good way of ‘getting to know’ your subject in other words.   For most subjects doing the drawing serves this purpose but for buildings I seem to need this extra step.

Now we go in with the final ‘coat’ as it were.   Darks next to the sky and where I want to emphasize contrast and more subtle changes of tone in the less important and shadowy areas.   The dark horizontal shadows have to be treated carefully here.   I was careful to make variations in line color,  width and tone as well as leaving small gaps and losing edges here and there.   This keeps them from looking like they’ve been drawn in with a  marker pen.  For things that are very uniform in real life you have to treat them somewhat fuzzily in paint to make them convincing.   Luckily this makes them much more interesting to paint.

Also note I’m putting in parts of the sky around the top of the building as I go.   This helps me make sure I have the tones right in the building and that the sky relates to everything else and doesn’t look pasted on.

Past the midway mark here.   I didn’t have my usual (ITS ALL RUINED) moment with this painting which I suppose is a good thing.   Sometimes you can bring off a spectacular rescue of something you think has gone irretrievably wrong – these can be some of the most satisfying painting sessions.   But not this time.   I was worried about the clock and the right hand dark window but they came out ok.  Again it was a question of indicating the straight lines without looking too rigid.   In these cases I’ve settled on a procedure of painting in half the subject pretty faithfully and then smudging the paint around for the rest of it so some is precise and some is very fuzzy.

This is very nearly finished and I took a photo just in case I ruined it.   I wasn’t happy with the upper windows – they look too washed out and wanted to beef them up a bit.

The final thing – pretty happy.  The repainting of the upper windows is ok but they were probably fine beforehand.


Onward through the master list.  Today was ‘horse’  which (like yesterday’s car) is not one of my favorite things to draw.    Joseph Zbukvic in one of his videos says they are the hardest thing on the planet to paint and I think he may be onto something.    I’m not too unhappy – I tried to leave white spots on the horse to help indicate shape which I think has worked.   The actual picture is a little bigger than this with some disastrous trees which I’ve cropped out.

Model T Ford

Next on the master list was ‘old car’.  I haven’t been looking forward to this for some reason.   Cars are tricky to draw for me and I took the perverse strategy of deliberatedly making the drawing quirky and the painting sketchy.    I’m also branching out into Fabriano Artistico paper as I’m starting to find Arches too spongy.   Arches has the advantage of staying wet for a long time but the down side to that the colors fade a lot as they dry as they’re soaking into the paper so much.    Considering all the messing around I was doing I’m pretty happy.

A Boat in the Sun

We’re in the middle of a snowstorm so I thought I’d warm up by having a sunny scene.

I can see why many painters like to paint boats.  There’s lots of contrast, great colors, strong verticals and horizontals – all of which help in making a good painting.  Enjoyed this very much and am pretty happy with the result.

(11×14 Arches 140lb cold pressed)

Kent Oast Houses

A struggle as always but pretty much came together in the end.  (11×14 Arches 140lb cold pressed)
I started with the right hand building and it never really came together.  The left hand white building fared somewhat better partly because of the contrast between the white walls and the roof.   The grass and foreground was put in very quickly using a squirrel mop and then roughly indicating the foreground fenceposts.  I had no idea whether this was going to work but I think it came off without distracting from the central buildings.    

And the original ref.