Michele Clamp Art


Boats at the Naval Yard, Boston Harbor

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Boats at the Naval Yard, Boston Harbor. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 14”x11”


14”x11”/20”x16” with mat.

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I’ve been saving this scene for a bit since our painting trip to the Naval Yard in Boston. I had a disastrous outing with a previous scene but couldn’t resist the boats for any longer. I’m pretty happy - the effect of strong sunlight is there and the composition is pleasing. A good days work.

Motif #1, Rockport

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Motif #1, Rockport. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”

Motif #1, Rockport
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This scene is almost too familiar to paint and I’ve avoided it until now. Apart from the familiarity of the subject I’ve also avoided it because it didn’t really grab me compositionally. It is just a big red shed after all.

Yesterday, however I thought ‘why not?’ and set to work from a shot I took about 5 years ago. After much cropping I settled on what I thought was a simple arrangement. In practice, however, this turned out to be pretty complicated and ended up being a two day affair.

I started with hot press paper which had worked out so well with the Orchard Beach painting. The drawing went well - kept things pretty loose and undefined :

Next comes the hard bit - initial washes. I’m keeping away from the darks right now and wanted to keep the values close together. I especially didn’t want to overdo the shadow on the red building. Just dark enough to show it’s in sunlight but not so dark it ruins the effect. I was also trying hard to get some texture and variation into the broad areas of color. Spraying with water and some judicious light glazing kept these areas interesting.

Putting the windows in is always tricky. It never ceases to amaze me how little detail you need for an area to say ‘I’m a window’. In fact if you get too accurate it looks odd and pasted on. Pretty happy all round at this point.

Next was going in with the darker areas around the waterline. This is always tricky and it could go horribly wrong at this point.

Phew. Got away with it. It’s starting to come together now. There was a sticky moment when the boat wasn’t tied into the water and had that painted on look. Some carefully placed darks and blending of color between boat and water saved the day.

At this point as long as I don’t do anything really stupid I should be ok.

Almost home here. The boat is in with just enough detail and contrast to be interesting but not overdefined. The stone wall is suggested with a few lines. Just some touching up and we’re done.

The final thing. I think I’m ok with it. As always it’ll take a couple of days to reveal the stuff I really like and also the stuff I hate. Fingers crossed.

The original photo (heavily cropped).

The Pier at Old Orchard Beach, Maine

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Pier at Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 14”x11”

Old Orchard Beach, Maine
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I treated myself to some hot press paper and this is its first outing. We spent the New Year at Old Orchard Beach a couple of years ago and I snapped the pier which turned out to be a pretty nice composition.

For a first outing I’m pretty happy. No blending on the paper with hot press and with the fans and the heat the paint dries pretty much immediately. Some nice effects though.

Morgan Point Lighthouse, Noank, CT

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Morgan Point Lighthouse, Noank, CT. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”

I can’t usually resist painting a lighthouse and this is from our recent trip to Mystic, CT with some friends. We tried to walk down to see the lighthouse but couldn’t quite get there so this is from a photo taken by the ever lovely Heather Longden from the water.

Lots to like here. Great sense of sun and light and some nice subtle shadows. There will probably be more to come in this vein.

Seascape Joy

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I was procrastinating today and thinking what I really wanted to paint.  Then I remembered how I enjoyed the clifftop painting of a couple of days ago and thought 'Yes!  A seascape!'.

This was an absolute joy to paint and came out even better than I'd hoped.   Seascapes can be tricky.   The subtle tones of the water leave you one chance and one chance only to put in the delicate shapes of the water and foam.   Not to mention remembering to leave white where white should be.    Some people use masking fluid or go back in with white gouache to add spray but, to me,  both of those detract from the clean effect of pure watercolor.   

As usual some intermediate shots :

I put in a rough drawing just to indicate where the main lines of the rocks should go.  No heavy pencil lines here as they detract from the water.   Good so far.   I softened the sky and the background sea around the main spray area leaving things pretty loose.

I decided to do the rocks in two steps.   First an underwash to state the main shapes and put in some varied color.  The darks would go in later to give them some form.   So far so good - the paint was granulating nicely on the paper giving some good texture and visual interest.

Next I wanted to just put in an indication of where the dark blues were in the waves.   Had to be careful here not to overdo the color otherwise you lose the fluidity of the water and it becomes solid.  Still going ok!

Next step was putting the darks in the rocks.   I kept things crisper in the middle of the painting and also softened edges away from the shadow edges.   Still going ok.  

However, all this was the easy bit.    The real challenge comes next.    To finish off the water I needed to darken up the dense part of the waves just enough to suggest water volume but not so much that they start competing with the rocks for solidity.    After that is an even more subtle step where I have to suggest structure in the white frothy areas with almost no color at all.    Both of these steps need a confident yet really light touch of the brush.   The brush barely touches the paper but skims across the surface leaving speckles of color.   And hardest of all you have to know when to stop - this can get addictive and there's always a little voice saying 'I'll just do this'.  Was I up to it?

Well yes!!   Nothing is ever pefect but I managed to do just enough and he came out handsomely.    Sometimes all the frustration is worth it.

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Our wonderful local art center Post Road Art has a number of exhibitions throughout the year.    The next one is seascapes and landscapes so I thought I'd turn my hand to some sea and rocks.    Now historically this has been a danger area for me (What isn't?   Horses, buildings, snowy owls - all pose all sorts of problems).    But hey!  Nothing ventured, nothing gained so off I went.

The drawing was uneventful.   just outlining the rock shapes and where they meet the sea.   The washes went in fairly well :

Not too light,  not too dark and some nice rough edges in the sea to allow for foam.

The next step was crucial.   Getting the final darks in on the rocks so they stand out against the top of the cliffs was very important.   At the same time I wanted to get enough variation in the rocks to suggest structure.    This went pretty quickly and came out  well.    

Next was the sea.     Always tricky.    Don't overdo it as everything gets colored in and you lose the impression of foam.    Underdo it and you don't get enough depth of color to show the form of the water.     Again the gods were smiling on me and this went well too!!

The final piece was the foreground.   I'd tried to get some thick paint on and drop water in to create texture but that obviously didn't work.    One last try  - keep the board a little more vertical,  very thick paint with water and even thicker paint dropped in.    And it worked!    It's been a good day.

I don't think this will be my final submission for the exhibition but it's a good backup if nothing else comes together.

Kittery Point - Day 2. Portsmouth Harbor

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It's pretty warm here and I'm discovering that choosing something to paint depends a lot on finding somewhere to sit that isn't roasting hot but still has something interesting in view.   I know that some people have umbrellas that they attach to their easels/ground/themselves and maybe they're worth it but it's yet another thing to lug around.   I've also seen people spend more time fiddling with the umbrella than painting and I have enough trouble keeping my easel under control.   But I found a shady spot on a wall where I could sit out of the sun and still have my easel up.    Not the perfect scene but good enough.

Frankly it came out very differently and better than I originally thought.   The first aim was to just paint the boats and leave most of the foliage out.   (Foliage is hard!).   However it turned out that a lot of the foliage crept in and came out pretty well.    Boats came together well - not too much detail, just enough to make sure you know it's a boat.      As always there are a couple of things annoying me . I put that boat smack bang in the center of the picture which I shouldn't have.   Also the sea needs a bit more punch - it's pretty much the same color as the sky and I could have given it more color.

But on the whole - pretty chuffed.

Even in the photo you can see I should have given the sea some more welly.

Resting on the porch after a hard afternoon's work.

Sunset - Day 8 of 30 and 30 and going backwards

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This was really tough and I almost didn't post.  Not much to say really - had terrible trouble with getting the tonal values right.   The pier came out too dark and the sea too light and then when I went in and corrected it all just looks *meh*.

Steps below.

As always started out fine.  Drawing was pretty simple and the sky went in pretty well.

Started on the palm trees - was pretty happy at this point and hopes were high.

Oh dear - what is that pier thing doing?  Maybe I would have been better off without it completely.

Darkened the sea somewhat to see if things improved.  A little but we're way down the bottom of the barrel.

Portland Lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth

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I needed some respite from the seemingly never-ending birds so I had a soothing Saturday afternoon with a lighthouse.  This is Cape Elizabeth, Maine.   I have never really tackled sea and rocks like this and it came out rather well.   Much better than birds.