Day 8 of 30 in 30 – Motif #1, Rockport, MA

Motif #1, Rockport, MA. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 14″x11″

Another one from the archives and a view of the very popular Motif #1 that has a bit more compositional interest than most. As usual I’m not sure about this. I’m rushing these in order to get them done in one day so there’s some areas that I should have thought through more. But on the whole it hangs together well.

Ogunquit Coast – Day 5 of 30 in 30

Ogunquit Coast. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 14″x11″

Well this is a little better I think. This view is from a visit to Ogunquit a few years ago. I like the big sweep of rocks and snow with the house right at the top. The rocks were a bit of a challenge but it all came together.

Some intermediates

Iris and Seagulls


I’m really enjoying these smaller size paintings/sketches. They come together quickly and I can get two done in a session. And they’re turning out pretty well.

First we have an iris with those oh so tricky shadows on the yellow petals. Second was something completely different – a lighthouse and a seagull. I have lost where this actually is but I’m sure someone will know.


Of Birds and Bridges


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More small sketches to day. I started doing a very quick bird value sketch but it quickly turned into something more so I left it at the sketch stage. I risked a background in which I don’t usually do but the risk paid off.

The second one was fun to do. The colors are so glorious and the dark foliage of the trees lends itself to loose brushwork. I made a dog’s breakfast of the sky but it has a certain charm nonetheless.

(Edit: A facebook friend tells me this looks like the Mackinac bridge in Michigan. I have to agree)


Bringing it all together – lighthouse edition.


In class last week someone requested a seascape scene with rocks. After browsing through my references I thought I’d throw in a lighthouse too as I can almost never resist a lighthouse painting.

This actually brought a lot of the things we’ve been practicing in exercises together. We have the value changes on the lighthouse (white cubes), edges and painting in layers on the rocks and skies. The only new thing is the water which we touched on in one lesson but only briefly.

If this hadn’t been for a lesson I would have pushed it a lot further. Especially the water which needs some more detail to better suggest the white foam and more depths in the blues. But I need this for tomorrow and didn’t want to trash the whole thing so here it is.

Some intermediates :


The drawing. Quite sparse here and only marking out the big shapes.


I was going to start with the sky and work down but the rocks were worrying me so I tackled these first. This wash is meant to hit the lightest values in the rocks and, as most of it will be covered up later it can be quite rough and ready with some slight color and value changes.


A darker color goes in in broad, squarish shapes to suggest the shadow side of the rocks and give them form. Some edges are left hard and others are blended out to reflect the hard and smooth sides of the rocks. The grassy area and the foreground are left with less value changes to keep the focus on the lighthouse and the rocks next to it.


The sky goes in with neat cerulean. I’m careful here to use the blue to define the edges of the lighthouse so it stands out against the sky. It doesn’t need to be too dark here – slight value changes are more effective in suggesting sunlight.

The water was a bit of a gamble. I really could have gone further here – after class tomorrow I may go back and add more detail.


The final stage was to add in the darks on the top of the lighthouse and smooth out some edges in the shadows so things don’t look too pasted on. I also darkened up the shadow side of the lighthouse a little and greyed it off compared to the sky.

There’s still stuff that’s annoying me but this will have to do for today.

Boats at the Naval Yard, Boston Harbor

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


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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

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).