Something about a bird and a power line

As I mentioned after my last trip to the Outer Banks, I enjoy seeing the above ground power lines connecting the houses. The birds like them too. Here’s one that settled across the way.


I also got a nice picture of my almost five-year-old daughter enjoying a little freedom on the beach this evening. There was an incredible sky, and so many birds were out fishing. I took a bunch of pictures. When I get home I will try to work out how to paint it.



Outer Banks Modern: Finishing Touches and a Better Photo

Over the past few days I have been studying this painting. Something wasn’t quite right about it. I realized that there wasn’t enough differentiation between the front of the house and the side. Since the sun was behind the clouds, I couldn’t really use a shadow side and light side approach. I needed to find something else, so I studied the lines where the front and side join. These were too neutral, so disappeared unless closely inspected. It also seemed that in too many places the siding wasn’t drawn out at the roof, again allowing the front and side to appear merged.

To fix these issues, I did the following:

1. Added a few more lines for siding shadow
2. Darkened the lines framing the windows and the trim
3. Added a small line of cobalt blue under the deck trim on the left
4. Darkened some of the set back windows
5. Brought the cloud closer to the right side of the house to give some framing for the extension of the deck.

Did these fixes work, or is there more to do here? I am not sure yet, but I am looking forward to putting this one behind me. I got a lot out of it, and feel like I took a pretty good leap forward since my last 11×14 work, the white house painting. I am comfortable with these more involved works, and feel ready to take one some new challenges. I have three directions I want to take at once for new paintings, and a bunch of new and old ideas coming together that I am anxious to get down. I will post these thoughts over the next few days as I start to bring them together and start a few new paintings.

Thanks for reading.

Outer Banks Modern Day Five: Completed for Now

Some things can only be seen in the shadows.
– Carlos Ruiz Zafon from The Shadow of the Wind

I started reading The Shadow of the Wind a few days ago, and this quote jumped out at me. The timing was perfect because I had just laid down the shadow across the front of the yellow house (shown in my last post and mixed with ultramarine, primary yellow, and burnt umber) and I was intrigued by the interesting look achieved because of the granulating ultramarine pigment. This is more than just a shadow. There’s some luminescence to it, and its presence gave the house an identity.

With this painting I have become very interested in the colors of shadows. I have been noticing how blue John Singer Sargent’s shadows often are, and how compelling they can be as a result. I wanted to borrow from that with the color of the white trim on the house, which, because of the strange cloudy and blue sky should reflect some interesting colors, and even on the fence. While the spaces are small, I tried to work in a few splashes of light cobalt, cerulean, and even a little viridian as another nod to Singer Sargent, as it was a favorite color of his. I also used it in the little power box at the base of the pole. Certainly not as compelling as his shadows (mine are actually quite bland in comparison), but what I did seems to fit, at least at this hour.

I think I am about done with this one, so I am showing it in a mat. I will hold on it for a few days to see what else, if anything, needs to be done and get a better photo with my Nikon and repost later, but for now here’s one last iPhone shot.

Thanks for reading.


Outer Banks Modern Day Four: Breakfast Remembrances

Far and away my favorite place to get breakfast on the Outer Banks is the First Light Cafe. Great food (especially the French Toast), and a great laid back oceanside atmosphere. Eating there always makes me want to open up an oceanside cafe of my own with some small batch coffee, good books, and good art. Making pancakes and listening to The Lovely Sparrows, Peter and the Wolf, Andrew Bird, and the other mellow indie bands in my morning mix with a warm breeze coming in through the open windows is a pretty good substitute.

I made some good progress last night, to the point where I am starting to get to the mood of the place. I think that might have something to do with the telephone pole. They are all over down there breaking up the view. They stick in my memory too. Plus, because so many of Hopper paintings feature them, the presence of the pole here seems to give the painting a little something extra. Next up will be working the sky some more, removing the masking and painting the trim on the house and finishing the power lines, then finishing the road. I am not happy with the two masses of foliage right now, but I will deal with them last. I want to see what the rest of the painting tells me about what to do there.

Thanks for reading.

Outer Banks Modern Day Three

Not much new to say tonight since I just posted a few hours ago, but I want to post where I am now.

I put in the bushes, dry-brushed the grasses, and put on another yellow glaze and a roof on the house. I think I might have overdone the bushes, but they’re really there as framing, so I am not going to worry too much about them tonight. Next up will be the windows and siding on the house, then the telephone pole. After that I will lay in the shadows on the house, and look at the sky again before removing the masking fluid and painting the wooden beams. Thanks for reading.


Almost Blue: Outer Banks Modern Day Two


One of the more exciting parts of painting is learning about a subject or a composition through the work. I obviously liked the yellow house image enough to paint it, but as I laid down the preliminary sky, house, and street to set the colors I keyed in on a few points and got a better understand of what interested me.

1. The color of the blue sky. This is going to be a very important part of the painting–so important that I had to buy new paints– W&N cerulean blue and Daniel Smith cobalt blue–to go with my standard Maimeri Blu primary blue cyan (pb 15:3), Prussian blue, and ultramarine. I did a lot of testing in preparation for this part before settling on cerulean and cobalt blue as core colors in a wet in wet application to lay down the first layer last night. It’s grainy an incomplete as shown. Now I need to saturate the sky more, and I think apply some ultramarine at the very top. I want the sky to be compelling and deep with a dramatic fade because it should grab the view and direct it to the house. It’s almost there. Incidentally, as my title suggests, all this focus on blue has gotten me crooning in a mumbly way that great Elvis Costello song “Almost Blue.”

2. The arrows and arcs, color and value contrasts that should lead the viewer to the top left of the house. The yellow set against the purple/blue cloud should be compelling once fully painted. It’s going to be an interesting slanted spectrum from the top right to the middle-bottom left once fully painted.

Also, I love seeing the last holdouts of blue skies set against a coming storm, so I decided to step up the drama by having stormier clouds, painted with cobalt, cerulean, ultramarine, quinacridone magenta, and burnt sienna. I need to refine these more, probably scrubbing and lifting as well as shaping, but will do so after I paint the foliage and ground so I keep the values appropriate.

For tonight, I plan to tackle the foliage and get the yellow of the house set. That should set up the composition pretty well for more decisions on the clouds, sky, and shadows. Then it will be on to the final details. I am feeling good about where this is going. Thanks for reading. I hope to post some more progress late tonight.

Thinking of William Eggleston and Outer Banks Modern: The Start of a New Painting

Most of the houses in the northern part of the Outer Banks have Victorian influences with miles of decking corseting the exterior (granted, they’re pretty boxy corsets), which is why I was amused when I saw this house down the street.


It’s very geometric, but something seemed a bit odd about it. Look at the siding. On the left of the house it is aligned with the angle of the roof, like hatching on a drawing, while on the front it is horizontal. But look at the front of the deck. It’s hatched at the opposite angle of side, which in a drawing would make it stand out from the the rest of the house front. Not sure it’s so successful on the house. It is as if the architect drew the house on canary paper with that hatching just as a matter of course, and the clients liked it so much that they said build it as is, color and all.

In editing the photo I wanted to see how this might look with an overly yellow house against an overly blue sky. It’s not right as shown, but I will fix that in the painting. I like how the clear part of the sky points directly at the house, perhaps inadvertently drawing attention to the funny siding. I will try to paint it with Eggleston’s color saturation in mind, “printing” the photo in watercolor as I want to see it, accounting for all the Hopper-sequence intrusions on the vision by the work itself (and my so-so drawing ability).

Here’s my framing sketch for an 11×14 painting.


My Mistake

I have another Outer Banks painting to post in the next few days, but in the meantime I want to relay this story and finished image now that we are back home.

In my last post I showed a Hopper inspired plein air painting of a vacation home across the way in the Outer Banks. I liked this attempt because it was fun to do, challenging in its forms, and I thought I made some good decisions regarding what to paint on it.

The next morning as I was making coffee I had my paintings out on the dining table, and my 4 year old daughter wandered over there. Then I heard,”Daddy, can I have some paper?”

“Sure, hold on. Let me finish the coffee.”

When I went to give her paper I saw her over my painting with a green crayon. Then I saw the painting. You can guess what had happened.

“Audrey, did you draw on my painting?”


“No, we never draw on other people’s paintings. I will give you your own paper over there. But don’t draw on my paintings. We have to respect other people’s art work.”


I was a little annoyed, and there seemed to be an important lesson here. Then I saw what she drew on it. “DADDY.” Big and green across the top.

“Wait. Audrey, did you sign my painting for me?”

“Yeah,” She smiled as if I should have known that immediately.

I was really touched. She was proud of my painting and signed it just like she signs hers. I gave her a hug and a kiss and explained why I told her not draw on other people’s work, but that once I read what she wrote I thought it was so sweet of her to try to sign mine. I wasn’t smart enough to take a picture of it like that or keep it as she signed it. I wish I did now. Instead, to recover the original painting, I sanded off the crayon and extended the sky so it would look better in a matte. I miss the giant green “DADDY,” though. That’s what really made it special. The lesson to learn was mine more than hers.