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.