Monday, June 29, 2009

Quick Draw

I apologize for the delay in posts. Been busy after my return from Italy getting things ready for the Festival of Arts in Laguna this summer, Telluride Plein Air, commission finalization, etc. (It’s good to be busy ... I think!)

This past week was the local Paint San Clemente competition and above was my winning painting from the Quick Draw that started off the week. Since they extended the duration of the quick draw to 3 hours this year, I used the extra time to get down to their local pier and set up. And the threat of rain kept the normally crowded beach parking manageable.

When faced with such a complex subject as an old wooden pier, the most important thing is simplicity. First, I try to set up at an angle where all the pier pylons appear as a mass instead of from the side where they look equally spaced. This eliminates the temptation to paint them all the same size and distance apart which is not very dynamic. Then I massed in a general pylon color for the middle to distant underside of the pier gradually moving forward in space and intensifying my colors. I pulled down dark suggestions of where I wanted the closer pylons, rather than trying to draw exactly what was there. The idea is to get a good “feeling” of the pier rather than attempting to paint in every piece of wood. After the whole pier was massed in loosely, I moved to the water and sky. I painted in a rough aqua color for the water leaving the white wash areas for later in the painting. The sky was painted next as it appears with no revisions. Now that the canvas was filled, the trick to making it look believable without being overworked is a slow building process of nuances, varying the temperature and not the value in the large masses of the water and pier underside. The only real details in the pier are the just the small edge highlights. I finished with the whitewash of the waves making sure I carried them through the pylons and keeping the shadows more purple. Lastly, I added the side support planks that nicely move your eye down the length of the pier. With some light poles and suggestions of people along the top, the painting was finished.

These old structures can be challenging, but they make a great subject if you succeed. Enjoy!


  1. brilliant work and in such a short time! and thanks for the break down of how it was achieved: always useful to hear how other artists approach a subject. r.

  2. welcome home and congrats on the winning painting, beautiful. and thanks for the thorough walk through...very helpful.

  3. Simplicity? These is no simplicity in this painting .... it is a masterful painting that looks like it took weeks to paint! Absolutely stunning! A sure winner!

  4. Extraordinary work! WOW! Thank you for the details on how you approached and handled this.

  5. I had heard that you won this competition... No wonder... This is terrific!!
    Thanks for the description of your process, too!