Just returned from the always fun Easton Plein Air event out in Maryland. Above is one of my entries for the competition, “The Mildred Belle”, a 9x16 painting of a historic Chesapeake Bay “Buy Boat” that caught my eye on this overcast morning during the event. This boat was used as a middle-man for oyster and crab fishermen to bring their catch to market in the early 1950s.
I was drawn to the wonderful cool whites against the gray blue water and was interested in seeing if I could capture that effect. The trick was eliminating all of the confusing background that competed with the boat itself. I’ve attached my photo of the scene so you can see what was omitted. (This piece was painted entirely in plein air and my photo was only for documentation.) Good editing is always needed in any painting, but I had to be much more inventive for this one. The large lighthouse that was behind the boat was virtually the same color, limiting my impact of whites to contrast the boat. I deleted that entirely and used the red building behind it as a better shape. Its deeper rust color helped that small white piece of the bow to pop. I had to walk around the lighthouse, catch a glimpse of the red structure, then painted that in loosely from memory. It was the same on the left side of the scene with the other large boats directly behind. I deleted those too, but needed something in the distance to suggest the harbor, so I painted the two distant boats from a couple that were much farther to the left. I continued the green tree mass behind everything for added simplicity. Now I had a quieter, complementary background to support my main interest. I painted the Belle next but further omitted small, unsightly items such as the orange cooler and aft canopy, plus a few ropes and other items that were unnecessary. I added the American flag on the back and few more rust streaks, but pretty much stayed true to the ship.
The result was this simple portrait instead of a confusing mess of shapes. If we can’t see the forest for the trees, sometimes a beautiful scene can be overlooked. This was one time I didn’t mind that the sun never appeared. Enjoy!