Two Views of the Freya MY OWN BACKYARD

Painting Two Pictures Simultaneously Seemed a Bit Over the Top

But this was an historic moment and the weather was oh so perfect!

I took my easel to the homecoming of the Freya, a steel-hulled sailboat built on Gwynn’s Island by the late Gilbert Klingel. Arriving early on Saturday, I selected two views where she would be visible for a painting.

MY OWN BACKYARD ~ DOROTHY FAGAN
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map of Gwynn's Island
The mouth of the Piankatank River opens into Hills Bay. The Freya would be sailing from Ginny Point in Cobbs Creek, just up river, then through The Narrows into Wharf Creek.

Painting two pictures simultaneously seemed a bit over the top. But this was an historic moment and the weather was perfect. I set up my easel at the edge of Hills Bay and blocked in the seascape. The water was choppy as usual, and green! Light green, dark green, murky and aqua ~ off in the distance the tree line of the mainland melted into the far shore of the Piankatank.

plein air painting sailboats
Block-in for Hills Bay View painting, Freya Homecoming

I choose a high position on the canvas for the horizon. Anticipating the path of the Freya, which would be arriving down river from Ginny Point in Cobbs Creek. Her sails would be up. But not for long as she would soon be passing through the Narrows. A sailboat can’t go through the drawbridge with wind in her sails.

This is true for people too! When we are going through the narrows, crossing bridges as it were, we need to slow down and trim our sails. Expecting speed is all American. So learning patience comes slowly to many of us!

This would be a rare opportunity to paint her in all her glory, sails afurl. I took my time to lay out my plan carefully. Staying focused, I blocked it in, then moved my easel across the road behind the Mathews Maritime Foundation’s boathouse to set up the second painting.

Several views presented good vantage points. To choose the best, I tried standing on the elevated platform behind the boathouse  where I could see the entire harbor, Callis Wharf in the distance. Too much!

I walked out on the pier. Standing half way out, I could see the back side of the draw bridge across Wharf Creek. But still there was a lot of clutter that would distract from the Freya. Not to mention it was in full sun!

Under the shady tree by the picnic table at the edge of the water, foreground grasses and driftwood framed open water where she would pass on her way to the dock. This is the view I selected.

plein air painting sailboats
I selected this view because it framed the water where the Freya would take center stage.

For this second more detailed painting, I choose a larger canvas. Estimating where the Freya would be positioned in the painting, I blocked in the mainland shoreline and scrubbed in warm and cool greens of the shore where I stood. I imagined this circle of greenery as a frame for the white sailboat.

Do you see how the driftwood in the foreground seems to reach out with arms to embrace the view? It almost looks like a person! Every painting is a self portrait in some sense, as to paint it with emotion one must own it.

plein air painting sailboats
I work quickly to block in bold shapes and values with a large brush.

A nice bank of afternoon clouds had moved in over the mainland. I used their warm pinks and lavenders to hug the colors close, framing the top of the painting. The line of wharves behind the drawbridge created a dotted path of light and dark shapes. I decided to use them to lead the eye to center stage.

wharf creek painting
detail view of wharf, dotted darks and lights lead the eye to the center position for the Freya.

As time drew near friends gathered to watch. I stopped painting and walked back across the road to snap a photo as she sailed through Hills Bay with her escort, The Peggy, a buyboat that’s considered to be the Mathews flagship.

A crowd had gathered. Chatting, I enjoyed the excitement. I met new friends and old, so startled that painting had suddenly become social! Stepping out of the studio to paint in a crowd is not a familiar view!

Freya homecoming
The Freya, as she sailed through Hills Bay on June 3, 2017.
plein air painting Mathews VA
Freya Homecoming, oil on canvas, 11′ x 14″ Purchase Info>

Back to the easel … Setting the stage, I intentionally kept my colors mid- and lower value. This helps to establish the composition, while still leaving sufficient latitude to move things around as needed. This strong structure of the painting provides me freedom. Funny, people often think an artist is a free spirit without structure. Not true!

Creative structure is not visible if one is not aware of what to look for. Yet it is that structure that provides creative freedom, serendipitous choice. You can see this structure in the block in, as I have established an integrated structure of mid and dark values, the stage where the star of this painting will shine. This reserves those pops of highlight, deep shadow, and vibrant color for the seemingly serendipitous final touches.

Freya homecoming
The Freya and The Peggy as they enter Wharf Creek.
painting Freya prints
Return of the Freya, oil on canvas, 16″ x 20″ Purchase Info>

Once the Freya and Peggy docked everyone gathered to share the celebration. I’ve never been served champagne at my easel before! Another fresh new view I’ll not soon forget!

Prints of these paintings are available here. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Mathews Maritime Foundation. These original paintings can be seen this summer at “The Pearl and It’s People ~ A Celebration of Mathews” at the Bay School Community Arts Center in Mathews, June 10 ~ August 5, 2017. A reception will be held June 30, 6 – 8 pm

Oh, I almost forgot to mention … one of the old friends, Mary Claire Coster, who’s cottage garden is on the island, stopped by my easel and invited me to come by and paint with her. Knowing I could complete my painting in the studio, freed me to accept her invitation on a whim!

Stay tuned for intoxicating fragrance from her gardenia and jasmine next time! Cheers!

MY OWN BACKYARD ~ DOROTHY FAGAN
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Which Palette are YOU?

Pastel, Jewel, or Earth
Which Palette are YOU?

We’ve all heard of pastel colors, jewel tones, and earth colors. But what are they ~ really? What makes them what they are? And why should you care?

If you don’t already know which of these 3 palettes is YOU, take a moment to scan the 3 images below.

Which one draws you in?

Which feels most comfortable to you?

Which one IS you?

Is there one you hate?

Jewel Tones Palette ~ Blooming
Jewel Tones Palette ~ Blooming, oil painting & fine art print

Jewel Tones Palette

How do the Jewel tones make you feel?

Jewel tones are pure pigment, or nearly pure pigment. Very saturated colors. Intense.

The colors in this painting; Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Violet, Vermilion, Magenta, Veridian, Cadmium Yellow, Turquoise have been mixed with just enough white to bring the color identity to light.

The dark center of the flowers is Prussian Blue pure pigment. It appears black, but is not. If black were substituted for this color, it would appear lifeless and dead.

for artists

Charvin Jewel Colors
Ruby Red, Rubine Lake, French Red Light, Diamond Orange,
French Yellow Orange, French Yellow, Anise, Meadow Green, Peacock, Emerald, Intense Turquoise, Deep Turquoise, French Cobalt Blue, Deep Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue, Rembrandt Vermilion, Rembrandt Quinacridone Rose, Sennelier Rose

Pastel Tones Palette ~ Gently Sunset
Pastel Tones Palette ~ Gently Sunset,  oil painting & fine art print

Pastel Palette

Now let’s look at the colors in this pastel palette. How do these colors feel to you?

Pastel tones are the same pure pigments, mixed with white. This dilutes the pigment. The dark in this example is actually Shadow Green. Mixed with Provence Blue, the color beside the full strength Shadow Green feels pastel.

Please note: this is an oil painting, not a pastel painting. My discussion here is about pastel tones, not the medium of pastels.

for artists

Charvin Pastel Colors
Naples Yellow, Incarnat, Celadon Green, Green Gray Light, Water Green, Tropical Green, St Remy Green, Deep Opaline Green, St Remy Blue, Caraibes, Royal Blue, Bright Linen, Leaded Gray

Earth Tones Palette
Earth Tones Palette ~ Winter Marsh,  oil painting & fine art print

Earth Tones Palette

How do Earth Colors make you feel?

Earth colors are created from pigments found in the earth, Carmine, Red Earth, Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber, Siena, Charcoal, Zinc White. These elements are literally dug from the earth and ground up fine like sugar. This granular pigment is then used to create oil paint, acrylics, watercolors and pastels.

for artists

Charvin Earth Colors
Yellow Ochre, Raw Siena, Transparent Yellow Ochre, Pouzzoles Red, Aubere Pink,
Raw Umber,  Savana, Green Shell, Deep Celadon Green

pastel palette
One tray of pastels with a color chart.

Here is a section of my pastel palette with one of my color charts. Which palette would you say this is?

HINT  There may be more than one right answer!

Which Palette are YOU?

View Results

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I see y’all are voting heavily for the Jewel Tone Palette! Me too! However, there’s something I’ve discovered about balancing colors that requires all three. In doing my artist residencies in France and Italy, I’ve discovered a Color Fusion Palette that creates harmony.  Here’s an example.

Waking Dreams IV
Waking Dreams IV, oil

Can you see the difference between Waking Dreams IV and Blooming? Waking Dreams incorporates all three palettes. Learn more about my Color Fusion Palette in my Awakening Hearts Series and how you can use it in your home to create wellness, serenity, and vitality.

See the one I’m working on today

Can you see the woman in the landscape?

Perhaps not yet. I discovered her in another painting several weeks ago. Since then I’ve noticed she’s in a LOT of my paintings!

Dorothy Fagan Studio
Blocking in a new painting

See the one I’m working on today

Inspired by the idea of an abstract woman in my landscapes, a new way of looking at the blank canvas engages me in the studio. More questions than answers, I am intrigued to discover who she really is!

The small painting on the left easel is my inspiration for the large canvas. I have already painted a Gold Ochre underpainting with oil paint. This gives the canvas some tooth to resist my brush strokes.

close up view
A close up view shows how I am marking out the main forms and shapes of my composition.

Sketching Her Out

Using full strength pigment oil paint, without any medium to thin it, I block in the forms and shapes to fill my canvas. This is where I put my body into the painting. Just the size of the canvas itself is approximately the same as my body. This canvas is 30″ wide and 40″ tall, about the size of an adult woman.

sketching her out
Can you see in the thumbnail sketches in my journal, how these simple shapes translate onto the large canvas?

In the journal she is 2″ tall. On the color study she grows to 14″ Then on the large painting she mushrooms to 40″ ~ a full grown woman.

There is a lot you can’t see about her in the sketchbook that blooms in vibrant color on the 14″ study. And there is a LOT more yet to be articulated in the full size painting.

This painting is part of my Awakening Hearts Series. She doesn’t have a name yet. Perhaps I’ll take suggestions as we go along painting her. Post your suggestions in the comments below.