I was invited to come down to the American Society of Marine Artists annual members meeting for two reasons, I’m a member and they wanted me to demo. I agreed but then I started to think about it….. I’m going to paint in front of some of the best marine artists in the country, what the hell could I ever show them? So all I could come up with was to do a big painting as a demo… 30×30. I’ve sort of taken to this size and scale and want to go even bigger on site but in thinking about the kind of artists that belong to this group, most are studio painters and most know boats from stem to stern. I don’t know my aft from a hole in the ground. (thank you, I’m here all week). In fact, when I started to paint this scene, one of the artists members came up and said, “Have you ever painted Grand Banks before?” and I replied, “Is that in North Carolina?”. He pointed out that Grand Banks was the brand name of the particular boat I was sketching in. Odd that I don’t know that stuff.
This whole thing was a bit daunting. A large piece like this could go south more easily than the other way and this demo had to wrap up by noon. It was scheduled to start at 9:30 but I set up at 8, sketched in the composition, mixed a lot of color and placed a few color notes to remind me of what the morning was like. The crowd of artists showed up at the alotted time and I had enough of a start that I could go to town without boring them with the preliminaries, they all knew how to draw anyway. Here’s a pic for scale. I sort of thought they would get bored and leave but to my surprise most stuck around for the duration to see how it all finished up. I think the one thing most artists want to see is how the whole thing gets tied together and when to stop. My main problem with this was the wide variety of whites in shadow and you can see in the photo (this is why we paint from life) there’s not a whole lot of variety there. I had to push every plane.
The thing about white is, with the exception of humans, it’s very influencable. It is tabula rasa for whatever it is next to. In the absence of direct light it readily accepts whatever ambient light is tossed its way; reflected light from water, ambient sky light, the boat next door, etc.In direct light it glows a variety of intense colors, none of which are pure white. As the sun moves, so too does its influence. This was a challenge. But I find I usually do my best work when I have a big challenge in front of me. The easy stuff just gets boring but the really hard stuff makes me focus. It turned out well enough that I’m taking it as is to a gallery tomorrow to hang on the wall for a few months before it gets returned. It’s sort of like free storage. In the end, I had several fine studio artists who were inspired to go out and paint big, and I sure hope they do. It’s fun.