Marblehead, MA: Plein Air and Studio scale up

16 x 20" acrylic. This scale up of the second plein air painting. (first attempt)
16 x 20″ acrylic. This scale up of the second plein air painting. (first attempt)

Marblehead, MA is one of the most picturesque, quaint towns I’ve ever seen. All the homes are New England style and most very historic dating back to early 1800’s.  It’s like stepping into an illustrated story book just to take a walk down the street.  I had two days to get some plein air painting in, and luckily those were the two days with the highest temps at a low 40 degrees (and wet-cold).

Plein air #1:

Redd’s Pond is very well known in Marblehead.  I arrived at the scene to see a half frozen pond after the “polar vortex” cold snap chilled it. It was low 40’s, but I really didn’t dress for the occasion.  The wind blowing up over the ice felt like it went straight to my bones.  After 40 minutes, I was shaking so badly I couldn’t add brushstrokes without hitting the canvas and knocking the easel unsteady.  It was time to go, so I dabbed quick color notes, took a reference pic and was outta there!

Dabbed some color notes, took a reference pic and got my cold butt outta there!
Dabbed some color notes, took a reference pic and got my cold butt outta there!
6x8" The house perspective is a bit off, but it has all the notes for a scale up painting.
6×8″ The house perspective is a bit off, but it has all the notes for a scale up painting.

Plein Air #2:

After getting back from snowboarding at Killington Mountain in Vermont for three days, I was much more acclimated to cold weather.  It made all the difference. I walked down to the coastline near The Barnacle restaurant (famous place), and set up my easel.  When I saw the scene of the New England coast line rocks with the Marblehead Lighthouse in the distance, I knew I could “tell a story” from it.  The yellow ochre and dark grey rock against the deep blue-gray waters makes the rock seems to glow when the sun hits it just right.  It was fun to mash that thick paint down and occasionally get a thumbs up and encouraging comments from those passing by on the walk way just behind me.  Its my goal to share what I see and hope others take a little closer look at how beautiful nature is.

Reference pic of the scene.
Reference pic of the scene.
6x8 acrylic sketch.
6×8 acrylic sketch.

When I got back home, I scaled the second plein air sketch up to a 16×20″ (see at the top of this article) and met an unfortunate lesson.  I think it was Richard Schmid who said in his “Alla Prima” book, that it take two to make a painting; one to paint, and the other to tell the painter when it’s done.  Luckily I took a picture at a good point before overworking it to death and ultimately making a very impressive kung fu chop to it.  It’s really difficult to make the New England rocks look right.  They have this weird (but cool) cracking shape that goes in a criss-cross pattern.  I’ll do a bit of practice to get that illusion and give it another go. Shouldn’t be hard to recreate after that.  A good friend of mine said, I bet Leonardo DaVinci was really good at kung fu (thanks, Shaz!).  Time to hit the trails for some mountain biking and get to it tonight! On to good side, even if I DO fail on the second attempt, I did get a good quality photo to offer prints from! ha. Always a silver lining.

Oh, I’ll start posting a link to available prints at the end of the blogs.  I found a great “on-demand” print company called FineArtAmerica and had a couple prints done to check for quality.  It looks great with archival gallery ink.  The total cost for an 11×14″ was less than $30 (including tax and shipping!).  I’d get around $10 to pay for materials and share my work, and you don’t spend a lot for a print. Win-win.

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4 thoughts on “Marblehead, MA: Plein Air and Studio scale up”

  1. I have a special fondness for Marblehead- My mother lived in Lynn, Ma and we spent many a day admiring the views.Thanks for sharing

    1. My brother, Eric, and his family are there, so I hope you can enjoy some memories in many future paintings. By the way, Paul Strisik was a fantastic painter and teacher of the New England area. If you Google his name I bet you’ll see a lot paintings you’d like!

    1. Thanks, Matt! I’ve been looking for good references on New England coastline paintings to learn how to paint seascapes. Any reference favorite artists for the area up there?? Looks like you’re in for yet another cold snap. Time to break out the big gloves again, huh? Good luck!

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