Digby Wharf

I’m in Digby for couple of days while  hubby attends a conference at the Digby Pines. I’ve looked at the Wharf a few times on other trips and thought it would be cool to paint.  

Plenty of boats were tied up but I limited myself to attempting only a few. Instead I concentrated on how to capture a good representation of the timbers with watercolour techniques — lifting off and negative painting.

This 8×10 took about two hours to work up in my sketch book. Some things I like are the blue and green tones in the water, the two boats at the wharf and the detail in and around the wharf.  The little grey boat on the right was in my line of sight for only a couple of minutes. I thought it would balance the picture when I drew it in but by the time I painted it I was trying to recall it from memory.

The other lessons I learned were to not sit with the sun behind you because your shadow falls across the paper, and, it’s a bad idea to sit where there are mooching ants. In the absence of crumbs the artist is a good menu option. 

Scot’s Bay in the fog.

Got back out for some on-site painting today. The Bay was mostly hidden by thick fog. I included a hint of the far shore in the background and some sunlight that caught the centre rocks. Both appeared later as the fog lifted.

The Wharf (not included here) was badly damaged in a hurricane so has lots of keep off signs on it. When it was in better shape, fishing boats would navigate in and out between these rocks.

When I started, the water was quite low but by the time I left two hours later, the rocks in the center were mostly covered.  There’s nothing like 40 foot tides to give you a healthy respect for the ocean.

Across the Estuary

The sun’s back out but my energy is low so my practice today is limited to a 3×5 moleskin page.

It was a good practice mixing greens using my travel palette. I purchased the compact set in London and although they are Winsor & Newton, they seem a little different from the tubes I buy in Canada.

I’ve been taking my regular palette with me the last few times I’ve painted and had better success. I’m likely just more familiar with it. There may be no correlation. But, I really want to go minimalist on this plein air thing; there may be a few potential trips coming up.

I think I’m going to start keeping track of the colours I use most and only take those.  I wonder, do other painters have a variety of pallets for plein air: a forest palette, an urban palette, a seaside palette, or a flower palette?

Point Prim, Nova Scotia

img_1167Another three firsts today… first time at this location,  first outing with a watercolour sketch book for it’s rainy baptism (painting in the rain… also a first).

Point Prim in Digby, does not come up on Google maps.  Instead, you’re directed to the location of another Point Prim in PEI. After double checking we managed to find our way with minimal confusion.

The light was grey and flat. The clouds held all the drama and delivered on their promise of rain. I originally painted only one large lone spruce but the rain took care of that, so I lifted off the remnants and added three new trees when I got home. It turned out to be a big improvement. Post field-work also included lifting off much of the darker values on the rocks, adding some life to the scene.  Reserving more white around the trees and rocks could have made it sparkle.

Other things I would improve: The boat doesn’t seem to work. It seems pasted on and needs a highlight, the sky could be darker and more dramatic which would make the light in the water stand out, and the water could be calmer – it’s fairly distant.  Compositionally (making up words now), I might add a large piece of driftwood or a weathered tree in the foreground for depth.  Hindsight is twenty-twenty.

I’m not disappointed though. It came together fast and I didn’t stray too far from my goals. The bits I most like, in addition to the new trees, are the rocks closest to the trees and the foreground water.

Because of the rain we all worked quickly with some of us toughing it out and others packing up and leaving. For the intrepid six of us that remained for the critique it was a good paint-out.




Lupins 5×7 WC Fabriano hp


The lupins outside are past their prime now.  Fortunately I took a few reference photos at the cottage in June.  I always thought it would be great to paint them.

I worked mostly wet in wet, masking out the whites first with tape then fluid.

Finally, I added a few big splashes of Windsor and Newton Permanent Mauve.

For a quick practice this was fun.

Waiting for Low Tide #2

Waiting for Low Tide #2 8×10 WC 140lb Arches cp


This is the 8×10 finished version of my previous post. The warmth of the sun is still present but everything looks more natural and relaxed. The contrast still adds a measure of tension. Let me know what you think about the two. Which do you prefer?

Feeling successful and happy that the first one gave me the information I needed to catch problems as they came up (even if they were mostly of my own making). Maybe there is something to using a value sketch.

The plein air session on Thursday is about a 2-3 hour drive to Point Prim.  It may be worth going just to get some more coastal images to work from.

Waiting for Low Tide #1

Waiting for Low Tide 5×7 WC sketch 140lb arches cp
This 5×7 practice piece was to work out value and colour choices. These plovers were waiting patiently near the Kingsport Wharf, for the tide to recede, so they could resume feeding. The reference image I took is fairly dull and out of focus but there was the potential for high contrast.  The challenge was to bring the picture to life while preserving the highlights/contrast. 

Along the way I made some classic faux pas: dry brushed the water a second time while the paper was damp, used too much pigment for the rocks which I turned into a yellow glow. Sunrise? Sure, why not.  I masked the birds initially then used a burnt sienna and ultramarine mix to give me grey… then realized they are actually a soft brown.  The dark rocks are a mix of indigo and raw sienna but still need some lifting of highlights near the top edge.

I redid the birds with white gouache then went in too quickly with the brown. The gouache was still wet and the muddy results show. The bird front and center comes closest to the colour it needed to be. And, the shading worked best on the one in front of that.
I didn’t bother detailing the edges of the rocks too much after all was said and done.   I’ve already started redoing it with a lighter touch and values, hoping to have more success with the technical aspects.