Winslow Homer at the Clark

The Clarke Museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts has a great collection of paintings by Winslow Homer. Here are just a few that are currently on display.

The closeup below shows Homer’s loose brushwork and rich application of paint.

Closeup of Summer Squall by Winslow Homer

Closeup of Summer Squall by Winslow Homer

February 28, 2016

I spent the evening doing color studies for the C-17, painted directly on 5″ x 10″ photographs of the larger painting. Here’s the photo before any paint has been applied. At this point, I was concerned that the image may be too monochromatic.

The original image.

The original image.

First I tried making the sky dark blue, but it just didn’t look right. The painting had lost the moody feeling along with all of the interesting clouds in the sky. I did like the glowing green cockpit lights, but they came at a cost – the windows were no longer unified with the sky.

Dark blue sky and glowing green cockpit.

Dark blue sky and glowing green cockpit.

I wanted to retain the moody feeling of a stormy industrial sky at midnight, so for my second attempt, I introduced broken green and purple in the sky. This was a bit more successful than the blue sky, but the change that really made a difference was illuminating the tail and the leading edges of the wing and the engines.

Sky is broken purple/green. Tail, wing leading edge, and engines are illuminated.

Sky is broken purple/green. Tail, wing leading edge, and engines are illuminated.

Here’s the third study. This time, I tried to retain the orange clouds, while introducing violet in the sky and teal on the tarmac. This was the most successful study of the evening, but it still didn’t have the mood of the industrial night sky. Part of the problem is that orange clouds against a violet sky read as sunrise or sunset, and this works against the mood of a dark giant in the dead of night.

Sky is broken orange/violet. Tail, wing leading edge, and engines are illuminated.

Sky is broken orange/violet. Tail, wing leading edge, and engines are illuminated.

My key learnings from the studies are

  1. The sky cannot be blue because even a very dark blue will read as a clear day, just before the dawn. Purple and orange work well for post-midnight industrial sky. Next time I will try a green sky.
  2. The design is much better when the tail and wing and engines are illuminated.

More Pieces from the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum

The Mount Holyoke College Art Museum has quite a large collection of interesting paintings. Here are a few highlights from my last visit.

Davis Museum

Here are a few pieces from the Davis Museum at Wellsley College. The Huffington Post has an interesting article on Alice Neel’s Wellesly Girls.

February 21, 2016

Finally getting back to the C-17 nocturne after a week of travelling. This evening I lightened the sky and hills, removed the building reflections, and worked on the pool of warm red light spilling out from underneath the belly of the beast. The composition seems much stronger now that the sky is lighter. It is interesting – the sky on the horizon is nearly white but the image still reads as a nocturne.

At this point, it remains hard to visualize the final composition because I haven’t illuminated the vertical stabilizer and the leading edges of the wings and the engine nacelles. Once I have these elements in place I should be able to adjust all of the values and then start adding details.


Pivot Art and Culture

Here are some pieces from The Figure in Process: de Kooning to Kapoor 1955 – 2015, on view at Pivot Art and Culture through February 28, 2016.

February 10, 2016

Last night I finished the drawing and then spent about an hour transferring it to an 18″ x 36″ black canvas. The lines were drawn with a Montana acrylic paint marker and then I added a few color notes with a small brush and Golden Heavy Body acrylics.


This evening I painted the clouds, the distant hills, the buildings, and their reflections on the wet tarmac. The painting is really rough at this stage – I’m mainly trying to figure out the value structure.


The challenge is that the scene is a nocturne and needs to read as such, but I can’t allow the painting get too dark, or the composition will get lost.

February 3, 2016

This design is almost ready to paint! I worked a lot more on the reflection of the red light on underside of the fuselage, and I adjusted the sky colors and added more runway lights. I also moved the cracks in the tarmac so that they intersect the lighter parts of the plane’s reflection in more interesting ways.


There are a few more areas that I could improve, but I really want to start painting. The most important is the shape of the top of the tail – the C17, has a really curvaceous bulge where the horizontal stabilizers meet and it would be nice to get this into the drawing. Another area is the rudder. If I offset the rudder slightly, the silhouette of the tail will be much more interesting. Other, less important details include the markings and formation lights on the tail.