It was one of those frustrating days that plein air painters sometimes have. We had staked out our location the evening before and returned the next morning ready to go. McLoon's Wharf in Spruce Head, is classic Maine, a few little red shacks where lobster boats unload their catch and lots of colorful fishing boats moored in the little harbor. I had visions all these great paintings that I was going to do in my mind. In fact, it was hard to decide which one of these masterpieces I was going to paint first. I settled my sights on one of the red shacks, pier, boat, some water, sprig of land in the background. I was going to get it all.
Well that didn't work, and that is how I got that nice toned canvas on "Second Wind".
"Second Wind", 8"x 10" oil on linen, 2006. Private Collection
I realized that my first try of the day was a failed painting after about ten minutes. Maybe five, but I kept hoping for the best for the other five. The positive side here is that I recognized that it was bad from the start and that no amount of picking at it was going to change that. So, I wiped it down and regrouped.
I went for a simpler composition. Instead of trying to get all of Maine into my 8"x 10" painting, I went for one lobster boat that had just pulled in to unload some traps, and just a slice of the pier. It was an old wooden boat, a classic, the kind with the sail in the back. I went at it with gusto after having loosened up with the first try. I blocked in all of the important stuff, got the lines of the boat down, added some pilings of the pier and the little boat that was tied up behind it. Then I worked the reflection of the sky in the water down along the right side.
O.K., now it was time for all the details. Or not, the owner of the boat walked over to have a look. "That's real nice" he said, "you got the shape down just right with so little. Looks just like her. Sorry to tell you this, but I gotta move the boat." I had about three minutes before he got back down into his boat and pulled out. I double checked a few shapes and made sure I had that bow line right and off he went.
I ended up being real happy with the result. I had captured just the important stuff, a good color harmony, and not a lot of fluff that may or may not have added to the piece. I hadn't had time to fuss over it and mess up all the good painting I had done in about fifteen or maybe twenty minutes. The name of the boat was "Second Wind" and I had gotten mine.
That High didn't last long. The rest of the morning continued to frustrate me. I walked around a lot. Checked out my buddies' paintings, snapped some photos. I Really could not decide what to paint next. Have you ever had that feeling? So I decided to do some pencil sketching. Some of them came out pretty nicely. Here are a few pages from my little sketch book. They are loose, just little value studies. I tried to get the gesture of the working men down and the lines of the lobster boats. I don't get to see many of those in Mexico. It really was a pretty good morning after all.