Category Archives: Marine

A week in Maine!

Once again I was hosted by Coastal Maine to teach a workshop in this beautiful state. In 2016 I was teaching in Belfast and this time it was held in Rockland. A beautiful seaside town, famous for its lobster industry, among other things. The best (and reasonably priced) lobster roll is available at “Claws” on Hwy1.

I also went back to see Andrew Wyeth’s work at the Farnsworth museum in town. Always a treat to see his paintings.

I had a full class with 16 students and the week was a blur of painting, sightseeing, eating and more painting!
Thanks to everyone who who came out! I’ll be back in 2020

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Negative Painting

like a fish outta water, web  like a fish outta water, detail

When working out scenes with dramatic light, it is important to remember where the lightest light is and not paint over it. Watercolor painting depends on the whiteness of the paper for the ultimate highlight! Once we mistakenly paint over it, we cannot bring it back.
You could argue: well, I can always lift! True, but it’s still not the same as the untouched paper.

Speaking of lifting: In my opinion, lifting always feels a bit like ‘fixing things’ – unless you lift while it’s wet – why not paint it right in the first place without having to come back later and lift paint here and there?? But I digress..

In the above painting, the huge foreground puddle as well as the background body of water is nothing but the untouched paper. It feels very light, because everything else is darker. The interaction of values does it. It is an illusion, that’s all. That’s our job as artists: create an illusion. In the reference picture the water was not bright at all, more like the color of the sky. A pretty dull scene. By exaggerating the values of the scene, we create more interest and the result is a luminous, lively watercolor. (15″h by 29″w)

Composition and design

polperro boats, by frankeber 2013 stranded boats, by frankeber 2013

Two very different compositions that convey very different moods. Where to place objects and shapes in our work is certainly one of the questions that need to be worked out even before picking up a pencil to draw, let alone a paint brush!

Over the years, I have ruined many paintings by disregarding this simple but important fact. It can be very disheartening, especially so if the painting is finished! There’s nothing more frustrating than to put it up and think, ‘mmmh, I don’t like it – what happenend??’ Well, what happened was that I placed the focal point wrong and no matter how nicely it was painted, it’s just not working. Sometimes it’s even hard to figure out why exactly it isn’t working. You just know in your heart, something is wrong. That’s a good time to check your composition. It is usually the culprit. That or the values, either one of those…

When deciding on a composition, it is important to ask what you’d like to accomplish. Do you want the viewer’s eyes to go around the painting finding different points of interest? Is it all about one focal point? Is there a lead-in? What role does the background play, if any? Most artists get too caught up with light situations and forget all about design! Sure, the light is the most important thing, but if you just get that right and nothing else then the painting is not exactly a success! Just food for thought.

Simple shapes and values

breezy day, by frankeber 2012       breezy day, detail by frankeber 2012

Another painting that relies on values, almost exclusively. Having said that, the full color spectrum is present. Look at the background and you’ll see blues, purples, reds, even yellowish brown. The only ‘real’ color is the red dash that represents someone sitting on the sail boat.
The water is mostly dry brushed. An effect that the watercolor medium is especially good for! Imagine, you’re a poor oil painter and have to do all this dabbling with white paint to get the water to look like this! Not with watercolor…three ripping brushstrokes and you’re done!

This is a classic H composition. I had to put the trees left and right fairly strong, to push the background further back. The sails are painted around (negative painting) to preserve the white of the paper. The have a few accents with warm grey (raw sienna and cobalt blue, mostly) that hopefully gives them the billowing effect.

There are almost no details in this painting, it is all an illusion. Your eyes are finishing the painting.
Simple shapes and values do the trick. thanks for looking!

Local scenes

Happy Labor day!

Last week I was out and about painting locally. Here are some of the best ones..

SanPedroPolice, by frankeber2011

CoupleonEsplanade, by frankeber2011

It’s always an adventure to paint outside. Things never go the way you expect them to. Case in point: I am driving down to San Pedro, unloading my paint stuff and looking around for a good view. The first thing I notice is that my water container spilled water all over my bag…mmmh, ok. No big deal, just put it in the sun while walking around looking for a painting spot.

I usually bring my point and shoot and take lots of pics to help me find  a good composition. So I turn on my camera and it says ‘change battery pack’. Needless to say I forgot to bring extra batteries…Classic! I actually had to wait two minutes every time I wanted to take a picture, so the batteries would just last long enough to let me take one.

Walking around, confused, trying to decide what to paint and from where, I finally get settled and started painting just to notice there’s only about half an hours daylight left! OMG, better get going… You can see, none of this happens in your studio and you’re forced to really deal with all kinds of fun outside. But I highly recommend it. It made me a better painter! It is sooo important and a great confidence builder! Just do it! I know it’s intimidating, go with a buddy or take a plein air course first but I swear to you, it will improve your work significantly!

Canal in Venice

Quiet morning, Venice by frank eber 2010 Another one from Venice! This one was done early in the morning with that typical haze lingering in the air. I tried to paint as quickly as possible, letting the paints bleed.  I feel I overworked the water a bit. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed when painting on location. There are so many things you see at once and the longer you look, the more you start seeing. But like the master painter Joseph Zbukvic says, “You mustn’t put it all in”! I have also found that you cannot put in all the colors your eyes perceive. There’s so much to learn still…

Speaking of the Mr. Z: I am very happy to announce that I signed up for his workshop at Fallbrook, California next spring. I can hardly wait and I am sure it will be an eye-opener in many ways.

My next post will be from CA as I am heading home!

Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute, by frank eberThis view was probably painted a million times before.  The Basilica of Saint Mary of Health, as it is called in English, was built after a particularly devastating outbreak of the plague in 1630. It quickly became an emblematic  part of the skyline of Venice and inspired many big-name artists like Canaletto, Turner, Sargent and Guardi.

As always, it was important for me to get the mood of the place and I tried not to put any details into the building itself. Just the shapes and letting the paint do the work. The only details are the boats and the poles on the left hand side, but I tried to keep those vague as well.

This one is pretty small, only about 9″ x 11″.