Friday, June 22, 2012

New Salt Marsh Painting--"Castaway Island Palms"

     The first of two 9" x 12" paintings I am working on from my exploration of Castaway Island Preserve might be finished. At least, it is very near finished and is ready to show you. The small palm hammock in the mid-distance across the salt marsh drew me to the scene. Paintings always take on a life of their own, and this one somehow became a bit darker and softer than my original vision, which seems fine. It hangs in my studio where I'll contemplate it occasionally to decide whether or not to make any further adjustments.

     I have been fortunate to have had the advice of two excellent painters on this piece. I began the work in Roger Bansemer's helpful two-day workshop, described in a previous post, and brought it home maybe 2/3 finished. A companion piece, also from a Castaway Island scene, got a rough start there, too--at least in its basic layout--and is now on my easel to be re-engaged.

     Linda Blondheim, my dear friend and mentor--and best painting teacher I have ever studied with--has also advised me as I worked to complete this piece. Given that she lives and works in Gainesville, Florida, a good 75 miles away from Jacksonville, our time together is limited. However, she offers an e-critique service which is extremely well-done. Periodically, I send her images of works in progress and ask questions about them. Her responses are encouraging, insightful, and precise, guiding the process without imposing her own style. She is that rare art teacher whose guidance helps students achieve their own vision to the best of their ability.

     The palette for this painting and its eventual companion piece is: ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, Indian yellow, cadmium yellow light, cadmium red, Payne's grey, buff, and white. This is the first time I have used Indian yellow, an orangy, yet not overly bright blend and enjoyed learning something of its mixing potential. Following Roger Bansemer's practice, I toned the canvas with a rub of burnt sienna before beginning. Once that is rubbed partly off, the resulting background is a mid-tone, which can help the painter judge tonal relationships as she adds first the major dark areas and then the lightest lights, and builds from there. In a departure from my usual technique, I let some of this undertone show through rather than completely covering it with full-strength paint. Handling the light in the scene was tricky, given a day that had been partly cloudy with a somewhat directionless glow and very subtle shadowing. Our weather has been unusually dry here in North Florida until recently; the marsh is undoubtedly much greener and thicker than when I last visited Castaway Island Park. I am reasonably pleased with the way this painting captures the light and mood of the day I was there.
Question of the day: Wouldn't life be sadder and poorer without compatible teachers and mentors?


  1. Wonderful piece, Mary! Oh, those special mentors and teachers - those gifted with artistic ability and the ability to teach! Yes, they make life richer.

  2. Wow; it is super (as always) to hear from you, Jean! Thank you for your visit, your comment, and especially, your encouragement.

  3. Beautiful work, as always, Mary. So sorry I didn't get to your post until Sunday. I haven't been on the computer since early Friday morning. Took a day of rest and slept off and on all through it yesterday.

    I think good teachers are indeed a Godsend.

  4. Good to hear from you, Sherry! I tried to visit your blog the other day--is it discontinued, or was the message a temporary glitch? I'm so glad you had a day of rest and hope it was renewing for you. Godsend is the right word to use for good teachers, that's for sure!

  5. Well, I just answered my own question, Sherry. Had a lovely visit to your blog just now. Maybe you were working on the redesign when I tried to view it last.