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I’ve been doing a lot of consulting work lately—more than I’d like. My official arrangement is to consult about 20 hours per week, but lately it’s turned into 40, 60, and even 80 hour weeks. The downside of this, of course, is the lack of time to do other things (like painting… and blogging about painting!). The upside is that when I don’t actually have to work on Saturday, it feels like a vacation day. Whee!

So, on a recent Saturday “off,” instead of digging into housework, I hopped on my bike and rode 10 minutes out to Newcastle. Newcastle is a beautiful little island with one main road running around it. There’s a cozy beach, plenty of colonial-era houses, a coast guard station complete with a lighthouse, and a small downtown stretch. Downtown consists of an old New England meetinghouse, a post office, and a little coffee shop/deli called Henrys’ Market (don’t ask about the odd placement of the apostrophe – I still haven’t figured it out). And that’s where I plunked myself down with a latte.

Henrys Market

Across the street is the Newcastle Meeting House, the subject of my painting.

Meeting House

I set up my kit in the shade and got down to the serious business of observing and sketching. What a fun subject this was! At first I was daunted by the porch structure—lots of perspective that could go seriously wrong. But I took my time and tried not to be too exacting as I sketched. As always, I first sketched with pencil and then pen (thin-point Sharpie). Someday I’d like to try using pen right from the beginning. I’ve heard it helps you loosen up, but I fear it would do the opposite for me.

I really like how the painting turned out (Ellen says it conveys way more of the “quaint-factor” than the photo, which is cool since that’s the true feel of the space):

Newcastle Meeting House

I especially like the play of light throughout the painting—the shadows on the building, the light on the pavement, and how the shadows and light set off the woman and her dog and give the impression of a bright sunny morning. I also like how the flower pots and window boxes turned out. The yellow house in the background and the blue sky poking through the tree make me smile. The hose does, too.

I’ve read that less is better in painting and sketching—that the eye likes to fill in gaps more than it likes everything spelled out for it. I tried this out with the siding lines on the house, and I think it worked out well.

I like my paintings that have people in them much better than those that don’t. So while I was painting, I kept my camera at the ready to capture good potential subjects.

Newcastle Collage

I was nearly finished with the sketch when I remembered that I had wanted to include a person or two. I chose the older woman and her dog. In the picture she’s walking away from me, but I remembered some advice from a fellow artist blogger (Ruth Bailey) that I should be mindful of whether people are walking into or out of the painting (which has an impact on where the eye goes as it takes in the painting). So I turned her around and painted her entering the scene from the left. The spot where I placed her is the only spot where she fit (since the rest of the sketch was complete), but I think it turned out being quite a lovely spot for her.

The only part of the painting that gives me pause is the large tree. I like the trunk and the branches, and I also like the variation between lighted and shadowed leaves. But I think the foliage overall is a little too sparse and not “big” enough for the size of the tree trunk. (Ellen says she sees what I mean when I point it out, but that didn’t occur to her eye at all.)

I’ve decided to create a series of note cards using my paintings of local sights. As I type, this painting is being scanned and color-corrected by a local printer that works with artists. I have a quote from Sir Speedy (whom the local printer says is well-calibrated with his color settings) to do up a batch of note cards using three paintings of Portsmouth (and now Newcastle) that I’ve done so far. My plan is to market the note cards to a few shops in downtown Portsmouth. I’ll blog later on how that process goes…

I’ve gone back to this page of my sketchbook numerous times since I did the painting. One thing I notice about painting is that each piece of work has within it the power to bring you back to that moment. It’s as if the energy of the place is somehow captured on the paper. Not just that, though… simply looking at it brings me back to that particular place in time. I find that in losing myself in the moment, I actually end up finding a more real sense of myself and my surroundings that persists long after the moment is gone.

My Kit