Bar Harbor and focus on light

Bar Harbor, Maine was once known as "Eden".  Having just returned from a week of vacation and painting there it's easy to see why they named it so.  The town of Bar Harbor shares Mount Desert Island with other quaint fishing and tourist villages and the magnificent Acadia National Park.  The rich and varied terrain, plant and animal life, and granite coast makes this simply one of the most spectacular places I've ever been. 

As I mentioned before, this was both a family vacation and a painting trip.  Having had the great fortune, as a young lad, to visit this marvelous Eden I wanted my daughters to have the chance to connect to this jewel of a place as well.  In between taking numerous hikes, exploring tidal pools, coastal drives, and whale watching I had time to complete six small canvases. Of the half a dozen paintings I completed I wanted to focus on three in this blog.

"Bar Harbor Boats"                                                                                          11" x 14"

The first painting I want to talk about here, "Bar Harbor Boats" was painted in the town of Bar Harbor.  When I started working on this painting it wasn't sunny, but it was late in the day and I could tell that the sun was going to emerge again before sunset.  I usually don't recommend changing the lighting in your painting as you go, but in this case I think it made for a stronger piece. When I had almost completed blocking in the paint with local color the sun started to make its appearance.  As the light started to intensify on the boats I made the executive decision to take a gamble and go for it.  The two foreground boats were most effected by the sun.  Not just the light sides of the boats were affected but also  the reflected light on the shadow side.  Along with the sun came this wonderful bright white on the left boat and the reflection of the white in the water. The sailboat behind the foreground boats was effected minimumly with  the exception of a few highlights on the forward sails. The middle ground which consists of lobster boats and Bar Island were again effected minimally.  The front of the boats where I added the warm whites were really the only change here.  The background was virtually untouched.  The color of the sky and the reflection in the water were there when I blocked it in.  I wish I had had the foresight to take a picture of the painting pre-sun to compare the before and after.

"Acadia Afternoon"                                         12" x 16"  "Maine Coast"     16" x 8"

I want to make a comparison of the other two paintings, "Acadia Afternoon" and "Maine Coast"  They were both painted looking at Otter Point at about the same time of day, but the vantage points are different.  They were painted looking from opposite sides of the Point.  Besides the obvious differences in composition and format, the primary difference is the position of the sun compared to the subject.   In "Acadia Afternoon"  the light is flooding the rock landscape and giving a predominently warm color feeling.  There is a cloud covering the rocks in the foreground, but you can imagine that the sun is above and to the left of the you, shining directly onto the rocks in the outcrop.  The light in "Maine Coast" is more backlit so it appears cooler.  The light is coming from behind the outcrop.  Before Thomas Kinkade came along and bastardized the term "Painter of Light" there were artists who made a study of the effects of light.  Artists like Claude Monet, Willard Leroy Metcalf, and Aldro Hibbard, to name a few, were the true painters of light.  These Impressionists knew the importance of painting outdoors in different light situations to master the effects of light on canvas.  So get out there, observe the light, and most of all paint.
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