The Week of “Super Storm”

Haven’t  you heard enough about Sandy already?  New Hampshire is one of the suffering states, but I got off pretty easy.  Looks like I’m going to have to pay for a new roof without help from the insurance company.  Being unscathed myself, I insisted on  holding the Tuesday life group.  It was, after all, a pretty nice day, weather-wise, a little rainy but hardly any wind to speak of.  But most of the other artists were dealing with one storm-related problem or another and couldn’t get here for the group.  So it was just the model, another unscathed artist, and me.

We set up in the window side of the studio and had our model lounge on the familiar old brown leather sofa.  We found ourselves looking down on him, which felt strange at first.  The model stand that we usually use puts the model at my eye level or above.  (I sit to paint.)  We also forewent any supplemental lighting inasmuch as the sun was streaming right in at our backs (yes, SUN).  No dramatic shadows to fall back on for creating interest.  But as it turned out, I didn’t need any drama from lighting.  I accepted a full-on frontal foreshortened pose with the model’s feet practically in my face.  (Of course that’s an exaggeration–I did say “practically”.)  I was super pleased with this development because it furnishes a response to a taunt from  one of my colleagues who, upon viewing last week’s blog, complained that I was not giving enough attention to feet.  Since he is also one of our models, I suspect it is HIS feet he want more attention paid to.  Nevertheless, feet are feet:

The Feet Have It

I have to point out that it is not often that you get to depict the wrinkles on the sole of a foot.  Having recently watched a documentary on Lucien Freud, I also felt as if I were channeling him every so slightly, as I tried to paint the effect of hairy legs.

On Friday, four of us  met with Peter Clive for a quasi-workshop session.  Peter had during the summer been attending our Tuesday group whenever he could, but currently his teaching schedule at the NH Institute of Art kept him there on Tuesdays.  So he offered to come instead on Fridays and critique work in progress, when corrections are possible.  In the course of the summer and now the fall, Peter has seen quite a few of my paintings.  He compliments me by saying something like “That’s a nice study,”  or even “That’s a great study.”  He said that about The Feet.  Noting his use of the word “study”, I had reconciled myself to the reality that a serious artist does not go around producing a finished painting in three hours (actually less when you consider setting up time and break times).  The fact that I consider these paintings as complete if not completely wonderful just shows how far I am from being a serious artist.  There is a whole level of professionalism up there that I can only imagine.

However, the work that I did Friday was, at the end of the three hours, pronouced a “painting” by Peter, “not just a good study”.  Yes, he actually said those words.

An Actual Painting

He liked the composition, which I admit, I  had worked out early in the process. before paying much attention to the figure.  So that was unusual.  Perhaps because of that, a certain painterly quality emerged for the whole painting.  But when I got home, I noticed that the right leg was too short, both as measured against her left leg and as measured against her torso.  So I “fixed” it.  I tried to duplicate  the original foot before I covered it up, but the new foot  (FEET again!) doesn’t look right.   I may have botched this painting by correcting one errant part of it that may not have mattered in the big scheme of things.    All is not lost, however–the same model is returning in two weeks for the same pose, and I will get another crack at that foot.  I am also hoping to paint a larger version from the same pose.

Totem, 11×14, $300

Lotus Studies 13×13 $265

High and Dry, 11×14, $300

A plug for the Soo Rye Art Gallery opening on November 10, reception from 5 to 8 p.m.  The address is 11 Sagamore Road, Rye, NH.  All the artworks being exhibited are priced no higher than $300.  I contributed “Totem”, “Lotus Studies”, and “High and Dry”, three of my all-time favorite paintings.  If you can’t get to the opening, the show  continues through the end of December, but I expect that a lot of the art will be sold at the opening.

Here is some history for these three paintings:

Totem was accepted in a regional show juried by Don Stone for the Rockport Art Association (Massachusetts, not Maine).  I painted Totem on the coast of Rhode Island, near Narragransett, with my artist friend, Mary Crawford Reining.  The totem, actually more accurately called a cairn, in the painting really did exist exactly as I painted it.  Other cairns had been built by person or persons unknown, but this one was the most adventurous.  It was more than a cairn–so I titled it Totem.  Earlier in that morning, I had painted another, more complex view of this rocky beach, and had an hour left over.  Only much later did I  realize until later what a successful painting Totem was.

Lotus Studies won Best in Show at a Manchester Artists Association exhibit, about a year ago when the MAA had a gallery of its own, but I created it at least a year before that for the Women’s Caucus for Art annual 6×6 show.    That had been my first year in the WCA, hence my first 6×6 show.  I had easy inspiration from photographs taken at the lotus pond in Wickford, Rhode Island, again visiting Mary.  The next year we tried plein air painting at the pond, but my output was worthless.

High and Dry has no  distinction to report, but it deserves an award, in my humble opinion, for oozing the most charm.  I have Mary Crawford Reining to thank again, for High and Dry:  this time I was a visiting her Marco Island home for perhaps the third year in a row.  None of my Florida paintings had amounted to much until this one, and I still consider it the Prize of my Florida collection.  Funny thing is, Mary had had her eye on this boat for a long time, wanting to paint it but never having got around to it.  So I swoop in and steal her subject as it were, and make it one of my best from Florida.

Only in the writing of these descriptions did I notice the huge debt I owe Mary Crawford Reining for guiding me to these three inspiring subjects.

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Hatfield Gallery in Manchester (Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway;  at the Soo Rye Art Gallery in Rye NH; at the law offices at 41 Brook St in Manchester; and at her studio by appointment.   Also, if you want to plan ahead, on December 1-2, a two-day show  of unframed works at Adrienne’s studio on the 4th floor of  Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH; the artwork will be priced no higher than $150!  At least six artists are participating in this sale.



Above is a new and improved version of the Rockport Harbor painting from last week.  I’m hoping you might be curious to see what can happen to a plein air painting after the artist gets to stare at it in the studio for a while.  It all started when I decided that the shape of the red fish house was not quite right.  Perspective errors are the worst–they haunt me forever unless I fix them.  And once I dive into a painting to make one correction, chances are pretty good that I will find other ways to improve on a painting, even a painting that started out not so bad.   (With a bad painting, I’m like a dog with a bone–I won’t give it up.)  So, after correcting the shape of the fish house, I made the following changes:

Sky:  horizon color–greener

Red fish house: adjusted values of lighted and shaded sides

Blue fish house: changed color of  roof

Boats:  added clean whites to sun-struck surfaces

Water:  brought up reflections of boats, toned down reflection of red fish house

Stone abutments:  eliminated highlights, contrast

Rockport Harbor WIP

After making those changes, I submitted the painting to Patrick McCay’s critical gaze in my EEE class, and, following his advice:

Foreground shrub: added darker shadows, to better compete with the dark in the middle boat

Middle boat:  inserted lighter shadows into the deck , so that the boat stopped attracting the eye

Red fish house: grayed down the red on the fish house–to comport with aerial perspective rules.

I think it’s done now.  Unless something else starts to bother me about it. But I am deep into more studies for the Mount Washington bike race painting and unlikely to give Rockport Harbor another going over.

Here are two Mt. Washington studies, one finished (maybe) and the other, not quite finished–hope you like them!

View of race with vista

At the Finish (WIP)

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Gallery at 100 Market Street in Portsmouth; at the Sage Gallery in Manchester; at the Hatfield Gallery in Manchester; at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; and at her studio by appointment.

Link to website:


Rockport Harbor, November 2011

Last Monday, I took the day off to go painting, making a gift out of the  chore of picking up an unsold painting at the Rockport Art Association in Massachusetts.  Accompanying me were my friends, Jackie and Clint.  We explored the entire downtown area before settling on a location across from the T Wharf where Clint and I had painting a month ago.  It was a magnificent day, at least until the sun disappeared behind the buildings.

Drawn again by the fish house known as Motif No. 1, I also had Van Gogh in mind in my depiction of the drying shrub.  At the start, the boats were necessary to the scene, but not necessarily the focus of the painting.  But boats have a way of stealing your attention, of grabbing the eye.  So I give up, and let it become a painting about the boats and not at all about the now-annoying drying shrub in the foreground.

A few days ago, I read another blog exhorting artists to keep all their older work so that they can see and appreciate the progress they are making.   I keep pictures of most of my paintings, and the rendering of boats is particularly difficult.  I searched everywhere to find the first boats I remember having painted; the only images I could find were embedded in an Excel file.  (I used to keep track of all my paintings in an Excel file, but after 100, it got to be too cumbersome.)  The struggle to find a way to include these two proofs of my early ineptitude has taken me all morning.  I finally figured out that if I transfer each image from the Excel file to a Word file, then save the Word file as a web page, the images get converted to jpg images that I can import into iPhoto.  Then I export the images from iPhoto to my desktop, from whence I can upload them into WordPress.  Whew!  Not sure the effort was worth it.

These two paintings were plein air, on Monhegan Island, during a workshop with Stan Moeller:

Monhegan Harbor from Fish Beach

Lobster boats, lobster pound          

Kind of clunky, right?  But not bad as a start.  Bear in mind the damn things are constantly moving and changing their orientation as the tides move under them.

In my search through the archives, I stumbled upon three paintings from another Moeller workshop that also contained boats, earlier than the Monhegan boats by about two weeks:


These three are views from La Napoule on the Mediterranean coast of France.  The boats in these three paintings are too distant, too small to  qualify as boat paintings, but I thought they were worth including since they are the very first boats to appear in any painting by me.

Apparently, I went without boats of any kind for two years after that.  The next grouping is two Rhode Island paintings, again plein air, that I painted in the summer of 2009:

Working Boats at Rest 8×10          

Marina at Allen Harbor, Rhode Island  12×16

I was very pleased with these two paintings, which were done in the same afternoon from virtually the same spot.  The conditions were uncomfortable–very windy, cold, I think, yet sunny.  I just remember being miserable during the first painting  and rushing to finish it.   It’s not hard to see progress between the Monhegan boats and the Rhode Island boats.

Most of my boats are plein air experiences, but there is one prominent exception.  I painted a large (for me, then) portrait of a waterfront in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and toward the end, stuck in a boat to break up the waterline and add interest:

Portsmouth Waterfront 16×20

That is a real boat–it belongs to someone who lives in one of those buildings. This boat “portrait”, painted from a photo reference, undoubtedly helped me in depicting my favorite plein air boat, “High and Dry”, from 2011 below.

My Rhode Island successes had given me the courage to go for boats on my next trip to  Florida; in 2010 I choose this orange catamaran.


The double hulls made this a complicated project. I was not  thrilled with the resulting portrait.  So I tried again with this one, looking for the magic I seemed to have found in Rhode Island:

Boat Slip

This painting is not about the boat in the background, but about the reflections in the water of the pilings.  But it’s still a boat so it has to count for something.  The boat is certainly better than the Monhegan boats–not as clunky.  But I don’t love it the way I love my Rhode Island boats.  Perhaps I have a bias in favor of working boats.

That Fall (2010) I painted my first New Hampshire boats, but in a way that the painting cannot be assigned a place the scale of good, better or best boats.  These were impressions of boats from a distance, much like my La Napoule boats:

Sunset over Massabesic Lake

The point of this painting, obviously I guess, was the sunset.  The boats are mere window dressing, silhouettes against the light.  Around about the same time, I painted from a photograph taken in Ogunquit, Maine, the following scene:


Another case of the boat being window dressing.

This brings me to the most recent predecessors of Rockport Harbor:  two paintings from Florida in March of this year; and one from Wells Harbor in June.

One-story home with Boat

High and Dry (but still perky)

Wells Harbor

Of these three, only “High and Dry” is all about the boat.  “High and Dry” is, in my opinion,  my best boat ever, but it should be:– unlike all other boats, my model for this painting was perfectly stationary.  It’s hard enough drawing or painting a moving object, much less one that demands a level of accuracy approaching portraiture.

Finally, Rockport:

Rockport Harbor, November 2011

Three boats of diminishing size to show perspective, of diminishing detail to show distance, a scene so perfectly matched to the beginning (Monhegan boats) that a comparison is easy.  There has been progress!  But wait–what about progress since Rhode Island boats?  That is far from certain, to me at least.

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Gallery at 100 Market Street in Portsmouth; at the Sage Gallery in Manchester; at the Hatfield Gallery in Manchester; at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; and at her studio by appointment.

Link to website:

Brave New World

The title of this post has nothing to do with any art that I am sharing with you.   It refers to my destination after Apple’s iWeb stopping publishing updates to my Blog.   OK, I’m not going to complain anymore.  I’m just going to get on with it.

I have lots of art to share: a backlog of nudes, my own “Motif No. 1”, sketches from the Mt. Washington Bike Race, and progress in my class with Patrick McCay.

Let’s start with Motif No. 1:  Every artist should have a version of this red building, which came to be known as “Motif No. 1” because every artist painting in Rockport, Massachusetts, did have a version of this building.   (Google it!)  I painted mine yesterday from the “T Wharf”.  I debated whether to include the pirate ship–thought it might be too much detail.  But I liked the two masts and decided I could handle it.  But the pirate ship kept leaving.  I think they were selling rides.  I would look up to check a detail, and it would have vanished, only to return an hour later.

I was in Rockport to attend the reception for the New England Invitational exhibit at the Rockport Art Association Gallery.   Wonderful, large gallery, great reception food, with wine and champagne.  Much more elegant than I am accustomed to.  On the other hand, they were interested in my name tag, which I bought years ago for Manchester Art Association receptions.  It identifies me as an exhibiting artist.  Apparently, no one has thought of doing that before, but it was definitely useful.  It caused the director to stop and shake hands with me, which I am sure she never would have done but for knowing who I was.

Another plein air enthusiast accompanied me to Rockport and to the reception.  In fact, but for Clinton Swank and his car, I would not have been able to get to Rockport at all.  Clinton is a young 20-something painter, absorbing knowledge and experience like a sponge.  He did not know about Motif No. 1 and chose to paint another scene from the T Wharf even after I told him about Motif No. 1.

The McCay class is called “Explore, Exploit, Express”, maybe not in that order.   In the future I will refer to it as the EEE class.  This week my project was to repaint the first Bedford Farmers’ Market scene, the one with the multi-colored umbrella, but to paint it as if I had only ten minutes to get it down.  It was a mess.  But Patrick advised me to blur all the edges and then come back in with fresh strokes of highlights.  I gave that a try, and there is where it stands as of today:This one is headed back to class for more help Wednesday, but already everyone who has seen both versions has preferred this version to the original.  To view the original, click on the link below.

My long range project still involves the Mt. Washington Bike Race.  Here are two pages of vignettes that I hope to piece together in a large painting: 

Before working on the Big Picture, however, I will paint studies from these sketches.  It is my intent, my goal, to keep the brushstrokes loose and fresh.

SLG, or Saturday Life Group, has met four times already!  In years past, we would just be getting started in October, but since we meet in a classroom at the Institute (NH Institute of Art), we are subject to the Institute’s calendar, which means there are some Saturdays when we cannot meet there–when prospective students are invited for tours of the campus, for instance.  We used to be required to stop working and cover up our model to let groups of impressionable youths come in and inspect our goings on.  So instead of suffering such interruptions, we start the season a few weeks earlier.  

Here are my best drawings from the past four weeks: