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A Painting to Inspire Jazz Improvisation

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Pacific Rhythms, Seascape, by Jenny Armitage

Pacific Rhythms (18 x 36 watercolor) Commissioned

I painted this seascape for the most marvelous client.  Her request charmed me.   She wanted a seascape with no figures or land masses, beach, or boats; just waves, sky, and clouds.   The waves and clouds must be rhythmic to inspire jazz improvisation.  The painting must be large enough to fill the space above her piano.

The project presented some challenges, most of them having to do with size.  Standard watercolor sheets are only 24 x 30 inches.  She wanted a painting that was 36 inches wide, so the paper had to be special ordered.  I don’t have an easel large enough to accommodate a painting this size, so I used my studio table.  When I taped the paper to my studio table, there was no room left for water and brushes.  To see how the painting looked from five feet back, I had to stand on a chair.

The other challenge had to do with how to create a path through the painting for the eye.  I decided on a sideways “u” beginning on the bottom left following the breakers in and return across the horizon and out through a break in the clouds.

I presented it to the client this morning and I’m happy to say she loved it.  It’s at the framers now.

The original belongs to a lovely pianist, but prints are available here.


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Breakers Below Yaquina Head

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Breakers Below Yaquina Head (watercolor 5 x 7) $25.00

I did this little painting at the gallery last Wednesday.  It is another view of rocks below Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport, Oregon.

I painted it  loosely without using mask reserving the white paper in the clouds, waves and foreground by painting around them.  I added the spray on the rocks with opaque chinese white.  I used phthalo blue, cobalt blue, raw sienna, burnt sienna, and a hint of quinacridone deep red rose.

This painting is currently on display at Art in the Valley, Corvallis, Oregon. You may still purchase it by mail on inquiry through the contact page of this blog.

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Agate Beach

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Headland at Sunset (watercolor 5 x 7) SOLD


Sunset at Agate Beach (watercolor 5 x 7) SOLD


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Playing With the Newport Bridge

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The Newport Bay Bridge I (13 x 19) $200

The Newport Bay Bridge I (13 x 19) $250

The Yaquina Bay Bridge, better and more informally known as the Newport Bridge, is one of the most photographed and painted objects on the Oregon coast.  It’s a little daunting to add yet another painting to the stack.  But it’s such a beautiful bridge that I just couldn’t resist.

This is the view of the bridge from the south side of bay standing on the ground looking up.  Anyone who knows the area well will see immediately that I took major liberties with the landscape.  I’ve placed tree covered hills in the foreground, where there is really a grassy flat area often used as an impromptu parking lot.  My reference photo throws the parking lot and the bridge into silhouette against the late afternoon sky.  Trees broke up the flat horizon.  I expanded the treeline into undulating hills.

What I did not remove from the photo was the scaffolding.  Somehow whenever I visit the bridge there is scaffolding somewhere in the picture.  And with the light behind it, I found the scaffolding as beautiful as the bridge.

After transferring my sketch of the bridge to the paper, I began by painting the sky.  I worked wet into wet beginning at the top with a combination of cobalt blue and cerulean Blue.  Moving down the paper I added burnt sienna to the two blues to create the grays of the upper cloud masses.  Then I dropped in dioxzine purple on the undersides and the dark areas of the clouds.  I grayed the violet a hair and added some cobalt to it and washed in the lower cloud bank.  Grayed cobalt brought the clouds to the horizon.  The bay itself is grayed down cerulean.

The bridge is various dark combinations of burnt sienna, cobalt blue, french ultramarine, and dioxazine purple.  The hills are are wet into wet layers of various mixes of the bridge colors plus cerulean blue and raw sienna.

When I finished the painting I was puzzeled about where to sign it.  In the end, I signed the painting in removable liquid mask.  The mask has a tendency to lift paint thus leaving a quiet signature behind when I removed it.

This painting is currently available on-line through my Etsy shop.  Prints available on inquiry.

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The Golden Dolphin

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The Golden Dolphin (8 x 10) $100

The Golden Dolphin (8 x 10) $100

Yes, I’m still playing around with photos from the Newport Fisherman’s Wharf.  I liked the way the reflected light from the bay danced across the hull of the white boat.

To paint the reflections I first masked to whitest of the highlights.  Then I washed the shadowed part of the hull with a very watery cerulean blue.  I used cerulean because of the way it granulates and spreads out across the water unevenly.  Then I lifted the lighter areas with a dry brush.  Finally I used a small brush to paint in the dark outlines.

The palate is larger than I usually employ.  There are three blues, phthalo, cobalt and cerulean.  The yellow is raw sienna.  The red is quinacridone deep red rose.  I used burnt sienna to gray the blues.

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The Fisherman’s Wharf

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The Helen McColl at Rest (10 x 15) $175.00

The Helen McColl at Rest (10 x 15) $175.00

One of our beach side pleasures is wondering the Newport’s history bay.   Art galleries, fish packing plants, and novelty shops, private museums, restaurants and taverns mix indiscriminately along the bay front.  But the best part of the bay is the fisherman’s wharf.

There is marina space for pleasure craft further down the road and across the bay.  But I prefer the fishing boats.  The yachts are are elegant under sail, but with their sails furled at port they look sad to me, like furniture under sheets.  And few people tour the boats.  The yachts are expensive and while not actually prohibited, visitors feel unwelcome.

The wharf remains full of life.  Maintaining a fishing boat is an endless task and someone, usually several someones are always busy there.  Tourists are smiled upon.  Some these outfits sell fish and crab right off the boat.  The sea lions chose the wharf piers for sunning too.  They know where to fish scraps are.

The shape of the fishing boats may be elegant, but the boats themselves are not.  Machinery, ropes, crates, boxes, tarps, crab pots, nets, buckets, barrels and other paraphernalia clutter the decks.  Unlike the yachts the boats are often brightly colored.  Fishing is a dangerous game and these men want to be visible.

We visit often enough that we remember many of the names.  The Miss Law, The Sandra Fey, The Suki, The Destiny, The Golden Dolphin, The Orca, and many others.  This is The Helen McColl.  She was at the end of the pier guarded by sea lions.  I took her picture because I liked her reflection and  the rust on her side, an unusual sight on the wharf.  She must have had a hard year.

I used primarily phthalo blue, cobalt blue, and burnt sienna. I used a hair of yellow ocher and made a couple high lights in white gouache. I painted the water and sky first, then alternated between the boat and her reflection making sure to use the same paint mix for each reflected part.

This painting is currently for sale on-line through my Etsy shop. Or purchase a print at Fine Art

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New Dawn in the Late Afternoon

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New Dawn in the Late Afternoon (8 x 10) $100

New Dawn in the Late Afternoon (8 x 10) $100

I painted this little picture while vacationing in Colorado.  Obviously I didn’t work plein air.  I used a photo I took last summer.  We love to walk along the Newport fishing docks in the afternoon when the boats are all in and the fishermen are cleaning up.

This is the New Dawn in dock.  I painted her because of the lovely reflections in the water.  But while I began it because of the reflections, I found I enjoyed the subtle shades of gray necessary to give the boat volume too, especially where the floats colored the shadows.

I painted the reflection and the parts of the boat reflected first beginning with the red boat side and the gold float.  Then I added first the lighter water background and than the darker reflections and waves in it.  The lighter water is cobalt blue in the foreground and cerulean blue in the distance.  I used burnt sienna to gray and darken and gray the blues. I used a little raw sienna to make the greens.

Then I painted in the dark rail, the lifesaver and the the floats to help me “see” the rest of the boats.  The rails are phthalo blue mixed with burnt sienna.  I used burn sienna and raw sienna for the floats and lifesaver.  The background came next to define the masts.

With that road map in hand, I set about adding all the various shades of gray.  For those I used all three blues grayed down with burn sienna.

Or purchase a print from Fine Art America.

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