Tag: Winslow Homer

Two Watercolorists Who Inspire

I’ve long been a fan of Charles Reid and his wonderful, loose watercolor style. In particular, I enjoy his paintings of the Bahamas and other Caribbean scenes. The light, the sky, the land all work together to create something most of us dream about.

A Watercolor by Charles Reid

The above painting is by Charles Reid, but when you look at it, you can also see he is influenced by the watercolors by Winslow Homer a century earlier.

Florida by Winslow Homer

Winslow Homer painted not only the Bahamas in the Caribbean, but other tropical areas, such as Florida. Palm trees and ocean and sky and wind show us another world.

Palms by Winslow Homer

Several years ago I spent a week crewing in the British Virgin Islands, and the colors I saw were are so seductive. Around every corner, I thought of Winslow Homer. Charles Reid, while I knew of his work, I did not know he had painted the same areas as Homer, nor where I had been hanging out. It was a real delight to discover he painted the Bahamas and similar areas.

A study based on a watercolor by Charles Reid (see above).

Here, a quick study – about 15 minutes – of the watercolor above by Mr. Reid. It’s rough. The goal was to capture a purity of color and gesture to express movement, the shape of people on the beach, the colors of the sky.

Island, Island View

Sky, beach, water, clouds – the Caribbean has it all. The British Virgin Islands are just a few of the many islands in the area, many of which have tourist-driven economies. Despite this, the islands have their flavors, based on who originally colonized them – English, French, Dutch and American.

I don’t know if I could live on a small island because I am so spoiled by the ease with which I can buy a book (hard to do on an island, especially before e-books!) and a wide variety of food. What you cannot buy, though, is the atmosphere and the beauty. That you take home with photographs, paintings, and memories.

The Palm Tree, Nassau – Study from a Painting by Winslow Homer

A couple of things here.  First, I think that Winslow Homer is an amazing painter, especially in watercolor.  Second, I think that copying the work of a master forces one to study what is in front of you – how was this done?  what technique?

As Homer is a master of skies and atmosphere, I spent some time the other morning looking at different paintings he did.  Especially delightful are his paintings done while in the Caribbean, spending time in the Bahamas and other islands.  Homer’s skies are vast and expressive, subtle and strong.  I decided that his painting, The Palm Tree, Nassau, would be a perfect study.  What was most interesting was seeing how differently the same picture looks on different sites – some make it very murky, others make it very colorful.  Below is Homer’s painting:

The Palm Tree, Nassau (by Winslow Homer)

I printed out a copy of this painting on my not-too-high-end color printer.  In the end, I referred to it more for composition rather than colors or detail.  This image shows the sky with blues in it, but other images on the web gave the sky reddish and yellowish undertones.  In the end, I just did what I wanted.

The water could have been more turquoise, as is the water in the Caribbean; the foreground in Homer’s painting is some weird vegetation that I couldn’t figure out, but think it is typical for the scrub of the islands.  If you look at Homer’s painting, there is a reddish blob by the lighthouse – what is it?  Looking closely, you can see it is a flag.  For me, it was a big distraction, so I left it out.  Also, Homer’s rendition of the lighthouse is very simple – I decided to give it a bit more detail.

Copying this painting was a lot of fun.  The sea was rather meh, but Homer’s is not especially spectacular.  His palm trees, though, are divine.  Since I live where there are palms, I really liked the idea of actually attempting to paint a tree – or trees – that are rather intimidating.  Homer’s painting catches them snapping in the trade winds – you can just hear them clacking their fronds against each other.  I hope that my fronds convey the same sense of sound and movement.

Techniques used in this painting were wet-in-wet for the sky, light washes moving into darker ones for the foreground, and layers of colors for the palm fronds and coconuts.  I took some long looks at what was in the painting before me and felt confident enough to figure out what I think Homer did.  For the white of the waves and lighthouse, I cheated and used frisket.  Then, after it was dried, I laid in the sky, and then moved to other areas, working lighter to dark, some detail to final details, depending on what was going on.  Altogether, I spent about 3 hours doing this study.