September 2011   volume 10 number 3 The Artist's Loft logo The Artist's Loft logo

William H. Hays  Hello and Welcome Friends,

Last year at this time we were still in Brattleboro and looking forward to the autumn season in Vermont. This year we are reluctantly finishing up our eighth summer in Nova Scotia and preparing to return to Vermont. After almost three years of living in Canada, our very mixed feelings about returning to Vermont have everything to do with our friends in Nova Scotia. The place itself and our lovely house are very dear to us. But it is our friends that we are most sorry to leave for the fall, winter and spring.

As you (who follow these newsletters) know, I have been in something of a fallow period. I've done very few oil paintings this year. So before leaving Nova Scotia, I felt the need to do one from an image I shared with you last month - boats and ropes.

When I'm painting things that are man made, I frequently use a photo for my jumping off point and reference. People know these things that they've made and I feel the need to be fairly true to what they've built in order to carry the mood that inspires me to take the photo and do the painting. So I reworked the composition of elements in the photo and got underway. Here's the photo I started with and then the canvas drawn out in charcoal:

  "The Yellow Boat" charcoal drawing on canvas 28" x 38"

The prospect of painting piles of coiled ropes is rather daunting. I could be accused of having a tendency to painstakingly draw and paint them since their pattern and flow are what draws me to them. I decided to use fairly broad strokes with the charcoal and let the painting take me along to find the specifics of the rope piles.

Over the past few years I've been experimenting with the first stages of each painting. I've started with a solid color of a dark red, a burnt umber, with sunlit areas painted with warm colors and shadows painted with cool colors. I've blocked in the intitial stages with the compliment of the color which finally dominates an object or area. And, as in this case, I've done monochromatic (or semi monochromatic) under painting, adding color later. In this case, I decided that I wanted the areas of the brightest colors to have the white canvas providing the light underneath. The light and shadow was defined by warm and cool grays (warmer in the foreground, cool as it recedes in space. You can see that the paint is very thin and sometimes drips. I'll often let them be the way they are.

The sky is painted first, so I don't have to paint around things later. It too is painted very thinly, with lots of oil and turpentine to dilute the paint. After laying in a graduated tone of sky colors, I used a worn wash cloth to wipe away the clouds. The washes of color stain the canvas. So when it is wiped away, the clouds are only white in contrast. They are actually pale tones of the sky.

The next stage builds on the lights and darks along with adding to the local color of the ropes and floats in the foreground. At this point I'm sticking with the broad strokes within the piles of rope, not paying too much attention to detail and just defining color.


You can see that now I've begun to define the painting's color composition more with the addition of the yellow in the boats and reflection. As well, I've defined the structure of the background hills in blues and greens. I've begun to paint in the lines, machinery and structures in the midground with various tones of warm and cool grays.

Although this next picture is a little bit blurry, you can see that now I've begun to add the patterned texture of the blue ropes and colors on the floats. The background is warmed up with yellows. The rigging and structures in the midground are more fully developed. The cabins on the boats are getting worked out and the painting is beginning to take on final form.

Finally, I finished up the orange ropes and added highlights on the blue ropes and floats. Generally, I've finshed up the specifics of the painting. I often tell people that my paintings are intended to evoke in the viewer a feeling of place. I know that when Patricia and I saw these piles of rope and accompanying floats that we were very taken by the forms and colors. I hope that you are too and will share our appreciation for this scene on the coast of Nova Scotia. This painting is framed and on display in the front window of the ADJA Studio and Gallery in Liverpool, Nova Scotia.

  "The Yellow Boat" oil on canvas 28" x 38"

And so we must get to packing up all of our stuff to leave. We are going to cross the peninsula to Digby and then take the ferry over to St. John, New Brunswick. From there we'll go down to Bar Harbor to spend the night. Then we'll go through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and down to Brattleboro and Vermont.

The 7th of October brings us another date with Brattleboro's Gallery Walk on the first Friday of the month. I'm looking forward to seeing all of our friends there and getting settled in for a productive winter. I always look forward to hearing from you. Do write!


William H. Hays

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103 Main Street, Brattleboro, Vermont 05301-4308  USA

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