Sunday, July 18, 2010

Frederick Waugh Notes on Marine Painting

By Armand Cabrera

Frederick Waugh is America’s greatest marine painter. He was very successful in his long career. I did a biography on him here for this blog in 2008.

 Before he died Waugh had put together a ten chapter book on marine painting. Although the book was never published we have excerpts provided by George Havens at the end of his biography on Waugh written in 1969. These are some of the more generic quotes on painting the sea.

Waugh listed his palette as permalba white, the cadmiums, alizarin, cerulean blue, cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, viridian, raw sienna, burnt sienna and ivory black. He says “My medium for first painting is a little turpentine. Afterwards color as it comes from the tube. If need be, a little oil, but be careful of that.”

• No Doubt the sea is a difficult subject. To paint it convincingly means long, careful observation of its many phases and anatomy, for the sea has anatomy.

• I both paint from the sea and watch it carefully, and the later way of studying I am sure is invaluable.

• Paint as rapidly as possible, I want to stress that the more you can finish as you go the better.

• Simplify, simplify, simplify as much as possible without losing the essential of what is sought

• Look for the big things, art doesn't begin and end in detail. It rather begins in breadth and ends in more breadth, in what you can do without.

• I have always held that with a few exceptions, no two spaces in a picture should be of the same area or shape.

• I find that my most striking pictures of the sea are those strong in contrasts, the shadows as dark as I can get them and everything in between of the proper value all the way up to the highest light I select to use. Walking back to judge the work at a distance preserves its carrying quality and force; I walk back all day long. The carrying quality is given by the accents one puts on the shadows, halftones and highlights. This means full rich painting in proper values.

• A sense of mystery is often conveyed by certain passages which lack obviousness because left unfinished.

• I have always believed in establishing the sky tone, in general, as soon as possible. In sea painting the rest depends upon it because of the element of reflection.

• The result of direct painting, in skillful hands is the best ever. It goes far ahead of labored work, painting after painting, day after day, with perhaps ones mental attitude on the change. I say, if you can grab the whole in one continuous period of time, unaffected by breakfast, lunch, dinner or the evening’s amusements or other preoccupations. One day you may feel one way, the next day may be different. Take hold of the motif, of the technique of the enthusiasm of a whole unbroken day if possible.

• Observations, concentration then application.

Frederick Judd Waugh American Marine Painter
George R Havens
Univesity of Maine Press 1969