Out to Sea

What happens when you?re painting in a French harbor on a very windy day? Almost anything, but in Leonard Mizerek?s case, one of his paintings-in-progress was launched and almost drowned. Three fishing boats and several fishermen came to the rescue. “Thankfully, with a clean rinse of fresh water I was able to save my day?s effort,” he says.


Red Sails (oil, 24×36) was a finalist in The Artist?s Magazine?s 2002 art competition.

The Westport, Connecticut, painter hasn?t let this incident dampen his enthusiasm for painting fishing schooners, red sail fishing vessels, harbor views, reflections and patterns of water. Some of his favorite ports are throughout New England and Maine, and the aforementioned Brittany, France.

With Red Sails (above, right), Mizerek?s goal was to paint with a limited palette of mostly reds and greens, and concentrate on values and color relationships. He began by drawing directly with paint on the toned canvas using a mixture of raw sienna and cadmium red deep to set up his middle tone. “Since I have detailed knowledge of my subject, such as the structure of the boats and rigging, I can spend my efforts working on the structure of the painting,” he says. He used a No. 12 filbert brush to lay in the composition.

This limited palette also consisted of phthalo blue, ultramarine blue, Winsor green, cadmium yellow pale, permanent madder deep, cadmium scarlet and white. For darks he uses ultramarine blue, Winsor green and permanent madder deep.

Generally he?ll work on location for three to four hours for a 24×30 piece. “Typically I?ll begin a painting at the site and finish in my studio since the light changes,” he says. Some are completed quickly while others take more time to develop. “Knowing the subject gives me confidence when executing a piece, which results in a more rapid completion. I believe this method is true inspiration and gives the work a spontaneity that can?t be duplicated any other way.”

What surprised him the most with Red Sails was how successful unusual colors can work in a painting as long as the values are correct. What matters, he says, is the relationship of color. “As I painted, I had in my mind very much where the painting was going creatively,” he says. “My favorite part of the painting is the angle of the sky treatment and how it leads into the work. Also, the angle of the boats brings the viewer back to the distant town. Planning is always important whether on location or in the studio.”

Though a graphic designer for 20 years, Mizerek has always kept a hand in fine art and painting. When he moved to New York City he studied at the Art Students League with Nelson Shanks, at the National Academy of Design with Raymond Kinstler, and also on Monhegan Island, Maine, with Don Stone. Otherwise he?s self-taught, but has learned much from his artist friends. “They?ve shared time-saving tips, which saved me years of experimentation,” he says. “I?d suggest that artists ask other artists for shortcuts and methods so you can spend your time creatively.”

And he does spend his time creatively. “I feel that I must release some type of energy within to open myself to discovery,” he says. “This is why I paint. It?s sometimes difficult to start, but once I do it?s rewarding to see what I create. It?s always experimental and challenging or it wouldn?t be worth the effort.”

“I like to lead the viewer through a painting, sometimes using actual roads or paths, but always orchestrating how the eye travels through a picture,” says Fountain, who lives and works in Ardsley, New York.

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