In this series, plein air painter and instructor Jeanne Mackenzie takes a look at new paintings by contemporary artists and points out why they succeed as painted images. This week, Elena Schackleton’s “The Bait Shack.”

Lead Image: “The Bait Shack,” by Elena Shackleton, 2015, watercolor, 15 3/8 x 11 3/8 in.

This little building could be used for anything, but the small fishnet hanging on the door gives it a purpose, telling you it is perhaps a fishing shack. You want to be careful of old buildings in that making them lean (as in a dilapidated barn) may say something is “off” in the painter’s drawing skills. In this painting, there is a solidness to the building, but also evidence of age, with doors and windows that are askew and a rain gutter that has seen better days. The artist has portrayed a long history in this building. The shadows are also beautifully done. They are the color family of the stone in light, not too dark in value, and have warm light bouncing back into them. The artist knows what this bait shack actually looks like in real life. Using just a photo reference would have made the shadows too dark and the stone walls too light.


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