Biddeford Pool…shared by Leslie Frontz

You can’t read much about Edgar Whitney without getting a taste of the Maine coastline; the visual rhythms created by boats, docks, sheds and water all creating a sort of colorful chaos for the plein air painter to decode with watercolor on paper. Blog reader (and now contributor) Leslie Frontz shares some images from her time with Ed Whitney in 1978 at the Biddeford Pool, and what she describes as a turning point that led to her painting career…. more about Leslie at

Biddeford Pool….

Early one August morning, my husband and I loaded our car with my painting gear and headed east on a pilgrimage to Kennebunk. Like most rites of passage, this one inspired both hope and fear. I’d heard first-, second- and third-hand stories about Edgar Whitney’s “summer tours” from other artists. His workshops were legendary, as were his commentaries.

Edgar Whitney 1978 photo by Leslie Frontz

Once out on the highway, a sense of excitement held sway. Whitney’s book, Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting, provided the hope. I had struggled to learn how to pull together a watercolor painting with very limited success. Worse yet, it was already apparent that technical mastery was not going to be enough. An even bigger piece of the puzzle would be learning how to organize the painting. Although there were any number of instructors who could define the elements and principles of design, there were frustratingly few artists who could actually explain how to put design to work for any subject in any style. The Complete Guide had been a revelation, and I wanted to see for myself how Whitney applied his strategies.

photo by Leslie Frontz

Our first day at the workshop promised to be outstanding. A clear, sunny morning dawned, and Whitney’s first demonstration was scheduled for Biddeford Pool. Paintings of this site had been reproduced in his book, and I was eager not only to see him paint, but also to have a chance to paint the scene myself. We nosed the car down a rough track and pulled up when we spotted a few people congregating. I remember being unimpressed by the setting and wondering how Whitney had translated this subject in his paintings.

Leslie’s painting from this 1978 workshop

I soon found out. Whitney built shapes, established color and value dominance, and accented the center of interest with line and texture. He did nothing by “halves.” There was only more or less, greater or lesser. It was the relationships that counted.

That afternoon, I started to paint instead of just applying paint on paper.    submitted by Leslie Frontz 12/14/2011

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