images from artrenewal.org and the athenaeum.org
I thought I might show a few Homers and speculate about how they were made. There are scholars who study artists and never address's how the art was made. They study the psychology of the artists and exhume all of their letters and correspondence but ignore the things that painters want to know. I was once introduced to an expert on Metcalf and asked what was on Metcalfs' palette. I got an embarrassed look and a "gee I don't know". I am not an expert on Homers technique , but I will take an educated guess.
The painting above I would assume was made from drawings. I don't think anybody would come up with the silhouette of that bell off the top of their head. Therefore I think he must have sat in front of it, probably with a pencil. I think the painting itself was done over a fixed drawing on a brown ground. He probably posed the sailor and painted from him directly but there may have been a pencil drawing for that first too. Remember all those years drawing events for the newspapers gave Hopper an extraordinary ability to capture rapidly changing scenes with ease. He did it for 20 years. I don't think he set this up on a boat and painted it in situ. I believe it was assembled. That would also be typical of other painters who worked in an academic style at that time. I think this method probably holds for all the fishing at sea subjects.
There are a lot of these fisherwoman paintings from Cullercoats, England. I think they all came from drawings they look like studio work to me. Below is a drawing in what looks to be charcoal and white chalk with some washes. It must be a study for one of the fisherwomen pictures. I think this was probably his working method for these.
First work out the design and drawing in the sketch. Then get a drawing in pencil on the paper and color it up. Below is one that looks as if it were done that way.
This looks to have a drawing beneath it, part of which has been inked. That was a popular thing to do then also. Often the drawing under an academic painting would be inked so as not to be lost as color was applied transparently over it. The color looks more invented than the pieces that I think were done on location.
This pieced was painted directly from nature. I think he took his watercolor block and a chair and sat down in front of this a knocked it out. It has natural color and looks like what happens when you work directly in front of your scene on a bright day. This is a plein aire painting. Most of the others are not.
This looks like it was painted on location too. Homer probably asked the woman to pose for him, and the pose allowed her to set down her heavy basket rather than hold it aloft. That is the sort of thing that models do . This looks as if it was done as fast as lightning.