Monday, March 30, 2009

The End of Mississauga Road

We returned to an area painted 15 years ago.  Some areas are grown over. The north end of the road warns "No Exit".  So that is a good place to go, and it is a dirt road.  Might be able to set up on the road side without being run off by someone in a hurry to nowhere.  At the bridge it was obvious that everything was growing fast.  Frost was burning off leaving an obvious penumbra.  The sun was moving fast, so how to capture the scene and avoid chasing the fleeing shadows?  First a quick thumbnail showing the main colour masses and relative values in a composition.  Note the main darks.  Begin to paint establishing the things that move quickly - the shadows and darks.  Block in the masses quickly.

One Week In, 11x14, oil on canvas

After the block in establish the colour and value masses in relation to the area established correctly.  Is the area in question darker/lighter, is the colour warmer/cooler, and is the chroma higher/lower.  Einstein would be proud of the use of relativity.  With the basics established, scanning will allow you to see the special effects nature employs.  Try to capture a few of them.

For this painting hogs bristle flat #12 and #6 brushes were used.  The palette was ultramarine, cobalt, viridian, lemon, alizarine, and titanium white.  The yellow ochre was mixed with lemon, ultramarine and alizarine.  Although rich when you mix it, it can be time consuming.

Monday, March 23, 2009


We have made it into the land of equal light and dark.  The summer paint is out and the clothing is down to 3 light layers.  Here we are in the Beaver Valley looking up at "Old Baldy".  There are a few hidden snow patches.  For this image one challenge is how to make one feature the leading star and the others supporting actors.  The thumbnail sketch showed 5 colour masses as a result of squinting.

Season Opener, 12x12 oil on canvas

The start this time consisted of a dull semitransparent yellow applied thin with OMS.  It was "dry" to the touch in a few minutes.  Then a mass in was done to cover the canvas - sky (two blues), the dark Peak (blues, viridian, violet) with a few holes left in showing the yellow underpainting, rust and gray bush (blues, orange, red), the barn (same mixture as the bush), and the underpainting for the straw field.  The finish consisted in modifying each colour mass to give variations and value and add gradations.  In the barn more emphasis was placed with subordination - making it close in value to the bush.  Finally, edges were altered for subordination and eye candy.

A #6 flat bristle brush was used for this painting.  The palette was ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, viridian, yellow ochre, cadmium orange, alizarine, titanium white.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pat's Day

The river is beautiful any time of year.  Capturing its character at an instant in a day in a season is not only a great learning exercise but a challenge.  Today I headed out late in the afternoon with a clear sky at my side and too much clothing on my back.  After all I've been painting every week all winter.  The body has not begun its change to warm weather.  No timer this time out.

Credit in the Glen, March 17, 5 pm

Arriving on site I mapped out a vantage point.  It was exciting as usual.  The kids rope swing tree is still anchoring the bank.  The trees are rapidly filling in.  Now, the shade side and the sun side are quite different but basically the same colours.  How to differentiate.  The shadows are long now with a dark yellow to orange hue.

The excitement overcame me on this one and I tried to complete the image before starting.  So, do you scrape off or try to salvage?  Lets try a salvage.  This time I am using a glaze to salvage the painting.  i did it with a transparent blue and then worked back into it.  The white of the canvas was bothering me as it showed through the first attempt.  It did what I wanted as I looked at the scene today at the same time in similar conditions.

The painting was done with a#12 flat hog's bristle brush.  The palette was ultramarine blue, cobalt blue (recent guest on the palette) viridian, lemon yellow, alizarine and titanium white.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Another year, another birthday.  What better way to spend it than painting.  The forecast was for warm balmy sunny weather.  Well, it was sunny Saturday morning.  I had already changed over to summer paints.  Randi kept me company painting her version of this scene - a ditch by the side of the road near Waldemar.

Happy Birthday, 10x12, Oil on Birch Board

The little stream kept a free flowing passage open in the sub zero weather.  The stream meandered behind bushes and trees to form a classical S.  The wind coupled with the wind made the cold difficult to bear given I had dressed for early summer.  I started with a quick wash of viridian and transparent red oxide, avoiding white at the beginning.  Then using the same brush and adding some ultramarine blue and alizarine I massed in the major colour shapes (5).  Next, the darkest dark and an indication of the tree and its buddies.  The rest was a series of adjustments on the colour shapes for variations of colours as they visible while thickening the paint.  The sky colours and the snow were placed last.

Three bristle brushes were used.  A #12, #10, and a #4 round.  The palette consisted of lemon yellow, viridian, ultramarine, alizarine and transparent red oxide.  The white was titanium oxide.  These paints were the thicker brands I use in the studio and during the summer plein air season.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Going Cool

The last few days have been heavy overcast, rain and windy.  So I decided to paint the cool.  There was no warm light on the fields at Scottsdale.  I began by altering my palette to lean cool.  Then I composed a thumbnail along with a few notes and  5 colour masses, all cool colours.

Thumbnail with colour mass notes

Next came a cool transparent wash of ultramarine and magenta.  Into this I massed in the 5 colour shapes with diffeent cool colours to keep them separated, lavender, ultramarine, cerulean, viridian and magenta wet in wet.  Then the values and colours were altered to approach what I saw in the masses.

Fence Line in Overcast, 6x8, oil on board, early stages

The next step was adjusting the clours within the shapes to reflect what I saw at that stage.  The various colours of the light spectrum become more apparent as one sneaks up on the painting comparing the colours for value, hue, and intensity.  You add colour into the wet paint to reflect what is seen.  As one proceeds one sees more and so forth.  There is no formula, just paint what you see.  That helps train the eye and it becomes more sensitive over time.

Fence Line in Overcast, ready for final stage

The next stage would be edge management and final colour adjustments.  You can see where this is going.  The cool colours seem to give a peaceful relaxed aura.

For this exercise I used a #12 hogs bristle flat brush, a #6 hogs bristle round, and a palette knife.  The palette consisted of pigments representing the spectrum but with a cool orientation.  It consisted of lavender, ultramarine, cerulean blue, viridian, cadmium lemon yellow, cadmium orange, and magenta.  I replaced alizarine and cadmium red middle by adding lavender, cerulean, and magenta.  It took some time to get on to the new colour mixtures and figure out the mixing of earth hues.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Escape to Scottsdale Farm

After a while alone in the studio, I just get feeling "stale".  The solution, get out the old French Easel and get out there, anywhere.  Normally I seek out a dirt road and stop.  Getting down and into the moment by slowly inhaling a coffee brings out the compositions and the colours.  Then, I practice full colour seeing, make a thumbnail for composition (5 minutes), squeeze out, and get painting.

It Just Seems Right, 11x14, Oil on Canvas

This painting was done on Scottsdale Farm as the winter thaw continued.  The unkept fields revealed the colours of decay previously concealed by the snow.  The fence lines provided an interesting pattern.  The early morning sun provided warmth in all colours of the spectrum and the patches of shadow created by the verticals and the clumps of grasses and weeds provided some cool colour balance. 

This painting was done on a canvas previously covered with palette waste which presented a dull mustard colour which was haphazardly applied.  I had forgotten about this canvas but somehow it found its way into my outdoor gear.  It seemed to ask to be used given the overall feel of the scene.  painting on a coloured ground (dry) or with a wash applied (wet) can be used to set up colour harmony on a painting.  It was also appropriate for this early morning effort because the light changes rapidly so speed is of the essence.

For this painting I used one #12 hogs bristle brush and did considerable dry brush painting in the early stages before mixtures of white were used.  The palette consisted of a version of the light spectrum - manganese violet, ultramarine blue, viridian, cadmium yellow lemon, cadmium orange, alizarine crimson, and titanium white.  This palette is between what I use in the studio and a shortened out door palette.  Here I used no earth pigments, preferring to mix them as required.

Friday, March 6, 2009

In the studio a sketch from November caught my eye.  I had just been painting outside so I was able to settle in to the studio.  The image presented the option of using a short picture box eliminating the sky as a direct reference.  The challenge was capturing depth.

Birch Trio, 24x24, Oil on canvas
The first pass captured the warm colours and the clump of birch trees.  However, the depth was not apparent.  The second pass, and working all over the canvas, developed the colour relationships between major masses.  At this stage it became apparent that the birches required some design in order to make them big enough to capture the colour changes that come with plane changes.  This added depth.  Finally the coulours within the colour masses were further refined.

Three bristle brushes were used for this painting.  A #12 and a#10 flat, and a #6 round.  The round brush found its way into the mix after an absence of years.  The palette consisted of Titanium white, Ultramarine blue, Viridium, Lemon yellow, Cadmium orange, Alizarine crimson, and Manganese violet.