Monday, May 25, 2009

Gone Green

Many artists who paint summer scenes are overwhelmed by GREEN.  In fact many refuse to paint in the summer.  We are pretty much through with the slime greens of spring but a few late trees are still around.  This is such a scene.  It was painted in glaring light and this is the original result from the plein air session.

Highway Over There, 8x10, Oil on canvas - Plein Air Version

The studio review of it revealed some value and green corrections to be made.  To offset the green machine I added a bit of interest in the sky, and made the fence line a little more prominent.  The picture is not yet available.

Greens are seldom "out of the tube" in nature.  It is easy to get them garish and overwhelming.  There is a lot of gray green out there.  Don't even try to copy all the greens nature presents to you.  If I have a green on my palette it is Viridian (or Pthalo Green for more power).  Out of the tube it is a cold green, but it is a great mixer and can be sent either warmer or cooler and with levels of gray.  A multitude of interesting mixed hues.  Along with it I use Cadmium yellow light, Cadmium yellow deep, Cadmium orange, Alizarin, Cadmium red, Ultramarine, Yellow ochre, and Mineral violet.  then you can shorten this list or add substitutions such as Cobalt blue for Ultramarine or Transparent red oxide for Cadmium orange and so forth.  Titanium white rounds out the palette.  For most mixtures of green I use at least three pigments and in the resultant colour pool I can make the paint cooler, warmer, lighter, darker, grayer and so forth.

The plein air painting was done with a #8 bristle filbert, as was the studio work the next day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What You Take Out

At mid black fly season wind is your friend.  Not too much wind when you are underdressed.  Here we are at 50 Acres in Mono where Theresa and Bob allow us to paint in and around their property.  It is a gorgeous place.  This is a predominately hard wood forest with some old stand trees still in place.  There are hills and valleys, streams and a few small clearings around the log  house.  Without the full leaf canopy the sun streams in and floods the forest floor - decayed leaves and brush all lit up.  Now, the forest is very thick, so the challenge is what to take out.

Out of the Wind, 10x12, Oil on board

Here we have a small valley with a pattern of shadows and abstract new growth greenery.  The dense verticals were very confusing at first.  First the cast was cut and the composition revealed.  Then the problem was "what colour is the light on the forest floor?"  After determining that by looking through a colour isolator and experimenting with a mixture on the palette the lay in took shape.  Finally I noticed that the real focus changed.  I left it there, managed a few edges, and packed up.

The painting was done with a #12 bristle flat and a palette knife.  The palette consisted of cobalt blue, viridian, cadmium yellow light, cadmium orange, and alizarin with gel medium.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Confluence of Excuses

The next chapter of the book of excuses is ready to be written.  Today we had a few examples from a season of over-lap.  Too much wind, too many black flies, mosquitoes, still too cold.  I guess these are better that the repeat excuse of "had my wisdom teeth out" (again).

We set up side by each and did two images from the same spot pivoting 90 degrees for the second one.  Somehow we decided on speed work for the session.  The presented composition showed trees going over the hill and disappearing in the valley.  It also required some balancing so trees were moved or eliminated.  Vic moved, I eliminated.

Move Those Trees, 6x8, Oil on board

Using the colour peep hole in my view finder I isolated the colour in the sky.  An interesting set of grays alternating between cool and warm hues (yellow gray and violet gray with variations).  The distant valley was a beautiful blue gray.  All colour masses required gradations - value, temperature, edges.  A simple arrangement with so much going on.

The painting was done with a #8 bristle filbert and a palette knife.  The palette was cobalt blue (Trying to use this tube before it goes solid), viridian, yellow deep, yellow ochre, cadmium orange, alizarin, transparent red oxide and titanium white.  In addition I used a gel medium to help the paint flow.  Several of the pigments on the palette were quite stiff, so the gel worked well.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sunshine Bleach Job

OK, so you should try to avoid setting up with the sun in your eyes, on your palette, and on your canvas.  That is how you get those beady little eyes or, worse yet, a squinty brow.  When you do this your eyes adjust to the extreme glare and you paint not what you believe you are painting.
Randi and the new apron and the Julian French Easel

However, when you get excited and see a motif you might just do it anyway.  Here is an image done under this less than ideal arrangement.

Hillside, 10x12, Oil on canvas patch

If you could see the site you would realize that the grays were not so dominant and the values are off.  This has been reworked in the studio to accommodate the memory.

The painting was done with a #6 filbert brush and a palette knife.  The palette held cobalt blue, viridian, yellow deep, orange, and titanium white.

Monday, May 11, 2009

After the Run Off

For the people of Glen Williams this tree is a land mark.  Our kids swung off it every summer when the heat became oppressive or they were looking for something to do.  It is a black walnut.  Under its swing branch there is a remnant from construction past that holds water in a pool deeper that the calf-deep water in the rest of the river.  I have painted it from various angles over the years.  This time I went to the river after dinner and painted it face on into the evening sun.  It is a viewpoint from the bridge.  The run off this year, along with the February thaw, removed considerable bank to the point where the tree root system is now about half exposed.  May be a historical painting in waiting.  Another reason for a series.

Undercut, 11x 14, Oil on canvas

The problem was to provide enough light and enough dark given the time of day.  Another time a square canvas might provide some help with compositional considerations.

The painting was done using bristle filbert brushes #6, *, and 10 and a palette knife.  The palette consisted of ultramarine, viridian, cad yellow medium, alizarin, and earth tones ( to shorten mixing time) transparent red oxide, yellow ochre, naples yellow and titanium white.  The canvas was prepared with a coloured ground (ultramarine and transparent red oxide) instead of using a wash to begin the painting from a white canvas.  Alkyd gel was used for a medium.  This medium makes the paint go on extremely smoothly.   It requires a feel for getting layers on wet in wet.  It keeps the wet look when dry.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Full Moon Trying

No, cooling
Hail and
Lone tulip standing
Magnolia falling
Hazel untidy
Mist enchanting
Full Moon trying

8 am studio view, reflective painting

Thursday, May 7, 2009

From the Plein Air Reference

Well, here is the larger painting taken from the plein air painting.  It didn't paint itself much while left alone over night.  In the studio here I can compare the two versions more easily than you looking at the screen.  I did take some compositional liberties,  and I did add more information for the eye to digest off the larger canvas.  This "larger canvas" is only 4x the size of the plein air painting.  So I thought I would not need too much more information say compared to going to a 40x48.  Well, I was wrong - again.

Rhyme or Reason, 11x14, Oil on canvas

So now I'll take another round with the new painting.  First I'll let it rest and see if it does indeed decide to paint itself.  It has happened before.  Assuming that doesn't work, I can't go back on site - everything has changed including growth and weather.  The reference photos don't pick up what I am looking for - its not a compositional thing.  Instead I'll have to depend on memory and the many experiences painting similar things.  This is why you paint from memory or imagination as well as from life.  The practice strengthens that peculiar set of tools to be used when needed.  By the way, have you looked at the sky here?  Yes, it is green.  Every colour is influenced by the surrounding colours.

The painting was done in the comforts of the studio - no black flies, coffee, music, fresh air, steady north light.  I used a #12, a #6, hogs bristle flat and a #4 hogs bristle round and a palette knife.  Why?  Cause I can.  The palette was cobalt, viridian, cad yellow light, cad orange, alizarin, and titanium white.  there was also some dried up mineral violet, red oxide, and ultramarine.  The palette has been thoroughly cleaned for the next round.

Monday, May 4, 2009

From a Plein Air Sketch

Here we are in the studio.  The oil on canvas is being developed from the plein air sketch on board.  This is second best compared to being there.  In this case, time ran out on site and the colours changed dramatically with the rising sun.  So, the 6x8 sketch is the reference being used.  Its colours provide the best reference.  In the calm of the studio I decided to take some composition liberties.  The challenge is to decide how close to the sketch to make the painting.  The key is to avoid the copying mode.  So, I ask "what is the subject, what am I trying to say, what is the essence of the place?"  Continue with "warmer, cooler, lighter, darker, duller, brighter?"  What should be added or eliminated to simplify?

Zig Zag, 6x8, Oil on board

Here you see an 11x14 canvas at the block-in stage.  Tomorrow, after returning from painting in the Hockley Hills, I'll paint into the simple value shapes and ready the finished painting for hanging on Wednesday at the RedEye in Toronto.  It will be dry enough for that (most of the time it is dry, but there are painted sweaters that tell another story).

For this painting I am using #6 and #12 hogs bristle flats.  The palette consists of alkyd medium (to speed drying), ultramarine, viridian, cadmium yellow light, cadmium orange magenta, naples yellow, and titanium white.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Fence Post Series

The setup at Scotsdale farm was at 10 am today.  Both Christie and Bob joined me.  It was cool and quite windy.  Luckily I had my French Easel.  I have been exploring the field and fence post patterns here for some time.  It is an interesting series spanning seasons and time of day.  This is the first day that the unkept fields are truly green as opposed to the bleached grasses from last year.  The greens are the fresh yellow greens of early spring.  These will fade quickly into early summer greens.  These myriad of greens are what many artists detest.  Some stop painting from life until fall arrives.

Just Beginning Green, 6x8, Oil on Board

The challenge is to capture the delicate but vibrant greens.  This is what the scene looked like early in mid morning with the sun fairly low in the sky.  The fence post pattern itself was the second challenge and the final challenge was simplification.

A series offers the artist a very fertile development experience.  One learns a great deal from the approach and I recommend it highly.  The series can consist of pretty much anything.  In my case I am exploring fence post patterns at times of day, in weather conditions, and in seasons.  I am using a variety of locations and compositions.  Today the plan was to have two paintings done at near the same time with the same composition.  The first was a quick 6x8 on board and the second was to be 11x14 on canvas.  By the time I started the canvas I realized that the light had changed dramatically.  So I will proceed in the studio painting from my pencil sketches and the 6x8 shown above.

For this outing I used a new (inexpensive) hogs bristle #12 filbert.  It performed OK.  For my paint based sketch to establish points, lines, masses, I used a ragged #4 round.  For paint I used what was on my canvas and added yellow ochre for speed ( don't have to mix it).  I has Azo lemon Yellow, Cadmium Orange fonce, Alizarin, Viridian, Cobalt Blue, and Titanium White.