Monday, September 28, 2009

Brush Recovery

Sometimes you buy a brush that looks good at the shop.  Then after a closer look it looks like this.

#20 Bristle bright, for careful use on a 6x8 in oil

Most people find the performance from such a tool quite annoying.  It is not at all predictable, even for the loosest of painters.  My last trip to the art supplier provided answers from several artists.  First there was "put it up in flat irons" meaning that after washing, fold a thin cardboard such as a match book cover and clip it in place to let dry to a thin chisel edge.  The second was "condition the brush, break it in", which referred to punishing the brush into submission.  And finally, "treat the washed brush with gum arabic, forming it to the desired shape and let it dry".  Never thought I'd return to the world of watercolour, but this seems to work.  Most stores carry a small container of gum arabic.  it is water soluble so of little consequence in use.

From the image above you can see a close of a bit of my studio with a few 6x8 paintings along the rail.  This brush was used to create them - after recovery.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Palette Creep in the Studio

I have been working on the light effect on masses in recent weeks.  This typically outdoor activity has spilled into the studio.

The process consists of starting with the simplified shapes (masses that hold the painting together) painted flat in colours that reflect the prevailing colour key.  Then modifying the shapes relative to one another to get the correct colour, value, and intensity.  Then following up by painting colour variations in the shapes and treating edges as required, in a few iterations.  The last steps follow observations after each correction.  As more and more colour variations become apparent these variations are added to the shapes (great eye training).  The degree of subtlety is up to the artist.  The degree to which the variations are seen is a function of practice.  Interestingly, it is amazing how much detail can be inferred (not added) as the process is pushed to latter stages.  This leaves an air of mystery when combined with edge work and involves the viewer in exploring the work.

Annie's Saltbox, 11x14, Oil on Canvas

This small painting done in the studio from sketch reference seemed to demand more pigments on the palette.  I was mixing paint on the canvas and in order to get the variations, finer variations in the raw pigments seemed required on the palette (for example 3 or 4 yellows).  This does not seem to happen on a cool gray day colour key.

I used my new #14 Filbert Bristle brush and the expanded palette of Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Viridian, Cadmium Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Middle, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red Middle, Alizarin, Magenta, Mineral Violet and Titanium, White.

We leave for Willisville On September 30, and my studio tour is this weekend.  I'll attempt to make another studio practices blog before the end of the month.  If you have subjects you would like discussed please send a message.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

In the Studio

In the studio I most often paint from the small paintings I make en plein air or from thumbnail sketches with colour note references.  On occasion I work from photos but I prefer to avoid this practice for a number of reasons.  First, I tend to get trapped in copy mode.  This kills creativity and deadens one's ability to see what is really there - the camera distorts, misses most colour nuances, and does not work the way the human eye works.  This latter condition results in a lack of edge treatment in the painting.

When working from the smaller plein air painting, I have the colours of the situation stated for reference.  What is missing is the amount of information required to make the larger studio work read according to the small painting.  This can be achieved by "inference", meaning that detail can be stated without being picky - using texture,  colour within masses, edges, gradations etc.

Using thumbnails requires more imagination.  The colour reference is in word format and the main information is in the form of value masses with notes on the light key and direction.  In order to make a larger painting out of this reference it helps to have plenty of on site experience - it builds colour memory, and a free imagination.

Using both of these approaches in a series is difficult regarding consistency.

Big Head, Little Head, and the Onion, 18x36, Oil on Canvas

This painting was done from reference derived on a hike at Cape Onion Newfoundland.  Several small studies were also made in the area.

Monday, September 7, 2009

September Retreat

What with preparing for a 94th birthday (not mine yet!), painting for a show at the RedEye (hanging on Sept 7 - opening on Sept 9) and other activities we finally got outside painting.  My turn to host.  That means buy the coffee, pick a spot, buy lunch, and act as cheerleader.

Today I decided to go small.  This is a good exercise since the same brushes and palette are used.  The brush is even bigger in relation to the canvas size.  That trains you in at least two ways - dexterity and feel on the brush, and avoiding premature details.  it helps you go through the stages in the approach you are using instead of trying to go to the end as a beginning.  That approach is what direct painting is about, but today I was painting with the colour key in mind.

Black Creek, Mosquitoes, and Me 6x8 Oil on Board

I chose a spot out of the sun.  That was good.  The bad part was that the mud down there harboured a horde of mosquitoes that were impervious to my bug repellant.  Just part of the "joy".

Well that old #12 bristle Filbert helped get me out of there fairly quickly.  After that I could chat with Vic and Bob and get ready for the next effort of the day on the Credit in Terra Cotta.

The palette consisted of Ultramarine Blue, Viridian, Cadmium Yellow Middle, Alizarin, Mineral Violet, and Titanium White.