Monday, November 30, 2009

What You See Depends

This is item 3 from the list around The Practical Colour Wheel.

Josef Albers (1888 - 1976 studied colour all his life.  In particular, he studied the effect of colours placed adjacent to one another.  They affect each other's value, saturation, and hue.  This is the visual effect of simultaneous contrast.  Mark Rothko's colour field paintings were based on this phenomenon.

Here is an example from the practical colour wheel pigments.  The pigments are (near) compliments (Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Orange).  The two complements were mixed to form a grey.  One of the complements was taken pure with a dab of white added, and placed in the middle of the grey.

"A Little Bit Lighter and a Hell of a Lot Brighter"

David Leffel would say colour against colourlessness.

And here are a few other samples of one colour affecting another.

Value, Tone, and Intensity

This has numerous implications to the artist.

Because of the field influence a pigment taken from the palette will "change colour" when applied to the canvas.  For example, if you mix on a toned palette and place paint on a white canvas, the initial strokes will appear darker.  As you continue to block in the painting will tend towards mid tone and the colours and values will remain more the same.  The opposite is true for a white palette.

Years ago I noticed a dramatic colour shift in a brush loaded with yellow ochre.  Before my eyes it turned green as I applied it to my canvas.  At the time the canvas was blocked in and the dominant colour mass was a transparent yellow.  Of course when you understand the make up of a non primary colour the outcome is a little easier to predict.  Otherwise, declare a mixing day or session on a regular basis.

Experiment with this concept.  The outcomes are endless.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Always, Never, Sometimes

Artists often ask if every plein air painting is completed in the field.  No, and quite a number have little or no merit and become "skimmers", not keepers.  The training is always good.

Last time out we all got to do 3 paintings.  This is my third for the day.  Late day sun was beautiful.  However, my palette, which looked loaded with paint after I squeezed out, was starved by the time I got into this painting.  Short on white, and yellow, no viridian to speak of, lots of Alizarin and Ultramarine and sufficient Mineral Violet.  Not enough time to squeeze out reinforcements.  Sun going to the horizon quickly.  So, quick thumbnail for value and composition.  Then 15 minutes of frantic painting and searching for paint.

Third Key of the Day, 10x12, Oil on Board

Lots of work to do.  You can see the board showing through.  The colours are off, values need to be resolved.  Light source to be resolved.  Some focal painting to be done.  Then again, is it worth while?

Painted with a dirty #8 bristle filbert.  Comments welcome.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Values and the Practical Colour Wheel

The Second purpose of the colour wheel arranged this way is to provide a value vs. colour guide.  Looking at the PCW (Practical Colour Wheel) you will find a grey scale on the left hand side.  This value scale ranges from black on the bottom to white at the top.  The pigments on the wheel correspond roughly to this value scale (If you wish more detail on this, write to me).  For example, Cadmium Lemon Yellow is about a 9 on the value scale.  Its near complement Dioxy Violet is about a 1.  Most of the pigments are in middle values.

Practical Colour Wheel vs Value

This might seem trivial.  However, when teaching I find that many people struggle with value once colour is introduced.  The result is a painting with middle values.  Such a painting is read as dark, lifeless, or perhaps reflective of a rainy day when indeed it is a bright sunny day.  I see countless paintings in juried shows exhibiting the same look.

A reference to the wheel would tell a painter that a sky painted with a mixture primarily of Ultramarine Blue (value ~2) would have to be lightened significantly to bring it to a 9 if that is what you see.

In addition, there are value checkers available commercially.

This configuration can also lead you to mixtures for a beautiful dark instead of using a dull earth tone such as Burnt Umber.  For example, the complements of Viridian plus Alizarin with the addition of Ultramarine form a juicy rich dark especially when not over-mixed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mid Day in Hockley

We stopped with the escarpment wall facing us across a valley.  The sun was November bright and tracking toward the north west.  The valley wall was in shadow but the warms were beginning to creep in. Have to hurry to capture it this way.  After a quick shape value sketch I used the paint already generously squeezed on to the palette for the morning paint (see the last blog).  First the cool shapes were massed in.  This fixed the most rapidly changing elements.  Then the shadows.  Finally the warms of the foreground and last the slowly changing sky.

Valley by the Trout Pond, 10x12, Oil on Board

At this stage the value masses were established.  Next the masses were modified relative to one another.  The escarpment wall was very close.  So each other mass, such as the near darks, was compared for value - lighter, darker, colour temperature, warmer, cooler, and colour chroma, bright, dull, and corrections made.  It is interesting to see how much a colour's appearance is changed by the colours around it.  That is why the corrections have to be made when the shapes are massed in. This process was repeated with smaller colour variations put into the large colour masses.

The painting was done with a #14 and a #8 bristle filbert brushes.  Same palette as last one.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

From Blue Fog to Orange Shimmer

Four of us painted in the Hockley yesterday.  Vic lead us to the far corner of what we call Hockley North.  The early fog was still hanging in the air under the burn of the sun.  Or was it the moon?  In the little valley Tamaracks hung on to some of their needles.  The set-up was facing south east to catch the shadow side of the valley wall.  At the start of painting the key was overcast with fog, but is was quickly moving to early morning sun.  The thumbnail was done quickly, the main masses were massed in, and a few minutes of painting went on in silence as the key changed.  So I stopped looking at the scene except for reference, the colours were totally different.

2, Sometimes Three  10x12, Oil on Board

If you look closely at the image you will see the wood grain show through where the paint is thin.  The board is door skin which is thin and light for travel.

The painting was done with a #14 and a #8 bristle filbert brush.  The palette consisted of Ultramarine, Viridian, Cadmium Yellow Middle, Cadmium Orange, and Alizarin, and Titanium white.

The afternoon session allowed us to paint two images, one in mid day bleaching sun, and one in late day orange sun.  Just a magnificent day.  We'll do better next time for cold weather training.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mid Morning in the Sun

Some promises do come true.  Today's weather was glorious, never mind it was mid November.  The fields are full of yellows, oranges, reds, violets and greens.  So today we attempt to capture the effect of the sun on the scene.  Here the composition was made considering the time and the sun position.  The sun is coming from the side and back providing some shadows and bright colours.  It was a good day to show the diference between saturated (bright) colours and light (bleached out) colours.  You cold move your head slightly and see where the sun fell directly on the local colours making them light (front lit, sun at your back).

Snow's Creek Divide, 10x12, Oil on Board

There was a lot of paint used here.  The painting was done with a #14 and a #8 hogs bristle filbert brushes. The palette used was Ultramarine Blue, Viridian, Cadmium Yellow Middle, Alizarin, and Titanium White. The apparent earth toned were mixed from primaries.  The simple masses were painted in a direct sense - a colour suggesting the effect of the light.

Five of us were painting today.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Complements and the Practical Colour Wheel

This image demonstrates the Practical Colour Wheel and mixing complements.  Alizarin Crimson and Viridian are chosen to mix a dark (near) grey in the centre of the wheel.

Each opposite pair of pigments on the wheel will produce similar results.  If we lean the mixture towards Alizarin or towards Viridian we can get a greyed version of those colours.  These mixtures are less intense or dull.  To see what colour you have add a dab of white.

Now, if you want a different value of the colour add white until the value you wish is obtained.  Here the middle grey has been used and various amounts of white are added to yield a different value of the same colour.  This can be done anywhere along the line between Alizarin and Viridian.

You will understand this better by going through the exercise.  If not, drop me a line.

A note about adding white;  White is the coldest "colour" on your palette.  When it is mixed with any pigment it both cools and dulls that pigment as well as altering the value.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Let the Reno's Begin

Friday was a pleasant break from the cool overcast.  But it looked like the weather was not behaving in the beginning.  We went to Scottsdale Farm.  The beginning saw a raw dark sky roll in with a few hints of sun to come.  This was one of those opportunities to paint in two distinct colour keys within hours.  The challenge for the first painting was to get the key in quickly because the light was changing rapidly.  To do that I did a small thumbnail to check the composition and establish the main colour-value masses (3).  Then I chose a small (10x12) board that was coloured with the gray taken from my brush washing pots last week.  This gray is near 5 on the colour scale.  So, I only had to indicate two value masses and the painting would be well on its way.  The sky was lightest so I took a large brush (#14 bristle) to reduce the number of strokes required to mass in.  A quick mix of a cool gray and a couple of strokes and the sky was massed in as a flat colour - value.  The darkest mass was the tree line.  Darkening the sky colour and warming it a bit and the darkest mass was also in with a couple of strokes.  The middle value mass was already there.  Must have painted itself!  But it was too cool so I warmed it up quickly with a few thin strokes.  From here I could paint - variations, details etc.  Lucky, the sky and light key was already changed to warm and sunny.  The remainder of the painting was done by memory and reference to the thumbnail.

First Impression, 10x12, Oil on Board

After a quick bite, I painted the following image in blazing sun.  Quite a contrast from the first piece.  I chose a white board.  It was an experimental board with extremely coarse canvas.  Aside from the dramatic change in light key the biggest challenge was to get the white canvas covered to eliminate the tiny white spots.  It took quite a lot of paint.  I followed the same process as above but in a more relaxed state since the colour key stayed pretty much in place for a couple of hours.  Hopefully you will see a significant difference in the temperature of the colours in the two pieces.  The cool piece has less contrast, closer values, fewer shadows, and less focus.

Begining to Renovate, 10x12, Oil on Canvas on Board

It seems they are finally trying to save the essence of the farm and are into renovations.  I hope they don't go too far and eliminate the artistic lines in the old farm.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Clean Up Time

When my brush cleaning pot gets so full of mud it just oozes up into the brush I'm trying to clean, I just have to set time aside to clean it out.  It's a dirty job.  I'm an oil painter.  So, what does one do with that goo?

Clockwise from top, Cleaning Pot, Container of Sediment, Coated Board and a few tubes of paint, Colour Wheel

I scrape the sediment out into a container that has a lid.  Then I use the beautiful gray mixture to coat my plein air boards for a coloured mid value ground.  This facilitates a fast pace while painting plein air since a mid value already exists for the painting - just add darkest dark and lightest light.

In this case the sediment is a warm gray.  I use left over paint from my palette in the same manner.  The result is an array of coloured grounds to choose from.  The grays are particularly useful when painting tonally.  However, they are brutal when painting the effect of light on local colour.  There I most often start with a white canvas which is covered very quickly with flat colours for the major masses.