Thursday, December 31, 2009

Preparing for a Second Day on It

An unexpected day of quiet in the holiday season.  Two in fact.  To the easel.

It has been difficult to forget the large painting on my easel.  Christmas Eve, Day, and the Day after with a room full of guests could not detract the critic from looking over everyone's shoulder at the start of a snow scene taken from the small done on site.  The agony of being unable to attend to errors, omissions, large canvas alterations etc.  So now that I have some time, I already have a list and a sense of direction to pursue.

Coffee up, put on the play list, and get in there to squeeze out.  Scrape off the dried up pigment.  Lets see, squeeze out Cobalt Blue, Cadmium Yellow Middle, Alizarin, Veridian, and Titanium White.

Restarting "At the Edge of It", 36x48, Oil on Canvas

There are more piles of paint than those you say.  True.  The paint mentioned is the foundation for the painting and are squeezed into large masses - for example the Titanium worm is 8 or 9 inches long and an inch wide (palette is 14x36 inches with glass over a warm backdrop to aid in seeing the colours).  The other paints were put out in smaller piles since they were not used much in the preliminary round for this painting.  Here I put out Mineral Violet, Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Orange, and Cadmium Red Middle.  I try to put out enough pigment so that I will not starve the palette in a 5 hour session.  (Failed with both the white and the cobalt).  The worm shape is convenient for keeping a clean pile available for mixing.  The pattern on the palette comes from the Practical Colour Wheel.   Light yellow in the middle, warm colours to the left, and cool to the right - in the same sequence as the wheel but straightened out along the top of the palette.

You will see that I built this easel (less than $20).  It works fine from 6x8 to 42x60 and larger.  Since I stand to paint the majority of time I don't miss crank and pulley adjustment of canvas height.  To the left you can see a bit of my French easel.  It is now holding my reference painting.  It has its palette directly below the painting and between you and the easel.  I like this location for the palette.  It keeps you away from the painting surface thus promoting the use of the long handled brush and forcing me to stay away from trying to render detail or going to the end of the painting before doing the beginning and middle.  The middle value palette helps with seeing colours when mixing and the close proximity to the painting also assists in this regard.  One flaw is the space accorded the coffee cup.  It seems to have an affinity to Cadmium.  As Vincent found, this is not a good thing for the artist.  On the make it yourself theme, notice the use of Salmon tins for thinner and medium.  Paper towels are to the left, and my tabouret is to the right.  The overhead light is coming from the open kitchen and the outside light is North.  There are a number of push pins along the palette.  I am not sure what I have used these for.  Also on the palette is a container of brush cleaner and a container of gum arabic.  Both are used for brush restoration so should be somewhere else.  Also to the right is a ceramic brush holder I made in a pottery class years ago.

The painting did make some good progress today.  #12 and larger brushes and thicker paint.  Not enough light for a photo.  I'll finish off next year.

Saturday is a paint out at Scotsdale farm.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Earth Tones and the Practical Colour Wheel

Per the original post on the Practical Colour Wheel, purpose number four has to do with mixing earth tones.  All the pigments listed on this colour wheel are high chroma colours.  Since earth tones are grayed versions of the primaries, they are not shown.  If they were shown, they would be inside the colour wheel - towards the centre.  For example, yellow ochre is a yellow (primarily) and would be shown on the wheel between yellow and the centre of the wheel.  It may be mixed from the primary colours.  How?  Since it is in the yellow family, start with a primary yellow (cadmium Yellow), the add in small amounts of primary red and primary blue.  Then add white to get the value desired.  This version of yellow ochre will be rich but grayed (compared to Cadmium Yellow).   Experiment with it - mixing is an excellent exercise.  To get Burnt Umber (a clean version of it) mix the same three pigments but with a dominant Orange (Yellow and Red) with the Blue.  Although this requires mixing it does not "dirty" other mixtures like Burnt Umber from the tube.

Yellow Ochre mixed from Primaries

Any two colours on the Practical colour wheel will gray when mixed.  For example, Untramarine Blue plus Cerulean Blue will approximate Cobalt blue - slightly grayed.  To the extreme, two colours opposite on the wheel (complements) will go totally gray in the correct proportions - like Alizarine and Viridian.  The more pigments mixed, the more gray or mud.  The addition of white also grays pigments (and cools them).

So, what is the significance of all of this information?

1.)  It allows one to use a simple palette such as three primaries to make good paintings.  This reduces the decision making process and helps with speed.  A virtue en plein air.  But it requires mixing - a great place to start a painting career.

2.)  It helps one understand how mixing works, colours and values.

3.)  It helps one design a palette for making high key colour paintings - not much gray here.  A requirement for non tonal painting.

4.) It helps one to "see" from the study of life subjects.

5.)  It helps one in the pursuit of abstract painting - still need to know how colour works and how to get an effect.

Monday, December 21, 2009

In the Studio from a Small

It has been 10 straight days in the studio.  Need to get out for a few hours to sharpen up.  Maybe Wednesday.

In the studio I paint several ways.  Sometimes from imagination, sometimes from life, on occasion from a photo, often from a sketch.  Here I am working from a small done on site.  In this case the small is a 6x8 and it is only going up to an 11x14.  Here is the set up.

Dark and Deep in process

When you paint larger, more information is required.  Here the rub is that I have only the 6x8.  So I have to try to remember what I was trying to do.  It helps that I have been on site for the small and that I have done this before.  I did a pencil sketch with notes for the small, and I have a photo.  However, I liked the small and decided not to bother with the other reference.  I decided to develop more depth.  After this photo was taken I realized that I still had considerable painting to do.  You will notice considerable paint on the palette.  I don't like to stop to squeeze out - breaks the zone.  I leave the fresh paint on the palette after the day of painting and clean up the mixing pools.  For the next day I add more fresh paint to the existing.  You can see the paint on the palette from left to right - Alizarin, Cadmium Red Middle, Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Yellow Middle, Cadmium Yellow Lemon, Viridian, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Mineral Violet, and Titanium White.  To this point I used only a #14 bristle filbert brush.  I may move to # 6 and #8 as the painting progresses.  So far the painting reflects only the correction of the main colour masses in the mid values.  The lightest and darkest values have been saved for hi-lites and accents.  In this case these are quite colourful.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Back to the Original Two

Saturday was a beautiful day.  Blazing sun after an interesting sun rise - muted oranges in the south east, and Grey Blue down to fantastic pinks, and finally Prussian Blue at the horizon.  At the first stop in North Hockly it was -11C with a nasty wind.  Wrong easel for the wind.  Vic in his wisdom brought a French Easel.  No problem.  Well dressed and still a future reserve for expected cold days.  Excited and smug in the comfort and beauty.

Interesting high key image facing north.  Quick set up and sketch.  A warm key in the winter.  Set the clock for 10 minutes after the setup.  Just enough time to do a quick wash.

Just a Field by the Road, North Hockley

Looking at the setup from the car gave me the first hint of things to come.  You would think I had never done this before in the happy season.  At least I did have an oil change to Graham paint.

Set the easel up out of direct sun

Look at the glare on the easel.  Makes it hard to see the colours and the values.  Pupils shut down.  Later I was able to see the violets where I assumed the snow was in full sunlight.  It was, but the sky was reflecting on the snow.  Evidence?  Just look at the hi lites where the snow has a reflecting bank from ploughing - brilliant and colour and value contrast compared to the fields.

As a correction, I put myself in front of the sun creating a cast shadow on the white board.  A bit of eye relief.  Then in my excitement I proceeded to block in the masses on top of my wash.  Things went of the rail at this point.  The snow was a yellow in a high value - wrong!  The block in was very heavy, not good for layering.  The blues and violets that attracted me to the image were changing rapidly but I blocked them in last - should have been first - different colour and disappearing now.  Try to remember what was there and paint that.  The timer interrupts.  In the car we discuss our pin hole eyes and what colour is on the snow exposed to the sun.  We agree that it is a variety of violets.  Back to the easel.  Try to layer some violets on top of the thick paint representing yellow snow.  What a gooey mess.  the the tree line, weeds, and sky need correcting.  More paint.  Seems that with cold fingers I can't control the brush not to mention the viscosity.  Then there is the grey mass.  Was it frozen?  Another car break.  We consider trading paintings at this stage.  Then I think palette knife.  Back out into it.  This thing needs to be scraped off.  Much better.  But the sun is overhead and all has changed.  We decide to hide out for lunch.

For the afternoon session we calm down and decide to do a three timer session painting before calling it quits for the day.  That went much better.  Relax, squint, see the masses, paint from the shoulder, control the viscosity. block in the masses, adjust.

Later in Hockley, 8x10, Oil on Canvas

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Adjusting the Dominance

Today we have the first significant snow of the season.  Huge wet flakes drifting in.  Mesmerizing.  A great way to start off the studio this morning.  Looks like Saturday before getting outside again.  By then I'll need to sharpen up again.  If it keeps cooling off I'll have to make an oil change for the outdoor box.

The scene is a late afternoon at Silver Creek.  The sun is blazing.  Warm but cooling quickly.  I am facing north.  The west side of the stream and bank is in shadow.  I am on the road, not good.  Don't hit me.

It came back to me pretty well in the studio.  The on site work was weak in drawing and the shadow side vs the sun side had to be adjusted for value.  Parts of the shadow were too warm and bright.  Parts of the sun side were not hot enough or bright enough - according to my memory and my brief sketch notes.  I wanted the shadow side and temperature to dominate, so I made sure that at least 60% of the picture plane was in shadow.  On the sun lit side coming to light was achieved by going up the practical colour wheel and adding a bit of white (remember that white cools and greys colours).  Since we are only working with pigment we can get light if first we have dark.

Afternoon Delight, 10x12, Oil on Canvas on Board

The concept of the painting was to show the prevailing colour key without seeing the sky.

The painting was done with a #14, a #8, and a #6 hogs bristle Filbert and lots of paint.  The palette was Ceruleum Blue, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Alizarin, and Titanium White.