Sunday, January 31, 2010

In the Beaver Valley

Driving home from a day of skiing we passed by a scene from the foot of Old Baldy in the Beaver Valley. Today I decided to paint it from reference.  My Sister in Law, who is beginning to paint, watched the process as I chatted along.

Driving Along, 12x 12, Oil on Gallery Canvas

Looking at this photo it is hard to believe that we have fresh snow conditions.  The photo was taken inside the studio, so the camera was fooled even when the light was corrected.  The eye works the same way with apparent colours caused by the effect of surrounding colours.

The other challenge here was deciding what to include and what to leave out.  I painted directly starting with the barn on top of a wash of Ultramarine and Alizarin.  All the other masses were painted minimally thereby subordinating them in favour of emphasizing the main character the barn.  This rather set back my Sister in Law.  She wanted to put things in that did not exist, including a horse.

I will take another photo in daylight to see how it reads.

In the studio today I had a larger palette that what I use en plein air.  I just leave the piles of paint for the next day and add as I see fit or as I wish to experiment.  Today I had Mineral Violet, Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, Viridian, Cadmium Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Middle, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin, Yellow Ochre, Transparent Red Oxide, and Titanium White.  I used my primaries plus Viridian, Mineral Violet, and Cadmium Lemon Yellow the most.  Like Viridian, Mineral Violet is a great weak mixing pigment.  it is hidden in numerous colours in this painting.

I used a #14 bristle flat for the wash and most of the painting.  In addition I used a few other bristle brushes, a palette knife, and a #8 Langnickel sable.  I use the sable for some drawing and also quite brutally for some thicker passages of ragged effects where I push on the brush and splay the bristles which are heavily loaded with paint.

Comments are welcome.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Bit of Snow

Recently we painted for a day in the dwindling snow.  From a vantage point behind a slim bush, protecting me from the wind, I looked out on a scene in which the light and sky were changing quickly.  The western sky was dark, cold, and gloomy.  Towards the south the sun was coming through.  So, what colour was the snow?

White it wasn't.  Can't use the paper to portray it.  Besides it was at least two tone - one in the sun, one in the cloud shade.

If you look closely at the snow it consists of small mirror like ice particles.  That is why it takes on the colour from its surroundings.  That is why it can be lighter that the light source of the sky - all those mirror surfaces lining up.  Now, if you open your eyes and use a colour isolator (small hole in a mid value gray card) you will see that the snow is comprised of a number of colours.  In addition, the edges of snow shadows are even more interesting.

Runaround, 10x12, Oil on Board

This painting shows few shadows but two toned snow, part in the sun and part in cloud cover.  There are a number of tones in both patches of the snow.  However, it is about the barn.  The decisions about the snow treatment have to recognize what the painting is about.

The painting was done with a large (#14) flat bristle brush for the direct colour underpainting work, and a #10 flat bristle and a palette knife.  By direct painting I mean that I used the colours I saw (not some gray or earth tone that is later painted over) in the value I saw to paint first the main focus, and then the rest of the scene - always comparing the new areas being painted to the ones last painted.  I find this direct painting to give both more vibrant colour and fast paint application (handy painting where the light changes or the cold bites).

The palette consisted of  a set of primaries - Ultramarine, Cadmium Yellow light, Alizarin, plus Viridian along with Titanium White.  The Ultramarine is a cold blue leaning red, the Alizarin is a cold red leaning blue Cadmium yellow light leans towards green and therefore is cool.  The Viridian is a cold green.  It is weak in mixtures.  Viridian and Alizarin make great violets and cold grays.  Viridian and yellow make great grays.  Ultramarine and Alizarin make great violets and mauves.  I can warm up the cools and cool the warms with this palette.  It is simple and minimizes the decision making process.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Shadow Observation

I read an art book some time (years) ago.  It was written by a "prominent person".  In it was a section on shadows. It stated that "there cannot be a shadow on a shadow" or words to that effect.  It meant that one shadow falling into another would not show up

A few weeks ago I was warming up while painting at Scotsdale Farm.  We often talk about things that would be good to show to students and others.  While talking about shadows we looked out the window to find a sample.

Christy at Scotsdale, January 2010

So here is shadow on shadow.  Both Christy and the fence post are throwing tall shadows on the snow foreground.  If you look inside those shadows you will see small shadows from foot prints etc.  So much for the book.  In addition you will note the gradation in the value of the cast shadow - from darker value near the source and lighter far from the source.  Looking at the edges of the shadows note how they get softer and "grow" as they move away from the source.  Perspective!  Diffraction!  Physics!

There are numerous other observations here such as "what colour is the shadow"?  The camera does a poor job of the colours and the values - look at the sky as well.  Mother nature (New Mother Nature Taking Over - The Guess Who - now on my iTunes - just like a plan!) will show all if you train yourself to ask the questions.

Beware the Workshop Two Step.

Next time you look at paintings in a show see if you can tell those painted from life and those painted in the studio from a photo.

Sweet Oils and Perseverance Always Skins the Cat

Get used to it.  If you want to learn from Her you have to work with Her.  Then She will tell you all the secrets, but you have to ask as would a good student.  Then practice, practice, practice.

On Saturday 9 were to come and paint "in the warm sun with the snow".  After some fuss we were down to the usual suspects.  Now, it was damp and windy and gray.  They threw that in just to see who would sacrifice.   We painted in a little valley hiding from the breeze for the morning paint.  Randi chased the light change as an exercise.  Interesting.  Vic painted in silence three feet away from me.

Out of the Wind, North Hockley

Hardly what you expected?  Of course it turned out beautiful!

Per the drill we went on to Pete's for a stunning lunch (coffee and a muffin).  Then we headed back to the hills and found this.  Vic mumbled "stop" and after an incident with the ditch we got out and painted individual versions of the mystery - all in blinding sun light.

Where Does It Go?

We painted this side by each until the light started to wane for the day.  We could see all three from the car during warm up classes.  The peanut gallery discussed all three pieces in progress.  More education.

Three Variations

Happy with the effort and the experience, we packed up and began the anticipation of the next installment.  In the mean time we have to settle for the small studio.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Comparing for Colour Temperature

The practical colour wheel's fifth use is for colour temperature recognition.

Practical Colour Wheel

Not only is the wheel a colour - value reference, it is arranged so the warm colours are on the left and the cools are on the right side (warm up, cool down).  This is very valuable information when you are comparing shapes for colour and asking "is this shape warmer or cooler than that shape"?  For example, if you have a shape in the cool that is as you see it - painted as ultramarine, and the shape you are comparing to it is warmer, but still in the cools, then you know which way to go on the colour wheel to paint the new shape.  So you know which colours are cool, which are warm, and within either cool or warm you know which colours are relatively warmer or cooler.  Ultramarine is cooler than cobalt blue or cerulean, and cadmium red light is warmer than cad red middle which is warmer than alizarin.  This helps when coming to light - go up the colour wheel and add a touch of white (remember that white is the coolest on your palette and it will cool the colour it is mixed with).

Friday, January 8, 2010

Studio Work for a Snow Scape

This painting was worked up from a small 10x12 done on site.   The location was near the Bruce Trail in the Silver Creek area north of Glen Williams (where I live).  It was an early morning about -9C and sunny.  I had hiked in several hundred metres from the road with the trusty French Easel.  Fresh fluffy snow had appeared over night.  I was up to my knees in it AND out of range of the timer.  Eventually I felt the cold creeping in and the pace quickened.  The set up was good with shade on the palette and canvas but with an irritating requirement to keep the sun out of my eyes by putting a branch between me and the ever moving sun.  I was able to squint appropriately for values and face the painting wide eyed.  The small one was a gem.

Now in the studio and going bigger one loses most of the ability to squint - the conditions are static and the distances are different.  So the struggle is to recall the scene and make the effort to catch the essence of the small without copying and getting stiff.

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

Here is a photo of the work near the end of the painting session.  I can tell you that the actual colours and values are significantly different, further underscoring why working from life is so enthralling.  Now to get back outside to rekindle my freshness.  I spend about 25% of my time working on site and the rest in the studio.  However, more than 50% of my paintings come from on site work.

In the studio I used larger bristle filbert brushes (#14 and #16) for most of the painting and finished with #8s and #10s.  If you keep your brushes tuned they can be used for fine lines as well as wide strokes and everything in between.  After all there are six sides to a brush.  Also in the studio I may choose to use more pigments so I can use colour changes for plane changes more easily.  There was no earth tone pigments used in this painting.  All were mixed.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Short Outing

-17C and wind chill to -32.  Perfect.  And sunny, They say.
You're not going out in that are you?
Yup.  Get one in early in the New Year.

To my surprise a number of locals and OPAS members turned out for an early in the year paint out on Scotsdale farm.  David and Zan were there, and I had met them at rattlesnake point last fall.  Then there was Chantal and Jeanette from downtown, and Christine from the Mill.  Christy dropped in and left Mike alone baby sitting.

The "keep the core temperature up" play was in.  Everyone seemed giddy, raring to paint.

Since the light was changing fast and I had only a short time, I adopted the concept of putting down just enough so I could finish off in the studio.  To do this I located an image, made a thumbnail for value masses and composition, put up a board and did a quick wash in the dominating colour.  Then into the car for a warming.  Out again and (with a ten minute timer) indicate the colour masses.  Then the clouds began to change the day to a cool key.  Out with another white board, float on a wash, warm up, cycle etc.

Here are the two indicated sketches captured for consideration in the studio.  A simple palette of Ultramarine Blue, Viridian (Just goes with everything), Cadmium Yellow Medium, Alizarin, and Titanium White.  Helps quicken decision making.

From the Dam, 10x12 sketch, Oil on Board

Snow's Creek Pattern, 10x12 sketch, Oil on Board

The approach here is to indicate (as opposed to resolve) the colour masses.  In the studio the flushing out step occurs from this reference and your memory.  Since the memory fades with time it is best to get to these quickly in the studio.  This is a great exercise for the memory.  It also exercises the imagination and makes photo reference painting more vivid.  So the quick indicative sketch exercises all of the big three as proposed by Lorne Bouchard (Quebec).

                            You can be bashed around in the bush.  If your hands freeze, your face burns, 
                            or the mozzies suck your blood, so much the better.
                                                                                                                                         - Lorne Bouchard, 1913-1978

A quick goodbye to all and on to the rest of the day.