Monday, August 30, 2010

Karen's O'Hara in the Studio

I thought you might like to see the progress of a larger painting in the studio.  This was done using a pencil thumbnail as the principal reference.  Other on site paintings helped refresh colour memory.  A square format was chosen to help emphasize the mass and height of the mountains.  O'Hara is unique in that the mountains are up close in your face.

Mass and Line,  36x36 canvas 

Most often I mass in the basic shapes directly using the average colour and value.  Here I used mass and line in combination but using thin ultramarine alizarin mixture.  This colour will be complementary to the coming colour layer and if it peeks through I am happy to have it in the shadows.  Some of the marks were put in at this stage to suggest the relative darks (Tree trunk for example).  Then I begin to paint over many of these and leave an indication to their position.  Normally I stay away from white as long as possible.  Here I used some in the sky to help me with relative values, saving the lightest and darkest if I need them at the end of the painting.  It is like a reserve fuel tank.

You will notice several setup issues.  My palette is right in front of me - very convenient and keeps me back from the surface.  There are only a few colours squeezed out but there is plenty of each.  I don't like a starved palette.  Replenishing the paint usually happens when I am in the flow.  Most inconvenient.  At the end of a painting session I leave the excess paint and add to it the next day.  If I miss painting on this easel for a couple of days I lose the paint.  It is worth it.  In the corner of my palette there is a tuna tin for medium.  There are two brushes - a # 16 bristle filbert and a two inch Escoda.  The three inch was in for maintenance.  You also see a value chart hanging on the easel.  This is both a reminder and a reference.  I find it most useful when there are numerous picture planes in the image and I am using close values in different hues to separate them.  Finally, my coffee cup.  Now this is not the best location for it.  It sees its share of cadmium.  Tastes awful!

Coffee Palette, #16 Filbert

Now we are moving directly on to colour and establishing dark masses with average hue and value.

Eating Up Viridian

Quite often I wipe my brush between paint loads, change the mixture, scoop the paint, lay a stroke, repeat.  Here I introduce another brush to help go back and forth between two masses.

Main Masses Established

In this approach the painting is more immediate that a full lay in or underpainting with say an earth tone (such as burnt sienna).  The advantage is faster execution and cleaner more brilliant colours.  The drawback is that you have to "hit it" or you pay the time and accuracy price.  In this case I am reacting to the painting and making some design changes on the fly.  You will see some of these in the tree masses in the final.  Here the foreground is still very much in question.  I have not decided how I want to deal with it at this stage.  The only thing for sure is that it will be subordinated.  I found myself wiping a brush full of paint randomly on the foreground so that it contained a bit of everything in the painting.

Karen's O'Hara, 36x36, Oil on Canvas

This shows fine on my monitor, I hope it does on yours.  It is a bit weak at the wrong angle.  I hope you get the idea.  The painting was done wet in wet.  Two coffees.

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