Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Brushstrokes, Concept, and Seeing

I was talking with a painter the other day.  She has been working atelier style.  She has been told to "paint what you see, not what you think".  A tell tale sign of evolving in one's ability to see is a painter working with shapes as opposed to things - preconceived ideas.  If the painter is painting representationally, a good assist is to look, mix, place the stroke, leave it alone, and repeat.  This eliminates "licking" and keeps one focused on seeing not thinking.  She has been working on this.  However, she then commented that her work looked too choppy. "Isn't that a result of this look, stroke, leave it alone practice, she asked?"  Naturally there is more to it.  You have to also consider your concept.  Your concept will help you decide what to do with a stroke once applied.  Maybe you want to paint modern showing the brush stroke.  Maybe something else.

One Stroke Left Alone

After looking and mixing,

Second Stroke Left Alone - Modifying the First Stroke

After looking (squinting),

First Strokes Modified - Edge Softening

Edge softening two ways.  The left side of the first stroke was softened by smearing/blending with a brush (could have used a finger).  The edge between the first and second stroke was softened by adding a mid value stroke.  The near values make the edges appear soft.

Then after looking and mixing,

Yellow Stroke Left Alone - Hard Edges all Around

Notice the colour - value contrast and its hard edge calling attention.

And squinting,

Edges Modified

And looking, mixing, and changing from a brush,

Multi Edged Stroke

These strokes were subordinate to the concept.  No mud resulted.  The shapes are slowly evolving.  Patience.  You can't get to the end bypassing the beginning and middle.  Stay the course.  Keep to the concept.  Don't let them sway you.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Transition Season 2011

Most of the time this is stick and mud season.  Just a few days ago it looked like this.

Scotsdale farm March 22, 2011

Then on Wednesday we got a full dump of the fluffy.  So yesterday 3 of us ventured to the Mistake Valley in north Hockley.  Just a glorious day.  Can you tell?

Just a Grinnin'

Same but Different

The Other Way

This last picture shows a painter set up to paint back to the sun.  The first two facing the sun.  There is terrific glare on this set up.  The dominant masses are lit by the sun (one concept).

The first two facing the sun had shadow dominant images,  more protected painting surfaces (from the glare) and palettes in the shade.  Facing the sun produces eye discomfort when looking at the subject as your eyes shut down to reduce the light - often a problem with value here.  Notice both painters wearing peaked hats to reduce that glare.  OK, so the hats are Elmer Fudd, but hey.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Concept, Composition, Installation

Often in my excitement I fail to adequately form a concept for my painting.  The danger is that I change direction in the middle of the painting and end up with multiple paintings on the same canvas, or an unresolved painting.  Then when trying to regroup or improve there is nothing to use as a measuring stick.  This dramatically reduces your batting average and your rate of development / evolution.

Reference - Stowe Vermont

A number of elements in this reference attracted me.  My concept, in brief, was to capture the late day winter light, to rearrange the elements, to show depth while flattening the scene, to draw the overlapping construction planes and leave them in if appropriate.  Now remember, this is a photo, and I was there.  So my wee memory was brought to play as well as my considerable winter plein air experience.

Drawing From Thumbnail

The composition seemed to work on the thumbnail.  The building blocks were as envisioned but there was something out of synch.  So.... after rearranging according to my concept,

Redrawn Plus a Bit of Colour

The planes felt better and the colour helped with the concept.  How much drawing and line to leave in?

More Colour Less Line

The colour helped with the decision regarding the use of line to show different planes in keeping with the concept.  These are decisions made in implementing painting elements per the original concept.  The composition has been altered significantly.  The idea is to create a painting, not to make a copy.

Downtown Stowe 20x30 Oil on Canvas

It is against the wall awaiting final concept check.  A bonus, my wife likes it........

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mixing What you See or What you Wish to Install

What you see and what you wish to Install can be totally different things.  If your concept is to paint what you see you must be able to actually see what is there.  Not so easy as we have discussed.  Nope, the snow isn't white.  If your concept is to paint what you imagine you wish to Install, you have to be able to describe that colour/value and be able to paint it in relation to the rest of your painting, else you go garish or chalky etc.  You need colour unity.  To get this the colours (hue) must be right relative to each other and the relative value must be correct as well.  This is easier to see when you work from life than say an abstract painter working from the mind.  No wonder so many paintings don't work.

Let us look then at a colour mixing process.  Following a process long enough will make it intuitive for you.  That is why experienced painters make mixing look so easy.  They cannot even tell you what the process is.  Having a process to follow early on will short cut the path.

Here is the process;

1. Examine and identify the colour (hue) using an open eye
2. Choose the closest tube colour on your palette (may have to mix colours from your palette)
                Tube colours are the highest chroma or brilliance so start with this.
3. Adjust the value.  This will lower the chroma.  Value is extremely important.  Squint for relativity.
4. Adjust the hue.  Add warmer or cooler as you see required.  This also lowers chroma.
5. Adjust the chroma.  Hard to adjust higher (add tube colour).  Add complement to lower.

You may have to back to the value adjustment and repeat since it is so important.

Painting in Process with Value and Colour Checker

When you look at this process and practice with it you will experience value changes as not so straight forward.  For example, how do you make yellow darker?  Most people reach for the black.  Unfortunately it makes yellow go olive green and dirty.  If you add yellow ochre the chroma decreases.  If you then add yellow deep the chroma will increase.  There is no formula and each colour is different.  Trying to lighten a colour is also a problem.  The addition of white cools the colour, causes a shift in hue and decreases chroma.  So for example to lighten red you might add white and yellow - lighten and then increase chroma.  A great set of exercises.

In the oil painting above you see a painting in process with a colour and value checker.  Look how white the checker is or how dark the colour is.  You will also note the vibration in the light area of the painting.  This comes from the way the paint was mixed and applied.  This is known as optical mixing.  Separate colours are placed next to one another or pulled over top of each other with the colour below still showing so some degree.  Another mixing and applying method is glazing.  Here a transparent medium plus paint mixture is placed on top of another colour.  This usually done wet over dry forcing the painter to take a long time on a painting.  It can be achieved wet over wet with brush control, and a translucent  finish can also be achieved this way.  Finally, one can blend the paint.  This often results in "licking" and dead looking paint.  Using all three methods in the same painting gives a dynamic image.

Closer View - Optical vs Blended

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Seeing and Translating What You See

Nice present!  After 10 hours driving through rain and fog from Vermont we get an over night snow dump.  Another chance to study the rainbow.  I'm just not ready for the snow pattern, and stick and mud seasons.

Here is what we saw last time.  Three basic shapes.  Squint to see them.  They need arranging and such but that is not the issue here.

Sun, Shadow, Dark Vertical

To begin with we can look at this through the idea of values.

Hi Lite         -       Middle Values       -         Accent

Here the value scale is shown as 10 steps.  The areas in the light will be in the first 5 values.  The lightest is reserved for any hi lite should it be required.  The shadow areas will be in the last 5 values.  The darkest is reserved for any accent should it be required.  The middle value is for the bed bug line, that area of transition between dark and light (5-6).  Now, this scale can be slid either way for lighter or darker colour keys, but the idea is the same.  Every brush stroke has to be either in the light or the shade.  You have to know this for every stroke.  The darkest dark in the light is lighter than the lightest dark in the dark.

From last time we know that the colour in the light is not white.  Mix an appropriate violet for what you see in that value, perhaps a 2 or 3.  Perhaps leaning to blue.  For the dark shadow mix that violet in a darker value, perhaps a 7.  Now mix the warm you see (perhaps a yellow) into the light value pool maintaining the value and apply this in a painterly fashion over the violet as you see it.  There will probably be cooler areas in the light as well.  For this cool the mix in a slightly darker value and apply it in the light area to define the contours.  There will be reflected light in both the light and shadow (perhaps a warm orange in the light and a cool red in the shadow, a blue or green in the shadow).  Finally there might be a hi lite in the light area.  Mix that as a warm with a value near 1 as you see it.  Here is what I saw when skiing.  A lot of values in the light.

Hi Lites in the light Area