Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More on the Big Brush

I should have added a few other things about the big brush.  My mentor was taught by Harold Boyes of Montreal.  One of Harold's mantras was the use of a big brush.  As big as you can stand then add a size.  I didn't understand what he was trying to say for the longest time.  He pointed out that there is six sides to a brush.  So you have a myriad of painting surfaces.  Oh, and by the way, a well maintained good brush has a razor sharp edge to it.  You can do fine work with it if you train to do it.

To begin with, a big brush keeps you from starting at the finishing end.  When I teach, this is one of the problems students have.  No patience.  Get to the end.  Start with details.  What's the secret?  This in turn helps you stay focused on the concept.

Books and Lawyers Start

If you practice you will find that you can do just about everything with the big brush.  More important, you will develop a fine appreciation for brush pressure, for the feel of the paint, for laying wet paint on top of wet paint. for glazing wet over wet.  Yes, glazing wet over wet.  This all supports doing work in one sitting.  Alla Prima.  And yet taking your time.  Wasting few brush strokes.

Books and Lawyers - wet wash, wet shapes indicated

Using the large brush details are laid in either as small pieces of paint, as strokes over parts of underpaint revealing small pieces of paint, or just inferred - brush touches that make the viewer believe detail is there.  After all, a viewer does not need to see detail, her eye will fill it in as required.  That makes the painting forever interesting.

Books and Lawyers - en plein air

This can be taken as far as the concept requires.

Books and Lawyers - finished in the studio

This might be more interesting less finished.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why Alla Prima?

I prefer alla prima or direct painting for a number of reasons.  Basically alla prima means a painting done in one sitting.  No, it's not the only way, or the best way, or anything else.  I just prefer it, but I don't always practice it.

First of all, I enjoy working wet in wet, and I have devised a number of strategies to paint that way even after the painting has rested for a while and gone dry (Oiling in for example).  Secondly, I find the immediacy or freshness is best achieved that way.  Thirdly, the day changes and tomorrow will not be the same as today.  In fact I'll be a different person tomorrow.  Then again, I'll still be the same tomorrow as well.  Finally, alla prima is also appropriate for using modern elements for painting - visible brush strokes, use of line, flattened image with simultaneous application of non perspective methods to obtain depth, no corrections, subordination through the use of loose un-modelled elements, colour changes for plane changes etc.

Across It (The Credit), 16x20, Oil on Canvas

Working this way I have found that brush work (palette knife etc) sensitivity and paint viscosity and sensitivity is very important.  You have to be able to add paint on top of wet layers with minimal disturbance of the underpainting.  Some passages here are quite thick, some thin.  For me the use of a large brush facilitates not only speed (cover an area with few strokes) while working relaxed but also sensitivity to the feel of the brush and the paint.  Painting often is the other aid.  I use bristle brushes primarily along with a painting knife and an assortment of old broken down brushes that I feel comfortable abusing.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Design, What You See Is'nt What You Get

Design is an interesting intangible.  Gary Spearin once told me "It's your job to make it a painting".  Most times I find that the scene chosen requires at least some design work in order that you can meet your concept.  If you don't do this you become a copier.  Now, that in itself can be a good development exercise.  But the road to evolving into an artist requires the installation of design elements.  They just don't get there by themselves.  Too much, too little, too busy, too dull, subordinate etc etc.  Decisions, decisions.

As an interlude to the early spring greens I have been painting a series in Glen Williams.  It has been quite refreshing.  In addition it has been in line with some art history experiments I am doing, but more on that at another time.  Here is what I saw.

The Way Into the Glen - Rainy Day

Now, I have been in and around the area on all sorts of weather conditions.  So I chose sunny and added light.  I did quite a number of other things to the scene.  Here is some other reference.  Dramatically different light key.

Sunny On the Way to the Glen

Have a look and see if you can discover my concept.  Then see how many design elements have been installed.

Going Down Town, 12x24, Oil on Canvas

Friday, June 17, 2011

Second Rockwood Outing

The first time to Rockwood was exciting yet I was able to relax and catch the essence of the old mill pond dam.  Second time, another day, another experience.  This was the ladies day out.  Maybe that's why I had trouble relaxing and focusing on my concept.

Five Is a Crowd

Yup, five of us scrunched into a small spit of land viewing the river entrance to the park.  We even had a guard.

Daisy Doggin' It

By the time I took these shots the sun had crept around and put my palette in its glare.  Tiny little beady pin hole eyes are difficult to paint with.  You have to compensate for colours put down too dark.  That was obvious when I got home.  Much worse than that, I failed to identify my concept and stick with it.  I was really painting three paintings.

A Start

Interesting rock face, interesting stream riffles, interesting source in the dark tunnel.  Let's do 'em all.  I buzzed between these on the same canvas.  Below was my morning effort. I am trying to refine this effort from this.  I will returned to the concept of the water riffles.  I may paint the others on site at another time.

Ready to Begin Again

This is a poor photo.  The light and colour are off, but you can see my dilemma.  I hope to do some work here tomorrow at our small Georgetown Show in the Montessori School.  I believe I know where I want to go.  Now for the going from memory in the studio.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New Territory, Design

You can paint a lifetime in your back yard they say.  Probably true when you get to the point of seeing.  However, there is the excitement of new territory that quickens the pulse.  Yesterday was such a day.  We painted for the first time in Rockwood.  We've been threatening, but finally did it.  It turned out to be a guy's day out.  Ladies tomorrow.

Dick Caressing His Soltek

You would think that adapting to new geography would be easy, but the more different the more adaptation required.  I had a difficult time settling into Maine last month.  Dick got down to business.  He was on home turf.

Dick's Painting, Early Stage

I decided to paint some water.  Partly this was to facilitate adaptation, partly to reduce the greens.

Pochade Heaven

Here is the start of the painting.  You can see that I decided to leave a lot of things out.  That simplifies, and reduces the number of shapes.  I am staying away from the landscape trap of 3 parallel ribbons running across the canvas.  I use as big a brush as I can.  This helps me relax and paint the big picture again simplifying.  The third simplification tool I used was squinting.  This shows me the values of the shapes, the edges, and rids me of clutter.

Coffee Time, 12x12, Oil on Canvas

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Workshop

My workshop yesterday was a real treat.  There were only six participants, all eager and interesting.  One participant has painted for 73 years and at the other end of the scale, one was painting for the first time.  This was not difficult to deal with with such a small group.  The primary theme was painting en plein air.  The weather was about 15C, breezy, and quickly varying clouds and intermittent sun.  So the strategy of dealing with quick changes from warm to cool light became paramount.  We worked on painting first what was going to change quickly, and leaving that which would remain more or less static.

Judi and Irises, Wagonside

The effect of light on her subject was Judi's concept.  A big challenge.  We talked about block studies and the Monet Hensche connection, and learning how to see.

Alison Simplifying

Alison was working on simplification and the elimination or reduction of detail.  Squinting exercises gave her some insight.

David and Warren

David was working on an unfinished sketch in an effort to get rid of his usual super detailed approach.  This concept was used while attempting to capture the movement in the reeds and water.  His composition was restricted to two shapes to which he did considerable design.  He was using watercolour and pen and ink.

Warren used a knife to pile on the paint on top of a burnt sienna ground.  He was challenged with edge control and management.  It takes time to master the knife.

Chris in the Spireas

Our rookie Chris had an interesting day.  We tried to get him to relax, put on some paint, and see how the process works.  He did some work with a fairly complex composition.  By the end he was seeing colour mixing possibilities and how putting simple masses down with the correct value brought the image together without too much fuss.

John Hiding from the Wind

John worked on a sky scape aimed at capturing the movement in the turbulent sky.  He saw how he could control the viewer's eye by changing his edges and his contrast away from the intended subject.

Aside from the cool breeze everyone seemed to have a good day, all promising to keep on painting.  We have to thank Rosemary Armstrong for her hospitality and the use of her property.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

In the Movies

We pulled in to Scotsdale to find a congregation of trucks and cars all over the fields.  We were stopped by beer bellied dude with a head set and a Toronto hat.  Expecting peace and quiet on a week day, we got the movie mogul two-step run around.  "OK, said I, we'll go in the back way".  There must have been 50 trucks and cars and a pile of people with head sets and pretty clothes trying look like they were doing something.

Throw Money This Way

This guy claimed he knew exactly where they were going to shoot.  Not.  But they did feel important.  Monica splashed one of 'em and his one white sock got a bit dirty.  "I work a long day" he complained.

I. Am. Important

Just workin' our tails off.

Gettin' Hungry

The camera man entourage prepped the action mobile for the man just in case he showed up.

Hitch Her Up

Ok, soup's on.  Lets eat to get rested up for the afternoon.

Shrimp and Lobsta

Apparently it is episode 4 for this new TV series.  Boring from this end.

Meanwhile at locations unknown to the crew but under their noses we got down to work and did a canvas or two.

Threatening to Rain

Tomorrow I am teaching en plein air.  Must have been a good boy - cool, sunny with cloudy periods, good small group.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Painting in the Rain II

The emails started to fly at 7am.  Beauty excuses, but basically chapter one types.  "Looks ominous", "the forecast is for rain", "we'll get wet", "have to enter the juried show", "have to feed the horses",  "have to do paper work", blah, blah, blah.  Haven't heard the "having my wisdom teeth out (again)", or "can't figure out how to set up the French easel", or "I have no sense of direction" brands lately.  Need some creativity here.

Well, the usuals turned out for a rain day, and it was awful as usual.

Vic the Ring Leader in the Rain

Just in case it actually did rain, I hid in the shade to avoid sun burn.  Also worked on a short picture box painting.

Just an Awful Day

Nothing ventured, no painting gained.  80% of the time when inclement weather is predicted we end up with good or decent days.  The other 20% we improvise.  You have to get the miles in.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Painting in the Rain

It happens often enough.  THEY forecast a decent day.  We arrive on site.  We sit sipping the moca and watching that cloud cover move toward us then to surround us, providing fleeting moments of interesting colours.  Then the drizzle starts.  It progresses to showers, then to a deluge.  Go home you say.  Ney ney!  Why lose an opportunity to experience a side of nature and increase your understanding and your ability to see?

Downpour on the Farm

Here you can see the saturated colours in the rain.  No sun to bleach them out.  This was a recent storm.  The rain was heavy.  It was not predicted.  No plans for painting umbrellas.  So, how to improvise?  Local structure was available in the form of a farm building porch.  That will work, even in significant wind.  In the past we have painted from under bridges.  And from under trees - not the best in lightening.

Drizzle Day in LaCloche

This was an all day affair on the north side of Killarney Park.  On again, off again, drizzle all round.  Saturated colours and not much wind.  Warmer sky grey here.  We had rain gear jackets and a trusty cap.  Our French easels were perfect even in the open.  They can easily be adjusted to tilt the canvas top back over the palette so little moisture gets on either.  Here is Bobby doing his rain dance.

Bob Ross Oiling in the Rain

When the scene looks like this you have to develop a strategy to get a painting.  You will always learn something.

Dark and Gloomy in LaCloche

Under the Pine

It is amazing how dry and cozy it is under the right tree.  Two of us huddled here painting back to back.  Perfect study.  Try a week of rain in LaCloche to get the feel of rain painting.  Three of us managed 47 paintings.

So, in this weeks version of the flood, one of us focused on a pattern in the water under an evergreen.  Beauty abstract.  Short picture box eliminates the atmosphere if that's what you want.

Farm Pond Dream

Waiting is another approach.  Done properly it is like a skilled boxer waiting for an opening.  Conquering the old bull young bull syndrome.

While it is good fun and learning to get out in the elements you need not challenge Mother Nature.  If she is sending lightening, mud slides, floods, blizzards (well, maybe these are OK) just call it a day and have an art gab at the coffee shop.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Head Gear

This is about what to wear on your head.  Not what is in your head or how to get things into your head.  Although, head gear might help what is in your head get on to your canvas.  I have now changed head gear twice since the cool of winter.  It's not officially summer, but I am in summer hear.

Head Gear

The hat front and centre is my winter gear and it is my most recent acquisition.  It has the peak plus the equivalent of a toque built in (In the past I added a toque over my cap).  And it has ear protection as required.  I have worn this hat at -40.  No problem.  It is the classic "block heater".  Moving clockwise is a blue grey baseball style hat, but it's from Newfoundland.  Therefore it is superior.  Again the peak.  I wore this hat in early spring.  After the heat started but was still bearable, I wore my gentleman's fedora style hat.  Beauty peak and brim for all round sun protection.  This hat has a built in air conditioner in the top.  Hot air is expelled through the side vent mesh.  Quite nice, quite dapper.

Cool Warm

This hat just doesn't cut it in anything resembling real heat (above 22C for me).  So I have moved to the topless model - full air, decent peak.  Found this one at the dollar store.  This hat will get used till the first chill of fall.  Then I'll move to the cool French cap for some character and variety.  Still with a peak in a darker grey colour.  The constant in all these hats aside from comfort is the peak.  This shades my eyes from the glare providing protection while letting me see unencumbered.  You should not wear sun glasses.  Then again if you like looking through a coloured filter......