Monday, January 23, 2012

More on Winter and Snow

It hit me all over again.  On the way to the office on Saturday morning the low January sun was glazing the fresh inch of snow.  I had to stop.

Bottom of Harold's Hill

And then again.

Top of the Hill

And many more times while most hid under their covers.  I snapped pics and sketched for a half hour on the way to our painting rendezvous.

No Traffic Yet

Still, quiet, beautiful.  Compositions everywhere.  Sitting like cutouts against the light background.  Colours abound.  It is the best time of year to paint and learn.  And my favourite time.  If you don't paint out here at this time of year, you are working part time.

The Colours of Snow Today

The full spectrum.  The full value scale.  Beware the lies of the camera.  Look at the values in the light.  I can distinctly see four, even in the photo.  Perhaps I'll use cobalt today.  Yes, lemon yellow, alizarin, no, maybe permanent rose, and yes, viridian.  Perfect!

The Boots

Only -9C today and little wind.  But with these boots you never get cold feet.  Along with a decent brimmed block heater and a few layers, your only fear is overheating.  Tt is bright on a day like this.  I didn't bring my umbrella, and I know better but.....

The Office

No sun glasses allowed, so suffer the blinding light.  Try to cover the canvas and palette using your body.  In a situation like this the glare will soon render the colours and values incorrect.  Usually the painting will come out dark as seen through those little pin hole eyes.

Can't See?  Hold Brush Right etc.

It is unusual to see this in a photo, but it shows how the fresh snow flakes act as mirrors making the colour of the snow a function of its surroundings holding the full spectrum.  How to paint that is the question.

If You Were There

You could practice seeing the colours.  And you could see how the snow in the light is in shadow - look at this......

A Mystery

Coffee Break

Friday, January 20, 2012

Response to Rx2

I had an interesting conversation with a young lady regarding this Rx2 post.  Her take was that she did not like the gridding process - it made her feel trapped by precision.  At the same time she commented that she needed to practice getting her shapes right and measuring.

Gotcha!  These are merely exercises aimed at developing tools for the artist.  You put them in your tool bag and use them when you deem it necessary.  Don't force yourself to use anything just because you have it.

In this case the exercise was not about using a grid.  Merely putting down a mark of the right size (measuring) in the right place.  Most of the time I eyeball this.  However, I did learn how to measure and put the marks in the right place on the canvas.  If I get in trouble I can dust off the tools and get it right.  "Right" of course means right for my concept.  I do compose rather liberally at times, moving things, leaving things out, adding, distorting etc.  Here is an example.

Photo of the Site in The Hockley

Notice how tonal this photo looks.  It was a back lit scene, but there was lots of colour.  Like a thumbnail.

Lay - In

Too much and leading the eye out of the composition.  Try this.


Now adjusting the values and colours.

Take It Out

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rx2; Shapes, Measure, Value Remedy

No workshop or book will instantly turn you into a better painter.  No secrets.  Only through hours on the brush will you come to see, internalize, and be able to apply these principles as you deem them necessary.  After such practice these concepts will become second nature and you will not have to think about them when you paint.  Just like breathing.   These exercises are derived from experience, teaching, and mentors.  They are aimed at mastering the fundamentals of painting.  They form a set of problem solving tools to be used when a painting isn't working.

Shapes - Measure - Value
After Value, I find people struggle with getting the Shapes to be in proportion and in the right location.  This really a drawing problem.  Here, measuring is a good assist in training the eye.  This skill is at the root of drawing.  Putting marks in the right place with the right size.  Shapes and Value are linked.

The Exercise
Building on the Rx1 remedy, find a simple set of 3 or 4 shapes of different values and unique proportion.  In doors use a simple still life set up, not a photo.  Out doors, use a simple set of shapes, say field, rock, and sky.  Note; photos have incorrect values, colours etc.  You have to learn how to use them for reference.

The Site - Choose a Part of It

Look at the shapes through a viewfinder.  My viewfinder has marks both up and across dividing the space into quarters.

Viewfinder Set at 9x12 Proportion

This will assist you in finding an interesting simple composition.  The proportion will tell you what canvas size to use.  Here a 9x12 inch, or an 18x24, or a 12x16 work.

Hold a brush handle or ruler at arms length aiming at the shapes you have identified.  Notice the length of the handle that the shape represents.  Compare that to the next shape.  It might be twice as long as the first shape.  We are looking at relative shape sizes.  

Brush End Covering Vertical Dimension of Shape

Referring to the viewfinder, the first shape might be one quarter of the height in the viewfinder.  The second shape then might be one half the height of the area in the viewfinder.  The first shape might start at the base of the are being viewed, and the second shape might begin at the end of the first shape.  By this means you can stitch together the shapes being viewed.  The same goes for horizontal shape measures and angles.

The Image, Quartered, Shapes Measured

If you mark the canvas or sketch you are going to draw on into quarters, then you can transpose what you have measured onto the drawing of the shapes.  Check the measurements to make sure they are relatively correct.  Errors generally occur when the arm with the measuring stick (brush or ruler) is not held out straight, locked - in at a constant distance from the eye.

To get to the next step, use a mixed grey to fill in each of the drawn shapes with the right value (as in Rx1).  Review Rx1.  Remember to squint to see relative value and eliminate detail.

Make as many starts as possible to internalize this skill.  After a while you will be able to eliminate many of the steps.  Your "seeing eye" will allow this as it develops.

This works well with a small thumbnail of the shapes as in Rx1.  Here is a sample.

Thumbnail of Image, Quartered, Shapes as Measured

Practice this exercise without proceeding to a finished painting.  The more starts the better.  

This exercise will also help with;
Judging relative shape sizes with correct values,
Drawing (thumbnails) - shapes and values

This is the type of thing that should be taught in a continuing painting class.  No quick fix, practice, practice, practice.  Patience.......

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Shooting Snow

I love painting the snow.  Its my favourite subject.  And yes, you have to do it outside.  The colours are amazing.  The "white" blanket makes for all sorts of fabulous compositions a la notan.  Your knowledge of values and value preservation will be increased dramatically.  Your ability to see will jump as well, especially as it pertains to colour.  This effort in conjunction with block studies is paramount.  Studies in bold sunlight are easiest, so start there.

Simple Snow Scene

It is easy to see the components of the snow in this scene in brilliant sun light.  

1.  In Direct Light.
2.  Glancing Light/Shadow Warm.
3.  Glancing Light/Shadow Cool.
4.  Cast Shadow.
5.  A Dark, Such as the Ground showing Through the Snow.

Remember, this is a photo.  You would see the various primary and secondary colours vibrating if you were on sight.  In any event you can see that there are 5 values here.  4 values in the snow alone.  So using a cool and warm variation in the same value is a way to preserve values.

2 and 3 are somewhat confusing.  These appear very bright.  Then you see the sun hitting a surface tilted towards it - true light.  So this area is darker than the true light area and must be painted this way.  This area has both shadow and true light (at the snow flake level), and reflected light from the sky and surroundings.  It is a marbled, vibrating, bright area.  Typically (there is no formula...) it consists of all of the primaries - yellow, blue, red.  Often there are warm and cool variations of this value.

The direct light is more straight forward.  It might be a bit of cadmium yellow with a lot of white to make the lightest value.  Or you might use yellow ochre.  Or.....

The cast shadow is a cool dark in this example in sun light.  It might be a ultramarine and red oxide plus a bit of yellow mixed to the blue side with some white to the right value.  Your ability to see will tell you what to use for the specific situation.

The dark showing through might be a warm dark value using ultramarine and red oxide.  Again, observation will tell you what to use.

Painting these areas has endless possibilities.  For example, mix a dark shadow using the three primaries and a bit of white.  Use this in the shadows.  Lighten the mixture for the light shadow areas and make a warm and a cold version in the same version.  Then shoot reflective cools and warms into the areas on top of the first paint layer.  Or, you might first lay down a pink in the right value, and on top add the other primaries in the correct value.  All such methods will make the snow vibrate with adjacent colours.

La Cabane a Sucre

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Your Job Continued......

"Up For Second Appeal" was painted with pretty much the full value spectrum (1-10, black to white).   The common thought is that the contrast and saturated colours gives the best light effect.

Up For Second Appeal

While saving this painting I moved to lessen the contrast, but I stopped here (above).  Had I continued to a high-key painting (alter the concept) with closer values compressed towards the top of the value scale, I might arrive at this....

Second Appeal

Less drama, less colour (light and colour are somewhat mutually exclusive), but more indicative of the effect of light on the subject.  This "feels" more like what I saw and experienced  (the photo showed a full value spectrum - wrong).  But, what does a viewer prefer?

Insight into painting the effect of light (not light itself) comes from studies such as the Henry Hensche Block studies and their derivatives.  A number of people teach this colour seeing approach.  It is not as easy as it appears, so a longer workshop is appropriate.  As you paint en plein air and learn to see, you also become sensitive to the effects of light.  The simple block studies however are more effective since they simplify the subject dramatically.  In this sense the landscape is the most complex motif and therefore overwhelms painters easily.  Try the block studies in sun light to see what I mean.