Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ken's Corner

Well, should have known better.  Sun they said.  Not.  A heavy grey day in the Hockley.  Farmer Ken welcomed us to his corner and invited us to paint on his property next time in the area.  "The only thing here that you have to fear is my wife" he said.  No watch dog.

The Scene

It is only a photo, but you can at least tell it is a grey day.  That means close values, low chroma (lots of greys), cool light, warm shadows and not evident ones.  The sky was warmer than the snow, and darker.

Squeeze out - same place every time.  Formulate your concept.  Get the shapes right (drawing, perspective etc), simplify, get the values right, keep the colours muted and consistent.  Here is Monica's start.  Looked promising from the car.  The painting after some studio work.

Ken's Corner, by Monica

Lets check off the elements.  Simplified shapes.  Sky warmer than the snow.  Sky darker than the snow.  Values  - sky, background trees, mid ground trees, foreground.  Chroma - colours muted and a variety of greys.  Cool light, warm shadows.  Edges, hard, soft, lost.  Paint quality (difficult to assess here).  How would you rate these elements?

A few comments. 

Nature displays the non human trait of randomness.  She does not make anything the same once.  Trees different heights, branches all different, shapes different and non symmetrical, etc.

If you look at the mid ground trees (green) and compare to the values of the background trees you will find the interface near the same value.  But, the colour is warmer on the mid ground trees.  This is a way of saving values by changing colour.  It flattens the painting, makes it more like a short picture box still life.  Good to know and be able to do.

Looking at the interior of the mid ground tree mass you will see a dark shadow area.  Indeed the shadow is depicted as warm.  Look at the tree in the foreground.  What temperature is its shadow side?  It is imperative to have consistency in consistent light.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Winterlude and the Gatineaus

Our friends Claire and Robert Chartrand invited us to Ottawa and their cottage in the Gatineaus.  Skiing and eating French Canadian cuisine was the central focus.  We added a side trip to Ottawa's Winterlude to see the canal filled with skaters and then to the ice sculptures.  I was desperate to take my paint and easel, but decided to avoid any conflict with my good wife.  So I took the camera and the sketch book to fend off my addiction.  But I don't like to paint from photo reference.

Waking up to this raised my pulse.

Lac McGregor

But off skiing we went.  That kept the addiction at bay.  Great day.  Sun and -16C.

Camp Fortune

I studied the pearlescence of the snow and the values of the deep shadow and the open shadows.  I probably would have started with cobalt and permanent rose.  Two days of this torture laced with fine food - Pot en Pot, Tortière, and maple sugar based Beans with Onion.  Lucky we were skiing!

One afternoon we visited le Parc Gatineau.

Open Water

We went through Wakefield on the way home.

A Classic

Then I saw.....

A Barn

These barns have no obvious foundation.  The board seems to go straight to the ground.  So don't use this reference then tell your teacher you painted it in your locale.

Finally Robert pulled up to a favourite scene of his.

Les Cascades de Robert

I'll paint an impression of this in the late afternoon sun.  Thank goodness I have painted similar scenes from life.  Then I can use the reference primarily as a composition tool.  My many snow paintings from life will be invaluable.  We'll see how it goes.

Then in Ottawa at Winterlude,

The Winner

Sublimation had already set in, but this was incredible.  It would make a good painting exercise.

On the canal.....

John Alexander Day

This reignited the addiction.  Three things of note.  Bare hands.  Arctic boots, the real thing.  The Andersen Easel.  This easel is excellent for painting big outside.  For years it has been called the Glouchester Easel.  It is available from Take It Easel in Maine.

Canal Reference

Sunday, February 5, 2012


There are no rules.  Nope.  "Rules" are just opinions.  So when a workshop leader says "this is the way you paint trees" or whatever, run.  Such restrictions ("you have to use this paint" or "glazing is the only way to paint" etc.) restricts the student's ability to see the differences from tree to tree and from time to time on the same tree and so forth.  These "rules" offered by so many who teach (often as a way to get people started on their artistic journey) limit one's curiosity and ability to experiment and grow.  This is part of the reason that many teachers can only take you so far.  When you have reached as far as their opinions have gone, that's as far as you can go.

So, I experiment a lot.  Perhaps exploring is more accurate.  Yesterday I decided to break into a new (for me) realm of ground preparation.  I had an old board that I had prepared with a dark ground.  Looked almost black.

Beginning of FALSE SPRING

Most of the time I prepare the ground wet on a white surface at the beginning of the painting session.  I choose a transparent mixture according to what I think I need for that particular painting.  Sometimes I choose from a selection of light value dry grounds prepared previously in the studio.  Yesterday the ground was a dark mixture of ultramarine and transparent red oxide, a transparent mixture.  I prepared a few boards with this a few years ago.  The others were quite light when dried, but this one got away from me.  I'd been avoiding it, but yesterday was to be a short sketch, so nothing ventured.....


The darks just painted themselves.  All I had to do was use the appropriate tools at my disposal and consider the truths that exist.  So what is a truth?  A truth is supported by observed realities in nature - science can back them up.  For example, warm light produces relatively cool shadows.  No opinion here, you can see this as your eye is trained to see.  Yesterday the light was cool (heavy overcast) so the shadows were relatively warm.  This can't be changed.  It is a law of nature.  However, you will see variations in how warm or cool the shadows are, and I could see that yesterday.  I expected to see warm shadows, I did, and my colour mixing exercises allowed me to mix the warm shadow mixtures that I saw.

FALSE SPRING for the Studio

Enough composition and colour information for the studio finish.  As you give consideration to the truths you see, you will find an infinite number of ways to apply the paint for your concept to get your message to the viewer.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Board Experiment Part III

After my last episode trying to paint on a board showing its grain and colour I decided to size the board with PVA or GAC400.  Then I covered the mixture with two thick coats of clear gesso.  Still gritty, and a bit of the colour is lost.

I got to try the board in a snow fall.  Blowing and snowing.  We hid in the forest to reduce the snow accumulation on the palette.  Now, Zan showed up in his "paint in the car" invention.  He couldn't go where we did, but he was toasty, warm, and dry.

Fence Post Easel

Without your tripod, improvise.

I put my gritty board up.  Good thing.  That gritty surface held the paint when the others were sliding around with oil slush.

Back Tilted

Even with all the preparation undercoats the panel absorbed paint more than I like.  I prefer a fast surface.  At least I could get the paint to hang on.  The tilt back helped keep the snow off the palette and the board.

Camera View of My Subject

There was a lot of snow between me and the subject.  The camera tends to add more of this filter than the eye.  Colours pretty much washed away.

Pizza Anyone?

The good ol' pizza box wet panel carrier nicely stacked in the brambles.  A lean mean paintin' machine.  Another productive day at the office.