Tuesday, March 27, 2012

USG Strategy

It is quietly sneaking in.  Still in the MUD season, just to confuse.

Delicate Ugly Slime Green - In Sun

She is delicate.  She goes with the MUD.  She will outlast the MUD and she will evolve for the next 6 months.  So get ready.

Crop Her Out - In Sun

I have used this strategy to get around her.  But she will soon take over in another form, so better to take her head-on and get ready for the long season of green.

I use the same palette for all types of painting - landscape, portrait, still life etc.  However, I do have a guest spot on my palette to accommodate pigments to try out or to yield variety on occasion.  My palette features viridian green as its only tube green.  It is extremely versatile and naturally it is expensive.  Not a powerful pigment it mixes very well.  For greens I use Cad lemon yellow, cad yellow light, cad yellow deep, yellow ochre, transparent red oxide, cad orange, cad red, alizarin, and mineral violet with viridian in many combinations.  My blue to mix greens is primarily Ultramarine but could also be Cobalt.  Of course I also have white to lighten and cool.  These many combinations produce about any green under the sun.  But when I just have to experiment.....

Some Guests

I have been known to use more than one of these at a time but usually I choose just one.  they come from my two drawers of paint - one warm, one cool, that are labelled "seldom used".  You can tell I love to wander through art stores.  These are from front row bottom left,

Indian Yellow, Transparent Earth Yellow, Emerald Green, Azo Yellow Green

Top row from the left,

Permanent Green Light, Sap Green,  Cinnebar Green, Yellow Citron, Chrome Oxide Green, Pthalo Green Yellow Shade

Remember the answer to "how do you get THAT colour?"   MIX  MIX  MIX!

Have fun.  Clean up when you are through.

By the way, you might have noticed that I use every colour on my palette to mix my large variety of greens.  That is why I introduce a guest pigment infrequently.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mud without the Mud

With this heat wave the mud season will pass quickly.  But when you paint out in it every day you need some approaches.  Although it is all around you you can ignore it by cropping it out.  An extreme would be to paint a sky scape.  Here I am doing the scene in another season and in fairly bright sun light so I don't want it to be a mud scene.

Mud and Flood, 11x14 Oil on Canvas

The scene is on Scotsdale Farm.  For the next one I travelled to Toronto to paint in High Park with John Presseault and friends.  With the close proximity to Lake Ontario the season is about 2 weeks behind us here in the escarpment.  None the less, mud.  So, leave out the buildings etc. and... lie a bit, subordinate a bit, exaggerate a bit....

Nobby in High Park, 10x12 Oil on Board

A few finishing strokes to soften edges and add some texture and a bit more light will about do it.

Out there today I can see that the mud is beginning to lose ground.  Get prepared for the USG.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lila Lewis Irving

I first saw a Lila painting in the '90s called "I Thought I'd Paint The Electric Bill".  An oil portrait.  From that I figured she must be an interesting lady.  She is.  I painted under her direction at the Haliburton School of Fine Art.  Abstract.  What a week!  Energy, intuition, and scads of paint.

Lila has her first retrospective "Appassionata" at the Art Gallery of Mississauga.  It runs through April 29 2012.  See it if you can.  It covers her most recent work with a smattering of the wood cuts, oil portraits, seascapes, and prints.  Quite the journey.  "I can never ever, ever, ever, ever master this one."

"Good starts are easy, good finishings are hard."  Lila

Calligraphy 280

"The subject does not pre exist.  It emerges out of the interaction between the artist and the medium."  Robert Motherwell


"Everything should have one controlling gesture."  Robert Henri

Song of the Moon II

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift."  Albert Einstein


After the walk and talk I chatted with Lila.  She was quick to remind me that "you don't just start painting the abstract.  You have to know shape, value, colour, edges, and texture.  I have many years of that background and it remains a kernel in the back of my mind when I paint without thinking."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Guess What?

It is only mid March but the season of all colour has passed into that preseason of mud.  So now we get to practice painting mud on purpose.  But how to make it interesting?

Credit River Runoff - Mud this morning

At least this has four different corners and some diagonals.  Balance?  Maybe another spot offers better composition and interest.

Black Silver Creek

High eye line, man made structure, bridge is a stopper across the mid ground, pretty drab.  Look back the other way.  Camera isn't too far off in this one.

Flowing North

Lazy S, different corners, a bit of colour.  Try looking back again.

Looking South

Into the sun, check the corners, warm or cool light (intermittent), lots of perspective.  Low eye line, some colour ( much more than shown in the photo).

The choice.  Should be something that stirs your innards.  Then how to deal with it?  Move things, leave 'em out, add to 'em, wait for the sun, no, maybe a profile looking into the sun....
Try not to sink too far into the mud.

Seems like the Black/Silver Creek doesn't have near so much runoff mud.  Credit is brindle brown.  We have to get this practice in quickly 'cause old USL is right around the corner.  I'm lucky, my palette doesn't change as the seasons come and go.  One less consideration.

Friday, March 9, 2012


I changed my snow tires out to dare them to snow.  They did, et voilĂ !  Another colour training day, and at 11℃ and full sun to boot.

All Around Us

What to paint?  What do you like?  What concept, how to treat it?  Why are you attracted to it? How to arrange it?  What to leave out?  Where to move it?  What else is needed?

Interesting Pattern

That would be a backlit situation painting into the sun and cast shadows.  Not the more common light and shadow situation with modelling.  The sun will move quickly.  What else?

Robert Genn posted six common compositional pitfalls.  More to remember.

Weak foreground. The foreground appears as an afterthought. Wishy-washy, unresolved or inconsequential--it fails to set the subject onto a reasonable ground or to lead the eye to what the artist would have us see.

Homeostatic conditions. Homeostasis means equidistant lineups of trees, rocks, blocks of colour, or other patterns that are too mechanical or regular. "Even in front of nature one must compose," said Edgar Degas.

Amorphous design. The general design lacks conviction. A woolly, lopsided or wandering pattern makes for a weak one. Often, the work has unresolved areas and lacks cohesiveness and unity. 

Lack of flow. Rather than circulating the eye from one delight to another, the work blocks, peters out and invites you to look somewhere else. "Composition," said Robert Henri, "is controlling the eye of the observer." Effective compositions often contain planned activation (spots like stepping stones that take you around), and serpentinity (curves that beguile and take you in.)

Too much going on. Overly busy works tire the eye, induce boredom and make it difficult to find a centre of interest or focus. Less is often more.

Defeated by size. Effective small paintings often work well because they are simple and limited in scope. But when artists make larger paintings they often lose control of the basic idea and what is ironically called "the big picture." "The larger the area to be painted," says Alfred Muma, "the harder it is to have a good composition." 

So leave that and that out.  It is a backlit condition.  Lots of bright spots.  Lead them in.  Make the hill a gradation in partial shadow with the flats on top and bottom lighter and brighter - just like in Carlson's book.  We talked about that in the car using the dashboard as an example of planes at different angles.

Composition Day - In Process

Now to fit the weeds and brush into the rest.  First, a visitor.....