Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Getting It Back

I try to paint every day.  If I don't get to the easel I read about art, visit galleries, or prepare canvases if I can.  My routine is to paint landscapes and townscapes from life en plein air twice a week or more.  I do still life on Thursday.  In the studio I finish pieces not finished on site and do larger pieces from sketches and reference.  If I stay in the studio I get antsy and stale.  Even a walk helps that.

Recently I have been thrust into renovations.  A good one for the book of excuses.

My Studio In the Background, A Plastic Blanket

It has been 10 days now.  Supervision.  No painting.  It will go on for at least 4 more days.

In the past when I have taken a long break I found that getting back to it was not easy.  First of all, other things took over my priorities.  No concentration.  Worse though is what you seem to lose.  Just like an athlete who skips training, you lose fitness.  The first thing that goes for me is the feel of the paint on the brush.  That is big for me because it is all about paint manipulation.  Then I lose some sharpness in seeing, and finally my sensitivity to value and simplification tail off.  What to do.

My strategy often starts with preparing a set of canvases and panels first thing in the morning.  That gets me wielding a brush and a knife.  Then I call a friend and set up a painting date.  Once on site I practice squinting for simplification and seeing values and edges.  Then I compose something of interest in thumbnail form using the pencil as a brush and identifying 3 or 4 values on big masses - no detail.  Finally I paint using a large brush and employing thin oil washes to emulate the thumbnail, massing in the shapes, while looking and squinting repeatedly at the scene and the centre of interest.  On top of the thin washes I try to at least get to indicating the centre of interest with some pieces of paint that are at or near the finished state.  This process seems to get me back on track when repeated a few times so the priorities are sorted out.

Sentinel, In Process

Monday, July 30, 2012

Interesting Musings

Few artists, many painters.  Here are a few deep thoughts from a few living artists.

  • If you can't paint, paint big.

  • Procrastination is the most difficult thing to put off.

  • It is just a matter of priorities.

  • Painting pictures is confining.  Learning to paint is limitless.

  • "The end is in sight" should read The end is insight."

  • The pattern of light is an entire abstraction.

  • Paint manipulation is the essence of learning to paint.

  • Artists paint paint first and things second.

  • With this approach, the act of painting becomes the point of painting.  Then one does not learn to paint but paints to learn.

  • A good impression is lost so quickly.

  • Light is a thing that cannot be reproduced, but must be represented by something else - by colour.

So, who said what?

Friday, July 27, 2012

That Camera Thing

John MacKenzie sent me a photo of his painting done in a dry creek bed in Belfountain.  The light swatches caressing the tree were basically Tints of Cadmium Yellow (Titanium White plus Cadmium Yellow - cooling the yellow, making it opaque and lighter).

Dry Gulch, 10x12, Oil on Board

Flavours of Tom Thomson.  Nice little image.  As John said, "It didn't look like this!  Go Figure".  He used a Nikon on auto setting for the image.  So here is a Canon version.

Dry Gulch, 10x12, Oil on Board

Interesting.  The second image is closer to reality.  The Canon receptor apparently makes a warmer image  (my Camera guy pointed this out to me some years ago).  The lighting was different.  The Canon was on manual mode which I generally find makes a better picture than automatic.  So, values are different as is chroma.

By painting from life you will find your visual memory improves so you are better able to finish in the studio or to paint from photo reference.

John used a cadmium yellow tint as a ground colour.  The light pervades the painting and the darks also work well.  Experimenting with coloured grounds is an interesting process.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Artist's Studios

There is nothing more interesting than visiting and artist in his/her studio.  We had an invitation to visit Denis Hopkins in his Orton Studio and then go painting on his property.

Denis Showing Monica His Painting Station

Denis is well known for his still life painting and more recently his landscapes.  He does these from life.  Learn to see.

Still Life Setup and North Light

Looking around the studio you find drawing boards, easel area, a framing station, and an area for contemplation and discussion.

Drawing area, a fireplace in case.....

Thinking, discussing.

Precise Measuring.  Prop, drawing, painting.

Reference and Props

Yes, practice Good Drawing. Improves eye hand.

Setting Up Still Life Demo - Needs a Vertical

Yes, Drawing....

 Denis's Clean Up Trick

Denis focuses on painting.  So cleaning brushes is an interruption to that end.  His solution,  slide paint covered brushes into the oil tray (vegetable oil) at the end of a paint session.  Leave them there till the tray is filled.  About two weeks.  Transfer those brushes to the coal oil pot.  Repeat until the coal oil pot is full.  About 3 months.  Rub clean the brushes in the coal oil en mass, then soap and water.  Perfect.

This tour was very interesting.  Vic saw memories of Harold his mentor.  All of us felt like we were having an Impressionist deja vu.  Discussion, learning, inspiration, and laughter.  What better way to get revved up for a session en plein air.