Friday, November 30, 2012

On Value

Value isn't what you thought you got on Black Friday.  For a painter it is the spectrum from white to black.  Many students I encounter do not express the full range of values in the motif before them.  Many times I see a set of mid values.  Usually, this is an inability to see the values and/or translate them onto the canvas (colour really confuses this issue).  There is often a good deal of confusion acquired elsewhere.  In the concept of objective painting where one is trying to paint what you see, this value scale is very important.  This type of painting is a good foundation for other concepts.  This is because value supplies a framework that holds the painting together.  Here you recognize and use the full range of values present.

The values available to be seen change.  For example, in bright sunlight one often witnesses the full range.  Shadows are crisp and dark, the sky is the light and bright source of light and the motif might show both hi lites and accents.  

Bright Sun

In an overcast situation the values tend to be close together, shadows non existent, and no hi lites and accents exist.  The value range may be quite limited.

Semi Bright Overcast 

These two lighting conditions lead to two separate concepts of painting often confusing the painter or forcing the comment "no sun so I can't paint".  These are light and shadow, and local tone painting.  Rembrandt was a light and shadow painter.  Van Gogh was a local tone painter in his final years.  The Impressionists on the other hand developed the concept of compressing the value scale used (to go hi key ignoring the total value scale witnessed) and to emphasize colour.  However, in order to do these things well one must be able to detect and paint what you see (level 1 painting).

Value and Shape Thumbnail

My thumbnail for what I saw on an overcast day.  You will note that the recognized values are noted for each shape.  The next step is transferring these to the canvas.  That is the starting point for painting the concept.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Black Friday Two Step Avoidance in 8x10

The early notice went out with a favourable weather forecast.  Of course that changed to an 80% chance of rain.  Exactly why a late notice is used most often.  And it was Black Friday.  Priorities, priorities.

The usual suspects turned out.  Coffee in hand we willed ourselves to find a motif to paint.  It was a Harold day with the famed 8x10 exercise in full swing.  The purpose is to do starts, lay in the shapes and values, get them right, repeat.  Force the eye to compose a small chunk.  Big Brush, small board, no time to wander.

Monochromatic 8x10 Start

Sure beats the Black Friday Lineup Two Step.  Even with Harold scolding.

High View, Low View

The shelter looked inviting.  But the wind blew, the paint flew, couldn't see much for a minute or two.  The paint literally blew off the barn on to John's palette.  "Not the right colour" he exclaimed.  Oh but the texture.

For the Long Haul

After a monochromatic block in with accurate shapes and values, many people have trouble getting a colour with the right value.  Every colour is affected by its surrounding colour.  Value-colour perception often not too easy.  Here Shelley is ready to do what it takes for however long it takes.

The 8x10 repeats were taking their toll.  You could hear the scraping sound of knife on board.  Harold drumming on, "take it off, do it again".

As the cold set in we were advised that the next element of the 8x10 exercise was speed work.  Oh boy, can hardly wait.

Black Friday avoided.  Another great day at the office.  Remember, take the forecast tongue in cheek.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On Recovering It

No, we are not considering rehab.  Have you ever had a painting that was way off after the initial painting session.  Really?  Well, I have.  And for some stubborn reason I decided to avoid the fire and attempt a recovery.

On our recent trip to Algonquin, where we were stunned by the colour, we took to setting up on a dirt road (the middle of the dirt road), with 30 minutes left before sundown.  This combination wiped my memory clean and I did a small painting start from hell.

Starting the Recovery

Even though the recovery process is under way here, you can see the start.  Lines, bloody lines.  What shapes, what values?  Tiny brush.  Why??

Years ago I did an abstract work shop with Lila Lewis Irving.  What a lot of fun and learning. An abstract painter who can actually paint representationally.  Beautifully.  She came around to me as I was looking at my last abstract for the session.  Silence.  I looked at her.  "I have no idea how you can fix that" she said encouraging me.  My thoughts exactly.  My neighbour Jill then asked me if I wanted a full pot of paint - she was leaving for home.  I found out it was "Quin Gold".  What the hell, I threw it on my mess.  It covered the whole 22x30 painting about a centimetre thick.  Now what?  I reached for a windshield wiper and dragged the paint off.  Voila!  Am image came to life, interesting, simplified, worked from each angle.  Simple.

The thought returned to me for this attempted recovery.  I wanted to convey late day light.  Cool and warm.  Lets cover the painting with mineral violet.

Recovery Wash

Ok, the shapes began to appear.  I knew they were pretty much the way I wanted them.  Sky, tree line, meadow to foreground (gradation), and trees pattern.  Next I established the darks to indicate the form and the picture planes.

Establish the Darks

So now, put in the shapes in the right values.  Then the colours

Shapes in Shadow Value

My memory told me it wasn't this dark when I started the painting.  So now I have the deep shadows I can paint the light from all the surrounding sources.

Just Before Sundown, 10x12, Oil on Board

Monday, November 19, 2012

On Looking at It

"What are you doing?"  
"I'm painting that tree."
"No you're not!"
"I'm not?"
"No, you're not even looking at it."

Harold tells the truth.  A great teacher.  Sometimes it hurts.  Eventually you get it.  Here is an example.

Monica Looks at It

She was looking at the motif more than she was painting.  It was easy to get a shot of her looking at it.  So what was she looking for?

Shapes.  (Drawing and measuring etc.)
Values, darkest, lightest, each shape relative to the other.
Then, colour and colour domination.

Holding the brush right and in a mit no less, lay down a stroke.  Leave it.  Perfect.

In Process

Also In Process

Here John was looking at it and putting in what he saw.  Once a person is comfortable doing that, she is ready to go to the next step.  Here John was questioning the White Pine in the upper right of his painting.  "Takes the eye there, so, should I remove it?"  "What's your concept?"  Hmmmmm.

Why the mit?

Monday, November 12, 2012

On Size

I remember learning to print and write.  Seems that a change from pen and ink to pencil to crayon had a "clean it up effect" on my writing.  Some things don't change.  I regularly make my writing more legible by changing pens, pencils etc.

In the painting world I also find that I enjoy changing the size of my canvas.  Somehow I seem to go through cycles going from big to mid to small to extra small and then in reverse.

I know that painting is best with gestural strokes coming from the shoulder.  Far better than those licking blenders from the fingers.  Yet when I go small, the tendency to to get tighter, more precise.  So I stick with the large brush most of the time.  When I go bigger I find that I can control the sweeping strokes better even though I enjoy more loosely painted work.  So I guess I can get intended loose strokes more easily.  Really handy for edge management and big brush manipulation.  Regarding brushes, I get the opposite reaction.  If I go small, I find I lapse into pickiness  and far too busy passages.  So I am better going larger still then settling back to something at the upper end of comfort.

Elora Backstreet, 24x30, Oil on Canvas

Before the Plow, In Process, 6x8

Thursday, November 1, 2012

On Paint

"Use the best paint you can afford". So I did. Further, I was told to avoid student grade paint. I was also to avoid hues. I didn't know there was such a thing. Now I do. Many of my students show up for class with these. They are inexpensive, contain fillers and extenders, weak in colour and coverage. To minimize cost I was told to start with 4 tubes of paint. The primaries plus white. That worked out very well for a number of reasons.

Now I like to try out good paint. It is part of my education. Holed out here in New York I decided to evaluate a shipment of Blue Ridge oil paint. My evaluation considers pigment strength and vibrancy, consistency, value, and brushability.

Various brands in my paint box. Previously evaluated.

And now the Blue Ridge.

With a stray Old Holland tube.

So I squeezed out some white and an equal amount of red oxide. Then I drew the red oxide through the white to see how weak the tint became.

Powerful stuff.

Then I continued with the palette knife and a bristle brush feeling the consistency and smoothness. Very nice. Great wet into and on top of wet. Long compared to Old Holland, but similar to David Harding paint. Will have to see how it behaves in thick passages. Now this is a one man company, the paint hand made. So the price for this quality is good.

Did a quick block in of a simple scene. That went ok on a gessoed and thirsty board. I'll let that dry and get a feel for brushing over the oil block in.

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Location:Brooklyn NY