Monday, December 31, 2012


No, not the water ones I have been playing with this last week.  On what happened last year on the trip of working on art.   Yup, thats what I'm doin' early New Year Eve.!?  Just look at the sketch books and the entries.

A fair amount of activity for the year.  Here is a summary;

First Grand Child.
4 trips regarding Grand Child birth, development etc.
Out most days with snow, but not much of it.  Too warm.
Biggest snow fall of the year April 25, a double that day.
Continued the Town and Country Series including Georgetown.
Entered a Town and Country and won first prize.
Short painting campaign in Maine - Bar Harbour - on the way to see the baby in Brooklyn.
Hid from the summer heat along the Credit River.  Too many extreme days.
Taught a Spring and Fall Plein Air Class.
Short Painting campaign to Saint Sauver Quebec, September.
Painting campaign with Vic to Algonquin - first time!
Several group shows, a solo.
A number of regular painters en plein air came forward.

Last January I set out a few points in my studio sketch book.  Four painting oriented goals.  I can actually say I worked on two of these - paint quality and design.   And I am in a painting size cycle that is towards larger scale.  I didn't get in more studio painting from life.

Sure didn't anticipate how much impact a grand child could have.  Well, some things you can't control.  I can however, make each stroke count.  Increase my concentration.  Last year's snow paintings were quite good and fairly plentiful.  The Algonquin trip was great fun but not very successful.  There was simply too much colour.  Other painting campaigns were too rushed.

So for this year, more of the same with emphasis on;
Make every stroke count - application development.
More starts en plein air
More stills in studio - use this as a way to hide from the heat
Perhaps a Le Massif break....
Algonquin in the early Spring
Continue Town and Country and The Land series.  Combine some.

Start tomorrow morning at the Credit.  Snow this evening.  Perfect.

Shaw's Creek 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Value Colour Conundrum

If value is the foundation, then colour is the icing.  For most getting the colour the right value is not easy.  Then figuring out how much colour and the right colour seems a mystery.

I often find students and others confused between light and bright.  For example, when you look at a shape in full sun it is light (value), but it is not the brightest (chroma).  A painter who dealt with this brilliantly is Aldro Hibbard.

West River

Winter Farm

These images appear full of light and colour.  Look closely and you will see that Hibbard lowered the value (darker) in order to show the colour.  It is easy to see this with white surrounding the images.  This is also a form of compressing the value scale to bring the big shapes together for a strong design - the big look.  How did he do this?  Practice!

I am teaching a 4 session art course in February - each Thursday morning.  It is called Oil Painting Foundation.  It will be held at the Williams Mill in Glen Williams.  If you happen to be interested, email me for the details.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Design With Shape and Value

Value is important because our eye is more sensitive to it than colour.  Even though you might like colour.  Colour with the wrong value just doesn't cut it.  To Quote Aldro Hibbard "The most important rule in painting is VALUES".

Coupled with shapes you can design using values.  This is a more complex use for values and shapes.  It separates you from photographs.  Design is the conscious arrangement of shapes and values separate those shapes.  Shapes should be unique and distinct.  No two the same.  One dominant.  To achieve that one must be careful not to destroy the shapes by introducing too many values.  The image gets too busy and difficult for the eye to digest.  Simple is better.  Look at the classics.  This is part of your concept.

One way to do this is by studying the light dark pattern of an image.  In strong light this is the foundation of light and shade style of painting.  Separate the shapes into what is in the light and what is in the shade.  I do this in my sketch book in thumbnail form.  This 2 value study is called a Notan by some.  Here is an example from a painting.

From "Snow Shower"

You can see the key subject shapes and imagine the painting from just 2 values.  Dark dominates.  Note how the dark pattern is continuous to help preserve a minimum number of shapes for simplicity.  Now, If I show the image in 3 values.....

3 Value Snow Shower

You will see that the shapes are hung together by the darks.  The shapes are unique and distinct.  In the actual scene the values were full scale - many many, from dark to white.  If you just copy this you will produce a less powerful image, very busy.  So you can compress the actual number of values you use for your purposes (concept).

4 Value Snow Shower

As you continue to employ more values the shapes begin to break up.  Some call the compression of values used the BIG LOOK.  Adding colour to this is another complexity.  Most painters have difficulty putting down a colour with a specific value.  A key skill.  If the colours are of a variety of values, the shapes will break down and multiply.  Value gradations give you the same problem.  But temperature gradations can be done without destroying the shapes.  The key is to keep the colour values in the shape the same such that your design concept is not destroyed.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Self Critique

A self critique list was passed around the other day.  It seemed to be aimed at traditional representational painting such as light and shadow.  Here it is with a little editing.

Concept / Idea
  • ·      Why are you painting this scene/arrangement?
  • ·      What do you want to say?
  • ·      What are you trying to do?
  • ·      Is there a good underlying abstract idea?
  • ·      What can be eliminated to strengthen the composition? 

Shapes / Drawing
  • ·      Are the shapes distinct and unique?  Varied?
  • ·      Are shapes grouped in an interesting fashion?
  • ·      Is there a clear focal point or a series of focal points?
  • ·      Does the paintng “read”?
  • ·      Is the perspective correct without being boring?
  • ·      Is there a sense of depth?
  • ·      Is there a flow of lights or darks?
  • ·      Too many shapes?  Can the number be reduced?

  • ·      Are the values correct?
  • ·      Is the value range appropriate re the concept?
  • ·      Could the value range be increased?
  • ·      Could the number of values be decreased?
  • ·      Is the dark light pattern interesting?
  • ·      Is the light gradated?
  • ·      Do the darks describe the form?

  • ·      Is there a colour strategy in line with the concept?
  • ·      Is cool or warm colour dominant?
  • ·      Are the darks the right temperature?
  • ·      Do the lights have enough colour in them?

  • Paint

  • ·      Are the strokes in accordance with your concept?  Unique vs blended.
  • ·      Variation of application techniques?
  • ·      Texture variation?

  • ·      Are the edges appropriate?  Soft vs hard
  • ·      Is there variation in edge creation
     Of course there are other forms of painting such as local tone.  And there are non traditional ways to suggest depth and eliminate traditional perspective.  Figure painting and portraiture  and these other approaches might suggest unique approaches to self critique.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pine River Composing

Sure you can paint in the same place every day.  You can even stay in the studio.  But I find a change in location fuels the painting fire.  After two or three days in the studio painting from sketches and memory with the comforts at hand, I just have to get out and sharpen up.  She has all the lessons if you ask and study.  Colour use, composition, shapes, the whole works.  Relax and paint a bit of her, not too much on each canvas.

We trekked to the Pine River north of HWY 89.

Beside the Fire

All sorts of possibilities.

Low Chroma Heaven

No chroma in sight, but wait,

Here Comes the Sun

Remember it, as she fades.  What to put in, what to take out, how to arrange, what to say?

A Start

One tree, one clump of grass - placed just so leading to the tree, a bit of stream.  Shown in context with the raw surroundings.  Edges and values important.  How much chroma to make it interesting?  Another half hour and there will be enough to get into the real painting.

There are numerous compositions here.  And its close to good coffee and muffins.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

On Value II

The ability to see the correct value in a shape is key to being able to paint what you see.  The next step is to be able to transcribe the value to the canvas.  Squinting at the motif will simplify things and show you the relative value of the shapes.  A value scale will tell you the value of each shape.  Holding the value scale up to the shape in question, find the value that melts into the shape.

Value Scale Against a Painting

Here you will see the lightest and darkest tone on the value scale is not the value of the snow depicted in this painting.  Even though the painting has a different colour, you can tell which value is appropriate.  So, you mix some paint of that value and apply it to the painting.

Grey Value Study

Here we mixed a grey (ultramarine and transparent red oxide) and applied the 4 values to the canvas according to our thumbnail sketch.  This forms an underpainting.  The shapes are placed correctly and with the correct value.  Any grey will do (good mixing exercise).

Next is adding colour.  Getting the colour correct is easy.  Just make it the same value as the appropriate mass.  When applied, it will melt into the mass as you squint.  Where you go from there depends on the concept for the painting.

Value With a Different Colour

This exercise was done on a gloomy overcast day.  No shadows.  This is set up for a local tone painting with 4 values and 4 unique shapes.  Of course you can go on from there.