Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Atomic Bottle and Orange

Here is the second still life setup from my Foundations I Class.  The emphasis has been on value and shape.  Developing the ability to see.  Sounds simple.  Typically there is not too much trouble with the bottle and its shadow.  More trouble with just local tone - no shadows - how to make that interesting?  Well, just add an orange to the setup and have them paint it in a complementary pair such as blue and orange.

Light and Shadow

Yes, you can see the core shadow and the reflections and they can be confusing.  Everyone says they can see what is in light and what is not.  But most everyone painted the shadow side of the orange much too light, but not the bottle so much.  The light sides were often too dark.  Seems that as soon as colour is introduced, value judgement disintegrates.

Grey Scale

And the Notan might look something like.....

Thumbnail on Newsprint

It is not easy to paint light and shadow (a predominant mode) when one cannot distinguish what is in light and what is in shadow.  Seems like the colour in all its glory confuses all those rods.  The Practical Colour Wheel shows approximately the local colour and value relationships for paint pigments.

On Value 5 Grey

So Ultramarine Blue is dark and Orange is light.  Somehow we get it for the blues, not for the warm colours.  Squinting and value matching sure will help this.  Practice, practice.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

River, Not a Falls

I'm sure you have seen things like this.

Credit River from the Forks Bridge

Or you might have seen it thus.

Same Bridge, Different Angle

Any number of times I have seen painters paint this per the following sketch (exaggerated to explain the point).

Stripe or Falls? vs River

These images somehow seem to work for the painter.  I have seen quite a few like this, even hung for display and sale.  But it not a vertical stripe or waterfall.

Harold would tell you that you are not painting what you see - you are not looking, rather painting what you THINK is there.

Here is part of the mystery linked to seeing.

Water in Mug

The water is level with the ground.  In this case the mug is also "level".  That would mean that the water is not moving.

Water in Tilted Mug

The water has still found its level even though the mug is tilted.  The mug is like the land that contains a river.  You can see that the water wants to run - be a river.  BUT it is still level.  It will stay that way unless the land has a discontinuity in it producing a jump down for the water.

So this "level" water is key to making the river look like it is meandering along its banks, not dropping in a precipice.  Look at the subject, it will tell you how to paint it.  Then you as a painter can make decisions regarding eye line, perspective, how to position the river in the frame and so forth.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Teaching Foundations

The last while I have been teaching an Oil Painting Foundation course.  This is always an enjoyable activity and I always learn from the students.  It is especially fulfilling watching people making progress.  The Aha! moments are the best.  As we proceed putting more elements into the tool case you can see people going from "this is easy, bring on the real stuff" to, "amazing how much you can get with so little" to, "oh oh, this is hard".

We started with the "atomic bottle".  Too simple you say.

Monochromatic Two Ways

The purpose here is to initiate shapes and values.  First using neutral light and transparent paint.  A local tone approach.  Then using a strong light casting shadows and with opaque paint.  So simple paint manipulation.  Then another "atomic bottle" still life with the addition of an orange.  To do this everyone was given a muted complement to the ultramarine to explore this colour strategy and to experience warm and cool colours.  As soon as colour is added, people experience trouble with value.  Even the those more experienced.  This was especially true in the case of the orange.  Everyone identified with the light and shadow idea as opposed to the local tone idea, but the values were still a problem.  people had trouble knowing what was in the light and what was in shadow.  You could see this in the shadow side of the orange and in the treatment of the dark background in the light.  This was true even with squinting and the use of a colour isolator.

So moving to the use of the three primaries further complicated the decision making and the effort expended.

Landscape in the Studio

Damn Photo

Harold would not let landscapes into the studio.  However I find it useful to show people what a photo-real effort looks like.  They were able to identify it in the local gallery.  They find that the photo has precious little useful information compared to life.  How to deal with it?

Setting up their own still life and using the primaries adds more complication.  "I thought this would be easy".

Light and Shadow

Diffused Light - Local Tone

A few starts.

Values, Values.....  Squint and Compare

What Colour/Value Is That?

The homework usually consisted of making another painting from the first painting with a change in the concept.  I find it quite useful to send out homework instructions and questions along with some reference to reinforce the process and to energize.  I include what to bring to the next session.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Tubing Paint

After the light faded on a glorious winter light show this weekend, I settled in for some surgery.  It can be pretty messy.  Here is how it started.

Nitrile Gloves, Painting Spatula,  MT Paint Tubes, Pliers, Paper Towels,  Jar of Paint

I worked on my glass palette in the studio.  Glove up, start loading paint into the tube, tapping gently, cap to table top.  When the paint is settled and maybe an inch from the open end, begin the crimping process.  You do not want air trapped inside, so the paint will squeeze out the end a bit.  Fold once, then a second time crimping with the pliers.  You can clean up with mineral spirits, but I leave it to help identify the colour.

Ready to Go

I identified the colour, tube # and date on each tube with a Sharpie.  The jar of paint to the left is oil ground in Safflower Oil.  Have to decide whether to tube it or not.  Later.  There is 500 ml there so 4 large tubes of paint.  The tubes are Vermillion, Quin Red, and two types of White.  Rolf sent me a white he thought I might find interesting - Flake Xtra Fine with Zinc in Safflower Oil.  Should be able to play with translucent passages with that.  Won't yellow.  We will see.

So, is this gooey mess worth while?  Well, it depends.  You are not painting when you are tubing.  Something like doing shows when you are not ready.  It is "cool".  Nobody else in your painting group will have anything like this.  This is a way to buy in bulk and try things like a good Vermillion (not a hue or whatever).  It is interesting - maybe.  So for me there are a few applications for it but I generally get my brand name paints for my standard palette.

Monday, February 4, 2013

What Trip Are You On?

Recently I attended an art opening.  The main artist was a watercolourist.  An nice fellow.  OK stuff, if not too exciting.  His guest artist was another story.  He aggressively told me "been painting for a year and a bit.  Make my living at it and am now teaching my method.  I have 20 minutes in this one what with all the interruptions here in the gallery.  That one took nearly an hour.  Too much.  Sure I can't draw but so what?  I get an image and trace it then voila.  There is a new printing paper that does the tracing for you and then the water in your paint makes the tracing marks disappear.  I'm trying to get the fellow in the front gallery to go this way.  He makes almost nothing per hour.  He's been painting 21 years."

Basically this fellow makes colouring book images and colours in the shapes.  Usually black and white.  I wondered why he doesn't just print the images.  He doesn't know where he is going but he thinks he has arrived.  As Harold said, "you can't stop people from buying crap."

Here is an example;

Robert Genn talked about this in his recent newsletter.  here is his "Matthew Effect"in part,

The Matthew Effect can be applied to art. Historically, would-be artists who didn't learn the basics of drawing, composition, colour and form put themselves at a disadvantage. But with the widespread democratization of art, particularly in the Western hemisphere, folks these days often feel self-expression is up ahead of proficiency. It seems many artists are simply educated with a sense of entitlement and audacity. In many places, big, decorative art is popular. Artists with very little training or academic instincts can often make effective, even sensitive, wall-fillers that make people happy. One of my more conservative dealers calls it "the end of connoisseurship." He tells me people are not looking so closely for exquisite rendering, good drawing or the skillful nailing of light and shadow. "Right now they want 'em mighty, moody, and splashy," he says. "Because traditional skills aren't so respected anymore," my dealer says, "there's an industry in teaching people to be amateurs." As he said this I was remembering Picasso's remark: "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child." I'm curious about this. Is "painting like a child" just a trend? Are skill, technique, and connoisseurship truly on the endangered list? If so, what is this doing to people? "

For me the discovery and endless learning keep me taking the trip.  What about you?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Staying Safe

I have been painting alone on the banks of the local Credit River.  A few times a week since New Years Day.  The freeze up was very interesting and produced a series if images.

Water Near 6 Feet Below Easel Feet

Then the thaw.  So we decided to paint north at the Forks.  On the way past my local painting site early in the morning it looked like this.  

12C and Drizzle

The Forks features more open water and fast flow.

20 Feet Above

Looking up at the West Branch I saw some movement then we witnessed an avalanche of ice and water breaking loose.  The noise escalated to a roar.  And this is a small river.  The pile of ice chunks as big as a car crashed below us going under the bridge.  

Then I thought this "tsumani" is going to travel the length of the river.  I had to see what happened at my local painting spot some 30 km away.

Changed From the Morning Shot

Obliterated.  The island was submerged.  The ice chunks were flung up and over the banks past the area where I stood painting during the recent freeze up.  The river diverted itself into its old bed and flooded that path with ice.  It was a good 7 feet above the level it had been.  It happened fast.  Would have difficulty outrunning it.  Shows you why you should have a painting buddy.  Especially in these circumstances.

My Bench in the Background