Saturday, March 22, 2014

What, So What, Now What

I have been pushing paint now for 4 weeks after my down time.  On advice from my teacher I kept expectations low starting with some mixing exercises.  Good thing.  My ability to get what I wanted done was pretty poor.  However, I set up each exercise to learn something and get some hours in on the easel.  I started at 45 minutes and am now at 2 hours a session.  As I progressed I turned to painting on scraped back images, then to painting life from my studio window, and now I have been using photo reference.  Desperate to get outside for real studies, I think I'll keep the painting sessions to an hour and a half max.  As I get stronger maybe multiple sessions in a day recording the light condition each time.  I used to paint 6 - 7 days a week.  Now maybe 4 with reading and study most every day for at least a few minutes.

So these are my observations to date.

Concept - I have been pretty good at developing these and getting a vision before painting. This really helps with the limited painting time.  I use multiple small drawings with notes to solidify the vision.

Seeing - lost most of this to begin with.  Painting from life has helped recover some ability.  I am going to begin life drawing next week to help with this before going outside.  If you can't see you tend to slip into painting what you think.

Execution - While having a decent concept, I had trouble mixing and making decisions when I started back.  See it but can't do it!  This has improved with time on the easel.  My signature is still pretty wiggly so I have trouble laying in intricate patches of paint.  Paint on, and this should improve.

Feeling the paint - This is returning as I paint more.  I am a tactile person so this is important to me.  As David Leffel says "you don't pint with a brush, you paint with paint".

Drawing - Use it or lose it.  I draw as part of my concept development so this is helping as will the life drawing.

Composition, shapes - I'm aware of these and drawing is helping here.

Values - Pretty bad to start with especially using colour but using a value scale is helping recover this skill.

Colour - Recovering this sensitivity as I go.  I have a good understanding of the theory and this helps.  As I improve seeing I continue to refine colour as part of my concept.

Paint Quality - With poor dexterity in the beginning this was a problem.  Just painting and paying more attention to it is helping.

Edges -  If you can't see...  So paint on.

I am planning to paint more in the studio.  I'll do studio paintings from colour studies done on location wherever I can.  After twenty years of painting standing I have to face the reality that I'm going to have to sit considerably more.  So I'm looking for a substantial easel that will augment this.  I'm now set for light weight travel equipment.  Love the GoodOmen Travel Mate box.

Enter the Studio

Gloucester Trawler from Reference

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Comeback 10, Bo Diddley and the Cool Palette

Bo Diddley is crazy, Bo Diddley is sick, Bo Diddley is a lunatic thumps in the studio.  Helps to hone the concept this morning.  Hard as it is to believe, I'm going to use photo reference today.  The image is from a trip to Maine painting along the coast in 2011.  At least I was there painting, but the colours in this image I forget since I didn't paint it.  Can't wait to be able to get outside to collect reference studies from life.  Anyway I decided to use  the cool 4 clour palette.  So I removed the Cad Orange Fonce and replaced it with Viridian (KAMA) and I decided to use Cremnitz White ground in Safflower that I had RGH make for me.  This is beautiful, slow drying, somewhat transparent white - so you use a lot.  I can mix blues (from a cobalt to turquoise) and violets using the Viridian.  They will be somewhat grey.  I get a range of cold greys using Viridian and Alizarin.

Semi Neutrals and Greys Along the Bottom

The subject was dominant blue/violet and yellow.  So the palette should work.  My concept included putting strokes in place and leaving them to let the viewer know that this is a painting.  I spent an hour after setting up the palette and the board etc.

The Start

I changed my start back more to massing in.  Instead of drawing with the brush I use a big brush and put in the shapes in the right general value.  With practice and using a thumbnail to establish the composition and the value shapes this saves a lot of time and lets you paint instead of painting inside the lines.  You can see here where I wiped the thick paint off some background shapes.  This is contre jour so values are critical.  I am continuing to paint dry brush.  I paint wet into wet using relatively thick paint then going thicker where the concept dictates.

Kennybunk, 8x10, Oil on Canvas on Board

Interesting what can be done with 4 colours and some greys from the last painting session. I find the greys quite useful since they are already mixed (unique greys).  So I am trying to keep mixing up warm and cool greys from each painting session.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Comeback 9, More from Concept On

I decided to paint the same scene at different times of day.  Keeping the painting time to an hour assures an almost consistent light condition.  It also fits my current state.

These were all done from the same thumbnail sketch, using the same palette (the warm version with Alizarin, Cad Yellow Light, Ultramarine plus Cad Orange Fonce).  Again I added a round bristle brush in addition to the usual bristle flats.  To repeat the process, I used a pre coloured ground at mid value.  A combination of Ultramaring Blue and Orange Fonce.  These act as the mid tones if you establish the darks, then the lights.  The image comes in quickly.

Adding Coloured Ground - Old Greys in Foreground

For these I have been letting the ground dry.  I usually establish the coloured ground on the spot letting the scene dictate the colour of the ground, then paint wet into wet.

Establishing the Darks

Establishing the Lights

The mid tones are already there in the coloured ground.  So bring them to life....  Watch the values in each shape.

Koop from Studio - Late Day, 8x10, Oil on Board

Similarly the Mid Day study was done.

Koop from Studio - Noon, 8x10, Oil on Board

And for your reference the early morning version.  The first in the series.

Koop from Studio - Early Light, 8x10, Oil on Board

You can also see from this exercise how much you can glean from a series.  My concept changed to capture the light conditions.  You can also see how much the light changes.  So, if you are painting from life you have to limit your time or you mix light conditions.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Comeback 8, From Concept to Painting

Painting over scraped back paintings made me so impatient yesterday that I decided to go for a complete process (small) painting.  So I put together my super lightweight painting gear.  The painting was to be a simulated plein air out my studio window.  I can't take the cold yet even though I want to get to the interesting patterns.

My Subject, Sketchbook Ready

The Light Weight Gear

In my condition I need a lightweight arrangement.  So here it is as it has evolved over the past two weeks.  Light weight TravelMate Pochade Box (from GoodOmen - less than 2 pounds), 8x10 panels with coloured ground (Ultramarine Blue plus Red Oxide - one warm grey, one cool grey), 5 tubes paint (Titanium White by Michael Harding, Permanent Alizarin by Gamblin, Permanent Orange by KAMA, Cad Yellow Light by Rembrandt, Ultramarine Blue by Blue Ridge).  The Ultramarine Blue and Permanent Orange are near complements, so good greys easy to get.  Brushes and Palette Knife, Turps cups, Mineral Spirits, Sketch Book and Pencil, Paper Towels.  This is what I would travel with.  Paint off my lap.  On a local plein air day I would also carry a box of paints, brush cleaner pot, tripod, and a variety of panels.

So first a thumbnail.  Not required on my previous paint overs.  Almost forgot about it.  I do my composition work, value study, and colour notation on this.  Note the eye line.

Thumbnail Sketch

Then to choose a panel.

With Value Scale

I thought I would use the warm semi neutral panel.  You can see that it is quite dark compared to the white.  Using this value scale and squinting I can tell that the panel is about value 5.  During painting the mid value already on the panel will act as the mid tones as I establish the darks, then the lights.  This will save me time.  I will only spend a maximum of an hour and a half from setup to clean up.  By then the light will change too much.

Darks First

Even at this stage the coloured ground is acting as the mid tones.  Oh!  And I had to establish the eye line in order to get the perspective.  Here the eye line is between the peaks of the two roof lines.  The bottom roof will display some perspective lines and colour masses.

First Pass Colours

At this stage I began sweating profusely.  In my current condition the energy required by the brain was very evident.  Had to sit it out for a short break.  I can see drawing errors.  Didn't have to concern myself with that when overpainting scraped back paintings.  My hand sure is not steady these days.  Practice, practice.

Time Up

Leave it now.  Time to clean up.  Total time an hour twenty minutes.  Gotta have a nap.   I could go back into this and make modifications.  Better still another study with the new light condition.  Camera does a poor job of the colours.  Oh well.

Compare this shot to the one above.

Better but no cigar.  Koop from Studio 1, 10 to 11:30 am

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Comeback 7, Green to Expand the Palette

I have been playing with paint over the last two weeks.  Still have not tackled a painting from concept to finished product.  Senses are still blunt and my strength is only up to a total of about two hours in the studio.  But I'm getting tired of just playing around getting the feel of things and recalling things I didn't know had faded from my mind.

So today I'm adding round brushes and green to the mix as I paint on yet another scraped back painting "Ken's Corner".

2 Greens, Greys, the Rest of the Palette

I left the Orange Fonce out with the primaries and added two greens.  The greys from the last session are on the bottom of the palette.  I find these most helpful as a time saver.  Greys or semi neutrals are central to landscape painting.  The two greens added are Pthalo Green, yellow shade and blue shade.  In the past I would most frequently use Viridian.  But the Pthalos are powerful tinting compared to Viridian.  So I'm exploring the added power.

Yellow Shade, Blue Shade, Viridian

You can see from the tints the power of the Pthalos.  Viridan on the right is most closely approximated by the blue shade Pthalo Green.  Quickly you will find out how easily a Pthalo can take over your palette.  A challenge to paint handling dexterity - small bits of it into the mixing pile.

So I used the whole palette to dry brush over the top of Ken's Corner.  For your info I first oiled in the painting with a solution of mineral spirits and alkyd (small bottle on the palette).  This is like using retouch varnish to bring back the original lustre of the oil paint.

Ken's Corner - Scraped Back

Ken's Corner, 8x10, Oil on Board

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Comeback 6, Discussion Therapy

I finally got to go to the art discussion group at their hidden studio location up in the hills.  It was a slippery entrance to Denis's studio.  But everyone wants to be there and have a space like it.  That is therapy by itself.

The Discussion and Reading End of the Studio

After seeing what Denis had on his easel and slipping into a cup of tea and a baked good we gathered around the fireplace to talk art.

The Work Area - Nothing Up

The discussion focused on how to improve a specific piece in progress.  The stumbling point seemed to be the concept.  When asked what I think I answer "what are you trying to do - concept?"  If you can't answer that question it is hard to make a sensible critique.  In the movie "Local Colour" the master drives this point home "Your idea was not strong".

Everyone learned something in this low key environment.  Lots of laughter.

He Knows Where Everything Is

Paintings everywhere.  North light.  Kitchen, bathroom, bed, drawing area, framing area, perfect.  Next session in two weeks.  I better do some work to have something to show.