Why Fascinated?

“Nearing Sunset”
oil on linen on panel, 10″x 8″
Sometimes there are subjects that defy logic or conventional formulas . . . .like rocks and broken faces of cliffs . . .and evidence of layered strata in cliff faces with all the random planes. I suppose that is why this subject held my interest in watercolor for so many years. And, I guess, it is the reason I keep going back and back and back and coming away less than satisfied.
In short, it is a tuff subject to paint. The painters who do the Grand Canyon amaze me. Those who do Sadona and Zion, etc make me stare in wonder: How do they do thaaaaat?
All this work in the past few days has been in answer to that constant fascination. Each day, it seems to get a little easier. Today, some things fell into place. Light and shadow is the part which complicates matters. Separating the two and keeping them separate is a big part of it. Another is working with color relatives inside those areas . . .or so I think. Cools and warms. Value and color transitions. Edges. Sheesh! This gets complicated! Oh, but there is more! I won’t go into it now, but you get the idea.
And you are bored with looking at this subject? Okay. I’ll take a break. But not for long.

Macpherson Was Right!

“Try Another Path!”
oil on canvas, 36″ x 24″
Kevin Macpherson was right. The power of doing little studies outdoors, then using them as reference in the studio is the only way to go.

This is the largest piece to date . . .and I itch to get really big . . . .at 36″ x 24″ I had to reach to get at it (okay, I’m a short guy!) . . .

Those studies I did over the weekend in the wind, and the photos I took set this piece in motion. I used the photos for a few minutes to get a general idea . . .then in the drawings, stretched the height of the big cliff to exaggerate the feeling of altitude.

Then I buried the photos. Yup! Totally hid them so I couldn’t be tempted to get near them. This painting had to come from the heart. I propped up the studies (the three posted paintings from the last few days) . . .looked at what I liked and didn’t like and set some small goals for this studio piece. I let the plein air pieces be my guide then improvised from there.

We can always improve on everything we do, but I think this painting says what I wanted it to say. It is loose in areas, tight in others, the colors are harmonic and there is a sense of space and atmosphere that works. Could it be better? Of course! But considering the few pieces I have done so far to date, I am happy with it.
Now, of only Macpherson would say the same thing!! :-))
(P.S. I wonder what I’ll say a year from now!)

Terrible Tuesday

“Pink Toes”
oil on linen on panel, 10″ x 8″
Tuesday. It arrived too early this morning. I was involuntarily aroused while painting in my sleep. I sprang awake at 2:45AM and with my mind in high gear. I was awake. For the day!
So, I did what I always do when that happens. I got up and went to the studio . . . . after a cup of joe, first. Now, however, I am stumbling around and bumping into things. Just too little sleep, thank you.
This is a rescue from the weekend workshop. A little sketch piece that needed work.
I also began a larger version of one of the weekend’s pieces and am nearly finished with it already. It needs tuning yet, but most of it is in the finished stages. Maybe tomorrow or the day after, I’ll post it.
Meanwhile, to rescue this one, I used a hint of pink and violet to stir it awake.

Some Days Are More Difficult

“Before the Wind”
oil on stretched canvas, 16″ x 20″
Sunday was the same as Saturday. Wind, Wind and more wind!

I have terrible difficulty seeing the colors on the palette in bright sunlight. So, with the wind, I couldn’t put up an umbrella in the wind. It was a struggle. Then, I got caught in the details . . .and I know better!!! So, an hour in the studio this morning, tweaking values and reducing the details helped immensely. Not that a night’s sleep and rest from the wind had anything to do with it!!

This piece might be a little too illustrative, but what the heck! It’s a workshop piece. One thing I did notice is that I hit the right values and colors early in painting then, stupid me, I painted right through it! Serves me right for not stopping soon enough.

I could stand on those cliffs and paint for weeks on end! In fact, I could make a career out of the 50 mile stretch of our coast line! What a place we live in!!!

Testing My Grit

oil on stretched canvas, 16″ x 20″
You saw the last post. Who wouldn’t be excited about painting thaaaaat?! I sure was. That photo was taken last week at about 2 in the afternoon. Placid water. Warm day. Gorgeous sky. From that visit, I was exited. I flew out of bed at 5:45 AM with no alarm. I had loaded car the night before and I was psyched.
I left later in the morning with shorts on and a light summer shirt. When I arrived a brisk breeze was coming in off the sea . . . .a cold sea! We painted long after the morning demo. We started at around noon. Prior to that, several easels had blown over and the wind was now at 15 to 2o mph and carrying large quantities of dirt and sand. I found a 40 pound rock to hold in my easel weight pouch so it wouldn’t go over, but still had to bungee it down to a root at one point.
The wind disallowed puting up any sort of sun shade (Umbrella) as it would have become a very efficient sail! Short version: we painted till 4 PM and willingly threw in the towel. It tested every bit of patience I had . . .and my grit. The canvas bucked and wobbled the whole time.
As for the final test? To be sure I could stand it, nature sent me home with 1/2 pound of grit in my back pack . . .every pocket . . .every cranny . . .every wrinkle, on me and my belongings had grit in it. And . . . you know what? . . . . . .
I had a BLAST !!!! 🙂

Painting Light

“Pepper and Pitcher”

oil on linen on panel, 6″ x 8″
I have an acquaintance in the UK . . .Paul . . .his link is here on my list (Learning to See) . . .look for him. He is a disciplined painter from whom I should take lessons. Right now, he is painting blocks . . .wooden blocks . . .and testing his skills at nailing values of light. He is very good at it, yet he studies more.
There is much to this idea of painting. Waaaaay more than making pretty pictures, that is for sure! Painting the right value and color of light (Not Things or places) lifts a painting into another world. This white pitcher was a great exercise for me this morning. That is an exercise in seeing. I am sure I didn’t nail it, but am getting closer and closer. It takes practice. Lots and lots and lots of it. Painting the shadows first, in the right value, I was convinced that the shadow portions on the pitcher were the wrong color and tooooo dark! As it turned out, they weren’t too dark . . .they were actually too light! One learns to trust one’s self in this game. When all the colors were on the canvas, I could see instantly that the relationships between colors and values were right enough to make the pitcher appear to be white. In fact, there is no pure white in this painting. Interesting, eh?
Tomorrow I won’t be posting until late, if at all. I am going on a weekend plein air ‘painting intensive’ to paint cliffs, rocks and surf in a workshop environment. I love being near that stuff, much less painting it. So, this weekend might produce a few nice pieces . . .then again, maybe not. If I get something out of the weekend, I will post on Sunday evening . . . hopefully.

Hurried Practice

“You’re So Transparent!”
oil on linen on panel, 6″ x 8″
This morning was rushed and I was panicked that I had not posted yesterday . . .or painted yesterday or today . . . . . .soooooo . . .I had to get busy!
A promise is a promise. Daily is what I signed up for, so Daily is what I have to do. Anything else is an excuse. I have to fold it in with everything else. My drive to create masterworks every time . . .and save embarrassment if I goof it up . . . .is huge. But I also know in my heart that this is just another practice piece. And, as I have said before, it still counts toward mastery at some point.
So here it is. Bad drawing and all. Serves me right for rushing through it. That’s another lesson I must learn . . . . .to remove myself from all else while I paint. It doesn’t pay to rush because what I get in the end isn’t what I am looking for in improvement. This time, as in others, it was those lousy douzy elipses!!! No scraping today. No time!

Color Harmonies

“Casino Dawn”
oil on canvas, 16″ x 20″
Today’s piece was a serious one. Not just practice, but one that I hope will be accepted into a museum show honoring the 100th anniversary of the “Boardwalk” . . .an amusement park here that boasts an old wooden rollercoaster . . . .and the site of several movies in the past.
I have been ‘working on’ this piece for over a ten days without ever lifting a brush. I mean it! Really! I looked at and sketched several points of view. Went to the site several times, but never in this lighting conditions. Then photographs were taken because there was no way I could paint from this angle without being squashed by a car or truck. It just wasn’t possible. So I had to use a photo . . .something I almost NEVER do. (I shall save that commentary for another post.) Once the drawing was done, color harmony and value emphasis had to be reasoned through before I painted it. I wanted the feeling of dawn with golden light, while the streets are empty and I wanted the emphasis to be on the building with the dome . . .the casino, as it is called. . . . .or the Coconut Grove. Reasoning wasn’t enough . . .I had to resort to a very abbreviated palette and force myself to stay in it so I could establish relationships between every single color in the piece. Cad Orange, Cad Yellow Medium, Violet, Cad Red Lite and Green and, of course white. Every brush load was a mix of at least two of these colors and most often of three to insure it would all relate. Frankly, as I worked through the painting, I was amazed at how many different colors I was able to arouse on my palette. Again, it seems I am gaining some ground in this new medium.

They All Count!

oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 10″
This weekend, while doing everything else, I went to a quickie workshop . . .just 3 hours . . .and made this fast piece with just a few intentions: focus on technique, paint quality and color. If I can pick up some of that stuff, the rest (design) will fall into place from my other painting and art experience . . . . . .well, at least, I’ll have a start on it. I am not sure anyone ever truly masters that stuff. We just get better than last year. In order to become better, we must build experience . . . . from that viewpoint, every painting we do as painters, good or bad, counts! That’s right. They all count. Even if they never see the light of day ever again. Even if they end up in a dumpster. Every painting counts toward getting better.
So this little guy was a ‘hurry up’ painting. I wasn’t concerned about making a great piece. Just deliver the paint, work on strokes, improve color.
Stay tuned. They will, eventually, get better. I just have to do many, many more. Life is great, isn’t it?!!!!