watercolor, 15 x 22 inches
For many years I painted watercolors outdoors with friends. Some worked and some didn’t. There was, however, a certain energy about the paintings that made them very recognizable from studio work.
Perhaps that energy is a result of the difficulty of painting with watercolor outside. I consider myself confident in executing an outdoor piece, but I must say that in spite of my confidence and speed of delivery, there is just something that keeps me in the studio. Plein air painting is a giant pain in the rear, if you know what I mean.
While I have worked out the kinks and the difficult processes of setting up and operating in a ‘studio’ outside, in the wind and blinding light, it is still a love / hate relationship for me.
While in Yosemite, I made, at least, one plein air piece per day . . . .and usually did a studio piece each day, as well. This piece, of the ‘three graces’ (I think that is the name) was one of those incredible days where every wash behaved, every color did what it was supposed to do and the wind only come along at the finish. Out in this meadow, near the base of El Capitan, the light sparkled on the edges of this giant set of rocks, while in the crevices the light hid in mysterious darks. The light coming through the yellowed trees at the base of the rockwalls were luminous. It was a blast to paint! But inside all of the processes, more lessons came forth which reminded me what I should be doing in the studio.
One of those lessons was to paint vertically if I want great washes. Having gravity naturally pull the pigment laden water down the page reveals granulations and effects one can never cause on a piece of paper, no matter how expert the painter might be. So, I am doing exactly that. I had forgotten how important it is and allowed the comfort of control to take over. Invariably, the discomfort of a painting getting ‘out of hand’ is when the great stuff shows up.
On to the next one! Let the paint flow downward.
oil on linen panel, 8″ x 10″
Some days everything just seems to fall into place with ease. Today, this painting almost fell off the brush by itself . . .developed from another sketch. Do you suppose practice has anything to do with it? I do.
The way the light hits these cliffs and dances about is a constant source of delight to me. I hope you don’t get tired of them.
While cleaning my studio this last month ( a HUGE task, incidentally!) . . . . . .(why does it get that deep?) . . . . .I sorted through all of the last years’ panel paintings and culled out all of the unsuccessful ones . . .then painted over them with a light coating of orange paint and put them to dry. Those panels have been what I have been painting on for the last 7 paintings. I allow the orange undertone to peek through in a few places. It adds a nice ‘warmth and sparkle’ to the work. Also, I am testing a new medium as I paint these. . . . . Gamblins’ “Meglip” . . . . . . . . . . . . .I have never used it before, but I am noticing that the paint takes on a nice glow since the medium is nearly crystal clear. It will never yellow, supposedly. The paint also seems to shine a bit more than when I use “Liquin.” I will keep playing with it and see what comes up. . . . .and do some more research about it. Do any of you painters out there use it? Care to comment? I would appreciate any thoughts or guidance you might have.
Tomorrow, I open the studio to the public. I am ready! If you live in the Bay Area, or are travelling there this weekend or next, stop by. My address is on my website
Whoops! It isn’t there like I thought it was! Best to email me if you need address and directions.
Water based oil experiment
on gessoed masonite . . 10″ x 10″
Just before departing for Europe in a week, I am toying with the idea of carrying water mixable oil paints with me. I had never used or tried those that I purchased for the same reason last year . . . and left in a drawer. I obtained a sample of the fast drying medium made by WN “Artisan” water mixable oils and went to work.
In less than 40 minutes I laid down a grisaille in ultramarine blue and white, then overpainted with color, using just a warm and cool of each primary (and white). Also, I tried two new brushes . . .mongoose bristle . . .which is sort of an inbetween bristle between sable and hog bristle. I like what the brushes leave behind and their softer feel. More play and experiments are called for, but so far I like what I see.
I found the paints to be fun to use, but it took a little getting used to a somewhat gummy feel at times . . . .I would expect this without the lovely buttery feel of oil saturated paint.
This is, by no means, a good painting . . . .but it was an effort for the day and a revealing exercise about a variation on a medium. For international travel, I think these paints will be just fine! And I won’t have to hassle buying materials on the other end (where every place and art supplie are unfamiliar) that are prohibited on airplanes. I may even take them out here to see what they’ll do under real circumstances.
“Your Table is Ready”
oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
Sometimes, I need a thorough head examination!
This daily practice piece should have been spun out the door before I began it. Why? Let’s just say that something this complex should not be in rhw queue for a daily trial. Just look! All sorts of angles, perspective changes, vague and subtle value changes (thru the windows), repeating patterns, textures and a ton of other things to entertain and dazzle any painter for more than a day. But I did it anyway. That’s why I should have my head examined!
Simplification is so necessary in painting, yet it is as though I go to sleep sometimes. Sometimes I just ignore the obvious and make it difficult. Go figger!
oil on linen panel, 8″ x 10″
I have fallen in love! Yup! I did!
With a color! In fact I like it so darn much that I even ordered it for my watercolor pallett. (sp?) Transparent Oxide Red is sooooo versatile! It combines with greens to make the most natural greens any one can imagine. Yet, the greens never go to that forbidden totally neutral place called black . . . or worse . . . M.U.D. ! It just keeps pushing the greens to a place that gets more neutral but stays green somehow. And with other colors . . . .Oh, Yes!! This lil girl flirts with em all.
That said, look at the greens in the last 6 or 7 paintings. (The monitor could be off a lil bit, so don’t take what you see too literally). It has earned a permanent spot on my palette!
oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
Today I am fooling around with a new studio tool . . . .at least new for me. I have always worked from sketches for a lot of reasons. Copying photos is just not my style. I believe in design and what it can do for a painting . . . . .most photos need a ton of redesign. I have always used photos from which to sketch and build the design for a painting. And photos just don’t have what it takes to be good reference material beyond shape and value.
But, it is time to enter the 21st century. Digital cameras and compters make soooo much possible. This painting was painted from a digital photo I took while in Carmel two weeks ago. I took about 30 pix that day . . .all possible painting subjects. This, and yesterday’s, were a result of that outing. The experiment is to put the digital photo on a big LCD flat panel display. . . . . . . . . . . . . .and paint directly from the monitor. What a hooot !!! There is sooo much one can see on the monitor!! Bright, full of color, zoom capability, and all sorts of cool stuff to work with! It is very much like being in plein air, except that the light isn’t changing.
My 17″ screen lap top computer is the subject of the experiment. It works well, but it is my business computer. It just wouldn’t do to have it covered in paint . . . .or for it to be jammed up with art stuff (it is now!). Christmas is here . . . .who knows if Santa might bring a biiig monitor to paint from. I’ll have to ask.
I have been a good boy! Really! I have. I have !!!! Really I have. 🙂
“Think of it This Way”
watercolor on treated paper, 15″ x 22″
About ten days ago, I took up a challenge from Myrna Wacknov
to use a grid pattern to compose a painting built on a figure drawing using some interesting drawing techniques. The outcome, then, was not as good as I had hoped for because I became lost in all the variables I had set up. This little project had its way with me absolutely! I have been dreaming about it at night for the last week or two. So, I killed off some of the variables, or ‘hooks’ as I called them in that post. I changed the drawing. In fact, to achieve the content I had hoped for, the contour drawing and all that detail had to go over the side. Next, more attention needed to be paid to the grid and the sort of compostition I was looking for. (Yes, I did more value sketches).
The more I assessed the direction in my mind of the emphasis being on one lady’s hand, the more I had to hold down the detail in other places. That hand is only a gesture, but it says so much about the communication in between the women. Also, the posture of the woman on the right had to press inward more to show that she was making a point . . . .and bring both women closer. Once that was done, then I could work on value alternation, abstractions, textures, directions, shapes . . . without disturbing the story inside the painting (content). It took two full painting sessions to complete this, but I think this is more of what I originally had in mind.
Paper treatment? After stretching and mounting the paper on a board, the paper was coated with a solution of half and half acrylic matte medium and water then allowed to dry for 24 hours. This gives a surface that is very forgiving. Paint can be lifted back to pure white. It doesn’t take the paint as well as untreated paper, so new techniques have to be discovered to make it work well. This was fun.