Kicking Off 2012 . . . .

“Morning Tide”
Watercolor 22 x 30 inches
Following a challenge by my friend and colleague, David Lobenberg, we have been both painting the same subject from the same photo. When the challenge was issued (by Dave) I wondered about making changes to the composition. The lighting, the value and color changes in the rocks, the foam, the waves, the sky all presented different challenges. I couldn’t wait to get at it! It has taken me nearly a week to complete this painting. One of the reasons it took so long was that the original photo had the bottom 1/3 of the image solid dark rocks. In my humble opinion, the bottom part of the image needed a passage of light in order for the eye to get into the body of the painting. So, I created the entire lower third of the piece to bring that about.
I might have jumped the gun a bit, not waiting to see Dave‘s painting, but have been so deeply involved in “getting it right” that I could not wait to post the results. I am expecting Dave to post his piece any day now.
For those who are wondering “how” this piece was done . . . . . beginning with the sky ten to fifteen graded washes were glazed over each other, using red, yellow and blue. The big rock in the mist was laid in part way through the glazing process then repeatedly glazed over with the various washes in order to ‘push it back’ and envelop it into the colored mist.
I had a lot of fun working this piece as it was a return to a level of concentration which bordered on being in a trance. . . . . . .which is the probable reason most of us painters paint.
Happy New Year to All for 2012 !

On Value Transitions

“Crumpled Considerations”
Watercolor 30 x 22 inches
Last week a gentleman inquired about my method in making these non objective paintings.
First a sketch. A simple sketch which shows two or three simple value shapes. Those different values must, in my mind, exist in a ratio of Large, medium and tiny. Which specific value group is one size or the other doesn’t matter. I happen to like a large lighter compositional shape which reaches for and touches at least three sides of the piece. The dark and medium values would surround the large shape.
Mind you, when I refer to “light,” it may mean several different light values . . . . . .that is lighter than everything else in the painting.
The big trick in putting this to paint is to first isolate the large light shape by blocking it in with various glazes of paint layers. The use of glazes assures variation and, if I am careful with different techniques, texture, too. Over several days, I will gradually begin to encroach on the big light shape along the edges, gradually changing value and color. By edges and the amount of encroachment, this could mean as much as covering the majority of the shape or as little as a mere centimeter into the shape.
The work ensues until there are a series of value steps from dark to medium to medium-light to light to lightest. Those transitions and graduations of value (and color) prevent the eye from being stopped by too much, or too sudden, contrast. Only at one location will there be a strident step from dark to lightest. And that location will be in a very strategic spot.
Gradually textures are created and, toward the end, there are a few stampings and spatters in unique places to help soften or assist a sudden value transition. In short, this process requires a lot of attention to edges and contrasts.
As the piece nears completion, there are always errors and problems with balance and misplaced contrasts. Sponging out areas using various masks (or not) helps to resolve many of these issues.
Overall, the goal is to make a painting which is completely unified from corner to corner, where there are relationships throughout the piece. That is where shapes are related in their character, value, color and or texture. There must be passages and movement through the piece and it must have excitement. That last word is the opposite of boredom. Every single square inch (or centimeter) must have something happening that is related to other parts of the painting, but in that relating must also be different. Texture stampings, for example, must be similar but different. VARIATION is a a key operative.
So!! There you have it. How long do paintings like this take? Weeks and, frequently, months!
Failure is my companion every step of the way. It is part of the process. The trick is to work the painting until it is finished: Never give up. Think think think think!!!!

On Glazing and Mist

“Elkhorn Neighbors”

oil on stretched canvas, 16 x 20 inches

This painting is a breakthrough to new territory for me: the use of glazinng and also painting a convincing illusion of haze or atmospheric mist.
To date, most all the oils have been painted ala prima . . . .or directly. The great thing about painting watercolor effectively is that one must learn to mix value, as well as color. That skill has transferred nicely to the oil world and has helped in the setting up of atmospheric perspective. In this painting, however, so much was necessary to establish a sense of space and forms disappearing up the background hill that repeated adjustments of value and color (cooler tones) had to be progressively overlaid on dried coats of paint.
I am finding another world in oil painting . . . .one full of variables and methods, not to mention substances and mediums. It is a maze, indeed. And while I am foolin’ round with this stuff, I am still plugging away at my watercolors . . . . . because . . . . .well, (ahem) it’s “Home” to me.