The Search for Subject

“Big Mouth”

oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
After the mess made in “Your Table is Ready” . . . .and the disappointment . . . .I decided I needed to be more cautious in choosing what to paint. . . .at least when working small. In a small ‘study’ sized canvas, there are a lot of things that lose importancee when the shapes get really small. Subtleties count much less . . . . .at least, that is my opinion. So, I search for distinctly large shapes and a clear separation between light and shadow.
It took a while this morning, listening to the rain, wondering if I would come up with something that I could practice the subtleties inside each of the families of light and shadow. No names for things in there, just value and temperature “spots” . . . .actually shapes. Then, when it is nearing completion, I look at edges and little quiet changes of color. For example, I needed to suggest a teensy bit of violet in the water to put warm into the cool and create some sense of a changing plane . . . .like in a wave . . . .or a shift in light. As soon as it hit the canvas, the painting came to life!
As for other subtleties, I think they matter more when painting larger. But that opinion needs to be proven, I suppose. Eh?
Until Next time . . . .

Hee’zzz Baaaaaack !!!!

“Perigord Pasture”

oil on canvas panel, 12″ x 16″
Take a deep breath, Mike, and exhale! Again. Now, once more.
Whew! It has been toooo long! So, after posting my new year greetings this morning, I fired up the new computer (with the big jazzy monitor) and pulled out a 12 x 16 canvas panel and painted this piece! I can hardly stand still, I am so excited!! If you are painting in a studio from photos, then this is a tool you cannot be without! There is so much one can do to the photo to stimulate a great painting . . . .well . . . .at least it’ll get you excited and raise your hopes!! 😉
Today, I began this with a size 12 flat brush and didn’t put it down until I was ready to begin highlighting with higher key values. Keeping the paint thin while I blocked it in, I kept my darks transparent and thin so I could layer those juicy highlights over them. Having never painted a cow or four legged creature in my life, this was a challenge I had been avoiding. So, true to the stuff I teach, I decided that it was NOT a cow. It was just a combination of shapes of color. Having talked myself into that, the number 12 brush skipped along with no problem.
I tried a few ‘cute tricks’ too. Palette knife work with some broken color in the tree, branches, and a few little lines at the base of the painting. Also, having painted a warm, medium value orangish color where the lit grass is, I scumbled over it laying a big dry brush on its back. All sorts of wonderful stuff happened with just a light touch and effortless pass just grazing (that is an intended pun) over the canvas.
What a way to welcome myself back!!! I am dancing a jig!!

Thaaaat’s What He Meant!!

“Perigord Morning”
oil on linen panel, 8″ x 10″
Isn’t it interesting how we hear something over and over and over, then one day the true meaning comes crashing in with a shock?

That happened in today’s painting session. Kevin MacPherson, modern impressionistic painter extraordinaire, writes about, preaches about and demonstrates how a painter must keep their color efforts confined to two families; light and shadow.

Well, here it is, Light and shadow. His point is simply this . . . . .that the values for the shadow family should never cross over into the light family . . .and conversely. I discover today that variations within the light and within the shadow families should be temperature changes . . .eg, color changes . . . warms to cools, etc . . .rather than value changes to show volume.

Today I forced my hand to fully paint the shadow family of values into the painting first. This sets the composition for early on and sets the stage for the light pattern. Working with roughly three different values within that group, it sets the mood immediately and opens the shadows to having more luminous color. Nice! And does it ever work!! I can smell the air in this painting!

And, yes, I caught myself saying out loud, “Oooohh! That’s what he meant!!

Work In Progress

The drawing and the block in . . . .

All blocked in . . .16 x 20 stretched canvas . . . .
Starting to establish form and a some degree of texture and detail. The sky holes are in . . . may need some changing . . . the grass field needs edge work. At this point, I am happy with the effort so far. Now it is a matter of building up the paint, establishing the textures and fiddling with the tree trunks . . .they will need value and color changes in each.
Having painted this subject before, I think I know what needs to be done . . . . we’ll see if I can do it . . . . . .
Thanks to David Darrow a few months ago, he referred Smartflix to his blog readers. It is a DVD rental company which handles all sorts of “how to” videos. I rented a few of them in order to watch someone else paint and see the methods they use and how they get the paint from the palette to the canvas. I have to say it is might interesting and very instructive.

Seeing Richard Schmid paint a landscape in May was a revelation! No kidding! Watching him, I finally understood why they say thick over thin. Just so MANY effects can be achieved by doing so, not to mention all the beautiful variation with clear, clean color that can happen. I also showed me how my thinking had wandered off into a corner and gotten stuck there.

Last night, I watched Matt Smith paint the Sonoran Desert (Arizona). That guy blew my mind. He is simple, straight forward and an excellent painter. Let me just say that I have been wondering HOW edges are softened . . .in terms of brush technique . . . .there are always vague answers, but this guy made it as plain as day. Also, if anyone who reads this has ever tried to paint a field of ‘weeds’ . . . .no kidding; weeds! . . . .they know that it can be overwhelmingly difficult. This guy laid in paint on top of paint on top of edges on top of paint on top of more . . . no shapes . . .did not paint ‘things’ or objects . . .just put in strokes of color and value. Stroke, soften, another stroke, re-stroke, add another, soften. I had to watch it twice.

Then the final piece fell into place to help me learn to use the palette knife. Seems easy enough, right? Nope! But watching Matt (and using the rewind / slow mo buttons) was just perrrfect.

I went to the dentist this morning and had a few errands to run, which kept me out of the studio till 2:30 in the afternoon. In two hours I tackled a fairly ‘detailed’ painting of those Monterey Cypress trees again. What a difference in my attack and how the painting is going together.

I am posting a few work in progress shots to show where I am, so far. I have to hand two shows in different towns in the next few days. So, the rest of today (and a good part of tomorrow) is going to be spent doing that. Hopefully, I will be able to finish this painting, before it dries out.