“Herb Vendor” oil on linen panel, 8″ x 10″
This gent is an herb vendor we came accross last summer in Eymet, France at their weekly open market in the village square. I have a gallery of similar rascals that I may attempt.
Using the big size 12 flat first to block in the whole piece I found myself humming and singing as I slopped thin paint around in the shadows first then the light. That lesson that came ringing in a few weeks ago, plus what I learned yesterday in “Perigord Pasture” just seem to fit together and make this process seem easy. The cool thing about oil is that one doesn’t need to be too worried about mistakes and errors because one can scrape and re-do all day long till it is right. And the opacity of the paint makes it easy to carve out shapes as one progresses into the finer parts of the painting.
(In looking at this photo on two different monitors, I can see huge differences in what is actual and what the monitors do to murder the intensity of the colors . . .or to press contrast to such an extent that the image makes no sense. Does anyone out there know how to adjust the contrast on the new hi res monitors in MS Vista?)
Some of this stuff is actually beginning to make sense!
My paintings are too dark. This is not something that is new for me. Looking over 50 or 60 paintings, done in the last six months, I realize I need to slide my value scale to a higher key. That doesn’t mean to paint in entirely a high key, but to keep the RELATIVE value differences in a slightly higher key. The recent paintings of the cypress trees is a good example of being too dark.
I see this because these paintings aren’t answering my purpose. I have been looking hard at them and decided I didn’t like the shapes either. They are not what I set out to do.
So, today I went to the studio only after sketching for an hour and meditating about what I would do today. Then I ran to the studio and hastily painted this piece. Even though it is a practice piece, Today is breakthrough day!!!!!
Yup! I definitely feel the presence of a breakthrough!
I painted on wood panel . . .no canvas, no linen . . .just gessoed, sealed wood. I also began mixing my paint with a palette knife . . .I am too stingy with paint when I mix with a brush. This way I can shovel load the brush and lather on the paint. This was FUNNNN!!!! Using the knife to mix, I put it to work on the painting, too. And I am very happy with the result. (I know, a year from now it won’t look so hot, but for now, I am excited.) With just sketches and general ideas in my head, the tree was all I began with. The rest . . . .well, you could say I winged it and it was rushed. All I was interested in was the tree, the values and color and working the knife, too. So, I got what I was after . . . but much more . . .
The combo of brush and knife opens soooo many doors to variety! Yesssssssss !!
As I have said in the last few posts, I have become way more conscious of edges. There IS logic to them. I wasn’t sure that there was a few months back, but can see now that it is crucial to have variation in edges where transitions of value occur. Vegetation and trees have all sorts of edges. Notice in this piece how values change back and forth, light holes, tree trunks, background changes etc. Where one value meets another, there might be reasons for hard, medium or soft edges. Sometimes it is logical, sometimes is has to be a feeling . . .for example, in places where the eye will pass quickly, detail or sharp texture doesn’t work. Soft, blurred suggestions of edge or shapes coax the eye to look beyond and seek sharp contrasts or more detail.
This painting was no little effort. So much value change, texture, light, shadow, half light and more kept me on my toes for a full six hours. This one was a balancing act at a higher level. More complexity offers more opportunity to fail . . . but also to succeed!! With every painting, these last few weeks, I feel advancement. There is plenty much more to learn and tackle over the next 30 years or so . . . .but for now, I am reaching as far and as fast as I can. Tooooo much funnn!!!!
Today I wrestled. As in physical struggle with another being, larger than I. The other being was this little 8″ x 10″ canvas and my attempt to show aerial perspective at work along a hazy beach. He won. Yup! Beat me fair and square. Not just in ten rounds either. I put up a galiant fight (I think I did) which took much of yesterday and a good part of today. I am sure he will be back to take me on again and again. But I am not giving up! No surrender here!
This was a particularly difficult subject because the aerial perspective on the beach was throwing off the feeling of closeness of the foreground sand pit. Back and forth, scraping and brushing and wiping and trying I went. All said and done, I blended too much and spoiled the effect I once had with strokes.
Richard Schmidt has been ringing in my ears, of late, while I paint. Edges! Transitions! Values! Today his lesson (from the book) was this: Given two shapes, one large and one small, same color and value . . . .in the distance, the smaller one will appear to be lighter than the large one and have softer edges . . . .all due to the effects of the atmosphere and light. (This is a simplification) . . . .I can see why now.
This entire painting was about those lessons of aerial perspective and edge management. Slowly, I am beginning to make my strokes more deliberately and less often. When I do that, I find the painting to be much more fresh and the colors crisper. (Another lesson to be applied in future paintings . . . .!! Gotta put a sign on the wall!)
Anyway, the work we do alone or together always pays off in solid lessons learned and practiced. From that perspective, it was a very successful day.