The Value of . . .

“Periogord Vineyards”

oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″

The value of practice cannot be overstated. Quite simply, if I am not painting daily, I lose the touch. Even Tiger Woods goes to the range to stay tuned up and to practice . . . . .and yes, he still takes lessons.
This painting is a sad reminder of how long I have been away from smudging on the oil paint and attempting to make something of it. I like my day job . . . . .but jeeeeze! I wanna do this too . . . .at my convenience, thank you very much. Isn’t that what everyone wants; Life on their own terms?
There is small voice in the back of my ear whispering something to the effect of “Sorry, Charlie! You aren’t getting your way on this one. More practice, Bub! Much more!”
And who was the great philosopher who said “It takes miles of paint and acres of canvas to become a good painter?”
I’ll say this, though . . . .It sure felt good to be at the easel for an afternoon!

Slow Feed

“Near The Edge”
oil on linen panel, 6″ x 8″
It is like being fed ever so slowly when one reflects about how much one actually learns in one painting session. It seems, most of the time, that the learning is imperceptible. It isn’t until one looks back over a large number of paintings that the growth from those tiny little lessons becomes obvious.
Often, it isn’t until one is pressed to deliver quickly that one sees suddenly that he or she can indeed come up with the goods. That vision of possibility is often shrouded and hidden in the morass of digging through details. When time stipulates a hasty sketch only . . .or an impression . . . it is amazing how simple shapes and smudges of color just seem to speak up . . .and not only about the subject, but what’s now in the hand of the person who painted it. Growth seems obvious to me when I can see a painter snap off two or three quick, seemingly simple ‘studies’ from which a larger work can be painted later. Those skills only come from lots of practice.
It is indeed a slow feed. But if one just puts their head down and concentrates on making practice daily, amazing things show up.

Big Brushes Again

“Herb Vendor” oil on linen panel, 8″ x 10″

Another exciting morning! Today I tackled something else I have yet to paint in oil . . .the human face. Everything I do in the studio I regard as an experiment . . .another challenge to advance the learning.

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!

In The Presence of Breakthrough!

“South of Carmel”
Oil on wood panel, 12″ x 16″
Another challenge to which I need to rise . . . . . .

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 !!

Kick It Up A Notch!

“Carmel Cypress”
oil on canvas panel, 12″ x 16″
There are times when one must rise to the challenge to see if one can take on another level of higher complexity. Today, I kicked it up a notch.

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!!!!

No Surrender!

“Containing the Dunes”
oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″

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.

Sand and Ice

“Sand and Ice”

oil on canvas panel, 12″ x 16″
I have been overtaken by ice plant. Red Ice Plant.
The way sand blows on our beaches is no different than other sandy places. On the Monterey Penninsula grasses and ice plant hold the sand from forming huge dunes or sand drifts accross roads.
The paths on beaches and how the ice place grows around them, combined with the windblown Monterey Cypress trees . . . . and the color . . . . make that area a magical place. Most who see paintings and photos of that area do not believe the colors if they have never seen it in person. Every time I see it, it takes hold of me!
This painting is larger than the studies I did in the two previous pieces . . . .I found myself caught in the textures of the ‘needles’ of the ice plant. A break of 24 hours was needed to regain my senses and remember that I was making a PAINTING ! Not making a photo copy.
I used several photos as reference material to make this painting. It took a while to do, but it finally came together . . . .every one I make teaches me somehthing new!!! I suppose you can tell I LOVE this stuff . . . . painting, I mean.

Another Day in Sunshine

“Tree Study”
oil on linen panel, 8″ x 10″
Here is a piece done yesterday en plein air. This tree has appeared before in this blog . . .very early on. This tree is very unique and beautiful with silvery bark and twisted arms. I like visiting her and watching the light bounce around inside of her. The dappled light on the ground is still a bit mysterious to me. Am going to have to study it more and paint it more before I fully grasp what is going on there.
Heavy, dense fog today prohibited any painting out side. Maybe I better start playing with that a little bit, since it is so common here.
Until tomorrow. . . . .