Nope! It just Izzn’t!
Our eyeballs just can’t see what we think we see.
Yesterday was another beautiful day in the sun . . .warm and bright . . . .a perfect day for Butch, my painting buddy, and I to go out and paint. So we went back to the harbor where lots and lots and lots of white boats live. I am telling you true: What seems white just is NOT!
The little device you see above is a value viewer. It is very helpful to look at an area, (such as the side of a white boat hull in shadow) to judge the value. When peeking through the little hole and comparing the value of the white in shadow, one can instantly see that it is more a mid value than a light white. Then . . . comes the problem of getting that value onto the paper or canvas. That big piece of white paper can really throw off our judgment, too. We make a paint mark on the big white page and the mark seems darker than it really is because we are unconsciously comparing all that white field with the value of the mark . Yikes! That little viewer helps.
BUT . . . .there is still another problem (these difficulties are some of the reasons artists find plein air painting so difficult) . . . .that is if you are painting watercolor, the paint fades after it dries. Which compounds the value difficulty!!!!! One must be able to predict how the value of a mark or wash after it is dry. GAAAADS !!!! Is there any end to this stuff??? !!
How does one solve it? The viewer helps. The rest of it is fixed with plain old mileage.
Huh? Did you say Mileage?
Yep! That is what I said. Let me clarify: BRUSH mileage. Translated, it means tons of practice.
I have been painting for 20 plus years and still find plein air painting full of problems and difficulties. Yesterday was no exception. After getting home from a 4 hour painting stint and looking at the painting in normal indoor light, I could see the values of my boat hulls were wrong . . .not dark enough. Like I said, white just izzn’t white!!! So, several glazes later (and spoiled pristine washes) I came up with this painting. A lot of fussing and much self talk about what I will do next time and solemn vows about not letting this happen again, I finished the painting attempt.
You may think this is an okay painting. It was certainly fun and most instructive, but I simply MUST go back and try again and again. Butch and I discussed this aspect of being a painter: the compulsion to get better . . . . .and it is indeed a compulsion. Maybe someday, with enough brush mileage under my belt, it might happen. For now, though, it is best to focus on doing the best I can and having fun in the process because to be out there is simply a total gassss!!!!
For as long as I can remember in my painting life, painting rocks and water has been an endless fascination. Reflections, currents, textures, shapes, and the contrasts between granite and fluid draw me into a state of which I cannot describe.
I remember the day well. I had risen from breakfast to go outdoors to paint. The weather was perfect. But where should I go? There was so much from which to choose. Then it struck: rocks in the river!!!!!! I couldn’t get to the car fast enough!!! It wasn’t long before my shoes were wet and I was assembling my easel as fast as my hands could move.
In reviewing the paintings made in Yosemite, this week, with a friend, I commented that I got the same overwhelming calm and simultaneous excitement when I was fishing at the edge of a small river or creek. I have experienced that feeling since I was a little boy and can remember well being at a certain spot when I was six years old picnicking with my parents.
Then there are the towering rocks of Yosemite. When I am there, they fill my dreams. And I like very much the sheer fun of painting bizarre designs from sketches and memory. In those paintings I allow myself the freedom to Play. While at creek side, however, I am swept up in all the dazzling light, the movement of the water and the glory of the fresh air and wildness of it all. It seems to me that I could no more shift into the ‘play’ mode there than to fly.
But put me into the studio without distractions . . . . .anything can happen . . . .and that is for another post.
As you can see, there is much to paint! Shapes, reflections, textures, shadows, lines . . . more experience to rack up (brush mileage). This was a wonderful day!
Meanwhile . . . my classes have begun and I am in that space of dreaming up different ways to show painters ‘how to’ and to help them capture new paths of thought in their work.
I am spending more time emphasizing the interrelationships of Content (subject), Technique and Design and how those relationships affect the mood outcome of a painting. Of course, I have been demonstrating different techniques to some of the classes . . . .recently, painting into wet or damp paper . . .to achieve different edges and textures of the paint. That technique, with variation, and the manipulation of value arrangements, color and edges can express many different moods.
In the paintings above, the drawing has not changed (except just a little bit, unintentionally), but dominances of intensity, hue and temperature have definitely changed. See how the emphasis has shifted from the top of the painting to the bottom? See how the process of moving from painting ‘things’ to constructing an overall atmosphere can completely shift an idea? See how limiting contrasts can affect the mood? And how the increase of contrast can move the mood, too?
Isn’t it interesting how such different feelings can be generated without changing the actual drawing?
I can say, without hesitation, that all this practice has set up several different ideas and has bolstered my confidence to attack this subject with a loose approach. And it has alerted me as to where the bombs are buried in the path to completion . . . .and there are many, as I have learned.
Values . . . .this subject behaves like a backlit subject, but the light comes from the reflected sky in the floor of this ‘fountain.’ Incidentally, the floor is black granite on which there is 1/2 inch of water. The reflections are incredible! I have learned that there must be a value comparison between what value is in the background and the figure . . . .the darker the background the lighter the silhouette. Conversely, the lighter the background, the darker the figure. Multiple sources and bounces of light make this a very challenging painting subject which holds enormous potential for some dazzling images.
Color is lost in the figure and details disappear in back lighting.
Clothing shape and figure attitude say much . . .and accuracy isn’t always necessary . . .it is the impression that matters.
The large shape of the buildings in the rear also make for an interesting shape, but must be toned down to not call attention . . .with a cool to warm temperature transition left to right. The top edge of the buildings tell the story . . .not the building faces.
Having said all that, It’s time to step up to the job. I have more changes to make and will be making more of these in the next few weeks to become intimately acquainted with the subject and lighting. This is the first.