Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Marsh Sunset

I think it's done. It's been on my easel silently berating me for about a year, since
I abandoned it after a one-day lay in to establish the color and composition. It's a pretty simple idea, but because of that a little scary to pull off. Sunsets are of course gorgeous, but it's far too easy to get all dewy-eyed about them and make pretty work. This is also the first larger piece I've completed since the Costa Rica Road Cut, and I really, really, really didn't want to step backward from that approach.

Mostly what this is about is how the foliage in the marsh reflects the sky. That's a little tough to see in the full light of day, but obvious in dimmer light. I was surprised, though, by just how much it reflects. My color mixtures for the ground are essentially the same as for the sky, just shifted a little darker, except where it's really reflective (the water, the sand).

I also had fun with painting the sky. Mostly I try to stay with opaque colors since I change my compositions so much as I go along, working transparently would really inhibit me. I needed a transparent effect of red in the sky, though, since the color really isn't mixable otherwise. I used to make my glazes by just adding a ton of medium to a transparent color and applying it like a stain. I've learned that this is wrong-headed (thanks, Rob!) and so I did the glaze a bit differently this time. I started by laying down a thin coat of my oil/chalk medium, then putting a stroke of full-strength Alizarin Crimson across the lower sky (slightly scary, but fun), and then rubbing it with rags and the heel of my hand until it was the right shade. It's a great way to apply color--physically fun, but also really controllable and the color result is somehow richer than that obtained by thinning the paint chemically. A game-changer for me.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 11

Oddly, when I picked this painting up for scanning I was thinking "another dud", but find that after photographing it (another still wet picture) I find I rather like it. I have a suspicion that it may be because it was painted from a photograph, and photography is its natural metier. Usually I'll use the photography as a sort of mnemonic device to try to paint more or less as the original scene appeared, but in this case I was too intrigued by the dark and light areas of the trees and foliage and kept the value contrasts of the photograph. This gives it a slightly stark and tawdry appearance in the original, but works nicely in reproduction.

This is a painting of a beautiful eroded pool near Rincon de la Vieja, Costa Rica. The water is from the volcano and is actually that color from all the dissolved copper(?) salts. Quite safe to swim in, but I don't know if I'd drink it. There are cases of blonde and naturally light-haired people ending up with green hair from copper-rich water, but it takes quite some time to end up in the hair follicles.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 10

The parking lot behind my studio on a foggy, snowy evening (last year), and also a sort of homage to Isaak Levitan. I believe, along with Levitan, that what matters in landscape is not entirely what is there, but rather what you think/feel about it. Practically anything can be beautiful, however humble or prosaic it is, provided you see it as such. After all, it's all sort of a miracle, isn't it?

Day 9

Just a shell, but I kinda like the way it came out. I've been having a little difficulty with the colors I'm using in that the particular manufacturer's Burnt Sienna is slightly different from the Utrecht Burnt Sienna I commonly use. This means that it's difficult or impossible to achieve a truly neutral dark tone, hence my slightly bluish background colors. A stopped clock is right twice a day, however, and this particular shell has a color scheme eminently suited to the Burnt Sienna I'm using, in particular for the dusty purple spirals on the shell, a mixture of Sienna, Ultramarine and white. Mostly done with brushes, but with a few scrubby bits with knife thrown in at the end to try to capture the scratched, chalky suface of this old shell.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 8

This painting and the previous one were photographed with my phone (thanks, Apple!) and then straightened out and color corrected in Photoshop. This one is a small bird's nest, painted almost entirely with knife. Since I'm painting 9 X 12 I'm getting more interested in dealing with the placement of the subjects on the board, always something I like dealing with in my more finished work, but something difficult to indulge at the small scale of 8 X 10 boards. Although 9 X 12 is only slightly larger, it does provide a big enough stage to position smaller subjects away from the center and to attempt to deal with the white space around them. I've left the minimum of edges on the pieces to remind me to scan the pieces when they're dry enough and replace these place-holder images.

Day 7

I've been painting away, but unfortunately my studio is so chilly that it takes thickly applied oils more than a week to dry enough to lay on a flatbed scanner, even when I add drying alkyd mediums to them to speed the process. Back when I illustrated on a more regular basis, I used to use alkyd paints for a few colors, notably white which is usually used in the thickest passages of paint. This would pretty much ensure that the painting would be dry enough to ship within a day or two. Unfortunately, I don't have any immediately around so I'm using plain old oil white. I'm going to have to lay in a supply unless the weather turns markedly warmer soon.

This is a painting of another geode, a larger chunk this time. More crystals, more facets, more transparency over transparency.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 6

*sigh* The first dud, I think. A beautiful chunk of geode, with fascinating, long, opalescent crystals that fade from warm colors at the base to cooler ones at the tips. Unfortunately they're so long that the strokes needed to delineate them leave lots of opportunity to mess up the colors, the lines, or the layering. I managed to do all of that....

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 5

The back half of the geode. Technically, I suppose it's the less interesting side, but it's vastly harder to paint. This one is 9 "X 12"as I've temproarily run short of 8" X 10" boards. It's kind of fun to paint a little larger, as it's more along the lines of the larger stuff I've been doing at my studio.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 4

A geode I have around the studio. I love the way geodes look, and I love the idea that bland-looking rocks can be split open to reveal such neat crystals. This was painted with my usual palette, using Ultramarine and Cadmium Red (hue) as the violet and using a slightly green-biased mixture of red and Permanent Green for the base rock.

I'm posting a little earlier than my usual midnight/1 AM because I have a terrible, verminous cold that won't even let me paint--my nose is running so much I'm sure I'd forget and blow my nose with a painting rag and end up all sorts of different colors. Agh, just means I'll have to paint two tomorrow.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 3

Another "simple" subject--a bottle. I thought this would be an easy warm up , especially as I had a neutral gray background to make the highlights easy to pick out. As usual, reality is never easy, but this was fun to paint and I let myself use the knife,as well. One of the fun things I've learned a lot about in doing the dailies and the big paintings is the contrasts between lost and found edges. Lost edges are a blast, and absolutely necessary for painting flesh and almost anything rounded. Since I hate the slick look that comes from using smoothing brushes to lose edges, I'm getting pretty good at softening edges through the application of similar colors next to one another. It's also possible to get softer edges with the careful balance of stiffer mediums (like Weber's Res-N-Gel) and more flowing ones (like M.Graham's Walnut Oil Alkyd). Basically, the flowing medium leaves the brush more easily, for flowing lines, and the stiffer mediums stay where they are put in a most pleasing way.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 2

It's funny. I never cease finding new ways to get in my own way. I had a lot of fun painting the turnip the day before, with brushes and painting knife, so naturally I felt vaguely guilty about it. "It's too easy...too fun...The knife makes it simple to contrast softer strokes with harder...it's got to be wrong." So, naturally, I had to paint the turnip again, just brushes. I did cover the board I'm using as a table with primer, so as to make a neutral ground where I don't have to keep worrying about painting wood grain, just to make that aspect a little easier. The result doesn't give me a headache or anything, but I wish it had some crisper bits.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Daily Paintings, Series 2, Day 1

Some years ago I started a series of daily painting exercises intended to loosen up my painting style and get me over the fear of really working with oil paint. It worked, and I ended up painting 600 of them. The rules were I could paint anything I wanted as long as I painted for only a half hour, by kitchen timer. The alarm went off, the brush went down, no exceptions.The point was that a half hour is an ideal time to paint if you want to keep from getting scared. If you do a half hour painting and it's good, well, it's a source of pride. If you do one and it's awful, well, what do you expect from a mere half hour?

I stopped doing them regularly a couple of years ago after I dislocated my shoulder and was forced to take time off. Getting back into it was hard. Nevertheless, I've missed doing them, both because of the fact that they keep teaching me things and because it's sort of nice to have a pictorial diary or as I like to think of it, a snail-trail left behind my daily existence.

Anyhow, this is the first of a new series. Same rules. This one is of a turnip I had a yen to paint because it was such a still-life vegetable. Painted in my usual limited palette of five colors plus white--Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine, Cadmium Red Hue, Cadmium Yellow Hue, and Permanent Green, all from Utrecht this time. I prefer the "hue" colors to the real cadmiums because they're somewhat more translucent, allowing for a greater range of manipulations (in my way of working). I used a brush for most of the painting, but added a few swipes of the painting knife at the end to establish the stubs of the leaves.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

One Hundred Acre Cove

A small study of Hundred Acre Cove in Seekonk, Massachusetts. 16" X 12", oil on panel. I've been driving by this marsh for years, but it's a bit of a pain to get off the highway and paint it, so in the end I just decided to paint from one of the photos I've taken from the car.

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