Saturday, April 28, 2007

Canyon Amphitheater

I thought I would put this together as a tutorial since this was experimental and the first time I have used soft vine charcoal to lay out a painting instead of just drawing the layout with a brush. I have always enjoyed drasing but seemed to lose some of the effect I get with a pencil when I paint. I was up at the Scottsdale artist school on Thursday and I overheard someone talking about laying out their entire painting with charcoal before they started their underpainting. I thought this seemed like a novel concept and wanted to try it. I try to stay experimental with my work and not move any furniture into the ruts I create. I have done a few of these compositions now where the canyon is a supporting character to some juniper trees so I decided I was confident enough to do a larger studio work. The layout of this painting is mostly made up from a number of different photographs. I liked the basic layout of one photo in particular but it had problems that would not make a good painting. I needed to solve the composition problems before I could start a painting and thought what better way to try out this charcoal approach than to do my thumbnail on the canvas I was planning on painting.

I originally thought that I took the drawing alot further than I needed to but I kind of got lost in the drawing and didn't really care about the passing time. I recently browsed Scott Burdicks website and he had some demos that he had drawn out and he does a pretty accurate drawing for some of his pieces and I kind of missed the sketching process so I thought that would just take my time and enjoy the process. When I started applying paint thinned with turps, I discovered something that worked out quite well. The charcoal lifted with the thinned paint and made for some really good darks to start with. I played around with this a bit and found the process of planning a good tonal sketch without adding any ultramarine blue to get darks to start with. I was able to wipe out any areas that got too dark and reapply thinned paint if needed. I kept the pallett to Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre on the underpainting.

After getting a fairly solid underpainting I started blocking in colors to work out my color comp. I was concerned that the underpainting might bleed a bit with the charcoal being in the mix, but it stayed put quite nicely.

And finally the finished piece. I didn't want to lose the freshness of this piece and end up overpainting it. I need to set it aside and think about it for a few days before I decide it is finished. I am pretty happy with the brushwork and painterly quality of this work and think this is a method of working that I will use again on some of my studio work. If I become confident enough with it I may have to throw some vine charcoal in my plein air kit for field use.

Thanks for looking. Comments and crit always welcome.

Last but not least, it is a 24 x 30 on stretched canvas.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Balboa Fig

Another study to play around with some technique before committing to it on a large canvas. This is a fig tree that is in Balboa Park in San Diego. They now have this tree surrounded with a chain link fence to keep the kids off of the natural playground because all of the traffic on the ground was compacting the soil and suffocating the tree. It is easy to understand the attraction as I was tempted to jump the fence and go for a climb myself.

I ended up a litte unrestrained in this study and overheated the painting again. The balance of warms and cools is pretty far one sided. I got a little too fascinated with the root that hangs off of the front of the tree and looks like a snake. Good news is the stuff that I wanted to have happen with this one did actually work out.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Canyon Sentinal

Haven't had much time to any painting as of late. My Wife had knee surgery and has needed me to provide care for her. Needles to say, I have been jonesing to smear some color. I took a trip back through some reference photos and came across this scene. I will earmark photos that I believe are potential painting and put them in a seperate folder so that I am not sorting through a bunch of dogs to find something to paint. This is a photo from a recent trip to the Grand Canyon. I liked how the juniper seemed to be reaching across the expanse of the canyon almost framing the beauty of that amazing spot.

I have been working on doing a better job of leading the eye through the painting and subordinating certain elements. I wanted to draw attention to the amazing character of the juniper and use other elements to give place to the tree. Another thing that I have been doing with my skies is to make sure the last strokes of paint are on top of the blues of the sky to push it back and add more depth. Schmid suggests it as a method and it is easy for me to see why after trying it a few times.

Thanks for looking, comments welcome, criticism accepted.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Spanish Bay Sunrise

16 x 20 alla prima oil on canvas.

I was digging through some old reference photos looking for something that caught my eye and came across these Monterrey Cyprus bathed in morning light at Spanish Bay on the 17 mile drive at Pebble Beach. Thought this might be a fun piece to have a go at. This was a photo I took on my honeymoon a year and a half ago.

Time to pull it off the easel and give it a day or two to percolate and see if I got lost and missed anything obvious.

Thanks for looking.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Ancient Pine

A little 8 x 10 study on a canvas panel.

Tried to focus on the color variations and transition that happen in shadow and the transitions that occur in direct sunlight. Form ended up being pretty secondary in this study.
This is a scene from the white mountains of California. I imagine these two Bristlecones to be somewhere over 2500 years old. They have a grove of around 15 trees all over 4000 years old. It is impossible to wrap your mind around what you are actually looking at.
Thanks for looking.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Canyon Juniper

I decided to put down the cigarettes and as quickly as possible become an indignant ex-smoker. I got tired of listening to my kids bitch at me not being around to play with their grandkids and being looked at like I am a homeless leper everytime I smoke in public.

I decided to post this as a WIP for anyone that may be interested. In this piece I made it a point to be conscious of not overpainting the work as I have a tendency to do when I do a studio work. I have a freshnes to my work when I plein air paint that I seem to lose when I do a studio work.

I have been toning my canvases with burnt sienna and then drawing with a diluted mixture of liquin and burnt Sienna. I have been trying to pay attention to advice that I recieved from Ray Roberts at a recent workshop I took with him. He advised me to slow down and take the time to draw the parts that matter. I approached this piece that way. This is a 16 x 20 stretched canvas.

After finishing a rough but fairly accurate sketch, I begin drawing with a mix of burnt sienna, ultra blue and liquin. I put the darks in a pay attention to where my darkest dark and lightest light is going to be in the painting. I have a tendency to lose my dark accents when I plein air paint, so I will overpaint them a bit in the initial sketch.

At this point I start to add some greys and midtone values. I need to get paint all over the canvas in order to be able to harmonize the values and color choices.

After adding the greys I begin blocking in the greens in the juniper. I will mix three different values of green on the pallett to make sure I end up with consistent variety.

After blocking in the greens I will add the sky and sky holes in the foliage. Schmid said that he finds it hard to have it look like the sky is behind the subject if he paints it last. I used to paint the sky last until reading that. I switched immediately figuring he should know.

And finally on to the finish. Time to correct vlaues and decide where highlights should be. Also a good time to slow down and look at the piece from a distance to see if it is actually a painting. It is easy to forget that bottom line the goal is to make a painting. Fill in the empty spots, leave a little underpainting peeking through in a few places and add a little branch calligraphy. Time to set it aside and look at it a couple of days later to see if I still like the work.

Thanks for looking.