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.


Bart said...

It seems to be costume to fix the underdrawing with some sort of spray. I have never tried it as I sometimes draw if very lightly with an ordinary pencil. If you think the charcoal adds great to the mix... why bother fixing it :-)
Thanks for the demo!

les lull said...

Thanks Bart. I wasn't sure how that would work, but I was really pleased with the result. I made for a really quick way to get to a tonal study.