Sunday, November 23, 2008

Daily Painting Practice - Tagged again

Tagged again! Looks like tagging is back making it's way through the blog world again. ( did it ever go away?) Last week my ex-engineering/now artist friend from Colorado( Stacy Peterson) commented on my blog and let me know she tagged me. ( Thanks Stacy I owe you)...Just kidding.
For those who are unfamiliar with this game of blog tag. It is a way to share a little about yourself and let others know about bloggers you find interesting.
You are supposed to list 7 things about yourself and tag 7 other bloggers so that they do the same and so on and so on...

I've done this before so this time I think I'll change it a little bit. Rather than just list 7 things about me, I thought I'd show 7 things with photos.
First, I have been getting a lot of questions about my new little palette and whether I will continue to use it. I'm still in the experimenting stage but I can share a few lessons I have learned: 1. You need to keep it clean. Both front and back. ( Don't sit it on your lap unless you mean to walk around with striped pants.) 2. I save all of my paint scrapings and mix them together. You can see the beautiful neutral gray/brown it makes. When the pile gets big enough I use this to pre-tone canvases.
Second, I don't know why but I can't seem to throw away small brushes that go bald. The handles are still good....that's got to mean something. I have no idea what these can be used for but I continue to hope someone invents a way to replug them.
Third weird art habit. I save all of my charcoal dust. Didn't you hear we are going into a depression.... I want to be prepared.
Fourth, This is a great art recycling idea for all of you who want to go green or who can't find the guts to throw out old art magazines. Use them in between small framed daily paintings. They keep the frames from getting nicked and scratched.
Here's number 5. If you do daily painting be prepared to have a lot of leftovers that don't sell. Plastic bins are a great way to store them in neat piles... so relatives and friends can browse and pick the ones they like.
Number six... I hate the caps on oil tubes. I throw them away.
I can't think of number seven so I thought I would show the progress of this painting from last week's post.
As you can see I changed the arrangement of the apples. (She who must not be named made the suggestion... I hate to admit it but she was rrrrr) I plan on completing the bottom half of the painting before starting on the detail of all that wheat grass for the top half.

I am supposed to tag 7 other people but I'm going to skip that part. I need to keep all the friends I have.

Monday, November 17, 2008

daily painting practice- 2 new paintings in progress

Here are two new works in progress. The first is a still life I hopefully will be entering in another competition this winter. The first photo is the color study/ preliminary sketch. If I like it here I move on to the larger canvas. I made some changes to the composition but the over all story of the painting and mood of the painting work. I wanted dramatic light, texture and a story.
This shows the beginning stage of the rough in. Actually I was having so much fun painting I took the apples a little farther along.
A friend of mine recently gave me this little palette. Usually I mix paint on the large glass palette on the table next to my easel. This time I thought I would try holding the palette in my hand directly in front of the painting. I am trying to be much more deliberate in my approach to mixing and applying my color. The smaller palette helps me slow down and think more about the color before applying it to the canvas.( I have no problem going's the thinking part I need help with) See, it pays to experiment!
Here is the second painting I am working on. A small morning landscape,of the banks of the Missouri River on the north side of Omaha. I tried a small watercolor sketch on site. Actually, I was sitting in my truck sketching because it was too cold and windy outside. I wrote some notes directly on the sketch to remind me of details and some observations on color. I didn't need to paint those details in the sketch, just remember them. One note states, the brightest highlight was the bark of the cottonwood trees. Bringing this sketch back to the studio along with some photos was all that was needed to develop the idea for the studio painting.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Daily Painting Practice - Teaching at the Joslyn Art Museum

I recently was given the opportunity to teach at the Joslyn Art Museum here in Omaha. It sounded very exciting when they told me that the class was to be held at the same time as the Diego Rivera exhibit and they were hoping to use that as the back drop or theme to the class.
"Great idea!" I said,
"We assumed you can teach pastels." they said.
"Pastels???? No problem" I said .... I dusted off my pastel sets as soon as I hung up the phone.

So, for the past 5 Sundays I have been giving a class covering landscape, still life, and figure painting using pastels.
We actually had a great time. The Diego Rivera tie-in was really pretty thin but we did get to see some wonderful work.
And one benefit, we had a wonderful model sit for us. A very distinguished gentleman in a traditional Mexican outfit.
Here's the main theme of what I taught. How to bring out what attracts you to a subject. We worked in 3 stages. thumbnail sketches, value studies and final approach.
On the last day I joined in the fun and worked along with the others. I wanted them to use the sketch not so much as a drawing exercise but as an exercise in expression. The goal was to translate onto paper what you like about your subject and to understand what attracts your attention. The sketch helps you get familiar with the subject. Don't just copy what you see...translate what you are going after, explain it. Say it out loud in words...I really like the shape of the hat... or I love how deep and warm the shadow is across his face. Then try to paint what you just said. That expression helps keep you focused.
Here' s my first 20 minute sketch. I loved the dignified pose he achieved even though he was sitting on a chair made for a child's art class.
Here's my second attempt at him. Another 20-25 minute sketch. He had a very Rembrandt-ish look to him and great expression in those eyes.

The class was a lot of fun. I hope they let me do it again sometime...only next time using oils.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Daily Painting Practice- Painting Outdoors - Looking for light in the city

I don't remember which artist said " Paint what you know" but I am beginning to understand the effort it takes to really know what I paint. I thought I would share my new approach. Above you can see three steps I use to become familiar with the subject and developing the idea. Sketch, color study and photos.

First day, explore the city looking for light. I only allowed myself to carry a sketch book.(in the photo on the left) I wanted to make sure I took the time to explore. The beauty of the light hitting the brick building really stopped me in my tracks so I noted it with a small sketch. Having only recently discovered the value of the sketch to record emotion (I know... slow learner) I am really hooked on the idea. It really is the best means of expressing what first attracts me to a subject. So much better than a camera. Exploring with the sketch book and not relying on the camera helps prevent doing paintings that only hold your attention for the length of a TV commercial.(as you know is a new goal of mine) It really isn't about going out and capturing an image as it is about identifying and expressing an emotion.

Second day, I went back with the camera and paints to do a painting on the spot for color reference. Going back on a different day helps to see the subject in a new light. Does it still hold interest? Do you still react to it? Photos are used for details and drawing back in the studio.

It was a beautiful day and a few people stopped by to watch me paint. One man stuck his face in just below my shoulder before I noticed him. Wanted to get a closer look I guess. Another stopped and told me he used to live in that building, in fact, he met his wife there. I love hearing stories like that. Now I have a connection to the place too.

Back in the studio. This is the develop the idea stage. I did a drawing and wash to see if the composition and size of the canvas worked. Not quite right yet so the process continues. Stay tuned I'll show more of this piece as it develops!
There are so many things that can go wrong in outdoor painting. It helps to be prepared as best you can. Here you can see a few ideas that work and a few that don't: dress warm, bring hot coffee (tea only works in the studio or cafe), have your car near by so your photographer/wife can stay warm. If you plan on using a medium you are not familiar with in the cold... don't.
Here's an idea I thought would help me get off to a faster start on a cold morning. I tried this last Saturday at 8:AM. Don't faint, I actually did this study using pastels.
Since I knew it was going to be chilly and I am not comfortable using pastels in my plein air painting , I did the outline drawing the night before from a photo.
I then started blocking in the lights on the purple half tone mat board. But when painting outdoors some things are out of the control of the artist.
Picking up the trash on Saturday morning waits for no man or artist. Good thing the garbage wasn't my point of interest.
I only got this far before my fingers froze and I had to run to the car for some of that hot coffee. By that time the light was changing dramatically and I called it a day. Still, the sketch helped me get familiar with my subject and will help me develop an idea for a painting. Since I have visited this alley several times I have seen the life that goes on around it. I know where trucks unload and people take smoke breaks. I would not have that knowledge if I had just walked by and snapped a photo.