Saturday, March 28, 2009

Daily Painting Practice - Baseball stadium Continues

The baseball stadium painting continues. I need to finish soon and get on with some fresh paintings. Paintings can get stale if I work on them too much.
Something I really enjoy is dissecting a painting. I like figuring out what makes a painting work and how to make it better. This painting is all about light and angles. I deliberately make some angles work more for me than others. The sky is painted at an angle to bring the viewers eye into the field. The shadow angles on the far left make an arrow shape that points our eyes towards the right, and the light on the right side brings you back to the center. Even though I am not set on the details of the people in the bottom right corner. I know they have a curve that sweeps the viewer's eye back into the painting. I am also contemplating another boy with a cap in the front. His cap will point toward the pitcher.

I think a successful painting is like a well produced play on Broadway. Each share these key ingredients:
A strong center of interest. ( The Star of the show)
Good Composition. (A strong supporting cast)
Good use of light. ( Drama/mood)
An interesting narrative. (The audience must relate emotionally to the story)
Above is some more diagnosis. The Center of interest is in the cross hairs of some useful lines in the composition. The narrative directly relates to the center of interest. Did the batter hit the ball or miss it? The line of the pitch takes the viewer across the painting, the vertical poles on the right side stops the viewer. The supporting characters at the bottom of the painting help bring the attention back to the action and the shadow line ( in yellow) stops the viewer again forcing your eyes back to the pitcher.

Here's another trick to use when you need to examine changes to the composition. I wasn't sure the fence in the foreground was at the best angle. It was correct as far as real life but for the composition I was thinking of maybe changing it to go parallel with the grass. Anyway, one way to try it out is to take a photo of your work and use a photo editing program to see what it looks like. I think it takes away from the picture so I won't change it.

Here are the progress shots up to the present. This is where I left off.
I added the steel work under the main structure and started filling in the crowd.
The crowd is nearly all filled in and I removed the figure from the center in the blue hat. I like the space better now.
Rosenblatt Baseball Stadium - Work In Progress
click on the photo to enlarge the image
The fence detail is coming along. I added the field lights. Still, lots to do. What do you think? Will I finish before the College World Series begins?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Daily Painting Practice Workshop - Trying New Things -part 2 - Goop - Palette Knife painting

Here we are at Part 2 of my preparation for my day long workshop tomorrow. Before I get started, I received an email from someone who asked: What was the box my set up was in and how was it lit? Well, here is the plan for the shadow box. I cut a piece of colored mat board about 16-18" tall and 40 " long and folded it in half. Then I used the left over pieces for the top and third side. You can see a lighter version on the floor at the bottom of the photo.

The light fixture is a very inexpensive flood light on a stand I purchased from a photography store. It has a 60 W fluorescent bulb.
Remember yesterday I said I would mix it up a bit? My plan is to do something completely different for the afternoon session. Most artists at some point need to get over two very bad habits: Always using a small brush and never using enough paint. The fear of using large brushes can only be overcome by one method... Get a large brush (we are going to use a 2" wide brush) and don't paint with anything else!

And as for those of you who have never experienced what it is like to really push paint around, may I introduce you to GOOP.
Here's how you get rid of the fear of not wanting to waste paint... You pile it on! Everyone has tubes of paint in a box somewhere that they never use. If not, go out and by some cheap tubes.

I found these two tubes in the bottom of my paint box. They are at least 30 -40 years old. Hand- me- downs from generations of people who didn't like the color. (The labels were flaking off and one tube could only be torn open to get the paint out).
This is what I mean by GOOP! I have mentioned in previous posts that I routinely scrape all of my old paint from my palette and mix it together into a pile. I use it for toning panels. But I have other ideas here.
Since most of my color came from the old blue and green paint tubes along with my palette scrapings the GOOP pile this time is a very dark cool green/gray. Take your goop pile and make a 4 stage value scale (4 piles). I used Naples Yellow for my light and mixed just a little goop in. Then I did the same thing for pile number two and added enough goop to make the value halve way between the goop value and the light value. To make the fourth pile, I added some black and made the dark value.
You can see my 2 " brush and the palette knife I will use for the demo.
Using the two inch brush, I painted the dark background over a pre-toned canvas.
Now for the fun part. Try to layer the paint on only using the four values you have made. You will find that you need to keep wiping off the palette knife and getting enough fresh paint loaded up after only 1 or 2 strokes. Don't be cheap with the paint... think of covering a chocolate cake with a rich dark chocolate frosting. Thicker is better in both cases!
This photo really shows what I am hoping the artists in the workshop get to see. Here you have the combination of a thin wash (the pre-toned canvas), a thicker brushed on back ground, and some really delicious frosting applied with the knife, all in one painting.
Of course I want them to go further. I layered the lights even thicker. I stuck a toothpick in and measured the thickness at 1/8". So far everything has been applied with the knife.
click on the painting to enlarge the image

Painted with Goop

Take your 2" brush and soften some of the edges and you are finished with the underpainting. If you let it dry and go back in with color, the painting will be a bold expression of the new fearless you.
Trying new ways of pushing paint is the best way to break out of old habits. Happy painting!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Daily Painting Practice Workshop - Trying New Things - part one - The Wipe Off Method

On Tuesday this week I will be giving a workshop for a few local artists. My friend, Marge, thought up the idea and did all the work to sign people up who were interested. Another painting friend, John, volunteered his basement to accommodate the eight who dared take on the adventure....brave souls.

I needed to prepare for what I would be teaching. So, I thought why not take photos of my preparation and share with those of you who read the blog and might be interested.

It is always good to try new things. I find it especially helpful when I feel myself in a painting rut. It stretches the creative muscles and can break up a slump or push away annoying bad habits (of which I have many!) long enough to build up a little confidence.

If you are like me, you add a fear factor to the challenge of painting whenever you try to learn new things. "What if it looks like crap?...What if I don't get it to work?... What if some gallery owner sees my first attempt and judges me? What if all of my other work is destroyed by a meteor and only this practice piece is left and 500 years from now they discover it in an archaeological dig and my name is on it and...."

Artists like the dramatic. Hopefully, my class can help breakup some of that fear and we can have fun along the way.

First hint: Avoid freezing up.

When starting something new get out the charcoal or pencil and do a really quick sketch. You will be amazed at how many little things you workout before you even pick up the paint brush. Also, I find it really is a benefit not use the edge of the paper when working out the composition in a sketch. Mark off the size or shape of your canvas and leave a space around the drawing. The space frames the idea. I think this helps your mind grasp hold of what you intend to do.
Step one:
Before you add any paint to the canvas, wipe the canvas down with a rag dipped into some linseed oil. In other words, wet the canvas. This helps keep the edges in the painting soft throughout the session.
I am only going to use Burnt Sienna. First, I brush it onto the canvas, then take a rag and wipe it across the surface. This gives you an evenly toned board with no brush strokes.
Now, using the side of a dry bristle brush ( no turps), gently rub the paint away, remembering to wipe the brush clean on a rag every few strokes. At this point you only want to map out the lights and darks. Pull the lights out of the background using the side of the brush to avoid harsh edges. Make sure you are brave enough to try this with as wide a brush as possible.

This is as far as the brush can take you towards the light.
In order to pull even more light out you need to use a dry rag and some pressure. Remember NO Turps!
Start adding some paint to go toward the dark side.
Second Hint: Use only the side of the brush ( you can see my brush is nearly flat against the canvas) and try to only paint in vertical strokes, or as close to vertical as possible. This really prevents you from painting lines and helps you to think and paint with tones. Remember, no fear, keep moving with soft vertical strokes . You are adding darks to the mid-tone, don't think about anything that is lighter than the mid-tone here.
Congratulations, you have basically mapped out darks, mid-tones and lights without using lines.
Keep modeling by adding paint for darks and lifting paint for lights. When you are ready, add a little white paint to hit the highlights. Notice if you blend white with the burnt sienna it really gives you a cool light. To make the table cloth lighter, don't add white.... This is where you can use your turps! Use a rag dipped in turps. It will pull out the white of the canvas giving you white with some warmth.
click on the painting to enlarge the image
Underpainting -Using the Wipe off Method
This is the lesson I will be teaching in the morning. Tomorrow I will post how I intend to mix it up a bit in the afternoon session. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Daily Painting Practice - Old Florida -work in Progress

One of my all time heroes is (Winslow Homer). This is his Red Shirt, Homosassa, Florida, 1904.
One reason to admire Homer is that he gives you a real sense of place in his paintings. How can he do this? It's because you can see Homer's connections to his subject. These are not compositions from photographs but compositions from the heart of an artist. They are sketches from life, memory and experience. To be able to compose a painting like that, now that is a goal I want to aspire to!
I have never painted palm trees before, so I am keeping old Winslow in my mind as I try to paint these old Florida gems.
OK, keep the paint loose and watercolor like....even though it is oils. ( and yes I do talk to myself like this when I am painting)
One thing I like to do with oils is paint an underlayer with some saturated color then go over it with a more muted color. It seems to add a layer of depth. Either that or I am wasting a lot of time painting everything twice.
It still amazes me at this stage, how ugly some paintings are when they start out. Right now this painting is nothing more than blotches of color. I actually have the most fun just after this stage of painting. That's when I go back over the blotches and add just enough detail to bring out the form and the light.
click on painting to enlarge image
Old Florida Detail - painting in progress
Here's my progress on the palm tree on the right. I am just starting to go over the blotches here. I think I hear Winslow's voice coaching me, .... "don't forget the coconuts!"