Monday, November 19, 2012

Daily Painting Practice- Tree color study - walks in the North Woods

Every artist knows of places where they feel they could spend the rest of their life painting and never run out of interesting subjects. 

For me it would be Maine or the North Woods of  Wisconsin. All I need to do is take a walk in the woods and the ideas start flooding in. But how to decide what to paint? 

 When you literally can't see the forest through the trees (or maybe it would be better to say, can't see the painting through the details),  I find it easier to  eliminate details and look for abstract shapes of light and dark.
 For example, I started this color study looking for abstract blotches of color to lay on the toned canvas. I was thinking of  trees  but painting them as abstract color notes. It was a good way to stay loose in the beginning and not get sucked into  details too early.
 Sorry about the  blurry photo. However, it is a good example of how you should  blur your eyes when painting as a way of eliminating detail and simplifying  values. 
click on the picture to enlarge the image

Walk in the Woods - Color Study

oil on canvas board

Saturday, November 17, 2012

daily painting practice - tree study - ideas from the north woods-

I have started to do some small color studies.

Friends of ours invited us back to the North Woods of Wisconsin this fall. There is no greater gift in the world then to be invited to the North Woods, especially for an artist who is in love with trees. I admit it , I am a tree hugger.  What is there not to love about painting trees?  

Trees can be hard  to paint though.  I should say, tricky to paint.   Finding the form  is the hardest part for me. Especially when I am painting the thick woods.
 I am experimenting with a limited palette of colors. I think I used 4 colors plus white.
 I tried to capture the idea of an older tree surrounded a bunch of young ones. If the idea works in this small format I may enlarge it or use part of it in a larger painting. But I'm not out of the woods yet.... just a limited palette pun to keep you on your toes.
Did you ever feel yourself losing control of the painting process?  I did, right about at this stage. It might have been a good idea to  take a break  and make a cup of tea. Instead,  I took the palette knife and scraped most of the paint off and started again.
I started by warming up the foreground.

I had put the scraped off paint in a pile on my palette. It made such a nice gray tone,  I  just put it back in.


Tree study
oil on board

The limited palette helps keep the colors all in the same family. It really doesn't limit your choices of color. I  think my pre-scaped stage had a little bit more punch. Oh well, should have, would have, could have...
 I think the idea works though and that's the important thing. I'll save this and see if it has a future.  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Daily Painting Practice - A Few More Plein Air Lessons

My Plein air weekend continued:

The following day I got a late start,(too much plein air on day one I  imagine),  or it might have been because I forgot to set my alarm so I over slept .
 I found a back country road outside of town that turned into a dirt road.   It was as quiet as could be.  I could hear the grasshoppers munching the dry corn. Iowa was in a  terrible drought .

I pulled over and set up. I left myself a little room to back up and evaluate the progress.

Since there was no shade to paint in  I  used my umbrella to shade the painting.  I wish I had one big enough to shade my whole body. Notice that I have not learned my  lesson about  laying out brushes on my car. 

The canvas was pre-toned in an olive gray green. Perfect choice for painting an Iowa corn field.
An old pickup truck slowed down as it passed by me. I got the funniest look from the passenger. I don't think they could figure out what I was doing. I'd  paint a stroke and back up a few steps to the car then step forward. Back and forth, back and forth. They must have thought I was disoriented and suffering from heat stroke. I am sure I looked too strange in my floppy hat  and sunburned knees to stop and ask if I needed help.
Not a bad morning's work.

Stepping back one too many times.  I guess I got too  close and swiped the car with paint.
 People  who watch me plein air painting should take warning.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Daily Painting Practice- From Art Coma to Plein air - the story continues

So back to my tale of plein air painting in Corning Iowa. 

 Still day 1. 
 I am about to attempt a third painting in the same day. Not only that,  look at the size of my canvas. What a brave lad.
 Now, most of you  old pros at plein air may laugh at this accomplishment of doing three painting in one day. But let me remind you that this is Iowa... in July... bright sunlight...100 degrees ( well almost)  and I'm wearing shorts.... and sitting down.... 

So here's another don't to add to our list. Don't ever paint in the sun, sitting down, wearing shorts.  Why? Because when you sit down the shorts  inch up your leg. Now remember, I am coming out of an art coma  and my  titanium white legs are not used to being exposed to direct sunlight..... I know what you are thinking, where is the sunblock that, she who must not be named,  kindly told me to bring along?
 It's stuffed in my art bag.  I was too excited about starting this painting,  I forgot to put on the sunblock. ( if you are counting, I believe that this is mistake number 3 for the day) .
 My canvas is appropriately toned with a blazing hot orange. The sun was  was cooking my left knee and turning it the same color as the car.  At this point, I remembered the sun block, and got up to coat myself. So I stood, took off my glasses, and proceeded to  coat my face, arms and legs in white oily goo.
 By the time I got this far with the painting, I was having so much fun. I was on a roll, but so were the insects. 
 Another helpful hint...  people aren't the only ones who like to watch you paint....  I find insects also have a strange appreciation for plein air painting. (I mean an attraction for plein air painters).  So now, I had to get up again and coat my sun blocked skin with bug spray. 
I thought things were going well, especially when  a nice breeze blew across the field to cool me down, and possibly chase the bugs away....  If only my day ended there.
I  took this progress photo and put the painting back on the easel and sat down for the final touches of paint. No sooner did I sit down and load up my brush when the gentle breeze turned into a strong headwind that lifted the painting off the easel  .. I caught it with my shoulder.

Lets just say the tree didn't look the same any more.

 I decided to call it a day. I packed the car, turned it around and started driving away when I noticed  I had started driving without wearing my glasses. I pulled over, searched the car. No glasses. Drove back . Searched the area... still no glasses. Twenty minutes go by, now I am down on my oily, sun blocked coated, sun burnt knees , swatting flies and  looking for my  glasses in a bug infested field.... 

I never swear but that day I came close.   I decided on one more look in the back of the car... nothing. I closed the hatch and there perched on top of the roof of the car. Glasses.

and so ended my first day back .

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Daily Painting Practice - New Still life painting video on Youtube -

Here's a side step from the current blog story line.   

This weekend I attempted to make my first video  for YouTube.  I love watching other artist's work in this way, especially if the music is good. Since this was my first attempt  I selected the music rather quickly. I still think it works nicely though.  There is one minor mistake, but I am at a loss as to how to correct it now that it is loaded. See if you can spot it.

click  play my video

Hope you enjoyed it!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Daily Painting Practice - plein air , hot air and off the the air - painting outdoors can be hazardous

So the day continued... One painting complete, time to move on to the show.   I arrived  an hour before lunch and since I was only judging, I didn't  have a need to  produce a piece for the competition. The day was gorgeous but the temperature was getting close to 100 degrees.

To get back in the swing of things I decided to settle in with a relaxing tree study.  For all of you wanna be  plein air painters I thought of a few do's and don'ts to keep in mind.  
 1.   Do - find shade. Shade is your friend. Painting in direct sunlight can play havoc on your value choices. You will find a painting  done in direct sunlight once brought inside is dark and dull. Not the brilliant masterpiece you thought you had.

2. Do- Take as many extra napkins you feel comfortable stuffing in your bag from any restaurant you eat at.  They can become live savers.

3. Don't - talk on your cell phone while you continue to paint. Especially don't set it on the easel, and never swat at bugs when they fly over the phone which you perched on the edge of your palette.
4. Do - feel free to use as many of those free napkins in an emergency.

click on picture to enlarge the image

Tree Study
oil on panel

It was noon.  My phone smelled like paint. ( I hoped it still worked) I was out of napkins and I needed a break.  The air was getting intensely hot. 

One more don't
5. - Don't leave your car locked up with the first painting from the morning sitting in the broiling sun.  The smell of baked linseed on toasted panel isn't pretty.