Monday, December 31, 2012

Daily Painting Practice- Rough Seas -Manicuring Thumbnail Sketches and Growing Ideas

Thumbnail sketches have not been a common practice with me.

I have always been too eager to jump right into painting relying on my photo reference or even the plein air scene in front of me to generate the composition and ideas. However, recently I have started a new habit that not  only keeps me tuned into my creative side  while I am at work but also helps me formulate concepts that make my work more personal.

 Every year, especially at this time of year, you can find these small checkbook size calendars or daytimers. I discarded the calendar and folded some scrap paper (roughly 5 3/4"x6 1/2") and stapled the center.  Sliding them into the  calendar cover,  I have my own thumbnail sketch book.   The ideas flow out during the day and only take about 60 seconds. Then when I get home, I pick which ones I want to develop further into color sketches, like the thumbnail of the ship.
I have no idea or what a schooner actually looks like other than it has sails. I don't have reference for  details of the boat or the sea but I have my imagination. So relying on that,  I am developing the concept " ship at sea, rough water"  I started by reusing an old daily painting canvas board that I covered over with a gray green mix. I originally thought of a night scene but I must have waited too long because by the time I got to adding some color...
 The sun was breaking through the clouds on the horizon.
 I am sticking with a very limited palette to ensure my colors harmonize.
 I also wanted to stay away from white. The details may not be correct, that doesn't matter. It's the feeling and idea that you want to capture.
click on the image to enlarge the painting

"Heading Out"
color sketch 5"x7"
oil on canvas board

Seems an appropriate theme as we start a new year. Happy painting , happy new year! Enjoy the voyage.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Daily Painting Practice - Part 2 Fall Colors at North Woods Lake

Refining a painting without  killing the painting is a matter of correct choices.

Make the wrong choices and you increase the risk of needing a stronger cup of tea and a pillow to scream into. Make the right choices and you can relax with that cup of tea and use the pillow to lay back and admire your work.
  All of the worry could be avoided if you take your time, step back and remember your concept and idea.
Be advised to do as I write, not as I do.
 I continued to refine the clouds and the distant shoreline. I also softened the reflections making sure the values  in the water were a little darker.
 I worked and reworked the foliage which was heading toward those muted colors again. So what  to do? Of course... Think back to my original concept.
 click on the image to enlarge the painting

Autumn Beauty
12x16
oil on canvas board

This one was a study. I will use it to make a larger painting. I'll post that process whenever I start it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Daily Painting Practice - Fall colors at a Northwoods Lake - part 1

What comes first Composition or Color?

Actually, I have read the concept or idea should come first.  Use composition to help you convey your idea. Use color to help sell the story to the viewer.
 So, if my idea is beautiful autumn trees in sunlight, I should use a composition to best convey that.

 I think this composition will do the job. The color choices  to sell my idea of beautiful autumn trees, means that the color will have to be strong not muted, and they should also be harmonious. I'll try to do this sticking with a limited palette of colors. Ultra Marine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Cad yellow light,  Aliz. Crimson, Cad Red light. and Titanium White.
 I am desperately trying to stay away from using white in the clouds. I hate pasty looking clouds. These are cad yellow and cad red light with white and some blue. I'm not pleased with the way the clouds  line up and I think they need to be warmer.

 So far the sunny part of my idea is working . The rest of the painting needs refining but I like the progress.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Daily Painting Practice - More Trees

I warned you I would be painting more trees.


This time though my approach was a little bit  different. I started with a very smooth surface on hard board and I did not tone the board, I left it white.
 The board has no texture at all so the paint glides onto the surface. The color is very transparent and easy to wipe off. I am not using a limited palette this time and  I am going very bold on the under painting colors. How brave is that?
 I am completely out of my comfort zone with color this intense this early in the development of the painting. This can end up being a very Van Gogh-ish painting if I don't subdue the color a bit.
 Instead of painting the white on top I wiped it off to let the white show  through.
 Now I add the darks to the foreground  for more contrast.

 It seems strange to have started with such bold colors and contrast and then muting those colors a bit to get to the end, but that is exactly what I did. The result was very pleasing I think. 
click on the image to enlarge the painting

Birch Tree Study
11"x16
oil on board

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Daily Painting Practice - Tree study part 2

Enjoying your subject, I think, is half the battle to painting.

I really enjoyed  mapping out the color in this study. and also playing with the light.


 That light tree in the center was bugging me. It looked liked it couldn't make up its mind which side of the  path it should  be on.
 So I moved it to the background.

click on the image to enlarge the picture

Northwoods Tree Study
12"x16"
oil on canvas

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Daily Painting Practice- Tree Study - part 1

Our trip to the North Woods in the fall

produced an abundance of reference material. I will be painting  trees for a long time. Inspiration is  easy to  come by when walking in the woods of Wisconsin.

 Step 1-

Start with an idea, close tree vs. distant trees. Throw in -catching the light. Sketch the idea into a pleasing composition.
 Break it down into lights and darks
 Still sketching the idea. I am holding myself back from  using thicker paint. 
It is a struggle I lost , some thicker paint did manage to sneek in there.

Step 2-

 Another battle - keeping the colors muted yet varied. Especially  shadow colors I like it when they stay very muted.  I varied the hues to add contrast and interest.. 
I went back in and muted the color again. This photo is a little washed out but  it gets the idea across. 

 To be continued. - Stay tuned for stage 2.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Daily Painting Practice - Plein Air Painting for a good cause

My friend and fellow artist  (Deb Groesser)  invited me this past fall to paint a small plein air for her local  library fundraiser. The Ralston 100 Community Mosaic Art Project was Deb's idea and celebrated Ralston's centennial. The individual works of art were drawn,painted, or pasted onto 6x6 inch canvas.  They were displayed together as one mosaic and for a small donation you could win one. It was a great idea  and I was happy to participate.
I set up in front of Deb's Studio on a freezing cold morning. (Unfortunately Deb was away at some sunny California location painting one of her incredible plein air paintings.) I on the other hand was freezing my kaboodle off standing on the cold sidewalk  painting a local street scene.


 Once I got home and warmed up,  I worked on the final 6"x6" canvas. The plein air sketch on the left was my guide.
 Not too much changed in the second version . I mostly just needed to clean and sharpen lines.



Morning in Ralston 
6"x6" oil on canvas