Thursday, January 31, 2008

I'm done early today and going to show this detail because this is the only area of the painting that changed. I worked on bringing the tree up before getting into other areas because the paint is still very wet and if I don't take care of the edges surrounding this the major element of the painting before the paint in the sky area dries, I'm in trouble.

In the enlarged view you can see the soft quality in the paint application that I'm after. Again, paint applied with palette knives, scraped, brushed and repeated. The tree's branches and trunks were also drawn on with the knives and then manipulated with brushes. I'm trying to give dimension to this, it's a large painting and a large shape, but do it without allowing that detail to sneak out of it's place in the image and ruin the overall mood I hope to convey.

That's why this is all I worked on. I worked, removed, re worked, removed again until reaching this point. It's not done for sure, the tree that is, probably will be tomorrow.

Another Full Disclosure Demo

Okay....Here I go again! This is risky you know?! I could fail....yikes!!! But I figure that this will keep me thinking and not getting lazy in the process. It's a lot like teaching workshops and classes. I'm putting myself in full view of the three or four of you who look at this blog. That means that I better get it right....right?

So this is a 24x30 on stretched Yarka linen that I re-primed with Studio Products White Lead Primer. The surface is so wonderful to paint on that I've already decided that I will need to take a week later this spring and stretch linen and prime it with this primer, build a drying rack and stock up with many sizes.

I'm using a pretty limited palette for this one. For some reason I'm feeling 'tonalist' and am only using Cad Lemon Yellow, Light Yellow Ochre, Permanent Red Medium, Permanent Madder Deep, Ultramarine Deep and Raw Umber...that's right, RU! I almost never use that color but like it for it's smoky quality in greens and grays. Plus it dries faster and I am hoping for that too. For white I'm using Studio Products Great White, Flake white.

Sooo, what am I painting? Well I am going strictly for mood again. The composition isn't complicated. The color will be complicated even though it's tonalist in it's limitations. It's that subtle thing again. I think it's more difficult (for me) to reign in the profusion of color possibilities and keep my harmonics in balance in a lower keyed scale. That is my challenge for this painting and the 'thing' that I want to portray. So here we and I will see what happens.

This view is from about 4 hours work yesterday. All of the work to this point has been laid in with a palette knife. Then I came back to it with bristle brushes to 'knock' down the look of the knife. I want the knife qualities but don't want them to be overpowering and too 'knife like'. Apply, scrape, smooth, brush out, scrape, apply, smooth, brush out. That's the exercise in brief.

My disclaimer is: Beware, anything can change at any time...and is likely to.
I'll be posting my progress at least once a day or when something interesting actually happens!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Studio Exposure-Partial Demo!

I started this out to be a 8 or 9 step demo of this painting and the process involved in it. What you need to remember to do if doing this is to take photos all the way through! I didn't so it's two versions of the start and then the finish. I'll do this again the right way....promise!

The interesting thing about this painting is that the idea came to me early one drowsy morning while still in a dream. I saw the entire painting finished, or so I thought. The concept for mood and atmosphere remained like the dream, but as I began to work with the painting my idea for the composition changed dramatically as you can see here. That's why the title of the post is 'Studio Exposure'. Meaning that I'm exposing myself by showing a start that was wiped out and begun again making a complete compositional change. What I did like about the first start was the line of the composition, the movement. As I started to paint however, I realized that what I saw in my dream was a painting that showed the breadth of space in the location painted. This is of an area that I've painted, hunted and wandered around in a fair amount and know well. I've painted a 20x24 plein air here, and smaller studies and have taken a lot of photographs as well. The finished piece is far from anything that is actually there, made up of many different bits of information. So that's the background of the painting. If you've ever had a dream that is so vivid that you can remember every detail in color you know how it is possible to recall it for sometime. I got right on this one so that I didn't loose that vision.

This is just one way that I start a painting. In the first step of this one I wanted the lines to flow in a nice 'S' shape, so I started with a dark 'drawn' outline for placement. The linen (AE350DP) was first toned with a warm reddish tint to play against the greens in the final. I do still like the 'S' shape that is in this version and might take it on again.

This is after the first half hour or so, just establishing the color temperature gradation into the distance. This is when I began to realize that this layout wasn't going to work for me. My concept of showing distance into the meadow environment was being stopped before barely making it to the middle ground of the painting by the large tree and the middle patch of large shrubbery. That's when I decided this had to change. The next view shows how I began to stage things after wiping this idea out. I did a lot of 'thinking' with a paper towel, thinner and a brush. Just wiping and moving the landscape around until I felt like I was getting back to my original concept seemed the best way to move forward.

This is the beginning of what the painting ends up being. The basic structure that will be more developed is here in this version as crude as it looks. I still haven't decided what to do with the little stream at this point. It's an integral part of the scene as both an element to break up the space and because the life of the meadow environment is dependent on it. It's a spring fed native brook trout stream that is in good shape in areas and not so good shape in other areas due to cattle traffic. But in the area I'm painting it's actually fishable and a treasure of nature. I've changed the hill structure to add to the illusion of distance and have also established the mood of the sky. Though as you'll see that becomes even more 'wet' and overcast as the painting develops. I think it's safe to say that for many painters it's this process that keeps us coming back for more. When the painting begins to come to life and 'take' you along, it's an incredible feeling that can't be explained and can't be understood completely. I know in my own case that it's at these times that the best work is done.

In this view I've almost set up the entire painting, except for details, etc.. I decided that the stream needed to come forward out of the bottom of the picture plane to add depth by using the diagonals of it's banks to start the line into the distance. I'm beginning to lay in color from the background forward now. I still don't know what to do with all of the variety of growth in the meadow. It takes a couple of days of dry brushing, scumbling and glazing to build the depth and complexity of the meadow flora. But I wanted to do this without needing a degree in botany at the same time. If I only have to actually render a few flowers to make the other 50,000 look real, I'll be very happy. And that will also keep the painting from becoming too stiff and photographic.

This painting is not painted thick with lot's of impasto and that's designed to be that way. The atmosphere is like a soft veil of gauze covering everything and in my view that quality would be defeated by a 'heavy paint for the sake of heavy paint' approach. It's a more delicate scene than painting it that way would do justice.

'Mist On The Meadow' - 20x24 - oil on linen
This is the painting in it's finished state. That is for now, change is always an option. I wish I'd taken photos along the way to show the evolution to this point. Although a lot of it was barely noticeable, just subtle little additions and subtractions. I accomplished my main goal, to recreate the peaceful quality that my dream presented to me. Before you get too whacked out with me and this dream idea, I think what really happens is that these ideas are in us already and just need time to brew. They come when your mind is ready to accept them and that deep state of the dream seems like the perfect delivery system.
Next time I promise to take more photos too. Thanks for looking in.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

'Old Chisago Cemetery' - 6x4 - gouache

Well, I'm going back here again. I just barely scratched this itch. I drive by this Lutheran cemetery at least once or twice a week and am always looking at it as a subject, summer and winter. The graves are very old and the stones are tipped and growing lichens and moss. The Arborvitae look like the Cypress of Tuscany, Italy. Not quite as tall but close. That's what caught my attention yesterday afternoon. The warmth of the greens being lit by a reddish light of the afternoon sun, against the coolness of the snow shadows stopped my dead in my tracks. It's a great car painting location because there is a huge parking lot right there. In fact on each side of the parking lot is a large swamp and lake too, also good subject matter.

These are quick sketches and have things that I wish I'd done better or different, or both. It's usually an early choice in design that leaves me thinking that it should have been different. But...that leaves room for a next time. I like the color of this one but lost sight of the scale. The scale I've painted is probably measurably close to reality. But the 'impression' was that the arborvitae stood like giants against the grave stones. To reinforce that concept I should have made the grave stones more subordinate to them. Next time!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

'County Road 75' - 4.5x6.5 - gouache

I just did one little study today. It's very blue, very cold hovering around 0'F. See, that's why blue is a 'cool' color! Makes sense. If you stick your hand out the window it will turn blue proving the point.

I'm going to be on a search for the 'perfect' paper now. This one is nice but it's not at all absorbent. I need a paper that will soak up the moisture fast and cause the paint to drag, adding a little texture. On this paper the paint just glides on without any grab to it. So the paper hunt will start. I think that Canson makes a sketch book of gray paper, and I know Sennelier 'did' and maybe still does. Today I decided to take out my trusty old Robert Wood watercolor palette that has been full of Gouache for about 15 years or so. In art school we used an enamel butcher tray, the same kind that butchers used to use. I still have mine but they're not available anymore. There is one available but it's not the real heavy duty type from back then, the type with the sloped sides. These things are great palettes and if you find one at a flea market you might think about trying it out. None the less, the R.Wood palette works great and comes with a lid. To free my hands up in the cramped space of the truck, I used a 2" spring clamp from the home supply store and clamped the sketch book to the steering wheel. It's a ready made easel.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

'Bench Street 4PM' - 4x6 - gouache

It's a studio day today. But I did go get coffee and sat in the car in front of Coffee Talk and did this little 15 minute study. I would have stayed longer and done more to the right side but 3 cars pulled in front of me and parked ruining my unobstructed view. I painted this on my homemade sketch book of gray cardstock. Nice surface, like plate Bristol board, not too absorbent. Anyway, it's loose and 'less' but I caught the orange glow on the Wisconsin hills in the distance contrasted with the cool grays of Taylors Falls in shadow and that was the most interesting thing about the scene and what made me want to sit and paint it.

Friday, January 18, 2008

'Cold, 3PM'

'W.O.B.State Park, 1PM'

Now it's cold! We in this area are experiencing the coldest front of the season so far. Highs for the next few days aren't going to break O'F, and the wind chills are into the -20 to -50 degree range. In light of this weather, and anxious to paint again, I did these little 3"x5" gouache studies from the warmth and comfort of my truck this afternoon. This is a great way to get life studies in less than normal conditions. Gouache is an opaque medium, very similar to oils, that is water soluble always. They are very pigmented so the color is very strong and is a lot like painting with oils if you don't water them way down. I like to a former art school'er in a design school...I grew to 'hate' gouache. We had to use gouache to paint thousands and thousands of color swatches for endless design and color class assignments. For a long time, just the smell of gouache (it's unique) made me feel overworked, hungry, misunderstood, like a failure...I'm kidding about hungry! This is partly true though. We had to do most of those class assignments in gouache and they had to be immaculate when we handed them in. The problem is that gouache dries to a very matt finish. One touch of a finger with any oil on it at ALL and you have a dark finger print. I can't tell you how many times at 4 or 5am on those too numerous all nighters, I ruined an assignment and had to re-do in a couple of hours what had taken me all night to do. I suppose that should have been the lesson that I should be grateful to gouache for....I was wasting way too much time on the first attempt! Anyway, I paint these in an 8x10 Stratmore Black paper sketch book. I just stopped up at my local printer and bought some nice middle value gray card stock, had them spiral bind it, and now I have a gray sketch book for these studies too. These, a camera for photos and that's about all that's needed if the weather is bad and you still want to get out and paint. No thinners, no fumes and the brushes can always be cleaned if you forget to wash them out after a session. Can't beat that.

I've been busy with interviewing and putting together photos, bios and all that is required for a few interviews in magazines coming up. The first one will be in Create Better Paintings. com, a new online art magazine being put together by Jennifer King a well traveled art magazine editor and a painter herself. I know her from the old Plein Air Magazine days, I worked with her on the article that I was a part of. She has a great idea to save paper! Check the website out, it's a subscription magazine with lot's of information for artists by artists. My article is due in the February edition and is being written by Ray Hassard of Ohio an accomplished pastel artist. We had a great conversation the other day and it will be interesting to see if Ray can make heads or tales from what I told him about painting. If he does, he's a better man than I.
The second article will be in American Art Collector in March. That one is going to be about the Wet Paint event at Coleman Fine Art in Charleston, SC in March. Mary Whyte, Kate Starling, David Akhriev and yours truly will be there painting for one week which will culminate in a show of all of the paintings produced that week. I'm really excited to be a part of this tradition that Smitty Coleman and Mary Whyte have put on for what will be 5 years now.
And lastly, I'll be one of three artists featured in the October 2008 issue of The Artists Magazine in an article about painting Nocturnes. A very good writer, also a very good artist, Michael Chesley Johnson has interviewed me for that and is in the process of writing what I'm sure will be an interesting and informative article about those of us with a Vampire Painters' complex.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

'County Road 20 & Teal Ave' - oil/linen - 8x10
Last Thursday, Kami, my painting partner and best friend, and I found a great little spot north of Taylors Falls to paint. Temps were manageable and neither of us had painted out for some time. So we were ready to go. I wish I had a photo of her study too, it was nice. I'll see if I can sneak a photo of it and stick it up here too. She did a great job of catching the glow of the day. It was nearly tropical that day. I wouldn't be able to say that today or this weekend with temps only making it to 0'F for the highs.
The next day I came down with the full blown flu and haven't painted since. That's over and it's time again but it's soooooo cold that heading out for anything at all is NUTS!
By the way, Kami was asked to do a public access TV painting demo in December. She's a natural and last night I was lucky enough to see the DVD of the show. If you want to see a great hour of informative instruction, insight and a lovely painting in the end, check her DVD out. It's unreasonably cheap! Here's the link to her website. If interested email her for more info.

'Wild Mountain' - oil/linen/bd - 6x9
This was a wild session too. Knowing the dangers of being anywhere near the bunny hill at a ski area ( I used to teach skiing....), I set up at what I thought was a safe distance from the activity. Big mistake, double the distance, no...triple the distance! But I was 6" from the parking lot and really thought it was going to be a good night. I was about 5 minutes or so into the painting, just laying things in, when I hear this loud, high pitched screaming little 8 or 9 year old girl, as it turned out to be. As soon as I lifted my eyeballs up, I could see the tips of her skis about to impact my legs. She was flat on her back and going full speed...out of control. My first instinct was to grab the tripod and OpenBoxM, but I wasn't fast enough. In a split second thinner container, brushes and all were airborne!!! It was loud. Fortunately she was fine, I was fine except for a broken Bogen tripod leg....I didn't discover that until I finished and was moving to another location...out of the way for sure.
Interesting to paint there. Orange lights, yellow lights, whit-ish lights, and all throwing their influence on the snow. Makes for situations where You have to trust what you see...Not what you think should be....and paint that.

'Across The Street'

'The Malt Shop'
These are two plein air nocturnes from this past summer that I've just now managed to take photos of. One is across the street looking at a house, the other is in downtown Taylors Falls.... Schoony's Malt Shop & Pizzeria. The maylfies were so bad that there are still body parts embedded in the surface of the malt shop painting. That's one reason to paint fast. The bugs will drive you nuts at night, standing there with a light on is a magnet for them. Both are 8x10, oil on board. I'm varnishing these with Golden UVL Satin Acrylic Resin Spray varnish. Otherwise the gloss is just too much to deal with visually. They were quickly painted, maybe a half hour or so, using the Mighty Brite color corrected book light. As you can see, in these images with artificial light, I make good use of Transparent Oxide Red, Ultramarine Deep and Alizarin plus a little Viridian. I try to keep any opaque pigments out of the picture for as long as is possible. Still paying very close attention to the relative value range of the lights compared to the darks and midtones.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Friend, studio mascot, painting companion, and a warm nose.... always there with a smile.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

'Evening Stroll' - pastel - 8x16

This is the last piece, the 9th, that I'm including in the show 'Pastel Pastorale' that will open this week at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

I painted this one from some reference I took the summer before last while doing a plein air nocturne on this lake in Center City, MN. It was one of those beautiful evenings, warm with a rosy red sky as the sun disappeared into the west. I've come back to the photo several times but just never had a solid idea of what I wanted to do with it. Now that the pastel is complete it is likely that it might serve as the first step towards making the image into a larger oil painting of the same format. I am captivated by the subtle combinations of the very cool greens, rosy sky, and the really rich deep warm darks in the dike road and near trees. In the pastel I've lightened the illumination levels up a little, and if I do this again in oils, I'll probably drop the level of the light a little and play more with the very close relationships that the grayed greens provide. That's my entire interest in the subject, those relationships. So this is step one in the process of discovering what it is about the subject that I feel compelled to tell others about. Of course mood is a huge factor in my interest in painting this too. Though it's a typical midwest little town, it could be any old European village. And I don't have to travel to be there! Enjoy.

This is the show that all of the pastels are being done for. If you are in the area and can make it, please stop by. There is going to be a lot of wonderful pastel painting to see.