Tuesday, February 23, 2010

'Myakka Afternoon'... Some revisions.

After thinking that this one was done, I took a longer look at it and talked to my other 'critical eye', Kami, for input. We both decided that the foreground was too busy, that it acted as a barrier to entry into the focal area of the painting, the palms and then into the distance. It's a good thing to have a trusted artist close by who you respect and know will give you an unbiased, honest opinion about your work. Kami is that for me, I am that for her. When we both agree that something is off, whether her painting or mine, I know it needs some serious thought. After I resigned myself to the fact that this area would need to be worked again, the painting sat for some time while I finished up some other work... and for me to think about it.

Below is the "finished" painting before the changes...

'Myakka Afternoon'... Before the rework...

I prefer not to ruin the rest of the painting by what I am about to do to it... that is...to fix it! In light of that profound idea, I like to use acetate to work the problem out on first. I tape a piece large enough to cover the area that needs fixing, and then to paint the fix on it. I don't spend a lot of time at this, just enough time to get an idea of what to do when I pull the acetate off and work on the actual painting. Because the camera does strange things, I actually took a picture of the acetate fix, corrected it in Photoshop, then viewed it on the iMac screen and used that as my guide. Mainly because you can't really see what you did on the acetate when it comes off of the painting. The paint is 'stingy' and transparent on the acetate, and doesn't show the color like it did against the painting when it was taped on to it.

Here's that photo... All of these pics of the acetate work were handheld... sorry for the blurriness but they're just for the idea of how I do this. The next photos to follow are all of the work on the acetate, except for the last one which is the new revised version of the painting. I only put these up here in case the idea might be of help to anyone who doesn't know about this technique and is wondering what to do to try out a revision on a painting.

The weird reflections are of me taking the pics...

This is how I view the acetate work on the iMac screen.

And the 'final' finished painting... I think.

'Myakka Afternoon' oil on linen, 24x36 © Marc R. Hanson '10

Interlude... 'Wood Stork'

'Wood Stork At Rest' oil on linen, 8x10 © Marc R. Hanson '10
I'm doing three posts today. Before I get into the 'Myakka Afternoon' rework post, I wanted to post this little painting of a Wood Stork that I did this afternoon. Might be 'Big Bird Part II'?

Monday, February 22, 2010

'Silent Wader'

This painting seems like it took a long time if I think about the first posts about it, the concept studies. But there have been several other paintings come to life in between the start of this one and now. So I thought that I'd sort of review this one by including all of the posts of the steps along the way, the finished painting, and some detail shots of it.

I'm happy that in the end the final painting is very close to one of these initial color comps. I chose the one on the right to paint. I preferred this idea because it kept almost the entire painting in a cooler open shade with just a little warm light sneaking in to the image. And I liked that there was vegetation to use compositionally to soften the transition between the egret itself and the reflections/background.

This was my initial block in for the painting. Remember that the linen that I was working on wasn't working with me. You can go back in the blog and read that if you don't know what I'm talking about here, I'm not going to take the time to re-hash it now. Let's just say that I dumped this one and re-stretched a new type of linen that became the final image.

In the meantime, I had my fill of the whole situation and decided to have some fun. :-) No I didn't paint Big Bird... just borrowed him digitally.

This is the first step, actually the first day, of the 'renewed' effort on a new type of linen. Things went much smoother on this new surface and it became a matter just putting on enough paint to cover the 1200 sq inches of paint surface. Of course it had to be in the right place, the right value, the right color, etc..

In this step you can see more development of the image. I began to add color into the reflections but knew that I still had a long way to go before making a final decision on the 'final' look of those reflections. For one thing, they had to reflect something... and 'something' wasn't painted into the painting yet. You can see where I did add a few weeds, just to give myself some idea of what to expect when it came time to add them all in. When I started to paint those in I knew that it would have to be one long day of work. I couldn't start them, get interrupted for a day or more, and then continue with any sort of cohesion to it all. But it was important to see what would be needed in terms of the scale, color and dimensional size relationships of the grasses.

A few days had passed between the last step and the start that led to this the final. That was a fortunate thing because it allowed me to oil out the painting, to rub a barely perceptible coat of an oil medium into the surface of the painting that would give me several days of working time, and that would let me paint into the painting as if the underlying surface was still wet. Painting into a dry painting is kind of like fingernails on a chalk board. I don't like the grabby, dry, chalky appearance of new paint on top of dried paint in a painting like this where subtle transitions are a necessity. The oil mix I use is walnut, poppyseed and clove oil. This keeps the paint wet for a long time... it's still wet. But the advantage is, as I mentioned, plenty of time to work the painting with pseudo 'wet into wet' edges and blending. When you oil out a painting, you first apply the oil with a brush or rag, then you wipe what you would think is ALL of the oil off. You do not want a detectable amount of oil on the painting. It's there however, even if you can't see it physically. And obviously, the painting better be completely dry or you'll be wiping off the previous work as well.

In between, the entire painting area was worked and reworked, with the exception of the upper third which was not touched at all. I take that back. I did drag some dry brushed color lightly over the dry paint, mostly cool colors to help push the area back.

The most enjoyable part of painting for me is when you have a coat of fresh paint on the painting that is still wet, to some degree. This sets things up for some very, very fun tactile sensations that result from dragging brushes loaded with wet paint into, against and across the still wet, but drying, paint surface.

That's when I feel like I'm a painter, manipulating, moving and modeling the paint as if it were clay.
In the end, I stuck pretty close to the initial concept, a success in that respect.

'Silent Wader' - oil on linen, 30x40 © Marc R. Hanson '10

The following are closeups of the painting...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

'Afternoon Shadows'... Step by Step

'Afternoon Shadows' - oil on linen - 24x36 © Marc R. Hanson '10

The painting is the result of my recent trip to Florida to teach a workshop and open an exhibit of my work at M Gallery of Fine Art in Sarasota, FL in early January of this year. One of the locations that we painted during the workshop was a state park called Myakka River State Park; Myakka is the second largest state park in Florida. I was and am really captivated by this park, or more correctly the landscape of Florida that has been left the same as it has been for eons.

There is a primordial quality to this park that really grabs me and has a tight hold on my artistic sensibilities. It has all of the ingredients that attract my landscape painters' eye... wildness, water, jungle, trees and vegetation that are so varied that they present a textural salad of everything from Spanish moss covered majestic live oaks to palms and palmetto. The arrangements of Florida flora are punctuated by snaking rivers and streams that are teaming with life, but especially with large birds and large animals. On top of the textures, the color of the varied vegetation is rich, especially when the sun is low, rising or setting. Another feature of this area of Florida that makes my mouth water, is the moisture rich air. As Maggie Kruger, owner of M Gallery of Fine Art, told me, the air is so rich with moisture and nutrients that much of the plant life in Florida can grow without much soil; they receive their needed nutrients from the air. Any environment with that kind of particulate matter in the air is going to provide some rich color when the sun's rays are low and having to make their way through it all.

That is what I was painting in this painting. As the sun began to set we were making our way from the river's edge back through some of the swamp and trees, towards our cars. It was then that the pink of the sunset lit up the landscape. It was amazing but short lived. When that happens about all there is to do is to get somewhat of an image captured on the camera and then to try to emblazon the rest of the sensation onto your brain. Hopefully when you get home, you'll be able to recall that experience and put it down on canvas... or linen!

#1- Because most of the color in the design would be on the cool side, I made the choice to tone the linen with a warm wash, mostly Transparent Oxide Brown with some Viridian and Alizarin Crimson added. I applied this pretty heavily, as a wash, then wiped with paper towels until the primer was stained and most of the wash had been removed. I started this at night so that was it until the next work day when I began to lay out my composition with this warm color slightly thinned. Since the arrangement of palmetto against a couple of tree trunk would be the most dominant area of the painting, I started there with the drawing.

#2- In this step I blocked in the large dark mass that is in shadow. That includes the tree masses and the ground shadow.
The paint is watery thin at this point without anything but OMS (odorless mineral spirits). There is some notion of color. I kept the washes dark but warmer than what the overlying color would be to play against the cooler tones of the palmetto fronds in shadow.

#3- This step shows the first use of any opaque color. I am keeping the strokes broken and open in order to feel my way around the composition. Because of the nature of the color of the final painting, I am starting my color out a little more intense than I plan to have it end up. I do that because I have a tendency to want to 'naturalize' my color as a painting develops. If I start with color that's more intense, I figure that as I naturalize it, I'll get close to where I want it to be.

#4- This step shows the painting entirely blocked in in terms of 'general' color passages. I am working on a linen that needs a layer of paint on it in order to start working 'with' you. So the idea is to get the thing covered, go to bed, wake up and start really laying down some paint.

#5- About all that you'll notice here is that I have put some light on the right hand tree trunk. That tree, and a distant bit of water reflecting the sunlight, are the two items that I hope will provide some compositional balance to the heavy shape of the palms.

#6- Here you can see that I've started to work into the foreground shadow and vegetation pattern. I think that the background that has been done is about what it is in the finished piece.

#7- In this step and the next one you're seeing my working back and forth with the foreground. There were several sessions of painting layers, scraping and overpainting until I was happy with the feel of the area. It was as a toss up as to how much to show, always an issue. I feel that in the end I met some middle ground and am happy with the way it worked out.

#8- More foreground work. I was doing a lot of, for lack of a better word, scumbling. It was more like dragging paint over slightly tacky paint to get some textural effects that I wanted. Looking for a light pattern in the shadows was another topic in my discussion with the painting. I won!

#9- Finally 'satisfied' with the ground area, I decided it was time to attack the palmettos. These were a lot of fun to paint, I'll admit. They're so bizarre in their makeup that I just had fun. The challenge was to think like a bird flitting in and around them, looking for the way they projected out and around the trees. My photos didn't do much to help, so it was mostly a memory and 'practical thinking' exercise. At first I wanted some light striking the back of one of the palmetto fronds on the lower right of the tree, and on the one to the upper left. But the one on the lower right upset the shadow area. So I played it down with just a hint of light hitting it's back, just to relieve that area from being all dark. I'm happy with that.

#10- In this the final day of painting, today, I adjusted the fronds of the palmettos. I lightly brushed color across the forms to add interest to the darks. You can't probably see much of that in the photos. I knocked some back, brought out a few others to bring the light across the space. That's about it.