Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ugly Phase

When working on a new painting, the first part of it is always the "ugly phase". At this time, I'm just laying out the colors and deciding the overall feel of the painting.

With concept paintings out of my head, the shapes aren't real defined. It's just a matter of playing with the colors, deciding where the center of interest is, and deciding the overall feel of the painting. This is truly the ugliest part of the painting.

The next phase is to start defining the value structures that are more in-line with the concept sketch and tightening up the painting. That phase is where I start looking at the shadows and reflections to make some of the landscape objects more realistic.

I still have a ways to go, but I'm happy, so far, with the basic color scheme.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

After studying the drawing of Sucia Island, I've decided that it would be fun to do another large abstract - landscape painting. Been spending most of my time, lately, working on realistic still life studies and need a little break from them.

So, as my usual technique, I started playing around with the landscape drawing and changing it up a bit. I added features that I thought would be interesting and removed features that did not enhance the composition. For the abstract shapes, I've decided that the primary shape (rounded sphere in the center of the painting) would be the focal area.

Today, I laid out the basic color shapes and will post a picture of the general shapes soon. I'm not sure what evokes an emotion for me about this painting, but I'm sure that I will discover it as soon as I start the detailing process.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Drawing Study: Sucia Island

Sucia Island in the San Juan Islands. Some friends and I did a week-long kayaking trip to some of the islands. It was a blast. After a fun day of taking the kayaks through large waves and getting totally soaked, we ended up in this cove. This was our campsite for the night.

Still Life: Coffee Cup and Saucer

Well, finally got some time (and interest) in finishing the coffee cup still life that I was working on. I really like this painting. It came out pretty well. I like the color composition and the cup looks like a cup.

The only part of it that bother's me is that the saucer looks a little flatter than I would have liked. I believe that it has to do with the shadows in front of the cup. They're a little flat. I'll have to go back and produce a little more of an edge to it.

When working on this cup, I tried to pay attention to two of my major failings: 1) Don't overblend over areas that I've already placed paint on. Place down the paint at the right value and then leave it alone. Only blend where the paint shifts values. 2) Separate the object into light areas and dark areas first. Once that is done, you can start defining the areas and put in details.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Portrait: Woman

Well, today was awesome! I attended my first figurative session using oils. The session is held at the studio of my instructor, Karen Winslow. This is the second portrait in oils that I've ever done. Overall, it's not great.... but not bad, either. It doesn't look like the model, but, it definitely looks like a person.

The basic approach that I tried with the figure is the same approach that I am working on with my still life studies. First, I tone the canvas, then I lay in the basic color shapes, then I separate the objects into a light area and a dark area.

The main problem that I had with this was that I didn't keep my brush clean. After the first couple of hours, I realized that the face was extremely dirty looking. So, I removed ALL of the paint off of the face and then did a better job controlling the layering. Still, for the shadow areas, the face still looks dirty. I need to work more on my colors.

Outside of that, the eyes are not drawn properly and the lips/mouth is misshapen. I DO like the way that the hair flows. Rather than drawing individual hairs, I laid down masses of dark and light areas.

The main area for improvement is the same issue that I have with my still life setups: color. I need to start practicing a lot more about mixing the correct color.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Plein Air Study: Lake and Mountains

Today, decided to go out and get some plein air work done. Haven't done it since last summer and the winter is finally working its way out of Vermont. Granted, the weather was about 40 degrees out there and after a couple of hours, was starting to get a chill.

This study was okay. Mainly I wanted to check out my setup and see if there was anything that was missing. For this study, I primarily focused on the mountains and sky just above them. They turned out okay. Not great, but not bad (one of the passers-by said that they liked the mountains).

I don't really care for the foreground or the island. I'll have to try it again someday. The interesting part for the day was dealing with a totally grey situation and all of the colors tended to be pretty muted.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The difference two years makes

Once in a while, it is good to look back at how you've progressed over the year(s). Lately, I've been a bit down thinking that I've not progressed that much. However, as I'm reviewing my older paintings, I realized that I'm gone incredibly far in the last year.

As you can see from the two dates, it's amazing what one year can do. The painting on the left was a watercolor plein-air painting that I did in early 2009. The original painting sold and I've been told that the client's mother is extremely happy with the painting. I'm glad.

During the last year, I've changed my medium from watercolor to oil and began studying regularly with Karen Winslow (and I hope that I can resume that one day). After a week-long workshop with her and her husband, Jack Winslow, my work showed a much more professional looking. The painting that you see for 2010 was done last week. A year later with proper instruction makes all the difference in the world.

This is not to say that my artwork was bad/mediocre before. I was rather proud of it. However, in my opinion, it wasn't what I was fully capable of. Now that I found a medium that I truly enjoy and an instructor who can give me guidance, once in a while, I'm ready for my next step as a professional artist.

So, if you think that you're not progressing... look at older works. You'll be amazed.

Drawing Study: Rocky Beach

Although lately, I've been practicing my painting techniques with still life paintings, I realized that I still need to work on my drawing ability. Since I had several hours tonight and really was not in the mood to start a new painting, decided that I might as well still do some art and practice drawing.

This drawing is loosely based on a photo that I took when my friends and I went out to the San Juan Islands for a kayaking trip. The reason for the drawing/photo was that I liked the rocky shore and the bracketing of the trees with mountains in the background. Formed a nice "L-shape" with the rocks being at the corner point.

When drawing rocky shores, there are two basic techniques that people tend to follow: adhere to the photo/scene religiously or interpret what you see. When doing pen/ink studies of landscapes, I tend to follow the rule that I'm trying to work on with my painting: get the general shapes of the objects down and the rest will take care of itself. So, for the drawing, I worked on just the general shapes of the rocks/trees/mountains and then adjusted them based on general perspective rules (larger objects in the foreground, objects lose focus as they recede, etc).

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Still Life: Shells and Rocks

This time, I decided that I wanted to try doing a harder setup. Essentially, I wanted to try my hand at painting more than one item and work on composition. I was looking around my house and found this shell and some rocks. So, I thought, that would be an interesting composition with a lot of shadows and overlapping shapes. Besides, this is good practice for painting rocks outside.

I'm pretty happy the way that it came out. I remembered what Jack Winslow taught me about rocks: Simplify them out to single planes and the dark areas between the rocks are not necessarily black. There is actual color in there... you just have to look hard.

The hardest part of this painting was establishing the white of the shell and the shadows on top of the rocks. Since my whitest white that I could use was Titanium white, that had to be saved for special areas. Therefore, I used one of my grey mixtures (Titantium white with a slight hint of black) and that worked out perfectly. The other hard part was to keep the shadows on the rocks consistent. I kept repeating to myself: Where's the light coming from? What's my darkest part of the still life? Where's the lightest part of the still life (Questions that Karen Winslow reminds me to ask every time I sit down for a painting). From there, everything was relative.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Still Life: Climbing Shoe

The latest still life that I've practiced with is one of my old climbing shoe. This took several attempts and several wipings of the gesso board due to the fact that the drawing was incorrect. I also tried a new surface: ultra-smooth gesso board.

In terms of the painting, it's not bad. Laying out general shapes was pretty easy (since it's mainly various levels of grey and yellow). The hardest part was the fact that there were a lot of nuances in the grey to simulate the "buckling" of the shoe material.

The only part of the painting that I didn't care for is the background and table top. For the cloth top, it was really hard to get it so that the shoe isn't floating above the table. The left side (dark side) of the shoe looks fine (with some lost edges into the shadow). The right right still looks like it's floating. Without a reflection onto the surface, I need to study the setup again to see what I'm missing.

The other thing that I really didn't care for was the ultra-smooth gesso board. I found that I ended up pulling a lot of paint as the brush went over sections that were done. I actually had to wait a bit on the grey section (over night) so that the paint became a little tacky so that I could put on the darker greys.

Overall, pleased with the painting. Next up on the list is a lit candle. Interested to study the light effects of the candle flickering.