Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Upper Ojai

11 x 14
Oil on Canvas Board

I went back to Topa Topa, to see if I could paint it again. Though it had just been a couple of weeks, the orchard was all yellow. It was very pretty, and I started to paint, but I just could not get it right. I was so frustrated. The sun was going down, the shadow of the mountain was going to swallow up the orchard, and I was so frustrated. I took the canvas off the easel, and when I turned around, there were these pretty trees in front of the mountain. I quickly grabbed another canvas out of the car, and painted it as fast as I could. My dumb phone kept ringing too. I had so answer because it was work. I could not worry about the colors, I just had to get it on there. I used a wash of Alizarin Crimson / Burnt Umber, but where it was not dark enough, I just put in purple. Because I was in such a hurry, I think the colors came out better. Plus the composition was simple, which was a big help. (Too simple really: no focal point.) Not only was the sun an inch above the mountain, but a cloud came up, making the sunlight disappear even faster. I did this whole thing in 30 minutes.

Oak View Vineyard

12 x 16
Oil on Canvas Board

I had no work on Tuesday, so I thought I would try to do some more Plein Airs. I drove down a side road I had never been on, an as I rounded the corner, this picturesque vineyard came into view. I quickly set up and started painting. I used a burnt umber wash instead of the Alizarin Crimson mix. Getting the initial drawing just right was the hardest. I think the charm was in the far away hills and the little buildings. When you focus on something when you draw it, it tends to come out bigger, so I had to keep making them smaller. Also, the composition of the road brings your eye to the left, but hopefully the tree will keep your eye from leaving the painting.

Since it was a work day, my phone kept ringing, and then they would put me on hold, so I had to stand there and listen to advertisements while I watched the sun move. That was frustrating. The sun was behind me, so the shadow in the foreground just kept creeping up the road. I also think this size canvas is just a little to big for me to do in two hours. I will come back to this spot in a different season and paint again.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Topa Topa Reworked

11 x 14
Oil on Canvas Board.

I was not happy with my Topa Topa picture. I decided that the major problem (aside from some compositional stuff) was that the whole thing was too dark and muddy. So I decided to perk it up.

I perked up the sky and the foreground, and that looked great. So I just kept perking it up, even though I didn't have a reference to look at. Well, I think I overdid it. Now I am sorry and I wish I had left it, but Julia and Alan like it better. Before, it was too dark all over, now it is too bright all over.

It was so beautiful when I was there, and the sun was hitting in directly, so there were almost no cast shadows. The mountain looked beautiful, and the foreground was interesting too.

I will have to go back up to Topa Topa and try again.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Topa Topa

Oil on Canvas Board
11 x 14

Topa Topa can be seen from many parts of Ventura. They are practically the mascot for Ojai. During sunset, after the sun is below the horizon, the magenta rays light the stripes in the rock, and it is called “The Pink Moment”.

There is a main road that runs through Upper Ojai to Santa Paula, and this little orchard is the best spot to take a picture. It’s always pretty right here.

Sometimes there is some snow on Topa Topa. I rush up there with my camera, and all the professionals are crowded in front of this orchard getting pictures for their calendars and post cards.

This was my first time alone to paint Plein Air. I wanted an out of the way, but safe place. I didn’t want everyone pestering me, but I didn’t want to get mugged either. It was windy when I got there, but I just set up and got started. I knew the mountains faced the West, so the shadows would not change much as the sun went down. However, the tree I was standing under was sending its shadow onto the orchard.

I have learned that you have to lay in your painting quickly, so that you will have time in the end to put in the details. But if you go too fast, it is easy to get sloppy and get your drawing out of proportion. Then you waste more time trying to correct a drawing that is all colored in. You have to get the drawing right the first time.

I got my drawing in, and was just starting to mix my colors, and a big gust of wind blew my easel and everything over. My pallet landed upside down in the dirt, and the painting fell in the dirt too. My turpinoid ran all into the ground. The pallet on the way down hit my trash bag clipped to the easel and got paint all over that. Then the trash bag blew up against my legs and covered by pants with paint. (I guess they’re my painting pants now.) I wanted to quit, but I had such a good start, so I hung in there. I brushed the dirt off the canvas, picked the dirt out of the pallet, and turned my trash bag around. The new colors were a little gritty, but so what. I found a little turpiniod left in the can, so I had to be careful with that. Now I had to paint even faster, before the wind blew everything over again. Plus I had to hold the easel down more firmly with one hand.

It looks like a peaceful setting, but I was right on the shoulder of a two lane road, and the cars kept whizzing by loudly. Sometimes they would honk a little “Hello”. With the wind, the cars, and trying to go fast, it was pretty stressful. However, I got it done in about two hours.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Orange Rose

9 x 12
Oil on Canvas Board
I did this one last Sunday. I snapped a picture of a rose in the park. It was by a gray wall and in the shade. The wall was full of blue light, and to me, it made the yellow and orange roses pop. There were even blue highlights on the rose. I tried to paint what I saw, but I could not get it exactly how I wanted it. I like everything but the orange rose. I think when I get better, I will do this one again. But overall, I think it's pretty good for my beginning level. I worked on it from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm. I would say half of that time was just on trying to get the orange rose correct. The rest of the painting was relatively easy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Plein Air Demo: Santa Barbara Mission

These are the steps I went through to create the Santa Barbara Mission painting. Plein Air paintings have to be done in a couple of hours because the sun moves, which changes the angle of the shadows and the color of the light.

If you want to get more detail into your picture, you have to learn to do everything faster: accurate sketches, mixing color, and blocking in. You can't be fooling around, reworking something to death. The more you fuss with a brushstroke, the more you weaken its impact in the picture. You have to put it down, and then move on to the next element. The sooner you get everything down, the sooner to can punch up the details at the end.

You need to establish your values in the under painting sketch before you apply the colors so that you won’t make mud. The dark layer needs to be put down very thinly so it can get tacky, and other colors will sit on top of it. In general, many dark colors are transparent, and light colors are opaque. If you put a thick light color on a thin dark color, it will stay. But if you try to put transparent dark on top of thick light, it will just get swallowed up, and you wind up dabbling around with it and getting sucked into a Tar Baby.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Santa Barbara Mountains

9 x 12
Oil on Canvas Board

The last painting of the workshop was a beautiful view of the mountains. The mountains were nice lavender with buff colored rocks in them. All the students tried to paint the rocks, but no one could get it to look right. I finally painted over my attempt, and then just decided to leave the mountains lavender.I don’t think any of the paintings I did in during this workshop are phenomenal, but I learned so much about the Plein Air process. I feel confident now to do Plein Air paintings on my own.

Santa Barbara Mission

11 x 14
Oil on Canvas

The last day of the workshop was at the Santa Barbara Mission. The Santa Barbara Mission is in a beautiful setting: a rose garden across the street, mountains on one side, and the ocean on the other. We were told to show up at 9:00 and start painting. I got there first, and picked a great view of the Mission with a hedge of red roses in the foreground. I know it’s cliché, but it was really pretty. The teacher showed up and said it would be too hard for me to paint in the sun, and she wanted me to move under the shade.

I wanted to get the proportions of the Mission correct, so I took my time with the preliminary sketch and painting. Then it was a matter of filling in the blanks. It still took two hours though. During that time, two weddings took place in the Mission, and both times the Mission Bells rang. Also, people set up for a wedding in the rose garden, and they had the Mission for a backdrop. It was a very pretty day, perfect for a wedding.

Honestly, my painting doesn’t do the Mission justice. I am not clever enough yet to capture mood or anything else esoteric. I am struggling to get my subject matter and the colors correct.I was still working on my Mission painting when the teacher said it was time to start our second painting. Everyone was moving to another shady tree at the other end of the rose garden since the sun had moved. I stayed put and finished my painting. Then I had to hunt down the rest of the class.

Stone Steps

6 x 8
Oil on Canvas Board

For my fourth workshop painting, the teacher said we had to paint a small painting. My pallet was already full of mixed colors, so I painted some stone steps. I finished them in one hour.

I went around to see what the other students were doing, and I found some were still noodling around with their first paintings. Some were having a tough time with their second paintings. The problem I noticed most was that they were putting the under painting on thickly, so the details would not stick to the under painting. It was like trying to put butter on top of butter: it just goops around.

Two Olive Trees

11 x 14
Oil on Canvas Board

On the second day of the Plein Air workshop, we went to the home of one of the students. It was a gorgeous Mission Style house on one acre, all landscaped.

The teacher gave a demo, just like before. I picked up some more tips. Everyone knows that you put paint on the canvas with a brush, but I noticed this time that the teacher took a lot of paint off with Q-tips and Kleenexes.When she made her under painting sketch, she put in the dark values with a brush, and wiped off the highlights with Kleenexes and Q-tips. During the painting, she wanted to put bright pink bougainvillea flowers on dark green leaves. She just lifted out the paint with a Q-tip, and dropped the flowers in without making mud. When she wanted to put in branches, she made lines with the Q-tip where the branches would go. When she wanted to put leaves in front of the house, she thinned that part of the house with a Kleenex.

I went in the backyard to paint some olive trees that were backlit, and it was very windy. I put up my umbrella so that the sun would not be on me, but I spent most of my time holding onto the umbrella with one hand, and painting with other. It was really stupid. The teacher came by and told me that it was time to stop, even though I had only painted 1 ½ hours, and we were supposed to have two hours. I didn’t get to tidy it up.

Hotel Palms

9 x 12
Oil on Canvas Board

This was also painted on the first day of the Plein Air workshop.

In the afternoon the sun moved, and we had to face away from the ocean. There was a pretty Mission Style hotel across the street, so I decided to paint some of the palm trees in the landscaping. The first painting of the beach really took me three hours, and I only had two hours left to paint this one, so I got a more sloppy.

We were told to make the under painting in a reddish color, so I decided to leave that to show through for the tile roof. I put in the darks and lights, but the sun was setting, and the shadows were moving. There were lots of nice shrubs, and they were all different shades of green, and I was having a hard time making that many different greens to distinguish them. I was only able to block in most of the colors and leave it at that. Even though this picture does not have as good a composition, I learned how to speed it up a bit.Because my initial drawing was haphazard, the final painting suffered. I learned I should spend more time on the drawing, so that the blocking in will be more exact.

Butterfly Beach

9 x 12
Oil on Canvas Board

I took a Plein Air workshop. Plein Air is so intimidating to me. How do the artists knock out a painting in just two hours? For me, it was as exciting as Christmas to know that I was going to finally learn the secrets.

The workshop was held at a beach in Santa Barbara. Our teacher gave us a two-hour demonstration about the techniques. She has a system that was full of shortcuts. The coastline was beautiful, so she used that for her subject. After the demonstration, the students started to paint the coast. The teacher said, “Okay, you have two hours, and then I will say stop, and you have to stop”.I was intimidated to imagine I could do what I just saw the teacher do. Plus, the water on the beach would not hold still.

I did my sketch as quickly as I could. Then I started painting, blocking in the darks, then the lights, etc. I could not get the sand right, and the far away mountains were giving me trouble. After a while, I decided to take a break and see the other’s paintings. I could see that I wasn’t the only one who was frustrated; some were still working on their drawings.
I worked on the painting some more. The teacher kept coming by and telling me to "orange up" the cliffs.I could see the teacher's demo painting from where I sat, and I would check my painting against it. My surf didn't look right to me, but hers looked similar to mine. I was so afraid that I would not finish in two hours, but the teacher never did tell us to stop. Finally she told me that I was done, and I should start a new painting. I was very happy just to complete the painting. I think it looks like the coast, but to me, it doesn’t have any pop.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Jay's House

Completed 09-30-2007. 11 x 14, Canvas Board.

I painted this in about four or five Sundays. I only used Cad Yellow, Cad Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, and Ultramarine Blue (plus Black and White). I tried to use the black sparingly. I used the grid method to transfer the photo onto the canvas. There were a lot of challenges in this painting. Mostly everything.

The sky in the photo was a washed out nothing. I was going to paint it blue, but my teacher said it was a "vanilla sky". So she mixed a tad of CY with white, and showed me how to make the sky sparkle through the trees.

The house was also difficult. It was white with gray shadows. My teacher told me to mix AC and UB to get various lavenders for the shadows. Then I was out of classes, and on my own.

I spent a whole day on the house shadows, then I dabbled on the trees. They just looked wrong, but I didn't know what the problem was. Finally Julia told me, "Mom, you can't spend hours on the house, and then slop on the trees. You have to spend just as much time on them."

I found out that to paint trees, you have to paint their whole silhouette the color of their shadow, very thinly. Then you carefully build up the middle value of leaves, and then you add the highlight leaves last. Since the house had so many shrubs, I was very careful to give each of them different textures and shades of green so that each bush was separate. That took a couple of Sundays.

As this painting progressed, I grew more confident in mixing colors and controlling the oil paint. I had seen a video clip of an artist painting a big painting, and instead of using big bristle brushes, he painted the whole thing with a tiny sable brush. He did not do Alla Prima, and try to get the whole painting done at once; but by letting it dry, he was able to build the layers of bright colors onto the previous dull colors. This made the new layers pop. Using that approach really helped in this painting.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

William Wendt

Painted 8-04-07. This is a copy of a painting by William Wendt, a famous California Impressionist. This was in a magazine, and it was a little on the green side, so my painting came out greener than the original. When I was done, my teacher told me that the background hills did not recede back into the distance, so she showed me a trick. She mixed some pale sky blue, and filled the brush. Then she wiped the brush so there was barely any paint left in it. Then I smudged this over the mountains, and it seemed to put a haze of atmosphere in front of the mountains, without obscuring my brush stokes. She said this technique is called “dry brush”. I am happy with this painting, but I want to work from photos now.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Purple Painting

Painted 07-17-07. After the Vasquez Rocks fiasco, I decided I needed help. I found a real artist, in Santa Barbara to teach me. She owns a gallery, she has paintings in the gallery (and they are GOOD) and she teaches as well. I told her that I was serious, and I wasn’t just trying to decorate my house or generate Christmas presents. I want to make gallery level paintings.

My teacher is very nice, and since the class is in Santa Barbara, all the other students are well off. They are all nice ladies with REALLY nice jewelry. They talk about their grandkids, their vacations, and which frame will look best with their painting when it’s done. Everyone is very positive and gushes over each other’s paintings. It’s nice, but I tell the teacher not to be soft on me.

The teacher had me select a photo of a painting out of her “beginner” file. I picked one that had the style I like. It had rocks in it, which are hard for me, and some trees, which also give me trouble.

First she had me sketch the painting on some graph paper. I thought that was a waste of time, since I knew I could draw just fine on the canvas. I drew the rocks first, but the mountains were off. So I redrew it with the mountains first, and then the rocks were off. I was humbled. The teacher says she ALWAYS does the graph paper step. Well, her paintings are in galleries, and mine are not, so I better do as she says.

Then she had me sketch the painting on the canvas with yellow ocher water color. This was great! I have used pencil, charcoal, and thinned oil paint, to sketch in the painting, but this really worked the best. I sketched in everything very carefully: clouds, mountains, trees, rocks, etc. Now nothing was left to chance. Then she had me filled in all the dark values with more yellow ocher. Now I could see exactly what I was going to paint.
My teacher told me to start with the clouds. First I had to mix all the cloud colors and get her approval. I told her that the painting I was copying was printed poorly, and the whole thing was a bit on the purple side, and I wanted to correct it as I went. She said no: she wanted to see how well I could match colors. I hear and obey.

Mixing the colors a group at a time turned out to be another good idea. I mixed a few cloud colors, when I started painting them, they didn’t just come out white-with-blue-in-them. I had some light, dark, warm, and cool colors to work with.

I wanted to know where the Turpentinoid was, but the teacher said, “No Turpentioid allowed”. What?! But how can I clean my brushes between colors? She said to use Kleenex. That drove me crazy at first, I was so dependent on thinner. But suddenly, I realized that my paints were not soupy like in my other paintings and I could control them! Also, since I had sketched exactly where the clouds were going to go, and where the light and dark parts were, I didn’t have the problem of my colors swallowing each other up on the canvas. I had SO much more control.

For each part of the painting, I would first mix the whole group of colors for that area. When I got to the tree, the teacher told me to put the dark on first, VERY thin, like a silhouette. Then, a little more thickly, put on the lighter greens and browns. That helped so much. The colors stayed where I put them instead of just sloshing around like butter.

After this painting, my confidence returned. The teacher let me pick a photo from the advanced photos, and suggested I sign up for her plein air three-day workshop in October. I am SO glad that I took her classes. I learned so much.

Vasquez Rocks

Painted 07-10-07. This was from my own photo. I thought it would be nice to do some rocks, but this came out even worse! In the photo, the sky was deep blue, but I thought I would put some clouds in to balance the rocks. I think the clouds just look like white paint. The more I painted on this one, the soupier the paints got. The photo was so pretty with yellow wildflowers, and dynamic rocks, but this doesn't even come close to what I was trying to do.

Lake Casitas

Painted 07-07-07. I used the same photo, but I tried to make this one more “Plein Air” style. So I made bolder brushstrokes and I did not sketch it on the canvas first. I think this one came out worse. There is no depth, and the mountain just looks like a lump of confetti.

Lake Casitas

Painted 07-04-07. This is my first painting. I just wanted to see if I could even DO it. I think for a first one it is okay. I copied it from a photo I took, and I think I got some depth in it. I had a limited palette of Alizarin Crimson, Cad Yellow Light and Ultramarine Blue. Plus black and white. I spent a lot of time just trying to get the colors right. I tried very hard to make the mountains in the background look far away. I did it all in one sitting.