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.