Thursday, August 21, 2008

Vineyard: Work in Progress

Work in Progress
11 x 14
Oil on Canvas Board

This is a work in progress. It is a vineyard in the Napa Valley. I snapped this picture on vacation when we were going somewhere.

These are the steps I take when painting:

I grid off my reference photo and canvas, and then transfer the drawing with burnt sienna. I used to be impatient to get to the painting part, but I learned that if I get the drawing wrong, it does not matter how well I execute it, it will still look bad. Now I really take my time with the drawing.

Then, still using burnt sienna, I block in the dark areas, and wipe out the light areas, so that I have a value study. They say that “color gets the glory, but value does the work”. If the picture does not read in monochrome, it will not read when color is added.

When I start to paint, I work from top to bottom, back to front. None of this is really special, but this is basically how many oil painters work. I try to complete one section at a time.

On this painting, the sky is done. California is really a desert, so we don’t get many clouds.

I worked on the hill next. I got the basic hill color in, and then the shadow silhouettes of the trees. The trees look random, but I copied their places and sizes carefully to keep the scale and perspective correct. I need to be careful to make each tree interesting. The rule of thumb is, “Never make any two intervals the same”. This means to vary the placement, the size, the color and everything about each tree. This keeps the painting interesting. However, since the focal point will be the vineyard, the hill cannot be shouting for attention, but it much like the ballet corps that supports the Prima Ballerina.

When the hill is dry, I will refine the hill color, and put where the sunlight hits the leaves on the trees. When it is wet, you can only do so much, or it becomes as difficult as painting with butter. The trees that are farther away, I made them bluer and lighter to help push them back. This is the principle of atmospheric perspective.

I read somewhere that painting is like telling a story, and so you need to add the drama and embellishment to make it more interesting, just like a story teller. If I painted it just like a photo, it would look too flat. The photo is the starting point for an interesting story.

Then I blocked in just a bit of the ground of the vineyard. You can still see the burnt sienna sketch there. I think this will be the hardest part for me, and I am dreading it. But if I finish it, I will have taken another step forward in becoming a good painter.

The brown blob in front is going to be a shadow. I will make the shadow more interesting in the next couple of sessions, but when it is done, it will be the backdrop for dried grass and pink poppies. Hopefully, this foreground will pop, which contrasts with the far off hill, and altogether, it will bring a lot of depth into the painting.

There is nothing to indicate it yet, but a big oak tree is overhanging the scene from the left. I will put that in last.

Plein Air: Carpenteria Bluffs

Oil on Canvas Board
6 x 8

I had to go to Santa Barbara for work, so I packed my plein air kit to take with me. On the way home, I got off at every off ramp until I found a good scene to paint. This view is from the top of the bluffs overlooking the ocean. It took about two hours.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Two Trees with Delphiniums

11 x 14
Oil on Canvas Board

This little hill with the two trees is a landmark in Ventura. You can see them from almost any point in the city. Once the hill caught on fire, and when it was all over, everyone wanted to make sure that the Two Trees were okay. The climate is so mild in Ventura that there are many fields growing cutting flowers. I found this perfect spot and I took a lot of pictures. (The mark in the sky is a shadow from a brushstroke.)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ribbons at the 2008 Ventura County Fair

I entered three of my paintings in the Ventura County Fair and each of them won a ribbon. The “Pond with Succulents” was entered in the Waterscape category, the “Fed Ex Kinko’s” was entered in the Ventura County category, and the “Bieber” (barn by the pond), was entered in the Scene category. On the entry day, I had different categories in mind, but the judges were there and the recommended these categories and said I had a better chance of winning. For example, I was going to put the succulents in the Flowers category, but they said it might have to compete with a painting of a rose. However, the water was very good, so they recommended the Waterscape category. I have painted more paintings since I entered these, but these were the best at the time. Thank you for looking.