Friday, December 4, 2009
For this picture, I tried using the technique I learned at the Susan Sarback workshop. She is so good, that I have been intimidated to try it again, but I got stuck with this picture, so I was going to use it “just a little”, but I wound up doing the whole picture this way. I think the chroma is too bright overall, but I am basically happy with it.
This is from a photo I took in the springtime. The colors were vivid, but the photo did not catch that (of course).
I started painting this “normally”, but the sky was such a dead color. I was using Winton cerulean, and when I lightened it, it was just dead. It was like I had mixed it with light gray. So I thought about how Susan said to under paint things in light in warm colors. I mixed up pale yellow, and spread it all over the sky with a knife. Then I got a different brand cerulean (Lucas) and when I lightened it, it was clear and bright. I smeared that on top of the pale yellow sky and it looked great.
Then I decided to use the knife on the gum trees, and I used all different kinds of colors. I was not shooting for a million-dollar painting, so I was mostly experimenting. That came out good enough too.
I had started the grass earlier, but now it didn’t match. I scraped it all off, and saved the green, and I put down yellow. Then I knifed in the green that I had scraped off. The wind had been blowing and the grass was bent over and shimmery. In the photo, it just looked white, but I knew it was reflecting the sky, so I used some of my sky color for it. The whole thing does not look “real”, so this looked good enough for me.
The mustard was the hardest because mustard is so bright and everything else was bright too. So I just did my best.
The thing I learned most was not to be afraid to use what I learned at Susan Sarback’s workshop. Maybe I can’t paint exactly like her, but the technique does a good enough job until I get better at it.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Oil on Canvas Board
This was from a photo I snapped last Christmas. My husband wanted to go somewhere QUIET! Since this is a summer recreation spot, it was VERY quiet. We rented a cabin in the “town” of Burnt Cabin.
I tried to implement what I learned from the recent demos I did. I sketched it in carefully on white canvas, and then blocked in the main colors. Working from back to front, top to bottom, I put in the details. I did not do it alla prima, but I let each section dry before I proceeded, so that if I made a mistake, I would wipe it out without disturbing everything. The colors go down so much cleaner when the paint underneath is dry. Also, after letting it dry, I could see where it needed more light, dark or color.
For the lichens on the tree, I dulled down some viridian. I am very happy with how this came out.
Friday, November 13, 2009
This is from a picture I took myself. It is of “Two Trees”, which is a local landmark here in Ventura. These two trees on top of the hill can be seen from many spots in Ventura. The weather is really mild here, so there are fields of cutting flowers. I found these delphiniums, and the view was great, so I took a lot of pictures. You would never know that the freeway is right behind me.
I tried to keep this loose and painterly, like in the demos. I also sketched it first, and then put in the thin base colors. I painted it in one night after work. I am going to try to do more of these “one night-ers”. The mountain was very important to me to get JUST right, since everyone in Ventura sees it. The clouds are bare canvas. It was hard to get the delphiniums without having them bleed into each other.
I am VERY happy with this one, and I am going to try to make more happy, light, bright paintings.
I wanted to do a small painting so that I could do the whole thing at night after work in one sitting. This is an image from the Wet Canvas Image Library. Thank you to whomever posted it.
The picture was taken on a cloudy day, so it was pretty dreary. When I painted it, it still looked dreary. After it dried, I put on a few highlights. They sort of stood out, so I fixed the darks too. That stood out. So I punched up all the colors and made them all brighter. I also added the tree in the background after the mountain was dry. I am happy enough with it, but I am back to my picky style, and not the bold style of the demos I worked on.
Oil on Canvas Board
After doing the two Kevin MacPherson demos, I thought I would try one from another book. This was from page 109 of Bob Rohm’s The Painterly Approach. I chose it because I wanted to do glowing clouds.
Bob’s steps of procedure are very similar to Kevin’s: thin quick sketch with Burnt Sienna on an untoned canvas, block in the colors, then paint them. I like blocking in the colors. I was originally taught to do a value sketch with Burnt Sienna under the whole painting. But for me, the Burnt Sienna bled into every color and made mud. By blocking in colors for under-layers, the only thing that can bleed in is more interesting color. It keeps the colors clean, and helps me stay on track as to where I am on the painting.
With Kevin’s pictures, I did the darks first and then the lights. But in this one, I worked back-to-front, top-to-bottom. Then I could work on the edges in the sky and the mountains when they were still wet. But the under-paintings in color helped me keep the shadow areas and the light areas distinct and separate, which is important for making things pop.
I learned that clouds have to be designed and laid out just like mountains and trees. I can’t just toss the paint around and expect things to magically happen. I had to decide, even on the clouds, what was going to be in light and what was going to be in shade.
For the mountain, I did the whole lit part in a light, glowing reddish color (Burnt Sienna, Cad Red Light and White.) I put it on VERY thinly. When it was dry, then I put on the purple shadows and the light snow.
I didn’t do any of these demo paintings all in one day. Usually, the first day, I sketched it in, blocked in the colors, and worked significantly on the shadow areas. The next session is when I would put in the lights. By that time the darks were dry enough that I was not going to accidentally make mud.
Again, when the painting was dry, I went back and punched up the highlights on the clouds and the snow just a bit. I learned that it was a waste of time to paint the lightest lights and the darkest darks while the whole painting was still wet. Anything I put on at that point is just going to “sink in” like quicksand.
I am happy with this painting too. Bob Rohm put it on the cover of his book.
I started with an untoned canvas, roughed in the outlines with thin OMS (thin like a watery watercolor). Then I blocked in the main color shapes also with super thin paint, and a really fat brush (#10). Then I painted all the shadow areas on one day, and the next day painted in the light areas. I used a #4 flat. When I was painting the dark areas, it was really depressing. Everything was dark and gray. But then when I did the light areas, it really popped! All of that gray was necessary. When it was done, and dried for a day or two, then I put in on the very lightest highlights (and touched up whatever other little colors needed attention.)
For the sky, I painted it all blue, but I didn’t know how to get the warm glow on the right. When I was painting the lights, I dry-brushed on a warm buff that I was painting the light rocks with. That gave it a warm, golden glow without turning the sky green. I did that over the entire sky, but moreso on the right.
Overall, I am happy with it. Copying the demo helped me make the painterly strokes, and see how dark, how light, how dull and how bright I needed to make things. Now if I could just do this without copying someone else's work.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
11 x 14
This is an exercise that I did from Kevin MacPherson’s book, “Landscape Painting Inside and Out”. When I first started painting, I bought a ton of oil paintings books and I read them all. Since I was just a beginner, I could only absorb so much. Recently, I was sorting out my books, and as I glanced through them, I realized that they made a lot more sense. I decided to re-read them and see what new things
I could learn.This was a demo on page 39 of Kevin MacPherson’s book. He shows four pictures of his progress, and I copied them. The point for me was not to make a forgery of his painting, but to learn about his brushstrokes by emulating them.Painting the “painterly” way is hard for me. I realized that all our lives, we draw and write with the “point” of crayons, pencils and pens. So when we start to paint, and we pick up a brush, it is only natural to use the pointy tip, and try to outline, and then color it in with teensy-weensy strokes, like you would with a crayon, pencil or pen.
The “painterly” way is sort of like coloring with the side of the crayon instead of the tip. You block it in with big, bold, confident strokes. You use the wide, flat side of the brush, not the tip.
I sketched the basic shapes very lightly with super-thinned burnt sienna. I thinned it with OMS until it was like a watercolor wash. Then I blocked in each of the main masses with a basic color. I also did this with thinned-down color, like a watercolor wash.
After it dried (which didn’t take long, since it was mostly OMS), I laid on the paint thickly with a No 10 flat bristle brush. That’s what Kevin MacPherson said to use. It was much larger than I normally use, so it was a challenge. I put each stroke down carefully and deliberately. I put on the accents with a No.4 flat bristle brush. Those were the only two brushes I used. I made an overly big puddle of each color, and I really loaded the flat side of the brush and I laid it down like you would lay down peanut butter. I notice that bristle brushes can scoop up all the color like a straw broom if I use the tips, so I have to lay it down by using the flat of the brush.
My pallet was limited: Ultramarine blue, Alizarin, Cad Red Light, Cad Yellow Medium, Payne’s Gray (Kevin uses a lot of another kind of gray, but Payne’s was what I had), Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, and white. This kept the colors muted for that deserty, outdoor look. But I tried to make the lights very light so they would pop.I am happy with how this came out, and I learned a lot about brush strokes. Kevin has some more demos in that book and I am going to try to do every one of them. Of course, I will not sell any of these.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
This picture looked simple enough. I want to mention that Susan says that when setting up a still life you should have include warm/cool, light/dark, bright/dull. This is so you have a lot of variety for the colors to play off each other and it gives you a more interesting luminous effect. I violated that rule here too, doing white on white.
I am posting pictures of the stages as I went. First, I broke up the picture into basic shapes and light and dark, just as Susan says, and I painted each mass a different color, as taught by Susan (shadow areas a cool color, and lit areas a warm color).
So, even though this is not what Susan recommends (as least I didn’t hear her say this), when I started over, I divided the egg shadow area into different values. I mapped out the values in the shadow carefully so I would not get lost.
I underpainted the whole thing purple, but I did it with different values of purple. Susan’s method requires a different color underpainting in each mass, to make the different areas shine, but I wanted a tight cohesiveness of the colors, so I deviated from that rule. That way there would be the one underpainting of purple, but I would not be fighting with the values like before.
I thought I could do tee whole in a couple of hours, since it was so “simple”, but it took me 8 hours. I got very frustrated at times, but my Wet Canvas friends kept encouraging me to hang in there and keep painting. I am glad I did, because it turned out pretty good. When I was all done, I propped it up so I could look at it while I cleaned house, and I kept fixing little things.
Usually when I am done with a painting, I proudly show my husband and he says, “It’s coming along nicely”, which is not what I want to hear. This new style is so unusual for my friends, that when I show it to people, they just look at it blankly and they don't know what to say. But when I was done with this one, I propped it up on the couch (in a pizza box), and when my husband came home and spotted it, he said, “WOW!” So I guess I am on the right track.
Overall, I think it is too polka-dotty, and too bright. I needed more low-chroma colors. But I need to work on that. I am glad I actually finished this and it looks good enough.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
It’s not in someone’s backyard or home studio like I imagined. They bought a bank building and converted it into a classroom and gallery. It is in a quaint neighborhood where you can walk to a couple of delis, and there was a park you could eat your lunch at. The park had chickens in it.
Susans classroom is a good size. Along the back wall, Susan had a lot of still lifes set up. She had halogen lamps lighting each still life from the side, so there would be lots of shadows to practice on. The students, 12 of us, lined up our easels facing the still lifes.
Susan has been teaching this technique for years, so she had her system down. She said it is very teachable and anyone can learn it. I asked her directly if she is a Henry Hensche purist, and she said no. She said that she learned what she could from Hensche and then developed her own approach. Later, she broke it down into teachable steps. Hawthorne did not paint exactly like Monet, and Hensche did not paint exactly like Hawthorne. Susan learned from Hensche, but she paints like herself. What I learned is the Susan Sarback way. It suits me.
Before Susan painted anything, she taught us how to see the colors better. Susan says that if you look directly into a color, you just see the local color and then your eyes start to compensate by dulling it out. So she says to glance at it out of your peripheral vision. She squints her eyes and scans her vision back and forth to see out of her peripheral. She does this very time when she looks at the subject.
First, Susan demonstrated how to paint a picture of a wooden block. This was so simple, that everyone could get it. I think this was good because nobody started out by getting in over their head.
On an untoned canvas, we sketched the block with vine charcoal, and then dusted the lines down with a paper towel. Susan specifically said this is not a drawing class, so don’t fuss too much with the drawing: just get the block down, plus the edge of the table behind it.
The first block we had to paint monochrome: only one color plus white. It was just a value study. But it was important. All values had to be different, including the table and the background. We painted using only a knife. We put the paint on thin, like buttering toast.
The second time we painted the block, we could only use colors plus white. We could not paint exactly up the lines, but had to leave a little white space. Susan gave the color list, and they were all bright colors. No brown or black. We were forbidden to mix any colors together on the pallet. Any plane in shadow had to be painted with a cool color, and any plane in light had to be a warm color. We had to get the values correct and we could only mix a color plus white. Before committing to painting each mass, we put a spot of color in that mass. That way we could adjust any colors if we needed to. This is “Step One”.
Step Two. Susan says that Step Two is the most important and her favorite. We look at our painting at Step One, which looks bright and garish, and nothing like the still life. We examine each mass of color. We ask questions about each mass. How does the mass differ from the subject? What color do I need to add? For me, I thought the correct answer was “it needs more green” (or some other color to bring it closer to the local color.) But that is the WRONG answer. Susan says we need to ask:
Is the subject:
Lighter or darker?
Warmer or cooler?
Brighter or duller?
Then I add a color to adjust that. For me, MY problem was that I have seen so many pictures of knife paintings that have thick palm leaves and things like that, that I wanted to put the paint on very thick here, and make it pretty, marbleized, and sculptural. But that is WRONG. The second layer of paint also goes on very thin. In fact, instead of mixing the paint on the palette, the secret to this painting is to mix the paint on the canvas. So you put on the adjusting color (lighter/darker, warmer/cooler, brighter/duller). No one will actually SEE this layer, so it does not have to be “pretty”.
Susan also specifically said to try not to add complimentary colors to dull something up, but go to colors adjacent to the complimentary colors to keep the dullness a little interesting. She said if we want to make something very dull, keep layering the colors alternating between warm and cool. The paints should be very thin, even as you layer them. It gets pretty soupy, but no medium is allowed.
I found that if I pick a color that does not do what I want, I can just pick another color. Even the “wrong” colors work together to make the colors pretty. At the end of Step Two, the painting still looks hideous, but the colors and values should be closer to the subject. It should still look very flat. Pay special attention to make sure each mass looks different. Susan said that beginners tend to keep everything too bright. It is important to have a lot of dull colors, so that the bights will pop.
As we paint, Susan walks up the row of all the painters and offers helpful advice. She never says anything condescending. She does not play favorites or ignore people. She goes down the line and keeps everyone on track. She would take your knife and show what she means without ruining your painting. I was near the end of the line, and I would be listening to her as she came closer. I know that her comments were specific to each individual, but I was listening anyway. As she got closer I could hear her saying things like, “You need more color. You need more painting. You need to exaggerate more.” When she would get to me, she would say the opposite, “Less paint” (scrape, scrape), “too bright, dull it down a bit.” I am so bold and outgoing that, whereas everyone else was timid with their paint, I was needed to rein it in a bit. It was very helpful.
It took one or two days to get these concepts down. When it came time for Step Three, Susan did a demo of a still life. It took her about two hours. She explained what she was doing the whole time, and at the end of each step, she stepped back and we all went up to look and take pictures. She was very nice about picture taking. There were many paintings on the wall, and she did not mind us taking pictures to help us understand.
Step Three is my favorite part. This is a little tricky to explain. You look at each flat mass, and look for “bands of variation” within each mass. For example, if it’s a shadow, it isn’t perfectly flat: it is darker closer to the source, and more faded as it goes out. Every mass has variations in it, and it is the artist’s job to find the variations. Again, the questions are, “is the variation lighter/darker, warmer/cooler, brighter duller”, and you have to scan your eyes to see it. This is the step that makes the subject look 3-D. At this stage, you are using the knife very carefully, lightly and deftly. It is a very picky stage. There were a couple of advanced students in the room working are harder still lifes and I thought their paintings were perfect. But they were fooling and fooling and fooling around in Step Three trying to get it even better.
Step Four. This is a sort of “wrap it up” stage. Now you adjust the edges (hard, soft, halo, whatever), and put on the extreme highlights and darks.
For our first full Four-Step still life, she put oranges out for everyone – and on the list of colors to bring, orange was omitted. Since we could not mix any colors on the palette, we would have to make orange on the canvas by combining Step One and Step Two. Well, that’s easy enough in the lit areas: just start with yellow in Stage One, and tap in some red on Stage Two. But in the shadow part of the orange has to start with a cool color. By the time I was in Stage Two and Three, my shadow area just looked like poo. The lady next to me had more magenta in hers and it looked like a beach ball. Susan came by and said we were right on track. Somehow, when it was all done, it did resemble an orange.
The next day, Susan asked what we wanted to paint. Basically a vase or bottle and another piece of fruit. We all wanted to paint something that was white, so Susan put out a variety of white jars with plastic fruits. She uses plastic fruits because the halogen lights bake real fruits. She has a huge bin full of plastic fruits and vegetables. White seemed like such a tricky thing, especially when you can’t use gray for the shadows. Susan also told us that she wanted us to crop our composition so that there were interesting negative spaces. We were not allowed to start painting until our drawing was okayed.
I decided I was going to try to finish mine by the end of the day, so I kept my eye on the clock and paced myself. Everyone else just worked on each stage until they felt done. I did finish mine by the end of the day, and I was happy with the results, but the other people who took their time and did each painting in a day and a half had more delicate results. We had two more days after that, so I did two more paintings, so aside from the orange, I did three paintings in three days. The other people did two paintings; a day and a half for each. On the one hand, I got more practice because I did three, but theirs looked a little better because they were more meticulous. So I learned I need to be fast, but slow down at the same time.
At the end of the class, we had a critique. It was the nicest class critique I ever experienced. We put all of our paintings up and Susan reviewed each set as a whole. She said that we need to see if they are:
Too light or dark.
Too warm or cool
Too bright or dull.
Everyone’s picture was just right.
The other thing Susan asked us to look at was to see what the “feeling” of each group paintings was. We could only use positive adjectives like, “happy”, “peaceful”, “calm”, etc. To me, they all looked “peaceful” because they were all so shimmery and soft. Susan said our personalities come across in our paintings. Well, everyone had demure adjectives for all the paintings except for mine, which they said described as “bold”, “exciting”, “talkative”, etc. That’s okay because I like being those things.
Something that was particularly interesting to me was that one woman said she could not draw very well. Her vase was lopsided and the base of the vase was flat instead of curved. But Susan’s method of teaching was so good, that even this woman’s painting shimmered and glowed.
I am so glad that I took this workshop. I learned a lot and I have a lot of confidence with this new method.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
There is an artist whose paintings I love. I don’t want to say his name because I don’t know if that is appropriate. He can take scenes of urban blight and make them beautiful. I look at his paintings over and over, and I think, “How does he do it?” How does he take a painting of an ally, an overpass, a gutter, or a streetlamp, and make me want to hang it on my wall?
I notice that he allows bright toned underpaintings to show through, he leans towards strong split-complimentary color schemes, and loose brush strokes with flat brushes. His skies have bands of surreal color in them. He is not afraid to use gray and black. But when I try these things, I somehow miss that special something.
One day I noticed it: his paintings “glow”. The focal point is not the streetlamp, the guardrail, the shopping cart, or the bus; it is the GLOW of the backlight, the reflected light, or the direct light glaring into your eyes. I looked at each of his paintings again, and I saw it over and over: they GLOW.
This reminded me of some paintings by the old masters: the glow of pink cherub cheeks, the glow of a snowy bosom, or the glow of beautiful buns.
I looked through all my paintings, and even though many of them were accurate with their lights and shadows, none of them glowed. When I double-checked my photo sources, I had picked photos that also didn’t glow. There was no strong backlighting, no beautiful reflected light, no overwhelming glare.
It is easy to draw a glow: you just make radiating lines around whatever is glowing, such as a light bulb, a diamond, a candle, etc. Then you put sparkle symbols on nearby things that catch the glow.
This artist seems to do this too: he takes one thing and gives it the most light. Everything else is a little darker. Then he puts subtle highlights on nearby things that are catching that glow. He is a master, and I am just a beginner, but I am going to try to incorporate the glow factor into my paintings.
Oil on Canvas Board
I was looking for something to paint, and my stepson Matt said, “Do you want to look at the pictures from Hawaii?” I picked this one and I tried to do it all in one day. When it was all dry I still had to touch up the highlights. Overall, I am very happy with it. I am trying to paint more loosely.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
I hope you like it.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
11 x 14.
This is from a photo in the Wet Canvas Image Reference Library. Thank you very much to the contributor.
I am working on getting looser, and trying to do the Sergei Bongart style. He is my new infatuation. I know this is not EXACTLY like him, but it's sort of like, if you want to play piano like Fats Waller, you better get Boogie-Woogie down first.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
11 x 14
My grandfather bought a painting by Sergei Bongart a long time ago. It hung above the mantel of his fireplace. I was always intrigued by the bright colors and the bold brushstrokes. I recently decided that I wanted to learn about him and his method.
Fortunately, he has a website. Even though he has passed away, his very pretty wife Patricia created a DVD where she demonstrates his painting style. I bought it and watched it a couple of times, taking notes. She defiantly knows what she is doing.
I tried to incorporate what I learned in this painting. The image was from the Wet Canvas Image Library. Thank you very much to the contributor.
For me, there was a lot in common with Bongart and Susan Sarback as far as the steps go. Sarback’s basic steps are:
Block in colors and define the light and shadow areas.
Another layer of bold color.
Highlights, darks and edges.
The Bongart method has these same steps. The palette has lots of juicy colors piled high, just like Sarback.
Patricia tones the canvas with a wash of pthalo blue and black. She makes it VERY thin, like a watercolor wash and slaps it on quickly. Then, with the same color and thin brush, she sketches in the drawing very loose and very wet. She only uses turps at this point, no medium. She works very fast.
2. Block in colors.
Again, with colors as thin as water color washes, she blocks in the basic colors, working over the whole canvas simultaneously. She focuses on hue, value and chroma, but it still looks flat. Then she adds the shadow areas to give it form. She works very fast. At this points, she lets it dry. I read somewhere it is good to have at least two paintings going at once, so you can work on one while the other one is drying.
3. Use retouch varnish to refresh the colors and then go at it just like before, but this time use thicker colors. Work on the large blocks of colors over the whole canvas before you start fussing with the details. Keep everything in a relatively medium value, don’t worry about highlights and darks.
4. Now go back, and with the thickest paint, put in the highlights, darks, and most important details.
Watching Patricial Bongart slap around that paint really gives you an idea how to make something “painterly”. She never shows you the set-up that she is painting from, and she never says what colors she is using, but she shows how she takes that #12 filbert and put it to work. I highly recommend the DVD.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
This year I had four paintings that I felt were good enough to enter. I entered “Two Trees with Delphiniums” in the Landscape category, “Montezuma’s Castle” in the Architecture category, “Olivas Adobe Arch” in the Ventura County Scenes category, and “Pink Roses” in the Floral category. They all had blue ribbons, and “Two Trees” was also nominated for Best of Show, so it got an extra ribbon. It did not win Best of Show: that went to a little pen and ink sketch, about 4x5.
This year’s goal is now to start trying to sell my paintings. I have been investigating the local galleries. Most galleries, because they need to pay the rent, are very picky about which paintings they accept. They must pick paintings that they believe will sell. So of course it is difficult to get into those.
The local Art Association will take anyone because they basically charge the artist to hang their work, and you MUST rotate it every 6 weeks. This keeps up a steady flow of revenue for their gallery, whether or not anything sells. When I go in there, to me, most of the art looks amateur, and I don’t see anyone hanging around and shopping. Also, the artists MUST volunteer their time babysitting the gallery. I understand that also keeps down the costs, but some artists are not as good of babysitters as other. I have popped in on the weekend, and someone’s husband is doing her shift. I come in and he instantly he pounces on me, drags me over to his wife’s work and starts telling me all about it. Her work is okay, but it is all about Indians, which is not my thing. I want to see what the other artists are doing. If I put my work in this gallery, and he was there, no one would get a chance to look at my work.
Then I found a new gallery that is just opening up in the local tourist trap shopping area (the Ventura Harbor). Apparently it is run by a wine shop next door. I walked in and found a very eclectic range of art: fading Thomas Kinkades, photos of rock stars in guitar frames, pseudo Indian rock art, glicees of oil landscapes (which I don’t consider “real” art, but basically $200 posters), and surreal art of a woman with four eyes, like a bug. The gallery takes 50% of everything that is sold (which is normal), but since they are so new, they don’t care what they display. Some was good, and some was BAD. I figure if I was in a “high class” gallery, they would be taking 50% anyway, so this spot is good enough. I am going to approach them after the fair is over.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
I am intent on posting all my paintings, whether good or bad, and I don't think this one is one of my better ones.
This was an image from the WC image library. Thank you to whomever posted it. It did not turn out like I had hoped, but I learn from each painting.
This is what I learned:
1. I got more of a feel for the knife.
2. I tried to make the painting “vibrant”, but like Larry Seilor says, “when everything is shouting, nothing can be heard”.
3. I think the tin container came out the best, because it was an actual shape that I was able to model. But the tulips just came out like blobs, even though I worked on them. Therefore, if I do this technique again, I need to pick large, specific objects, not fussy little things like flowers.
4. I need a smaller knife to get details.
5. I think the subject is too dark. I think it would have looked better if I had used a lighter subject.
I will try these tulips again with a different style.
Friday, July 10, 2009
I was unhappy with my rose in the last painting, so I bought a Joyce Pike video from Art-Videos.com. It was called “Still Life Floral: Pin Rose and Silver”. There was a wine glass in it too, but I left that out. I learned more about other things and some about roses. I will need more practice for those.
First, Joyce creates what she calls “Elephant Gray” from Cad Orange and Ultramarine Blue. I found this interesting because blue is the coolest of the cools, and Ultramarine Blue is very dark and transparent.
Joyce outlined the pot first (starting with a plumb line and ellipses), then blocked in the basic shadows of the pot, using her elephant gray mix. Then she said to make the roses with alizarin Crimson and Indian yellow. She quickly scumbled in the rose silhouettes, then wiped out where the lights will be. She said you must look at a real (or fake) rose, to do this, but you cannot do it from memory. Her set up was pale pink fabric roses, but she painted them a dark red color. She just scribbled them in a hurry. She is a fast painter. She indicated leaves with quick dabs of sap green. I did not have Sap Green, so I used Viridian, which was a mistake: It was too blue and bright. I tried to wipe them out and re-do them with Terra Verde, which was much better, being warmer and less vibrant.
Then she took her white and made it real soupy with medium, mixed it with her elephant gray, and scribbled it loosely all over the background with a fat bristle brush. She included some of her flower color in the background too, which she said is important to always do.
Lastly, she lightened up her red mixture, and dabbed on the rose lights. She would put down a stroke and then blend the petal towards the center with her finger. But the cameraman was not good. Her hand was between the paint and the camera so you could not see her applying the detail. Another time, he focused on the fabric roses while she said off camera, “Do like this . . . this … this . . . and THIS! And here you have it!” And we could not observe any of it.
After watching the video, I copied the small picture from the front of the video, using her colors and techniques. I learned the most about her elephant gray, doing a quick background, and silver pots. My roses are “better”, but not there yet. No matter what, I learn something from every painting.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
I tried doing this picture from a photo in the Wet Canvas Image Reference Library. Thank you to whomever posted it. I re-did the main rose three times, and I am still not 100% happy with it. I like the foil on the pot best. Too bad that’s not the focal point. Well, I guess I will just have to work on roses for a while.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
This was a photo from the Wet Canvas Image Resource Library. Thank you to whoever posted it. I am afraid I did not do justice to it.
I chose this picture because of the subtle, glowing sky. I am happy with my progress on that. Since the Susan Sarback exercises, I am getting more confident about carefully laying down layers of paint. I learned that I have to be gentle, not scrub the paint around like a broom.
The tree looks like a kindergartener painted it. I think I will stick to trees that have mass.
This is from a photo I took myself, and this it the perfect spot to get this view. Every time we have a rain storm up here, you can bet there will be snow on Topa Topa. Sometimes I rush up in the morning after a storm, and all the professional photographers are right HERE taking pictures for post cards, calendars, competitions, whatever.
On this painting, I learned that when the paint dries, the wonderful contrast that I was very careful to include, goes away. That’s because oil paint is translucent, and when it dries, the lights and the darks fade. The solution seems to be either:
1. Glaze in layers.
2. Put it on THICK.
I have learned that I can’t timidly dibble-dabble and expect it to come out looking good. So I redid the trees a couple of times, and I put the snow on thick. I will do this picture again sometime in the future on a larger canvas when I am a little better.
Monday, June 15, 2009
This was my second attempt at the Susan Sarback 4-Step technique. I should have overlapped the tomato in front of the avocado.
These are the steps.
1. Lay in all the shadows in different, random cool colors right out of the tube, and lay in all the lit areas with different, random warm colors right out of the tube. It almost does not matter what crazy color you pick.
2. Go over each color and add a different color to bring it closer to the “real” color (value, chroma, temperature, etc.), but you have to stick with tube colors only mixed with white.
3. This is the longest step: in each color, look for bands of variation within those colors and bring out those differences. This is what brings it from flat to 3D and gives it sparkle. The more mistakes you make, the more sparkle it gets.
4. Finish up the highlights, darkest darks, and edges.
And you have to do it all with a knife.
I used so much straight cad yellow, cad red, and ultramarine blue when I started that it looked like a circus. What a mess. But I plugged away at it until it looked right. It was a lot more like frosting a cake than painting. The background was too bright and happy, so I put yellow ocher all over it. Then it looked like baby poo. So I scraped up some lavender and dull green off my palette, and that looked better.
My stepson came in the room and I said, “Did you ever think there were that many colors on an avocado?” He said,”I think you’re making them up”. Yep, that’s pretty much it.
In the morning, I showed it to my husband, and I guess I was reflecting the morning sunlight off of it. I said, “Does it sparkle?” He said, “I can’t see anything – it’s faceted!”
This was a photo from the Wet Canvas Image Reference Library. Thanks to whomever posted it. The colors were this unreal in the photo, and the picture was pixilated, so it had an extra sparkle. I painted the picture the best I could, but when it dried, it looked dull. I added highlights and more depth, but when it dried, it looked dull again.
Then I read on someone’s else’s art post that when oil paints dry, they become somewhat transparent. The lights get darker and the darks get lighter. This was an “Ah-ha!” moment for me. I had heard that oil paints become transparent when they dry, and this is exploited to the fullest in the 7-layer Flemish technique, but this same principle works against beginners. Beginners (like me) want to be very careful with the paint, so we use just a TEENSY-WEENSY bit with each brush stroke. It looks so good wet, but when it dries, the lightest lights and the darkest darks are all somehow the same medium value. That must be why the advanced painters use such thick, juicy brush strokes! Then when it dries, it retains its color.
When this was all dry, I went back over it, and I tapped on lots of little sparkles of highlights, and I added subtle broken color in the back ground. Finally, it looked like the picture that inspired me. If it does not hold, I will do it again.
Monday, June 8, 2009
This was a from a Demo tape by Susan Sarback. I am interested in how she gets her glowing colors, so I bought some of her books and her demo. I watched the demo, and then I painted it myself. Susan recommends to do your still life in true sunshine, but I was working from a small photo that came with the DVD. I think there are a lot of problems with this painting: the shadows are going different directions, the orange slice in front is too small. However, I DO think I got the hang of her technique, and I think my painting has the sparkle in the light that I was trying to achieve.
In Susan’s books, she uses vague sentences that I found difficult to understand, such as “restate the value masses”. But when I saw the video, I she would say, “Now I am going to restate the value masses by . . .”, and then she would DO it. Ah-HA!
Susan also recommends painting with a knife, which was very tricky for me. It is like trying to paint with your other hand: I could barely control it. But I learned something about handling a knife, and I got the hang of her four steps.
This is my understanding of her four steps.
First, you sketch in the drawing with charcoal. Just outline the shapes and the divisions of light and dark. This is not really a step.
Step 1: Lay in the initial paint. Using bright colors straight from the tube, paint in all the masses. Paint the shadows some kind of dark, cool colors, (like green, blue or purple) and the places in light, paint them a warm color, like yellow or pink. It almost does not matter what color you use for each area, but just make them all different. Be careful not to paint up to the edges, because you will be putting on many layers and you don’t want to sart by making a muddy mess at the edges. You cannot mix any colors on the palette, but you can add white to it. It should look very flat with no modeling. To me, this made the light colors chalky, but I was trying to learn her method.
Step 2. Adjust the colors. Look at each area that you painted in, and ask yourself, “How does this area differ from what I see? Is the mass too light? Too dark? Too warm? Too cool? Too bright? Too dull? Then go over each area with some sort of color that will bring it closer to reality. Again, you cannot mix on the palette, but allow the colors to mix on the canvas. If you are not happy with the color, then put another color on top of that. It’s okay, because the more colors you put on, the more shimmery effect you get anyway. It should still look flat when you are done, with no modeling. Mine looked like a flat, muddy mess.
Step 3. Start the modeling. Look at each shape you have created, and look for bands of variations within each shape. Every shape is not really flat, but has gradations. So in EVERY shape, look for further developments of light/dark, warm/cool, bright dull. If you don’t see any variation, you are not paying attention. Susan says not to look directly at the color, because your eyes will start to see it’s complimentary over it. Therefore, you need to scan your eyes back and forth to look for the subtle color variations. Bring trhe edges very close together, but don’t worry about them yet. When you are done with this step, it should look more 3D.
Step 4: Finish. Add highlights and details, and adjust the edges to soft, hard, halo, fuzzy, whatever.
I do recommend Susan’s books and tapes, and I have signed up for her workshop on October. I am going focus on this technique for a while, until it comes naturally to me.
This was the same picture that I posted before, but I put the sycamore in it. When I was first painting this, everything was going great. But then my boss called and I HAD to leave to take care of something. I was upset about that. I snapped a picture before I left and popped the tree in when I got home. I know it looks a little strange to have the Fall leaves and the Spring leaves on the same tree, but we have mild winters here, and I just think that no storm came along to blow off the old leaves before the new ones came out. Overall, I am happy with this one.
I am not too happy with this picture. I like painting at this spot and it was a very pretty afternoon. The sun was in front of me, and there was afternoon haze in the air that lit up the mountains. I wanted to paint that. But things were going wrong and I was getting frustrated, so I hurried through it, packed up and left. But this is how it came out. I will try this again sometime.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
8 x 10
Today I had another art lesson with my teacher. I asked if she could do a demo, and she did! I was so happy. That was what I wanted.
I discovered that my teacher paints intuitively, and she does not think out loud, so she is very quiet. I had to ask lots of questions. She started mixing colors, and I said, "Are you mixing colors for the mountains or the trees?" She said, "I don't know, I am just mixing some colors that I think might be good". She spent a lot of time mixing the colors. I think she enjoyed mixing the colors more than painting the picture. For me, that was a lesson right there, because I want to just mix the colors as fast as I can, and then start painting. But for her, it seemed to be mostly about all the pretty colors she was making, which is what a painting really is, isn’t it?
She wound up mixing some muted puddles of lavender, teal and olive greens. There were a few values of each, plus some random dry grass colors. Every color she mixed was muted. Her canvas was already toned and pre-sketched. She put down a lot of the lavender in the mountains, but also in the dry grass areas. Then she went back over the mountains with some of the other greens and blues. She kept her values together. For example, if she put a teal and a green on top of lavender, she made sure they were all the same values. On her pallet, all the colors looked muted and yucky, but on the canvas, they really played off of each other. They looked rich and sparkling.
When the demo was done, class was over. But I had brought food for the whole day, and my equipment. So she and the other student left, and I found a place to paint in the shade. It was so peaceful, with a breeze blowing, birds singing, and no one around. I was so happy to be alone and not stressed out from all my running around at work. I mixed up some colors that reminded me of the colors my teacher used. I had no idea what I was going to do with them. I sketched in the mountain and put on the dark, muted lavender. It didn't look right. I put some more on anyway, and decided not to worry, but just to take my time.
Anyway, my cell phone rang, and it was my boss. I had made a mistake on a document last week and they needed a new one Fed Exed out today. Drat! My nice peaceful day burst like a bubble. I almost scraped up my paint right away. Then I thought, "Well, I can still paint for one hour and still have time to get the document out. So I hurried it up. I started mixing faster, and put it on more boldly. It started to look good! I just kept at it, and didn't worry, I was just concentrating on finishing. I left out the big sycamore I was going to put in, and just focused on the mountain. I smeared in some dry grass, and it was done. It's not the greatest painting, but I accomplished what I wanted, which was to understand how my teacher does it.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The canvas is just pure white, and I noticed that all the colors are transparent. The purple at the bottom did not photograph correctly, but it is a true purple, not dark blue like it looks in the picture.
I like how vivid the greens came out, but the orange came out very weak. I had thought that with such a bright yellow and bright pink, it would make a bright orange. I guess the yellow has enough green in it to knock it down. The colors on the outside of the ring are tints of the base color.
This was from the Image Gallery on Wet Canvas. Thank you very much to the person who posted it. My regular job has picked up, so I don’t have has much time to paint.
I had couple of hours, so I grabbed a pre-tinted canvas, and just started working on it. The canvas was tinted an Indian red, and it was pretty dark, so I was not sure if it would work, but it was the only one I had.
I focused on getting more delicate brushstrokes, yet keeping blocks of color together. I also tried to make the grass somewhat like Ron Guthrie’s grass by using the edge of the fan brush to pull up the blades out of the paint. The bright purple in the back of the trees is really much more subtle, I don’t know why it photographed so brightly.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
My day job has been keeping me busy, so I have not had much time to paint. I had an evening free, so this was my chance. I found this photo in an album. I remember snapping this picture. It was a drizzly spring morning. This was an area that used to be an orchard, but the trees were neglected now. The grass was long, and everything was wet and still. When I took the picture, the sky was gray and drizzly, but I thought I would try making it lavender.
I painted this immediately after I painted the black and white study. I enjoyed painting the cobalt bottle best: using the transparent, brilliant ultramarine blue like cobalt watercolor. In the actual painting, the bottle is a bit more subtle and resembles the blue glass better.
This was another exercise. The teacher told us to go home and paint a still life in black and white, then do it again in color. She recommended using vegetables, but I decided to do a flower in a bottle instead.
This was an exercise at my art lesson. The teacher set it up, and we painted it, concentrating on color mixing and values. I am not happy with the drawing, but relatively happy with the colors and values. The shadow on the wall was just gray, so the teacher told me to put some colors into it. She also told me to put some of the colors from each of the objects into the other objects.
Oil on Canvas Board
I signed up for six sessions of art lessons with a local artist. This was from the first lesson. It was a plein air painting in Ojai, California. This site is near the crosstreets of El Roblar and Rice. There is a whole river bottom, protected, and full of hiking trails and plein air subjects.
Friday, March 6, 2009
I snapped a photo of this arch while doing a plein air at this location a while back. It was just a beautiful day, and everything was bright and perfect. I have been working on this slowly, just fussing with it until it was as good as I could make it.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
I went hiking with my husband and stepson. I knew they would run on ahead, so I brought my plein air stuff to sit out the hike.
Hikers frequently came around the corner with their dogs. Everyone wanted to look, which I like a lot. (Can you imagine if people shielded their eyes and hurried by?) The dogs all wanted to sniff and baptize my easel. I got a stick, and would shout “NO!” and the dog owners would look so indignant and offended. “Fluffy wasn’t going to bite you, he just wanted to say hi”. (Yeah, and tinkle on my foot.)
Two fat, old rottweilers came snuffling around, and they didn’t seem to belong to anyone. I was too afraid to go after them with a stick, so I left them alone. They seemed to be happy to find someone that wasn’t hiking, so they laid down and “enjoyed” my company. Then everyone who came around the corner would say, “Does your dog bite?”, which made me think of that line from Inspector Clouseau . . .
After I got home and looked at it for a couple of days, I improved the values and details. But the trees are repeats of round forms, which is not the best composition.
Friday, February 20, 2009
This is from a photo I took while hiking in the Matilija Canyon. Matilija is pronounced “ma-TIL-ah-ha”. I tried to research the origin of the name, and it seems to be a Chumach Indian name, possibly a Chumash Chief. The spelling is Spanish, with the “J” pronounced as an “H”.
California is really a desert, so once you get out of the range of water, the landscape is dry and full of chaparral. This photo was taken in the winter, but before the January rains. Some of the brush was still green, some was brown and dry, and some had fluffy seed pods. In the distance, there were California oaks on the hills. A lot of people might have just seen dry weeds, but I could see colors, and that’s why I wanted to paint it: to show everyone the colors.
I am painting more slowly now, as I am getting the hang of what I am doing. Oil paints were intended to be used in layers, and it is only recently, (since the impressionists) that artists have attempted to do gallery paintings all in one sitting, “alla prima”.
I did an underpainting of burnt sienna, and blocked in all the darks with purples, dark greens and browns. I let it dry.
I went back and did all the medium valued colors, and let it dry again. I worked from the top to the bottom. At first, I started out blocky, because I like that style. But plants are really are not blocky and it was looking weird, so I tried to make them have soft edges, the way Ron Guthrie on Wet Canvas does it. I used a beat up #6 hogs-hair filbert that was trimmed with a raggedy taper on the sides. It worked like magic for getting random, scumbling strokes.
After the middle ground bushes looked great, I let it dry again. Then I had to go back soften the mountains so they would fit in. I also tapped on the lightest lights.
I saw a demo video from the library by a fellow named Bill Martin. He recommended putting a painting out where you can see it throughout the day. Then he says, “It speaks to you about what needs fixing”. I like getting feedback from other people about my paintings, but so far, I have found this to be the most helpful. If something needs to be tweaked, I begin to notice it each time I walk past it. So I set my pictures up on the couch (propped up in open pizza boxes) where I can see them clearly. I don’t consider them done until they pass this test.
I posted this on WetCanvas, and my artist friends recommended that I put more detail in the foreground. I took their advice, and it really helped.
Monday, February 2, 2009
Oil on Canvas Board
I wanted to try a new technique. I wanted to make the painting loose with a vignette look to it. I snapped this picture last year while driving around. I knew I wanted to do it vignette when I felt confident enough to try.
I made an underpainting of burnt umber. I felt, in this situation, burnt sienna was too red, and raw umber was too green.
After I put the wash down, I used minimal strokes in burnt umber to lightly block in the picture. I had watched a demo by Richard Schmid, and he just would lay in the underpainting, and work from the focal point outward, with no preliminary sketch. After every stroke he would say, “Ah, perfect!”. I don’t feel nearly that confident.
When I applied the colors, I tried to make it look spontaneous, but really, I thought out every stroke very carefully. I wanted each stroke to look fresh, so I worked very slowly, so that each stroke was “correct”. It took me four hours. I know that if I had to fuss with any strokes, it would just deaden them.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I did this painting before, and I was never happy with it, so I tried it again. Since I am trying to paint a couple of hours each night, I tried to keep it small. I think this came about better than my previous attempts.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
I usually paint a couple of hours every night between dinner and bedtime (on little 6x8s), but I had a lot of time on Saturday, so I tried a more ambitious painting. I found an 11x14 canvas panel, and a nice photo from the Wet Canvas Image Gallery (thanks for posting it!).
I started with painting with a nice photo, which I gridded off.
Preliminary drawing: I toned the whole canvas with Burnt Sienna, which is what I usually do. When it was all done, though it was kind of bright. I think I should have used Raw Umber. Then I gridded off the canvas with burnt sienna and drew in the picture with a brush. I knew that the painting would be no good if the drawing was off, so I worked very carefully on it, and I took my time. I was tempted to just guesstimate the little rocks, but I took my time and put every one of them in. Then, still using burnt sienna, I filled in the dark areas even darker.
First layer: I knew to put in the darks first, so I make some dark blue-gray, and filled in all the dark areas of the rock thinly. I added Copal to everything so it would dry quickly and be ready for the second coat. I only did the rocks, but I should have done the underpainting for the plants too while I was at it. I didn’t think I would get to the plants on the same day. Here is a rule I heard from Bill Martin: “Paint everything ONCE before you paint anything twice”.
When the underpainting for the rocks was finished, it looked terrible. Everything was too dark, and all the wrong colors. I wanted to quit. I thought, “I just can’t paint at all!” But another rule is, “Finish every painting”. Well, I could not just end my career here, so I had to keep going. Another thing that Bill Martin said was, “Don’t worry about the first layer, it is just a guide”.
Second layer: I decided to mix as exact colors as I could. My palette for the rocks was burnt sienna (red-brown), raw umber (brown-brown), yellow ocher (yellow brown), and Payne’s gray (with a little bluish purple from ultramarine blue and alizarin crimson mixed). Plus LOTS of white. I did what Larry Seilor recommends: “Mix the color, then hold up the palette knife to the reference, and adjust it.” I took my time, and just worked my way along the rocks from back to front. It took hours and hours. In the upper left hand corner, where the rocks are in the distance, I did what Bill Martin says and “mix a little sky into the distant colors” to help with the atmospheric perspective. It looked like an overcast day, so I added some light gray to help push it back.
I tried very hard to get the rocks on the left just right. I outlined every one of them with shadow color, then I put on the medium value and finally the highlights. This would be great, except that the perfection and high contrast in this area brings it forward. The rule is, “The farther away it is, reduce the contrast of the values. Make the darks lighter and the lights darker”.
On the rest of the rocks, I tried to make some brushstrokes smooth and some choppy, to make it look like rocks. I tried to make variety in using the various browns I had.
Next I underpainted all the trees and landscape areas with darker muted versions of the final colors, adding copal again to make them dry more quickly. (I should have done this at the beginning.) Then I popped on the top, lighter colors, make sure to let some of the previous colors peek through. I used a beat-up hog bristle brush filbert for the most random variety.
For the grass, I did what Ron Guthrie showed me. I loosely mixed up some grass color, and smeared it on with a palette knife. Then I took my fan brush, and from back to front, gently pulled up the grass. I did the extra grass and bushes with the edge of the palette knife.
After a couple of days of looking at it, I realized that I did not have enough atmospheric perspective. So I increased the colors and the value contrast of the rocks in the foreground, and I dry brushed some sky color over the rocks in the background. I also put more detail in the cottonwood trees. It seemed to help.
I tried painting on Masonite for a change. It looks so good in the galleries, so I got some and had Alan cut it up, then I primed it. But when I tried painting on it, I was slip-sliding around like I was ice skating. I could not scumble the paint, it just had the effect of scraping the paint off, so I had to resort to dabbing the paint on. Now I am learning how to prime the Masonite properly, thanks to all my friends at WC, but this is how the painting turned out this time.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Another image from the WC Image Library. Thank you to the generous photographer.
I chose this painting because I somehow have never used gray, and I thought it was time to familiarize myself with it in case I really did need to use it one day. I used a burnt sienna underpainting (like I always do), and I like how it peeks out through the clouds. I tried to make warm and cool grays in the sky.
I did this alla prima, and it was very tricky to put the bright sunset cadmiums on top of the gray without making a muddy mess (or green). Also, the trees in the photo looked black, so I tired to make them a little more interesting.
Right where the sun touches the mountains, I tried to show the flare of the sun on the mountain to make it look more “glow-y”.