Thursday, January 29, 2009

Oak View Winery

Oil on Masonite

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

Yellow Cottonwoods - Alla Prima

Oil on Canvas Panel

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.

Tree with Fence

Oil on Masonite

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

Gray Clouds and Sunset

Oil on Canvas Board

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”.

Santa Barbara Mission

Oil on Canvas Board

This is from a photo I took when at a plein air workshop a long time ago. I am just trying to knock out a painting every night that I am home from work so I can get the hang of brush strokes and color mixing.

Overall, I am happy with this, except for the leaning left-hand tower. The trees on the right are too dark too. I am somwhat happy with the roses in the front: technique-wise I like them, but they don't "pop" enough and come forward.

I did it all alla prima, so it was getting goopy near the end.

Blue Mountains

Oil on Canvas Board

This is another photo from the WC Image Library. Thank you to the photographer.

I tried cerulean instead of ultramarine for all my blues, and it made everything more Easter-Egg-y. It’s different. I waited for it to dry before I put the tree trunks on. I don’t like how the road came out, it looks like a child did it. Every time I do something man-made, I botch it up.