Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bill Blackman Workshop: Glowing Seascape

Water Soluble Oils on Stretched Canvas

My friend, Ron Souza, from, told me that Bill Blackman, a top seascape artist was doing a workshop in Newbury Park. I am not into seascapes, but I am interested in learning, so I signed up. I was glad to go to a workshop that I didn’t have to take time off of work and drive six miles to.

The materials list said to bring a 16x20 canvas, toned medium gray. Bill was going to provide the paints, which would be water-soluble oils. I was concerned because I had never painted such a large canvas in one day. I looked at Bill’s website, and it was full of typical, rather kitschy paintings of curling waves crashing on rocky shores, with a glowing sunset lighting the wave. That does not go with my d├ęcor, but I sure had no idea how to paint a picture like that, especially so big and in one day.

I got there and Bill was a very sweet, older guy. He even brought donuts for everyone. The workshop was in the gallery full of works from the West Valley Art Association. Bill’s paintings were there, too, right up in the window. They were VERY good. He had an easel set up in the window with a WIP seascape all in pastels, but he only had three colors, two earth tones and white on the pallet. Wow.

We all set up, and Bill passed out an 8x10 photo of the sunset seascape painting to everyone for reference. It was going to be a paint-along. We all loaded up our pallets with Ultramarine Blue (UB), Cad Yellow Light (CYL), Alizarin Crimson (AC), Yellow Ochre (YO) and Titanium White (TW), all on water soluble oils. Then we added a few drops of WSO Linseed Oil. That was weird. Instead of turps, we just used water. That was great, because there were no fume, easy clean up, and you could use ALL that you wanted.

This is how we did it:

Draw a line (UB) across the canvas for the bottom of the wave. Put in the three rocks. Then draw the curve and the splash of the wave, then the horizon. Bill came around and checked everyone’s drawing. Even though everyone did it a little differently, everyone’s was okay. (Bill came around and checked everyone after every step to make sure no one was lost.)

Massing in the shapes:
Mix YO with CYL and paint the glow in the sky and the glow in the curl of the wave. Mix UB with YO until it makes a khaki color and paint the whole sky flat. Mix More UB with YO (heavy on the UB) and paint in the water. Rocks: UB, AC and a little CYL to make black for the rocks. The shadow of the foam was a dull gray lavender of UB, AC, a touch of YO, and lots of TW.

The paint tacked up nicely. I really liked that. Once everything was in flat, we went back over things.

Take straight YO and pounce it all over the sky randomly to get cloud effects.
Model the rocks with YO.
Take the shadow foam color and put all the waves and foam on the water surface.
For the bright foam, Mix TW with a touch of YO (to get a warm white) and paint it on the top edge of the foam. Then take the corner of a fan brush and stipple the edge, and then stipple the foam all over the top of the shadow.
Put a little light foam color on top of the curl of the wave and drag it down with the fan brush. Stipple the top of that with the corner of the fan brush.
Take more of that warm light color for highlights in the water.

And VIOLA! We’re done!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bottles on the Windowsill

Oil on Canvas Board

I did this little study one night after work from a reference photo posted on the WC RIL. Thank you very much to the poster. I thought the clear bottle would be more difficult, but it turned out that the blue bottle was. Overall, I am happy with it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Two Pears Study

Oil on Canvas Board

This was my first study at home. I did it from a photo, which I know is not ideal, but I don’t have a place to set up a still life. This photo was from the WC RIL. Thank you to whomever posted it. Even though it was from a photo, it was still challenging and I still learned things. I think it came out okay.

Gray Teapot Study

Oil on Canvas Board

This was the last day, so I really wanted it to count. Gay spent the morning lecturing on how to set up a still life. She fussed around with vases, roses, fruit, scarves, bowls, etc. while explaining things. Basically, it struck me as getting dressed to go somewhere special: you just keep trying things out until it looks right. Gay said it sometimes takes her a couple of hours to set up a still life. I decided that if I was going to paint more still life studies when I got home, it would be good to set them up during the day while I was doing my housework, so that when it was time to paint at night, I would be ready.

After her lecture was finished, and the still life was perfect, everyone crowded their easels around to paint it. It looked too complicated to me: A big vase, full of roses, a glass vase behind it, a silver creamer in the foreground, a scarf threaded through everything, and some peaches here and there. How can I get that all done in one afternoon?

I went to my little spot and thought, “What am I having the most trouble with?” The answer was GRAY. So I put a gray cloth down, and picked up a dark gray teapot. I asked Gay to help me make something simple and muted since I have so much trouble with dull colors. She put down the purple onion, the white onion, and the beige cloth.

Another lady came over and decided to paint with me. She also wanted a less crowded spot and a simpler still life.

I had two toned canvases. One was chartreuse-ish, and one was magenta-ish. They both were too bright. But I realized that with the purple onion, I could let some of the magenta tone peek through, and that might look nice.

I slowed down to get the drawing right: a lopsided teapot won’t look good no matter how well I paint it. I also realized I did not know how to make gray. I had to ask the lady next to me how to do it. She said blue and orange. That worked. I plugged away for a couple of hours until it was done. I kept remembering what Alan always says, “Just keep fussing with it until it looks right”, and that’s what I did. I am very happy with how this one came out.

I decided that every night that I am home from work, I am going to try to do a small study. I am going to tone the canvas the night before from the mud from whatever I am painting, and I am going to set up the still life during the day. Then if I don’t have to work at night, I can just sit down and start. I won’t have to worry about what I am going to paint or if I have a canvas ready. After all, when people learn an instrument, they practice for an hour or so every night to develop their skills. Artists need to do that too.

Blue Pitcher Study

Oil on Canvas Board

This was another dud in my estimation, but it was still better than the peony painting. All the props at this studio were high gloss, solid color ceramics. I did not like any of them for a study. The fruit and vegetables were beginning to spoil under the hot lamps and the flowers were all wilted.

Since everything looked bad to me, I asked Gay to set something up for me. There were two other still lifes all ready set up with nice flowers on them, and all the “better” props, but everyone else’s easels were crowded around them, and I did not want to bother to move everything only to take on a study too complicated for me.

I just went at this and did my best. I was getting the hang of keeping my paint thicker. Gay taught me something on this one. She came by and said, "Stand back and look at it". I did, but I didn't see anything significant. Gay said, "When you stand back, your light and shadow values blend. You need to strengthen them." Oh! That was helpful! I never knew what I was supposed to be checking for when I stand back and look at my painting. Now I have something: make sure the values are distinct even from a distance.

Overall, I think this painting is boring, and the back ground needs to be broken up more with something. But it is just a study, not a final masterpiece, so no reason to get upset.

Two Studies with Fruits and Vegetables

Oil on Canvas Board

This was the next day’s efforts at Gay’s workshop. Gay told us to paint simple still lifes on 6x8. I only had 8x10, so she told me to divide it in half. She set these to up went at it.

Gay’s “steps of procedure” were somewhat vague to me. The best I could understand was this:

1. Start with a toned dry canvas. Any color that you think works with the still life will do.
2. Sketch in the drawing. First place tick-marks where the objects will start and stop, so you don’t get drawing too big or something and your composition gets thrown off. Then finish sketching it in.
3. Mass in the forms with flat blocks of color.
4. “Define the shapes”. I think that means make it look more 3D.
5. Finishing touches of lightest lights and darkest darks.

Since I needed a toned, dry canvas for each painting, I would tone a canvas or two with the mud on my pallet when I had finished with a painting. That way, it would be dry for tomorrow.

Remembering the peony catastrophy, I tried to remain calm, and get the drawing as accurate as I possible. I foused on:

1. Keeping the light and shadow areas separate.
2. Mixing dull colors for the shadows and bright colors for the light.
3. Confident brush strokes; not a lot of wishy-washy picky nonsense.

Although I did used mixed colors for the muted colors, I used colors straight from the tube plus white for the more intense colors where the light hits.

I am happier with these two studies. I do wish I had painted them on 6x8s. I felt encouraged after doing these. I realized I need to do more still life studies to develop my skills, and stop fretting so much about making every painting a pefect, saleable painting.

Study with Peonies

Oil on Canvas Board

I am posting every single one of my pictures, good or bad, to make an accurate blog of my progress. I think this one is terrible.

I went to a workshop with Gay Faulkenberry. Gay had taken two 6-week workshops with Sergei Bongart, whose work I love. Gay’s work is similar to Bongart’s, with big, loose, vibrant brushstrokes.

I felt that it was time for me to take another workshop, so I googled “Oil Workshop California”. I wanted somewhere that I could drive to, so that I could pile all my painting equipment in the car and haul it there myself. Anything East of California is desert, so I wanted to stay within California. I discovered the Knowlton Gallery five hours north of me in Lodi, which has many artists doing workshops. I scrolled through their calendar, and I liked Gay’s work, so I signed up for that one.

Gay did a demo, (which was amazing), then lunch, then time to work. I had a nice still life of a pretty vase and fake peonies, but I could not do it. I was so confident with the knife, and using pure colors plus white, that mixing colors and using the brush was completely foreign. Plus, they were playing opera, which was very stressful to paint by. The singers were having screaming fits in German, you could tell they were upset, so it was very stressful. I was having a terrible time.

I called Gay over and told her I was completely overwhelmed, that I was having trouble mixing the paints and using the brush. She took my brush and swirled the paint around on my pallet. She said my brush was too floppy and my paint was too soupy. She found a better brush from my collection and stirred up some thicker paint, and dabbed some of it on the canvas for me. I was encouraged and gave it another try. As bad as this turned out, it’s better than it was before Gay set me on the right track. I am just glad that I finished it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

View from Meditation Mount

Oil on Canvas Board

I went here with my husband Alan. He wanted a day of peace and quiet, and I wanted to paint, so we thought this was a good idea. It is high up on a hill, (which you can drive to), and it overlooks a beautiful valley. The view is amazing and I knew I would not be able to capture it on this small canvas, but this is where Alan wanted to sit, so that was fine with me.

I don’t usually plein air paint, so this was harder than normal. But Alan was there, and he kept giving me helpful suggestions, which I appreciated. Even so, this does not even covey a fraction of how beautiful it was. In fact, I don't think this is a very good painting at all. I learned from this painting that I am not ready for plein air yet.

This view is at the end of a landscaped little nature walk. It is called “Meditation Mount”, and is an Eastern Religious site. But people come up laughing and talking loudly and really disturbing the peace. They walk to the end, (shouting and talking the whole way), look at the view, and go back to leave, acting loud and boistrous like they are at a soccer game the whole time. All the landscaping is situated with many quaint little seating areas looking a beautiful plants. It really is designed for being peaceful. I think people should bring their library voices up there. When we go up there, we are quiet and respectful, but when we bring friends to show them how lovely it is, they are loud and scream things like, “Oh-my-god, LOOK at the IRIS! I LOVE irises! Where’s the CAMERA?!!” Alan and I are so embarrassed, that we quit bringing people up there.

Anyway, while we were painting, someone came to the end where we were, and when they turned around to leave, there was a rattlesnake warming himself in the sun. He must have been there the whole time, but we never noticed him. He was about 10 feet away, at the edge of the viewing site. We were quite and he was quiet, so everyone was happy. The other people were getting excited, pointing, shouting and taking pictures, so the snake left.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bristlecone Pine

Oil on Stretched Canvas

This was also from a photo from the Wet Canvas Image Reference Library. Thank you to whomever posted it.

I thought it looked really challenging, and I liked the intense colors. I underpainted the whole thing, Sarback style, and then I did the sky first. The tree had too many details for me to do them with a knife, so I did all the shadow areas, and when it dried, I did the areas in light. When it was all dry again, then I did the brightest highlights.

When the tree was done, Then I did the foreground, using the knife again.

Bottle on the Beach

Oil on Stretched Canvas

I did this from a photo from the Wet Canvas Reference Image Library. Thank you to whomever posted it. I was really trying to capture the glowing sunlight, and the shimmery light inside the wet bottle.

I posted my work-in-progress photos, but I inadvertently put them in reverse order. I did this using the technique from the Susan Sarback workshop, with the pure colors plus white, and only using a knife. I had Alan take my smallest knife and trim it down even more for more specific detail.

When I show this to women, they say, “Oh I LOVE the colors”. When I show it to guys they say, “Hey, you should have put a ship inside the bottle”. One person thought it was a GIANT bottle on the beach.

Double Delight Rose

Oil on Canvas Board

I did this Susan Sarback Style. I did it in stages, letting each stage dry before moving on, so that I would not contaminate the colors. First I did the background, then the red of the petals, which was mostly Cad Red Light and Alizarin Crimson. Lastly I did the yellow and creamy center, then when it was ALL dry, I put on the whitest highlights with a brush.

It took weeks, and each session took hours. When I showed it to my friends, they were amazed and said, “Wow! People might even actually pay money for this – like – 20 dollars!”