Friday, May 20, 2011

Japanese Bridge

Oil on Stretched Canvas

Again, I was trying yet another new technique. I am smitten with Sergei Bongart, and I wanted to paint like him. So I got a big canvas (big for me) and some big brushes and went at it. But I don't have the soul of a fiery Russian Impressionist, so I just cannot do it.

This was from a photo I took at the Huntington Library in San Marino. It is so beautiful there, so I always bring my camera. I liked how the shadow under the bridge echoed the shape of the bridge.

I blew up a photo of the bridge and traced it on to the canvas because when it comes to architectural elements, I can't afford to get it wrong. Then I blocked the whole thing in loosely, like Bongart would. Alan told me that the bridge really does need to be correct, so I spent a lot of time on that. Alan said there was no blue on the bridge, but I saw it in the reflected light, so I put it on there. I redid the juniper in the upper left-hand corner three times. Another problem was the pond looked like a grassy field, so I needed to put in the very subtle reflections. All of these things took many layers with lots of drying time in between.

When I finally put on the lily pads, I was so happy, so I ran outside to take a photo of it in the sun. Usually my paintings are small enough that I can lay them on the ground and stand over them, but I could not with this one. So I leaned it up against a wall in the sunshine, and when I stood back to snap the picture, it flopped face down onto the asphalt and got sand in all the wet paint. I had to take it in and pick out every grain with my beading tweezers. Then I had to smooth the paint over, let it dry again, and repaint the final touches.

Then next time I took the photo, I waited until someone was walking by. We live in a mobile home park near a local grocery store, so people walk by all day. Someone came along and I asked them to hold it just so, in the sun, and I got my good photo without any sand.

Backlit Trees

Oil on stretched canvas

This is from a photo I snapped a few years back when I was first learning to paint. I was at a plein air workshop in someone's gorgeous backyard. The light was so pretty, and I said, "Someday, when I am better, I am going to paint this".

I was trying a new technique (as usual) where I was trying to do with the brush what I do with the knife. It was not working. With the knife, I can layer the colors on top of each other while they are still wet, but with the brush, they just get goopy. I had to let it dry between layers.

I painted the underpainting in various blues, and then I worked the yellows and greens on top of that. Susan Sarback says to under paint everything in light in warm colors, and everything in shadow in cool colors. I did not do that, and it just caused me a lot of extra work. Oils are translucent, so if I really want the light areas to glow, I really need to paint over a warm underpainting.

Also, when I did the backlit leaves, I tried to paint the light leaves on top of the dark leaves, because the rule of thumb for oils is "light over dark". Well, that just looked unnatural. So I had to go back and repaint all the leaves in the ligth green colors, and then put the leaves in shadow on top of that. It looked much more realistic.

Anyway, this painting was a big headache and I almost gave up, but I figure if I DO give up, I will not learn the lessons. I am very glad that I finished it. I know the colors are very saturated and bright, but I like that.