Sunday, September 2, 2012

No Pain-No Gain

Yesterday, was my scheduled 4th painting lesson.  I was anxious to progress on the current oil painting that I am working on of a fallen tree up on Mt. Charleston.  The difficult thing for me when it comes to taking these lessons is that I feel insecure because (1.)  I'm painting in oils and (2.) my natural approach to the subject is very different from that of my instructor.  Each step of the way she gives me instructions on the next process in the piece and often I don't produce the result that she is wanting.  Either I am trying to be too detailed, over doing it or not doing enough.  This can be frustrating, but as I have stated many times, I am self-taught and obviously in many aspects, self-taught incorrectly.  Bad habits can be hard to rid oneself of if they are deeply ingrained and apparently my bad habits have very "deep tap roots".

I was excited to take along my most recent painting that I call, "Memories of the Road Home" and one of which I have been very happy with. As I painted this one, I had tried to remember the points I have learned in the book I am reading by Margaret Kessler entitled, "Painting Better Landscapes" and the things I have learned so far in my 3 previous painting lessons that I have taken with Lily Adamczyk and all in all I thought I had done a pretty good job.  Boy was I mistaken!
This is my original painting that I had completed that I am calling, "A Memory of the Road Home".
I was sure that Lily would discuss a few things that I could improve on to make it a better landscape painting.  After all, there could only be a few minor changes that I could do to improve it because the overall piece was done well, or at least that was what I thought.  It was the last few minutes of my lesson when Lily suggested that we take a look at what I had brought along.  She picked the canvas up and in a matter of 30 seconds or so she said..."Do you mind if I...." and she grabbed a roll of masking tape in her other other and began placing pieces of tape in different directions on the surface of my canvas.

Lily said that when you are painting buildings it is very important that you emphasize angles and lines and the best way to insure that they are straight is by using masking tape.  As you can see, I was blind to the extent that my lines and angles were off.  Only the tape showed me just how crooked they were.
Lily then proceeded to pull out her brushes and paint palette and go to work on the roof of my old homestead.  She explained that the detail of painting each shingle wasn't necessary but what was more important was getting the base colors correct and giving just the impressions of the tiles.  That was also her advise when it came to old wooden slates that the house is comprised of.
Lily giving me a lesson on how to improve my painting

I was amazed by her ability to add a few colors together and come up with the perfect matching color to use for those old green shingles.  She mixed Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Green,  Black, and White to make the shingles.  We also added a blue tint to the path way to give it interest.  My other notes include- STAY AWAY FROM WHITE...and throw away your fan brush.  An angle brush works great because you don't have to paint every blade grass, rather give the impression of the grass.

My piece in it's current stage of transformation.  We have brought the one tree down into the foreground, added a stone wall, radically changed the grass and my path.  I am still working on lightening the grass and detailing some of the foreground. 
It was a painful couple of hours, but my resolve is to turn the PAIN into GAIN and remember that critique, no matter how painful, will make me a better artist.  After I finish this piece a second time, maybe I will start a second painting of this same house so that I can reproduce this effect on my own from start to finish.  Perhaps this view with some overgrown rosebushes and an old tire swing would make and interesting composition.  Practice makes Perfect...and I need a LOT of practice.

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