Thursday, August 23, 2012

Week 3-Be Patient and Paint the Plan

My oil painting is progressing along nicely and I'm pleased at the progress.  I knew that I would learn a lot by taking one on one lessons but I find myself struggling at my home easel now.  I'm trying to incorporate the things I have leaned these past 3 lessons into my own works at home and I feel a bit lost.  I think this is normal and I just have to keep working at it until I break free of old habits and take my time staying with the plan.  Painting TOP to BOTTOM, BACK to FRONT.  No cheating even if I can't wait to see how that bright yellow foliage of the Aspen trees are going to pop against those dark green pines.

For the past two years that I have returned to my childhood passion,  I have been committed to practicing and have painted nearly 100 pieces.  Some of course better than others.  I have sold about 8 pieces in that time but have many stacked around the house.  I believe I have shown my dedication and have reached that point of taking my art to the next level.  Private lessons are what I feel is needed for me to advance to the next level. 

I think there are plenty of other new, struggling artists that must feel the same way that I do.  At 51 years old, do I have enough time to progress my talent to where I want it to be?  Only God knows that answer,but in the mean time I want to either be painting, teaching or sharing what I am learning with others by blogging about my experiences.

Original Photo that I chose to use as the inspiration for my first oil painting

WK 1- Laying out the composition by sketching the main details using a neutral colored paint

WK 1- blocking in the main base colors that will eventually be the mountains, sky and foreground

WK 1- Stopping the first lessons with my canvas covered in a layer of acrylic paints.

WK 2- Here I am painting my canvas top to bottom and back to front.  Most of this background area will be covered up with my foreground details but you have to give the viewer that distance to create interest
WK 3-  Here I have changed the mountain color from purple to more blue.  Blue gives a better feeling of distance because of the haze created in the atmosphere that gives a blue tint to objects in the distance.  I have focused on my areas of light and shadow and developed the path way.  The view's eye is drawn to both areas in the distance that reflect the sunlight.  It makes you feel that the path continue down over the hill and there must be something interesting there.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Something to Think About

As I was studying the book called "Painting Better Landscapes" by Margaret Kessler, I found on page 24 a gem amongst the technical advice.  Even while you are still visualizing and planning your piece you need to consider the WHY of the painting.  Why are you painting this scene and what mood are you trying to convey.  She says, and I quote, "With in the limits of convention, paint the ordinary in an extraordinary way.  Don't just decorate: dramatize.  Exaggerate motion and color; vary the value range and textural quality.  By emphasizing or downplaying objects, manipulate the scene to engage the viewer psychologically."

There is freedom in this statement and as an artist I appreciate that I have artistic license to add or remove certain elements to improve my composition.  Of course I didn't need to read this in a book to know that as the artist the only boundaries that I have are those invisible ones that I myself have created in my mind.  Breaking those chains and tearing down the cobwebs that years of non-creativeness have left isn't always and easy task.  I struggle in my compositions with using colors and painting the randomness of nature.  I can stand back to observe my piece and realize after hours of work that I have once again painted my bushes to have a manicured symmetry and all lined up like little soldiers at attention and all my rocks are smooth round river rocks.

This is exactly why visualizing and planning are SO important.  I must see this painting completed in my mind before I ever start laying out my palette.  Sketching my idea out will  help me steer away from these composition traps and I am ready to begin.  So here is my inspirational photo and I will blog my steps as I work through the teachings outline in this book by Ms. Kessler.

This old homestead photo that we took while on our Missouri vacation is very near to where both my great-grandparents lived.  I recall both of their houses on the main dirt road that parallels the highway 133 between Crocker and Richland.  My mother was born in a house probably very much like this one there in Swedeborg.  I attended the little country school there for both 1st and 3rd grade.  It is this exact feeling that I want to evoke with this painting.  I want to stir up feelings that include memories of a vibrant house that is full of laughter and that now stands in decay because of neglect and misuse.  The memories are still very sweet because they are bigger than the outer shell made of lumber and penny nails.

Old House Ruins located in Swedeborg, Missouri

Ivy covered log located in what is left of the yard of the old house
Quick sketch made of house and log that I will use as my plan.  I am considering adding a old water pump too.

Memories of the Road Home- 16 x 20 Acrylic. This is the final rendition and I am pleased with the end results.  I wanted to inspire self-reflection as one looks back into the past.  I used several photos we took as we visited Swedeborg, Missouri on vacation this summer. This town is where my Grandmother and Grandfather lived, my mom was born and two sets of Great-grandparents lived. My roots are deep in this little town of about 250. When you spend time painting a scene like this you do a great deal of remembering about childhood, growing old, family and those that have gone before you.

In memory of:  Franklin Vail & Claudine Butler Miller (Mauer) 
                          Harry & Hazel (Morris) Miller
                          Clara May (Freeman) McKim 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Making a Plan

I've started reading a book called "Painting Better Landscapes" by Margaret Kessler and right off I knew I was in trouble.  The book begins as soon as page 14 talking about a plan...You are supposed to have a VALUE PLAN.  Ms. Kessler states," Planning the values in your sketchbook is probably the most neglected aspect of the painting process.  I cannot overemphasize its importance."  I guess that says it pretty clearly.

Sketching out my plan with pencil or charcoal is something I have never done up to this point.  I just start a new piece by covering the canvas with paint and then painting, excuse me for using the old saying, "by the seat of my pants".  I was keenly aware that on my first painting lesson, that while we didn't grab a pencil, my teacher, Lily Adamczyk had me block out all the main areas of my painting using a neutral colored paint.  She quickly planned which trees we wanted to emphasize and which ones were in the wrong place in my photo. When I actually started painting, I had a plan.  Of course it was Lily's plan because at this point, I'm still very much lost in the transition between using acrylic to oil and trying to understand Lily's approach and techniques.  Let me show you what I mean...

Here is what my masterpiece looked like at the end of my first two hour lesson.

The Initial Plan
Blocking out the colors of the background and the foreground

Working from Top to Bottom, Back to front

  Ms. Kessler lists on page 8 of her book the five progressive steps to construct a painting:
  1. Visualize the idea
  2. Composing the idea (blueprint)
  3. Establishing the values (foundation)
  4. Blocking the color harmony (framework)
  5. Refind the details (finishing)
On the same page, Ms. Kessler also addresses the importance of developing your own style by stating a very simple but powerful truth.  "As long as you are following someone else's lead, you will always be behind."

So today, I'm digging out those very neglected sketching pencils, overused kneadable eraser and grabbing one of the many empty sketchbooks that are in my studio so that I can begin to discipline myself to MAKE A PLAN first, before I ever grab a canvas or pick up a brush.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Naples Yellow-SUNSHINE in a Tube

Since I am a self-taught artist, with little or no formal training to speak of, my knowledge of mixing colors is very basic and is mostly what Mr. Easton taught me in high school art class in Eldon, Missouri.  I have spent the past 2 years, going through bottles of white acrylic paint because logic told me that to lighten a color, add white.  I would add white to my colors if I wanted to gradually lighten the base color or to add a refection.  If you add white to green or brown it results in a color that is lighter but often I noticed that the color seemed to loose the vibrancy and actually become duller and even gray.  I couldn't figure out why other artists have the ability to paint beautiful landscapes that reflect bright blue skies, striking sunsets or sparkling water.  Heck, even their dirt is brighter than mine it seems.

At my first painting lesson two weeks ago, I was introduced to an amazing color that I had never heard of before...NAPLES YELLOW.  It is a mixture of white and yellow ochre and maybe something else.  You can find all the specific chemistry used to create this color online, but to me, it is like having SUNSHINE in a tube!  I went right out and bought myself some and couldn't wait to compare the colors that I could mix. 

I also found that I am not alone in my praise of this pigment.  I found a very well written explanation on an artist forum called "Wet Canvas" that I thought I would include.
Larry says...."As a plein air painter of subjects outdoors...I generally observe that light and color appear warmer. It is difficult imitating color we see outdoors in natural light, and our tendency is to add white to "brighten" as well as lighten a color. What I have observed quite some time ago is that white is a cool color (generally speaking)...and yes, it tints...but it also cools the color down and flattens its potential for three dimensional punch. Cooling down or neutralizing works against the notion of "brightening"...and is thus counter productive for me.

What I use as a substitute for tinting closer color to maintain warmth and yet lighten is Naples Yellow. It makes lovely tints that feel warmer. As a color goes back I'll use some Naples Yellow plus white since that color would begin to lose its sense of nearness to the eye anyway, and if I want the color to appear even further back I'll use just the white to tint.

I try to be sparing with my use of white so that particular highlights I want will pop with greater depth illusion. Of course it is not always possible to avoid I'll often add a bit of Naples to the mix after using white to restore some of the warmth lost.

Some will argue against this, as is their right...but such thinking has worked for me for umteen years, and I think where painting is concerned the ends does justify the means. Proof is in the pudding as they say...
Larry (09-12-2005, 03:35 PM

First I took Hooker Green and mixed a small amount of white.  I also took the same amount of Hooker Green and mixed it with an equal portion of Naples Yellow.  You can see my second mixture has a warmer glow than does the first.  I have experienced Hooker Green turning a gray tone very easily when I'm trying to paint a variety of foliage.  Trees don't look that gray to me so this isn't something I want to find happening on my palette.

The second color I mixed was using my bottle of Apple Barrel Chocolate Bar Brown as the base color.  This really showed the remarkable difference in tone and vibrancy as you can see by the photo below.  Naples Yellow has definitely won a big place on my palette. 

Check out my website to see all my available artwork.  I would love to hear from you.