Saturday, December 27, 2008
The zillion or so wine and cheese receptions for artists that I have attended over the years are my inspiration. (I think I went to five or six this past November!)
In keeping with the theme, I added the crystal wine glasses, a cheese tray, a dish of grapes, a corkscrew, a vase of flowers, and the requisite painting on the wall.
For design purposes, I have substituted yukky plastic grapes, fake flowers, and a bar of soap for the cheese. This painting will take quite a while so I'll replace these items with the real things when I get to them. I also have to decide what painting to put on the wall. For now I have hung one of my own small paintings.
The Burnt Umber Under Painting
This 18 x 24 linen canvas is prepared with 3 coats of rabbit skin glue and 3 coats of acrylic gesso, then toned with burnt sienna. After many hours of drawing and redrawing with soft charcoal, I finally settled on the exact placement of the items, which I carefully drew in paint, using burnt umber and Maroger medium. Before each application of the paint, I wiped out the soft charcoal with a rag so it wouldn't contaminate the paint.
Hopefully, this planning stage, which took several days, will allow me to lay in the painting and not change anything later on. A well-known artist said that failure to plan was planning to fail. So many of us get inspired and excited that we omit this critical stage. This is not to say that I wouldn't tweak it a bit as I go along, but I will try to stay with the drawing as it is. There are still many decisions to make.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
It's hard to believe that three months have elapsed since I last posted my blog. September, October and November whizzed by while I painted frantically for my still life show that opened at American Painting in New York City last month. Despite the financial problems, I consider it a successful show.
Meanwhile, my computer's motherboard got terminally ill. I have been wrestling with computer problems since the day after I returned from the reception in New York. This has not been a fun time. I have not kept up with my blog, updated my website nor written my newsletter. Learning Vista and new programs has consumed most of my time.
Coming up in my life is the opening of the still life show opening at American Painting in DC on January 24. I have painted a small still life (see above) and will be starting a larger painting that I will demonstrate with step-by-step images on the blog.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
My life is almost back to normal after five days in Elkins, WV, home of Davis & Elkins College. On the first day, after a 4 1/2 hour drive through the winding narrow mountain roads, I judged the Randolph County Community Arts Council 7th Annual Gala Art Exhibition. For the next two days, I gave a workshop on the basics of painting classical still life. There were twelve workshop participants at all levels, working in oil and watercolor.
On the fourth day, I went painting with my host and several other painters from the workshop and the RCCAC. It was a gorgeous day, slight breeze, and lots of sun. Early mornings in the mountains tend to be very foggy, so we didn't get to our location until 9:30 a.m. We were in Montrose, a little crossroads about eight miles north of Elkins. According to the map, the Appalachian Trail goes right by where we painted.
On the fifth day, I drove home, again on those treacherous mountain roads and battling Hurricane Hanna.
The above painting is 12 x 16, and entitled Montrose Valley. I was unable to finish it on location, so I finished it today in the studio with the help of some photos that I took. I like the painting and it was fun to do! Lots of contrast and rich colors!
Monday, August 25, 2008
Instead of showing you another painting in progress, I want to change the thrust of my blog. Painting is a lot of fun and I want to share some of that fun with you.
I was juried into the prestigious 4th Annual Plein Air Easton, July 21 through 27, in Easton, Maryland. There were 57 artists from all over the country: artists from California, Texas, Florida, New York, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, etc. Of course, there were many Maryland artists.
The gist of the competition is to complete two competition paintings in four days, en plein air. These paintings are judged on the fifth day, wet paint and all. My competition paintings are shown here.
But there was much more to Paint Easton than the competition. There were lectures, programs, demonstrations, dinners, parties, auctions, and scintillating camaraderie. There were lunches in "dark caves" to rest our eyes blinded by the sun. All in all, it was a fabulous week. I not only had fun and learned a lot, I had a ball!
Monday, July 28, 2008
I kept looking at the "finished painting" and knew there was something about it that I didn't like. It took me weeks to figure out that it was the vase. Instead of a vase, I had selected a small-necked bottle into which I had stuffed lots of daffodils. The end result was a pinched, constricted feeling. It made me uncomfortable...I kept wanting to fluff the flowers.
Scouring my still life "stuff" again for a blue vase, I found this pitcher that had been hiding in a dark corner where I had overlooked it when I originally set up the still life.
I photographed the painting, printed out several copies and went to work. With gouache (opaque watercolor), I painted the blue pitcher on a print, which I had adhered to a board. Then I cut some daffodils out of the other prints and arranged them. When I got them where I was satisfied, I made the changes on the painting.
To make it easier to compare, below is the painting before I changed it.
Notice that three daffodils remain in the same place. I moved and repainted three others and added one hanging over the blue pitcher. Now I am back to seven flowers...an odd number always being better than an even number. I also put cast shadows on the back apricots and put more shadows on the daffodils.
I took out some of the nandina because I thought there were too many spikes, and I added two daffodil leaves.
More and more as I paint I understand how much our choices influence the success or failure of a painting. It's all about composition.
I have also changed the title to "Daffodils and Apricots."
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Painting more leaves and background
Now that I have decided on the color combination for the leaves, I filled in around the top right rose. Then I refined and repainted the leaves that were already there. I don't want to get too picky...just enough detail to say they are rose leaves.
I'm still not finished...this is quite tedious. I want all the leaves to make sense, and I realize at this point that all of them are facing toward me. So I will photograph more leaves from the underneath side so that some of them will be facing away from the viewer. It will make for a more interesting painting.
I have considered bringing the roses into the studio, as they are still in pots. But I hesitate because I don't know what kind of bugs I might be bringing in along
with them. It sure would be easier, though, if the bushes were in front of me.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Painting more leaves and background
Once I got some background and leaves in, I decided that I didn't really like the rose on the left with it's stupid looking petal. After searching my photos some more, I found this rose, which is really stunning.
I added a small bud setting off the larger roses. I painted more leaves...trying numerous color combinations for my greens. I have finally settled on using Gamblin's chromatic black and cadmium yellow light, producing a low-key green. Using the chromatic black is a lot safer than using ivory black, which can crack if used in large quantities. When I paint the dark leaves, there's a lot of black in the mixture.
My background is primarily ultramarine blue and burnt sienna with some splashes of cadmium red light giving it an illusion of transparency.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Painting more roses
After studying the arrangement of roses, I realized that I had inadvertantly arranged them in a circle with a hole in the center. So I rearranged them, added another one, and the flow is much more pleasing.
I added a bud and a small rose to the bottom, trying to make sure that the distances were unequal.
It was time to paint some leaves and background. It was getting very complicated and confusing, since I am working from photos.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Painting the roses
I started with the larger roses, and because they are past their prime, they are a bit whiter than the other roses. I painted them alla prima using a lot of pale yellow and pink, and added lavender for the shadow tones. I premix the pale yellow from white and cadmium yellow light, and the pink from white, quinacridone red, and a smidge of cadmium red light.
The images are on my laptop, which I have positioned near my easel. My roses aren't precisely the same as the photos, but close. I didn't trace them, but drew them as I saw them.
Since I have not planned this painting out 100%, I am hoping that these roses will be in the right place. Thoroughly planning my paintings is not one of my strong points. I always say I'll do better on the next one.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The drawing and under painting
We bought these roses for the garden...I wanted to paint them "en plein air," however, my time got scarce and I had to photograph them instead.
But I will paint them as if I were sitting in front of them. When I finish painting the roses and some of the leaves from the photos, I may bring the plant inside and paint the rest of the leaves and stems from the actual plant.
Since I was painting from photos, I had the advantage of taking my time arranging the roses in a more artistic manner than I might have if I had been on location. I fiddled with pencil and paper before settling on this arrangement, which has a nice flow to it. So far I like it!
Saturday, June 7, 2008
As you can see, I added a sprig of nandina across the table and a smaller one in an area that was bothering me. I think this helps a lot, as it moves the green into the lower portion of the painting and adds interest to the table.
I re-adjusted the background and repainted the leaves. When I squinted at it before, I couldn't even see the leaves...they were the same value as the background. I held my value scale up to the actual leaf and was truly surprised to find that the green leaf was a value 8! When I lightened the background, then I could see them.
Because the lighting is not absolutely controlled in my studio when I photograph my paintings, the photos on this blog look quite dissimilar. However, I am not changing anything, and I apologize for this inconsistency. I have a new camera, and I'm still learning about it.
I think the next paintings will be some plein air ones for Plein Air Easton.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Nearing the finish
As usual, when I am painting symmetrical items, they invariably get wonky. The white vase really needs help. So I dragged out the triangle, a straight edge with pica delineations (picas are easier to deal with than inches), the Saran wrap, a black felt pen for drawing on the painting (the pentel ink comes off when moistened), and a permanent pen for drawing on the Saran wrap. I drew a center line on the canvas, placed the Saran wrap over it, drew a corresponding center line, and one half of the white vase. Flipped over the Saran wrap, and figured what needed to be corrected.
I have also added some interest to the table, and added some leaves and darkened some others. I still have void at the table, and I think I will put some leaves on it. Maybe even some petals. Probably will audition some arrangements by painting on the Saran Wrap before I commit myself.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
This configuration and design is much more pleasing and elegant to me. I continued refining the apricots, the vases and the blue scarf. Mainly I was redrawing, lightening the lights, and darkening the darks. I have a lot of new wrinkles from squinting so much.
Since the daffodil is no longer toward the bottom of the painting, there seemed to be a rather blank area. So to anchor the arrangement, I filled in the table rather than have it light and airy. I will find a table with a drawer somewhere in the house and add an interesting handle or drawer pull to it. The handle or drawer pull will serve the same purpose as the daffodil...it will move the eye around and add interest to an otherwise dead and boring area.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
The two daffodils in the lower part of the painting were getting on my nerves, so they had to go. I bought some apricots to replace them. I tried several arrangements.
I brought back the decorated vase that I had eliminated earlier. The apricots on the left help move the yellow-orange color around the canvas. So far I like this a lot better. Of course, every time I moved something the blue scarf moved!
I still haven't decided, but I may put some greens on the table. I don't have apricot leaves (since it's not the season for them yet). Also, I may do something to the table. Now that there is no daffodil attracting your attention to the lower part of the painting, it looks a bit boring. We'll see! This painting will tell me what is needed.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
I had to replace the nandina, since the last time I painted on this, it has died. I cut some more and added a new piece under the bottom daffodil. I like the way it adds more movement and breaks up the dark brown of the table.
By adding more highlights to the leaves, they are now finished. I worked on the white petal cup which now has better defined values. Achieving the white highlights on the light side of the cup was difficult. I finally took a palette knife and laid down a stroke of white, and then with a brush, wiped away the parts I didn't want. It seemed to work OK.
Using a triangle and straight-edge, I corrected the drawing of the table, which had become a bit askew. I still have the blue bottle to perfect...it isn't quite symmetrical yet. By darkening some of the petals in the lower two daffodils I put them more in shadow, which gives them more dimension.
I will have to redo the background in the next step, which I hope will finish the painting. No doubt I will see other minor things that need more refining.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
I added more nandina to the lower part of the painting. The leaves around the lowest daffodil are hard to see, so I will have to change something there. I must remember: "light against dark, warm against cool!"
Adding the leaves to the diagonal stems in front of the blue vase helps.
They are not so distracting now.
I painted the background with a ultramarine blue/burnt sienna combo, adding naples yellow to the lightest areas. I still have more to do on the back ground, but it's a good start.
I also worked on the table: darkened it and refined the table leg.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
After looking at the painting for a while, I decided that the daffodil bouquet needed some filler. I clipped some sprigs of nandina from the front of the house and stuck them in the arrangement. (I find that nandina and grape ivy are wonderful still life fillers.) The neck of the blue vase was so narrow that I couldn't splay the daffodils any better than you see them here.
I'm still bothered by the daffodil stems that transect the blue vase, so I'll have to work at that. I think some strategically placed nandina will soften the lines.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
The biggest problem in setting up the still life again was arranging the blue scarf like it was before. Impossible! So after playing with it for a while, I settled on this arrangement, which I actually like better than before.
The silk daffodils provide shadow patterns that I wouldn't otherwise have.
I substituted a small lotus cup for the original "vase" for two reasons: The original one was exactly the same width as the dark blue vase Secondly, the smaller one doesn't compete with the others. The "S" curve composition format works very nicely with the flow from the lotus cup up through the daffodil arrangement.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
It is spring and my daffodils were ready to bloom. I like to paint an annual daffodil painting, often in a yellow and blue motif. I used silk daffodils to get a rough idea of how I wanted to plan it. I pulled some vases and pots from my still-life "closet," a scarf from a drawer, and, thinking in complements of blue and yellow, came up with the above arrangement.
The setup with real daffodils:
After I was fairly satisfied with the silk arrangement, I substituted the real daffodils, but not for the ones out of water. I had to be stingy with the flowers, since I didn't have many in the garden. I planned on painting the ones in the vase first, then I would take them out of water, and use them in the foreground.
Painting the daffodils:
I spent three sessions on these daffodils, which are now finished. And the daffodils are long gone. The photo above doesn't show them nearly as rich in color as the painting. I am aiming for a neutral blue-gray background to show off the colors. You can see by the differences from the setup photos to the painting photo, the reason an artist should never paint a still life from photos. The camera lightens the lights and darkens the darks so there is a tremendous and unrealistic contrast between the two.
After the last session painting the daffodils, I returned to the studio the next morning and found the daffodils and the vases on the floor. The blue vase had it's neck broken off and the white one was broken in half. My darling cat Leo had apparently been challenged by the situation and gave it a "go." I have since repaired the vases and will resume work on this painting soon.
Sorry to say I lost last week due to a stomach virus.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Finishing the painting, again
You always hear that when you finish a painting that you should put it away for several days and then look at it with fresh eyes. Well, I did, and I saw some big and little things to do.
First, the big thing. I saw that I had lost the distance of the left "mountain," so I glazed it with a blue/gray to push it back. Now it looks more like it did in step 4. Somehow I had lost that in the previous step. While I was at it, I also glazed the back right mountain.
Then I rearranged the rocks in the distance, added some sky holes to the trees on the left, and redesigned the bush by the sandy path. I camouflaged a tree trunk that was bugging me, added some more highlights to the trees, and accented a few of the rocks.
The painting is done, it is framed, and in two days it goes to American Painting Fine Art, DC for the Potomac River School exhibition.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Finishing the painting
I noticed that the right hand mountain looked like a crocodile lying in wait for a juicy tidbit. By rearranging the trees, I kept that disturbing image blurred.
I also changed some of the colors in the shadow areas of the mountains, which aren't really evident in these blog photos. But I do think you can see a difference. They look more defined, and the sun came out.
The major change was the rocky overlook. I eliminated the shadows, which had given them depth and changed them into simple large rocks in the water below me, which is how they really were. I added two Canadian Geese, who had very thoughtfully posed for me when I was photographing the scene. They add a nice touch, particularly their vertical lines as a counterpoint to the many horizontal lines in the painting.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Refining the mountains, rocks and trees
I realized when I had finished the previous step, that the top lines of the mountains on the right were parallel, which I needed to correct.
I added a rocky shore line on the close right mountain and defined the rocks, particulary those in the foreground, where I was putting the rocky overlook. I didn't think the sun was shining on the trees, so I highlighted the sunny side a bit more. It was a semi-cloudy day when I did the plein air sketch, and so I am having to fabricate the sun on the trees.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Taking my time, I developed the trees laying in the darks first and moving to the lights. I added a rocky shore line and identified some of the trees.
Then I went on to develop the water near the left shore line. I added reflections and ripples to the water, and in some spots I added highlights.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Working from back to front, I painted the the mountains, gradually warming my colors, and darkening the shadows, carefully observing these rules of atmospheric perspective.
I moved on to the water, again working from back to front, sketching in the rocks and movement of the water along the left-hand shoreline. I wanted to get these areas done before I did the trees on the left, since the other colors and values would set the tone.
Now that I have recovered from the flu, I will lay-in the remaining areas.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Last fall I painted a 12 x 16 color sketch at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers at Harper's Ferry. Below are two reference photos and the color sketch.
I enlarged the sketch by gridding it into quarters and transferring it onto a 22 x 28 canvas, prepared with rabbit skin glue and acrylic gesso. Since the burnt umber sketch didn't take very long, I started on the sky and some of the water. I used a reference photo from another scene as a guide for the clouds. See below.
I have sketched a rocky overlook in the lower right hand corner so that my high vantage point makes sense. I like the way it ties in with the rocks below. I have also modified the trees in the middle-ground by varying their shapes and adding trunks and limbs. The green nerf-ball tree looks ridiculous. Other than those two things, the painting will be about the same as the sketch, only larger with more detail.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
After carefully checking my photo references I realized that the front steps had two railings, and not just one. While I was in this railing mode, I painted the wrought iron railing and small deck outside the solarium. After adding flowers to the porch planters and cleaning up some other small areas, I was finished.
I signed my name in the lower left hand corner, and I call it "Winding Way."
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The two major tree trunks were parallel, which was bothering me. So I redid the back trunk so it leaned the other way, making the space between the two more artistic. I then painted in foliage at the top of the painting, adding branches and limbs as I went along. There are a few areas that need to be cleaned up, but basically this part is done.
I revised the bushes around the circle, making them more in perspective. They were too much the same size and too much the same distance from one another. So I repositioned them, and in doing so, there is now one less.
I added the railing to the front steps, finished the shutters and windowboxes, and the azaleas on the side of the house.
Not much more to do!
Saturday, February 16, 2008
The painting finally spoke to me and said it needed this foreground tree. It breaks up the symmetry of the driveway and foreground lawn shapes, see Step 9. Adding a vertical not only cuts the shapes into more artistic areas, but also enables me to gracefully add some leaves and branches in front of some less important areas of the house. The focus is on the front of the house.
I like the feeling of distance that the foreground tree gives the painting, as I had in my original sketch, see Step 2. I roughed in the tree trunk and some basic limbs, refined the trunk, and added the ivy border along the driveway with the cobblestones on the farside. On the porch, I added planters, though I haven't put anything in them yet. I resolved the driveway and foreground grass with dancing shadow patterns, adding sparkle to the painting.
Friday, February 15, 2008
I refined the capitals and bases of the columns on the front of the house, added the porch light, redrew and repainted the front steps and brick wall supporting the front columns and columns of the porte cochere.
On the front lawn, I refined the plantings in the circle: the center cedar tree, the surrounding evergreens, and the ring of blooming pink azaleas. Around the inside perimeter of the circular drive are small boxwood bushes. I defined some shadow and light areas on the lawn and drive but they are not finished.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Most of the house was done except the solarium, side porch and sleeping porch. These were the parts of the house that had been altered, and I had to use the client's photographs from the 60's to reconstruct it as it was then.
I pored over these photos with a magnifying glass to paint with the best accuracy I could. At this point the house is finished except for the tops and bottoms of the columns. I needed to make sure the columns were all the right size and in the right places before finishing them.
There are still decorative concrete benches and planters to put on the porch. Until I know exactly where they will be, I will next concentrate on finishing the foreground landscape.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Today I painted the rest of the background trees and began to identify the trees on the side yard. I eliminated the dark blob in the sky for now. I may still paint foliage there, but much later.
With the help of a T-square and large triangle, I measured all the vertical lines to make sure they were true. I also checked my perspective lines. As I paint, sometimes these lines move, so I always need to check up on them to make sure they're where they belong. Sneaky little devils!
Again, working back to front, I painted under the roofs of the side porch, portico and porte cochere, making them much warmer than were before. There is a lot of reflected light bouncing about. While I was under the portico, I did the front windows and shutters, sort of. They are not finished, but I'm getting there.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Since I had decided that I was only going to paint the sky and right-hand trees, my photo only shows that part of the painting. All the rest of it remains the same.
I started with the sky and the clouds, using a different brush for each color: a warm white one, a sky-blue one, and a cloud-shadow one.
Once I was done with the sky, I painted the trees behind the house and worked my way to the right. Since there are so many trees, I made every effort to keep the greens on the gray side, or the green would be overwhelming. I also tried to make the trees different color greens. I put in enough sky holes so that the birds can fly through. When the paint dries, I will put in a white dogwood tree.
Friday, February 1, 2008
I finished laying in color on the house, roughed in the dark green shutters, the lawn, azaleas, and driveway. I have established some shadow patterns from the unseen trees, and will see how the painting speaks to me as I go along.
When this step is done, I can proceed to the fun of refining and finishing the painting.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
I continued laying in the color, refining the drawing as I went along. Nothing is finished at this point. I think there are some vertical lines that are not yet exactly right. The red shutters are from the burnt umber under-painting: the house actually has dark green shutters.
With a magnifying glass, I scrutinized carefully all the photos of the house that were taken in the 60's. Since then, the second story and ground floor porches have been changed. My client understandably wants the painting to reflect how it was when he lived there. You can see the difference in the photos that I took with the way the color lay-in appears.
I said in my last blog, that my paintings speak to me. This one has said that the stark lines of the porte cochere need to be broken up with cast shadows from unseen trees.
Tomorrow I hope to finish the color lay-in. Check my blog again on Saturday to see what progress I made.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Step 1: The photographs
The first thing I did was to photograph the home so I would have a record of how it looks today. I chose a sunny day so that I would have good light and shadow contrasts. I took many photos at many different angles: some closeups as well as distant shots. Below are two views of the house. The client chose the second view as the best. I used Photoshop to correct the camera distortion as best as possible.
After the client chose the image above, I printed it out, pasted it on a board, and painted in the background, as I imagined it would be. The client has supplied me with many old photos showing the grounds, plantings, trees, bushes, etc.
Step 2: The color sketch
The sketch below is proportionate to the final painting. It is considered a "quarter study," in that it's area is one-quarter the size of the final painting. In this case, the final painting will be a 20 x 30, so this "quarter study" is 10 x 15. I e-mailed a jpeg of it to my client for his approval.
Step 3: The burnt-umber underpainting
After my client approved the sketch, I doubled the size of the print and traced it onto the canvas. I corrected the perspective and the distortion that the camera had made. Since my lines were barely visible, I went over all the faint lines with burnt umber using a very fine brush and blocked in some darker values with larger brushes. This produced the burnt-umber under painting that you see below. You will note that the foreground tree has disappeared. I think I like it better without it, but time will tell. This is where I let the painting speak to me.
At this point, my client and his wife came to my studio to approve the underpainting. We discussed some changes that had been made to the house that departed from the original structure. I explained that making changes at this point in the process was a lot easier than later on.
Step 4: The color lay-in (part one)
Yesterday I began laying in the color, beginning with the sky, worked down through the background trees, and did a little of the house where it touched the trees. This color lay-in is quite rough...nothing is finished on it.
Tomorrow I will try to complete the color lay-in, but there is a lot of picky detail in the house to deal with. I don't want to lose my drawing, so I will have to be very careful and take my time. I may not get it all done.
Check back late Thursday and see.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Finishing the painting
I realized the reflections weren’t exactly true to the
background trees, so I carefully adjusted them. As a final touch I added three geese swimming in the river. I had to lighten the reflection from the yellow tree to make the geese stand out.
I also lightened the dark areas on the far shore: the shadow areas as well as the reflected areas.
I signed my name in the lower left corner, and will hang this at American Painting Fine Art in DC at the Potomac River School exhibition in April. Details will be found on the calendar page of my website when they become available.
Monday, January 14, 2008
The tips of the green-gold trees in the backround were practically in a straight line, so I adjusted them for better visual interest.
I added sky holes to the trees to let the birds fly through. I developed the sky reflections working with sideways strokes to simulate the broken reflection. I brightened the lights more and added streaks of sky reflections into the water areas. I also added some leaves floating on the water.