Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Musician's Life

Finishing the painting, step 13

Well, it's done. I finished the sheet music, added a hinge on the cabinet, put in the wood grain and signed my name.

I like her title: "A Musician's Life." It says it all.

When I find an interesting painting to demonstrate, I'll do another one on this blog. Meanwhile, I have two more workshops coming in Millwood, VA on the 16th and 17th of October and another one at Black Hill Regional Park, Boyds, MD on the 13th & 14th of November. For more information, go to my workshop page on my website.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 25

Finishing the painting, step 12

I added more highlights to the clarinet and to the temple bells. Then with a lot of fortitude, I began the music. A few false starts, and I now have one page of the music done. I had to repaint the other page, because the gray bars weren't working at all. I discovered that with a itsy-bitsy brush I could actually paint the horizontal lines of the music bars...I didn't have to suggest them with a gray area. So with a fresh coat of white paint, I'll begin laying in the musical notes again when all is dry.

The door pull which I had carefully drawn and painted on the cabinet, was attracting too much attention. So I wiped it out, and with the inspiration of a William Harnett print, I have roughed in a cabinet similar to one that is in one of his paintings. It still need refining, though.

So at this point, I'm nearly done: finish the one page of music, refine the cabinet, and sign my name.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 24

Finishing the painting, step 11

My goal today was to finish the sheet music, but it didn't happen. I changed the shape of the paper...I had some tangent lines and intersections that I didn't like. The paper curved over the edge somewhat awkwardly. But I did get the bars on the sheet music, and when that's dry, I can put in the notes.

I then tackled the credenza. Of course, that sounds easy...but they're are a lot of decisions to make. I said in the last blog, that I didn't like the color. I'm more interested in a redder, more mahogany look to contrast with the other wood tones in the painting. It took me a while to design the drawers, and put them in an interesting relationship to the rest of the painting. I then went around my house photographing drawer pulls, so I had something as a guide. The picture I got off the e-bay was basically useless for that purpose. The image was just too small.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 23

Finishing the painting, step 10

Back to the bird whistle...I refined it even more. It had gotten too fat on one side. Those gremlins were in the studio again with my paint brushes!

I then tackled the lettering on the vase, which I may darken a bit later when it dries. I painted the sheet music, went over the areas where I had roughed in the music bars. I decided it would be easier if I began with the clean paper, so I'll let this dry and then paint the music bars and notes.

The table has been really bothering me, and I finally decided that it was too horsey. I didn't like the color...looked too much like oak and it was too similar to the unicord. I went to e-bay and found a picture of an antique mahogany cabinet/chest which I can use as inspiration. I copied the image and put it in a document so that I can refer to it as needed. I repainted the cabinet area with a narrower ledge with black, Q-red, and yellow ochre rather than the black, cad red, and yellow ochre. The new color combo makes a richer color, even though I have strayed from the Zorn palette. I'll add a suggestion of drawers and handles when this is dry.

At this point, I have yet to do the music, finish the cabinet, and finish the clarinet. Probably I will find some other areas to pick at.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 22

Finishing the painting, step 9

As usual, I started out checking my drawing, and I found that the bird whistle on the drum still wasn't quite the right wasn't large enough. With black and liquin, I glazed the drapery behind it to make it stand out a bit more.

I continued refining the tone holes and keys on the clarinet. I'm not quite done with them yet, but I can only work on them so long for my sanity. I added the red cords to the castanets, which look really neat. I was afraid the red might be overwhelming, but it isn't.

So after doing that, I got in a brightening mood. I brightened and lightened the wooden drumsticks, and the drum, the bow, the tambourine and its jingles, the hand painted design on the vase, and the bells.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 21

Finishing the Painting, step 8

I spent most of this painting time working on the clarinet...refining the tone holes and keys...making sure that everything connected properly. I'm still not finished but I had to work on something else.

So I worked on the vase...darkened the shadows around the edges, darkened the blue design, but didn't get far enough to start the lettering.

There was too much similarity between the keys on the keyboard and the vase, so I lightened the keys a bit. Next time I'll warm them up a bit and darken the top of the keyboard at the top of the painting.

I also added a highlight on the bow.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 20

Finishing the Painting, step 7

The drawing on the tambourine wasn't quite right. There were problems with the ellipse, which I have now corrected. I also lightened the front of it, giving it more dimension.

Then I corrected the reddish bird whistle which had been giving me a fit. I think it's correct now. Then I brightened the blue handle on the bells and the drumsticks on the music sheet.

Finally I am able to confront the tone holes and keys on the clarinet! No surprise there. I'll have to redraw them before I can paint them.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 19

Finishing the painting, step 6

First I straightened out the castanets. I don't know whether the light had changed, but the light I saw on them today was much nicer. So I repainted them with the better light and straightened out the drawing a bit. I like them so much better. I'll like them even better when the red cords are painted. Those red accents should really jazz up this painting.

Then my masochistic streak took over and I tackled some of the picky details...the rope on the drum, the keys and tone holes on the clarinet, the lettering on the gong, the wire on the unicord (again) and began the music bars. Lotsa fun!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 18

Finishing the painting, step 5

Moving on to the left, I wanted to finish the pitcher. But once I got started I realized I had to do the bird whistle first. It was considerably too small, not to mention that it is complicated, but I finally got it correctly drawn and painted. It still needs some refinement.

Once that was done, I moved onto the pitcher, which fortunately was already drawn correctly. I repainted some of the surface and started in on the decoration. Here was another case where I had to add some ultramarine blue...the gray just wasn't bright enough to be convincing. The surface where I had laid down the liquin was getting tacky and so I had to quit the design though I wasn't quite finished.

I then revisited the unicord and bow, which is still giving me fits. Part of the problem is that I have the bow discreetly taped to the unicord, and it moves! So I have to watch it every minute. I seem to have some sort of problem feeling those curves in the bow, but I think I've got it now. I darkened and narrowed the right edge, added some woodgrain, added the stretched wire and have pretty well finished.

Lastly, I moved back to the keyboard, refined the black keys a bit. The black keys, of course, go down behind the white keys so there has to be room around the actual keys. There's a reflected light on that surface which defines the shape. I added some nomenclature on the keyboard and I think that's done. The keyboard is a Yamaha and I have queried my customer to see if there's somewhere I can include the lettering. Often I have to pull out my artistic license and do something that isn't really there. I'll have to wait and see what she says.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 17

Finishing the painting, step 4

Today I did the jingles on the tambourine which were kind of fun. I then refined the bells just a little bit more, and brightened the highlights.

When I checked the drawing on the the remaining castanets, I found a drawing problem with the horn, the drum, and the castanets. Just a tad off here and there. When I was satisfied with the drawing I painted the castanets. They have a strange shape and color, which I mixed with black, white and cad red light.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 16

Finishing the painting, step 3

Again, I checked my drawing before starting to paint for the day. I still had the vertical tone blocks and the bird whistle to face. I decided I would deal with them, repaint the bells in a warmer gray and repaint the grommets, and finish the temple bells and drapery.

After much measuring and adjusting, I am happy with the bird whistle and tone blocks. The drapery went fairly quickly, and the temple bells were fun. I'm not sure I have the ellipse right on the top left one yet...will check that next time.

Basically, this part of the painting is finished. There are still a few details: the red cord that holds the castanets together and a black leather strap which fits around the top part of the triangle.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 15

Finishing the painting, step 2

As always, I check the drawing first. After looking at the painting carefully, it seemed to me that things were still a bit out of kilter. I angled the clarinet more and checked the rest of the small instruments. I know the tall tone blocks aren't right...I'll have to deal with them later. I decided to continue on with the instruments on the drum. I really want to see what they look like finished. And they are fun to paint.

I worked on the castanets, the bells, the bird whistle, and started working on the drapery. You see, I am avoiding those tall tone blocks...just can't deal with them today. The bird whistle is also giving me fits! But I'll get them right eventually.

One of the problems with this limited palette is getting the colors right. I have worked on the bells, but they are too cool. I'll rework them adding more yellow ochre and cad red light to the gray. Since the bell handle is blue plastic, I will have to use some real blue paint. I tried manganese, thalo, and ultramarine...the ultramarine seems to work best.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 14

Finishing the painting, step 1

Perhaps I will work in the same sequence as before, beginning with the gong. I have refined it a bit, sparkled up the highlights, and am going to let it dry before I put in the lettering.

I think I'll do the keyboard next, since it is in rough shape, with the keys all out of whack. Making the spacing and the keys all exact is tedious, to say the least. I have gone as far as I can go...the paint is too wet to continue. I'm nearly done, just have some refinements to make.

Now onto the the unicord. I have made progress with it, but the bow still isn't right. It is really tricky! I'll have to work on it some more, but the same problem arises...the surface is too wet to continue. When I get back to it, I'll add some wood grain.

Some redrawing here: from looking at the overall set-up and comparing it to my painting, I knew that the vase wasn't quite right. Too long. So I have adjusted it...actually took about 1/2 inch off the bottom, moved up the bird whistle accordingly, lined up the edge of the table which was off all the way across, and angled the clarinet more. Always redrawing!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 13

Finishing the under-painting

I want to get the whole canvas covered with color. Using the Zorn palette is a challenge and I realize that I won't be able to be a purist on this. I will need some quinacridone red (Q-red) on the wood block and a real blue on the bells handle.

Meanwhile, I am under-painting the keyboard and after I got a rough placement of the keys, it all looks wrong. Under careful scrutiny, my big problem is that I don't have a real keyboard, here. Remember I just the cardboard box standing in for it. And it's only doing a so-so job. The base of the keyboard is too deep, so I have lengthened the keyboard by one key. I absolutely refuse to measure and repaint those keys. I will have to redo the black ones. That's not too big of a deal.

So right now the keyboard looks a bit strange where I wiped out some black keys. There was too much wet paint to continue, so I'll wait and re-draw and re-paint when it is dry.

As I tackle the unicord and bow, I see that the bow is no longer where I had it. I even had it taped to the instrument. I moved it and retaped it and I like it better, so that's where it will stay. I hope I can paint it before it moves again.

Adding the white paper and refining the clarinet a bit also helps. I wanted to see what the little drum sticks looked like...I am so afraid they will look like blond eyeballs. Now that I have painted them, they look OK. I think no matter where I put them, they might look funny.

At this point, I'm just eager to get this part done so I can get to finishing the painting.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 12

Color under-painting, step 2

Continuing on to the right, I got involved in some of these smaller items. I wanted to see how the colors of the limited palette worked on these items, and how much variation I could get. As you can see, there's lots of variation.

As I got down to the triangle, I saw that the drawing wasn't quite right. So I corrected it and basically finished it. It still needs some highlights and brighter reflected lights, but right now it is the most finished part of the painting.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 11

Color under-painting, step 1

This still life set-up is basically browns and blues. I think I can do this with the Anders Zorn limited palette of white, yellow ochre, cadmium red light, and black. I will use the Gamblin Chromatic black, which is really a mixture of blues and whatevers. But no ivory black, which tends to crack.

I like using a limited palette for two reasons. First, there's the built-in color harmony. Secondly, it is SO easy to remix a color, because you have so few choices.

I started with the gong, trying to work back to front. Then I moved to my right and down to the tambourine. All the while I am painting this, I am still refining my drawing. For instance, I realized the tambourine wasn't thick enough, so I had to make adjustments there.

The "blue drapery" is just black and white, which looks very cool and blue next to the warm colors. The gray on the tambourine, is black and white, plus a dab of yellow ochre and cad red light to warm it up. So it is actually a warm gray.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 10

The underpainting

I need to redraw everything with paint and get rid of the charcoal...this is critical. I don't want to mix the dry charcoal in with the paint.

Using just ultramarine blue and terra rosa, I wiped away the charcoal with a dry rag as I painted in the lines and values. With these two colors, I was able to rough in some color similar to the colors that will be in the final painting. The keyboard is starting to look more like a keyboard.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 9

Final Charcoal Drawing

I redrew everything more precisely, still moved a few things a bit here and there. I am still looking at shapes, negative shapes, and tangent lines. But everything is basically where it was in the rough sketch. There are no details in at this point and some of the shapes are a little wiggly. Drawing with soft vine charcoal is it's own challenge, since it's unclear where the tip of it will connect with the canvas.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 8

Rough sketch

This is a VERY ROUGH sketch. Before I could go any further, I had to see if everything fit on the medium gray-toned 18 x 24 canvas. I loosely sketched this with soft vine charcoal, sight size, fiddled a little more and got it all in. I had to lower the gong and the temple bells about an inch, but that was OK. Right now I am only interested in the larger shapes, the negative shapes, and tangent lines. No details here.

I will be drawing and painting in the sight-size method, see above. I have placed my easel with the 18 x 24 canvas EXACTLY parallel to the set-up. (The distortion you see in the picture is typical camera distortion.) This is by far the easiest and most accurate way to draw and paint. The concept is simple: What is on the canvas must look like what is on the set-up. Measuring and comparing is a breeze.

The long white vertical strip on the right is where I cropped the set-up. All my vertical measuring was done from the left edge of the strip. The horizontal lines all line up...I hold a stick horizontally and make sure the image is the same as in the set-up. For instance, the top of the pitcher and the bottom of the pitcher is the same on both. As I say, it is a breeze.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 7

Set-up #7

Since I have not been able to condense this set-up satisfactorily, I have put the tambourine back where it was several steps ago. But I have angled it more so that the jingle-jangles are more visible. (Sorry, I don't know the technical name, but you know what I mean.)

The entire set-up is now much tighter and I will probably crop a bit off the right as you see the picture. I am thinking of letting the drum bleed off the right side.

In general, I think I'll go with this. There are still some tangent lines that have to be dealt with, but I'll do that as I go along. For instance, the top of the pitcher lines up EXACTLY with the line between the black and brass areas of the gong. And the left edge of the soft drum stick lines up almost with the left edge of the blond tone block. The black part of the tambourine runs right into the black part of the gong. The two drumsticks on the sheet music could be a bit more artistically positioned.

It is a great help to me to photograph these set-ups and study them before I tackle the actual painting. I am able to see things that I probably wouldn't see otherwise.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 6

Set-up #5

The clarinet arrived and I am tickled to see it in the set-up. It adds a lot of class!

I fiddled around with the tambourine...I had said earlier that I thought it was too close to the gong because it mimicked the shape and size. So I moved it to the far right and pushed the Buffalo drum more to the left.

I added the can see one set on the drum and the other is tucked away on the far right. They are difficult to place because if I'm not careful, they'll look like large black blobs. Each pair is joined with rust-colored cord which adds another colorful touch. I'll try to use both pairs, but I'm not sure I can pull it off.

Here again I am struggling with containing the set-up within the 18 x 24 allotted area. By moving the tambourine to the right, the whole set-up grew width-wise again. This won't do at all. I can paint the items slightly smaller than life, but I have to be careful that they don't look strange. I'll try again.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 5

Set-up #4

In a communication with my client, she indicated that she would prefer a clarinet rather than the recorder. Since I don't happen to have a clarinet, I replaced the recorder with paper-towel holders the length of a clarinet, which is about 6-8 inches longer than the recorder (top picture). I knew this might make a difference in the set-up. I took a picture of it, printed it out, and painted in the clarinet from photos on websites. I like it SO much better (bottom picture).

She also wished that the painting could include castanets. So I needed to visit her and pick them up and photograph the keyboard, which I hadn't done in the initial visit. I showed her the picture where I had painted in the clarinet and she also liked it SO much better.

There was a long shot that I could paint it from photos, but there was no way. It's a complicated instrument with lots of silver doodads casting shadows all over the place. To make a long story short, I bought a used one on e-bay. It was actually cheaper in the long run than renting one a half-hour away. Remember, I live in the country where nothing is convenient. This way, that clarinet might turn up in another painting some day. It is really a beautiful instrument!

Everything is now on hold until the clarinet arrives.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 4

Set-up #3

I moved the keyboard to the left and put it in shadow. This works much better and keeps the emphasis off the white keys. I also placed the sheet music on the table for the same reason.

What bothers me most about this arrangement is the repetition of the gong shape in the tambourine. I'll have to work on this. Meanwhile the items on the right are quite jumbled, but it's a start.

I think with a bare minimum of tweaking, the left side will stay basically the same. I'm having a difficult time squeezing everything into the 18 x 24 space.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 3

Set-up #2

Since I didn't care for the previous arrangement, I tried reversing the major elements...the unicord and the keyboard. I have put the unicord in shadow, which works very well as a lead-in on the left into the painting. It is a large object and by putting it in shadow, its impact is strong but subtle.

I still don't care for the bright light on the keyboard and the sheet music, so I will continue to rearrange the objects.

Another problem with this arrangement is that all the light and white objects are on the right and the darker wood-toned objects are on the left. They really should be better balanced with a better distribution of lights and darks.

I'll try again.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tools of the Trade, Step 2

Setp-up #1

Setting up still life elements is the most important and challenging part of any still life painting. It is also the most creative. It is critical that the painting has good solid composition, depth, an entryway, a focal point, and an interesting color arrangement.

For the most part, these instruments are either black or in various wood tones. Add the white sheet music and off white of the drum, and it all becomes very monochromatic, if not boring. I introduced a blue drape backdrop, the blue matching the blue in the Portugese pitcher, adding some continuity. I particularly like these blue elements, as they complement the reddish brown tones in the woods.

In this first arrangement, I placed the keyboard on the left and the unicord on the right, with a jumble of the "tools" arranged in between them. I lit the still life lit from the left, which is my usual procedure. I didn't like all the light on the unicord nor all the light on the sheet music, and I felt the pitcher was getting too much attention.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Painting: Tools of the Trade, Step 1

Constructing the recorder

It has been several months since I demonstrated a painting here on this site. Mainly because I haven't done a major painting since I finished "Evening at Great Bend," which is now hanging at the University of Maryland University College Arts Program Gallery. It is in the Washington Society of Landscape Painters exhibition of Chesapeake Bay watershed properties. My painting of Great Bend PA is on the Susquehanna River on the PA/NY border. The source of the Chesapeake Bay reaches all the way into New York state past Binghamton, NY.

I have been busy giving workshops, participating in plein air competitions and events, and doing small paintings for various exhibits, which have all been rewarding and successful.

In between all of this, a friend asked me if I could do a still life of her musical "tools of the trade." She is a composer and music teacher and wanted to know if I could combine a number of her teaching instruments and music. After we reached an agreement, I went to her home to collect the "tools." What she couldn't lend me was her keyboard, because she wasn't sure when she might need it. But she did give me permission to demonstrate her painting on my blog.

But I came back to my studio with everything else: unicord with bow, gong, tambourine, buffalo drum with soft drumstick, temple bells, a maraca, tone blocks, wood blocks with drum sticks, triangle, bells on blue strap, bird whistles and some pages of her original music. She threw in a favorite pitcher from Portugal for color. In addition, she suggested I might include a recorder, but she didn't have one. But I did, and so you will see it included.

I laid all of these items on a table, and should have taken a picture of the cluttered area. It looked like no way was I going to make a painting out of all this.

Since I didn't have the keyboard, I figured I had to make a reasonable facsimile of one to use in my setup. So with two empty frame boxes taped together, some black and white paper, and a black marker, I made the "keyboard" shown above.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Evening at Great Bend

The Finished Painting

This is the time to look more and paint less. I use my mirror a lot to see what if anything, bothers me. My mirror is my best friend while I am painting.

In this final fiddling stage I made the following refinements:

1. Brightened the houses and added some shutters to their windows. Added some more telephone poles and highlighted some stones on the gravel drive.

2. Glazed with a paste of cadmium red light and white over the entire reflections to lighten them. As I said earlier, I had to paint them the same value and color as the landscape, since I had nothing to go by.

3. Added spots of water sparkles in the water to indicated a little waft of breeze.

4. Added foliage with highlights to the bushes in the rocks. Defined some larger rocks.

5. Massed more of the foreground rocks so they didn't looks so fussy. I went to my file of boulders and rocks and used them for reference.

6. Removed two rocks near the gravel path that looked somewhat like sheep.

So, I'm done and am delighted to have this painting finished for the Washington Society of Landscape Painters' summer exhibition at the University of Maryland University College in conjunction with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Great Bend, Step 14

Developing the Foreground
Before I tackled the foreground, I was bothered by the boring repetition of the trees along the bank and their reflections. They were all pretty much the same size and the spaces between the trees were uninteresting. I'm not sure I'm completely satisfied, but I will work on this problem again when I get to the fiddling stage.

I worked on the rocks in the foreground pretty much the way they were already. I tried to mass as many of them as I could and just pull out a few for emphasis. I added the scrub bushes amid the rocks, but they can use some more red at the base of them. From a distance they disappear, which is not what I intended. Probably a few more sprigs of green in and among the rocks will help. I would have put them in at this stage, but the paint was all wet and I want to do this fine work on top of dry paint.

Meanwhile, I am looking at the painting deciding what needs to be done next. I am happy with it at this point. It just needs a little fiddling here and there, as I have said. At this point, there's nothing screaming at me that it needs attention, and that is a good thing.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Great Bend, Step 13

Resolving the Reflections
After much painting in and wiping out and lots of measuring, the reflections are about done. I got stuck doing the houses in the painting, since I was basically working from memory and my experience. Finally I found up a newspaper section on houses for sale and was able to work from some of them for shapes and details.

When I didn't know what to do with part of a house, I painted a tree or a bush in front of it. Actually that has a good effect, because it keeps the hard lines at a minimum. The trick was to have structure to the buildings but keep all the edges soft. My brush strokes are entirely vertical.

Since I don't have anything specific in front of me, I had to make the values and colors in the reflections the same as in the middle ground. After it all dries, I will probably glaze the darks lighter and the lights darker.

By adding ripples to the area where the top of the mountain reflection met the sky reflection, this area is more integrated and believable. I will also had streaks of light reflections to indicate a some breezy water to break up the solid dark reflection of the mountain.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Great Bend, Step 12

Resolving the Town and Middleground

As I work my way down from the top of the mountain, I am acutely aware that the colors and values will become more vivid. Saying that the other way around, as the trees move up the mountain, they will decrease in value and become grayer. The very top of the mountain should have trees with a rosy-grayish-glow from the sky. The trees have many colors...from green to gold, to gray where the leaves have come off the branches.

Designing the position of the houses and church in the town is important. I need to have enough buildings to say "town" but not too many so that it looks like a Monopoly game. In the first photo above is my initial town design. I decided that the church steeple was too close to the center of the painting, so I have moved it to the other side, so that now the church faces the other houses. I like this a lot better. Again, this is why I can't do the reflections until I figure out where all these buildings are going to go.

I haven't gotten as far as I would have liked...the bushes and small trees next to the river are unfinished, but I'm close. Some of the houses need refinement...I'll save that for another day.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Great Bend, Step 11

Refining the Middleground

Finally I have decided one house on the left side will balance all the houses in the town on the right. So I painted it in along with some deciduous trees and pines. I accented a farm area on the mountain and emphasized the land at the water's edge.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Great Bend, Step 10

Finalizing the Sky

Using the same limited palette of warm cadmium colors, I began with a mixture of white tinted with yellow to bump of the light of the setting sun. It needed an impasto effect. Then I refined some of the light streaks so they were interesting and interactive. At this point, it's all about the shapes of the light.

A red-orange glaze over the mountain where the sun sets gives the glow I am looking for.

I developed the large tree mass even more, adding some good dark accents. I also developed the other trees along the river bank.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Great Bend, Step 9

The Foreground

Still working from top to bottom, I now am able to paint the water reflecting the sky. I have made several stabs at this and made a muddy mess. I'll have to wait until it's dry to clean it up.

For the stony bank in the foreground, I laid in a medium toned gray made with the same cobalt blue and cadmium red light mixture. I then came back on top of that with a lighter tone to suggest the larger stones. That was fun! I added some darker notes and some lighter ones. I'll get to the bushy grasses later.

At this point, I can stand back from the painting and get a general idea of what the final picture will be. I squint at it and look at it in a mirror. The good news is that I like the way it is going.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Great Bend, Step 8

Painting More Middleground

I developed the middleground some more on the right behind the town. Then I had some real fun and worked into the large tree mass on the left. I wanted to get a nice interesting shape with a variety of sky holes. I have edged the leaves with red-orange to give the feeling of bright sun shining through the leaves.

Continuing from top to bottom, I then put in some reflection of the mountain. I am trying to see how all these disparate pieces fit together. So many different shapes and values all hanging together in the glow of the sunset.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Great Bend, Step 7

Painting the Middleground

As I like to work from top to bottom and back to front, the next step was to develop the middleground. Somewhere along the line I am going to have to figure out EXACTLY which houses go where, but I'm not quite ready for that now. That is really a detail. My concern now is to establish the middleground shapes in a color and value close to where I want them to end up.

I worked in some more color on the mountain and moved down toward the water's edge. I filled in with color where the I-81 bridge had been in the center area. I then developed the silhouette of the bushes and trees along the river and the stone/sandy bank. Since I can't use the colors in the photos I have to think hard about what these colors would be, given the rosy glow of the sunset.

My main goal was to establish the value of the left-hand stand of trees. It is an important dark value that sets the tone of the rest of the painting.

I added some reflections, but I can't finalize them until I finalize the trees, land, and bushes that are being reflected.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Great Bend, Step 6

Painting the Sky

First I made a pattern of brilliant white, actually white mixed with some yellow to warm it up. Following my sketch and the photo, I added streaks of warm colors made with cadmium colors. I used the cobalt to cool down some areas. I worked with vertical strokes to keep all the edges VERY soft.

Using basically the same colors, but with more cobalt blue, I moved on down into the mountains. Since the sky was wet, I could easily work the shapes together, wet in wet, keeping those edges soft as well. The front mountain has more cadmium red in it to bring it forward. The entire painting should have a glow of red and orange when I am finished.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Great Bend, Step 5

The Underpainting

I have doubled all the dimensions in the quarter-size study and transferred them onto this 24 x 30 linen canvas. I paint while I draw, so there's no line drawing as such. I fill in values as I go along. This was done with burnt sienna and burnt umber for the darker values on a warm-toned canvas.

On the left, you can see that scrubby bush and a companion a bit clearer. This is all very rough at this point...just placement of different areas with a focus on shapes and values and whether they are all working together well. It gives me an opportunity to study the painting as a whole.

I have yet to understand how artists can totally complete one area of a painting at a time. I learned to develop the whole painting...keeping all stages pretty much the same. This is what I do.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Great Bend, Step 4

Color Sketches

I put out all my colors on my palette, and worked over the underpainting. I like the glow of the sunset and the way the rosy color flows over the entire scene. I used a fairly limited palette of warm colors: lots of cadmium yellow light, cadmium red light, burnt sienna, and cobalt blue. And of course, white.

The major change that I have made is to move the town to the right. You can see in the original photos, that the town is adjacent to the large tree mass on the left. For balance sake, I need to move it so there would be something of interest on the right. As I go along, I will figure out exactly what buildings and houses will be where. I am thinking of just a few houses with a church spire rising above some trees. Perhaps on the mountain I will put some spots of reflected light from a roof or two.

I have also added trees and bushes along the bank, which previously was under the bridge and very austere.

I propped the sketch on an easel for review. After many passes by, I found one area that really jumped out at me. When my eye keeps going to one area, I can figure there's something wrong there. In this case, look carefully at the top sketch. On the left, there is a dark area of water that traps my eye. The shore line above it and the foreground shoreline form basically a mirror image. There is no flow or interest in this area. My eye definitely gets stuck here.

In the bottom sketch I have added some scrubby green bushes which soften the bottom shore line and gracefully leads your eye into the back shore line. Everything else between the two sketches is the same.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Great Bend, Step 3

The One-Quarter Size Sketch

When I was doing portraits, my routine procedure was to present two rough color sketches to the client. These were done 1/4 size so it was easy to work on them as well as to enlarge them. It was also easy to visualize what the final painting would look like.

I learned that this was a logical way to work...easy to make changes and solve design problems without investing too much time. I do this often when I am doing a large painting. In this case, I am doing a drawing in burnt sienna and burnt umber on a piece of illustration board cut to 12 x 15, dimensions 1/2 the final size, but the area is 1/4. Which is why it is called a quarter-size sketch. The final painting will be 24 x 30. All I have to do is double the dimensions to my final canvas.

Here is the preliminary drawing/sketch. Basically this is the drawing as an underpainting. My next step will be to go over this in color.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Great Bend, Step 2

First color sketch

Since I didn't have the opportunity to do a plein air sketch in Great Bend, I am having to rely on photos and memory. This will be a large painting: 24 x 30 and so I will be working from color sketches. This first one is VERY rough.

I printed out the middle two of the photos in the previous blog. I cropped and pasted them together as shown above. You can see where they join.

The big change here is the elimination of the bridge, which is I-81. I chose a sunset from a photo that I took last summer. See below:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

New Painting: Great Bend, Step 1

The Photography

En route to Cazenovia, New York this past October to deliver paintings to the Gallery of CNY, my husband and I drove up I-81, which in some places runs parallel to the Susquehanna River as it wends its way through Pennsylvania. The Susquehanna is the head water for the Chesapeake Bay and its origin is in New York state north of Binghamton. I-81 crosses the river at a town called Great Bend, which gets its name from the obvious great bend in the Susquehanna River. I could see places where I could take photos on our return. Which I did.

Above are photos that I took...the top two are looking back toward the town, I got a little closer for the second two, and the bottom two are looking in the opposite direction, which I wanted for additional source material.

In July and August, the Washington Society of Landscape Painters will be exhibiting paintings of the Chesapeake Bay watershed to benefit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Paintings from the entire watershed will be on display at the University of Maryland University College in Adelphi, Maryland.

This paintings is for that exhibition. Finally I have started a new painting.