Sunday, September 24, 2017

Great-Grandma's Chair, Step 5

Painting the quilt

As I said previously, I coded the patches in the quilt, which is one of the smartest things I've done. I would be totally lost, if I hadn't. I started in the shadow area, and worked my way down and then back up the far side. Almost all the patches are different and in different colors, so I spent a lot of time mixing paint and cleaning brushes. 

Now that I'm this far, I think I will adjust the bottom part of the quilt and wrap it around in front of the chair leg, so that the leg doesn't go off the bottom of the canvas. I don't like the angle that is created by the edge of the quilt and the chair leg. It will help to keep the viewer's eye in the painting.

Painting the quilt

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Great-Grandma's Chair, Step 4

Stone wall and floor

Working back to front, I started on the stone wall. I have included a reference photo of the fireplace wall from which I worked. These are photos that I took at my client's home. It's beautiful stone, and I believe she said her husband had built it and done all the masonry. 

As I said in the previous post, I didn't think I needed to draw it in burnt umber, so I just put out my paints and drew the stone and painted it all at the same time.
 
Reference photo for stone wall background

 I tried to follow the shapes and colors the best I could. This picture shows the stone wall a bit cooler than I actually painted it, but that's easy to fix when I'm done with a glaze of a warm color. You can probably pick out which stones I used...mostly the ones on the left.

When I painted the cast shadows from the legs, I took quite a bit of time making sure that the edges were very soft. And when I got this far, I realized the drawing of the chair legs are a bit off, but I'll fix that later.
The stone wall and floor painted in.
 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Great-Grandma's Chair, Step 3

The burnt-umber underpainting

The next step was to get rid of the charcoal and make the drawing permanent with burnt umber.  So with a rag in my left hand and the brush in my right, I very carefully wipe off the charcoal, just a little bit at a time, and then paint in the lines. Getting charcoal into the paint is a big no-no. Then I added some values following the original photo. I now have a good sense of where I am going.

I decided to deal with the stone fireplace later with paint.

The burnt-umber underpainting

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Great-Grandma's Chair, Step 2

The Drawing

I printed out the picture onto plain bond paper, painted in a suggestion of the stone fireplace background and the floor. Then I taped a piece of Saran wrap across it, and very carefully made a grid with 20 equal sections across the top and 28 down the side to correspond to my 20 x 28 inch canvas. I used a fine black permanent marker for the lines, and marked the columns accordingly. 

The gridded sketch
The 20 x 28 canvas is not a standard size, so I made one by stretching Belgium linen onto stretcher bars, adding two coats of rabbit skin glue, followed by three coats of acrylic gesso. (I'm making that sound a lot simpler than it is.) Then I toned the canvas with burnt sienna, and with soft charcoal, gridded the canvas. Now it corresponds with the gridded sketch above. 

The toned and gridded linen

Then square by square, I transferred the image from the gridded sketch to the gridded canvas, again using soft vine charcoal. Since the quilt is so complicated, you can see where I put some letters in to identify the quilt patches: P for pink, G for green, B for blue, and so on.  I was bound to get totally lost if I didn't do that.  

The charcoal drawing

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Great-Grandma's Chair, Step 1

The Commission Preliminaries

A collector has commissioned me to do a painting of her great-grandmother's chair, including her grandmother's sewing box and a quilt she had made. In our preliminary meeting, we decided to use the stone wall around the fireplace as the background. I took many pictures, but ultimately I knew I had to bring the chair, the sewing box, and the quilt home with me so I could set it up in my studio. We decided that the painting would be a vertical 28 x 20, and we will put a 2" black frame around it. It already has a special corner in her house waiting for the painting.

Usually the set-up takes the most time, with a lot of rearranging and positioning the props just so.  In any painting, the composition is the most important thing, so I wanted everything to flow well, with the light that I had available to me. In a corner of my studio, I placed the chair on a still life box balanced on an old TV table so I could get it at the right height, then draped the quilt over one corner of it. I arranged the sewing basket two ways, as you can see below. The customer chose the second one which is the one that worked better.

The items in the sewing box will be rearranged many times, until I get them exactly the way I want them  My customer is adding her grandmother's New Testament bible as well.  Right now my focus is on the overall composition, and I will deal with the details later. 




This option doesn't work too well, as both the chair and the sewing basket face to the right, and there's no way for the viewer's eye to get back into the painting.

This one works better since the sewing basket faces back into the painting and helps redirect the viewer's eye.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Nature's Bounty, the final step

Finishing it up

As I said in the previous post, I had to do something to break up the static oval shape of the center wagon wheel, so I have added a lot of clumps of grass, some of which break up those lines. Those clumps also make the scene more natural looking.

You can see what a tremendous difference that makes. I'm happy with it now.  

Nature's Bounty, 16 x 20, oil on linen


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Nature's Bounty, Step 6

Refining unfinished areas

Starting again in the background, I have brightened up the valley a bit, refined the trees on both sides of the wagon, developed the ground with some areas of grass and contrasted the shadow pattern in the dirt area. My idea here is to get the sun shining on the wagon and it's flowers.

So I have added brighter lights to the  wagon and flowers, and some cascading white blossoms to the back of the wagon, which will help bring your eye into the rest of the flowers. In composing any painting, it is important for the artist to guide the viewer's eye around the painting so that the viewer will see everything. The artist is like a movie director in that way.

I have also added a little bird on one of the wagon rails to move your eye in that direction.

I'm still bothered by the center wagon wheel staring me in the face, so I will have to come up with a solution. It's distracting as any geometric shape is: a square, a triangle, a circle, and in this case, a perfect oval.  Not good.  The viewer's eye gets into these shapes and goes round and round and round and can't get out.



Thursday, August 10, 2017

Nature's Bounty, Step 5

Developing the colors and shapes

Starting from the top, I worked my way down refining the clouds, then the mountains and valley,
then the middle ground trees, and finally the wagon, the flowers, and the foreground. I made sure there was plenty of ultramarine blue in the background so it would recede, as colors gradually get warmer as they come forward.

I played around with the trees on the right, but I'm still not happy with them. The trees on the left still need to be refined as well.

The biggest change I made was to the foreground, where I added dirt to replace the paved concrete like it was in the original reference photo.  I didn't want it to look that commercial...I wanted it to be on a natural looking surface.  I'm still struggling with the cast shadows though.  

When I was finished for the day and stood back from the painting, all I could see was the big wagon wheel in the middle staring me in the face.  I would definitely have to do something about that.  You can also see that the wagon wheels are kind of floating in space, so I will have to take care of that too.  

Developing the painting.  

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Nature's Bounty, Step 4

Laying in a color foundation

As I wrote in my previous post, I had some thinking to do and some decisions to make.  First, I needed some cascading flowers, so I googled it and among hundreds of possibilities, I chose this one for inspiration. I could see just a hint of a mountain, which I liked, but I wanted more for good depth.

Inspiration for cascading flowers
 Next, I needed some mountains, and when I was in southern Germany I did a lot of photography, but the scene here was the most spectacular.  Breathtaking, actually. For those of you who are dying to know where this is, it's Burgfelden in the Swabian Albs.  Even the clouds are impressive.  So this was basically the background for my painting. It sure gives the painting depth.

Inspiration for backgrounnd

So with these two inspiring photos at hand, I combined them with the wagon and painted in the colors for a preliminary color lay-in.  You can see, I still haven't decided on the middle ground.  I want to have the wagon so that it doesn't look like it's going to fall off a cliff, but at the same time, I want to suggest that it's a part of a mountain top garden display.  

The color lay-in





Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Nature's Bounty, Step 3

Establishing the values

The next step was to go from the burnt umber drawing to laying in the values.  At this point I was still focusing on some of the original background that you can see in the wagon photo with a vague idea of some mountains in the background.  I wanted to show some depth...and it's always a good idea to have a foreground, middleground, and background. It helps to move the eye around, add interest, and a sense of place.  After all, the wagon was in southern Germany.

I have barely suggested some cascading flowers and greens in the wagon, but am still unsure as to the exact direction I am going.  Lots to think about.

The value lay-in



Saturday, July 29, 2017

Nature's Bounty, Step 2

Gridding and drawing the image

First I chose a 16 x 20 linen canvas for the painting and gridded it lightly with soft vine charcoal in inch increments, and numbered the columns and rows.
Toned canvas gridded with one-inch squares.

Then I printed out the image on regular bond paper, glued it to a piece of scrap cardboard, taped a piece of Saran Wrap to it, then drew a grid corresponding to the grid on the canvas. Again I numbered the columns and rows.
The gridded photo, 20 columns across, 16 rows down.
 Then very carefully, square by square, I transferred the image to the canvas substrate with more soft vine charcoal.  I have now accurately enlarged the drawing to the size I want to paint it. I'm still trying to decide on the background.
The charcoal drawing on the canvas.



Monday, July 24, 2017

Nature's Bounty, Step 1

Preliminary decisions

On my recent trip to Germany, we often drove by this biergarten (beer garden) that had this neat wagon parked outside.  I finally couldn't stand it any more, and requested that we pull over into the parking lot so I could photograph it. I knew it would make a great prop for a painting, but at that point didn't really know how. The more I looked at it I thought it would be great if it were filled with flowers and cascading bouquets. I figured at that point, I'd probably use the original background.

Source photo for wagon painting

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Yesterday's Shadows, Final Step

Finishing the Painting

I finished up Oma in the top window, refining the drawing so now her arm is on the windowsill and she's looking down at the cat. I've also added some more cascading flowers, and lightened Oma's house.  I signed my name in the lower left-hand corner. Done!
Yesterday's Shadows, 24 x 16, oil on linen
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Monday, July 17, 2017

Yesterday's Shadows, Step 7

Oma in the Window

From the very beginning of this painting, I knew I wanted "Oma" in one of the windows. Since this is an historic German town, an "Oma" (a German grandmother) was appropriate. But where to put her?

First I auditioned her (again on plastic wrap) in the second story window looking out.  It looked a little odd, since it was a skinny window and she looked really cramped.
Oma in second story window

 Then I decided to try her in the top window. She's just roughed in and I will think she needs to look down more at the cat.  I also had to replace the plant in the window where I first put "Oma."
I've also added some pink flowers along the alley. I like the way the eye moves around now, from the pink flowers to the cat, up the dark building, across the angled beam, and on up to "Oma."  Even though she's not the center of interest: the light at the end of the alley is, it's nice to have her there to lend some life to the scene.
Oma in top window looking out.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Yesterday' Shadows, Step 6

More Painting and Refining

Again, working my way down from top to bottom, I developed the buildings on the left, making sure they all made sense.  The windows, shutters and overhangs are all architectural characteristics peculiar to southern Germany, so I want to make them interesting and convincing.  I love the textures, everything from the stucco facades to the timbered sides.

After finishing the left, I then worked on the right side. The street lights are a great addition and help move your eye into the distance. Then I did the cobblestone alley, which was a delight to paint.  What fun!

At this stage, I've roughed in the plants, the planters, figured out what to do at the end of the alley.
I will add more flowers and I want to put in a cat.

I stepped back from the painting, and saw a very bothersome tangent line.  The center vertical line of the middle street lamp lined up exactly with the edge of the building behind it.  So I moved in about 3/16" to the left.  A pain to do, but necessary.

Cat roughly painted on plastic wrap and positioned in front of one of the doorways.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Yesterday's Shadows, Step 5

Refining the Painting

Working back to front, I develop the sky a bit more, altering the shapes of the clouds, and adding a light mixture of phthalo green and white as I near the horizon, where the sky always gets warmer. 

Then I start on the buildings in the back...my idea today is to paint that sliver of buildings in the light, and get the contrast established between them and the darker buildings. I work on the windows and the timbered facades, scumbling some lights over the dark lay-in to give them a weathered look. I'm not too worried about straight lines, as these building are so old, that nothing is straight any more.

On the left hand building, I used a warm orange-gray mixture as there is a lot of reflected light bouncing up off the alley.  The other side of the buildings will be cooler.

Refining the painting, back to front


 


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Yesterday's Shadows, Step 4

The color lay-in

With my palette laid out with the following colors, titanium white, cad yellow light, yellow ochre, cad orange, cad red light, permanent madder deep (alizarin crimson substitute), ultramarine blue, phthalo blue, phthalo green, and ivory black, I add color to the burnt umber underpainting. I try to get as close as possible to the finished colors, but there's a lot I'm still roughing in. It's better to be darker at this point, so if I need to scumble a lighter color on top, it will be effective.

In my head I hear Daniel Greene's words:  "light against dark, warm against cool."  I want as much contrast as possible of the tall houses against the lit ones at the back of the alley. I mix a lot of grays.  There's not a whole lot of color in this painting. When I was in Germany, I noticed that the red roofs are more like a combo of burnt sienna with a little orange added, as they are the color of red clay.

Color lay-in

Friday, June 30, 2017

Yesterday's Shadows, Step 3

Laying in the burnt umber drawing and shadow pattern

Very carefully, with a rag in my left hand to wipe out the charcoal and my brush in my right hand, I follow the lines a little bit at a time. I am using burnt umber with Liquin, diluted with mineral spirits to follow the fat over lean regime.

I add some darker values on the roofs so I an get an idea where I'm going. This is such an important stage. If I don't like it at this point, I sure won't like it when I get color on it. 

At this point notice that I've moved some windows...the top left one was further to the right,  the second one down was barely noticeable because of some tangent lines, and the one at the lower left didn't even exist.  

The burnt umber under-painting


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Yesterday's Shadows, Step 2

The Drawing

Having cropped the photograph to my liking, I used my proportion wheel to decide what size canvas I would use and settled on a 24 x 16. 

With soft vine charcoal, I gridded the canvas in 2" increments. Sorry, I lost the photo of it.  :)

Then I printed out the jpg, laid a piece of plastic wrap over it, and gridded it to correspond. 

I then enlarged the photo onto the canvas, by drawing square by square.  To me this is the safest way to enlarge a complicated piece, without losing any of the subtleties.  See below:

At this point, I am only concerned with the placement on the canvas.  It is pretty loose, but I can't get too precise with the charcoal.

 I prepared the canvas by stretching Belgium linen on stretcher bars and then primed it with rabbit's skin glue and Gamblin's Alkyd Ground.  Several times a year I will undertake this procedure and do 10 to 12 canvases at a time in various sizes so that I have them available when I need them.  This particular one I prepared about four years ago.  On the back of each one, I attach a label with the preparation procedure and the date of completion.   






Monday, June 26, 2017

Yesterday's Shadows, Step 1

Planning the painting

Recently I returned from a painting trip to southern Germany and photographed many of the charming towns with red tiles roofs that have existed for centuries.  This will be my first painting from a town called Bad Urach at the foot of the Swabish Albs. As we were walking toward the center of town, I came across this scene and knew immediately that I had to paint it. Below is the original photo.
This is the original untouched photo, where you can see at the end of the alley a white paneled truck on the left and a large black opened door on the right.
Of course, I knew I had to do things with it.  With Photoshop and my artistic license in hand, I laid in streaks of sunlight across the cobblestone alley, added a tree coming on the left hanging over the wall, then added other flowering bushes along the way.  The major change was to substitute the ugly white paneled truck and black door with a photo of some houses extending the alley way.  Eventually, that whole area will be lit.  I also plan to put a cat in the shadows.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Featured Artist on National Oil & Acrylic Painter's Society Blog



Exciting news:

For the next two weeks I am honored to be the new featured artist on the NOAPS blog where it showcases outstanding works of art from its members.  To read the blog, click here.


  This painting, "Autumn Symphony" is one of my more recent paintings.