16 February 2017

Fresh Paint: Portrait of Timothy

It's been a very long time since I painted a face.  I spent 2016 studying landscape.  Even though I haven't done a portrait in a while, I feel those landscape lessons spilling over into my figurative work.  All training helps. 

I forgot what a solid pleasure it is to paint people.  And to be honest, at this point, I'm less concerned with the final result, and more interested in the process and capturing my responses to my subjects.  I show up in the studio and the Muse takes care of the rest.  That seems to be a good partnership for me at the moment.

Portrait of Timothy, oil on linen, 12x16"

My main technical focus here was on value.  I wanted a subtle value contrast between light and shadow. Something more nuanced than my normal approach of bright lights and dark shadows.  I lit the subject with soft, indirect natural light (outdoor shade), rather than a single direct spot light.  The underlying challenge was to keep the value families on the shadow and light sides separated.  When they overlap, the illusion of 3D form is lost.

I also wanted more interesting flesh colors.  I'm getting bored with the skin tones I get from my limited palette. The limited palette is a good tool for learning how to mix paint, and a lot of teachers argue that it produces better color harmonies.  Maybe.  But at some point all those beautiful, juicy oil colors out there need to be explored, too.

For this painting I used a palette of 11 colors vs my normal 6.  The flesh tones in this piece were based on terra rosa and naples yellow, instead of cad red light and yellow ochre, which I used in the past...a hold over from my 'Zorn palette' student days.

Here is the progression in 4 steps.  Follow this link for a description of my process.  That's enough for now.  Happy painting.

The framed portrait...

25 January 2017

Landscape Painting Process...Start to Finish

Happy New Year!!!  I haven't posted in a few months.  Too busy.  But I'm still here and I'm making art.  In 2016 I focused on studying landscape painting and drawing with Deborah Paris online.  I needed another genre to complement my portrait art.  I'm done with classes for a while, but I learned a huge amount, which I hope is apparent from today's post.

"Cuyamaca Pines" is a sort of final exam from my landscape studies, pulling together lessons learned from Deborah and Nature.  This is a place in the local mountains my husband and I hike often.  The deep shadows in the foreground created a feeling of safety and peace I wanted to convey in the painting. That was the concept.

Cuyamaca Pines, 12x16" oil on linen

This painting began as a simple charcoal sketch, from a series done in the field.  Once I had a composition I liked, I worked up the main shapes and values using notan and 4-value studies.

I like this step-wise process...art chunking.  It's exciting to see the concept evolve, and if it's not working at these early stages, I can stop, knowing the effort spent was minimal.  Art is not all about the final painting.

The original charcoal sketch, 6x8"
The 4-value and notan sketches

Below is the progression of the studio painting.  I use standard methods.  Starting with the original charcoal sketch, blow it up to final size and transfer to the canvas.  Re-state the transfer lines in ink.  Begin with a monochrome underpainting, this one in Vasari Shale, to establish values.  While that dries, work through the color harmonies and mix the paint pools.  Finally, apply the paint.

With so much already worked out before putting brush to canvas,  I can focus during the painting stage on areas where I need the most improvement, like brushwork, edges and surface quality.

Cuyamaca Pines progression from upper left

The final painting framed. 

14 September 2016

Painting Clouds

I’m thinking alot about clouds at the moment.  What colors they are, how their edges form, how to paint them.  I just finished Deborah Paris’ online course “The Painted Sky”.  There is a lot to understand about the sky, and I look up now with a little more understanding.

Here is a painting I did during the course.  Part invention and part plein air sketch.  I used a 3-step process starting with a thumbnail, then a value study, then finally the painting, done wet-in-wet.  I like the process, it feels logical to me.  First handle composition and values, then get down to color.

Grasslands, 9x12", oil on linen

Here are the thumbnail and value study for Grasslands.

Thumbnail, 2x3", graphite on 90lb sketch paper

Value study, 4x5.25", chalk and charcoal on toned Strathmore 500

I did 5 thumbnails before choosing that one to work up.  It takes less than 30 minutes to generate a thumbnail and, for that small effort, you get to glimpse a finished painting.  Here are the other thumbs I did for the assignment. I will probably turn one of the nocturnes into a painting, too.


The best reference I know on clouds is chapter 10 of Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting.  If you are interested in this subject, that's a good place to start.