25 November 2017

Painting from Memory

Sycamore at Dawn, 11x9", oil on linen

Today I'm posting a landscape I painted from memory.  Why from memory?  When I paint from photos I tend to be too literal.  It feels like copying, and takes some of the creativity out of the process.  However, when I paint from memory, my feelings about the subject come through more freely.  I sit before my subject, observe intensely, and sketch my impressions.  Then I paint from those sketches, no photos.  My memory edits out unnecessary details.  But I remember the parts that resonate with me.  The parts that matter somehow, and those are the parts I paint.

I picked all this up from a course I just finished with Deborah Paris on training and using memory in the creative process. Another great Paris course.  I've learned a lot from her classes.

Here is the process I followed to create the painting.

I went to the location 3 mornings in a row and just observed shapes/values/details for about 20 minutes.  After observing, I sketched a composition based on what I could remember. I visited the site once more to observe the colors.  

Here is a photo of the actual landscape subject, for comparison.

Here is my memory sketch of the place, with some composition notes.  The light on those tree trunks on the left and the way the big shapes fit together attracted me to the scene.  The numbers around the edges are value assignments.


Below is the painting progression. 
  • Top panel:  The underpainting.  
  • Middle panel:  This is as far as I could take it on memory.
  • Bottom panel: Brought to a finish on imagination and invention.  At this stage, I added variety, did some glazing and scumbling, and changed some shapes to improve composition. 

And finally, the framed painting.

03 November 2017

A Possible Portrait

Mother in profile, 12x16", Charcoal and chalk on toned Strathmore 400

A preparatory charcoal sketch for a future oil portrait of my mother.   I like painting my mother.  It's really a painting from memory when it's a face you know so well.  Those are the most expressive and easiest paintings to do.

While I'm posting about drawing, I want to recommend the book by Nathan Fowkes, "How to Draw Portraits in Charcoal".  Outstanding for everyone, but especially for students.  I've admired Nathan's work for a long time, and it's special to know how he achieves his beautiful results.  He shares lots of tips and techniques.  Good book.