Snowballs and Oranges, 12x16: SOLD
It's true. Many of you have heard me repeat it over and over again. I always set myself up for a challenge in an attempt to learn... not just produce. Of course that means a lot of not so successful paintings come off my easel, get resurfaced with Gamblin Oil Painting Ground, and re-used. Actually, I grown to like the surface that creates... but that's another topic.
As busy as I typically stay, I have actually some room on my calendar lately which means big challenge time! New brush types, new canvas types, new colors, new approaches, new visual statements. All so challenging, exciting, and exhausting. I love it! It reminds me of my time in Italy when nothing had to work except working itself. Here, I am sharing the results of a few experiments. (If you're on facebook with me, you've already seen most of these and are probably tired of them already.)
The lessons may seem small when I try to explain them, but they are huge for my little pee-wee brain and continue to spark thoughts flashing about like a big storm in my head.
The first experiment was Forsythia and Roses. I spent about 2 hours setting up the still life. Trying to paint that "out of the darkness" feeling on a visually textured canvas. By visually textured, I mean, I used paint in dark and medium-dark tones and a rag to wipe around the paint on the background using acrylic. Once dry, I applied a medium, in this case Gamblin Galkyd Gel, to do a similar layer only this time in oil until I like the design of the background. Then, because the medium was nice and thick, I had an opportunity to work into it for quite a while, varying the amount of paint and its transparency. I thought this technique might work well with roses since they need to have substance, but appear soft, not hard edged, and have very sensitive shifts of hue and value.
Forsythia and Roses 14x18, $1125
I attend a portrait open studio most Monday evenings. I pull off a canvas that has been re-coated with Gamblin Oil Painting ground. (I think reusing an old canvas gives me the freedom to make mistakes more easily.) Typically, since I'm fairly new to this portrait thing, I try to set up where I see a strong light/shadow pattern. Since this is the way I see landscapes and still lifes, I knew it would help my drawing skills to see the face in the same way... just big shapes. But where's the challenge there? So, I set up to try to paint a fully lighted profile. It's much more of a local tone approach now, with modeling only within the features as opposed to because of the light source.
Profile, Study in Local Tone 16x20
In the meantime, I was asked to submit an image for consideration to January's American Art Collector Magazine for their still life issue. So, I set up the still life you see at the very top of this post, Snowballs and Oranges. This experiment is different from the first still life of roses in that I used no medium or pre-painted visual texture. Instead, I wanted to see if I could get the same general feel but use my own "editing" powers to tell the "out of the darkness" story, rather than using a technique with mediums, etc. However, I also wanted to try some new brushes, soft sables, and added two colors to my palette: cadmium orange and napthol red. Hey, I've got all these old tubes from various workshops of the past, so why not use them?
I drove an hour and a half to stand out in the 38º weather for 2 1/2 hours to paint a model in the landscape. She isn't finished, but I enjoyed the chance to do it. The day was very gray and overcast, so more local tone painting here. This little session prompted me to pull out some images in Sargen'ts Painting Out of doors book to study how simply he painted the faces of people in the landscape. I MUST do more of this!
On the way back to the studio from the model outdoors session, I took a couple of pics of the beautiful red violets and end of fall colors along country roads. I knew I needed to find something to experiment with here as well so...
November Where I Live, 20x24, $1550
The day, the road, the glare all felt so bright now. I needed to remember that and make an otherwise dark, less than perfect color picture translate into what grabbed me as I was driving down the road. Painting in a higher key filled the painting with exactly the feeling I needed and I was able to put in a good deal of red violet because every other color I neutralized drastically. Look how colorful the painting is when I do that! Remembering to make good notes about how to "key" the painting and stick to it is so important. I'm going to write that on my wall! I also dug into the brush bin and used mostly Isabey "Isacryl" synthetic flats rather than my usual bristle filberts. The brushwork got very exciting and expressive... my favorite kind! I hope you can see in the "detail" what I mean. See how little color and how much paint I used? Now I'm back over at my bookshelf pulling off Gruppe's Guide to Expressive Brushwork.
By now, you're getting the idea of how my November went. The works shown here (plus the outside model mentioned above) were experiments carried out over a 3-day period. If you want to see more, I've uploaded a few more recent images on my website including a portrait of Mark in his chef's coat and a sitting full-length figure of a model in Cherokee regalia.
By the way, while you on my website, I hope you will hit the "like" button in the top right-hand corner of the home page.
So, what to do now? Oh so many more challenges ahead. That's why I LOVE this job.