Last week I showed you the first painting of 2015 – one of the new larger landscapes. However, I’d forgotten to show you the first of the large landscapes, which I completed back in November.
As promised, here is Traveler #5. Again, photographing this painting was extremely frustrating. Whenever there wasn’t any glare the softer details – like the texture of the coat on the woman to the right – get lost. In the end I settled a little bit, but I still need to have the whole series so far professionally photographed.
It’s taken a while (I first started this piece back in May) but I’ve finished two more paintings in the Travelers series. I love doing these pieces, but boy do they take a lot of time!
They are also very dark, and very glossy, which makes them damn near impossible to photograph well. Apologies for the glare.
This weekend I worked a little bit on the Travelers series. The layering and underpainting take a really long time – then they need to dry thoroughly before the next layer of painting can go on. I usually work a few paintings at a time. I’m working one from early May, and below is the start of #5.
I also did a short study of some oak leaves as an exercise. The drawing needs some work, and the highlights of the leaves came out wrong, but most everything else I like.
Two paintings to start the week. First is a little 8×10″ sketch that is almost finished… you may notice that there are shadows of electrical wires… but no actual wires above. Once the sky dries I’ll paint in the rest.
Second is a larger scale piece I’ve been working on for a few weeks. It was a long process getting here, but I’ll detail that a little bit more on Tuesday’s post.
I had done this horrid little sketch while up in Maine. While none of the paintings I did there were spectacularly successful this particular one stood out as particularly bad, for many many reasons.
After staring at it for a few days and making notes of all the disastrous errors I decided to try again; I would consciously and carefully rework the idea.
I photographed the process and the results are interesting (at least to me). Stepping back from the immediacy of the situation allowed me to understand what went wrong the first time, and to actively correct it (for the most part) this time.
First was the drawing. I had rushed the drawing on the sketch, and my brain pulled one of those classic tricks: it said “wow those hills are dramatic” and instructed my hand to make them very dramatic. The result is a cartoonish exaggeration of what my eyes actually saw. Yes, the hills had a sharp rise, but that was visually tempered by distance and atmospheric perspective.
Last week was another vacation in Acadia national park up in Maine. As usual I brought along my painting supplies because there are a million gorgeous and inspiring views. Last year I’d completed a few paintings that were nice little studies. This year the results were mostly mediocre and I’m trying to ascertain why.
1. Seawall. (Tuesday morning) I was drawn to the scene by the interplay of the back lit rocks with the sparkling of the ocean. I also wanted to capture a sense of depth with the soft coloration of the peninsula in the background.
Good: First time painting out of the studio since 2013.
- The coloration of the background has too much contrast to give a sense of depth
- the drawing is also a little off – the peninsula should be about 30% smaller and narrower
- the rocks could have used a steadier hand and better color temp. to really emphasize the crisp lighting
- …but by and large the worst bit for me is the ocean – it screams “amateur!” It’s too blue, too wavy, too muddy… I didn’t capture any of the crisp bands of color that I actually saw
- Lastly: I set this painting on the porch to dry and within an hour it was covered in little black bugs. I commandeered the closet shelves for the rest of the paintings to dry.
2. The Point. (Wednesday morning) The next day I decided to visit the ocean cliffs which had provided some good paintings last year. By and large I think this is the best painting of the trip.
- The drawing was concise;
- I spent time planning the color scheme and temperature
- the island in the background is the correct softness to emphasize depth;
- the ocean is banded in to color better.
- The trees feel a little wonky and chunky along the top. I was using Viridian, which is quite transparent and so the whole mass of trees feels a bit unfinished, like an under-painting. I may touch these up once its dry in a few days.
3. The Sound. (Wednesday evening) After the success of the last painting I was eager to go out again…but I wasn’t really sure where. I drove to a couple spots I thought might work, but each one was problematic – too public, the wrong lighting etc. The sun was on it’s way down and I was getting frustrated when I spotted a pull-off near a private beach.
- Quick! This painting was done in less than an hour, including set up and take-down.
- I carefully planned the progression of blue-greens to emphasize the depth of the mountains – they are still a bit too dark – but better than the cliff painting below.
- The color temperature is mostly correct
- Composition. The piece feels kinda like a thrift-shop painting, with the two points of land jutting in from each side, and the dramatic hills in the back. I think adding one or two of the yachts that litter the sound would help bring a sense of scale and perspective
- The values are a bit off – especially in the trees nearest the foreground. They could be brightened up a little to emphasize the setting sun
- I’m like kinda maybe pretty sure I was trespassing
4. Trees. (Thursday morning) Lance suggested I take a break from the ocean painting to try something new. We spent an hour hiking the interior of the island looking for a spot to paint. I finally settled on this view with a pair of large rocks and a tree sitting just off the path.
- A new subject matter!
- Much of the light and shade values feel correct
- I saw a mink dart across the path while I was painting
- I was set up in the bright sun looking into darker woods. The glare from the white palette screwed up my eyes. I should have picked a shadier spot
- The color temperature is wrong because of the sun – I couldn’t get an accurate gauge on how saturated the brown was, so the background doesn’t feel correct
- Ditto for some of the foreground rocks
- Changing light – this matters a LOT when the scene is dependent on sun dappling. In 30 minutes the light spots moved about 2 feet!
5. Cliffs. (Friday morning) I dragged Lance back to the ocean side on Friday to work on some more cliffs. I found an incredibly steep path that gave me a gorgeous view of the dramatic cliffs rising up from the ocean, with a backdrop of the Beehive and Gorham Mtns.
- An amazing view!
- I really enjoy painting cliffs
- The drawing is wrong – from the scale of the background cliffs, to the shape and scale of the mountain, to the beach cliffs in the background
- Composition is wrong. I wanted to emphasize the vertical thrust of the cliffs… but I also wanted to have the dramatic mountains in the background. I should have focused on the former and turned the panel 90 degrees
- The cartoonish character of the mountains again conjures up thrift shop paintings. I realized that even though the mountains are dramatic I was over-scaling them.
- Again, using Viridian which left the mountains feeling unfinished and messy
- The sky was moody and half cloudy, half clear. I was running over time so I didn’t have a chance to work this out as carefully as I should have
- Color temp is way off and the whole thing is muddy. I was running low on turpentine and wasn’t as careful cleaning my brushes between areas. It shows
6. Little Long Pond. (Friday evening) I left Lance at the hotel Friday night and set out to find one last spot to paint. I stopped at one pond, but wasn’t moved, and so dashed over to Little Long Pond to catch the sunset on the meadow and Penobscot Mtn. The cloud cover killed any dramatic lighting and I was left with a peaceful, cool scene that (thankfully) stayed the same for an hour.
- I focused on the drawing and scale of the mountains. I’d realized that my brain wants to draw them much larger than they actually appear, which leads to that cartoonish quality.
- Better handling of color temperature…mostly
- Attention to composition – the focus for me was the dramatic rise of the mountain over the sweeping meadow
- Less focus on details, more on massing – which I think is what give the painting a better sense of depth
- Mosquitoes – lots and lots of mosquitoes…Its difficult to focus and paint when you’re flailing your arms all over the place
- Greens.. are hard. Especially when you want to capture a yellowy green but in a cool light, so it doesn’t appear to sunny. Still working on this part. The large band of trees could have used a better contrast between the greens
- The large trees in the front right were one of the last bits to be painted. I was tired, and being eaten so I rushed through them. Better handling would have given a better sense of depth
Overall it was a great trip, and I think I’ve figured out much of what went wrong. The rest is just practice, practice, practice!!
We took a little camping trip this weekend and I brought along my watercolor pad again. The first piece isn’t really good. The whole thing is kinda muddy and indistinct which is frustrating. I think part of the problem was sitting in direct sun, which made the colors seem much brighter and vibrant than they are in normal home light. Also, the greens in the background were tricky – warmer on the sunny side of the mountains, cooler on the shade, but both sides blued out because of the atmosphere. Something to work on.
The second piece was a quick sketch of the rocks where I was sitting. It was half the time and miles better than the original piece – even if the composition is a little un-interesting.
Wait a minute…strike that; reverse it.
This summer has been incredibly busy and I haven’t had much time to get into the studio. I was able to get away to the beach for a day and brought along my watercolor pad.
This is a quick little study of the rocks off the beach. I like the quality of the paint, but I need to work on the composition – it feels a little stage set.
This past weekend I did a little cloud study from a photo and some notes that I took when we visited Salem, MA a couple weeks ago. I timed myself at an hour and the results were good, but feel kind of… eh.. to me.
So I picked up a few of my books on color theory and began reading through some of the key points again,and I think what really sticks out as good advice is to consciously make a decision about what the colors in your paintings are going to be. Yeah – sounds obvious and an artist has to do that anyway right? Kind of. If I’m painting a sky initially I’m going to respond to the color I see before me, and the colors that are in the photo reference. Except I don’t have to. With some forethought and decision making I could make the same sky purple, yellow, or red and still have the potential to have good results.
So as an exercise I painted out a Munsell color wheel and value chart to keep around the studio. Munsell forwent the traditional color wheel of Red, Yellow, Blue (primaries) and Green, Orange, Purple (secondaries). His color wheel has five primaries and five secondaries, allowing a greater nuance of complimentary coloring. The tints in the middle of mine are a bit dark, but it is a useful tool to keep about.
After a very successful Somerville Open Studios I kind of dropped off the artmaking map.
But finally – after a full month of not painting – I have finished another painting.
The goal of this piece was to capture a bit of the anonymous beauty of living in Somerville. I’m quite taken with the way the light rakes across the buildings at sunset, and the simple repetitive geometry of the triple decker houses.
I’ve been tied up with a few other projects so haven’t done much painting in a couple weeks.
However, I did have two works -including “Night Light” accepted into Salon 21, a juried show at the Nave Gallery in Somerville!!
Come by Thursday, May 1 for the reception. The show runs from May 1-11th and will span Open Studios weekend. Very exciting!!!
A peek at something I’ve been working on a for a while. This is the next in the Echoes series. It’s a little different than a straight landscape, but I like it a lot. Once this layer dries I’ll be able to go in and tweak a few details here and there, and clean up some areas, but overall I like the direction this is heading.
In a very quick study on Sunday morning I tried doing some more cloud studies. Meh… they look okay, but I think I went a little heavy on the darker shadows in the clouds themselves. Also, the water is a little more green and not that steely Maine blue that I like.
Still – a decent end to an incredibly productive weekend!
In advance of spring’s arrival – or maybe out of simple winter escapism – I worked on a couple of light fluffy cloud studies this past week.
Number 1 is from the ocean walk in Ogunquit, ME. It was maybe an hour and a half – two hours. It feels stiff by comparison to the second one, but I like both. They were helpful in understanding some of the structure and coloration of the clouds.
Number 2 is from the top of Cadillac Mountain in ME.
I’ve also been busy practicing perspective drawing again – perhaps I’ll post some of those this week too!
Last night I stepped into the studio for a quick landscape sketch. I’ve been thinking a lot about Andrew Wyeth (having just finished his biography) His father NC Wyeth used to tell him “paint the massive forms”. It seems odd, given Andrew Wyeth’s propensity for detail and texture, but it’s good advice nonetheless.
The sketch was done in an hour, from drawing to finish. It’s obviously rough around some edges, but I’m quite happy with the overall feel. Definitely more painterly than my usual work.
Also, in rearranging my space I stumbled across this painting from a last year. I’d posted a preview of it, but it never appeared in finished form. It’s a little heavy on the saturated greens, but I still think it’s a nice little painting.
Every now and then I’ll see someone on the subway who is interesting, and I will surreptitiously snap a photo. Not humorous or mocking or lecherous. Just…interesting.
As I have gathered these photos I began thinking about what an odd experience riding the subway (or any public transit) is: you are voluntarily putting yourself in a confined space with a bunch of strangers, all of whom – like you – are doing their best to avoid any sort of personal contact. It is public, yet private. Tedious, yet necessary.
At the same time I began to wonder what would happen if I applied a very traditional and personal medium – indirect oil portraiture – to a situation steeped in cold, impersonal observation such as surveillance cameras.
The first painting was published last year, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to explore. This week I published a new gallery on my website called Travelers.
I hope you enjoy! (click the link above for the rest of the series so far)
Trying to do one or two figure studies a week to get the knack of flesh tones and color temperature and all that.
The pale one is from 2 weeks ago and is fairly successful. Last week’s attempts were abject disasters and so won’t be appearing. And this week’s piece started out strong, and then I continued painting and it got real muddy, real fast. *sigh*…. will try again next week.