Monday, June 28, 2010

Learning--Planning Stages of Painting Process

Last post promised some details of my planning process for paintings, so here is a fairly simple example, a 9" x 12" study of a sanderling skittering and feeding at the edge of the surf. The original reference photo shows the bird on the right side of the scene. In another photo, you see doodling and notes on printer paper. Sketches explore possible compositional arrangements and combinations of darks, lights and in-between values. These rough sketches are in grey-scale markers in 5 tones from lightest to darkest--depending on the subject, I sometimes sketch in soft pencil or colored markers instead.
I have misplaced the original messy experimentation with paint colors for this piece, but in the lower right corner of the paper, you can see the results--stripes of the tube colors I chose: cerulean blue, burnt sienna, Paynes grey, black, and white. Then beside the paint colors are a few of the possible mixes that provide a warmer grey in the foreground, gradually going cooler and bluer in the background. Those of you who paint know what interesting greys you can make by mixing a brown (here, burnt sienna) with any blue or bluish color (cerulean or Paynes grey), plus white for lighter versions.
Another photo shows the usual set-up at my easel. On a large foam board, I tape the reference photo(s), a larger scan of the reference photo in black and white to aid in planning tonal balance, the sketches, notes, and palette plans (basic colors and a few important mixes). All are right above the painting I am working on for easy reference. Finally, you see a photo of the completed study, which was a good learning experience for me.
Since I have written about this study previously (enter "sanderling" in the blog search box above for earlier posts), I'll stop here for now. Please let me know if you enjoy entries about the painting process and what aspects in particular you would like to hear about. Since my painting personality tends toward a combination of some planning and some discovery and revision as the work emerges, there are varying bits of preliminary work on the shelves from each work I have completed.
Question of the day: Would you enjoy an occasional post like this one? What other topics would you like us to discuss?

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Quick Hello and Answer to a Painting Question

I am planning some posts to answer some reader questions about my painting process. In particular, I will show you some of the stages of planning a composition, choosing a palette, and other details of preparing to create a coastal North Florida landscape painting. Artists differ greatly in their approach to the early stages of a work. For me, some time spent planning on paper helps the painting process. Believe me, I've learned that the hard way by thinking I had a workable concept and jumping in too quickly. Fortunately, acrylics allow for painting right over all the ""whoopsies" and "what was I thinking" areas. Even with careful planning, there is still a fair amount of revision as I go along with many adjustments for some of the pieces, while in other works, the plan works out more quickly and smoothly.
That's a preview to one or two posts coming soon. Today, I need to devote most of my on-line time to presenting this week's works in progress to Linda Blondheim for her e-critique services.
So, I will quickly post a photo to answer a question a few of you have e-mailed to me, "What is gallery wrap canvas?" I like the contemporary look of well-finished, unframed pieces. Some prepared canvases are stapled to their stretching boards along the sides so that a frame is necessary to cover the stapled edges. Gallery wrap canvases are more neatly stretched and are stapled to the boards on the back. I like to continue the scene right around to the sides of these canvases, as in the above photo of the autumn marsh scene. Of course, buyers who prefer framed paintings can still frame these works. But I finish the backs and wire them so that they can also be hung without a frame.
Keep those questions coming! I enjoy the conversations we have.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Learning and Growing--Painting of a Salt Marsh

This painting, on 12" x 16" gallery wrapped canvas, has been a long time coming. I have felt stuck and put it away a few times. As I worked on it in May, it reached "near completion". Yet, I was uncertain about the best solution to a couple of issues. The foreground grasses were problematical, sometimes seeming too bland; then a change would overdo the variation in tone and color. Bland wasn't good, but I did not want the foreground to distract from the egrets (intended to be a focal point) or from allowing the viewer's eye to move about the scene. You may want to enlarge this image to get a better view of the egrets and other details.
Knowing that I would be working with my painting mentor Linda Blondheim again in June, I waited for her advice. I mentioned her e-critique service for painters in two February posts, the last time we worked together. Between her suggestions and some experimenting on my part, the piece is now in a good place. There will still be minor color adjustments with transparent glazes on the lightest grass tips and perhaps on the tree mass furthest forward on the right. These will be subtle enough that they will not show much in a photo. So, I decided to go ahead and show it to all y'all.
Although the reference photo was taken one January, that was a mild winter (unlike this year!), and the salt marsh did not look completely winter-like yet. Also, some of the color changes I made to pump up the visual interest of several areas slanted the scene toward a late autumn in look. We have hiked the wooded and marshland trails in Fort Caroline National Monument several times, both on our own and with family members visiting from other parts of the country. Every trail turn reveals new natural beauty in this park, part of an immense preserve spanning thousands of acres near the mouth of the St. Johns River here in Jacksonville, Florida.
Question of the day: Isn't it interesting how some creations seem to come together in a flash (not only for painters, but for all creative individuals), and others unfold slowly?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Grieving--Suffering and Loss in the Gulf

It's hard to say precisely why it has been so difficult for me to write a post this past week. Somehow, when I begin writing anything, the devastation of the oil leak in the Gulf comes to mind and makes my topic seem trite. Although the present locations of oil coming ashore are quite far from us, and although we live on the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Gulf, it all seems very near and threatening when our sea birds fly overhead.
So, today I will express my grief and utter frustration with this ongoing disaster although I cannot offer any new insights. My sympathies are with the families of the workers killed in the initial explosion. The threat to marshes, shoreline, and all the life that flourished in this rich ecosystem before this accident is immense, with no end in sight. The destruction of the livelihoods of countless families is severe and ongoing. What more can any of us possibly say? We pray, but wish we could somehow do more.
The news footage of oil-soaked brown pelicans is particularly heart-breaking, as they cannot possibly understand their own suffering. Although not the most beautiful of birds, they are amazing creatures, graceful in flight and precision in motion diving for food. To me, they seem symbolic of all the loss and suffering that has occurred and that will continue for years, possibly decades. The healthy brown pelican pictured here proudly refused to yield an inch of its chosen territory on Jacksonville Pier when we walked out there several months ago. It is a magnificent bird. Considering the larger picture of human and natural devastation, I feel my share of responsibility as a consumer of oil products and can only mourn.