Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The whole three yards

I was sitting in the living room staring unconsciously at my sofa when I realized that its length and poufy cushion makes it possible for me line up the canvases out here so I can see them all together, and from more than three feet away. The only way I can see them lined up in the studio is to stand to one side and use a fresnel lens:

Obviously not a great solution.

So! On we go. For the first two days I couldn't help spending time saying to myself, "What was I thinking?", even as it was taking shape. I would stand looking at just two panels together and think, that is huge! But being right up there next to it, with those intense colors filling my field of view, mixing big globs of paint and brushing it on with large, bold strokes—it feels great!

I have to take my 40% coupon to Michael's this morning and get more purple and diarylide yellow paint, but right now I'm just excited to see it all together. And, very, very happy that I can see it all together.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Making room for a big canvas

The first day of work on the painting I put each canvas up on my regular easel one at a time and blocked in the top band of purple. When I finished that and lined them up, I saw that even with the drawing, there was a big difference on the sides of the #1-#2 seam. I knew then that I really needed to work on two at a time.

So today I moved my regular easel out to the garage and brought the rack back in, and set it up in the studio in the only place there's room. I set up a table on either side, and used the counter behind me to hold everything else.

Once I got a workable setup and started putting on the paint, it became fun. I'm really going through paint as I block in the basic shapes. I wish I could put all three up, but there just isn't enough room, in my 13'x15' converted-garage hobby room/studio.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Bigger Gorge

I'm following in the steps of David Hockney and Robert Burridge and taking on my first ever multiple-canvas painting—and it's a big one. A triptych 4' high by 9' wide—three 36x48 canvases. I've done singles that size, even a 36x60 once, but this is a whole new level of largeness for me. It's going to make this studio feel pretty small, I'm thinking.

The design that my client chose is my little gorge sunset sketch I did in May:

Since the design has so many lines that continue across two of the canvases, I have to have some way to line up at least two at a time for the drawing, the color matching, and the finishing touches—hmmm, that's about 80% of the painting time—so I'll be pressing my folding show rack into service. I was very happy to find out that it's plenty big enough to hold two.

I'll be blogging this all the way to its hang-up in a North Portland office building! I'm guessing it'll take me 2-3 months to finish. I think the biggest challenge is going to be to create enough texture and color detail to make it interesting at that size when the design is so simple. That may not be a problem at all, but it's the thing I'm most concerned about right now. Well, that and getting around in my studio while it's in here. I had to do some clean-up, some clear-out, and move one chair out to the garage,  but that's not bad. I've always wanted to paint big, so here's my chance to find out if I do like it!

And when I'm done, it'll be Autumn!

Monday, July 10, 2017

An affordable display that fits in my Corolla

Cheap, portable display system
I made this display out of the cheap tripod easels you can get in hobby stores like Michaels and Joann. With a coupon a single one is $10-12. It took me a while to think up a way to hang more paintings off a single easel. I ended up drilling holes through the lower sections in the front legs and inserting #10 bolts with washers and wing nuts. When I first tried hanging the framed works from them, because of the legs angling out, the paintings turned inward toward the center.

I went to Home Depot and bought a roll of vinyl pipe hanging strap, and cut lengths to fit from bolt to bolt with the legs out as far as they go. I used a hole punch to cut bigger holes for the bolts. Because of the thickness of the vinyl, I had to use a bench vise to squeeze the hole punch, but that worked. With the crosspieces tight and the legs spread as far as possible, the vinyl strap keeps the paintings from turning inside.

For quick setup and teardown, I leave the vinyl strap and bolts on, take out the top bolt, and use cheap velcro ties ($7 for 100 on Amazon) to tie the legs together. They take up almost no room in the car (if you don't have anyone in the passenger seat), running from the front foot well back over the seat into the back, and each one weighs very little.

I must say that these are really cheap easels with tiny screw eyes for the chain—they will not withstand rough handling, and might not hold really heavy paintings on the crosspieces. I set up four, two pair back-to-back, using the same velcro ties to (a) tie the back-to-back pair at the center joint of the back legs, and (b) to tie the hanging wire on each top painting to one easel leg. For extra wind-proofing, I hung full gallon water jugs from the crossed rear legs of each back-to-back pair. They didn't move at all and once I got the paintings level, they stayed that way. Now they're all together out in the garage, taking up very little room, all ready for the next time I need them.

As you can see, there's a size limit for the lower paintings, these are 12x16 frames. But if you bolted on a longer, sturdy crosspiece instead of the strapping, that stuck out past the legs, you could hang larger paintings from that.

p.s. — Lewisia sold, and Memaloose Island as well!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A June flower patch

Flower Patch
I came back from an artist friend's house with a nice photo of one of her flower patches. I was looking for another quick flower sketch to frame for my weekend show in ten days, and I decided to try this one. The afternoon light from the top left helped define both the masses and the individual plants.

I blocked in the background and foliage colors first. After that I started brushing in details of the different foliage types and colors. When I had their shapes in, I blocked in the dark shades of the flowers. Because of the darker background, it took several layers of paint to build up the lighter colors.

The many different foliage shapes and textures required a few different brushes and more detail than I've been doing, but those different shapes and hues are the substance of this painting, and I was hoping to make a few of the plants recognizable to gardeners—feverfew, foxglove, roses and California poppies. The mop in the upper left is supposed to be asparagus.

I was surprised by the amount of depth that appeared; maybe it's from the darker-than-necessary shadows in the background.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

184 Lewisias...give or take a few

I was taking photos of my neighbor's heirloom bearded irises and this Lewisia cotyledon caught my eye on my way out of her yard. I know this lewisia personally because I was with my neighbor when she bought it, at Wild Ginger Farm in Beavercreek, maybe 6 years ago? I had my doubts then that it would survive outside—ignorance on my part—but it has obviously thrived in bright, filtered light and everything the weather has thrown at it. I took a quick photo of it, and decided later that it would get painted before the irises. I knew what I was getting into but wanted to try anyway.

I figured patience would make or break the painting, and started out with a charcoal drawing, settling on clumps of flowers, and cutting down to about 160 flowers to start with, from the maybe 250 in the photograph. I found first that there were hues of orange, red, yellow, magenta, and deep red-violet in the flowers, and greens that ranged from light yellow-green to deep emerald and turquoise-green. I started by blocking in the flowers in shades of peach as a base, knowing it would take many, many layers to capture all the colors. I had no plans to paint every petal on every flower, and saved that for a sprinkling of large ones around the upper right where the brightest were. Everybody else got just a suggestion of their many hues. There was not one flower that showed only one hue.

As soon as I started working on the leaves, I knew I wanted a live model, so I called Wild Ginger and asked if I could come pick one up. I wanted to get a good sense of the thickness and curves of the leaves and how they reflect the light—they were too much obscured in the photo for me to get a good feel for them—and also I was by then insanely jealous of my neighbor's success and had to try growing one—no, two—of my own. I don't care if I have to wait six years, I want one like this!

After that I alternated a day on the flowers, then a day on the leaves, building up layers of hues and picking what to emphasize and what to dress down, trying to build a center of focus in the upper right. Yesterday, after six days, it was ready to start the finishing touches, when I realized I needed to darken and violet-ize everything on the left side, but my glaze was too thick and they all went from semi-defined flowers to undifferentiated blobs. ARGHHH! Fortunately I still had all my different hue mixes and it only took a couple hours to repaint them all. Some dark blue-violets in the darkest shadows made the highlights pop, and the yellow centers in every open flower made them look more defined than they are. The orange hue in the cement surface in the lower right woke up the turquoise upper left and helped fill out the color scheme.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

New, cool colors

I was wanting to get away from the blues and oranges I've been working with for many weeks. I started out with a triad of red-violet, blue-green, and yellow-orange, but when I had developed the rough composition, that combination looked too intense and unrealistic. I took one color at a time and began graying them and lightening them. In the process I added violet flowers and more greens to the bouquet, and created a green-dominant background, with just a few touches of the original red-violet. I ended up with an unbalanced color harmony, from pale yellow-orange through yellow, greens, grayed teal, and all the violets. No blue, orange, or red.

I also started out with a clearly defined table top, but wasn't happy with the starkness of that composition. On a whim I turned that into what could be an unfocused garden scene, backlit and pushing into the foreground, with just enough level surface to anchor the vase and its shadow.

In the end, all the layers of colors first tried and then rejected remain in small bits within and around the edges of the color masses, where I think they add depth and a kaleidoscope of small relationships with the colors that replaced them—violet over blue-green in the bouquet, and blue-green over red-violet in the lower half of the surround.

I did have fun with the vase. Part of me would have liked to do more work in pottery at some point, and I colored it with the metallic red-violet and turquoise of raku, like a vase I used to own before it was broken. I really indulged my imagination in this painting, and had a great time doing it.