Monday, August 14, 2017

Connecting the audience to the painting

The Upper Pond
My plan was to get this Upper Pond painting all done except for the highlights before the Villa Catalana Cellars Paint-Out last Saturday, and then work on those outside at the Villa, with the sun sinking in the west and all the people walking around and shmoozing. It was a great plan, and I got there at 4:30, an hour before the public came in. It was about 80º—better than I hoped, even—and I carted all my equipment and paintings up to a shady spot at the top of the hill where more people walk around. But when I set up my long-unused French easel, I found I had forgotten to bring my white paint. I walked around to the other painters to see if I could buy or borrow a dollop of white, but they were all either oil or pastel artists. I did a bit of glazing on a few places, but I really needed the white to do any real work. D'oh! It's a line item in my packing list now.

So I leaned back in my chair, listened to the band, and just pretended it was a forced vacation, and the only thing I could do was relax. In a little while people started walking around, and a few times an hour someone would come over and talk for a minute.

I did have a great time, despite not being able to paint there. I finished it up yesterday in the studio, thinking about the things people had said to me about it. Almost everyone who commented on this one of the upper pond on the property and the cabana behind it, said they loved the blue. One teenage girl said it was her favorite painting there, and I got the blue perfectly. I found that interesting because I had deliberately intensified the blue of the water and the sky, using pure Ultramarine blue with white to lighten it. The actual colors of the water and sky that day weren't anything like a match for my painting, they were both a warm azure blue, part cobalt and party cyan. So I think what she meant was that it matched something in her memories or her imagination. I was fine with painting the plants and the cabana their natural colors, and the same for the mimosa tree, but I really wanted the blue and yellow to go beyond what anyone would call natural.

Maybe the way to use color to connect to people is to connect to their imaginations, not to the natural colors of the landscape.

No more small paintings till after I get A Bigger Gorge finished, but this was a really useful exercise.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Art In The Garden at Villa Catalana Cellars this Saturday

The Lower Pond
Once again—fingers crossed that the temperature doesn't jump back up again—I'll be at the Paint-Out at Villa Catalana Cellars this Saturday from 5:30 to 9pm. I've suspended work on A Bigger Gorge to work up a couple paintings to bring—this one, which is almost finished, and hopefully another one that won't be so far along. I expect there'll be another dozen or more other artists there as well. You'll be able to purchase food and wine, and art if you like. If you'd like to go, you can find out more and make your reservation here.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Discovering a new love of painting


I'm trying to figure out why I'm enjoying working big so much. I've noticed that I'm not worrying about the outcome anywhere near as much as I used to. I think the sketching helped with that, but it also occurs to me that having to work with something so much bigger than I am, where I can only fit a small portion of it at a time in my field of view, maybe I have to trust that what I'm doing is going to fit in.

It's only about 30% done, time-wise, but it's going in the right direction. I've got almost all the shapes defined. I just want a little more shape definition on the south side (left side.)

I think there's something else going on that may be more personal—probably everyone wouldn't feel this way, but when I load up my big brush and step up to the canvas and apply the paint with a big stroke, it just feels like the most natural thing on earth. It feels like I've been doing it for centuries, and I'll keep doing it as long as I possibly can. It's not like I'm any good at it yet—I'm still doing a lot of repainting. But it feels like I've finally—finally—found something that totally belongs to me, and it's not a thing—it's a movement, it's a dance with color and form. It's even better than having a really good gardening day. It's like being myself in the most clear and unfettered way I know.

I love how it fills my visual space with color while I'm working on it—I really do like being surrounded by colors. But now that it's looking more like actual landforms, it's almost like looking out a big picture window at something 'real'. Glazing over this underpainting is what I'll be doing for the next several weeks.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Almost to the fun part


I've been making slow progress on the painting, and have almost finished the underpainting. After getting the more detailed photos I wanted, I'm tweaking the shapes of the bluffs on both sides of the river—and taking a lot more time than I thought I would need to do it. But I've started putting in some shape details and playing with colors a little on both the land and the clouds, which is fun doing this big.

I finally rearranged the easel setup so I can see the tv in my studio while I paint. I'm so used to watching dvds or streaming while I'm painting, I was really missing it.

It's going to be really hot here for the next week and a half, to hot to do anything outside besides water, so I should get a lot done.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I need more paint


Three and a half days of work later, I'm still working on the underpainting. I emptied another partial tube of paint—my cobalt green. I had just placed another order with Blick two days before, so I had to switch to a different green, permanent green light, and adjust the mix appropriately so it's good enough for now. I really underestimated how much additional paint I would need for this. And this is just the underpainting! Who knows how much more I'll need for the glazing!

Other than that, it's going well. I'm getting more detailed photos of the hills to work with, and once those get drawn in, I'll be able to start playing with more hues and layers of glazing.

I would say at this point that being able to work across two canvases at once is pretty much a requirement, for efficiency if nothing else, and especially when you have a design that requires continuity of line across those seams.

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.