Sunday, November 11, 2012

Painting for FUN!

I've been painting for fun these last few days. I really wasn't happy with the river painting the day before, and I felt most of the problem with it was the colors. I wanted to try a different color scheme on it, so I painted over it. It had the effect of simplifying a lot of the textures and making fewer, larger blocks of color, which I definitely like better.

Early this fall I was out in the front yard just after sunset and looked up to see this long, sunlit clump of cloud framed by two stands of firs. The shape and the glow reminded me a little of the Milky Way arching across the sky, so I ran in and got my camera and shot it. I first tried a wash sketch, but wasn't happy with that so I painted over it with thicker paint. I had fun doing it. The shorter trees at the bottom look a bit cartoonish, actually the whole thing does, but it was fun doing it.

I don't know why I've been having so much fun with these, but maybe it had something to do with having already given up on them being any good! I started playing with another image I've had for a while, of one of my favorite daylilies. I don't think this one is done yet.

I'm trying to keep it loose, but get a good, balanced composition. I didn't notice till I had the color on it how unsymmetrical the smaller, outer petals are, and I don't know how that will affect the final appearance.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Light in the forest

Fir Grove
I roughed this sketch out a few weeks ago, then let it sit while I worked on several other ones. Part of the reason I waited was because I was so happy with the first work on it that I wanted to be as sure as I could that I wouldn't mess it up. After I finished the coralbark painting where I felt so relaxed while I was painting, I thought I was ready to go back to work on it.

The foliage went in pretty easily, and I was pleased to see the effect of the bright afternoon sun getting in was still there when I stopped. I purposely kept the work as loose as possible. I fell into a quandary over how many branches to add. I didn't want too many but I didn't want to have too few either. I'm not sure I chose well on this, and I wonder if maybe I should have just left out the ones that didn't have light falling on them. I kept wondering how many Emily Carr would have put in. Sometimes she only put in one or two branches, where they made important contributions to the composition or to the sense of movement. Other times she would show a lot more of the short, broken branches typical of tall firs in groves which lose most of their lower branches over the years.

These aren't my Douglas fir trees; they belong to a neighbor, but they look just like mine. I love my fir trees, and the afternoon sunlight bouncing through a grove, lighting up the trunks and foliage, is one of my favorite sights to meditate on when I'm outside. Throw in the sounds of chickadees and the occasional red-tailed hawk, and you have a recipe for a wonderful afternoon.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fast and loose with the brush

Coralbark In Morning Light
I got this painting blocked in from the photograph, and then looked at all the lovely points on the Japanese maple Sango kaku leaves and thought, oh no, I'm not painting those. Then I argued with myself for a few days over how to make this painting looser than the last one without really changing the way the way I paint. On the third day, the answer came back to me from the Robert Burridge work I did: paint it fast. Go quickly. Don't think, just paint.

I did, and it worked! I didn't worry about keeping it loose, or making it look like the subjects, or how the texture of the paper would affect the brushstrokes, I just loaded the brush up with the colors and put them on. The absorbency of the paper made it pretty easy to get nice texture, and I was amazingly relaxed while I roughed in the first pass. After the first pass was done, I took a smaller brush and put in a few details here and there—probably should have resisted painting the fern fronds, but I couldn't—tweaked the colors a bit, and that was it.

But the whole way through, I had to keep arguing with myself about how much to paint the shape of the maple leaves. They're so small in this 11x14 painting that I'd have to use the smallest round brush I have to get them right, and I convinced myself that I don't want to do that. The gardener in me wants to do that, it wants to show the beautiful shapes and textures and complex colors of every trunk, stem and leaf. It wants to show the magnificent architecture of the simplest ancient flowers, and every luscious satin petal of a camellia, rose, or dahlia. But the artist in me is the one painting here, and I want to convey the feeling of being in a garden, not do botanical illustrations. If the viewer is a gardener who recognizes a little heuchera, a bank of sword ferns, or the trunk of a mature Douglas fir, great. But I'd rather have a viewer see how this spot in my garden looks in the pale sunshine of an Oregon fall morning.