Saturday, March 25, 2017

Looking East

Looking East
I was actually afraid last night and this morning that I wouldn't be able to do another gorge sketch today. But I started the same way and used the same strokes, and they really look a lot alike. I learned something new, though—that with the Blick Professional Gesso I can scrub paint off with a wet brush  when I make a mistake and get almost all of it off without visible harm to the gesso. That's very handy. I first drew the rock outcropping at the wrong angle, and was able to fix it.

I did more work on the foreground in this one, wanting to see more of the grasses and do more to balance the foreground and background. I also mixed a lighter color for the distant bluffs.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Sketching the Gorge with a very used brush

Rowena Plateau
I decided it's time to start working from some of my photos of the landscapes around Catherine Creek State Park, east of White Salmon, WA, on the Columbia River. I sifted through them yesterday and grabbed a couple to start with. I was ready to start a canvas panel this morning when my muse whispered, "Do sketches." I spent the last two days doing color experiments so I was already in "quick" mode.

I mixed up a nice china blue from Pthalo blue and Dioxazine purple, and picked up a superbly beat-up and damaged small flat brush and started scribbling in the dark shapes. The bristles on one side are bent back 360º and they were great for scratching on trees, branches and other rough shapes, while the other side was still straight enough to sort of draw lines and put the paint on flatly. I did use a different tint on the river, a mix of Pthalo and Cobalt blue. I was going to color it in fully, but decided to stop with a value study.

I'm surprised how traditionally "sketchy" it looks, and yet how fresh and "real", as if I'd done it right there. It seems like a great example of brush-stroke texture as detail, and I'm liking how many different looks I got depending on the value and thick-or-thinness of the paint and how much time I spent on that bit. No real painter would ever throw a brush away, unless maybe the handle breaks off, and clearly this is why. What a gold mine!

Monday, March 20, 2017

A big loose-ish landscape

I was thinking I would try doing a photo-based landscape in the same brushstroke style I used on Wild Iris, but as I was painting in the sky and tree foliage, I decided to reduce the amount of texture by having fewer brushstrokes and more larger, smoother areas of color. Most of the water is pretty smoothly mottled, but I tried to delineate most everything else.

The location is the Catherine Creek State Park in WA, northeast of Hood River. It's a great wildflower area I go to with friends most years in May. As far as I know, only the elves use the stones to cross—there's a wood plank bridge for humans. It's where I took the photo from.

It was a pretty straight-forward effort, using a lot of glazing to get the myriad of greens and blues that are in here, and a guess at how many highlights to put in. They could change. This one took me a week, the longest painting I've done all year. I would personally call it "impressionistic" because it really is all about the light.

Friday, March 10, 2017

A return to loose color

Wild Iris
One of my friends who saw my May Garden painting last year commented that she'd like to see it without the trees in the composition, and I've been thinking about trying that since then. I really didn't think I could make an interesting composition without the tree trunks framing the flowers, but after quitting work on the abstract, I pulled out a 16x20 panel and just started blocking it in. I switched from brights and flats to filberts for the rounded flowers and leaves. At some point in the second day I discovered how much adding stem-like strokes did to add both form and energy to the seriously overgrown foliage in the foreground.

From then on I just kept layering on subtle variations of hues over the whole painting. When I added the darkest greens I began to feel like I was channeling Vincent van Gogh and started really paying attention to my brushstrokes and how I was weaving the darker tones into the middle and lighter values.

When I thought it was finished this morning I started taking photos of it and immediately noticed little problems with it—mostly in places where I had unintentionally created the appearance of a straight vertical or horizontal line—just fixed two more of those. I've done about seven cycles of that and now I think I've fixed them all!

But other than than that, this has been a joy to work on. The scene is how I imagine a hillock and ditch overflowing with wild iris and other moisture-loving plants, with March-wind-blown fir trees in the background.

This year I switched from sitting down to standing while painting, and I recommend one particular item—an anti-fatigue mat to stand on. I had to trim it a tiny bit to slide it up into my easel base, but it was worth it. My palette stand is about 4-6" too short, but that's the only real problem. It took me a few days to get used to standing up for hours at a time, but I'm glad I did.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Tilting Perspectives

Tilting Perspectives
Believe it or not, this started out as color blobs too, intended to make an abstract, but it quickly became all about straight lines, boxes, and angles, with a composition that suggests structures on top of a tilting, collapsing foundation. It could be symbolic of a lot of things, but in a positive mode it makes me think of outdated, outmoded ideas that just don't hold up any more, and how everything built up on them is headed for the recycling (or trash) bin.

Artistically, I felt like the big problem was to make a coherent image with patterns that might be recognizable as familiar objects, like a cityscape, and I don't think I quite got there. it was interesting working in such a limited color range.

It was extremely slow to work on and a real test of both my resolve (aka stubbornness) and trusting my hands to make something interesting. Clearly I need a lot of work on the latter. I kept wanting to make more different patterns, but when it got so chaotic I could barely look at it, I started seeing ways to simplify it. I think once I decided what it "meant", I over-emphasized that to the detriment of the visual impact.

Looking back over my work since New Year's, I get the feeling that I'm going through a phase where I have to try every style I've ever liked at all. I love colorful geometrics. If there's an opposite to "loose", this is it. I think I'd better try more abstracts. I like some things about it—the range and arrangement of values, the repeating white (formerly) verticals, even the hard edges.

I've almost talked myself into painting over parts of it, but I'll let it sit a while longer.