Thursday, April 16, 2009

My Process: Part 2

Well, finally I'm posting something about this large painting I'm demonstrating. So, here goes...

I begin by mixing the same "rust" color I used to tone the canvas - a mixture of equal parts cadmium yellow light, alizarin crimson and a dab of ultramarine blue. I used this mixture, in combination with a small stiff bristle brush, to draw out the composition. As you can see, I don't make a detailed drawing. In fact, it isn't much more detailed than the rough sketch. I am only concerned with getting the most important landmarks of the composition placed and establishing a general guide for spatial and size relationships. This took about 15 minutes.

Once the drawing is finished, I then begin blocking in color. As a generalization, I work background to foreground, top to bottom. This isn't always the case, but for the most part it is how I tend to work. Here I've started blocking in the sky using a mixture of cerulean blue, a little ultramarine blue and a dab of alizarin crimson and cadmium yellow light to gray it down just a bit. I then lay in the color, mixing a bit more titanium white with it as I move down the painting.

To create interest in areas (like the sky) where there are large blocks of flat color, I really like to emphasize my brush strokes, varying the direction and length of them while being careful not to blend them out. This will create a textural quality that adds interest to an otherwise flat area of color. Also, I tend to try and paint as thickly as I can. This serves three purposes; first, when the piece is finished, the thick paint creates a jewel like quality when lighted. Second, the clarity of my colors and definition of my brush strokes are more apparent with the thicker paint. And finally, the thick paint allows me to ‘sculpt’ in a way, creating a 3-dimensional surface quality that helps to strengthen the appearance of depth in the painting.

Here I have began blocking in the clouds. As the large foreground cloud goes darker (towards the base of the thunderhead) my color goes more purple, as I move to lighter areas of the cloud, my color goes more yellow. I never use straight white. I always mix it with something depending on what I want the color temperature of my light area's to be — in this case, the light areas of the clouds will be a mixture of cadmium yellow light and titanium white (warm). This mixture is applied to the brightest parts of my foreground clouds. As the clouds move further back on the horizon, I will paint the highlights of those clouds using more alizarin crimson. I will also gray them down a bit so that the difference between their highlights and their shadows is diminished. This will help to create atmospheric depth.

My brush strokes in the cloud are still apparent but I do blend them out slightly more than I do in the flat areas of the sky. This helps to soften the cloud and create contrast of texture between the clouds and the sky.

At this stage I am continuing to do what I have been — blocking in color. As the cloud begins to take shape, I also begin adding more subtlety of value.

NOTE: If you've never worked with a brightly toned canvas, it's important to consider that you may need to mix and compare colors on your palette and not on your canvas. The bright color will throw off your perception of any particular color's accuracy. So I would recommend getting your color correct on your pallet by comparing it with the other colors on your palette before putting it on the canvas. If its value and hue are correct on your palette, it will be correct on your canvas — even if it doesn't look accurate at first when placed against the brightly toned canvas.

At this point, the sky is a little over halfway finished. I will continue to add subtle changes in value in the clouds as well as finish filling in the areas of the sky still absent of color. Once I complete the sky, I will let it dry before moving on to the foreground elements.

Up to the point of this last image, I've been working for about 6 hours. I've used only 2 brushes — a number 12 bristle flat and a number 10 bristle flat. Also, because Holbein paints come out of the tube slightly more stiff than I like, I mix a very small amount of liquin with each color — just enough to get the paint to flow a little better when applied to the canvas.

If you have any questions about this part of the demonstration, just post them here. I'll answer them as soon as I can.

I hope you've enjoyed the second part of my demonstration. I'll post the third part following this weekend.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Western Visions Show Painting

Well, here it is... my currently untitled painting for the National Museum of Wildlife Art's Western Visions Show and Sale.

I've included two close-ups of the painting to illustrate certain attributes of my work that I constantly fight to nurture. Although this small JPEG may make the painting appear relatively detailed, the actual work is not.

It is a goal of mine to "tell the story" with as few stokes as possible — to create an illusion of detail without actually painting every detail. I'm a firm believer that this approach not only encourages the development of personal style (something I've mentioned often on this blog), but that it is also a profoundly difficult technique to master.

I realized early on that my paintings lacked elements I loved about work by other artists I admired. The absence of brushwork, paint texture, and the playing of edges in my earlier paintings all became more and more apparent as I stood back and tried to see my work from a more objective point of view.

This has led me to the idea that every stoke should be a small painting unto itself; that the painting surface should have dimension, a sculptural quality that adds actual depth to the work. And finally, that edges should be carefully considered and softened or strengthened wherever they best suite the design of the painting.

These ideas are obviously nothing new, and I certainly didn’t come up with them. But they are concepts I originally ignored and now realize the benefit of. For those of you, like me, who have an innate compulsion to produce detailed work, you understand how difficult it can be just to overcome that compulsion and paint more loosely (let alone to actually be good at it). It is a struggle I’m really enjoying and maybe even beginning to overcome.

I don’t know if this painting is a good piece of art or not — that’s for you all to decide — but I do feel that with it I have achieved some level of success in creating those qualities that I find so appealing in painting.

I hope you all like it!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sorry for the Delay

I realize some of you are waiting for me to post more about the large painting I'm demonstrating, but, deadlines called and I had to switch gears and begin work on a couple of pieces for the National Museum of Wildlife Art's Western Visions show. I will get back to working on the demonstration piece very soon and I hope to post more of the demo in the very near future.

The paintings (and this year, a drawing as well) which I create for this museum show, I truly labor over. That's not to say I don't with all of my work, but in the case of this particular show, I like to take my time and really focus on developing a strong concept and be meticulous about creating a painting that clearly communicates those attributes of my work that make it uniquely mine. I feel doing this results in the best possible painting for this show.

The museum has been extraordinarily good to me and it is a tremendous honor to have my work included in a show with the likes of Clyde Aspevig, Bill Anton, Tucker Smith, Morgan Weistling, Mian Situ, Z.S. Liang and so, so, so many others. It goes without saying that the quality of work at this show is tremendous motivation for producing my best — which is partly why I spend so much time on such a small painting (it’s a miniatures show). It’s important to me that not only I be proud to submit the painting to the museum — and also feel it can stand on its own among such an array of great pieces — but that the museum be proud to present it to their patrons and the general viewing public.

Yes, I do feel a lot of pressure in creating this painting, but I’ve often produced some of my best work under great pressure. Pressure isn’t necessarily a bad thing for me.

In a few days, when the painting is dry enough to scan, I’ll post it here.

Well, back to work.