Thursday, 29 September 2011

A Landscape

I must admit I find it a bit too daunting at this stage to paint large canvases outside. I'd rather hone my skills some more, continue to sketch and draw outside, but leave the easel in my studio.
I hate backing away from the challenge, but I think outdoor painting for me at this stage becomes too much about materials and logistical problems and not enough about painting. So this I will stick with.
To still get as much out of these last paintings of the course, I will scope out all the locations myself, do notes and sketches on the spot, and then use a photo that I take myself as extra reference for the actual painting.

The paint for this one was laid down in one alla prima session, and I'm quite pleased with the result. The photo as usual makes the lights too bright and the shadows too dark, but I think I managed to compensate for that. I have also made the colours more vibrant.
I do love having my camera with me even when I just intend to sketch - for the simple reason that it's such a great view finder. I have tried walking around with a paper viewfinder, and it does help, but the camera really helps to isolate a subject.

I should have simplified the background more than I did. I got a bit lost in the mess of branches, where a few well chosen ones would have been better, but I'm very pleased with the look of the path. Many times I have tried constructing a path and the result looked fake and tacked on to the landscape; this one was just painted as I saw it and came together nicely.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Garden Painting

After having been quite pleased with my small colour studies, this project was very disappointing. Standing out there trying to paint in wind and aware that I was being overlooked, I completely forgot what else I have learned about painting and made a complete hash of it.
I included far too much in my composition and the scale of the canvas - the course insists on a large one - meant that I spent all of the first session just laying in base colours and not getting a lot done.
Second trip I was disheartened and gave up after an hour.
I can only agree with Ford Madox Brown sentiments. It felt unpleasant and profitless and as if I know absolutely nothing about painting.
This is the state of the painting at the moment.

I feel inclined to never go back to it again, but maybe I will calm down a bit after a while :oD

Well, I knew it wasn't going to be easy. Even with just neighbours being able to look in I felt terribly exposed, especially since it was going so badly. Really not relishing the thought of going out again. Still, this is just the first one and with all the expectation I had was bound to turn out badly. I'm not giving up, but I think I might go for a smaller canvas for the next one, and the next thousand after that, just till I get more comfortable. :o)

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Colour sketches, dipping my toes.

Let's start small. Let's start with acrylics. I have my trusty sealed palette which I love to use at home too.

With this setup I can paint in my lap and since acrylics dry so fast they are dry by the time I have packed away the brushes. Both of these studies are small 15x10 cm and that is a really nice size for getting something down fast. I felt I could emulate Constable and Bucci and capture something very fleeting.

The cloud formation in this one was gone before the sketch was half done, so I was happy that I hadn't gone bigger. Still, I should be able to do A4 with the same setup, so I'll try that next.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Outdoors - Theoretical Studies

John Constable - oil sketch

Plein Air is very popular these days, but when John Constable did his, it wasn’t considered finished paintings like they are today. Carefully executed paintings made in the studio was the accepted method of the day.
I love the way he captures a quick sky with moving clouds or a rainbow with a background of rainclouds. I think sketches like that are vital to understand the shifting light and vivacity of nature, much like drawing the human form from life gives a vital insight in the shifting muscles and relation between the limbs. And I prefer the quick impressions always to an elaborate and minutely executed photo realistic version. Though I still absolutely admire the skill behind such works.
John Constable - oil sketch
Working quickly and laying down the larger forms seem to be more vital than usual when working outdoors. The light is ever changing. Monet would come back several days in a row and paint from the same spot, but even that does not guarantee you the same light.
James Gurney points out in his book  Color and Light, that an overcast day can be a great help to a novice trying out plein air, as the scene and the objects in it tends to retain more of the actual local colours of each object that way. In high sunlight you have to deal with stark shadows and reflected light which affects the whole colour scheme.
I have trawled the net for various modern examples and fortunately there are a lot of people willing to share their experiences and tips.
One thing that confounds me about the project is that Ian Simpson, as he has done in the previous sections, insists on large canvases. Most other tips I have read advises people to start small, both for convenience and simply to get more comfortable with the medium and to capture the scene quicker and learn to paint fast.
Take a look for example at these quick sketches from Marco Bucci. The hint of a thumb gives an idea of the size.
Marco Bucci - Plain Air sketches

Tiny, but absolutely beautiful and I think there is a lot to be learnt from painting small as well as big. Still I will try to give both sizes a go, but the thought of carrying A2 and A1 sizes around without a car seems nigh on impossible to me.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Section 10 - Painting Outdoors

And so we come to the final section. I have been looking forward to and dreading this one in equal measure.
Plein Air painting sounds so fun and exhilarating, but also awkward with all the equipment you have to log around and even exposed as anyone can walk up to you and comment on your work.
I am a bit sensitive about people remarking on work in progress, especially if I am tryin gout something new and is only timidly finding my way.
Still. I have been drawing outdoors and in cafes for a while now, and while there is definitely curiosity, most people won't actually say anything.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Project 9.2 Atmosphere

This project was about atmosphere. Remembering a strong feeling and trying to capture that moment.
For contrast, I thought I'd go for something darker this time. This is how I remember depression and feeling alone. A sense of restriction and muteness. Not being able to express myself.
Unlike Munch's picture I have never felt inclined to scream when I felt bad, instead caving in on myself in silence.
The turquoise and blue are chosen to be oppressive, even the skin tone taking on a greenish pallor, to make her look sickly.
The drawing I did first I feel is better, but I was trying to work very loosely to let the emotion have centre stage, Her odd proportions and shape seems to fit nicely into the mood.

What have I achieved?
Again I haven't let loose fully from the figurative, but I feel the emotions are all the better conveyed when I can see what the picture is of. I guess it is because I place a lot of importance on the storytelling. I think it helps the empathy. I don't consider myself an angel, but the wings help make the bonding seem all the more horrible.
I really like the subjective approach and find it suits me better than trying to be as naturalistic as possible. Staying loose is also a great relief, at least at the start of a project. at the later stages it was hard not to try and get more detail in there and work over every area again and again.
I'd like to incorporate what I have learnt here in future paintings, perhaps with more subtlety, though. Gently push an emotional expression to make the subject more engaging.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Project 9.1 Finished Painting

Thinking of my Sister
I wanted to convey a sense of joy and playfulness, of safety, toys and imagination, so right from the start I felt that I had to bring in a whole rainbow of colours.
I started by laying down the background in warm colours with a cloth and palette knife, covering the canvas completely, but not blending the colours too much. I wanted the light to come down from the top right and make the foreground slightly darker, just to indicate without specifying the surroundings. Then I had fun stamping the canvas to create some texture. The second sitting had me put in the main shapes, the third the details were defined, such as the fish and the lighter petals. I then glazed the whole picture to bring the colours together again and the last stage was adding back some of the highlights that the glazing lost me.

What have I achieved?
It was fun building a whole painting on a feeling. Even though the still life is still quite descriptive, I feel I also captured some of the emotion I wanted to express. I considered going more all out and creating something a lot more abstract and wild, but it didn't come natural, so to keep the painting flowing I went with the middle ground. I am very happy with the result.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Project 9.1 - Associations

This project is another still life, but with a twist. It should be done in an expressionistic style, which means that the objects are now chosen not for their form and colour, but for the feelings they invoke.
I have chosen a collection that all remind me of my sister. I will try to use these objects to paint the unique way my sister feels to me. It involves history, intimacy, safety, play and imagination, warmth.

These three studies are experiments with different colour sets for just one of the objects. Sticking to tight colour schemes it is interesting to see what effect they have on the mood of the picture.

The first in earth tones definitely has warmth to it. I mainly used a cloth to smear the paint on, which gave little control, and that's good, cause I didn't worry about details. I tried letting the lines come outward towards the viewer to give a feeling of being welcomed.

The second I made in blue tones, which gives it a cooler air, but also a feeling of mystery I thought. The paints were scraped on and off using a palette knife. I also splattered the paper with water, but it is hard to see.

For the third on a black background, I experimented with size. The black was so overwhelming it felt natural to go with a sense of being small and insignificant. The paint is smeared on with a cloth, stamped on with bubble wrap and manipulated with my fingers. I like the smears which make the blue paint transparent and affected by the black. It is a very cold picture. Had I chosen a warm green it would maybe have given the little figure hope, but with the blue I think there is only defiance against the dark.