Monday, January 31, 2011

back in business...soon

"high plains rider"
photo for "high plains rider"
well, we made it with out incident on our cross-country trek and are out here in borrego springs just before the storm is set to attack a large part of the rest of the country.  lucky timing. just to get back in the swing of things i think i will do some paintings using historical photos of figures in a landscape setting. i have included a couple i had done earlier to show you what i mean. i picked up a photo of a cowboy on the way out and i think i will just paint him to get warmed up.  i'm pretty sure it is not in the public domain and copyrighted so i will state emphatically that it is being used as an inspiration and strictly for educational and demonstrative purposes.

this first photo of the horse and rider was originally facing the other way but i scanned it into photoshop elements and spun it 180 degrees along its vertical axis to get the shown image.  i added some prairie and the tetons to finish it off. i like these because there is a ready supply of material and the model can't go running off if you just want to stop for a while...even a day or two. also one can play with the color scheme as the ones i use are black and white.

"teton buckaroo"
the second one is "teton buckaroo" which i painted at a workshop with charles reid out in jackson.  the original was okay but he made several suggestions at the critique which i have incorporated (fading the mountains out near the bottom to avoid some unnecessary detail and made the "cloud" of dust a little more prominent to suggest motion. i'm not sure of the copyright status of this photo so i will state it is for educational/demonstrative purposes.

the next is "roughrider one" taken from a photo of teddy roosevelt and his steed.  i made the figure a bit too large and ended without much in the way of background to add any type of landscape.  this could be a fault or an advantage depending on the actual intent...figure or landscape.
this is definitely older than 100 years so should be in the public domain. i initially wondered about the size of the horse's head but after rechecking it is coming out  (and therefore foreshortened) of the plane teddy occupies and is really that big in the photo.  i think if i were to do this again i might use a little artistic license and made it smaller. the shadow on his trousers needs simmering down a bit so that it doesn't look like our chief executive had a bladder control issue

i have included this next painting to hopefully show that doing paintings from photos (at least in my hands) doesn't have the same presence that painting from life.  this painting of "emma and her cowboy boots" was from a live model done in a workshop in jackson with charles reid.  i think it feels more "alive" and "real". it does suffer, however, in that emma dissappeared after the session and a photo will not.

"emma and her cowboy boots"

i hope this has shown that doing these types of paintings is fun, can be done from a wealth of readily available material, but is fraught with potential copyright issues. this latter would probably make me only use these for my own personal growth, educational purposes and never for a competition/show or for profit.

please feel free to post comments, etc..

Friday, January 21, 2011

critique: "listen my children"

"listen my children"
when charles reid starts a critique he usually asks the artist what he/she likes about the painting and what things he/she doesn't like and would change.  so that's where i will start.  i really like the strong figure of the old man. i think that it is well drawn and painted .  i also like the idea of the kids nonchalantly munching on their treats while the old man tries to impart the wisdom of the world on their deaf ears. the thing that i dislike the most is the placement of the figures with everything crammed into the bottom of the page.  this is a problem that i have faced before on number of figure paintings so i should start to become aware of that possibility and "fix" it.  we all have these foibles and can usually work out of them with practice and experience.  i know i used to make the heads of figures too big, then just the eyes were too big.  the children are also pulled in too close to the man.  all of these things could have been solved early on by a little  pre-sketching or planning. all in all i think that i should have followed the original photo a little more closely. additionally,  i think that the picture plane is a little flat.  if that is what i was trying to do, i could take credit for succeeding, but that wasn't my goal if i am being honest. there is a little linear perspective going on but the values would suggest that most of the objects are all in the same plane, leaving only overlaps to give the impression of depth. so i should have probably dulled down the chroma of the objects in the background and made them a lighter value.  all that said, i actually like this painting more that i thought i was going to early on in the process.

i am packing up the studio to travel out to the california desert (borrego springs) for the remainder of the winter.  hopefully the desert will be in bloom and i will produce some landscapes (plein air, anyone?) to share with you. so our trek will take about a week as we will take our time and i will start some posts when we arrive.  thanks for viewing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

finishing touches:"listen my children"

"listen my children" 
i finished up the painting we have been working on.  i did pretty much what i said in the last post: put shadows on the shirt of the man with combinations of cerulean, raw sienna, and alizarin; darkened and added some shadows on the limbs and hands of various figures; added some descriptive shadows to the man's trousers; added some warm background shapes on the street surface that weren't really there but i think strengthen the painting by giving some definition to the shirt and providing some cool/warm interplay.  all of these i believe were good ideas. i also added some calligraphy to the building shapes on the right and "plugged" the stark white "hole" on the upper mid right between the bus/rv and the buildings on the right. the former in retrospect was a mistake and i wish i hadn't done it.  the latter was a good idea as i think it keeps one's eye from leaving the picture space but i could have done it more elegantly and not as sloppily.  it also is a rather ugly, muddy color. so, with that said (and done) i declare this project finished.  i learned a lot from doing this step-by-step demonstration and i hope you at least had fun watching my angst unfold at every brushstroke! after a couple of days go by i will critique this a little more thoroughly.  in the interim, please feel free to leave comments, criticisms, ridicule, suggestions, etc.  all are welcome.  thanks.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

listen my children .4

next washes in "listen my children"
this morning in the 30 or so minutes i had to paint i put in the color on the man's trousers with combinations of ultramarine blue (for the darker passages) and cerulean (for the lighter passages.) i dulled down both where necessary (distant and shadow areas) with raw sienna or umber.  i wanted to get some peacock blue somewhere else in the painting as well as get some mass in the upper left section.  both worked into the shape that is (sort of) a bus or maybe an rv in the background.  i thought a splash of color to decorate this area might work and added the "mta" letters in cadmium yellow-orange. i also put some shadow in the cracks in the sidewalk and curb and loosened it up by dragging a damp brush along the edges. all that's really left to do is attack the shirt on the man, which i think i will leave this really just means putting in shadows to explain the shape, separate some of the shapes on and around the kids, and put in "maybe" a bit of stuff on the buildings (like windows, etc.)  i haven't really decided about the later just yet.  i am starting to feel better about this painting but i am entering the phase where i have to be careful not to overdo it.  will this be a masterpiece?  hardly.  but i think it has a fair chance of at least being a decent painting. this a  goal i was seriously questioning a few washes ago.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

listen my children .3

next step:"listen my children"
overnight i found myself thinking about how i was going to fix some of the problems i created for myself yesterday without just "erasing" and/or starting over. in the end i decided that i would change some of the angles of the shape in the upper right to obey the laws of perspective a bit more rigorously by angling some of the bottoms of the buildings and darkening the forward-most shape with an over wash of burnt sienna and umber that also works on a diagonal toward the upper left. so i did it as shown here. i don't know if that really helped, but it looks better to my eye. i also darkened some of the clothing shapes on the children to bring them forward a bit and added the shadows on their limbs.  the colors on the clothing are directly out of the tube (girl's shirt is peacock blue) and i used the same now familiar flesh combo for the limbs. that's all i have time for today.  probably will finish up tomorrow by figuring out how to paint the background shape in the upper left and getting on with completing the figure of the old man.

Friday, January 14, 2011

listen my children .2

"listen my children" second step (wash)
after the first washes dried i decided that the initial wash, especially on the far side of the man's face was a bit anemic.  i should have expected this because watercolor dries a value or two lighter than it appears when wet. so the first order of business was to add some pigment with a light brush over the areas of that wash that were more definitely on shadow.  i also fought the urge to put the eyes in the shadow and i am glad that i resisted because i can't really see the eyes in the reference picture (even if i know they are there) and i am rather sure i would have made a bit of a mess.  they just aren't necessary because you as an observer know they are there, too!  for this i used the the standard cerulean, cadmium yellow pale (or raw sienna), and cadmium red light. while i was at it, i put in some of the initial washes on, in, and around the children in the foreground. i will predict at this point that the "scrunching in" these figures will come back to haunt me as i struggle in later stages to salvage what i am beginning to fear will be an insipid mid-value mishmash.........we'll see.

"listen my children" step (washes) 3
in this next step i knew that i wanted to get a larger, somewhat darker shape in the right and upper portion of the picture frame to denote the buildings along the sidewalk and to provide some balance to the large figure of the man. i was pretty sure that i wanted to make it more abstract than representational. what i ended up with was a bit more exciting (not necessarily in a good way!) and abstract than i anticipated. hopefully, i have not dug a hole for myself that i will be able to climb out from. since i have used mostly non-staining colors (except for the alizarin crimson) i know that i could scrub this out with one of those "mr. clean" erasing-type sponges (yes, they do work and quite well), but where's the fun in that? just another challenge to undertake.  i also take some solace in what charles reid has told us (me) over and over, "its only paper/a painting. its not a big deal in the large scheme of things!" for the building/background shapes i am still mostly using a blue/red/yellow combination to make various values and temperatures of gray only i have sustituted the cadmium red and yellow with permanent alizarin crimson and raw sienna, respectively. 

 you will also notice that i have started to tackle the figures of the children by explaining their forms with over washes using the basic flesh combo for faces, arms, legs; and mostly color right out of the tube for the various parts of clothing. i have also used a bit of black right out of the tube for the telephone post and the hair on the children and added some other pigments wet-in-wet right on the paper and let them mingle.  i'm starting to feel a bit better about the mess in the foreground now, but i don't think i am out of the woods yet by a long shot.

i will end these thoughts for the day by observing that frequently right after i have finished a passage in a painting or even an entirely finished painting, i frequently feel that the work i have just done is lousy.  now, of course, sometimes it is, but usually by the next day i can see that it wasn't quite as bad as i initially thought and can see some redeeming value in it. this is the case with this last step in this painting. i still don't know if i can pull it off........stay tuned, film at 6:00 o'clock.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

listen my children. 1

drawing for "listen my children"
well, so far so good....the drawing and initial washes as promised. all right, i admit i got lazy and this is the one and only drawing i did for this painting. it is what i call a modified contour drawing in that i tried to locate the major shapes that i will use with the washes.  you can see i had trouble with the children in the foreground mainly because i made the man a little too big and had to "scrunch" the kids into the foreground.  i think i can make it work, but i am not all together happy with it. this will just make the whole process a bit more challenging and exciting.  i also "decided" to overlap some of the shapes of the kids with the old man to give me some "tie-ins" more easily when i start painting.

first wash for "listen my children"
just some materials and tools talk up front.  i use kolinski sable round brushes from #2 up to #12. i rarely use a flat brush as i find i can create one from a round brush by pressing down almost to the ferule when doing the stroke.  i use a metal palette.  almost all my colors are holbein except for quinacridone gold which i use in landscapes and still lifes and is winsor+newton. 140# fabriano artistico cold press paper in the 16X20 inch size is the paper i usually use and it is supported on a couple of pieces of foam core clamped together and held at a 45-60 degree angle on a standard french easel. i do not soak and stretch the paper as i usually do not apply the larger washes that buckle the paper. i started this painting with a mid-value which i usually do to get the over all value of the painting established.  with that i know that some areas will be darker and some lighter. but this is a value against which to gauge all the rest. the wash is made up of cadmium red light, cadmium yellow pale,  and cerulean blue....mostly mixed on the paper after working the color out a bit on the palette for the flesh color. i treated the entire side of his face, forehead, eye sockets, under the nose, mouth, ear, and neck as one big shape and used a moist brush to pull out some paint onto the near cheek and up onto the the near side of the nose to give both areas some color. the hat bill and dark area on the left side of the cap i also treated as one shape along with the portion of the background (which also describes the top of the light portion of the hat) which will be a bus and its cast shadow. for this portion i substituted ultramarine blue for the cerulean. the arms are "released" into the shadows within the sleeves of the shirt as well as the cast shadow on his forward thigh and knee and front of his shirt under the elbow.  just to soften the area over the knee i used a damp brush to draw some of this color into the jeans.  i have to continually  remind myself that you can soften edges now and reclaim them as found later but it is very difficult to leave an edge hard now and soften it later if you don't like it.  the last thing i did here was pick up the puddles that collected on the bottom of the washes with a "thirsty" brush to avoid back washes (blooms) from occurring. some more progress on the painting tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

next project

photo for "listen my children"
this is the photo that i took near the old north church in boston a number of years ago that i am going to attempt to turn into a figure painting.  the trick will be to get it onto the page in a decent design. i included what it think the title of the painting will be if successfully finished.  many will recognize it as the first part of the poem entitled, i think, the midnight ride of paul revere .....old north church.....too obscure????  i will start with some modified contour drawings exploring placement of the figures on the page and post them along with the one that i finally choose for the painting tomorrow.

i'm back......with apologies

"everyone's bigger than me"

"i wonder what i'm missing"
"mandy and me"

"having fun"
"taking five"
"norsekedalen nuptials"
well, after a ridiculously long hiatus due to circumstances beyond my control i will post the portraits that i was working on a the time that i abandoned my blogger duties.  i found that in doing these i tended to overwork those in which i know the persons....trying make them the best likeness that i could.  as result some of them are not as fresh-looking as i would like.  the more i do watercolors i realize that in my hands they don't like to be "fussed with." the first painting is of my daughter-in-law ("norsekedalen nuptials) on her wedding day with the backdrop of the arboretum where the gala event transpired and was originally posted about a year ago. the second ("i wonder what i'm missing" and also posted at same time as last) and third ("everybody's bigger than me")of my granddaughter sophie were inspired from photos taken by my aforementioned d-i-l (to give credit where credit is due).  lately, i have been doing more paintings of people some family members, trying to force myself to being more spontaneous and loose despite the familiarity. the first is titled "mandy and me"; the second with the two figures is entitled "taking five"; the last "having fun".  more recently i have done some figure in landscape work using old tintypes and turn of the 19th century public domain photos for the figures and placing them in landscapes that that i know. the photos help with the values and i get to make up the i will post those as soon as i have taken some pictures of them.  lastly, i am currently working on a multi-figure painting of and old man on the streets outside the old north church in boston giving some probably unwanted advice to a couple of kids.  this from a photo i took several years ago.  i will plan on chronicling the process starting later this week.  hopefully i will follow through with this better than last year.  thanks for your patience, if you've been foolish enough to have tried to follow an apparently abandoned blog.