Tuesday, May 31, 2011

may watercolor challenge: wet canvas

i have been a bit under the weather from a virus i most likely picked up out in south dakota given the usual incubation time of viruses. while still symptomatic, i have done some painting on this month's watercolor challenge from wet canvas. i doubt i will finish it before june starts but i should put on the final bit of paint by the first few days of the soon to be new month. the inspiration for this month's challenge is a photograph of one the moderator's family holding a newborn chick when she was a young girl. here it is:

it will be a challenge both because of the pose but also the bright lighting on the subjects with a very dark background so it is aptly named. i started out by drawing the figure on a piece of 15"X18", 140#,  fabriano artistico traditional white cold press paper. per usual i began painting on the figure's face. cadmium red light and cadmium yellow pale are the main colors in my flesh tome and i add a bit of cerulean blue to cool it down and darken the value when necessary.  while i mix the red and yellow a bit on the palette i almost always add the cerulean wet in wet on the paper. it just seems to stay fresher and cleaner that way.

starting with the under plane of the nose i put in the shadow shape and then after cleaning and shaking the brush i drew out the paint already applied up and over the top and side planes of the nose. i tried to leave the highlights where appropriate over the tip and mid wing above the nostril. this shape was continued into the shadow of the crease on the far side of the nose where the upper lip and cheek meet. turning to the far eye, i painted in the shadow under the upper lid with a much darker mix of the same colors (more cerulean added). the next step was painting the upper part of the iris with cobalt blue. using the same technique on the bottom of the iris i pulled some of the color down with a damp clean brush. for this work i was using pretty much #4 and #6 round sables. i released the bottom of the iris into the lower lid using the same maneuver. the important shape defining the medial aspect of the socket was then painted putting down a dab of blue initially and then drawing down to the medial cheek and over the medial upper lid using the red/yellow mix, including the shape of the eyebrow in this part of the wash. i will add the brow wet in wet after this dries some with burnt umber dabs in appropriate places. by now the iris was sufficiently dry enough to place the pupil using ultramarine blue wet in wet and still maintain the shape pretty well. this area of the painting was finished by putting in some of the hair lateral to far eye to give this area a place in which to be released. this whole thing is reiterated pictorially in the close-up.
a dab of paint (alizarin crimson and cadmium red light) in each corner and the middle of the upper lip started the process on the mouth. i drew this out with a damp clean brush (#6 round) and drew the same type of brush horizontally across the far corner and mid lip of the near side. there was enough paint left there to do the same with the lower lip leaving the highlight in the middle alone. i did the near eye structures with the same technique as described for the far eye and tied the shadow of the medial socket with that on the near side of the nose. i started the side shadow of the face by placing a spot of cerulean blue lateral to the eye defining that side plane using a #10 round and then drawing it down the cheek with the flesh colors going back and forth not stopping until i reached her dress and sweater line.
this was tied in with the more central shadows and then completed the chin with the indicated colors. i painted the top front of her dress with dabs of mineral violet, ultramarine blue, and alizarin and started modelling the collar area of the sweater with a grayed mixture of cerulean blue, raw umber and alizarin crimson. the first blush of pigment was added to the chick with raw sienna and a bit of raw umber. i started painting the back ground shape by pre-wetting the area with clear water. i will often do this with large areas that need a wash just to make sure it comes out relatively well blended. i used the 1" flat and a color mixture of ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, mineral violet and some raw sienna, blending it on the paper. when the sheen came off the wash i scraped in the line indicating the junction of the wall and door that is ajar.  when this was bone dry, i experimented with getting some grain in the wood by splaying a damp 1" flat loaded with mineral violet and lightly ran it down the boards. you van see this better if you magnify the photo by clicking on it twice (if your machine works the same as mine, which is the reason i have left these photos "fully pixellated"). i then put in some knots and cracks and when those dried scraped in white highlights on the side away from the light. this experiment seems to have worked well and i will use it on sections of the background i want  to bring into focus.

her hair was painted using mainly the flat brushes and quinacridone gold, raw sienna, and burnt umber. i scraped in hair strands using the beveled handle end of a  skywash brush and palette knife when the paint dried to the point it would leave a light rather than a dark mark (sheen just leaving the paint). i lost the edge on the shadow side of her head/hair by applying the back ground pigment right after this using the same colors as in front but a little darker. i carried this down to the lower right corner and blended the background into the back of her sweater using cobalt blue and raw umber for the shadow shapes on the figure. i finished the chick with a blended wash of cadmium yellow medium, raw umber and burnt sienna. i think it got a little dark and didn't lighten as much when i dried as i anticipated. this will lift pretty easily with the colors i use so i will wait to correct this "value" problem until i have almost finished to be sure i get it right. beak and eye were put in last with ivory black for the latter and a dilute alizarin crimson for the former.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

finishing up portrait of "franca"

this is the final 30 minutes work on "franca." i started by putting in some modelling on the hands using mainly cadmium red light and cadmium yellow pale applied with a #4 or #6 round brush. her hair was painted with a #12 round and burnt sienna and alizarin crimson and dabs of ultramarine blue and mineral violet. as usual i over did the scraping but did wait 'til the sheen came off the wash to do so the remainder of the shirt was done with the same colors pretty much right out of the tube and applied with a 3/4" flat in stripes across the *left* arm. as i wanted to lose that edge i put in a lose wash using splattered on cerulean blue, alizarin crimson (i always use the permanent due to the fugitive nature of real alizarin crimson, alas), and raw sienna pushed around a bit with a wet brush. lastly i finished off the jewelry with quinacridone gold on the rings and a gray wash on the bracelets. i think that's all and will call it finished. the arms are drawn too long and make look taller than she really is, i think. also, the *right* arm has a peculiar and i'm sure non-anatomical bump in the forearm, but otherwise i am relatively happy with the end result.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

2-nu three: franca and mississippi overlook

i am finally back and ready to get on with some of the paintings that i want to do from the photos that i took out in porcupine. as has happened in the past i was away from the projects that i started before the trip out to pine ridge long enough ago to have lost a bit of enthusiasm  for them, but i am determined to finish them and not let them languish! i started today on the landscape with painting the young man on the left. his clothes were darker than the other two and i used mainly cobalt blue and raw umber with a #6 round brush. same brush for the flesh colors which are my old stand-by's.
"trail's reward"
after that i applied large washes for the more foreground grasses, etc. with my 3/4" and 1" flat brushes using pretty much all the same colors that i have used up until now on the more background /distant structures, namely ultramarine blue, hooker's green, quinacridone gold, raw umber and sienna, and burnt umber. to add some color in the foreground and to darken it a bit so that it seems to come forward i painted in a more violet set of washes to denote nearer grasses, etc. the reflection on the mighty mississippi was last and recapitulated the hills in the distance that were reflected in its surface. a few scrapes and splashes and i felt that was enough and stopped.

turning to franca's portrait i started by setting my timer for 30 minutes after getting fresh water and cleaning my palette and brushes. in the last few weeks i have fallen into what i feel is a bad habit of painting, painting, painting using ever more dirty water and palette. setting the timer and stopping very half-hour or so, stretching, refreshing the water and cleaning the brushes is a good way to remind me that these are as important as anything else. it also affords me some time to look at the painting from a distance which always gives me more perspective on what i am doing.
"franca" next steps

i painted more of her shirt using the 3/4" flat using ivory black with a little mineral violet, turquoise blue, and a bit of ultramarine blue in places. i wanted to lose the edge behind *her* right shoulder and torso so i added a nondescript wash in the background in that area to do so. i then painted in the *right* side hair with my #12 round using burnt umber, alizarin crimson permanent, and some ultramarine blue applied in sweeping and curling kind of strokes much as i imagined her hair to do. these colors were for the most part mixed on the paper and only ever so lightly on the palette. when this was losing its sheen i scraped in the strands of hair with the flat end of my 3/4" flat brush handle (its kind of a sky-wash brush with a beveled end to the clear plastic handle). i put in a flesh-colored wash over the lower hand using cadmium red light, cadmium yellow pale , and cerulean blue, again, mixed mostly on the paper. the cast shadow under that arm was painted at the same time to get a necessary tie in. i will come back when that is dry to do some minimal modelling on the hand (but not too much as it has a supporting role in this show with the face securing the lead.) again, i wanted the hair to blend into the background on the *right* and an extension of the same grayish wash of cerulean blue, alizarin crimson, raw sienna was splashed on and pushed around a bit in order to lose that edge. i over mixed it a bit but i won't fret over it and risk muddying it up. i decided that i didn't want to paint and didn't really like the bracelets on the down arm so painted over them. i will put in the larger band on her*right* arm when the time comes, though. the timer has dinged and so i will behave and obey. as it is lunch time i will probably stop for the day and pick it up tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

on the rez

we have put in one day at the clinic in porcupine. several problems needed ironing out and myself and a colleague had to go  down to the town of pine ridge where the indian health service hospital is located to straighten out some problems with credentials of the physicians and computer access. it usually is but a 30 minute drive, but construction turned it into an hour stop and go. the only reason i bring this up is that no painting occurred yesterday and i fear none will be done on this trip, but a number of old friends stopped by once people found out that we were back in town. as we sat talking they were very gracious in letting me collect several candid photos. some will make good subjects for paintings. one woman, who i met on our first trip out here 2-3 years ago insisted on taking off her glasses and posing. she was next to a window where bright sunlight was streaming in. what i got was a very regal pose in almost rembrandt lighting of a lakota elder. she looks very classically sioux and i and she were happy with the photo. i should see her again today and will ask if i can post it here. she already knows that i am going to paint her as a subject and she bargained for a painting in exchange for the pose. so i will probably post a few more times while we are out here but it will not be painting as i will probably not get back to that until i return to la crosse on friday night.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

2-nu two: franca and mississppi overlook

i haven't made a lot of progress in the last couple of days due to being busy with preparations to go out to pine ridge reservation next week to volunteer at the porcupine clinic in porcupine, sd. while i hope to do some painting: landscapes and/or portraits our main goal is to provide some much needed medical care to the only people in this country who are guaranteed health care coverage: the native americans. in addition to that the blog spot was down yesterday when i was going to post the little bit that i had. well, its up now and i will offer what i have so far. maybe i can do a bit more before i leave tomorrow morning.

i think the changes are pretty obvious, but i painted the forefinger on *her* right hand and the cast shadow of that and her hand on the cheek along with a blush of flesh color to define the modelling of the cheek. these are the same flesh colors that i always use and refer one to previous posts and a #6 round brush. i extended the hair/shadow down the arm to where her sleeve starts with alizarin crimson permanent, burnt umber, and some ultramarine blue scraping in some hair curls/waves with a palette knife when the paint was starting to lose its sheen. you can see that i graded the wash as i went left to right so that i wouldn't get a real hard edge when i pick it back up to paint the remainder of her draped hair and shirt. these will for the most part be quite a bit darker so this i think will be adequate. the mouth will need fixing as it is a little skewed to *her* right and needs to move more to *her* left. i can correct this with some minor lifting and repainting. what is it about mouths that always give me fits? that's a rhetorical question...probably lack of observation and practice!

on the landscape of the overlook i think the only difference is the last of the remaining distant hills was painted in using the 1" flat and ultramarine blue, quinacridone gold, hookers green, and burnt sienna, making sure to get it close in value and color to the reflected strip on it in the river. i think i also redefined the left shoulder of the girl so that it didn't look so much like she sported shoulder pads. this was done by expanding the green "island" in front of her. i feel like that worked okay and will do something similar on the other side when i get to it. next i will tackle the right-most boy figure but that is for another time. hopefully i will post one more later today.

thanks for following and please leave comments and or questions. don't be shy. i really would like to have a dialog even if it is criticism!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

2-nu: franka and bluff overlook

well, after a bit of hemming and hawing i decided to do the mississippi overlook with the kids. you can probably tell from previous posts that i like to put figures in the foreground of my landscapes if given the choice and this place is near our house and worth the hike uphill!. it is in trempealeau state park in (what else?) trempealeau, wisconsin, and the hike is about 2 miles long, uphill, and overlooks the mississippi river which at this point is about a mile wide. this will be done at the same time as i am working on franka as a portrait. while one step is drying on one i will paint the next step on another with perhaps a bit of guitar playing interlude.

i started the landscape by lightly penciling in the components of the background and more definitely drawing the foreground figures. the middle figure's (girl) shoulders looked like she has on shoulder pads rather than just hunched forward, but i should be able to correct this in the painting part so i won't hassle with it now. in these types of paintings i usually like to do the foreground figures first. they are back lit so i don't think i need a lot of detail other than getting the shadows right in terms of shape and value. i did this with combinations of cerulean blue, raw sienna, and alizarin crimson (permanent). i used a #6 round brush for this step. i put in the girl's hair next because i didn't want a really hard separation here. face and hair on the left boy was next with cadmium red light and raw sienna for the face and burnt umber and quinacridone gold for his hair. both figures' arms were painted with the same flesh colors with the boy's shorts a darker version of the shadow on the back and the girl's shorts mineral violet. the bench is going to be pretty much the darkest object in the painting so i wanted to get the value in early so that i would have something to gauge everything else against and perhaps keep away from some of the mistakes of the past where i feel i have gotten way too dark. this was painted with ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. its cast shadow on what will be grass was put in right away to get the needed tie-in and lastly some grass blades were scratched in at ground level with a palette knife.

turning to the background i painted the sky with cobalt blue blending to a more grayed version by adding a bit of raw sienna nearer the hills and carried it down to what will be the distant shore/water's edge. i used a 1"flat
 for this. after this had almost dried (paper just barely cool to the touch...bone dry would be no hint of coolness (temperature-wise, obviously the whole thing awesomely cool!..but i jest), i put in the most distant hill with the same brush and cobalt blue/burnt sienna and feathered it out below the level of the next tier of hills. same thing with the next group in terms of almost dry but moving a little more toward green in places and a little darker. i carried this down and to the sides a bit until i ran out of paint which gave me a fairly lost edge at the bottom. the distant reflection of the near hill in the water was painted with a dark version of the ultramarine blue/burnt sienna/hookers green and i scratched some more blades of grass to start to define the near hillock by the kids. i thought the small sliver of white at the distant shore was important so i was careful to preserve white paper there. a few closer structures/reflections in the river were then painted to start to define the tops of things in the foreground. since the figures are back lit i wanted to have a rim of white at the tops. per the discussion above i tried to lower the girl's left shoulder a bit by defining the top down a smidgen (i think that's a metric measure) below that drawn. i notice that i did tie in the girl's shoes with a grayish shape and since they are dangling might have been a mistake....i may need to change this a bit in future steps. in similar circumstances i would have already painted the right-most boy's figure and haven't here for no particular reason other than i wanted to move on to something else before tackling it.

okay, moving on to franka's portrait, the first step was producing a fairly detailed drawing showing the location of her features in terms of shape and location vis-a-vis each other. subtle difference in eye or mouth tilt can make a huge difference in likeness. i also lightly penciled in where i thought the major shadow shapes might be.

 you have probably already figured out that i usually like to start painting a portrait with the nose and that is where i started this as shown on the close-up of her face. this was done with a #8 round ( i usually use the largest brush i think i can get away with and still have the control necessary to produce an accurate shape) and cadmium red light
/cadmium yellow pale/a touch of cerulean blue. the under plane first and then a clean damp brush to draw this over the upper structures. i tried to maintain the highlight over the edge and tip but i lost a little of it and i may have to lift it later. no fussing at this step in a wet wash! i tied it in with the shadow in the upper lip using cerulean blue and bleed from the nose wash. the distant eye socket shadow is important to define it as sitting in and not on the face but also to define the top of the proximal nose. this was painted in the same colors going a little cooler by the addition of more cerulean blue and switching to a #6 round for this step. the rest of the eye was painted with variations of the same colors except as indicated. so onto the shadow under the upper lid and immediately the iris with burnt umber right out of the tube. i usually only paint the top third of the iris (being to careful to preserve the highlight) with paint and draw that down with a damp clean brush for the bottom 2/3rds. i tied this into the bottom lid right away with a damp/clean brush. i keep an eye on this and after it has dried enough to give some modicum of control i put in the pupil with a dab of ultramarine blue wet-in-wet. i also wanted a tie in with the lateral eye structures and the hair so i put in a patch of that on the right (her left) using alizarin crimson permanent, burnt umber and a touch of a blue (cobalt? maybe ultramarine. .not really important, just something cool and dark). you can see where i scratched in some curls as well just as it was beginning to lose its sheen.

Monday, May 9, 2011

new projects: two at once

over this week i am going to try to do two paintings more or less simultaneously. one will be a landscape (i haven't decided on the subject yet) and the other will be portrait of a woman whose picture was posted on wet canvas for the may/june portraiture challenge. the photo of the woman and the three possibilities for the landscapes are below. i'm leaning toward the one with the kids on the mississippi overlook. as it is a rainy, stormy, albeit warm (finally!) day i think i will get a fair amount done on these.


Friday, May 6, 2011

new project: urban ranch

i apologize for the gap in postings. not really sure what happened. time just got away from me. i decided to do another landscape as i seem to be having some trouble with them and i know that i need to do some more work before i will be at all happy with the result. i think the main problems have been in the value area and getting a little too dark too soon and not leaving myself enough "room" to maneuver...so tho speak. so as i do this i think i will do a near "darkest dark" first to gauge everything else and try for lighter values in the rest of the painting. we'll see.

the inspiration photo was posted in the southwestern/western art forum of wet canvas as a challenge for may. here it is:

there isn't quite enough going on in the foreground, i don't think, so i will probably put something in the try to lead one's eye upward into the painting.

i first lightly drew in the major elements onto a 14"X20" piece of 140# fabriano artistico rough paper. next step was painting the shed/barn with mixtures of cobalt blue/burnt sienna mixed mostly on

 the paper. i used a 3/4" flat brush and when mostly
 dry put in the overlying suggestion of vertical boards with a darker version of the same colors. the cast shadow was painted right after that to get a tie-in using hooker's green and quinacridone gold. since i have decided to leave the roof more or less white i was careful to keep that untouched white paper for now as i then put in the gray background with the same colors but switching to a 1" kolinski flat. this brush is big enough and holds enough water/paint that i often load one corner with one color and the other with another color and then apply both at the same time with broad sweeping strokes swishing the brush around without lifting until i think that the paint is starting to be diminished. i brought this down to the far tree line and then left it with a relatively soft edge as i hadn't decided what i was going to do back there yet and wanted to leave my options open (hard edge/soft edge?). the firs were painted with a 3/4" flat using ultramarine blue, quinacridone gold and hooker's green with a little mineral violet in a few places for color interest. switching to a #6 round i painted the deciduous tree behind the building with ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. i tried to emulate the budding leaves with some water spritzes. i'm not sure that worked, but i'll leave 'em. i started painting the cattle using a #2 and #4 round and black/cobalt combinations on one and browns on the other.

at this point i put in a further background layer with the same colors in a darker value and brought it down in the middle of the painting and about half-way to the juncture of the woods and the pasture using a 1" flat. the pasture hillside was painted in quinacridone gold and cobalt blue and a little hooker's green. i should say most of these last few steps were done mixing on the paper or wet-in-wet. i brought it down to the fence line.

in this step i painted the midground deciduous tree with the trusty combination of cobalt blue and burnt sienna using a #6 round that pointed really well so i could get the tapering effect on the branches that i was looking for. i tried to dry brush on some budding leaves using the side of a 3/4" flat, but i don't think it was too successful.  to put in the foreground wash using more or less the same colors that i have been using for the ground/grass with a large brush (i think it was the 1" flat) i was more interested in making sure that i darkened the value so that it seemed to come forward the closer to the eye it came. this will have to be over glazed as i  didn't vary the value enough to accomplish this the way that i wanted.

putting this darker wash over the front bottom helped but then i felt that i had created a barrier to a viewer's eye moving into the painting from the bottom. so.....

i lifted out a path for the eye and darkened the wash around it on either side and scratched in some texture for grass,etc. with a palette knife. i think this worked at the risk of appearing a bit naive. at some point i put in the last remaining steer on the left and the barbed wire fence. much of the barbed wire was "painted" with a palette knife loaded with a dark value paint and used like a quill pen. i lifted some of the branches in the tree on the left and also dry brushed in some more emerging leaves. a last spritz with water and i decided i had inflicted enough abuse on this piece and declared it done