Back in the saddle, or palette
Well, that was an unexpected pause - blame it on Covid-19.
Onward and upward - I have 4 oil paintings in progress. One of them has been 'in progress' for several years so it is fortunate a very patient person commissioned it. After several drafts to combine several photos into one picture, I think I might have a better layout now. We'll see.
The paintings that have one good reference photo work way better for me, but I need the brain challenge of making my own images. This one reuses a horizontal oil painting (sunset on water) as a background for a vertical landscape of a foreground tree in autumn. Nothing of the underpainting left though. Maybe I don't entirely get the concept of background...
Done and on display at the Merritt Civic Centre as part of the Nicola Valley Arts Council's "Public Artworks Program."
Step by step...
OK, paint a little and walk away - 6 times today. This photo below shows it colour balanced as close to the actual painting as I can get it right now.
Decision time - Do I like it enough to finish it? Do I like it enough to spend $400 to double mat and frame it? Or should I treat it as a practice for an oil painting? Or put it away for a few months and then see what I think of it?
And here comes the next community art program! Covid19 compliant and FREE! Register online:
step by step...
It's dark enough now, but looking a little coarse, so next the details. Cattails, branches, bushes on the near bank, and the interesting colours of the icy shoreline. Carry the near-shore shadow up the hillside to show that it is the last ray of sunshine coming through a slot in the hills. Change the colour of Nicola Nose to bluish and rocky, maybe a little sunlight up there.
I notice that my studio's yellowish lighting is changing the photo colours a lot, which might be affecting my paint mixing too. I will need to find lights that are more natural coloured. The next photos will be taken outside, weather and wind permitting, to get more accurate colour.
The "Here and Now" sketch program was just posted yesterday and already 8 are registered! Most are people who have taken my 'magic hand drawing' session. We need to make the instruction video asap so the new students can get started too. Wonders of modern technology, yet again!
going to the dark side
- Looking at the photo and why I wanted to paint it - the contrast between the dark sky and hills and glow of the yellow/orange grasses in the last rays of the sun. Now how to get that...
- First darken the sky, hills and water so the lights will stand out.
- Then correct the yellows so they are not so spring-like in this fall season.
- Start detailing the grasses and trees, but smudge the water reflections.
- There is great work showing up on the Facebook page from the watercolour class. I am simply amazed.
- That strong interest has me thinking of starting a new program to get more people involved. True to my usual form, the trigger is a new grant that was just announced and it would be perfect for this project. Stay tuned...
- Home Game:
OK, finally back in action:
- I softened the edges of most of the hard white spaces left by removing the masking. Since all the paint colours in this work are transparent, the hard edges would have shown through. The straight lines would have been a problem in a landscape.
- Second layer is putting the bright yellows in place. These will be mellowed with Quinachrodone Gold glazes later.
- The third layer starts the many layers of dark dull greens and purples that make the clean yellows pop.
This is about the time I get discouraged with the amount of work left (just like the middle of an essay) and I want to quit. However, making it public like this - it's harder to just give up with everyone watching.
- Facebook is still working for us with several painters posting their work. Several are now going beyond the textbook! Yea! That is the point of having a homework-based course - artists learn to solve the work issues without follow-the-leader classes. The skill levels immediately go up from then on - great work, people!
- And some are even running out of paper :) There are some extras left from stocking the initial kits and some pre-purchased at a sale for the next course (now cancelled) , so give me a call or text or email to get restocked.
OK, a lot of thought about the steps needed to get this painting to mid-point. I have decided to paint with pre-mixed colours rather than paint layers of single pigments, to reduce the problem of multiple lines in the large wash areas. Either way would work, but I am not so confident with this very large paper, so I am going with the less risky and faster-drying method. It will take a lot more paint than I usually use to swish over these big spaces - and finally get the paper wet!
- First, 4 containers with about 2 tablespoons of paint of each of the main colours;
- A selection of larger brushes, one for each colour to avoid contaminating the colour pots;
- A large wash brush for wetting specific sections with clean water, to avoid uneven lines in the large areas;
- 2 buckets of clean water, paper towel, extra small containers for mixed colours.
Ready, set , paint! The layers below took 2 hours and this is about the mid-point of the painting. Next I will wait overnight for all to dry, then remove the masking fluid.
April 03rd, 2020
- Working on the next preparation steps in the "Last Light" watercolour painting:
- Clean up the drawing by lifting excess pencil with kneaded eraser so it does not dirty the wet paint colours.
- Apply masking fluid to the highlights and light areas with a very old brush and the grasses with a palette knife edge. WAIT for it to dry completely.
- Check the grey scale of the reference photo again to ensure highlights and dark areas are correct in the plan.
- Identify the paint colours to use, and plan the sequence of first washes. In this reference photo, very few areas are identifiable pigments, so mixes or layers are needed. Surprise! It turns out the peculiar blues and golds are rather odd combinations of just 4 paints: Pthalo Blue, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Brown Madder.
- Still waiting for the masking fluid to dry...
- Test strip for checking colours and first tentative wet paint using thin washed to mark the areas a little. Whew, stressful!
Some talk and some action
- Yesterday we tried an online Facebook coaching session to see if that would work in place of the scheduled Courthouse coaching/demo/painting sessions. It was interesting to see a kind of snapshot of where the participants had arrived at that point. Not as much fun as in-person, but better than not knowing. Many were trying paintings beyond the textbook, which is wonderful! That is the objective and seems to happen after the 'bananas' chapter builds confidence. The complexity and variety of extra-curricular subjects was really impressive - keep up the good work, everyone!
(Facebook group: Valley Visual Artists - Merritt)
- Ah, the self-challenge: " I promise to paint a watercolour this weekend! I can't let you think I am all talk and no action." Ok, I am on it! Today my normal prep for a formal painting in any medium - 3+ hours of serious concentration without actually touching paint:
- Decide the criteria and select the reference materials (interesting light/colour, local subject, suitable for wc) and decide on size of finished work for the 24x30" frame I have in my stash.
- Size the photo reference to match finished work proportions (18x24") and set grid accordingly (3x4 ratio), check grey scale by changing photo to black/white, trace right on the screen and refine the sketch outline.
- Draw the image on the wc paper, then erase all unnecessary lines to avoid confusion when painting (erase carefully, brush off eraser crumbs with big clean paintbrush.)
Next step - the paint and brushes will get WET!
And life goes on...
- I briefly thought that self-isolating would mean an "at-home art retreat," but not so :(
Instead it seems to mean noticing all those to-do things that fell off the list for the past 5 years. However, persevering when the March weather is not for gardening and the floors are spotless ...
Yes, we got sideswiped by the COVID-19 issues, so all the coaching sessions and final workshop are cancelled. However, we are creative, so the course is extended to the end of April and coaching is moved online - email and a special Facebook group just for us: "Valley Visual Artists - Merritt"
- Most of the class signed up for the Facebook group and some are starting to post their homework on the page. It is amazing how much difference even a little practice makes in the watercolour skills. It really could happen that people will be able to paint independently by the end of the course.
- I painted the second gesso layer (final preparation layer before painting) on more than a dozen canvases and panels that have been waiting patiently in the basement for a couple years. Now they are ready for any acrylic painting I might feel the inspiration to tackle, instead of a task waiting to be done. No more excuses :)
- I finished the black gesso and white acrylic paint "Moonstruck" acrylic painting that I started only a couple weeks ago -record time for me! As usual, I got hung up on perfecting the final little tiny details (like the pointy moon). Enough already! See the sequence below (the colour shifts are just photographing in different light or camera settings.) So now it will be varnished (matte or satin finish) in a couple days when fully dry. Next...
Valley Visual Artists
Merritt once had a local art group called "Valley Visual Artists." They painted together regularly, organized annual art shows and hosted art workshops. It faded away, but never really disappeared. Maybe the VVA will rise again...