Friday, October 30, 2009

Healthy dose of reality...I mean realism.

I find creating "realism" in a painting helps ground and settle me in the present. Realism on a 2D surface is nothing but "special effects"... i.e. simply drawing with value and color perspective.
For this "breath of fresh - garlic", I have chosen a neutralized complimentary color scheme of "oranges" and "blues". Considering color harmony, I will keep my palette simple, choosing only a few colors within my color scheme that represent a variety in value (lights, darks, and midtones), softness, temperature (warm and cool colors) and chroma (intensity).
Form and value in painting are built by layering pastel of various hues and color temperature. Most often, I will work spatially, working an area as it occurs in space on the 2D plane. I begin with the most distant space and work towards the most forward space. That said, I continuously go back and make minor adjustments to previously worked areas to balance the colors and values throughout the painting. In general within these spaces, I work from dark to light and harder to softer pastel.
Studying the light as it falls on the subject, I first lay in the darker and "cooler" color followed by the warmer darks. I consider this the foundation darks, followed by the lighter, softer color "on top". By accurately portraying these values, form and depth are created (and thus the "special effects" of painting).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Before the drawing...

Quite a bit of planning occurs before I begin the drawing for a painting. I have found that I am much more successful with a painting when I have organized and done a little prep-work first. Thumbnail sketching is often a part of my initial planning. Small sketches can be great tools to help you simplify the abstract areas in your design, determine a structure for your composition (if desired), better understand the value and shape relationships, and explore possibilities in design before committing to it in your final painting.
A few tips for thumbnail sketching: Keep your sketches small and simple. They should only take about 5 min each to complete. Don't worry about details, just focus on a pleasing arrangement of shapes and values. Above, I am generalizing mass areas and identifying the areas of lights and darks. I ask myself...Do I want to follow a design structure (or armature) for my painting? Where are the areas of lightest lights and darkest darks? How can I use these shapes to enhance the design of my painting? How will I use these lights and darks (and line direction) to create movement in the painting? How will the viewer's eyes travel around the painting (passage)? Do I have (and want) a focal point?
One of the most exciting aspects of painting for me is finding order in apparent randomness, especially in life and snapshots of everyday moments. For this reason, I don't "stage" my still-life paintings. I find order in what is already there. For example, the garlic above was a photo from the farmer's market near my studio in Fredericksburg. Armatures serve as the backbone structure of a painting, will help create a coherent flow, and are a starting point to determine placement of shapes, values, and color. The disclaimer here... not all paintings need to have a structure to be successful and not all compositions lend themselves to structure (i.e. single-object still life, continuous field compositions, portraits, etc), but many do. Above are a few common compositional structures. Again, these structures are simply guides, not rules, and for beginning painters, will provide a direction in helping you organize and be more successful with your paintings.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How to...draw using a grid.

Over the past few years, I have taught many beginning artists in various workshops. I have found that one of the most difficult and frightening aspects of starting a painting is the drawing. For most of us, being confident in the initial drawing is critical to how we will feel about our work at completion. So in teaching a workshop (whether it be watercolor or beginning in pastel), I just can't get around the first class: where to start with a drawing and how to design and craft a painting. Over the next few blog entries, I thought it would be helpful to post a few tips I follow that will help beginning artists be more successful in their paintings.
For students who have never drawn, creating a grid is one useful way to help you determine size, angle, and foreshortened relationships and perspective. If working from a reference, your first step will be to find the right proportion for your enlarged sketch (grid). I do this by laying the reference to the lower left corner of piece of sketch paper (large enough to fit your working surface). Draw a diagonal from the lower left corner to the top right corner. Any place on this diagonal that you draw 2 perpendicular lines, the rectangle will be proportional to your reference. This is the area you will use as your format for the larger painting and the area that will correspond to your grid.
Admittedly, there are many ways to make a grid. I will typically divide the paper and reference in half, 1/4 point and 3/4 point both vertically and horizontally. The one rule... the grid should be the same in both your reference and your enlarged paper. You can further divide you grid as many times as necessary. My goal here is to simply create an accurate line drawing to work from while painting. I will often revise my drawing as I go to fit what works for the painting. Most of the drawing is done with value and form in pastel. However, if my initial proportions are off, then I will never be able to accomplish what I want with value and form. Tip: I will place my reference in a sheet protector and create the grid on the plastic with a sharpie. This way, I can take the photo out later and see it without the distraction from the grid.
Once I have a drawing I am confident in, I will turn the paper over, cover the lines with graphite (for a watercolor) or hard pastel. Then I will lay the sketch paper over my painting surface (pastel side down) and retrace my initial sketch. Only the pastel sketch will be left on the surface and I am ready to start, almost...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Art and Life

I am considering a number of titles that seem fitting for this painting: wild perseverance, solidarity, resolve, fortitude... Just as a subject for a painting is chosen from moments in my immediate world, so is the interpretation- of challenges, triumphs, struggles, and lessons- some stated, some silent. Art does not happen independent from life.
Did you know- a little sunflower trivia? Wild sunflower seeds are adapted for living and can remain viable for as long as 10 years. Sunflowers are also eager to cross species and form hybrids. A bee transferring pollen from one species of sunflower to another could be unwittingly creating a new hybrid by swapping genes. Forming these unions is how sunflowers can spread and thrive in extreme environments, like salt marshes and sand dunes. Ornamental and industrial breeders take advantage of this pliant attitude to create new colors, sizes, oil content and seed size. A domestic sunflower is also known to sometimes bend to make contact with its own pollen, where it self-pollinates.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"just stop the art"

Seriously, how does one go about "stopping the art"? Painting has been my addiction for the past 6 years or so. Though despite my addiction, I have been able to maintain a job, some healthy relationships and find joy in many other things. However, when I am not creating art, I am often thinking about art. The thinking about art has always been there ever since I can remember, only the "doing" began about 6 years ago. So, how now, after a daily commitment to creating, can I just stop...? The concept saddens me. Finding "balance" in life is such an illusive quest.
the poppy
(and dark places)
Watercolor on Aquabord

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rough Water

Rough Water
Pastel on Ampersand Pastelbord
I found this type of continuous field composition very difficult to organize into some structure. Which I guess is the point...why would I need to "organize" continual movement? My desire to classify everything into some visual order is a concept very hard for me to push aside when painting. And yet, I probably breathe the easiest, when seeing a subject too grand to classify: millions of leaves and dappled light in the forest, endless water in a seascape, thousands of wildflowers. In the presence of grandeur, the eyes rest and the spirit is quiet.