Wednesday, February 29, 2012

There's Usually Something Around

Boquillos Canyon Riverbanks    9x12    oil
Got up early to make the 45 minute drive across the park to Boquillos Canyon before the morning light evaporated.  Parked, loaded up my gear and with anticipation I began the 20 minute hike up the steep hill and then down into the river basin leading to the object of my trek.  I had been told that this was the time to be there if I wanted to get the best light in the Canyon.

When I reached the furthest point of the hike and began to take in the view before me, my reaction was, "hm." The canyon was a rather featureless mass of rock, lit by a direct, flat lighting angle.  Geographically impressive, of course, due to its shear walls and massive proportions, but there were no shadows to distinguish anything in particular.  Disappointing.  Nothing said, "Paint me!"  Then I turned around to find that the humble, sandy riverbanks of the Rio Grande were just what I needed to feel the buzz and exhilaration that makes me want to paint.  Where sunlight is falling on natural forms there's usually something around worth painting.  A great morning!  Good to be alive!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Trip to Big Bend.

Santa Elena Quiet    8x10     Oil
I just returned from a week long painting trip to Big Bend National Park, and the surrounding vicinity.  This was a trip made with my painting friends in the Outdoor Painters Society.  I was there for five days with around twenty-eight motivated, plein air painters!  I was able to do ten paintings while I was there.  Five or six of them will probably be the basis for larger compositions.

The one here was done in the afternoon at Santa Elena Canyon.  The scale of the place is massive.  The canyon walls ascend hundreds of feet above Terlingua Creek.  I did a morning painting of the canyon from further back to take in the entire opening, which I'll show you soon, but in this one I wanted to get an up close, more intimate impression.  It was mid-day, sparkling light, wonderfully fresh air and the silence was as massive as the canyon itself.

Well, it's time to make order out of the  studio, again, after being gone so long.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Johnny's Hill …Again

Johnny's Hill    12x16    oil
Johnny's Hill #1    12x16    oil

This one has been bothering me.  While I like the composition, I was troubled by some things, in the first version (below).  The foreground color seemed wrong, brushwork too brittle, and too busy overall.  So, I decided to have another try at it after listing the things I'd like to improve.

I'm more satisfied with the revised version in which I've simplified the foreground, warmed the shadow color, and restated the color in the trees to strengthen the sense of space and atmosphere in the painting. Especially the oak on the left.  I also tried to simplify the shapes throughout.  The sky has been completely repainted.  I softened many of the edges throughout the painting to do away with the brittleness.

This is a painting I'll probably do a large version of at some point, and I'm just trying to think through the things that I feel can be improved.  I'll stick it in the closet for while, and see what I think when I see it again in a month or so.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Secondary Triad

Fall Creek    8x10    oil
This is a resurrected study from last October.  Changing colors in the foliage, and everything was very dry.  I'm attracted to subjects that let me play with the secondary triad, yellow green, rusty oranges, and blue violets.  Like any scheme, if you put all of the colors in at high intensity it comes off garish.  But, when you emphasize one of the three, and subdue the other two, they just have something that resonates with my personal taste.

I'm enjoying going through the studies I've done from a few months back to see what I can learn from them and hopefully improve the painting as a preparation for larger canvases.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Morning and Afternoon Studies

Morning Light Pattern   9x12    oil
Our plein air group went out on Saturday to paint at a beautiful hill country site just west of Johnson city named The Preserve at Walnut Springs.  Entrance is by appointment only, and thanks to the initiative of our president, Johnnie Sielbeck , we had a wonderful day painting in a target rich environment.

This first painting was done around 9:30 in the morning.  The Preserve is a 2000 acre ranch encompassing an absolutely gorgeous piece of the Texas Hill Country.  The place is a smorgasbord of varied painting possibilities.  I decided to just pull over, set-up and get with it.  There was just a bit of morning haze left, and I was painting almost facing the light as it rose above the hill just to the right.  Besides the interesting shadow linking I enjoyed trying to catch the atmospheric haze and freshness of the day.
Hill Country February    9x12    oil
We stopped for lunch, and visited in the clubhouse until the afternoon light began to cast it's spell on the landscape.  After a quick tour of the elevated portion of the ranch, I selected this hilltop view with a grove of oaks.  The light was behind and to my left illuminating everything in a beautiful golden light.  The sky was filled with an over-running pattern of high, thin, peach and rose tinted clouds against delicate blue.  Both of these studies leave me wanting to take them to the easel for larger versions.  I'll show them when that happens.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Winter Bank

Winter Bank    8x10   oil

Even though it's not particularly cold this year, it's still stick season, and we're not yet out of the drought.  So everything is dry and down to the bones, right now.

There's always something that gets me in the winter about the crazy old cypresses that grow along the banks of the hill country rivers and streams, like haunted skeletons.  But, they're real survivors, and they'll green out this summer, and shade the banks again.

This was painted on a sunny winter morning on the Pedernales.  I was caught by the flowing grace of the cypress limbs.  The silent testimony of the raging torrents that can flash through here.  They don't give up.  They adapt, and grow again.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Re-working Another Study

Swimming Hole  9x12    oil

Here's the re-worked plein air study I mentioned.  I've included the original (below), so that you could see what I started with.  The original study was done under less than ideal conditions. Which is often the case when painting outdoors.  You never know what will come up.  In this case, shortly after I had done my initial lay in of the light and dark shapes, the wind began to gust and clouds started moving in.  It started sprinkling, so I hurriedly did what I could before packing up and running for the car as a downpour started.

When I got back to the studio, and looked at what I had done, I was disappointed in many things about the painting, but the composition had things I liked and so I decided I would experiment with it to see what I could do.  Here's what I had.

The aborted field study
I had just gotten as far as laying in the big shapes, and beginning to work with temperature contrasts, when I had to flee.  Things were pretty well out of whack, but something about it left me wanting to try to do more with it.  It's been over a month since I painted the study.  I hadn't shot a photo before beginning, so I had to work from my memory of the things that had caught my attention.  The big dark pattern of the dam and retaining wall moving up into the tree.  The contrast of the sunlit hill behind and the transparent pool.  It's interesting what the brain does to edit a recalled image.

The re-work was fun to do, painting directly over the study at the same pace I would if I were painting outdoors, and I just went at it playing up the things I wanted to emphasize.  The results were encouraging enough to convince me that I want to go back for another try at the subject.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Re-working A Field Study

Driftwood Post Office    8 x 10   oil

I don't often do this, but I wanted to restate this little plein air study in hopes of improving it, using the memory of my first impression, my notes and a photo I took when it was painted.  I wish I could show you the first study, but I began painting over it before it occurred to me to use it as a post.

The results of my field studies are frequently not something I want to show.  They're done as a means to improving my skills, and not necessarily as finished work.  It's a happy bonus when I do come home with a nice one that I feel pretty good about.  In this case, frustrated by the first study, I put it on the easel in my studio and set about making direct changes to see what I could learn.  It came out much improved from the first version.  I was able to concentrate on what I wanted to do with the shapes, colors, and paint handling.

I'm about to do this same kind of exercise with another study, and I'll show you the before and after in my next post. …maybe.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Diamonds On The Soles Of My Shoes

Johnny's Hill   12x 16  oil

Here's a studio painting done after the plein air study, below.  The study was done in the excitement of seeing something that moved me because of it's golden light at the time of day (late afternoon), and the elongated shadow patterns.  Lighting effects in the late afternoon and first light are very fleeting, so you have to paint fast and try to remain focused on what you're after.  The studio piece was done with the time to reflect on the potential for the image.  What I want to bring out. What can be done with color and design.  Even at this point, the studio painting is a first exploration of possibilities.

The view is right outside my studio.  I'm enjoying discovering how beauty can be found wherever sunlight and shadow play over the landscape.  Diamonds on the soles of my shoes!
Johnny's Hill study  8 x 10  oil

Friday, February 3, 2012

Better Late Than Never

Across The Pedernales   8 x 10      oil

We had hiked into a Hill Country woods, following a creek in search of a subject to paint.  The creek was completely covered by tall cottonwood, cypress and oak, but kept promising an opening view just ahead…for about forty five minutes.

When we reached the end of the trail, it opened onto a sparkling view of the Pedernales River (pronounced Perd'nales by local folks).  Looking up river, to my left, I could see the sun was already just above the horizon in the "V" of the foliage on either side of the river.  Hmm.  Getting late.  To paint or not to paint?  Go for it!  This one was truly a race against time.  I set up, focused on two cypresses whose limbs gracefully pointed downstream, as the result of so many flooding torrents that rip through this shallow part of the river.  What moved me was the illumination of the sun on the bare bones of the winter cypress, and the vibrant golden greens of the shallows against the dull cool backdrop of the the trees higher on the bank.  I would have liked to linger a bit longer, but there was no time.  It would soon be dusk in the deep cut of the river valley.  Well, I thought to myself as I do about so many things at this point, better late than never!