Monday, December 30, 2013

SELECTION, EDITING AND ARRANGEMENT

TEMPLES AND THRONES  12x16  plein air   oil on canvas panel
This view in Zion Natl. Park can be seen from the spacious, covered porch of the Historical Center.  It's part of a sweeping amphitheater, with a vast wealth of painting subjects, any time of day.  The Shadow patterns slowly shift and transform the view as the sun moves across the sky.  There's way more information than you can possibly handle, so it's a great exercise in selection, editing and arrangement.

The thing I was most interested in was the dominating morning shadow pattern of the mountains.  I began by deciding how I might arrange these shadow shapes to create focus on the wedge of light on the mountains connecting the foreground and sky.  With that in mind I began to block in a simplified NOTAN design for my composition.  This is a big help in starting to invent the painting, while avoiding being drawn into a monumental drawing problem of "transcribing" the scene as it appears. Boring!  Instead, right from the start, I can begin improvising to bring out my intent for this magnificent subject.

After a quick skeleton sketch in ochre, I chose to use an exaggerated blue-purple under-tone to block-in the shadows. I'm just trying to get a nicely connected pattern that will guide me through the process as I lay in color.

Next, I add a pattern of medium value that adds a bit of form, develops the focal emphasis (the passage where the light transitions from the valley to the sky) and gives me the basic 3 value plan I will use to develop my idea.  From hear on, I try to mix whatever colors I add so that they will remain within the value groups.

This is a 12x16 inch painting, and quite a bite of subject matter for me to handle as a plein air effort.  I was happy with how things were going after a couple of hours, but the light had significantly altered and there was no point in trying to extract more information.  So, I chose to come back the next morning, same time, same spot, to finish.  This was a lot of fun to paint, and reminded me that nothing enhances spontaneity and improvisation like careful planning.   :)

TEMPLES AND THRONES
©Jimmy Longacre 2013
12x16 oil on canvas panel

Jimmy Longacre
subjective impressionist landscape paintings

MY WEBSITE
MY BLOG: Paintbox & Easel

GALLERY LINKS
River's Edge Gallery Kerrville TX
Austin Street Gallery Rockport TX
Capital Fine Art Gallery Austin TX

Thursday, December 26, 2013

MADE IN THE SHADE

Because of the steep canyon walls there are interesting shadow/light patterns all day long.  Sorry, to be so brief with my posts.  I've been spending lots of time with my family over the holidays, and trying to put up some of the work I did while in Zion Natl. Park in November and early December.  I'll get back to being a bit more thorough after the new year.


NOONDAY SHADOWS
©Jimmy Longacre 2013
14X11 oil on canvas panel

Jimmy Longacre
subjective impressionist landscape paintings

MY WEBSITE
MY BLOG: Paintbox & Easel

GALLERY LINKS
River's Edge Gallery Kerrville TX
Austin Street Gallery Rockport TX
Capital Fine Art Gallery Austin TX

Sunday, December 22, 2013

FRESH EYES

Going back through the studies I painted at Zion National Park reminds me how much fun I was having there.  Putting myself in a new environment is a sure way to awaken the senses and inspire me to paint.  Everything looks new and fresh.  Motives to paint seem to be everywhere I look.  It also gives me fresh eyes for my home landscapes.  More travel planned for this year!

CANYON WALL
©Jimmy Longacre 2013
14x11 oil on canvas panel

Jimmy Longacre
subjective impressionist landscape paintings

MY WEBSITE
MY BLOG: Paintbox & Easel

GALLERY LINKS
River's Edge Gallery Kerrville TX
Austin Street Gallery Rockport TX
Capital Fine Art Gallery Austin TX

Friday, December 20, 2013

HOME AGAIN!

I've been traveling to paint during October and November.  It was a wonderful experience to get out into new landscapes.  Now, I'm playing catch-up back in the studio.  It's great to be home again, but I need to improve my juggling act this year.  I have a new iPad, so I can start posting while traveling.

Here's a plein air study done in magnificent Zion National Park.  I'll try to show you more of what I've been doing.  I feel things changing, getting more direct in my paint handling.  I think that's coming from paying closer attention to starting with a good notan pattern. Careful planning is the greatest enhancement to spontaneity!

ZION CLIFFS
©Jimmy Longacre 2013
9X12 oil on canvas panel

Jimmy Longacre
subjective impressionist landscape paintings

MY WEBSITE
MY BLOG: Paintbox & Easel

GALLERY LINKS
River's Edge Gallery Kerrville TX
Austin Street Gallery Rockport TX
Capital Fine Art Gallery Austin TX

Monday, October 28, 2013

LIGHT ON A CLOUDY DAY


Painted during a steady light drizzle, in the Port Aransas Plein Air competition.  I't's interesting how the light coming through an overcast reverses the usual order of things from warm influence in the light with cool shadows, to warm shadows and cool influence in the light.  I've noticed that if I pay attention to this phenomenon, it will sometimes produce rather beautiful color relationships. When I don't the result often has an inert, depressing feeling.  If I can choose, I prefer the sunshine, but I enjoy the surprises that can come from observing the light on a cloudy day.


RAINY DAY SUNFLOWERS
©Jimmy Longacre 2013
12x16 oil on canvas panel

Jimmy Longacre
Texas impressionist landscape paintings

MY WEBSITE
MY BLOG: Paintbox & Easel

GALLERY LINKS
River's Edge Gallery Kerrville TX
Austin Street Gallery Rockport TX
Capital Fine Art Gallery Austin TX

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

HAZY DAYS

Another one of my plein air paintings from last week's Coastal Paintout in Port Aransas. This was a hazy day, with thin overcast, and I was interested in the effect of the backlit scene. Because the sun was behind the house it created a very nice foil for hi-lighting the profusion of sunflowers at the fenceline. The flowing curve of the mowed lawn also presented a useful shape emphasizing the focal area.  This kind of lighting often does very charming things to color and atmospheric perspective. 


HAZY DAY
©Jimmy Longacre 2013
12x16 oil on canvas panel

Jimmy Longacre
Texas impressionist landscape paintings

MY WEBSITE
MY BLOG: Paintbox & Easel

GALLERY LINKS
River's Edge Gallery Kerrville TX
Austin Street Gallery Rockport TX
Capital Fine Art Gallery Austin TX

Monday, October 21, 2013

PORT ARANSAS INVITATIONAL COASTAL PAINTOUT_"PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD"

I just returned from the annual "Port Aransas Coastal Paintout". I'm happy to say that my painting "FAREWELL TO GIBBS" won the "Peoples' Choice Award". Kind of an emotional piece for me, as 'Gibbs Cottages' is one of the last remaining relics of the old Port Aransas I knew growing up. It's destined to be razed to make room for the new. Can't look at them without remembering all the fun and crazy summers I had there in Port A, with my friends.

I'll show you some of my other paintings done, during the three day competition, over the next few days.


FAIRWELL GIBBS
©Jimmy Longacre 2013
11x14 oil on canvas panel

Jimmy Longacre
Texas impressionist landscape paintings

MY WEBSITE
MY BLOG: Paintbox & Easel

GALLERY LINKS
River's Edge Gallery Kerrville TX
Austin Street Gallery Rockport TX
Capital Fine Art Gallery Austin TX

Thursday, October 10, 2013

CROP, EDIT, ABSTRACT THE SCENE and PLAY!

HILL COUNTRY MAGIC
Almost anything can become an interesting painting…if we can see it right.  Too often, I think, we wrestle with seeing "things" rather than shapes, values and patterns.  Plein air painting can be tedious and disappointing work when we're laboring to paint what the literal, linear thinking part of our brain sees.  In that mode we tend to look for conventionally composed "scenes" in which we arrange the "things" we find.  There are a number of things I like to do to help make the shift to seeing interesting painting subjects.

Using a small viewfinder with a window that matches the proportions of my canvas or panel allows me to limit the overwhelming amount of information in the landscape and make selections whether intimate or panoramic.  Then, I can soften my vision, intentionally drifting out of hard focus, and stop mentally describing what I see as "barn", "tree", "boat", etc.  Instead, I'm looking for interesting patterns and contrasts in shapes, values and color.  When I come upon something of visual interest, I can begin to try-out cropping the view in a way that plays up the abstract qualities that have attracted my interest.

Now, I'm in a mode to think about what I can do to further enhance the subject, which is no longer the "thing" but the abstract, visual event.  I can eliminate things that clutter the subject of my arrangement.  I can re-arrange a bit to balance shapes and patterns better, to enhance the focal area, play-up contrasting values and color temperatures.  At this point the game is on, and my brain has slipped into that fun place where whatever skill I may have in drawing, and paint-handling comes into play.  Interestingly, seeing rightly causes us to improve our painting skills because they're freed from the task of depiction to be used as purposeful tools for bringing out what we find to beautiful.  Now that's fun!    

HILL COUNTRY MAGIC
©Jimmy Longacre 2013
11x14 oil on canvas panel

Jimmy Longacre
Texas impressionist landscape paintings

MY WEBSITE
MY BLOG: Paintbox & Easel

GALLERY LINKS
River's Edge Gallery Kerrville TX
Austin Street Gallery Rockport TX
Capital Fine Art Gallery Austin TX

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

WHEN THE SUN DOESN'T SHINE

OVERCAST MORNING
Outdoor painters love a sunny day displaying interesting shadow patterns that contain rich, subtle colors contrasted with the bright sunlit spectrum. But, alas, you can't always have it that way.  Gray day paintings present a unique challenge, because they lack the availability of shadow shapes that are so nice to use in organizing eye catching compositions.  Also, and perhaps a bigger deterrent to a lot of painters, they're more difficult to pull off, and even when done well they can often communicate a rather subdued or depressing psychological aspect that doesn't readily appeal to collectors. 

Still, it's a good idea to take on the challenge, I think, because the forced necessity to organize close value relationships and subtle color intensities in a pleasing way strengthens the observation skill needed to paint better under any lighting situation.  The close scrutiny and careful paint mixing necessary to painting on a gray day is a great way to hone our ability.     

This painting was done last Saturday at the Kerrville Outdoor Painters Event, on a still, thinly overcast morning that gave the landscape a kind of beautiful glow.  I probably would have passed up painting the scene, were it not for the object of having paintings to enter in the show.  You take what you can get.  I was pleased with the result, and received a lot of compliments on the painting.  "Oh, how subtle and beautiful!"  Still, it didn't attract a buyer.  Those danged gray days!  


OVERCAST MORNING
©Jimmy Longacre 2013
11x14 oil on canvas panel

Jimmy Longacre
Texas impressionist landscape paintings

MY WEBSITE
MY BLOG: Paintbox & Easel

GALLERY LINKS
River's Edge Gallery Kerrville TX
Austin Street Gallery Rockport TX
Capital Fine Art Gallery Austin TX

Monday, October 7, 2013

ARTISTS OF TEXAS has honored me with Master Signature Membership!

Thank you to the ARTISTS OF TEXAS jury for electing me to Master Signature Membership in this fine organization! I've enjoyed being a Signature Member of this generous and energetic group for the last two years. ARTISTS OF TEXAS is very involved in the promotion of artists and their art, and are leading innovators in promoting the arts online. I'm proud to be added to a distinguished group of only four other Signature Members: Tina Bohlman, David Forks, Anthony A. Gonzalez, and Rebecca Zook. I think you'll enjoy a visit to their website.

Jimmy Longacre
Texas impressionist landscape paintings

MY WEBSITE
MY BLOG: Paintbox & Easel

GALLERY LINKS
River's Edge Gallery Kerrville TX
Austin Street Gallery Rockport TX
Capital Fine Art Gallery Austin TX

PLEIN AIR PAINTING COMPETITIONS_Growth and Frustrations

I just returned from The Kerrville Outdoor Painters Event, a four day plein air painting competition.  This was one of my entries in the show.  I didn't receive the Best In Show award this time, but I'm pleased that my painting was selected as one of the winners in the show.  However, for those of you who participate in these events, or if you're thinking of participating in one, I'd like to offer my opinion about the experience.

Winning, or placing in the competition is nice and gratifying, of course, but I don't think it's the primary objective, or benefit.  There is so much to gain from accepting the challenge to do your best in the company of other painters of varying skill levels, and under whatever conditions happen to prevail during the event.  Why?  Because, it can't help but test your skills, raise your confidence level as a painter, and move you more quickly toward your next plateau.  By the way, that's what painting is about, and it never changes.

While you can't influence the preferences and prejudices of the show judge, wholehearted participation will, without a doubt, make you a better painter, and you will have a wonderful time interacting with other artists, and the public.  Bottom line: It will stretch your skill level, pay-off in the amount of satisfaction you derive from doing something you love to do, and you will have a lot of fun.  I hope you get to win an award now and then, but don't get fooled into focusing on that.  GO FOR IT!

HOME MEMORIES
©Jimmy Longacre 2013
11x14 oil on canvas panel

Jimmy Longacre
contemporary impressionist landscape oil paintings

My Website
My Blog "Paintbox and Easel"

GALLERY LINKS
River's Edge Gallery Kerrville TX
Austin Street Gallery Rockport TX
Capital Fine Art Gallery Austin TX

Thursday, September 26, 2013

TOO PICKY!_Cactus Cluster

Cactus Cluster 
©Jimmy Longacre 2013
9x12 oil on canvas panel


An early morning hike into Pedernales Falls State Park took me wandering all around the river bed, and up the cliffs on either side.  I was getting worn out and discouraged.  I just couldn't get settled on what I wanted to paint.  "Too Picky!", I decided. So, I just stopped where I was and set-up to paint.  Then, I picked up my little viewfinder and began to scan the landscape for a small view where there was dramatic light falling on some varied forms, instead of looking for "the right thing".

It's easy to fall into the trap of looking for "things" instead of beautiful shapes, colors, and contrasts.  I had to paint fast, because the light changes quickly early in the morning, but I got 'er done.  


Jimmy Longacre
Paintbox & Easel
contemporary impressionist landscape artist

LongacreArt.com

GALLERIES
River's Edge Gallery Kerrville TX
Capital Fine Art Gallery Austin TX
Austin Street Gallery Rockport TX

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A NICE SURPRISE


My "River Canyon" painting was reviewed by Plein Air Magazine – OutdoorPainter        

I had just delivered this painting, and eight others, to my newest gallery, River's Edge Gallery, in Kerrville, Texas, when I was contacted by Plein Air magazine for permission to publish my painting and write an article on it.

Always interesting to learn what others think you've done in your painting!   :)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

PAINT ME!

Coastal Getaway    11x14   oil on canvas panel
It was a great summer, and I had a lot of fun painting to keep up with my gallery in Rockport, Texas  ( Austin Street Gallery ).

This one was one of my favorites.  Every now and then something just jumps out and says, "Paint me!"  I was attracted to these two boats in morning sun against the shadow of the harbor building where they wait to make their getaway out onto the Gulf of Mexico.  Everything needed to make a fun design was right there  waiting to be arranged.

The colors throughout are a play on the harmony and contrasts of the primary red and blue of the boat hulls.

 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A POSITIVELY POWERFUL PAINTING APPROACH

RIVER CANYON    8x10   oil on canvas panel
I want to use this post to, again, touch on something that continues to be the most powerful tool I use to make painting more fun and satisfying. NOTAN.

It can seem overwhelming, when we consider how many things there are to learn and bring in to practice in our paintings.  Right?  Well, I can't over emphasize how much developing an awareness of notan can greatly simplify the process of integrating what you know, and open doors to further understanding.  Notan moves us out of the mindset of trying to copy what we see, and into the realm of creatively responding to, and designing what we want to paint.  And, THAT'S where the fun is!  Notan thinking deals with the essence of planning values, shapes, edges, composition and color.  At its core it deals with what's in the light shape, and what's in the shadow shape.  But this gives us a very simple and useful handle on everything else.  Once you become aware of this in the scene you're looking at, you're in a position to identify and creatively arrange things to bring out what you want to emphasize.  You begin to see opportunities to compose things intuitively according to how you like them.  Best of all it gives you a chance to discover why things do or don't seem to "work".  That's how we grow!

To keep this manageable, I'll relate things to my painting, "River Canyon". First, here's a black and white version, revealing the value structure, but still rather complex in what is happening visually.

But, below it is a notan version of the basic idea for the painting.  This was arrived at, after several very quick, small (no bigger than 2"x3")
marker roughs.  The power derives from beginning to see the whole scene as an interlocking arrangement of light and dark, rather than beginning with the subtleties of multiple values and shapes.  A strong arrangement at this stage will allow you to orchestrate all that comes after.


The notan sketch gives the visually exciting "big view" of what will make the painting  compelling, and helps us to avoid the pitfalls of becoming bogged down in description and detail.  Shapes can be adjusted, balanced and made more interesting. Focal area and eye movement can be enhanced.  Brushwork becomes more confident.  Even our color mixing improves as we now know when we're mixing colors that must hold either to the shade or the light shapes, and this is the major key to beautiful natural color.

Try it.  Experiment with it.  See if NOTAN helps you have more fun and confidence in your paintings.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

RIDE THE WAVE!

PEDERNALES A.M.    11x14    oil on canvas panel

The sun had just come up over the ridge and illuminated the valley at 8:45 a.m.  This lighting passes very quickly, so I was set up and ready to paint.  The temperature began to rise, and I thought I was going to cook on those limestone rocks.  I was out by 10:45, soaking wet.

One of the most difficult things about painting outdoors, of course, is catching the fleeting effects of light at a given time of day.  You could say, it's the wave we ride.  Once you start, you can't just lay back and coast.  You have to take what is in front of you and begin to react.

The first thing I look for is a worthy focus for the painting.  Then, I quickly work out a design for the values and shapes.  Miss this and you're in for a rough time and probably a wipeout.  With that in place I begin laying in paint that represents my observations about color temperature.  It can look rather wild, but it helps me organize the effects of how warm colors advance and cooler, more neutral colors recede.  If I have the values and the color temperatures accurately indicated, I can begin to confidently lay in the local color of things. While the hue may now change radically, I am careful to hold to the value and temperature relationships I've tried to work out.

After about an hour and a half, the scene in front of me usually bares little resemblance to what initially caught my eye, but if I remain faithful to my value design and temperature relationships I have enough information to try and bring the painting to a finish.  This isn't the time for refinement of details.  It's about the big feeling related to the moment that became the wave I wanted to catch.  Sometimes you put it together, make something out of the wave, even ride in the tube, and sometimes you wipeout.  Either way, you enjoy seeing and feeling at an uncommon level.  Cowabonga!!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

GETTING OUT OF THE WAY

BARN and TACK SHED   11x14  oil on canvas
Here's a case of being open to unplanned opportunities for subject matter.  While driving the road into the main area of Reimer's Ranch Park, I passed this old shed.  At the time I was pre-occuppied with just what I might find to paint in the park, that day. I hardly paid any attention to what I was seeing, as I tried to visualize some area I had seen before in the park.

About fifty yards past the shed, my subcoscious mind brought up the image I had just seen.  My mind had registered all the nice contrasts and arrangement of shapes, and presented me with a pre-edited view of the painting!

I did a U-turn back to the shed, parked the car, pulled out my equipment and went to work.  It was something like auto-painting, as I used the actual scene to construct and bring emphasis to the way my sub-conscious mind had seen it.  Part of getting better is a matter of getting out of our own way.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

JUGGLING!

Time Off   12x16   oil on canvas
I've dropped the ball, again on my blog posting while I've been juggling keeping up with supplying my galleries, and getting out to paint.

Starting back in the Spring of this year, my paintings began to sell, and I've had to press to keep them supplied.  A good problem for me to have, but I know some painters seem to keep all the balls in the air.

I'll do a series of posts to catch you up on what I've been up to, while I continue to work on my juggling routine.

This is one from early summer, when I was thinking about all the folks looking forward to spending some time on the beach with a book and a cold drink.  I wanted to use the same colors of the umbrellas in both the shadows and clouds.  The painting struck a chord with a collector who grabbed it the first weekend it was in the gallery.  (Austin Street Gallery, in Rockport, Texas).

Monday, July 29, 2013

BEACH DREAMIN'

Man-o-war   16x12 oil on canvas
Designed from an incidental pose lifted from one of my beach photos.  The little girl had not been the focus of the original photograph, but I discovered her in the background.  It caught me, immediately, as having potential.  I couldn't tell what was actually looking at as she stood under her frilly umbrella examining whatever was being left on the beach by the withdrawing tide.  I scooted over the shadow of a large beach umbrella (the original focus) to provide the dark shape to help balance the pattern.

I couldn't resist playing up the drama a bit by making the object of her cautious investigation a man-o-war.  Having the composition and value pattern solved, it was only left to paint the arrangement in dreamy colors.


Friday, July 12, 2013

A SIMPLE APPROACH

THE REAL DEAL   12x16  oil on canvas panel
While I'm working on trying to generate paintings for my galleries, I've been remiss in keeping up with my blog.  A good problem, but I do want to get things into balance.  In the meantime, here's a quick "step-by-step" I sometimes use to build a painting.  I use this, at times, both when painting outdoors and in the studio.

First step is to come up with a design that has enough positives about it to get me excited about doing the work.  In this case, I had the boats from a photo I took while down on the gulf coast.  Their coloring was different, but if you get the basic values right you can adapt the color to the design idea.  The bait shack was in another photo, so I worked up a sketch to join the two together and create a focal area The convergence of the shrimper and the bait shack.  When you do this you need to take care that you don't confuse the perspective, lighting and scale of the different references.  It's also a good idea to have spent enough time painting outdoors to have a fair working knowledge of what goes on with natural light, color and atmosphere.  When I've made the rough arrangement and considered the cropping, I put together a light and shade pattern that I find visually interesting.  Either the light or the shade needs to dominate.  In this one, it's the light group of shapes that prevails.
Compositional Value Pattern, or NOTAN

As you can see, I don't work on a white surface. This helps me to judge my value relationships as I begin to apply the color notes.  I think of white as an extreme highlight, and the toned surface helps me to reserve its punch.  I rarely use white straight from the tube.  I like to add a bit of color to influence its tint and help it to join more comfortably with the color scheme.

The dark for the drawing is not black, but a mixture that makes a dark neutral, like Permanent Alizarin, or Venetian Red and Ultra Marine Blue.  It just seems to keep the darks more lively to have some temperature variation going on rather than a dead black.

Shadow value color notes
Next, I begin mixing colors for the shadow group only, paying close attention that their values hold to the darks instead of sticking out like a light within the shade.  At this point the colors are approximations of hue and temperature as I observe (and often choose to exaggerate) them. [ I like the logic that art is not what I see, so much as what I feel and communicate. ]  Notice the warm and cool shadow values under the eaves of the cabin roofs.

Often, my next step would be to paint the color notes for the light group of shapes.  But in this one the sky and water are going to play a big part in determining how those notes will look.  The sky is surprisingly darker in value and far more neutral in hue than we may think.  If you paint it to light in value and bright in hue, you have no where to go to make the other colors stand out properly.  So, I block them in with my best general approximation of value and hue.  Until you've mixed these and seen what happens when all the color relates together, you just can't appreciate how gray they actually are.

sky block-in
I've placed a white square on the bow of one shrimper so you can see the effect of saving white.  With the light mid values of the sky and water in place, I can better approximate my light value colors so as to retain their clean, punchy color.  Notice the sunny effect of having saved the white for subtle tints.  I work my way through the light shapes relating values to make sure they hold to the light family and temperatures that are warm or cool due to reflected light.

With all that in laid in as a "best approximation", it's time to go through again, refining val/hue relationships, color temperatures and edges.
I'm always trying to get better at putting down brushstrokes and pretty much leaving them alone as much as possible.  It's very easy to overwork the painting when you become overly concerned with the details.  I suppose only time doing it will improve the results.  Anyway, there it is!   One simplified approach to organizing a painting.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

TOO GONE FOR TOO LONG!

FORGOTTEN FARM   9x12   oil on canvas
Well, it's been awhile! I'm pretty much posting for "drill", just to see if I still remember how. :) Circumstances have dictated the lack of opportunity to go out and paint for the last couple of months. Very strange feeling. It was fun and inspiring to get back out with the sun, wind and bugs, and focus on painting this morning.

I'm hoping that the end of the paintless tunnel is in sight.  Some good things were accomplished, but when you have a painting habit to feed it's hard going without.  Surprising how good it felt to be out there again making the decisions and putting on the paint.

I'll be getting the ball rolling, again, soon.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

UPON FURTHER REFLECTION

MORNING COLORS   12x16   o/c
The outdoor study 9x12
This one is from a small sketch done last year on a ranch near Comfort , Texas  (see the small image below).  I enjoy going back through my plein air studies that were done long enough ago to offer new objectivity.

Besides being a depiction of a place and moment in life, often, an outdoor painting is the record of a race against the changing of light and other elements.  This is largely responsible for their honesty and freshness of appearance.  Back in the studio, we have the time to consider the design, color and general handling of the piece.  Some plein air pieces fall into the category of skill building exercises that will never be presented to viewers.  Other times, they offer a jumping off point for a new, and possibly larger, painting.

For me, I want the new painting to retain much of the direct look of the original, while taking advantage of the opportunity for improvements.  I wanted to keep the basic composition of my study, but saw a number of things I felt needed work.  I won't bore you with description.  Check it over to see what has changed, as a result of further reflection, and if you're a painter you may ask yourself why and whether or not you agree with the changes.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

PUSHING THE COLOR HARMONY

AFTER THE BLOOMS    12x16   oil on canvas panel

Some of you may remember when I posted the previous stage of this painting, as I was working out the composition.  I finally got around to finishing it.

It's fun to paint cactus because of the automatic harmony of shapes and their rugged quality, but this painting is more about the colors than anything else.

Of course, that means it's about right values.  If the value relationships aren't right, then there's no chance the color will be right.  Right values is what reveals beauty in color.

These exact colors aren't what you'd find just walking up to the scene in nature.  I enjoy taking the natural harmonies suggested in nature and then "pushing" them to more vivid relationships that get to my feeling about the scene.  puBasically this is a complementary color plan.  The cool green cactus is opposed by the purplish red of the fruit. Then I've added sparks of the two discords for the complements orange and blue purple.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

GETTING AT THE FEELING

ISLAND STYLE    9x12   oil on canvas panel
I was cruising neighborhoods in Port Aransas looking for something to paint when I saw this from a back street across a vacant lot. It offered  a wonderful vehicle to paint my feelings for the island.

I've gone there since grade school, and it has changed mightily through the years, but there are vestiges here and there of the Port A that once was.

This was a delight to design and paint to get at that special feeling.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

GREAT WORKSHOP WITH JOSHUA BEEN

SYCAMORE ROOTS  10x8
These are two of the paintings I did during a recent plein air workshop with Joshua Been.  Josh is a fearless and energetic outdoor painter.  The workshop was one of the best I've ever attended, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to grow your painting skills.

Josh demonstrated twice a day, and is very good at explaining what he's doing and why, as well as fielding questions while painting. Unlike any workshop I've attended, He gifted us each with one of his excellent, 44-page, full color booklets covering his painting approach and detailed technical knowledge on values, shapes, edges, and texture.  To top it off, he bought us all lunch, everyday!

Josh also did a 24x30 demo in two sessions. Take a look, below.  An hour and a half block-in, first afternoon, and an hour and a half to finish, the next!  Ever seen that done?!  VERY instructive!!

Thank you, Josh, for a truly valuable painting experience.
FLOOD TANGLE    9x12  



Joshua Been with his demo painting

Josh's 24x30 demo

Monday, April 8, 2013

KEEPING THE VALUE DESIGN SIMPLE

MORNING ON THE FRIO    16X20   oil on canvas
Hey, I'm back!  I won't bore you with circumstances, but it's good to be posting, again.

I had planned to get outside to paint today, but the weather isn't very promising.  So, I pulled out some of my reference from my trip to the Frio, this past fall.

I'm attaching a couple of steps I used in approaching this subject, so you can see how it develops.  Before I go to color, I have usually produced a thumbnail arrangement in black and white, so I know that I have a strong foundation to build upon.  You can see for yourself what that would have looked like if you'll just squint your eyes way down until you can see the painting resolve into only two value shapes.  The light and the shade.  I don't really care much what the actual scene looked like as far as specific details.  I am always after a poetic unity based upon the feeling and arrangement of the subject.  In this case, there were small broken shapes of light here and there in the background, in the overhanging trees, and scattered in the foreground.  To include them would have only lessened the impact of the overall design.  I want simplicity to create with.

The lay-in
Once I have a simple arrangement that I like, I'm ready to go fearlessly into the color.  Here, I'm just scrubbing color into the canvas without any white.  It's fairly transparent / translucent in most places. The beauty of color comes out as the hues are mixed to correspond to the value shape they belong in.  Right color demands right values! So, although there are various "val-hues" within each family (light and shade), no hue can be lighter or darker than the value family it belongs to. This maintains the integrity of the design.  Get those values correct, and you can pretty much put in whatever colors turn you on.  Once you commit to the color shapes, everything must continue to relate, values, hues, warm and cools.


First pass
 In my first pass, painting on top of the lay-in, I'm not concerned about detail.  I also try to keep the edges relatively soft while I further develop the shapes and color relationships, still taking care to remain within the simple division of light and shade values.  All of this becomes the underpainting that I will lay opaque color onto in the next stage.

In the final stage, I begin to articulate the detail I want and the edge qualities (hard, broken, soft, lost) that allow me to tell the story I want about what prompted me to paint the particular scene.  Hard edges draw the attention of the eye, so use
'em where you need 'em!  I try to stop before I start getting into too much definition of things.  For me, that doesn't add to what I'm after. That's it for today.  Hope you like it.  Keep it simple!

Monday, February 25, 2013

PAINTING FROM A SET PALETTE

HILL COUNTRY PRELUDE   12x16    oil on linen panel
As some of you may guess, this is not a literal transcription of the colors of this scene.  I did a three value sketch of the scene using black, mid-gray, and white. In the studio, after I was satisfied with the shapes and arrangement of things, I pre-mixed a palette of colors that felt right to me to express the freshness of this morning. I blocked-in the colors of the big shapes by choosing an average hue, value and intensity for each major shape.  Once that was done, it was a matter of playing with the color variations and working with the edges.

One of the nice things about this approach is that it gives you added control over things, and allows you to place more focus on matters that may have escaped your attention while dealing with resolving values and color by transcription and adjustment.  I also relish the game of inventing with the colors I've chosen.  Try it some time, and let me know what you think.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

GO WITH WHAT YOU'VE GOT

FROM RAINEY STREET   9x12  oil on canvas panel
I decided to go downtown this morning to paint, for a change.  I'd do it more often, but the traffic is hellacious.  So, Saturday a.m., and I headed in.  Started at 9 o'clock and gave myself one hour to get whatever I could.  Why?  Because, I have a tendency to over noodle architectural subjects. They're loaded with all kinds of detail that just seem to be part of what I have to capture.  Not so?
As it turned out, I bit off more than I could chew, but I think that's a good thing to do when you're out going for it, plein air.  I mean, how many of 'em are really destined for exhibition?  For me that time is about stretching outside the comfort zone and having to pull up whatever tools you've managed to gather.

It was cold, and I had begun to regain feeling in my fingers just before my hour was up.  I was tempted to keep noodling it, but stuck with my commitment.  Plein air painting is very much like surfing.  You see a possible ride coming, and you've got to start paddling hard to catch the wave.  You don't really know how it's all going to work out.  You've got to go with what you've got.  By the time you get on your feet it's a delicate balance between survival and catastrophe.  Your skills and weaknesses are exposed and you wind up feeling alive and in the moment.  Addictive stuff!


Monday, February 11, 2013

THE ENVELOPE OF LIGHT

FEBRUARY WARM FRONT   11x14    oil on canvas panel

THE ROAD HOME   9x12  oil on canvas panel
Here are a couple of paintings done during the wonderfully warm, unseasonal weather we've been having in central Texas.  The temperatures make it easy to get out and look for painting subjects, but things are parched and the lakes are drying up. Good luck finding a stream to paint that isn't a sad, stagnant affair!

Both of these paintings are from that quickly fleeting time of late day when the sun is laying just above the horizon casting a warm golden light through the atmosphere.  To catch this effect requires carefully tuning the palette so that all the colors share in that warmth.  Even the "cool" colors need a bit of the golden orange to create the harmony.  If you're going to try to capture this in a plein air painting, it's a good idea to pre-mix your colors, and block in the general design ahead of time so you're ready to scramble when the effect begins.  It only lasts about thirty minutes.

Actually, every time of day has its own characteristic lighting.  Painters call it the envelope of light.  All colors are influenced by differing quality of illumination. Morning's envelope is more cool in coloration, because of the settling of moisture during the night.  As a result, the atmosphere isn't so charged with the dust, pollen (eek!) and other particulates that are stirred up and rise to glow in the late, low slanting light.  The higher the sun gets the less atmosphere it has to penetrate, and thus the less the color envelope is affected by the warmth of the sun and the more it is affected by the coolness of the sky.  Our atmoshere is proportionately relative to about the thickness of an egg shell to the egg!  But what a difference it makes to life on this planet…and the color envelope!  If you're a painter, try being aware of the prevailing lighting condition and how it harmonizes color.  If you're just a lover of nature, add it to the list of wonderful things to be enjoyed and appreciated about the beauty of creation.

Friday, February 1, 2013

RE-COMPOSING A STUDY

JANUARY AFTERNOON   12x16   oil on linen panel
I really enjoyed doing this painting.  The foreground rocks lying in shade, the sunlight strafing in from the left illuminatig the bare twigs and branches, the strong  mid-ground colors and muted distance, all these things made this a nice challenge.

While everything in the scene was actually there, I re-arranged things to make it into a balanced composition.  For instance, the foreground tree was out of frame left,  the creek was absolutely littered with rocks (chaos), and the two other trees were placed for balance and depth.

The other thing about this one has to do with how I handled the values.  I think I'll wait and write about this another time when I can better explain whats going on.  I'll be trying the same approach with some new subjects.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

ABSTRACT SIMPLIFICATION

FALLEN WILLOW    8x10    oil on canvas panel
I was caught by the abstractness of this scene.  So, I tried doing a little study focusing on the shapes and values without much development.  I was surprised by how complete it feels.

I've started pre-mixing my colors before jumping in to paint.  I break down the composition into its basic, abstract shapes and select what seems to be the average color for each shape.  Two things are especially critical in doing this. First is to mix the proper value for each color in relation to the others, and then to try for the hue and intensity of each.

I see the shapes here as the sky shape in the reflection, the dark tree mass shape in reflection, the horizontal bank, the background trees and the focal shape of the willow tree.  Five shapes.  I try not to work with more than that.  It's usually all that's needed if you've done the work of selection and editing your subject to what's really important.  Three is even better, if you can manage it.  SIMPLE MASSES AND EXTREME CONTRASTS ARE THE KEY TO STRONG DESIGN.

Design isn't waiting for us in nature.  The artist must impose a design in order to express the one thing that is the organizing motive for the whole. Everything in the picture must support that chosen motive.The design we find in nature deals with the realities of survival and co-existence.  There is certainly beauty of design to be observed and learned from in nature, but it is rarely ready for transcription into a painting.  We, as artists, must choose from what we find, and then edit and re-arrange the material to express the thing we want to say. Radical simplification is necessary in order to deal with the vast amount of information available in any scene.

The camera non-selectively records everything the lens brings in.  This record is not an esthetic expression.  It is cold, factual and impersonal.  Even the photographer must, in some way, manipulate the image if he wants to emphasize esthetic concerns.  Simplification of shapes is the beginning of sound design.  From these we can effectively deal with line, size, direction, value, color and texture.  All of these need to be brought into a balanced harmony with unity.  Abstract simplification is absolutely necessary, unless you happen to be interested in copying information and detail, which is just too much work and no fun.

Monday, January 28, 2013

MEMORY'S MAGIC FILTER


NOON COMMUNE    11x14    oil on canvas panel
Neither of these paintings tell the factual truth.  Both scenes are derived from places I enjoy painting, but both images arrived via my memory.

MEMORY SERVES   11x14   oil on linen panel
For me, one of the chief values of plein air painting is to obtain firsthand experience and notes from what goes on in nature.  When I'm out to paint plein air, I'm not thinking of coming back with finished work, or even something I intend to finish in the studio.  I do that now and then, but I don't want that kind of pressure when I'm out to study light and color.  I have a pile of oil sketches on small panels done out of doors, but I don't consider myself, primarily a plein air painter.      

When I come back to the sketch, weeks or months later, I have a recollection of the spot and the experience of painting it.  From the combination of the two, I begin to invent a picture in which my intention is to bring out a distillation of one thing that made me want to paint the scene, and how it makes me feel.  Everything is on the table, arrangement, subtraction or addition, color, key, sizes, whatever.  The memory and feeling become the filter for the facts of "reality".  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

GRAY DAYS AND THEIR MOODY FEELING

QUIET OF MORNING   11x14  oil on linen panel
I have trouble making paintings out of overcast days. So, I keep trying one every now and then. Light and shade color relationships are different, values are closer, and without the definite shadow patterns, designing good shapes is a challenge.

On a sunny day the warm light of the sun brings out all the positive feeling warm colors (yellows, oranges, reds, pinks...), and the shadows take on the blue influence from receiving the reflected light of the sky.  The strong light casts interesting shadow shapes that are so nice for designing and making patterns.  Form is revealed by light, and color becomes beautiful as it is  varied to describe the form.  A sunny day just has so much to work with!

Gray days are very beautiful in their own way, but they're very subtle and more difficult to turn into a well designed painting.  To begin with the color relationships are altogether different.  The light filtered through the clouds is soft and cool, and the shadows retain more of their warmth without the blue sky to illuminate them.  The clear shadow shapes disappear and values are closer together.  Shapes are defined more by the inherent light or darkness of things, and subtle color shifts must be noticed and used to define form. The difference in effect feels much like that of the difference between a major and minor key in music.  There's a softer, more moody feeling to a gray day.  They are expressively different, and open a broader range of what the artist may have to say.   

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

SIZE MATTERS

HOMESTEAD   11x14   oil on linen panel
An interested reader asked about my choice of sizes, and panels panels versus stretched canvas. (If you like, you can read my answer in the comments of the previous post.)  So, here's an example of that at work.  This painting is not the plein air sketch, which though interesting had a number of problems that will keep it from being the kind of thing I want to show or send to the gallery.  For instance, the drawing was out of proportion and edges were poorly handled, but the feeling and color was interesting.  It captured the light and mood that had interested me to paint this subject in the first place.

I wanted to explore the potential of the idea further, so using the 8x10 I had done in the field, I took out an 11x14 to continue in the studio.  I was interested in getting the correct relationship of values, so as to make the warmth of the sun really shine on the house. Because of what I wanted to express about this scene, I chose the color to have the more barren feeling of late autumn, rather than, say, mid-summer with warm puffy clouds and flowers.  I discovered that what I liked about the color was the relatively deep, somber harmony of the landscape contrasted with the sun shining on the old house. Even the sky is a full value step darker than I would normally paint it.  That allowed me to have plenty of "muscle" left to make the light on the house appear more brilliant.

So, the studio piece was a further "study".  I didn't choose a larger canvas, because I was still searching for the elements that would bring the painting closer to the expression I'm after.  However, having gone this far with it, and obtaining interesting results. I am considering doing a 16x20 as a finished version, and really looking forward to carrying the theme forward. Make sense?

Friday, January 18, 2013

YOU DON'T KNOW IF YOU DON'T GO

LITTLE OAK    12x16    oil on canvas panel
One of the best things I did for myself last year was making a commitment to do 100 paintings at Pedernales Falls State Park.  Not that I made my goal, but 73 isn't bad.  You do that many paintings in one place and your going to learn some things.

I went from happy anticipation during the first dozen to "Just go out there and paint.", after about three dozen. Then it was, "What am I doing? I've painted everything out here that I'm interested in!".  I had to dig deeper, and the edge had long gone where I was intimidated by painting duds.  I thought I already knew this, but the lesson was really coming home that you've gotta paint a lot of duds to get better.  So, I began inventing, using the scene in front of me as the reference material for what I want to say.  After a bit of this, it started getting to be more fun, and it began to look like there's all kinds of great stuff out there to make paintings from.  By the time I got into the sixties, I was starting to get the hang of it.  I still paint the duds now and then, but hey, that's part of the deal with going out to do studies.  The thing is, now I come back home with stuff I want to paint from in the studio.  I'll probably finish up my 100 studies this year, and then I'll see what's next.