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.