Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Just the Sound of the Ocean, pastel, 9 x 12
This was the last in our series of beach scenes in my Wed./Thurs. pastel classes. For today's demo we observed how layering warm and cool colors together gives a shimmering, reflective effect on the water and sand. Since the composition of the scene is fairly simple, especially in the foreground, there's lots of room to play with this warm/cool effect.

The land mass on the left is much darker than everything else in the scene and required darker values, but I still wanted to make sure to harmonize color with the rest of the painting. Even if I couldn't use the exact same colors in the rest of the painting, since the values wouldn't be correct, I used lighter values of those same colors.

For Just the Sound of the Ocean, I worked on mounted Uart paper, starting with large blocks of warm colors (pinks, oranges and warm purples) with an alcohol wash underpainting. I allowed some of the warm colors of the underpainting to show through the finished piece, noticeable especially in the foreground.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Hay Bales on the Hill, oil, 8 x 8
This is an oil version of a similar pastel painting I did a few months ago. Click here to see the pastel version.  I sold the pastel painting, but it was one of my favorites, so I thought I'd see how it translated into oil. I first thought I'd work from the same photo I used for the pastel version, but also pulled up the image of the pastel piece on my computer. Since I liked the color palette I used for the pastel, I ended up mostly using the image of that painting as my reference. Although I used a square format, which changed up the composition from my pastel version, I was able to keep a very similar color treatment.

Even though I've been working pretty consistently in oil for quite awhile now, I've still worked more years in pastel. So pastel is still like a first language to me, with oil being my second language. Sometimes it works well for me to first figure out in pastel what I want to do with a painting, and then it seems easier to translate that interpretation into oil. That's what I did today on "Hay Bales on the Hill."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Out on the Water, pastel, 9 x 12
My demo from this morning's class. Continuing with our beach series, we added more elements to the scene besides the sand and tall grass that we painted in the last class. There's a lot going on in this scene so it was important to simplify as much as possible. It's easy to get hung up on defining the tall grass too much. After all, it's in the foreground here and it is indeed busy subject matter. I decided I wanted the boat with the red bimini (I just learned today what that's called!) to be the focal point, so I didn't hold back with the splash of red up against the bright blue water. For the distant land mass, my students saw me struggle with values on that, since I knew my photo darkened that area, and I also wanted to push it back into the distance even more. Went back and forth on this part until I felt I had the appropriate value and level of detail (or "non" detail, in this case).

My textured surface (hardboard prepared with pumice gel) helped me to convey the sand texture without rendering very much...just needed to keep the values accurate in the shadows and sunlit areas. I was tempted to get more contrast in the tall grass, which my photo actually indicated, but felt it was more important to simplify there and just made adjustments with color temperature instead.  I used the negative spaces within the grass to pull the viewer's eye beyond the line of grass further into the scene. I opened up these negative spaces more than what was shown in the photo.

In our next class, we'll probably add more water to the scene!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Miss Ruby's Farm from the Hill, oil, 8 x 8
I was working on another painting yesterday and finally had to set it aside for awhile. I then painted this last night. The photo still shows a lot of glare. I guess I piled on more paint than I usually do. This scene is from a farm in Adairsville, GA that I've painted on location a couple of times, and worked from one of my photos for this one.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sand Dune Shadows 2, pastel, 9 x 12
From yesterday's demo. This was from the same reference photo as Wednesday's class, but just round two for my Thursday class. I tried a different color palette on this one, using warm turquoise in the foreground shadows and slightly cooler colors overall in the tall grass. I also wanted to try softening the strokes in the more distant grass, which gives it a very different look from Wednesday's version, in which the strokes were more defined. Still undecided which I like better.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sand Dune Shadows, pastel, 9 x 12
My demo from this morning's class. We're starting a series of beach scenes. I don't often get to a beach to paint or get reference photos, but I had the opportunity to take some photos a couple of months ago while visiting friends in Florida (St. Petersburg area). In many landscape scenes, the sky is often the lightest value. But we noticed that this scene provides one of those situations in which this is not the case. Since the white(ish) sand on the ground is reflecting direct sunlight, it needs to appear lighter than the sky. This was done on a prepared gatorboard panel with an alcohol wash underpainting.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ready for the Next Load, oil, 8 x 10
I started this painting at a plein air event in Ellijay, GA last weekend, but wasn't able to finish it there on location. I finally had a chance to finish it up in the studio today. I used Ken Auster's limited palette again for this (black, white, aliz. crimson, cad. yellow med., and u.m. blue).

Friday, May 11, 2012

Underpainting Demo for "One Spring Morning"

One Spring Morning, pastel, 14 x 11
If you follow my blog, you've seen a variation of this image three times now. Sorry for the repetition. When I find a particular subject that I like, sometimes I find it beneficial (and fun!) to explore it a bit and see what else I can do with it.

I first posted an oil version of this scene that I did on location recently. I was able to capture lighting conditions that I found worked nicely with the composition. As I was preparing to teach a particular underpainting technique in my Wed. and Thurs. pastel classes, I thought this scene would be a great subject matter for what I had in mind. I wanted to switch gears from my usual monochromatic underpainting method and use a more colorful underpainting technique, which is a great way to liven up subject matter that has lots drab color, or in this case, lots of of green foliage, or to capture a nice glow behind the local colors used in the painting.

When I use a liquid underpainting, I mount my sanded surface paper (in this case, Uart, which has been my favorite lately) to acid-free foam board, which prevents buckling and also makes it easier to frame, since I prefer to frame my pastel work without a mat. There are of course many methods, using a variety of media, that can be used for underpaintings. My demo here uses a base layer of pastel with an alcohol wash.

One of my students was nice enough to share her photos of my demo so I could post them here...

 I chose six bright color Nupastels of varying values, although at this stage I'm not quite as concerned with matching the exact value, but more so with getting a colorful background on which to create the painting. I find that the harder pastels work best when diluted for an underpainting, but the softer ones can work fine, too, as long as you don't pile on too much pigment, which causes the underpainting to cake up and get paste-like (or "gunky" as I tend to call it in class).  At this stage I block in just the largest/most important shapes and simplify those shapes as much as possible. Just a little bit of pigment goes a long way, so a light touch and few strokes is key.

Since there was strong directional light, I used primarily warms in the sunlit areas and cools in the shadow areas at this stage. This helped to give a sunlit "glow" showing through in the finished version.

For class demos when a quick dry time is important, I use plain old rubbing alcohol, which I think works just fine. But when I have more time, I also like using mineral spirits such as Turpenoid or Gamsol, which spreads the pigment around a bit more smoothly. I use an old bristle old I can't even read what size it is, but I'm guessing about a 6. (For a larger painting, I also may use a 1 1/2" watercolor brush to more quickly spread large areas.) I use the side of the brush to keep most of my edges soft and to gently move one color into the next, being careful not to "scrub" the colors together, which will muddy things up and dull your color.

I wet down the light colors first so they stay clean, then move progressively to the darker colors. You can't control detail at this point, so no need to even try. Although I like some of the accidental drips, I keep a cotton rag handy to remove any drips in an area I want to keep clean with a light value or bright color. I knew I wanted the area at the end of the dirt road (my focal point), and a couple of other areas around the foreground trees, to have a crisp edge with contrast. So, while keeping most other edges soft, I set up those edges from the start here in the underpainting. 

I make sure to step back as I finish up this stage to make sure I'm happy with the large shapes and overall composition.

As I continued with the dry pastel on top of the underpainting, I still worked as much as possible with large masses of color, now focusing more on values and gradually shaping each area. As I added the negative spaces in the trees on the right, I was careful to leave the warm pink of the underpainting showing through, which gave me my glowing sunlit effect I was after.

I gradually added more of the local color and made sure to keep small areas of the underpainting untouched. A light touch is always best with pastel, but especially when working on top of a colorful underpainting, you want to keep a lot of that initial color showing through. Don't cover it all up!

A big thank you to Charlene Stamper for providing me with the demo photos!

Monday, May 7, 2012

From Behind the Birch Trees, pastel, 9 x 12
My demo from this morning's pastel class. This was done on mounted Uart paper with an alcohol wash underpainting. Since several students in this class are new to using a liquid underpainting technique, I kept the initial stage pretty basic, just focusing on a tonal underpainting to set up the value structure. Sorry I didn't remember to snap a photo of the underpainting phase.:-(  I used just two colors (a dark purple Nupastel and an even darker purple Terry Ludwig) to rough in the base layer, and then created the wash with a bristle brush and alcohol. I find that working on top of a tonal underpainting makes it easier to select the correct values for my color choices during the rest of the painting process.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Magical Hour, pastel, 14 x 11

underpainting for The Magical Hour
In my pastel class yesterday we spent some time on underpaintings. As I mentioned in yesterday's blog post, I normally do monochromatic/value underpaintings, but sometimes I like to start things off with more color. My Thursday class didn't meet today, so I had the day to be more experimental on my own work. Wanting to have some more fun with an underpainting, I pulled out a photo from a spot in Hilton Head where I painted on location a couple of months ago. The boats in the scene were brightly lit from the sun setting and hitting them just right, so I wanted to set that up in the underpainting by starting with some bright warms in the sunlit areas, and repeating them in the sky and where they were reflected in the water. I contrasted cool colors against the warms and kept the whole underpainting pretty simple. I took my time with the rest of the painting, balancing the warms and cools, rendering a bit more details than I'm used to, and playing with color. Boats aren't my typical subject matter, but I sure had fun painting these!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Outdoor Show, pastel, 6 x 6
I haven't cut up a pastel painting in awhile. It was time. I posted a painting titled Peaceful Drama last week. After looking at it for a few days, I decided I liked one particular area of the painting, but not the painting as a whole. The exciting areas of the painting were just too small within the context of the rest of it. Before reaching for the x-acto knife, I first went into Photoshop and tried cropping it a few different ways. I decided that a 6x6 format would work well for a nice, strong composition that highlighted my favorite parts of the painting. I also placed paper croppers on the actual painting so I could see exactly where I would cut. After a few minor tweaks on the painting and a new signature, the knife came out and, voila!, a new painting emerged!
Spring Glow, pastel, 14 x 11
Demo from this morning's pastel class. I posted an oil version of this same scene a few days ago that I painted on location. Thought it would make a great subject for this week's pastel classes, in which I wanted to cover a different underpainting technique than we usually use...

This painting started with a colorful underpainting using an alcohol wash over approximately 6 bright colors blocked in roughly according to value masses. Although I usually start my pastel work with a mostly monochromatic underpainting in order to set up the value structure, I also like to use this method when I want to get more interpretive with the color. This method works especially well when your landscape subject matter has an overabundance of green. This scene here is from a spring day, which means lots of bright greens on trees that aren't quite filled out yet with their foliage...not an easy situation to make look rich and interesting. By having a contrasting color peeking through some of those greens, you're able to create depth and richness, as well as more easily establish warm greens and cool greens. Plus, colorful underpaintings are just plain fun to do!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Desert Shadows, oil, 8 x 10
I painted this on location in Red Rock Canyon the day after the Plein Air Convention in Las Vegas ended. It was a beautiful, quiet day (best weather we had out there!), so it was nice to be able to take my time and really focus without distractions. Artist friend Karen Margulis and I spent the day in this location and did several paintings there. Just did a few touch ups in the studio on this one earlier today.