Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas to All!

Just a quick little note to wish you all holiday greetings and to say thanks for following my blog. The comments and feedback that you all contribute are very appreciated and I thoroughly enjoy reading them all.

I'm looking forward to a busy, but hopefully exciting 2013, with some workshops to teach, conventions to attend and a solo show that I'll be talking more about soon!

Wishing you all a fantastic 2013!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Getting Things Going

Work in progress (not yet titled), oil, 14x18

Because of holiday commitments closing in, I may have to put this piece on hold for a bit. Who knows, maybe I'll be able to squeeze in some more time on it next week. I usually don't like to have such a long hiatus between the start of a painting and when I can continue on it. Often I lose sight of what initially inspired me to paint it. Hopefully, though, I've captured enough here to keep me going once I have time to continue.

I've come to think that one of the most important aspects of the the beginning stages of a painting is to keep things changeable and not overdefine too much. There are sometimes key elements that I do want to lock into a specific spot, but otherwise, I want to keep my edges sort of "mushy" so I can tweak them this way or that as the painting evolves. This also helps me to keep my edges soft in less important areas of the painting.

Below are a couple of other examples of paintings in early stages.

Initial underpainting for "December Heat Wave"
pastel, 16x20
Above is the initial underpainting for a recent pastel piece. I defined a few key areas with some crisp edges, but otherwise kept all other areas soft and changeable so I could easily make adjustments as the painting evolved.

Roughly the middle stage of "Rum River"
pastel, 16x20

This example above is a little further along, but I still held off as long as possible to define many details. And even when I decided the painting was finished, I left some areas undefined that I originally thought I would work on some more. the gift wrapping and cookie baking!

Friday, December 7, 2012

"River Magic" Progression

River Magic, pastel, 12x16
River Magic was painted in the studio after a lackluster attempt at a plein air painting in oil of this same scene. Looking back at the plein air version, I guess it wasn't so bad, but I just moved very slowly on it and didn't get very far. I think eventually I lost sight of what I wanted to do with the painting.

Back in the studio I looked over some photos I took of the scene. I also tried something with the photos that I hadn't done in awhile. I went into Photoshop and increased the color saturation...not a lot, but just enough to have some additional color information to work with in the painting. Since it was somewhat of a backlit scene, the light was pretty flat in most areas except for the thin highlights on the trees and in a few spotty places on the water. I needed to find a way to create interest in the water and background trees without the use of very much value contrast. When I don't have value contrast to work with, I often make use of color contrast to create interest.

original photo

Increasing the saturation in Photoshop basically exaggerates
what little bit of color is already present.

my plein air version (oil)

The dramatic highlights on the trees were what originally caught my eye when painting this on location, so I still wanted to be sure to capture that in my next attempt. I think I did manage to get some of that down in the plein air version.

Since I decided that color was going to play a key role in my pastel version, I started with a more colorful underpainting rather than my usual monochromatic value structure.

A few demo shots of the beginning stages...

initial layers using Nupastels
alcohol wash
getting the background going

I have many failed plein air paintings, but I consider each and every one very valuable time spent. Each one represents more time studying the landscape and learning its nuances. For this particular one, I wanted to try the studio version very soon after the plein air attempt so that much of the scene would still be fresh in my memory. It really was a very beautiful, magical spot along the Chattahoochee River on the day I painted there, and that's what I wanted to capture with the dramatic backlighting and subtle color contrasts. It's a nearby location for me, so hopefully I'll be back to paint there many more times!