Saturday, June 30, 2012

Painting in Public


I don't mind if cows watch me and,
you know, critique my 2-color palette.
The last time I painted outside in a public space, a family stood behind me for several minutes watching me block in the underpainting. Then as they turned to leave, the woman said doubtfully "Well, I'm sure it will be very nice when it's finished."

LOL! Thanks too much, lady!

It's a real conundrum when passers-by want to engage with me while I'm painting, or even just watch me. On the one hand, I don't want to give painters the reputation of being curmudgeonly, and you never know if that's a potential customer hovering at your elbow, or maybe someone beginning a passionate interest in painting.

On the other hand, I'm not there as performance art—I'm enjoying the park in my own way just like anyone else, and it distracts me to have an audience. I'm not comfortable with it: it's no more enjoyable than for someone to stand three feet away watching me read a book!

The worst experience I had (so far...) was with an adorable, inquisitive little girl who wanted to ask me a million questions about EVERYTHING. I bore with it as long as I could, then eventually told her, as gently as possible, "I'm sorry but I can't paint and talk, I can only do one." She ran away from me like I had thrown scalding water on her! Yep, I'm great with kids.

Arrgghh. I feel terrible about that. Parents, be warned: don't let your children approach strangers in a park.

Is anyone else bothered by on-lookers, and what do you do about it?

Friday, June 29, 2012

50 Starts - Start 20, Bridge

I painted this bridge once from the other side.

Sketch:


Color correction:

I neglected to take a picture of the intermediate step, the value/temperature sketch. Not real pleased with this one; it completely fails to get across the dappled light on the bridge and supports. And I'm not happy with the greens. Bridges seem to be my Waterloo...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Progress: Fish Factory 3

Underpainting the sunlit areas.

I'm using that sort-of Cape Cod method of painting my shadows in blues and purples, and the sunlit areas in yellows and oranges. As always, I have some problem distinguishing between temperature and value - like, the side of that metal chute is in the sun, but it's quite a dark color. Do I make it yellow or purple?



This is (probably) the final underpainting. I let the previous version sit overnight and then made some corrections and put a value on those super-neutral areas. I'm glad I did that value study, because I referred back to it several times when I couldn't decide just how light/dark any given area should be. There's millions of colors and shades in my reference photo; just five in the value study.


This second photo is washed out from the sunlight hitting it; it comes in pretty strong through my studio windows in the morning.

Except for the metal chutes, I'm pretty close to where I want to be. In a Carol Marine tutorial, she says that the most interesting paintings are those with a dominant value, a secondary, and then a smidge. In my mind, the dominant value in this scene are the mid-tones. But the light and dark tones are pretty evenly divided; I will have to make a decision about which to minimize or maximize.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What color is that? - making color charts

It's Tippy Tuesday! A collection of tips I've gained through experience or stolen learned from other artists.


When I first started painting I really had no idea what the paints looked like - what's the difference between Carmine, Crimson, and Cadmium Red? How do I know whether to use Prussian Blue or Ultramarine Blue?

I needed a swatch chart. Using an old canvas, I made a color chart with each of the paints I had. I mixed in a little white too, at the bottom of each swatch, so I could see how it behaved when lightened.  I keep the chart hanging on the wall in my studio.

This has been so useful for me! I now use a fairly regular routine of the same paints, so I'm more familiar with their characteristics, but I still find it helpful to consult the chart when I'm painting a sky or water, or deciding whether a tree is a warm or cool green.

The next color chart is for mixing greens. Because I paint a lot of landscapes, that's really critical. This chart shows the various mixes of yellow and blue. For instance, in the top row are all the different yellows I have—Lemon Yellow on the left, then Brilliant Yellow, then Permanent Yellow, etc., all the way to Yellow Ochre on the far right. In the bottom third, about, of each box I've mixed in a little white, for further reference of how the color behaves.

In the second row, I mix Sap Green with each of the yellows, in the same order. The third row, with Phthalo Green; the fourth with Cerulean Blue; the fifth with Ultramarine Blue

If you're wondering about the diagonal lines, that shows me how transparent the paints are. Before I painted the swatches, I used a Sharpie to draw a line through each box. So I can see that Cad Yellow Light mixed with any of the blues is very transparent; Yellow Ochre less so. This can be really important when I'm trying to paint in highlights such as sun-lit leaves - all the Cad Yellow Light in the world isn't going to show up when painted on top of a dark color.

I made a miniature version on a piece of cardstock to take with me when I'm painting outside.

I've got another swatch guide for purples - that helps when mixing shadows, some of which are warmer than others.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fixing a bad painting

I painted this nice ocean view a couple-three weeks ago, but wasn't quite happy with it. I mean, I've painted worse things but it just doesn't sparkle.

Luckily, I had the chance to show it to Mike Rooney at one of his workshops I attended, and ask the question "What is wrong with this painting?"

Mike has the ability to see what's working and what's not, in his own or someone else's artwork, and he know hows to fix it. That second part is very important.

His suggestions were:
1. Make the near land more green, less brown. The current color is kind of ugly.
2. Make the distant land more purpley, less green, so it will recede.
3. Vary the cloud color—they are in different places in the sky, they shouldn't all be the same.











I took his advice, and added a few details of my own: More land on the left, to break up the monotony. Also I angled the foreground land up on the left, for the same reason. All that horizontal sameness might be OK in a spacious, horizontal format, where that's what the scene is about. Not so much for this tight, vertical view.

The result is a much better painting!

By the way, if you don't know Mike, take a look at his work — he's a very talented painter. I've bought two of his paintings, just so I can study his technique up close :-)  

And here's the finished painting with a good scanner — looks better than the murky photos I took, but perhaps a little more saturated than in real life. It's hard to get an accurate reproduction of a painting...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Progress: Fish Factory 2

Here it is all sketched in. I've indicated some of the shadow/dark areas, but just loosely so I can find my way around when I start painting.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Progress: Fish Factory

Having made some decisions about my approach, I've started sketching in the shapes. This is going to take a while.



The biggest decision was whether to tone the canvas first. I feel like whenever I work on other than a pure-white ground, the resulting painting looks murky and dirty. On the other hand, this is a murky and dirty building! I want the sense of layers and undertones, fish grime and dirt. Mmmm, fish grime...

The sketch is done with a #6 round paintbrush. I used Cerulean Blue. I don't use a pencil for sketching anymore; going right to a brush starts it off in a more painterly style. Pencil is just too tight.

My plan is to do a fairly detailed, accurate drawing, and then paint in a looser manner. We'll see how that goes.

I've posted progress photos before, but only after I'd finished the painting and decided it was showable. This time I don't know what we'll end up with!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

50 Starts - Start 19, Green Bowl

I really need to paint from life more often, and less from photos. However, it's too hot to go outside today. I mean, I'll suffer for my art, but not 96° F worth of suffering. Solution: a still life in the studio.

The sketch. I know the bowl is misshapen, but I don't care.




Temperature and value.  I kind of like this as-is, and briefly considered leaving it alone. But no, it's too beach-bally.
I reduced that shadowed area on the wall behind; I didn't like the way it intersected the bowl and perfectly balanced the shadow. Too symmetrical.


Color correction:

To me, the light source and the cast shadow seem to be contradictory, but that's how it was. The main light source was the windows on the left side, slightly from the back - a large diffused light. But there was also a lamp in front/right position, though far away, and that confused the issue somewhat. Plus a lot of bounced and reflected light - I think the light bouncing off the rear wall is creating the cast shadow. 

Click the "50 starts" label underneath this post to see other posts in this category.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

50 Starts - Start 18, Cityscape

This was very challenging! I'm using a photo from the now-defunct Different Strokes from Different Folks website. It's cropped from a much larger scene.

Except for the couple buildings in the foreground, everything was in shadow. Shadows are cool. But all the buildings were constructed of warm-colored materials... paradox! Or is that a dilemma? I dunno. Anyway:

I ended up with a lot of neutrals and grayish tones, which worked out just right.

Values and temperatures sketch:


Color correction:


That horizontal darkish shape just below center is a little darker than it should have been, and the sky too light. After trying to correct it five or six times I had so much paint on that poor little piece of paper I just couldn't take it any further.

Click the "50 starts" label underneath this post to see other posts in this category.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How to deal with wet paintings

It's Tippy Tuesday! A collection of tips I've gained through experience or stolen learned from other artists.

Call me crazy, but I don't like to get covered in paint. Especially oils, which are filled with all sorts of nasty, toxic ingredients.

Two tricks I picked up somewhere have made it a lot easier to deal with wet paintings:

1. If you paint on panels, first tape them (tape loops on the back) onto a piece of cardboard. That way you'll be able to handle it by the cardboard and not get paint all over your hands or smear the painting. Punch a hole in the cardboard near the edge and you can hang it somewhere to dry. 

2. Transport your wet paintings in a pizza box. You can tape one on the bottom and one on the lid, and thus get 2 to a box. Make sure you use a lot of loops; you don't want a wet painting sandwich. Ask at the pizza store if you can have a small box; sometimes they will be happy to give you a fresh, clean one. The box here is actually for film reels; it's about 12" square. You can see I cut my cardboard to that size, so I can just tape the whole thing in there.


Of course you can also tape them to the bottom of any old box, so that they don't slide around in your car and get paint everywhere.

Monday, June 18, 2012

50 Starts - Start 17, Southport

I've resumed my plan to do 50 small value/hue sketches. (Click the "50 starts" label underneath this post to see other posts in this category.)

They're not finished paintings, there's little detail, the idea is to work out the values which underlie everything, and identify the cool and warm areas.

Here's my little wooden friends holding up my photo reference. As usual the man mannequin is trying to touch the woman mannequin's butt.


Stage 1: sketch in the major shapes


Stage 2: cool and warm areas with appropriate value (hopefully).


Stage 3: color "correction". And windows; gotta have some windows.


I think the sky is probably too warm, and just a *tiny* bit too dark, but I've run out of time.


I did tweak the sky the next day, and it looks better. The photo is a little washed out; when my computer crashed I lost my scanner too, so I'm taking pictures of everything with a camera - there's much more variation in the lighting conditions. So the above photo is probably truer in terms of value, but the one below has the new sky.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Barn at Oak View



Purchase "Barn at Oak View"
6" x 8" oil on board

My painting from Mike Rooney's workshop.

This came out really well - it's even nicer in real life, this photo is a bit muddy. I'm using Mike's "bastardized Cape Code" technique, of working out the color temperatures as well as the values. The painting took a little under two hours on location, and then I made about 15 minutes' worth of tweaks in my studio.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Thursday, June 7, 2012

50 Starts - Start 16, Fish Factory!

I was in New Bern, Beaufort, and Morehead City a couple weeks ago. I didn't bring any painting equipment; it was a family vacation. I did get a lot of great reference photos though. I'm going to try a large (18x24) oil painting of a processing plant there (I assume it's fish processing, but what the heck do I know...)

This composition is just a fraction of the entire building; it's enormous. I sketched it out with magenta acrylic paint on a piece of cardstock, in preparation for the value study.



Here it is rendered in five shades. I have five grays pre-mixed from a workshop I taught, and I use them for my own value studies.



This might be more complicated than the finished painting will be - there's a lot of detail in here. On the other hand, 18x24 is a lot of real estate to fill, I might be able to include a lot. The value sketch looks pretty cool already.

Jimmy Craig Womble is the famous artist from Morehead City. His work is brilliant. I just met him recently at the opening of his exhibition at Gallery C. He's as charming as he is talented and good-looking, which seems like a rather unfair distribution of assets! :)

Click the "50 starts" label underneath this post to see other posts in this category.

Pricing and where to buy





  • 4"x6" and 5"x7" - $80
  • 6"x6" and 6"x8" - $100
  • 8"x10" - $150
  • Larger pieces are priced individually.


    The exceptions are:

    • Pieces in an auction—I usually start the minimum bid lower than the regular price;
    • Pieces sold at galleries or shops (I don't have complete control over that pricing);  
    • Pieces that include frames. I always try to get the best deal I can on frames, but even so they add quite a bit to the cost, plus my time.

    I usually have a "holiday sale" in late November with rock-bottom clearance prices, so do check back for that.

    Where to buy: My available paintings are listed on Etsy.

    Sunday, June 3, 2012

    White Field


    Purchase "White Field"
    6" x 6" oil on board

    The wildflowers are spectacular this year. I'm going to have to learn their names; all my paintings lately are titled things like "Little Yellow Flowers" and "Some Purple Flowers."
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