Monday, July 29, 2013

Rutledge Avenue

7" x 5" oil on canvas panel

You can view and purchase this painting here.

Third entry for this month's Virtual Paintout location of Charleston. This house is surrounded by crepe myrtles and palms, and with the fenced yard and the shadows it looks kind of mysterious - I can see it perfectly as the setting in a 1940s film noir, something with Lauren Bacall and Sydney Greenstreet.

I used the black gesso for the ground, and I think that adds to the mystery.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Clutha River

6" x 8"
oil on panel

This is the finished painting based on Start 29. I'm really glad I did that study first,  it made a big difference to have some of those problems worked out beforehand. There are so many different values and hues of blue in this scene, it helped to think them out first. I also employed that method of premixing the paint on my palette—just for the water and sky—and again it took a lot of the guesswork out.

I almost didn't include the ducks, which are in the reference photo. But when I finished the scene I felt that it lacked something. If I was Bob Ross I would paint a giant tree right smack in the foreground, but I'm not that brave. The ducks aren't a major compositional element, but they add a little warmth to the scene.

Progress photos:

The sketch - burnt sienna on a plain white board.

A slightly different palette for me. From left: titanium white; permanent yellow; yellow ochre; permanent orange; geranium lake; alizarin crimson; burnt sienna; phthalo blue; cobalt blue; ultramarine blue.

Putting in the lightest and darkest areas.

Pre-mixing some of the main areas: sky, water, tree shadows, cliff face.

Working on the water. Here's where I'm glad I did a study first and worked it out.

Starting to put it in some details.

Friday, July 19, 2013

And the winner is....

L.U. won the drawing for the painting. Congratulations, and thank you to everyone who subscribed and commented recently - I appreciate your interest.

Another Carnival is coming up near the end of August: stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Start 29 - Clutha River

One of my friends is a New Zealander, and she posts fabulous photos on Facebook. I've been meaning to paint this scene of the Clutha River, where they camped one night. Apparently the river is known for its turquoise color—in her photo the colors are brilliant and saturated—this sketch isn't exaggerated at all. I'm afraid if I paint it as it really is, it will look fake!

What is a "start"? A quick sketch painting, to learn composition, value, and temperature. There's not much emphasis on detail or paint handling techniques, it's about getting a lot of practice with the conceptual basics. Click on "50 Starts" in the menu above to see the others.

Monday, July 15, 2013

East Palm and West Palm

Each 8" x 6"
oil on panel
Sold separately

You can view and purchase these paintings here.

These are two different views of the same tree I painted for this month's Virtual Paintout in Charleston, SC. Palm trees are very exotic to me: we have a few here in North Carolina, but they don't flourish. They're more like shrubs than trees. I was enamored with the shadow pattern on the street.


You can view and purchase this painting here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Getting one's priorities straight

After that great Studio Tour blog carnival, getting all kinds of wonderful ideas for my studio, what's the first improvement I made?

Making a window perch for The Cat.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sun and Shadow - SOLD

4" x 4", oil on panel
You can view this painting here.

There's a story behind this one

The NC Museum of Art has a fabulous exhibition right now, called 0 to 60: The Experience of Time through Contemporary Art.  Related to the exhibition, there's a contest for best Vine video showcasing the idea of time. I decided to do a time-lapse painting showing the sun and the shadows moving—because for a plein air artist, that's what time is all about: getting the scene captured before the sun moves.

The first thing to know is that a Vine video only lasts SIX SECONDS. The next thing to know is that you can't save, edit, or revise a Vine. You just do it, all at once, and then you upload it to Twitter and/or Facebook. If you don't upload, it just... vanishes. So it's an extremely ephemeral (and frustrating) process. It's amazing what people have done with 6 seconds.

You can see my Sun and Shadow video on my public Facebook page:

Because it's so easy to make a mistake during the "filming," I planned both the process and the painting in great detail. I didn't want to leave anything to chance. And of course I did it in my studio, not outdoors.

I chose a cropped view of a scene I've painted before, and simplified it. I decided on four changes of time. Here I've drawn the scene four times, and I'm beginning to work out the values by assigning a number (1-5) to the object or plane. For the original scene, with the sun overhead, I'm following the traditional landscape formula of sky=lightest value (1); ground=2; slanted verticals=3; verticals=4; shadows=5. Those values change places as the sun changes position.

I have pre-mixed acrylic paint, in five stages from white to black, that I use frequently to work out a value range in thumbnail sketches before I paint. I'm using 3x3 cardstock for the sketches.

I also made a color storyboard, to nail down color temperatures. My stock of acrylic paints is quite small, so I worked with colored pencils. Even with those I don't have much range, so the color sketches are just approximations.

 I worked out how many frames I can spend on each time scene. Through experimenting, I determined that a Vine video is approximately 120 frames—each time you tap the screen, it takes a shot. I decided to start with the first time scene already in progress, so it has only 20 frames allotted, and the others 33-36, depending. 

Here's the final scene, at 4"x4". I decided to have two prepared in case of mistakes. I didn't make any mistakes :-) so the painting offered for sale here is the back-up painting, completed through the first time scene.
Here's what the starting point looks like. My original script had me painting the sky last in each of the time scenes, because I usually paint in that order, but it occurred to me that the change of sky color/value is what really signals that time is passing, so I re-ordered the sky to be the first thing painted in each scene.

This is my registration board, on a work table, so that I can get the painting back into the same spot each time to take a shot. The big piece of cardboard is pinned to the table, and there are a couple of guides glued onto it. The painting is taped onto a piece of cardboard, which slides up flush against the guides. (somehow I've gotten this shot into a mirror image, but you get the idea).

Here's the phone rig my husband built for me. Similar to the registration board, it's designed to make sure the phone stays in exactly the right place. There's a hole drilled in the wood where the lens is.

Leaving nothing to chance, I premixed all the paints according to "object" and time scene (except for the sunset colors; those I will improvise). I learned this method from Richard Robinson. The advantage is that you can compare your colors and values right next to each other on the palette, where it's most accurate, and work out all the mistakes before you start painting. Usually I don't have the patience for this (the mixing took me about an hour), but because I only had so many frames per scene, I couldn't afford to go back and make color corrections on the canvas.

I don't really have progress shots of doing the painting, because there's not much to see. I put on a few strokes of paint at the easel, carry the board to the rig, take a shot, got back to the easel. Here it is about three-quarters done, in the sunset scene. I've got lamps at 45° angles on each side to light the painting evenly.

These are screen captures from the video. For most of the shots I positioned my paintbrush in the frame, to give the sense that it was being painted "live." The video ends with almost-black night (not shown here)

This is the first time I've done an animation or time-lapse, but I had a pretty good idea of the principles. I knew to make a storyboard; I knew to build a registration rig. Where I didn't quite "get it" is how short six seconds is! This painting was far too ambitious for that amount of time. If I did it again, I'd have only three changes of time. Also, I'd paint more of the scene "off camera," and then take several frames of that scene, instead of one-stroke-one-frame—the brain needs time to catch up with what's going on, and the changes were too small and too frequent.

I had some problem with double-tapping the screen, so I used up more frames than planned in the first half of the video. I had to make up for lost frames by abbreviating the animation in the last quarter or so. That made the ending a little choppy and confusing, and muddled the nice details like the lights in the house coming on and stars appearing a few at a time. All in all, though, it was a pretty good result for my first video!

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