I’ve been teaching a Saturday afternoon oil painting class at GalleryOne in Ellensburg, WA. We started with a small still life of a lemon…. not so easy, but everybody did great. The second Saturday we got a good start on a landscape, learning to simplify and look for values. Next week we’ll dive into a portrait. It’s an interesting process to figure out where people are at and what they need. I hope I’m doing a good job.
When I’m a bit lost I remind myself to get back to the basics. Composition is the foundation for all that sits on top of it. Value is where form is described and color is like the flavors that make up a good meal. Out of many tiny thumbnails a few will stand out and call for more exploration and refinement. It’s design at this stage, pushing the shapes around and easy to adjust anything at a small size, no more than a few inches. Then after many small idea sketches a few will stand out and hopefully one will be interesting enough to take into a painting. This is just one process of many, but a good one to remember.
In my little watercolor notebook I start working this out. I want the brightest glow from the sky to just hit a bit on the right wall and around the figure. Perhaps the left wall is still too light. And I have to do a couple real vanishing points so the walls read correctly. And then the water reflection shapes need to be worked out as I don’t have a real photo of this, just a snap from a TV image.
I’ve been putting some final glazes on these flowers and foliage and really enjoying it. Some manners of painting don’t use glazes at all, going after that modern matte flatness, the truth of paint on a surface. In this type of painting I want the illusion of depth. I want the viewer to look right through the picture plane, with forward parts almost popping in front of the painting itself. It’s a dimensional composition leading your eye in, around and back out again. And when you are up close there is no doubt it’s just paint on a board. We always have to simplify, leaving out as apposed to leaving in. I’m leaving a lot in at this point, it’s consciously full. Now I want it even brighter… maybe the next one.
I’m trying to spend enough time this summer to get a few garden paintings done. They don’t come easy. I have a tendency to put in way too much and not simplify enough. It’s one of the issues with working “Plein Air”. Nature has more than a simple painting can handle. Every place you look is beauty beyond belief. I’ll just keep trying and appreciate every moment spent outside observing. This painting is coming along, started while sitting in these flowers, then worked on for a while in my studio and now back outside. It’s changed so much in a few days that I don’t know it this will help.
My show is up on the walls at the gallery. A years work, thirty one pieces in total. Come and celebrate with us on February 7th from 5 to 9 at GalleryOne on Pearl Street in Ellensburg, Washington.
I’ve been working out this idea for a while and finally got the under painting pretty close. Then it started peeling off between the gesso and primer. I had to just take the whole thing off.
Redid the whole thing in about 2-3 days. Now to let it dry and start the next layers.
Karen, at Gard Vintners called me up the other day and said I could set up anytime. We hadn’t talked for 6 months at least and had never set a date for a show at their nice wine and music place in Ellensburg. I had two days to pull it together and hang a show of about 25 pieces. Looking through my older work, some enamel paintings and oil pastel drawings from the 1980s seemed to fit with some of the newer acrylics. They all had to be taken apart, cleaned up and reassembled. The glass and surfaces were really dirty, but with some cleaning the colors popped and I could see what I was going after almost 40 years ago. There is a continuity to these two eras, something that ties my work together that is only knowable after this many years.
I’ve been working on fine tuning my technique for figures and portraits. In this painting of my friend Chelsea, I used something similar to the Venetian Technique with a complete tonal underpainting in an earth red. In this case Terre Rosa and Venetian Red but with no white,
just the white ground showing through the scumbled drawing. In this way I had the time to really work on the drawing without the complexity of the color. After that was completed and dry I could work over it keeping the shirt a looser more painterly style with solid strokes of opaque paint while tightening up on the face. This technique seems to suit my temperament right now, it can be as tight or loose as I want to go while getting the placement and tonal structure correct first to create the illusion that I’m after.
After sitting with this painting for a couple of weeks and getting some respected outside opinions, I’ve sanded out this guy on the left. I just couldn’t get the shadows right. Luckily, Neal, was over at Tito’s and I got some shots of him with better lighting. I did a tonal sketch at full size and here I’m whiting out the lights to lay a bed for the new painting.
For the last two weeks several artists have been working in the big room at our local community gallery, GalleryOne. I put my painting hat on, hung out and worked there for a couple afternoons last week.