Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Black and White

The advantage of painting a watercolor in black, shades of gray, and white is that you concentrate your focus on values.  Sometimes, too, black and white is just the best choice to convey a mood or subject.

I wrote about this in an earlier blog when I painted a cemetery monument.  Garish bright colors do not convey mourning and grief. 

In this painting of a pianist, his formal attire suggested a serious mood.  Painting a background which contained color may have destroyed the unity of the piece, so I elected to keep the background quiet and in the same black and white mode.

I also used a spray bottle liberally to keep the lower portion of the painting fluid and undefined.  I hope your eye can fill in the blanks of bench, piano and piano legs.  Your gaze remains on the face, shirt, handkerchief and cuff, not only because they are the lightest shapes, but because they are the sharp edged areas while everything else is soft edged. 

Color choices that match the mood, and shapes that play up the focal point are necessary components of a good painting.  Be deliberate in your choices.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Power of Obliques

Obliques (which some people refer to as diagonals) create energy, movement and tension.  My old instructor used to ask, Which would you rather watch?  -- A soldier at Buckingham Palace standing statue still, or a drunk wobbling down the street?  You may not approve of his drinking, but certainly there is more action and tension in a drunk teetering on the edge of falling down as he weaves from side to side and forward at an angle that makes you gasp!

In the painting of two canoeists navigating some rapids, study the lines to identify where the obliques occur.  The feeling of movement and even possible danger comes from the slanted lines that create a feeling of movement. 

Decide what you want to say about the mood of the subject, and if it is one of tension, consider the use of obliques.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I'mmmmmm Back!

After three and a half months of recovery from the open heart surgery and complications that followed, I finally had the desire to paint again!  I went out to lunch with a friend and fellow painter, and on the way back to my car, I spotted this scene in old Webster.  I took a photo, and to get back in the groove, I did my usual value sketch.  Then I did the drawing on the Arches 140 lb. half sheet.  I was nervous as heck about putting brush to paper for the first time in so long, but sailed into it anyway. 

I kept it to a limited palette and disregarded any local color.  That's why working from a value sketch is so.... well, valuable!  If you work directly from the photo, the tendency is to think in terms of local color and details, rather than shapes, values, and a color scheme that is of your choosing and imagination.

As I've said often, planning is crucial to any endeavor.  The plan that utilizes a value sketch to plot out your washes and layering will most likely give you the confidence to place that first brush-to-paper procedure!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Close Ups

Painting plein air can be daunting.  Everywhere you look, you see details.  The temptation is to include everything.

So sometimes I just zoom in on one object.  That one thing can say so much about the location without including all the surrounding details.  This old lantern was on a dock at the end of the harbor.  There were buildings, boats, a footbridge, and rocks, not to mention the old restaurant where the lantern hung.  But I liked the antique quality of the light fixture so I eliminated everything else.

Drawing is critical when you choose an outdoor still life.  Take care with the drawing, and the painting will be easier.

I chose a limited palette, not only because it was an aging rusty lantern, but also because it suited the mood of the subject matter.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Painting in a Series # 2

Yesterday I posted about my affinity for lacy things against the light of the sky.  Here's another painting I did that that reflects that attraction.  I was standing on the lawn of the Topside Inn in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and couldn't resist the look of the masts and rigging of a ship down at the shipyard.  I consciously decided to blur the textures in the foreground foliage to keep your eye from focusing on it, detracting from the focal point of the rigging.

Again, once you identify what you like to look at, a series becomes possible.  I often talk about my annual return to Maine as the state of "getting my eyes back."  When hunting for subject matter, I revert to going back to some favorite painting sites.  But it's usually the case that I find a color, texture, weather condition, or some idea that I've had before that makes the scene new again.  Pay attention to your surroundings, and let your eyes tell your heart what you should paint.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Painting a Series

Knowing what you love is an important part of choosing subject matter to paint. Among other things, I love to paint fountains, statues, boats and bridges.  Identifying what you love about each subject is also important.  If you say "I'm going to paint a bridge", you'll probably get a rendering that is more illustration than a work that says something about that subject.  But if you can name what drew you to the subject in the first place, you'll be more likely to be able to communicate it to your viewers.

A while back I was fascinated with bridges.  Covered bridges in Indiana's Parke County, stone bridges in Acadia National Park, footbridges over rushing streams.  In this depiction of the bridge in Bath, Maine, I was taken with the lacy quality of the beams against the sky.  Such an industrial subject might not be as saleable as, say, a lighthouse.  But I was drawn to the weblike quality of the structure. 

A personal note.  I'm recuperating from my three month, post surgery complications.  Glad to be back on my blog.  Now if I can get back to the studio and sling some paint around, I'll be a happy camper!