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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Upcoming Adventure

Last night's class was cancelled due to the boiler needing to be repaired; I am leaving for TX on Thursday, so I will miss the next 3 classes as well. It is a long time to go without a "Mark fix." Cynthia and I are driving to Dallas for the opening of Nomadas del Artes show at the Southwest Gallery and then driving to Fredericksburg on Sunday for a paintout with PAAC and the Texas Plein Air group (OPS) for the week. Fredericksburg is in the hill country of Texas which is known for its bluebonnets. I will try to keep up with the blog on the trip. I have never been to Texas and I am looking forward to the trip. It has been a long time since I have done a road trip. A friend of mine from my life as an Army Brat has told me there is someone we knew from Munich American HS living in Fredericksburg on a lovely farm and that I must call him and paint on his property. I will see if time allows.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Test for those of you are interested

One of my painting buddies told me recently that she was told that the best way to evaluate your work before sending it in to a juried show is to view the pieces you are thinking about in Thumbnail size; that the juror has to look at so many paintings that the strength of the painting in thumbnail can be a determinig factor of its selection or rejection. Here is a site to check out alot of paintings in thumbnail and you will see what I mean; here is a webpage of works sent in for a juried show that will take place the end of April. If you were the judge, and had to choose 10 out of all of these (with many more yet to come) what criteria would you settle on? I can see where I tend toward those that have the best composition with strong value relationships. Those that read all one value, no matter how colorful or well rendered, pale next to the strength of good light, middle and dark value shapes. The subject is secondary.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

No Teacher this Week

I went to class Monday night even though I did not feel like painting; I have had a sinus headache for two weeks, and sometimes I am just drained by it. But I went; and I managed to do a drawing, a value study and covered a canvas with paint. I tried to stick to three values in the study, which I came close to doing. The painting I wiped off, but it looks better to me in this state than it did at the end of class, so just for fun, I put it here for anyone interested in what a partially wiped off painting looks like. Notice how the models head has changed positions over the course of the evening. Also notice that I did not stick to my original intent on the color version, getting more of the model on the canvas than either my drawing, which more closely resembles the value study, or the study showed here.

Classes were cancelled tonight at the Art Student's League of Denver, which is just as well as we had a major snow storm today and Mark is in Scottsdale teaching a workshop. I picked up a book that I read from time to time, called The Art Spirit. It is the writings and teachings of Robert Henri, a wonderful American portrait painter (see painting above) who was born about the time of the civil war. His words echo Mark's, which I suppose is not that surprising all in all. Like "the juxtaposition of warm and cool colors of the same value creates vibration and the sensation of light. This principle holds true whether of not the subject is outdoors or in the light of the studio." And "one also learns that getting the correct values can be more important than the color itself."
Here is a great quote on painting the model in the studio relative to the background "A weak background is a deadly thing" and "Every head claims its own kind of background." Here is one that applies to me " Many a background has been spoiled simply because the artist has tried to cover it with insufficient amount of paint; because it was a trouble to paint it all over...because he thought too little of it and did not realize the function it had to perform." Oh my.

Grand Lake Regatta, take Two and a Fresh Start

I picked this scene to do for this months project of doing local tone (3 values, each shape remaining in one of the 3 values) because I thought it would be easy, and I did it 12"x16" so I could do it in a weekend. It still is not where I want it after two weekends, but I am tired of looking at it so I may not finish it before class this Saturday. What I would still like to accomplish is to lighten the background of trees along the shore by another shade. It is still just too dark. I have tried 3x's to get it light yet still read as a dark, and it is still about 2 shades too dark(and yes, I was trying to use my new color charts!). The water still needs a bit thicker paint on the white caps. And the numbers on the sails are still missing. I have decided that I really do not like working from photos anymore. I tighten up and get hung up on details. Dinking around way too much even as I tell myself to STOP. Put all that aside, as those that have come into my studio and seen it in person have remarked how much they like it. I just tend to focus on what is not where I want it to be versus what is actually working.

To break out of all this what has become, tedious class work of the past two months, I painted a still life on Sunday. It is 20"x16" and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. What a relief. I was beginning to wonder if there was no joy in mudville. I had drawn my sketch Saturday afternoon and wiped off two false starts. Sunday when I got back to my easel, the tulips had assumed new positions and though I had no lights on in my studio, there were a myriad of different light sources coming in from all the windows. I decided to just use those wonderful shadows as a design element to break up the wallpaper from being too much of large negative shape.

And then there is this apple which I had forgotten I had done on another recent weekend when I was feeling I needed a boost. Red must be a color that gives me that sense of life. I wanted to see if I could still do a study in under 20 minutes. And the answer is yes.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Grand Lake Regatta, take One

Here is the painting I started last weekend to use for my March Local Tone painting for Kevin’s Saturday class. It is just roughed in at this point as I tried to lay out the values (light, medium and dark.) I want the whole background of trees and shoreline to read as the dark value as well as the boat. The water in front is the middle value as well as where the sails (jibs, etc) overlap. The light values would be the water towards shore and the sails in the light. Now the sails in the light are reading bit darker than the water so I will darken the water a bit more. But that is where I am going. To keep the value but change the temperature. I put the painting in grayscale to be sure I have things where I want them to be. It is close. The reflection of the boat in the water is still too light.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Learning to slow down

This week I am not going to class. With all the Color Value and Temperatures going through my system right now, it is a good opportunity to just digest instead of actively engaging in a class situation.

I don’t believe I have addressed a theme that keeps reoccurring; My “Waterloo” painting and how bad I must feel about wasting so much time on it. “Time” seems to be a measurable in today’s world that I believe is misinterpreted. First of all, I learned so much and I am not finished so painting time is never wasted time. Secondly, if a painting isn’t done well, time is not a factor. A great painting can take minutes (ie Sargent’s painting of Vernon Lee done in @ 30 minutes), hours, days or months; as can a painting that shouldn’t see the light of day. Because I work a “day” job, my painting time is more limited than many of my painter friends and I do attempt to make the most of it. But if I stress about how little “time” I have, I tend to waste more of it. If I look at it as continuing on my journey to being the best I can be, time is not a factor. Today’s world culture tries to make us fearful in all aspects of our lives and time is just one of them. Taking a break from being “driven” by time and doing these color charts, has really shown me more than I would have believed possible.

Mark’s class has a number of artist’s who have been studying with him for years. This is my second time. It dawned on me that I was resisting what he was telling us we should do to become better painters. Most all of us have great graphic abilities but we lack what Mark has and we hope will rub off on us through osmosis; His sense of color and value; Kevin calls Mark the “Color god” and vice versa. Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if Mark is giving us the tools to understand that which we lack, and we refuse to use those tools, then we will never get the knowledge to apply it to our own work. He kept repeating to me the importance of color charts, so I am making my color charts; He keeps repeating the importance of knowing your subject, so I am now taking that to heart as well. And harping on "value relationship" is something both Kevin and Mark repeat like a broken record. If we keep doing what we are used to doing and expecting a different result, that is the definition of insanity, correct? I am tired of the insanity, so I am trying a new tact.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Values on my Mind

I can tell the color charts are invading my space as the past three days the first thought I had upon awakening was on VALUES and how I was or was not implementing them in the painting I had last worked on. I haven't posted most of these paintings of the past few weeks as they are all in various states of being redone. To the left is one I had painted a year or so ago out in Aurora at the Gully Homestead; I do not have a photo of it before I reworked it; this is a silhouette more than a local tone, although I used the local tone three value approach. The part I struggled with on this study is the grass patch in the left lower corner. I am not finished with it, but I needed to give it a rest. It is still not reading as one big shape broken up with color temperature change not value change. Taking photos really helps me to see that I am not where I thought I was...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Part II of Kristin

Last night I thanked Mark for persisting in telling us the value of doing color charts, as it has been so enlightening for me. He was going over values, as usual, and I explained how I really "saw" what he had been trying to drill into us. He then elaborated about how when doing a color chart you first mix your two colors together, put that as the darkest dark, and then take a tad of that mixed with white to get your lightest color, and from there your mid-value. If you start your painting the same way you build the color chart, you are already half-way there. From that point you go to the more subtle value shifts to give the object form and to finish up the row on your chart. AND that if you start to light, and try to go up your chart to the dark, you will never get there; and the one that I learned, if you start with the dark, and add half white each step down, you still only get to a mid-value and you will need to make a minimum of 10 steps to get to a light, which still will not be light enough! Value and color is where most artist mess up, which is why this is so important.

Mark really helped me last night as the pieces are starting to click into place. On the value study from last night, the circled part he said is what he wants to see from me from now on. That it has everything, darks, mediums and light. I also am doing better about getting the features in, even though I got the light on her face too dark. Her eyes are stronger, as I was able to pull from what I had learned doing the eye study and not get too detailed. He scrumbled in the background, that I had too light and was throwing me off. I am going back to look at the painting to be sure it can be "read" from a distance. What it looks like at the easel is not good enough.

Jane talked about a video of a demo she had watched and how the artist used a light gray palette but that he had a piece of white off to the side where he tested values before putting the paint on the canvas, which seems like a great compromise for those of us who are used to a tinted palette. My "neutral" gray, is too dark, so I do need to go to a lighter gray but having a paper palette, as Marie suggested sounds like a good start. I used my paper palette in class last night. Having "fun" is sure hard work!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The EYES have it for MD Class 3-9-09

A very intense eye, to be sure. So, Mark wants us to do a drawing, and individual feature studies and a black and white 5 value study painting on Monday nights to prepare for painting in color on Thursdays. I got two of the three done. This is my second drawing of the night, as the first one was a head study and after the first break I decided the figure was too good to just do a head study, so I switched to more of the figure. I liked all the triangles going on in the pose. I did get two "eyes" done, and just for your information, and mine, it is much harder than you think. I did both eyes, but the glare (wet paint) in the photo on the other eye just made it more weird than painting an eye alone is, so it was not ready for posting. I can see why Mark said it is so important to take the pieces apart first and study them before putting them all together. If you do that, I can see where the painting will be more fluid and the artist will be more "in the zone." I plan on doing the B/W study tomorrow. I actually find it easier to do the value study; color just throws me off. That is where the "value" (ha!) of the color charts will be helping me. And I used to think of myself as a colorist. It is a rude awakening.

Color Charts and what I have learned so far

Here is a bad photo of my second completed color chart (I have about 6 done so far) to illustrate what I meant in my last blog on color charts about getting a light enough value. I realized about half way through this chart that I was not getting a light enough value for my 5th square, so I kept going on this one to see what it took to get there. Then I had something to relate to on the next chart I did. This has been invaluable, as I noted before, in REALLY getting what it takes to get a light enough value for higher contrast. I also have to tell Mark that I now understand why he uses a white surface to mix paint. I had learned early on when I started in oil painting to put a neutral light gray on the glass to use to mix paint. In this exercise, my "neutral gray" fooled the eye on light values and just seeing truely what colors I had mixed. I could not really "see" what it looked like on the gray. and it is a light gray. What an eye opener. Just goes to show, you learn something every day! I am not sure how a white surface will work outside, but I am going to see to getting this remedied on my palettes SOON. Thank you, Mark, for not giving up on me and my resistance to this exercise.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

a value re-evaluation

Ok, here is a good example of value differences for those who don't quite understand that term and its application. Since I had all these wonderful piles of mixed colors of different values left on my palette from making color charts, I went and found an old painting I had done plein aire that had colors corresponding relatively to what I had ready to go. The painting on the right won that honor last night. It is not that it is a great subject but I remember enjoying the day at Lair of the Bear when I painted it. Using the theme from February's assignment which is local tone with gradation, I put my new sense of value to work. I also played around with landscaping by changing the trees (my darks) into a different pattern. I think I made a more pleasing shape of the hillside too. In the redo, there is now a more distinct showing of three values: light, medium, and darks. Seeing the painting in the photograph I see I should do something with the shape of the light grasses in the lower left hand corner - not looking grassy at all... I may put in the fence and telephone poles. I am very pleased with my hillsides and the gradation; the green hillside reads as one shape, and one value (middle value) yet has a color and temperature change from purpley green to an ochre green. I know this painting will not win any awards, but it has been a good working lesson for me, and hopefully it will help me transition back to painting after my Waterloo of the last month.

Color Chart

I have finally decided to bite the bullet and create color charts per Mark's recommendation. I started last weekend with the chart above, which is not quite what he suggested but I thought I would see how this went before I started on the color value charts. I found this to be a good discovery, even if I got my colors out of order; first I forgot my purple and then I added three colors that aren't normally on my palette but Mark uses. So it isn't as pretty as it could be. This chart I found on line and it consist of pure color across the top and to the left, in the same order. Then starting with the cad yellow lemon, I added white in approximately half-n-half strength. The next box over would be 50% cad yellow lemon and 50% cad yellow medium. And right under it is that mix with 50% white added, and so on. So in a stair step pattern through the middle, the top part is just two colors mixed together and then below would be with white added. The other charts are "in process" and with them I am taking each color from the above chart and doing a similar process but instead of 50/50 color mixes, I am using the primary color for the chart and adding a touch of the next color to it, and then doing 4 values down (by adding white). I have resisted doing these charts for YEARS because they are so time consuming; It isn't that I haven't done charts of varying types over the years, but usually just hodge podge. This is very systematic. It has also been extremely helpful already. For one thing, it takes very little pigment in a pile of white paint to get a light color. It took me doing two color charts to figure out I just wasn't getting the lightest value light enough. So one I need to redo correctly.

I was "encouraged" to do this partly because the project I had been working on for the February assignment has been a total disaster. I just killed the painting. Between ugly colors and getting the values too dark it was a deadly combination. I also started to lose my shapes. In fact, I can't think of one thing positive about it right now. So on that note, I decided I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by going back to the basics. It has been a very good exercise.

Friday, March 6, 2009

David in B&W

Last night, we were directed to start a new painting, just the head, using white as the highlight and a dark value (not necessarily black) and three values in between. I opted to just paint over Monday night's work. Mark never made it back to my easel after about 7:30, so I am not positive I got where he wanted me to go. I know I still have too many values; I struggled with how to make the hair read as hair and yet show it in the light withoug getting too involved with another value. Squinting made the hair join the shadow shape. He was empahazing with other artists to have most of the value shifts in the light and simplify the shadow shape value. He didn't say this is so many words but I am wondering if the point of this exercise is to get us to see that throught simplifying the light shape with few value shifts, we will then be able to do the form in the light through temperature change, not value shift. The other emphasis last night was to do small studies on Monday night; of the eye in particular. He said the eye is where you get the interest; the rest of the features are secondary. If you don't do good eyes, then there is no point to the exercise. I know that the eyes is where I definitely fall down, so I will take this to heart and just do eye studies on Monday night, and then go to a nose or mouth depending on how far I get. I put in David's eye in the last 10" and it did not help the overall study one bit. So the point is well taken.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

MD Class 3-2-09

Last night Chris, the class monitor decided to do something creative with the lighting and he lit the background as well as the front of the model. I came home convinced, as is usual, that my background is too light and that I should darken it before class on Thursday. But I had to stop myself remembering that and to just wait until I am back in class to see just how far I need to take it. It is always hard for me to get the darker color of the background when it is in the light but I do know that when I squinted, his forehead was lighter, and right now it isn't. And then the other thing is, he is really red, and his forehead is not looking very red right now. But as far as trying to keep to the six elements of getting the value shapes in, I think I have at least managed to do that even if they aren't quite "there" yet.