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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Montmartre and Sacre Coeur

Montmartre with Sacre Coeur, 15x30. oil
Here is a new one for you. I started this months ago but only now have gotten it close to where I want it. The first draft I went very graphic with heavy outlines on the buildings. But I kept the cathedral more realistic which made it feel like two paintings in one. Since the idea of outlining the cathedral did not seem appropriate I painted over most of the lines in the rest of the painting and also removed windows and blended buildings together, leaving just some here and there. The trees remained the same, just one dark shape broken up by lighter shapes. I may at some point paint this scene again with a very graphic fun style. I am seeing it in my minds eye as I write this post. Take it in a totally different direction. Maybe paint it a little larger than this one.

This is a local tone painting, meaning it has three distinct values: light, medium and dark. The lower half is also a study in equalization. Equalization is a visual approach which brings a uniform sense of pattern to a painting. The goal is to create a visual rhythm out of the pattern. It does not mean all shapes are equal in size and shape but are similar in size and shape, no two alike. I also was doing color harmony as an element where every color has blue in it. That is still true but I did not take it as far as I could have.

The reference photo for this painting was from my two weeks in France 7 years ago. I have so much reference material from that trip I am still discovering. A real treasure trove. This is not the typical view of Sacre Couer but I love the fact that it shows so much of Montmartre a great little village built on a hill in Paris. Be sure to visit this landmark when in Paris. The cathedral is beautiful inside, the view from there across Paris is amazing and the streets are so much fun to explore. There is a funicular for those who can't walk that much.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Lost in a Good Book nee Junior Great Books

Lost in a Good Book, 18x24, oil on canvas

This painting is a blast from the past. I started it at least 20 years ago when I first started to paint in oils. It is of my daughter at the age of 6 or 7. I must not have taken a photo of the painting in the early trial of the life of this piece. I was going to scan it if I had one, but luckily, I never saw any reason to photograph it. I had stuck the painting in the basement hoping to one day resurrect it, which I did about 10 years ago. Here is what it looked like from that point in time (below). I did put this painting in a show and had lots of positive feedback on it. But it went back to living in the basement as I decided it did not meet my standards after all. Everything outlined and not very clear as to the fact that she is in shadow! She definitely looks too light and bright for that. There are two light sources coming in, one as you see is an west facing window and the other is a small window that is higher up and faces north. The drawing is good and I like the composition so a few weeks ago, when I came across the original 4x6" photograph (remember now, 20 years ago there were no digital cameras!) I went looking for the painting to see what I could see. I saw that I could definitely improve it so set to work to do just that.
Junior Great Books, circa 2004
Having the composition already in place makes the work a lot easier. The drawing had to be corrected here and there along the way. I started from the top and worked my way down. From window/wall, to couch/pillows and finally placing her on top. The light was made blue instead of yellow and lightened considerably. The white background of the quilt had to come down in value to read as in the shadows. I had added the quilted "flower" above her head even though it was really just stitched in as a white on white on the quilt. I decided to take that out to see how it worked; I don't miss it. While working on that I noticed that the angle of the top of her head was off-that it needed to slope down into the pillow. Her profile also had to be restructured so she is not so flat faced, which she was not! I darkened the shadows on the couch to match the dark of her shirt and sink her into the couch. Her skin had to be darkened down and since the light is blue, I could use the red shadows I originally had used and have it be more believable. The book had to be given depth and the curve accentuated.

I was surprised to feel nostalgic about this old couch while I was reworking the painting. It is the couch I grew up with and it was called a studio couch. These are hard to find these days. It opened into a double bed by lifting it from the bottom of the front of the couch. You brought that up and then folded it towards the back until it clicked it into a flat surface. There was storage under it for blankets and sheets. The springs were a little tired by this point in its life, but boy did I love that silly couch.

These were the days when we lived month to month so I made most everything I could, including reupholstering the couch.The quilt was my first attempt at such a thing so it is by far not a piece of art but it was functional. The pillows I made from old curtains I had bought at a yard sale. The pink tropical patterned curtain fabric was from the 50's but I found enough to to salvage for these pillow cases. My daughter is in hand me downs from her cousin. "Those were the days!" Every picture tells a story...and speaking of that, I am curious to know if people who view and or buy paintings like to know about the painting or prefer to make up their own story for it? I was counseled at the opening a week ago by an art consultant to never tell the history of the scene in the painting to a viewer. That was not the way to sell a painting! I am not sure how I feel about that. I personally can rewrite the story if I choose but I am curious about where it is and what drew the artist to paint that particular scene.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Repeat until Complete

In the Name of Blue; 20x30; oil on linen
A bien Mesdames et Monsieur
Here we are yet again as I continue to tweak and fine tune to get the painting correct. Every time I get to it there are things that are gained and some that are lost. I made some changes that I hope make the scene read as it should. Misty fog, mysterious light and a road less traveled. I await the verdict with baited breath. I am not inclined to give away what the changes are hoping someone will notice and comment.