And I thought today was going to be the easy day. The image for today was a high contrast picture of a young woman with thick black hair. I rendered this subject in a monotone of Indian Red and White. I’ve always liked using Indian Red because the lightest value is a pink, not to cold, it’s darkest, right out of the tube value is a rich decadent brown red.
After I roughed in the obvious, darkest darks, lightest lights and midtones I could see getting those in between shades was going to be the most important. Like writing music, one note to high would shatter the melody, too many high notes would weaken the harmony. I felt like I was walking a tight rope, keeping balance, not veering too far to one side or the other. To keep the darks really rich I had to keep any hint of opaque lighter tones exactly where they were intended. The easy day……not today!
Take a look at the other Artist’s work that are involved with the Challenge –
I’ve decided what I’m doing is a self-induced painting workshop, where I’m the student and the teacher. The down side is there isn’t the stimuli from instructor and other students, the upside is I have to learn to teach myself. Being that painting is a solitary pursuit, learning to teach myself more effectively is a very handy skill to have.
This painting, which is available on my Daily Paintworks site, is from a photo I took while being fortunate enough to photograph our Nevada Ballet. I found the time before the practice was the most interesting. Some dancers stretched, while others gathered in groups to chat. The girl in the painting was concentrating heavily on fixing the strap on her point shoe.
The palette I chose was Yellow Ochre, Cad. Red Deep, and Ivory Black.
This has happened with the previous three paintings; after several hours into the painting, I get a very clear vision of the subtle nuances in the subject, things that need to be rendered with deft brushwork and careful value adjustments, unfortunately it’s also the point when I’m getting tired, want to rush things and get sloppy – when I pick up the brush and think, this thing really needs to be cleaned but I use it anyway.
This is the supreme exercise for me, to stand back, take a deep breath and concentrate on the task at hand.
I was telling my husband about this phenomenon and he said, yeah like when you take a road trip, the first five hours on the highway is no problem but it’s when you near the destination and you’re getting tired you have to slow down watch the city traffic, find addresses etc……exactly!
I thought about several options for a color palette. A monotone using Terra Rosa, a two color palette of Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue, but I decided on Cad. Orange, Cad. Red Deep, Cobalt Blue and Ivory black. Here’s the block in-
On the second day of the challenge I was already feeling the time crunch. I usually don’t paint every day, so it was becoming very obvious something was going to have to give. I talked to John, my understanding husband and told him the house was going to show my lack of attention this month, being the helpful and supportive husband he is, he said “no problem just let me know what needs to be done”, have I mentioned how lucky I am?
Anyway painting number two was from a vacation we took to Oregon several years ago. I was amazed by the green, green, green everywhere, and that might be why I haven’t painted this photo until now. Green has the tendency to go inky in the shadows and washed out or too acid in the lights. I chose to use Cad. Orange, Cad. Red light, Permanent Green light and Cobalt Blue. Keeping green in almost every mixture helped me to keep a solid color harmony.
Painting three was from a vacation to Seattle. If Oregon had lots of green, Seattle had lots of water. This was taken at sunset against the setting sun. The painting was very much about muted tones and texture. I chose Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Cobalt Blue and Black. My goal was to keep the lights from getting chalky, and work with clean simple brush work. These images are also on my Daily Paintworks Gallery .
I was anxious to get started with the first painting today. I mixed up the images so that the subject would be a surprise .
This photo was from my Renaissance collection. Starting off with a limited pallet I massed in the shapes, just breaking up the space.
This reminded me of my plein aire painting days when I would say things like, “this is the subject that you have before you, just do it”. I decided not to change anything , if I needed to later, I could. With so many color passages in a small space the importance of correct value was the most important, in order to keep things organized. Get the shapes, values, edges than color.
Using White, Cad Orange, Cad Red Light, Cad Red Dark and Cobalt Blue made me stick to a narrow range of hues. A green tone was needed at the top of the painting, I had to think “what’s the greenest mixture I can get?” The answer was Cobalt Blue and Cad Orange.
The other day while I was listening to Leslie Saeta’s podcast Artists Helping Artists I heard about her 30 day challenge. The challenge was to paint 30 paintings, one a day, for the month of January.
I’ve heard of groups of artists who commit to a painting a day and thought it was an interesting concept. There is an artist named Carol Marine who just published a book on the subject, Daily Painting.
The possible benefits to my painting?
No time to second guess myself, make a decision and move forward
Plan thirty compositions on the fly
Use the painting tools with a higher skill level, one stroke instead of eight
Get to the essence of what I have to say in paint
O.K., where do I sign up? At Leslie’s challenge site. It’s kind of fun because a map shows me places around the world where other artist’s have signed on.
What else? Go through photos I’ve been holding onto because I felt they had merit and choose 30 subjects, ( some, not subjects I usually paint), next prepare 30, 8″ x 8″ panels to paint on, ( just an arbitrary size I decided on).
This photo I took of a neighbor girl had a lot of things going for it, but color wasn’t one of them. Color is a very personal thing, and personally this was too dark and dull for the youthful quality I wanted in my painting .
I decided to exercise my artistic license and make new color choices by replacing the existing colors with corals, pinks and pale green tones.
On to the value sketches, I soon realize a high key value pattern would work best, I will work with the one on the right.
A couple quick color studies helped guide me in the right direction. I’m always drawn to cool color schemes so I needed to get the one on the left out of the way, to say to myself, “I told you this wouldn’t work”. The one on the right will be very helpful in finding my way.
Getting the block in finished, I’m happy with how things are coming along. This is the time I like to spend a day with the painting visible to me while I do other things, so that I can better judge what I need to do.
After a day I can see the shadow in the upper right is too dark, also the red is too intense and draws attention away from the main focus. More refining and I’ve arrived at the core of what I wanted the image to say.
Over the weekend my husband John and I, had the opportunity to visit the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena California
What struck me was the large collection of Edgar Dégas oil and pastel paintings there.
It was interesting to get up close and personal with those paintings, really look into all the wonderful layering of color on color on color, the end result being indescribably beautiful.
When I got home, the goal on my next painting was to layer some intense, unexpected colors together and just see what would happen.
I started with some simple color studies just to get a feeling of what direction I wanted to take, then I did my “predictable beginning” , just starting with any color to block the masses in and get something started.
Then I had some fun, seeing what paint would do. I was tempted to use burnt umber and sienna for the warm brown background but I reminded myself the point was to use bright color to achieve muted tones and shades, so I chose Cadmium Red light, Cadmium Orange and Viridian. I used the same mixture for the hair, plus white for the skin tones. I did sneak in Naples Yellow and Ivory Black in smaller amounts.
I’ve painted this model before and I’ve always been bored with the outcome. But this time, not being concerned with the things, i.e. a dress, a chair a fold in the backdrop, but how “the things” existed as shapes in space, how one shape reacted to the shape next to it. I was much happier with the results .
Going over the reference photos I have from previous shoots, I kept coming back to this one. It has many of the things I like in a subject, a reflective mood and a simple composition with movement, but like many photos, it has it’s problems or areas of concern.
One is the left arm, the way it follows the bend of the picture at the lower corner makes a tangent that pulls my eye to the corner in an uncomfortable way. So I will have to deal with that arm, how, I don’t know right now. The background doesn’t add anything to the scene so I’m going to simplify it, making the pyramid shape of the girl even more obvious.
Using a limited palette of yellow ochre, cad red light, cad red medium and ivory black I start roughing the image in, not going any further on the face until I’m sure it is where I want it. There’s nothing worse than spending a long time on an area only to find out it needs to be totally wiped out because it’s in the wrong place. In a painting like this I’m not sure what the colors will be, so I’m going to follow what I see in the subject until a direction is obvious to me, right now it’s warm gold flesh with warm greens.
By this time a color shift toward violet is happening, and I’m starting to get a feel for what I’m going to do with that left arm, having it straight is a much better lead in, it just flows better. Her dress is going to get fuller and cover the legs, which were adding too many lines going in directions that kept the movement from being fluid.
Adjustments here and there and it’s done. Always helps to get away from the painting for a couple days before the final work.