This painting was more about not painting than anything else. That’s right, there was so much subtly going on in this dusk scene of a bank of trees, I spend far more time looking and trying to understand just what I was looking at then actually painting.
Thinking things like, is that shape lighter or darker than what’s next to it, is it cooler or warmer, were the questions I asked myself over and over. It reminded me of that passage in the bible “be still and listen”.
It’s such a temptation in a seemingly simple subject like this to just grab a brush and start slashing around. But really paying attention to what’s going on, and yes, “let the painting speak to you”, is the way to grab ahold of the subtle things that matter.
Day 10’s painting, No Dogs Allowed , is from a trip my husband John and I took to Santa Fe, New Mexico. We saw many great galleries while there, as well as a terrific Flamenco dance show.
One day while we were there, we visited the Indian reservation. We were told when entering “do not touch the dogs”, some were family pets while many were wild, it was hard because they were everywhere and I just wanted to lean down and scratch one on the head. This guy was outside of an adobe building where the owners had dinner cooking, he so wanted to go inside!
I used Yellow Ochre, Cad Yellow Deep, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Ivory Black and Thalo Green, which I also call atomic green! I don’t usually use this color because it is so extremely dark and cold out of the tube, when mixed with white, a totally intense bluish-green, which is what I used it for in the smallest amount with the Cerulean Blue for the trim around the door.
Today’s painting, In the Shadows , was a scene we saw on the same day. It was the middle of July and blazing hot. I was taken by the interesting shapes in all the shadows here but also taken by a place to get out of the sun. The clever guides that walked along with us all had umbrellas.
This painting really made it clear to me that I am making some great strides in my work while involved in the challenge. Previous to this, I would never choose to paint an architectural subject. A multitude of angles, going in different directions has always been very difficult for me. I am learning to be more observant and look to the negative shapes for the information I need. I used the same palette as the painting above but traded Cad Yellow Deep for Cad Lemon in order to take some of the orange tones out of the lights.
Before I began the challenge all my subjects for the paintings were picked out. They were also put in random order, so that I wouldn’t know what the days’ image would be until I started for that day.
When I saw this photo I said *&%$!! under my breath. It’s not that I don’t love the subject of the ballet dancers, but five figures on a 8″x8″ panel, what was I thinking? This was the biggest challenge to date.
I wanted to keep them loose but they had to accurate, so it was about the drawing, the drawing, the drawing. This reminded me of when I used to teach, inevitably someone would say “I don’t want to learn to draw, just paint”, painting is all about drawing, it’s drawing with paint. I used Yellow Ochre, Cad Red Deep, Viridian, Cobalt Blue and Ivory Black.
This quiet scene was day nine. John and I went to an Indian reservation in Santa Fe a couple of years ago. This scene of a horseman trotting down the dirt road had such a relaxed feeling about it, that’s what I tried to capture. I used Cad. Yellow Deep, Permanent Green, Cobalt Blue and Transparent Brown Oxide.
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).
I like to throw a challenge out to myself when planning a painting, it wakes me out of the trance of doing things the same way all of the time.
I began this painting by using only the paint colors that I had to in order to paint the subject. Being very conservative about my choices was a good way of experimenting with color.
The most obvious thing I needed was a red, Cad Red Medium wouldn’t let me get the warmer orange reds, so I decided on Cad Red Light.
As I looked further I could see some rich cool reds would also help the painting so I went ahead and added Cad Red Medium (though later on in the painting I saw I could have done without it).
The darkest darks in the image where brown, so Burnt Umber made the list.
The warm light in the image made Naples Yellow my choice, which is one of my favorite colors because of it’s buttery light tone and it’s opacity.
I grabbed my tube of white as if almost by habit, than stopped myself, can I get by using Naples Yellow in place of white? The answer was yes,using Naples Yellow instead of white kept the warm glow in the image. The opaque quality lighten up the Umber, while keeping some warmth, burnt umber can get very grey when mixed with white. The pinks that were made with the reds and the naples yellow kept the color harmony in the painting.