Oil Painting, the best of both worlds

After many years of experimenting with different media, pastel, watercolor, acrylic, etc. why have I decided oil paint is the best choice for me? Because it has the personality traits of many other painting media all rolled into one.

“Unknown”, the painting I just completed last week was a perfect vehicle to take advance of one of my favorite properties of oil paint, transparency. walking1-lrThe finished scene would have a dominance of blue, so a transparent underpainting of warm orange reds, the opposite of blue, would be a good base to play those blues off of. I call this stage the “getting to know you, stage”. Moving around the image with washes helps to see what the flow is, how things move throughout the space.

walking2-lrHere’s an ode to watercolor, spattering the surface starts to liven things up, and give me something to work with, (or against), in the next layer. In order for the spatters to stay put and not run, the painting is placed flat on a table until dry.

walking3-lrThis stage reminds me of working with pastels. With a chunky squared off brush, laying in passages, weaving the strokes into each other. The goal here is solidifying the image, letting some under layers peek through while building up some heavier passages.

Using Gamblin Alkyd medium makes the layer dry faster, not as fast as acrylic, but enough so that I can work on top of a dry paint layer the next day.

UnknownFinalImagelrThe last stage is to refine and correct. Always correcting, it’s never to late to fix an area that just isn’t right. Refining areas that are important, and ignoring the rest.

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Respecting Your Boundaries

The real world and a painting are two totally different things.

You’re standing in front of the model, here lovely Marisa. Interesting costume, nice pose, that rug with the oriental design is great, what a wonderful group of objects by her feet, all shiny and shimmery…

You’ve been there before, you want to paint it all but….you are limited…..by your boundaries, the canvas. Those four edges restricting the world you can paint.

On a recent open studio session at SAS this is how I made those decisions.

IMG_2489

I wanted to paint those silver vessels on the floor, I wanted to paint her shoes, but…Reclinelr1

more importantly I based my composition on how small I was willing to make the head and where on the canvas  boundary to place it comfortably, not too high, too low, too near the edge.

What I didn’t concern myself with yet was the actual color, bright green and magenta. Instead getting neutral value blocks in that filled the space well was what I was after.reclinglr2

Here I was thinking, how is the visual information going to enter my boundaries, how comfortable is it to explore the scene leading to her face? What I gave up was her legs and shoes, too much information where I don’t want you to look. The bright green and magenta just didn’t matter anymore.reclinelr3

Now that “things” are basically the way I want them, what is fighting my original intent? The dark edge next to her uplifted hand in the previous image was causing a tension, pushing against her, so it’s eliminated here. Also the dark shape in the lower area of her dress was distracting.relinlrfinal

This is where it really gets fun, adding pattern, textures, refining her expression…and knowing when to stop!

30/30 Lesson learned #2, The Drawing

After the Dance, newest painting since 30/30
After the Dance, newest painting after 30/30

The draw, the drawing, the drawing, the drawing. Many years ago I attended a workshop at the Scottsdale Artists School. The instructor was a wonderful figurative painter named John Michael Carter.

During the lunch break he agreed to look at some of the work I brought in for him to critique. He said 90% of your problem is the drawing, he was so right!

I found the best friend I had for all 30 paintings was a sound drawing. A mapping of the major points in relation to everything else in the image. No details, just how one shape relates to another.

There are so many things to deal with once a painting begins. It’s like the man at the circus spinning multiple plates at once. The plate of correct value, as it relates to areas next to it, the plate of correct color temperature and hue as compared with the rest of the image, add to this the hardest plate to get correct, the drawing, i.e. everything the right size, shape, place as it fits in the image.

There are a few artists like Richard Schmid and Jeffrey Watts that have such impeccable drawing skills that they can start a portrait at an eye and work outward with supreme accuracy, but that’s not me.

I am changing how I work,  spend more time on the drawing and enjoying it. After all how many things can you practice, while you are really creating something of value?