Monday, July 21, 2014

Clearing Clouds - oil on panel, 9x12 inches

Clearing Clouds
9x12 inches, oil on panel
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I set up with a paintbox in my lap, and painted this on a small panel the afternoon following a rain storm. All the sinuous curves and subtle colors were really appealing, and there was something mysterious about those luminous clouds, and particularly the light above the trees at the far right. I sustained a few ant bites on my ankles but all in all, it was a good day.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Armadillo's Hangout - oil on panel, 8x10 inches

Armadillo's Hangout
8x10 inches, oil on panel
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Sometimes when I paint in this spot, I see an armadillo rummaging through the brush. He wasn't around the day I painted this, though.

One day I was worried it might have a problem (rabies? who knows...) because of how close he was coming to me, and how little he was bothered by my presence. It's usually not a good sign. So I put some music on my phone, which didn't faze him. But when I took out my trash bag to throw away the paper towel I wiped my paintbrush on, the noise of the crinkling bag made him run away. And I'll tell you, he could really run fast--almost like a cat.

This woodland interior was fun to paint: lots of dramatic light and shadows, warm and cool colors, and interesting shapes. I've always been wary to paint them because of how much variation there is, but since this was a small panel (8x10 inches), it wasn't too bad.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cove Trees - oil on panel, 12x16 inches

Cove Trees
12x16 inches, oil on panel
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This is a great place to paint and I've done several paintings here. It's a somewhat secluded location, with subject matter that works from a number of different angles, and good shade. I liked the shapes of all the tree trunks against the water in the middle ground and the subtlety of the colors. I did this over two painting sessions.

Here's a fun picture where I lined up what I was painting with what is actually there. The colors are different because I'm set up in the shade, and the camera has a hard time correctly photographing the light and shade.




Friday, July 4, 2014

Two Roads - 11x14 inches, oil on panel

Two Roads
11x14 inches, oil on panel
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A bright, humid, sweltering morning. It was nearly 90 degrees by 10:30 AM when I finished. Painting in the North Texas summer is not for the faint of heart. The sky in this one is white hot and didn't photograph quite right.

Last summer I started doing multiple sessions at the motif to combat the heat. The first morning I would work up a detailed grisaille, which is a monochromatic under-painting in gray. I would use turpentine to wipe back some of the paint to expose the light parts of the painting, but no white paint. I would work out the entire painting in monochrome, making sure I had every element where I wanted it and that it was well-drawn. I would spend around 1-1/2 hours working up the grisaille, and in the following session I would add color for about another 1-1/2 hours. It was a weird way of working for me, but it fended off heat stroke, sunburn, and dehydration.

I think it's time to re-adopt that strategy.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Line Drawing in the Landscape

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot.
I've been looking at some very early (late 18th, early 19th century), pre-Impressionist landscapes painted outdoors, like Corot's painted sketches from Italy, or these paintings shown in an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One thing I've noticed is that many of the paintings were executed on paper over a detailed line drawing, or at least planned out in a sketchbook, and I wanted to share some of the drawings here.

Line drawing and mass drawing are two ways of categorizing drawing. Line drawing shows form by way of the outline, whereas mass drawing uses chiaroscuro to show form. Harold Speed talks about both in his book on drawing. And of course some use both styles interchangeably within the same drawing, like the Corot above. He has described the terrain and branches with line drawing, but used a little hatching and darker values (mass drawing) to show the form of the trees. If you look at Ingres' portraits drawn in pencil, he uses the same technique: line drawing to show clothes, hands, etc., but finely rendered mass drawing to show the features of the face.
Corot
John Constable
Study for 'Flatford Mill' circa 1816
John Constable
Sketch of Shipping
Line drawing is really out of fashion, it seems, but I love the look of it. I can't find many people who do it anymore, with the exception of Donald Jurney (flip through the preview of his book at the bottom of his post) and Marc Dalessio
Frederic Church
JMW Turner
I'll admit I have a much harder time with line drawing than mass drawing. I think it's probably because of the precision that's required to put an outline in exactly the right place, without being able to "fudge it" by pushing masses around. These have a sureness that only comes from lots of practice.
Corot
JMW Turner
The National Gallery's website has an infrared photograph in which you can see a preliminary line drawing under one of Corot's early plein air paintings. Drawing directly on the paper helped him work out complex compositions and solidify the drawing ahead of time.

Looking through all these I feel really inclined to make drawing much more a part of my painting process than it is. I often just set up my easel and go, working out the drawing and composition as I paint. Good draftsmanship for a painter is like having a strong grasp of grammar and vocabulary for a writer, and it's something I'd like to continually improve on in my skill set.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

DWG Pasture - 11x14 inches, oil on panel

DWG Pasture
11x14 inches, oil on panel
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There is a neighborhood here called Dalworthington Gardens that I've mentioned before on the blog; it has a lot of pastoral elements and I paint there now and then. People are allowed to have livestock and large plots of land, even though we're in the middle of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. It was part of a program created by Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1930s so that people who worked in the city could retain a connection to rural life. 

This painting is of one of the pastures there, although I changed it up quite a bit. I saw the sunlight hitting that patch of land in the middle ground of the painting and knew that would make a great center of interest. I've been looking at a lot of classical painting lately (Claude Lorrain, Poussin, up through Constable and Corot, etc.), so I'm sure that influenced this work. The composition and color scheme in this painting are pretty classical to me.