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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Dawn at Brush Canyon

 Applying washes of paint thinned with saffron oil to establish both shapes and value.
 The surface covered.  Working hard to not rush through the development of the of the initial color, value, and shapes within the composition.
 The thinning of paint with saffron oil creates a very slippery surface.  Allowing the thin wash of paint to react with the saffron oil creates some interesting textures, shapes, and colors.
 Here are a couple of close ups of the interaction between the paint and oil.
 Developing a complimentary color under painting is a fundamental aspect of my process.  
 I am looking to create color harmony through opposites interacting with each other.  Allowing the saffron oil to influence the shapes within the painting adds an abstract element to the painting.
 I am also trying to create a subtle rhythm of color relationships by  positioning colors which will remain visible even though they are part of the under painting.

 The saffron oil seems much more of a thinner than walnut oil.  I switched on the advice of a paint expert who said that it would react better with the Gamblin paint that I am using than the walnut oil.  He said that over time the painting would wear better.  Another benefit of allowing the saffron oil to react with the under painting is that it accentuates the shape of vertical brush strokes.
 Here I continue to work on getting all the shapes into the painting and making sure that they have the right position and value within the painting.
 As new details are added to the painting, I have to insure that the shapes are not too thick with paint.  I also work to keep the surface smooth and not too built up.
 Here I have gone back and deepened the colors and values to get the values deep enough to create the right reaction when I add the lighter values.  You can see how shiny the painting is with the saffron oil on the right hand side of the painting.
One of the advantages of painting inside is the ability to work wet into to dry.  When I am painting outside it is always wet into wet.  The wet into dry techniques allows for greater color separation within the painting.
One of the things I like about this journey I am on is the growth and discoveries I make along the way.  As my painting materials evolve my end product has evolved.  My pictures have become more complete because of the efforts that I have made to move forward.
One of the recent discoveries I have made is to make better paintings I have to push the limits of the paint.  Working at both ends of the value continuum and taking them as far as I can allows me greater artistic expression.
One of the challenges presented in this painting is to depict the dynamic range of light within the painting.  The shadows within the canyon and the incredibly bright tumble weed and the brush along the wash.
At this point in the painting I am pretty committed to the composition, value, and colors.  Things could still be changed, but it is more about following the initial intent and staying true to what is already down on the canvas.


Here I transition to smaller brushes, smaller marks, and for the most part lighter values.  The shapes are becoming more defined within the context of the entire composition.  
One of the questions I have to answer is how much detail is enough?  I could paint this scene or elements of it every day for the rest of my life and not be able to capture it all.  I really struggle with the conversations about simplification.  Of course there is simplification.  Really who has an ego so large as to think that they could paint the detail if they wanted to.
Painting with saffron oil really makes it easier to go wet into dry.  There is the ability to get smooth applications without the same effort or skill that it would take without the oil.  The edges within the painting would be much more crude without the oil.
One of the advantages of painting inside is the ability to slow down the process as much as you have to.  The slow build up allows for additional problem solving time.  It also allows you to step away when you start to make some mistakes which may have throw away the effort you have put into the painting if you continued.
The experimentation takes on another dimension when painting indoors as well.  The ability to measure your results from session to session are not a luxury I have when I am plein air painting.  This makes a big difference in the learning associated with the experiments.  It gives you a bigger chance of repeating it in the future.
I really like the growth I have made in this painting. There are plenty of paintings where there seems to be no growth.  I feel like I am moving forward in my technique and expression.  I look forward to pushing myself further in my next painting.
The finished painting measures 30"X48".
 The value shot makes me think I got it right for the most part.

The detail shot lets me evaluate the brush work, the composition, and the abstract elements within the painting.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Mixed Media Approach to Poplar Trees in Irvine Park

I like to work on sanded paper for mixed media approaches to landscape painting when working with water color and pastel.  The paper really holds up to the water and it really accentuates the pastel.
Here you can see the reference photo I took in Irvine Park in the early fall.
In this painting I have tried to keep the colors and shapes separate so I can have a clear idea of the accuracy of the shapes.
This painting was built up layer after layer.  There were multiple sessions where I put down water color.  The values were not as important here beyond establishing a comparison from dark to light.
This painting took longer to get the values where I wanted them because I was afraid to make a mistake.  This subject was important to me and it was important to not waste my time by failing.
A neat pallet in my mixed media paintings is not a priority for me.  The under painting is the base which I build upon.  It is something to interact with and to react to.  Using complimentary colors to create grays in the under painting helps support the vibrancy in the final stages of the painting.
While building this painting, I am constantly thinking about what I am doing with water color and how I will bring out the final colors and values.
The darker and grayer I can get in the under painting, the more striking the final painting will be.
The abstract nature of the parts of the painting are brought into context when they are assembled fully.
I like the complexity of shapes and color.  They create an implied detail without the restraint of slavishly trying to recreate the exact scene.
The water color under painting allows me to explore shapes and color without the risk I will take in the later stages of the painting.  Any mistake can be painted over with little or no effort.
As I became more confident in the shapes, value, and color in the under painting, I did not rely on the separation of shapes as much.
There is no intent to create abstract shapes within the painting.  They exist in the painting because of the freedom and confidence in my expression.  Control at the cost of expression is not worth the effort. 
These paintings are as much about my feelings for them as they are about the place I am painting.  

At the end of this part of the painting I felt the need to make sure the entire surface was covered to some degree of paint.
As I start the application of pastel, I am focused on defining the shapes more completely.  It is like a repeat of the process with the water color under painting.  There is less freedom in expression.
The adjustment of values continues till the end of the painting.  The beauty of pastel is that because it is a dry application, values can be worked in all directions not just from dark to light.  
Here I have continued to create greater definition of shape, depth of value, and deeper vibrancy of the color.
When the start of the painting has been really established according to the initial goals and thoughts, the later stages seem to be a logical progression till the end.
It is important to keep the final highlights off the painting till the very end.  Otherwise the painting looses its freshness and looks overworked. 
One of the biggest challenges in this painting was to describe the brightness of the sun behind the leaves of the poplar trees.
I really enjoy the complexity of color and diversity of mark making that you can achieve through this technique.
The smooth washes of water color contrasted with the drawing and mark making of pastel create a dynamic and balance within the painting.
One of the trends in my recent painting efforts revolves around the idea of addition vs. subtraction.  When working with water color and pastel, there is this give and take between the two.  You first give with the water color.  By adding pastel over the water color you are adding to the painting but you at the same time are subtracting or covering up something you have already put down.  Addition by subtraction.
At the same time you are adding and subtracting you are creating this dynamic interaction between the mediums.  While this is all going on is my impressionistic approach to color.
The shapes are in place, the colors and values are locked in for the most part.  The focus is the finish.
The lightest values and colors still need to be added.  The other focus is the edges of the shapes.

Does it feel like I intend it?  At this point it is too late if it doesn't.  The question is asked throughout the painting from start to finish.  Because painting is a construction process you have to have the confidence in your basics so that your instincts are allowed to run free.  To me, it is that freedom that allows your true style to be expressed.
Through my devotion to plein air painting, I am better able to take advantage of painting from reference photos.  One of the advantages of working from photos is that the camera can catch some lighting effects that are hard to visualize while painting.  For example the red in the foliage of the Poplar trees.  I would have to squint like crazy to study that part of the composition.  I would probably come up with something quite different on site.

The last question to be answered.  When is enough-enough?
The finished painting.
The value shot.
The detail shot.