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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lori Putnam Paint Out with Laguna Plein Air Painter Association

We met at Alisso Beach in Laguna at 9am.  There was a big turn out.  There were about 20 participants.  Alisso is a little south of Montage.
Lori spoke about using convenience colors.  These are colors that she could mix with her split complement pallet but doesn't because of their unique properties.  She uses two whites on her pallet; titanium white and warm white.  She really likes warm white.
Lori used the same pallet for six years so she could learn to mix colors quickly and accurately.  When she is back packing she only uses four colors in her pallet.
Lori blocked in her painting and scrubbed it in with a bristle brush. She then used a wipe to indicate the light areas in the painting and defined the composition.  At this point she said this is the painting if I can just keep to this composition.
Lori said she normally uses a view catcher and does a thumbnail drawing to capture her composition.  One of the key insights I thought was really important was when she said anything you are panicked about not having (in your painting bag) is a crutch.  She also said that anytime you are feeling panicked during your painting that something is fundamentally wrong with your approach or technique and to use that feeling as a signal to evaluate and correct your painting.
As you can see in this picture Lori likes to keep her painting and pallet in shadow.  This is so that she can accurately judge the colors and to keep her eyes rested.  Lori went into detail about the need to look away from your painting so that you can keep your eyes from tricking your mind.  Lori was saying that your eyes work efficiently and after a period of time that they become overworked and see color differently.  If you do not take breaks, your mind will interpret that information and it will change the way you choose and apply color.
Here you can see Lori wiping the painting to create the value pattern she wants for her composition.  Lori likes to paint patterns not the thing that makes patterns.  Shapes are determined by brushes.  The greater variety of brushes the greater variety of shapes you are able to fit into your painting.  Lori spoke about her time studying with Quang Ho.  She told a story about a painting that she had worked and worked on.  Quang put one small dab of color on her painting.  She said that it completely changed her painting-it made it better.  The dab was a different mark from everything else she had put down.  It showed her the value of changing up the marks within her paintings.  The variety of brushes creates the exciting and varied brush strokes in her paintings.  He gave her a brush, and now she has a large variety of Rosemary brushes.  Lori admitted that she still has trouble using a variety of brushes.  In this painting it seemed like she only used one brush...She like long bristled brushes because of the way they easily move paint around and the expressiveness of them.
She said if you use bristle magic you will never need to buy new brushes.  Lori frequently tones her canvases and mixes up the colors she uses to tone them.  She does not always tone her canvases but when she does she tries to tone the canvas with the color she sees running through out the entire painting.  Lori scrubs the paint in with a bristle brush and then subtracts paint with a wipe to create the lighter value areas in the painting.
Generally, Lori likes working on a slick surface.  Her approach is to not have a set approach.  Lori mixes up the amount of drawing in the painting.  Overall, her focus is to know her strengths and weaknesses and to improve her weaknesses to the point where her paintings are consistent and in balance.  I thought it was interesting when she said that it is more important for people to think you know what you are doing than whether you actually know it or not. The perception of ability is more important than ability?  I thought that was kind of crazy.  Maybe she was talking about the confidence needed when painting.  I should have asked her about what she meant but didn't.
When painting, Lori likes to work over the entire canvas not just focus one part of the painting.  As she is working all over she keeps in mind the value pattern within the painting and the shapes within the composition.  Lori is seeking a variety of shapes and an unbalance in values.  Keeping the painting evenly balanced in color, shape, and value leads to a boring composition.
Lori turns her back on the painting to make sure she gives her eyes a break.  She will also wear sunglasses on her nose to give her eyes a break.  As she gets towards the end of the painting she will step back and look at the painting frequently.  At the end Lori does more thinking about the painting than painting.  One of the things that Lori she has to be careful about is being too happy with her brush works. To avoid that she thinks about what areas of the painting are going to be quiet and which areas of the painting need more information.
One of the things Lori does to stay on track is to write down what she wants to capture or what interested her about a scene on her sketch.  
Lori puts in accent darks into the dark areas of her paintings.  She uses variations of the same color for shadows because shadows are harmonious.  She will paint all of the shadows our of the same pile. Lori will create a painting in neutral colors and then add clean color at the end.
Lori says that she is not a slave to the scene.  When you have copied scenes long enough it is time for you to put your stamp on the painting.  When you are experienced enough it is time to experiment.  

Lori does not believe in focal points.  Lori thinks about what her intention is for the painting.  For this painting, her intention was to focus on the light and shadow pattern.  The intention is the first thing she thinks about and what she will write down on her sketch to keep her on track.
Lori likes to start out with big shapes and then carve into those big color shapes.  A lot of her color thoughts revolve around harmonious colors and neutral colors.  She spoke about harmonizing colors through the use of neutral colors.  She also spoke about starting neutral and then working to the clean and brighter colors. 
Lori spent a lot of time developing her color mixing skills through the use of color charts.  She also worked for three years with a very limited pallet so that she could mix any color with mastery.  She for instance says that she can mix every earth color with 3 colors and white.
When Lori starts to feel fear, it is because she has realized that she is doing something wrong.  Lori also said that when the paint is not flowing that it is a sign that she doing something wrong.  When that happens she focuses more on her technique.
Lori is now looking to break the rules in order to develop as a artist. She is doing it intentionally to build greater ability.
Lori uses what she likes to call convenience colors. Convenience colors are colors she does have in her pallet.  She adds these colors to her pallet as colors to highlight areas of her paintings.  She could mix these colors but likes the purity she gets from the tube. She really likes the radiance she gets from the convenience colors.  Lori spoke about being able to do an entire painting from these convenience colors.
Lori talked about liking to put in big shapes and then carving color into those big shapes.  
Lori spoke about her color theories a little with us.  She spoke about working with a limited pallet for a number of years so she could mix any color.  She talked about making a lot of color charts to help her develop her mixing skills.  Lori also said she practiced mixing earth colors to the point where she could mix any earth color by using three colors plus white.
A lot of Lori's color thoughts are about neutralizing colors, neutral colors, and how she uses other colors to create harmonizing the colors within her paintings.
Lori also uses different values to help create neutral areas of the painting.  She keeps the mud from the early part of her painting because they are the colors she started with.  At some point she may need to use them again.  This is another way she creates harmony within her paintings.
Lori spoke about liking to paint backlit subjects.  Her approach for them is to put in the shape dark and to cut light around them.  
Lori recommended putting colors onto a white tissue to see if it is light enough or if it is the right color. Sometimes your eyes will trick you into painting things darker than they are.
She put in the sky towards the end of the painting. Lori spoke about how much information was needed in various areas of the painting.  The amount of detail is dictated by how much attention you want that area of the painting to get.  She used the sky to judge the values in the water.

Lori saved the finish of the rocks to the last.  She started out dark and neutral and worked to show any rock in her painting that helped explain the perspective of them.  She worked slowly to put in the value contrast in the rocks.  She kept them dark because that was part of her original plan for the painting.
Lori spoke about her brush strokes.  She said she had to guard against getting too "dabby".  When her strokes get too small and choppy it is time to quit or step back and evaluate where she is in the painting.
Lori said that if the paint does not feel right when you are mixing the paint on the pallet that it won't go down right on the canvas.  You should figure out how to make it feel right before you put it down.
Lori spoke a lot about her growth and personal experiences throughout her career.  She has been painting full time since 2005.  She talked about investing in herself and her growth as a artist.  She sold everything she owned to have the time to learn to paint.  I really liked her no nonsense commitment and courage to do what she thought she needed to do to grow.  I thought her best piece of advice was: No fear-no ego-you can't be afraid to try new things because they will make you look bad.  You have to be willing to put yourself out there.
The start of my painting.  I started around 10 am.
Twenty four people showed up for this paint out.  The most I have seen at any of the paint outs that I have been to.
I took a break to say hi to some of my fellow painters and to see their work.

I really like painting with others.  It is interesting to see everyones' style and their ideas.
At this point, I am trying to get all of the elements into the painting and trying to get my surface covered.
I am working to get the values throughout the painting consistent in their relationship to their distance.  In some areas I am trying to get in key details to act as bookmarks or reference points within the painting.
There were a couple of difficult areas within the painting for me.  Establishing the distance separation between the first bluff and the bluff mass in the distance.  They are part of the same large shape.  I had to overaccentuate the aerial perspective to create the right amount of separation between them. (something I don't think I accomplished)
Here is my sketch with some of the things I wanted to do with the painting.  Lori suggested doing this to keep on track throughout the painting.  I do not think I did this very well either.  I liked the idea of putting your painting thoughts down as reference. 
When I paint with someone I admire, my competitive spirit wants me to try and out paint whoever is doing the demo.  I think this works against me.  It seems like the more I want to impress the demo artist, the bigger the paintings failure.
The finished painting.  24"X 36" pastel on board with a under painting of blue acrylic paint.
 The value shot.  There should have been a greater value contrast in the rocks in the foreground.  I should have also had a better diminishing contrast within the rocks as they moved into the distance.
The detail shot.  I like the abstract nature of the rocks in this painting.  I like the color composition within the painting.  I don't think I got the depth and variation of the color that I wanted but I liked the color choices for the overall painting.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Two at Montage

I got away from the high wind and headed down to the beach. There is an endless supply of amazing vistas to paint, but I am drawn time and time again to this location.  This is a classic location that just does not get old.

After the long walk down to the resort, I dropped my gear and got ready for a long day of painting.  I did  a quick sketch and got started.
The first pass.  I got most of the drawing right.  I had covered the surface and got the gist of the values in place.
There was a problem with the scale of the bluff with the key hole in it.  The bluff extended too far down the big rock in the foreground.
You can see the remnants of the adjustment I made to correct the mistake.  I have made this same mistake in the past.  When I made this same mistake before, I failed to make the correction in time.  I was then stuck with a improper representation.  Because I could not go back and correct it, I was reminded by it throughout my painting.  This led to a unsatisfying result.  
At this point in the painting, I had made my final adjustments to the drawing.  The light was changing to the point where I had to make a decision about how I wanted the painting to turn out.

Once I had gotten the drawing right I was able to get lost in the painting.  When I get past the big problems with the composition, I slip into this deep focus.  Everything starts to become automatic.  I will lose track of the time and suddenly the painting is finished.  It is like waking up from a dream.
 Finished with the first painting.  The board for the second painting is leaning against the railing.
The color feels harmonious.  The composition feels right.
The finished painting.  24"X 36" like almost all of my paintings.
The value shot.  Nothing seems overstated.
The detail shot.  I like the consistency of the mark making.
 After completing my first painting, the question was do I pack up and go or do I paint another?  There was not enough time to paint anything of quality in the amount of time I had left.  I could have easily gone home.  My painting time is limited and I want to grow. What will make me better?  I rarely get a chance to paint at sunset because of the size I paint.  To get at the right point in the painting timed with the setting sun is difficult.  So I painted.  Although this painting did not turn out as well as it could; there were some learnings with this painting.

The composition has plenty of opportunities, but I liked some of the color combinations that showed up in this painting.  The benefit of painting was the experience I gained from the practice.  Every painting does not turn out the way I want it to.  In fact a number of them don't.  The growth from pushing the limits adds up over time. how many plein air painters are getting twelve square feet of painting completed in a day?
The value shot.
The detail shot.  

The end of the day.

The days work.  Long shadows and a long walk back to the car with my gear.  The worst part of the day.