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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.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

After Glow

A quick start is usually a good thing for my studio work.  Here the whole idea is already down on the canvas.
Color harmonies and values are being developed at the same time.
Making sure to get the sky on the horizon correct first will let me build the bluffs without having to go back into the painting.  Put it down and leave it alone is something I have been working on.
One change in my process has been to change from using walnut oil to saffron oil.  I was told it would interact better over time with the Gamblin oils I am using.
A stylistic development in this painting has been the overall smoothness of the paint application.  
Although there has been a reduction in the swatches of color and an overall simplification of the subject, I do not feel like there was a sacrifice of detail.  
After Glow 24" x 36 oil on canvas
The value shot
The detail shot

Orange Grove

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Farmer's Market

My water color pallet ready for painting.  A clean edge around the edge of the butcher tray.
When I am painting with a mixed media approach using water color and pastel, I am looking to establish a under painting that will compliment the application of pastels.  I work to create a strong gray based under painting.  

I love this easel for water color because it can be adjusted from vertical to horizontal.  The shapes start coming together and the values within the painting.
I have added just about everything except the people which will demand the most attention.  
The people have been indicated and I am ready to push beyond the values and establish the colors within the painting.
Here I am developing the shapes and indicating the colors that will react to the pastel.
The darker and grayer you go in the under painting the more dramatic the pastel application can become.
The finished painting.  Farmers Market 20.5"X 26"
The value shot.
The detail shot.