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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Full Day of Painting

There was a paint out scheduled with Debra Huse down at the boatyard on Balboa.  
I dropped off my mom at the airport at around 5 am and headed to the island.  This was an opportunity to get warmed up.  I had not been painting as much and I was going to paint a subject that was unfamiliar to me.
I went to the Balboa Ferry to paint a quick nocturne.  I only had a hour of darkness so I had to be very quick.
I had about 45 minutes of painting before I stopped.  I have painted in many changing conditions but this was the most dramatic change that I have had to paint in.
I figured I completed about 30 percent of the painting before having to stop.  I can usually paint until I am finished regardless of the lighting.  If I had the time I could have used my imagination and memory to get the painting to an acceptable finish.  
I packed up and wandered along the harbor warming up my composition skills using my new camera.  The morning was beautiful.

I packed up and found a waffle house by the paint out location and read my latest Plein Air magazine.  At this point I could not be any more ready for the painting that was to come.
I got there and met Debra.  When several more painters showed up, she invited us to wander around the shipyard.  She suggested many different painting options.  I was really intrigued by the various tools and equipment used at the yard.  She then gathered the group and told us what she was going to paint.

    The following are the things I wrote down during her demonstration.
  • block in really quickly
  • add just enough detail at this point to give composition direction
  • only paint for a couple of hours to make sure the light stays right
  • separate the light part of the painting from the dark part of the painting-compared the sky to the other parts of the painting to make sure the relationship was right
  • starts with a plan and sticks to it from the start
  • sets her pallet up with the color wheel going clockwise from orange at about 7 o'clock
  • she spoke about finding the right pigment based on the symbols on the tube of paint which is universal
  • she says she just mixes up a couple of color and just goes
  • in the studio she will lay down more colors so she can get to her colors quicker
  • uses spackling knives to get straight lines of masts in her boat paintings-talked about putting different colors on different sides of the pallet knife to indicate light direction
  • better to keep your purples on the blue side to prevent the finished painting being pink and red
  • when ever she can sneak red into a painting she will

  • focuses on where the light is-trying to get the big pieces of light and dark to get the direction organization of the painting-light dark light patterns appeal to her sense of design
  • worked at getting the shape of the boat right before doing anything else to the painting
  • did not want to paint anything on the back of the boat because she wanted to keep the design simple-it was not necessary
  • she did not paint the reflections on the side of the boat for the same reason

  • she holds the brush overhand and at the end of the handle- she said gripping the brush like a pencil leads to too much noodling
  • first the shape and the values of the boat and then the big shapes of the shadow and light around the boat
  • likes to create the painting by pulling and pushing the shape together without too much drawing
  • spoke about deconstructing the painting after a certain amount of development-spoke about matt smith's process of randomly scraping paint off and adding random lines to the painting and then allowing some of those elements to stay through the editing process

  • Debra spoke about creating interest by painting the negative spaces in the composition
  • spoke about painting trees with gray and yellow to keep them in the background of the painting and to show distance within the painting
  • wants to have the dark and light within the painting be the star of the painting do not get too caught up in the detail within the painting

  • looked to hint in the red and the peach colors in the painting because there is so much blue in marine paintings
  • lays on a lot of paint and then tries to leave it alone-a common mistake with novice painting is that it does not leave alone the paint they have put down
  • looks for dark and light paint opportunities
  • tries not to have the sky compete with the subject from an interest standpoint
  • keep the brush clean to keep paint out of unwanted areas
  • an exercise that she suggested was to do a sky and water painting without using blue in it

  • tries to sneak up on the sparkle she puts in the painting and picks her place to add it
  • wants to create je ne se crois within the painting-leave the work to the imagination in the painting
  • creates loose passages within the painting and leave it up to the imagination of the viewer

  • when she does the lettering on the backs of boats she will block it in and then go around the lettering with a background color to give it shape
  • she works from the middle out to get the lettering centered with a rigger brush
  • toward the end of the painting she will work with complimentary colors to add sparkle to the painting

  • starts her stroke with a dot to get the location right before she commits to it
  • she is looking to balance the colors within the painting
  • added yellow to the gray rudder to add sparkle
  • did reconstruction with clean brush-when she does it

Her subject
The finished painting

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Again then again

I have been working on some studio paintings recently.  My work schedule has been crazy with the holidays.  The result has been less plein air painting.  It is hard to describe the feeling of unfulfilled creativity.  Today is different though.  Today I will paint.  I was concerned about being rusty.  I brought two boards to paint because I have less time to paint outdoors.
The light was clear, warm, and crisp.  There was a certain vibration to everything in the landscape.  I went to Home Depot, bought some boards, painted them, packed up, and headed to a place I have painted many times.
The shadows were really interesting because of the low angle of the sun.  Painting a familiar subject really helped me avoid some of the rustiness that I anticipated.  Time was short because it was the second shortest day of the year, so I went into the painting straight away.
I was happy with the colors and the mark making.  The composition could use  some reorganization of some of the elements.  I think I should have included more of the palm trees on the left hand side of the painting.

The finished painting 24"X 36"

The value shot.
The detail shot.
By the time I started the second painting, the tide and the lighting had changed significantly.  For the first time I painted the same subject back to back.  There was less time than I usually have for a painting this size, so I was thankful that the shapes had become simplified by the setting sun.
The second painting of the day was completed in much less time. There was still a lot left to be done but there was no time.  
The finished painting 24"X 36"
The value shot
The detail shot
The painting for the day finished.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


This is the completed underpainting.  It is done in water color.  When working with water color as my underpainting and pastels as the finishing media, I strive to get muddy and gray colors so that the pure pigment of the pastels really shouts out the highlights and the vibrancy.  I also want to make sure that I am making the initial painting  dark enough to have the pastels be the star of the painting.  

This is the painting with the pastel over the underpainting.  Upon reflection on the values, I will have to go back and rework some of the clouds so there is less contrast. The better the under painting is in water color the better the finished painting is.  When I do it right, it is like I am doing the same painting twice.
The finished painting measures 24" X 36".
The value shot.  The values turned out to be above expectations.
The detail shot.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Irvine Park

It was the last warm day before a series of storms and it really felt like fall in Southern California.  This is the time when I like to paint sycamore trees.  I like to see the bare complex arrangement of branches and their scattered dead leaves.
I chose to paint with a water color under painting.  I wanted to make the under painting dark and moody so that the pastel painting would be more vibrant against the gray colors of the water color.
I worked to establish a detailed under painting that would limit the amount of work I would need to do in establishing the composition.  By doing this I was trying to let the pastels be the highlight of the painting.

 I painted until the sun was started to go down.  The last moments were beautiful.  Perhaps I will do a studio painting from a couple of last minute reference photographs I took.

 The finished painting.  It measures 24" X 37".
The value shot.
The detail shot.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Rust Never Sleeps

My schedule has changed and it has been difficult to find the time to paint.  I have been working on a photo realistic pencil drawing for the last couple of weeks.  It has been so difficult to spend so much time on this drawing because it is so labor intensive.  In the time I have spent on this drawing, I could have completed 5 paintings.

I had put some over sized pastels in my back pack a couple of weeks earlier.  This was the first time that I had used them.  The larger sized marks really sped up the painting process.
It had only been a couple of weeks since I had painted en plein air, but it felt like a lot longer while I was painting.  I was surprised at how awkward and uncoordinated I felt while painting.
At this point, I am finished with the large pastels and I am ready to start refining the painting.

The finished painting measures 24"X 36".  I was really happy with the color but everything else seemed like a struggle.  The drawing was ok at best.  The composition seemed weak.  My use of the space did not match what my intention was for the painting.  It was really discouraging to have slipped that much in such a short time.

The value shot.
The detail shot.