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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Paint Out with Jeff Sewell

Jeff is in charge of arranging the paint outs for LPAPA.  I had met Jeff at several other of the Laguna Plein Air Painter events and I was excited for the opportunity to hear what he had to say.  

Getting a Head Start

When ever I go to a demonstration I have a huge desire to paint instead of listening to the painter.  To overcome that urge, I have been going early to the location and painting.

I picked this composition because it was close to the meeting spot and I liked the value contrast of the boulders.  I was painting on a orange board which is always tricky.  The question is how much of the board is allowed to show through.  Too much and the painting is garish; too little and painting is too tame.

This is the point where I stopped.  Jeff had gotten to the location and I did not want to be rude.  After all, this is why I came here.
The finished painting.  24"X 24"

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Jeff Sewell's Demonstration

I was in the midst of my painting when everyone started to show up.  It was tough stopping because I was at the part of the painting when everything is a whirlwind till completion.  Jeff said my painting was "electric".
Jeff came to the paint out with his canvas already toned with burnt sienna.  He usually tones the bottom of the canvas with burnt sienna to help establish the foreground and the value scale for the painting.
He comes with the burnt sienna already mixed because he said it is a difficult color to mix.  He uses it with ultra marine blue to create his black color.  Jeff puts down a lot of color on his pallet because he does not want to go back into his bag once he starts painting. He is not too particular about the colors in his pallet and he will mix them up a little bit from time to time.  His philosophy is that these colors are just a starting point to be used to speed things up.

Jeff uses thin washes of paint thinned down by turpentine.  In particular he keeps his shadowed areas thin.  He uses the shadow areas to calm down the overall painting. He uses the highlighted areas of the painting to excite.  Jeff went on to say that you shouldn't try to have the light and shadowed areas as areas of interest.  He went on to say that he uses the light areas as the area of interest not the shadowed areas.
Jeff starts by putting in the darkest colors in the painting.  He then establishes the sky which is always the lightest part of the painting. Jeff said he is trying to get a feeling of compression when he is painting the sky.  He is trying to establish a greater feeling of depth within the painting.  Jeff uses the sky and the dark areas of the painting to make all of the value decisions in the painting.  He compares everything to the sky and the dark areas of the painting to determine where the value falls on the continuum.  When painting the sky Jeff starts with the darkest colors and works to the lightest colors.  After that he works to build harmony in the sky.  His approach is similar to mine.  He said he has been putting vertical marks in the sky to increase the vocabulary of brush strokes.  I have been doing this for about 20 years.  I stole it from Monet.  If you observe a lot of his paintings you will notice the vertical variegation of colors.  Jeff considers the sky an area of purity; a part of the painting where you don't want a lot of colors that don't belong.
Jeff used the shape of bluff in the background to balance the shape of the bay.  He worked to establish the right values between the three bluffs to make the painting read correctly for areal perspective.  He really wanted to push back the bluffs to create the feeling of distance.  He also focused on using everything to create a path to the area of interest.   Jeff used the brush stokes in the foreground, the receding values of the bluffs, and the shape of the bay to achieve that result.  Jeff wanted to make the bluff at the very back of the bay his area of interest.
Jeff takes an impressionistic approach to painting.  When building harmonies within the painting he is focusing on the quality of the relative values within the painting.  He tries a little bit of color out on the canvas before committing to it.  Jeff believes that if you achieve the proper tonal qualities within the painting the colors are not as important to achieving a good result.  He really did a good job at establishing the feeling of distance through the use of proper values.

Jeff does not use an umbrella but does not like the sun directly on his pallet because of the glare that comes off of it.  He finds that his paintings become much darker because the glare makes him choose darker colors (he is trying to avoid picking too light a color).  Jeff spoke about using complimentary colors to gray out a painting.  Jeff also spoke about trying to leave the lightest colors for last.  During the demonstration Jeff only used one brush.  He said he prefers to paint that way.  One of the repeated themes to his painting discussion was his attempt to create interest within the painting by varying his brush work within the painting.  Jeff said he leaves the edge work for the end of the painting.  In the foreground he left a lot of the bushes and ground unfinished.  It was like he put down little areas of paint that he left unconnected until the end.  By doing that he was able to establish many similar areas in color while keeping their identities distinct.  It kept the color cleaner.


Second with Sewell

When the demonstration was over, I started my painting; but not before I changed the color of my board.  The green would have worked but I thought the blue board in the car would work better. The color of the board influences all the other color choices and the way they look on the board.
Jeff thought the foreground was too distracting and busy.  He did not think the boulders in the foreground were needed.  He thought there should be more emphasis on the shape of the gully to create a path for the viewer.

Jeff wanted me to lower the values in the bluffs in the painting to create a greater sense of depth within the painting.  I took all of the advice he had to offer and the painting turned out better for it.
Jeff stayed until 8 pm painting with us.  He ended up doing a second painting.  Here is a close up of my painting which measures 24"X 36".

Finish the First

This was the point at which Jeff started his demonstration.  I was at the point where everything comes together quickly.  It is the moment where there is the large crescendo that signals the finishing touches.
After I finished the 24"X 36" piece I went back and finished this one.  Between the two I like this one better.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Philharmonic House of Design

This was the event that my painting was in.

Avocado Grove

It took me a while to find something I wanted to paint.  I usually know what I am going to paint before I leave the house, but not this time.  I drove around for about an hour before finding this avocado grove in north Tustin.
This avocado grove has become incorporated into this new housing development in Tustin.  As Orange County continues to grow remnants from the past are vanishing.  It was nice painting in the shade and on the grass.

Every different color board makes all of the colors in my pallet react differently.  The blues added to this yellow board creates a vibrant visual color mixing.  Every time I paint on a different color board it changes my pallet.  

Avocado Grove

As I laid the color down for the soil and the foliage for the trees, I found I was getting farther and farther away from the feel that I wanted for the painting.
At this point in the painting I felt like I was losing the form as well.

From this point on, I was fighting to get back to what I started in the early drawing part of my painting.

Avocado Grove

I was in a deep level of concentration when suddenly the lawn sprinklers went on.  Pastels and water do not mix.  They dissolve when they come in contact with water.  I had to scramble to get all of my stuff onto the sidewalk.

Avocado Grove

In this shot you can see the pastel on the board running because of the water.

The final result.  This pastel painting measures 24"X 36".

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Burn Off at Heisler

I have had a fascination with this beach as long as I have lived in Southern California.  The bluffs along the beach, the shape of the rocks, and their changing colors keep me coming back time after time.
As a painter with pastels, I find that it is hard to get specific instruction on the use of my tools.  I don't subscribe to everything that I am told by the oil painters that I paint with.  One of the things I do is I paint with sunglasses.  The reason they don't want you to paint with sunglasses is because your paintings will come out brighter than you want.  I will from time to time paint with the sun on my board.  They don't want you to do that because of the intensity of the color created by the light on the paint.  It creates glare.
The color of the board influences the color choices that I make as much as the landscape itself.  

The shadows on the rocks and the cliffs were not going to last so I captured them quickly.  The sky sets the tone of the whole painting.  The fog was burning off quickly so I made sure to get its essence first thing.
At this point all of the main shapes are in place.  There is some definition being established within the shapes.  Now is when further definition is created.  The darkest colors are represented in the painting.  Now is when the lighter values come into the painting and further define the shapes.

The light was changing quickly so I had to decide to what degree I was going to show it.  From this point on in the painting, I had to be careful to maintain my initial intentions with the painting.  In a short period of time all of the shadows on the cliffs would be gone.  The question was to what extent I want to show that light.

At this point I am attending to some of the smaller highlights within the rocks and establishing the feeling and color of the beach.

The finished piece is 24"X 36".

Burn Off at Heisler

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Bad Day Painting

I was tired and had felt like I should be painting but I was struggling with motivation.  This is something that I am not really familiar with.  It was late afternoon when I drug myself out of the house.  The clouds hanging over the Cleveland National Forest were amazing in size and shape.  I didn't want the hassle of the set up, the mess, and the tear down.  In an hour and a half everything was over.  The sun had set, my gear was picked up, and my painting was done.  It was a quick draw to be sure.  24"X 36" in an hour and a half.  The combined feeling of urgency, calm, and awe were just what I needed.  A bad day of painting is still better than almost everything else.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Little Corona Sunset

As I walked toward the beach I tried to think about what I was going to paint.  There were so many possibilities.
The color of the water as it lapped the shore and the reflection of the water on the wet sand has been  a subject that I have been interested in for some time.  I think I will do a series of paintings based on this topic.

I love the endless subtle color changes in the water and the tonalist properties found in these landscape subjects.

Little Corona at Sunset

By the time I got to the beach, there was not much time to decide what to paint.  The sun was setting fast and I had about an hour and a half to paint.  The water upon the rocks and the color of the sand were what interested me/
At this point I am about half way through the painting.  The composition is set and the shapes are are roughed in.  I am applying the lighter colors and the details into the composition.
The highlights on the rocks as the sun slipped towards the ocean were the last thing to capture in the painting.

The amazing part of painting with pastels is the speed with which you can capture these fleeting highlights.  Although I had some trouble with the water as it comes ashore, I thought that the rocks were a fair trade off.  This painting took about an hour and a half from start to finish.