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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sycamore at Irvine Park

I have a deep fascination with Sycamore trees.  The unique shapes, their color in fall, and the complex branches are of great interest to me.
Getting the shape of the tree in the context of the desired composition was my first focus.  Then I blocked in the dirt to give it a reference for the rest of the painting.
I then blocked in the rest of the painting working my way up from the roots.  I did not get too dark in the root area so as to preserve my initial drawing.  
Adjusting the values and the deepness of the color and establishing the shadows on the dirt became very complicated and time consuming because of the ever changing light.
One of the attractions of Sycamore trees is their complexity.  The sky holes and the clumps of leaves were very difficult to convey.
I really love being able to set up in an area with tables to lift all of my paint and gear.  It really makes staying focused in the moment a lot easier.
At some point in the painting everything kicks up a notch in terms of pace.  There is this moment of commitment that speaks to me.  There is no more fussing around there is only getting it done.  The painting speeds up because there is no more problem solving there is only finishing what I have built up to.  You can see this in the way I painted the shadows.  Look at the difference between this photo and the one before it. 
Getting the atmospheric perspective right was critical to this painting.  I really like the way the background supports the strength of the foreground and the middleground.
The sun was low in the sky.  I was hiding behind my board to keep the sun out of my eyes.  
A real challenge for me was controlling the thick paint that I put down in the foliage on the right hand side of the tree.  I feel like I did not capture the detail and the dramatic color and value variance in that part of the painting. 
The finished painting "Sycamore at Irvine Park".  Plein air oil on board 24"x 32".
The value shot.  The idea of notan can be explored by converting your paintings to black and white.  Getting the value right is so important to the success of the painting.
The detail shot gives me the opportunity to review the brushwork and the abstract nature of the shapes within the painting.  If small areas of the painting seem interesting they often translate into an interesting painting when they are put together in the context of the full compostion.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Pelican Point at Crystal Cove

SCPAPA was painting at Crystal Cove by the cottages.  I got there a little late.  I decided to paint at Pelican Point because I am drawn to the beauty of the bluff, rocks, and ocean.
As I continue to evolve, you can see there is a lot less drawing in the beginning part of the painting.  I did have to correct the drawing because I was trying to get what should have been a long and thin composition into a squat rectangle.
I had to make some adjustments to the composition to get the rocks and the bluff into the painting the way I wanted to.
I am still working on getting the painting filled with the darkest colors quickly.  I want to read the value and temperature more accurately so that I can put down the colors quicker.  

The block in is just about finished here.  I am trying to leave markers within the painting that clue me into where the lightest parts of the painting are.  As I am blocking in I am trying to keep in mind what colors I am going to go with over the base.  

The view facing the south was as appealing as the view towards Pelican Point.  This would make a great studio composition.

This part of the painting happened quickly.  I had to remember what was happening with the light on Pelican Point.  The sun was moving fast across the face of the bluffs.
Here I am trying to define the shapes more accurately before I add the lighter values.  I am also starting to add the lighter values to Pelican Point because I had the shape where I wanted it.
I put in the movement and shape of the water around the rocks to help define the shape of the rocks.  It was kind of a notan idea.  Things are defined by what they are and what the are not.  The value progression continues as I get lighter and lighter throughout the painting.
The tire tracks in the foreground are a risk.  The perspective and value lend a sense of distance to the painting.  The safe path does not lead to growth.  Every painting is just a step towards a fuller level of expression if you are willing to put yourself out there and take chances.
I am painting larger to force my growth.  I am pushing for a full expression in one sitting.  The size of the painting prevents me from over analyzing my choices.  By pushing the pace of the painting, I am forcing my creative and spontaneous decision making to the front.  When my creative side is in the forefront, my painting feels like a deep meditation with action.  The focus and concentration are like being in a dream or deep sleep.
I have been painting without an umbrella.  It can be challenging when painting with the sun on your pallet or your surface.  When the painting is in the shade there is always an element of mystery to the painting. The intensity of the colors is always interesting to see at the end of the day; when you finally expose the painting to the direct sunlight.

The changing colors on the rocks as the sun was setting were inspiring.  This would make an even more exciting painting than my earlier picture of this same composition.
So that is what it looks like!
It has to be finished at some point.  When it is time to stop, I get a feeling like some kind of internal alarm clock is going off.  It usually is taking into account the amount of time that it will take me to pack up and get back to the car.
"Pelican Point"  Plein air oil on board 24"X 32".
The value shot.
The detail shot.  I like using this shot because it helps me understand my brushwork, my colors, my mark making, and the abstract shapes within the painting.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Santiago Creek Resevoir

I got a late start.  I wanted to paint at Newport Back Bay but I did not want to hassle the traffic on the way home.
I wasn't sure where I was going to paint and I ran across this reservoir.  It had a strange resemblance to the back bay composition that I thought about painting.
Here is the initial drawing.  There were some unusual shapes and perspective issues with this composition.
While blocking in the large shapes, I have to be careful to keep my sense of the composition because of the dark colors being laid down.
With the block in finished, I am evaluating the values and the shapes to insure that I can move forward without having to recreate the most basic parts of the painting.
Here I am working to further the definition of both shapes and values relative to everything within the painting to make sure I am maintaining the compositional context.
I continue to define shapes further; making sure to keep everything related.  I was having difficulty with the atmospheric perspective values in the distance.
In every painting, there are moments when parts of the painting happen quickly.  Usually, the moments that happen the quickest are the best.  When the brush moves quickly and freely the results feel and look the best.  It usually comes in a part of the painting that has been left undeveloped for quite a while in the process.  It usually happens in a problem area.  An area that I have been trying to figure out how to approach.  There is a go-for-it moment.  I have studied and thought what should happen and decide on trusting my feeling.  The choices come quickly and are usually bold.  Instead of getting tighter in difficult parts of the painting, I become more decisive and execute without hesitation.
Making sure the contrasts between shapes is right.  Making sure that the painting flows.
The lightest lights at the end.  When is enough enough?
You can see there is still paint left on the pallet.  I am still working at using all of the paint for each outing.  I really am putting down a lot of paint, but I hate throwing away the unused paint.
The finished painting. "Santiago Creek Reservoir" Plein air oil on board 24x32.  
The value shot.  Did I get it right?
The detail shot shows the brush work and the abstract nature of some parts of the painting.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Along the Santa Ana River

I got a late start so I stayed close to home.  The shapes and values of the clouds were really attractive to me.  I picked a spot that would give me a full view of the clouds.

Since I have been painting plein air with oils, I have had to adjust to a limited pallet.  A lot of plein air painters would laugh at what I am calling a limited pallet.  There are some painters who paint with as few colors as 3 or 4.  When I am painting inside I have a pallet of up to 100 colors or more.  I do not really subscribe to the idea of achieving more with less.  I want to achieve more color diversity through the breadth of what is available to me.
The clouds were moving fast so I captured their general shape quickly.  One of the things that I have been working on is to spend less time drawing my composition.  Here there was zero drawing.  

The exposed board in the clouds represents the lightest values of the clouds.  I established the value of the foreground, middleground, and background.

The clouds were my initial focus and their development dominated my time for the first half of the painting.

The clouds slipped by and disappeared.  I had to remember the impression they made on me.  This is more a test of memory than anything else.
One of the things I have been thinking about and trying to introduce in my painting is the fullness of the perspective of the sky.  The feeling you get when you see these massive cloud shapes above you and their movement off into the distance.  
I finally moved away from the clouds to work on the hills and the orange grove.

Here I am working the values throughout the painting and working to insure that all the parts of the painting are relating to each other properly.
The darkest values within the orange grove are added to make sure I am pushing back the hills and the clouds.
The sun was setting as you can see by the length of the shadows.  The painting was fast and furious.  One of the things I have been working on is leaving it all out on the board.  I have been squeezing out a lot of paint.  Not all of it has ended up on the painting.  I am trying to judge the amount of paint I am squeezing out to conserve.

The cloud values need to be softened and the aerial perspective should have created greater depth.

Time to pack up.
The finished painting "Clouds Over the Santa Ana River"  plein air oil on board 24"x 32"
The value shot lets you see if I saw it and put it down right.
The detail shot lets you take a better look at the brushwork.