Saturday, May 8, 2010

Let The Parade Begin

I did this painting for the SCVWS upcoming "Red, White, Or Blue" exhibit in July. I had fun designing this painting.

The photo I started with was of both my kids and one of their friends getting ready for the annual Menlo Park 4th of July parade. As you can see, my daughter had elaborately decorated her scooter. In order to make this work, I kept zooming and playing with different crops until I got the bow in the lower left corner. I also loved the interesting light shape created by the arm and the light concrete. However, I had to adjust the lighting on the bow so that I could have lights move over to my center of interest. I also had to work hard to make the white in shadow darker than than the red and blue in direct sunlight. (I probably could have darkened even more) I also was pleased with the slanted E composition that the darks created. I actually did about 12 different thumbnails before I got the value composition the way I wanted.

It was very tricky figuring out how to handle all those crazy stars, but I liked playing with their shapes. Also, I wasn't sure how to make sparkly silver stars, so I just did wet in wet and dropped in some bright thalo blue. It seemed to work. Anyway, I'm pretty pleased with how this came out. Let's just hope it gets accepted into the show.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nature's Still Life #20 - The Grand Finale!

If you are just reading my blog for the first time, this is the 20th (and final for at least awhile) painting in a series called "Nature's Still Life". These paintings were done over a 13 week period for Mike Bailey's Beyond the Obvious Class. All are a full sheet size: 21"x 29".
The class was once again wonderful and inspiring. Mike's lessons and the other artists in the class always keep me energized and wanting to try new ideas. Even though this is my third time taking the class, I feel like this time I've really grown as an artist, and my last painting is definitely far from where I started (and I think, "beyond the obvious"). My goal when I took the class was to stay fairly realistic, but still try to apply the design principles in different ways. This last painting is very abstract (for me) but my leaves, rocks, and twig are still all definitely there. This uses the same technique I've described in previous posts and I think it really works for me as a way to loosen up. I'm anxious to try it again for future subjects.
I haven't been very steady in updating my blog, so the last 10 posts were all done this afternoon, even though the paintings were done over several weeks. It probably makes the most sense if you start at Nature's Still Life #1 and read forward instead of backwards. I've learned alot. I hope you enjoy sharing my journey....

Nature's Still Life #19

I did this painting by first using a Sepia colored Micron pen for the entire drawing including hatch marks for shading. I then collaged some strips of white tissue paper on top in random spots for texture. Unfortunately, the tissue paper was very thin and I must not have used enough Yes paste because when I added water later, some of the tissue paper just came right up or disintegrated. Anyway, after the tissue paper, I loosely painted with watercolor on top. There are definitely parts of this painting I really like, especially the colors and I think there is a definite focal point - the triangle created by the little rocks and where the leaves cross. Some of the textures created by the tissue paper were very effective as well. I think I'd like to try the tissue paper again but use a thicker paper and more paste. It was fun painting loosely, somehow the pen drawing underneath really freed me that way.

Nature's Still Life #18

I decided to try watercolor crayons for this one and really struggled. You really don't have any idea how intense the color will be when it gets wet, so it was tricky. I was trying to use a Monet style of mixing colors, by putting the warm and cool colors next to each other instead of actually mixing them. Anyway, this one was a failure, but I put it here anyway.
You'll note compositionally, I tried to move the little rocks up more on the page and make the center part of the white sideways "V" guide you to that focal point (along with the directional nature of the twigs). Unfortunately, the leaves ended up so intense that your eye doesn't seem to go there. I do like my basic intention, but my execution leaves a lot to be desired on this one.

Nature's Still Life #17

I used the same technique on this one, but went with less "violent" colors. Also, since I was squirting straight from the tube I went with colors I don't usually use, like Hooker's Green and Cadmium Yellow. I also used white gouache instead of black this time. Once again, I just started with a value pattern sketch (no drawing) and began squirting and scraping paint. Then spraying and letting the colors run together. Once that was done, I just searched for interesting shapes and textures to further define for the rocks. I tried to keep the hard edges where the center of interest was and keep most other areas fairly soft. I definitely enjoy this technique and find it very freeing. But it helps that I've already painted the same thing 15 times.

Nature's Still Life #16

Okay, I definitely got out of my box on this one. I was inspired by Esther's technique of squirting paint directly onto the paper and using a small piece of matboard to scrape the paint like a pallette knife. I did no drawing. Just figured out my value pattern and colors. Started squirting straight from the tube. I used some black gouache as well as regular watercolor paint and when I sprayed it with water it made some fascinating textures. I then went back in with regular washes to pick out the leaves and rocks. I was particularly happy with the soft edge of the left leaf. I probably should soften the back edge of the right leaf, but maybe the value is close enough that it doesn't matter.
This was alot of fun to do and as you can see, I kept turning the board so the drips went every which way and did some splatter as well. My kids think it looks like some one's head was blown off, but I kind of like it.

Nature's Still Life #15

I was going for a certain mood with this one. Kind of cool evening with moonlight shining through or something. I'm very happy with my rock shapes in this one. I think I finally have enough variation in rock size. I think the twig's lightness kind of fights for focal point with the two little rocks. I can darken the twig, but I wish I had put the little rocks a little higher up, because they make a nice center of interest, but they are kind of close to the bottom of the page.

Nature's Still Life #14

This was one of my favorites to do. It is almost all created from old National Geographic pages. I started by ripping out pages and putting them in piles of different colors and values. Then without drawing anything, I just looked at my past paintings and started tearing shapes that were roughly the correct size. I wanted to tear only, no cutting because I was looking for similiar type edges. Then I kept layering more smaller pieces on top to break up larger patterns and give form to the shapes. The neutrals needed something so I used the strips of more intense red to give it punch. When I was done I painted over the background with watercolor and then added texture using bubble wrap, corrugated cardboard, watercolor pencil shavings, water sprays, salt, and sponges - pretty much anything I had. I tried to overlap the textures onto the collage areas to provide some softer transitions, but the overall value pattern is still set by the collage shapes.
I should add that there is no hidden meaning in the pictures, I just looked for pattern, color, and value not content. But I like the mix of man-made patterns and nature patterns. So maybe there is meaning in there after all.

Nature's Still Life #13

Well this one was definitely an experiment. It looks like some kind of eye test. I worked hard to get some interesting space divisions, but I think I failed in the color area. I purposely didn't want to get too rainbowy by making the full color areas just primaries, but the interesting thing is because the blues are the most intense, they seem to fight the orange areas. I probably should have made the color areas full intensity. I liked doing the sepia background. I did it last minute in about 15 minutes very loosely, because all the values were already figured out.

Nature's Still Life #12

For this piece, I tried putting colors down somewhat randomly where I wanted the leaf and rock shapes to go and then put wax paper on the wet paint. When it dried and I lifted the wax paper, I had all these interesting shapes and colors. I then went back and glazed over many of the internal shapes to accentuate them. I put a neutral background in, but then decided I needed to tie it better to the rock and leaf shapes so I carried the lines created within the shapes into the background by glazing sections. The two large shapes on the left (the big rock and the leaf) were two connected so I did some lifting and darkening to get one to be in front of the other.
I had fun with this one. Rather abstract for me, but I learned alot and I was rather pleased with the color harmony and interesting overall textures.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pick Up Stix - Nature's Still Life #11

This one was alot of fun. I tried to use the repetition of the twigs to give a sense of pattern and depth. Figuring out how to make the shadows fall across the leaves was kind of an interesting mental challenge as well.
The tricky part with this painting was that at one point my leaves were pure hues and tints and my rocks were pure neutral greys. Althought it looked interesting, it was far from unified. I then spent an entire day upping the intensity of the rocks (which resulted in some much better color variation) and toning down the intensity of the leaves. I think the painting is much more harmonious now, but hopefully there is enough variation that it is still interesting. I also think having a strong value pattern really helped.

Nature's Still Life #10

Well, I'm putting this one on my blog for the sake of completeness. But it is safe to say that this was not one of my favorites. I tried to use Tyvex paper to get some interesting textures, but I had a devil of a time figuring out how to use it properly. I must admit I did get some excellent variation in the colors of my neutrals due to the absorbtion qualities of the paper which I liked.

Nature's Still Life #9 - Watery Leaves

I still really liked the idea of using the water reflections to create an interesting value pattern, so I made another attempt at that. I am much happier with this version. The zigzag is a much more interesting composition, and I think it is successful in zigging you over to the focal point of the twig shadow. Mike says my rocks need more variation which is true. They are different shapes but not different sizes. I could probably use a class on watercolor techniques for water as well. But my main focus was on composition for this one, and I think that worked.

Nature's Still Life #8 - Zen Leaves

I call this Zen Leaves because I think it leaves you with such a calm mood. My goal in this painting (in addition to mood) was to work on losing the light edges of the leaves, which I think worked nicelyl. Looking now at the photo I realize I should have played with the values a bit more. There was supposed to be sort of a hook composition bringing you down through the front leaf and then back to big leaf with the branch in front. Also, I need to get better at losing my dark edges under the rocks. Mike suggested that I could bring it up a notch if I had a bit more variation which is true, but I also kind of like the simplicity of it.
I am still happy with this painting because it accomplished my mood objective and it makes me feel peaceful.

Nature's Still Life #7

My goal with this painting was to use a value pattern not suggested by the leaves and rocks. So I decided to use the light water to create a vertical composition. Well, not only did I have lots of challenges making the water work properly, the basic design was very poor - my lights weren't connected and the value pattern was kind of boring. I was very happy with the texture and color of the leaves, however. Mike says never give up. Maybe some day, I'll try and completely rework the water and rocks...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Scottish Leaves

I call this Scottish leaves, because I unintentionally created a plaid background for it. My objective was to use a cruciform composition, but I wanted a transition - hence the extra stripes. This painting sort of evolved without a great deal of initial planning, but I'm happy with the result. I started to do the curvy contours on the leaves and ended up putting them on the rocks as well. I was going for a red painting but started with an orange underpainting and when I put the big permanent rose stripes on top, it became very intense. So I decided to make the background have more intensity and the foreground (rocks and leaves) be more neutral. Of course, I wanted the branch to stick out, so I had to give it the most intense colors. It started out looking like a giraffe, but now I think it looks more like an alien hand. Anyway, the whole thing is sort of crazy, but I think it works.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

#5 - Rocky Leaves

This painting was alot of fun (and alot of work). I started by planning out how I wanted your eye to move through the painting. The warm yellow is supposed to move your eye from the lower left corner and weave through and around the leaves and back to the smaller leaf. I also positioned the smaller rocks to follow this path.
I used that fun wax paper technique of apply wax paper shapes to wet paint and then painting over it to define the shapes. The problem was that once I had cut out all those rock shapes and figured out their placement, I realized I had to remove them all to apply the paint. Then I couldn't figure out how they were all supposed to fit again. Anyway, it worked, just took some finagling. When I pulled off the wax paper, the rocks had all these wonderful textures. I had to add the darker shades of color between the rocks and glaze over some of the rocks to give them more form. The leaves were fairly straight forward, but I did struggle a bit trying to keep the back leaf muted enough. I tried to lose the back edge of the large leaf by making it the same value as the background, and make the front leaf have light against dark on one side and dark against light on the other. I think I will try to exaggerate this a bit more in a future painting.
One of the other challenges was figuring out the shadow patterns. I really had to think to decide how the twig shadows would bend over the rounded rocks. I didn't want them to be too distracting so they are not as dark as the shadows between the rocks, which I think was the right decision. Overall, I'm very pleased with this painting. There is alot going on, but it seems to work together.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Nature's Still Life #4 -My Ugly Painting

I call this my ugly painting because the neutral grey background with the drippy texture gives a very cold gritty mood. I tried to contrast the tones with the tints in the leaves, but I think those colors came out too sweet to go with the ugly background, so I'm afraid the mood is not very consistent.

This painting started with a textured gesso surface. I used lots of things to make the texture: bubble wrap, mesh, brush dabs, etc. But you can barely see any of it after I applied the paint. So I spritzed some water and let it drip and wow, talk about texture (I think it ended up being too much). The one success with this painting (although it is hard to see because the other texture overpowers it) are the rocks. I used a really cool technique where I put down alot of color and then put wax paper cut out in the shape of rocks over it while it was still damp. I painted right over the wax paper and let some drip under the creases. When it was dry and I lifted it off, the rocks had all this speckled and creased textures. I'm not sure if it would come out the same way on non-gessoed paper, but I will definitely try it again.

Nature's Still Life #3

This was very difficult. I put some tracing paper on top of the underpainting and played around with the leaf shapes and rock positioning slightly to take advantage of the underpainting. I then glazed colors on top to define the shapes. I tried to do some light against dark and dark against light, but it didn't always show up enough so I had to keep layering. Then I really struggled with intensities because if I kept layering the same color, it kept getting brighter, and I was starting to get a rainbow painting instead of a more tonal painting. Anyway, I'm not really very happy with it, but I'm calling it done.
I should note that I tried a new texture technique on the rocks that I liked. I damped the rock shape and then rubbed watercolor pencil against a piece of medium sand paper. The watercolor pencil dust lands on the damp rock. When you blow on it, the dust around the rocks goes away and you are left with speckled rocks. It works best when you use different colors. This looks good up close, but the texture gets lost from a distance. I might try rougher sand paper next time.

Underpainting for #3

So for my 3rd painting, I decided to do an abstract underpainting in a basic tilted T composition and then try to fit my leaves and twig on top. This part was alot of fun and I really liked what I did here. But what came next was really tough....

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Nature's Still Life #2

This is painting #2. I started by painting the shadows in staining colors (see below), and then washed a mix of cerulean blue, raw sienna, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, ultramarine blue (all sedimentary) over the backround. I then used salt and water from my spray bottle to get all the background texture. Next I went in and painted the rocks by first taping around the edges and then sponging, spattering, etc. I realized that my shadows underneath were too hard and I had to scrub them out quite a bit to get the rounded shape back. I also lost more of my whites than I wanted, so I had to Magic Clean some of them back. The twig also needed some lifting to get back to the whites and then I added some blue in the light spaces to contrast with the orange leaves. I purposely kept the leaves a little less textured than the other areas, but in looking at it now, I think they could use more variation. There is actually sponging on top of the leaves, but it may be too subtle.

I definitely think this is going to be a fun subject. I'm looking forward to trying lots of different texture techniques and maybe changing the shape of the big leaf to make it more interesting.

Underpainting for Nature's Still Life #2

This is the underpainting for the painting above. I used Thalo Blue, Alizarin Crimson, and Thalo Green. As you can see the shadows on the rock are too hard and I really had to scrub them later. Also, it is clear here that the shadow under the big leaf is too dark especially relative to the smaller leaf. I was never really able to get them evened out.

Nature's Still Life #1

Okay, here is painting #1 in a series of 20 I need to do for Mike Bailey's Beyond the Obvious Class. I purposely chose something from nature, because for the last two years, I chose things with wine bottles or wine glasses and drove myself crazy getting the ellipses correct. I figure this way I can change the shape of the leaves, rocks, or twig, and they'll still look like what they are. This started from a photo (I probably took about 25; just tossing the objects on to a white piece of paper in the front driveway at a time of day with good shadows). I made the big leaf slightly bigger so it's stem didn't end up exactly in the middle of the painting. I added the extra rock in the top right so that strong curve of the leaf would get broken up. And I changed the shape on one of the rocks to make it repeat a leaf shape.
I was generally pleased with this one, but I had a little trouble with my shadows. The rocks all seemed like they were floating (the reflected color lighted the shadow too much). And when I tried to darken the shadow it lost its transparent color and got a muddier than I wanted. You really need to get the shadows correct the first time, because reworking them is never quite as clean.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Venice Canal

I've been working on this painting all fall and finally finished it! I signed up for Mike Bailey's Beyond the Obvious class and need to take my painting off the board so I can stretch some fresh paper. So I had some incentive to get it done.
I'm pretty happy with it at this point. I think I ended up with sort of an H composition (or maybe an upside down W). I was pleased with the way the squiggles in the water were repeated in the squiggles in the brick in the far wall. And I think the light/shadow pattern on the far wall helps guide your eye to the gondola focal point.
I really struggled with all the detail, and was initially afraid to get darker because I thought it would make it look too busy. But putting in more small value contrasts actually helped make your eye move across the paper. I stuck to a very limited pallette: Azo orange, Cad Red Light, Turquoise, and Thalo Blue.
There are probably still things I could improve, but I think I'm ready to pull it off the board!