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...