I set out to paint either longhorns or horses at Grace Ranch today. Lucky for me, the horses cooperated.
Step one: sketching in the darks
Step 2: blocking in foreground colors
Next few steps: background colors
I’ve been out of town and will continue on this week.
Added some depth to the foreground rock shadows and added a lot of color to the rock. I forgot the white, so I’ll lighten up the rock and add highlights later.
Why am I painting this?: Another learning experience to accompany the last posting for plein air notes.
Same procedure as before, but for the cows I found sticking to two colors was enough to make them appear like cows. Not sure I should have added so much highlight. I’ll try less next time.
I had to go back and further gray out the background to give depth and add white to take out some of the distant field’s “glow”. The sky color is the really the “atmosphere” color, so I suppose mixing that in with any color would seem to push it back into the distance as long as it decreases the overall contrast.
Dog keep trying to drink from the brush-water jar. “Stop it”.
Why am I painting this? Plein air, or painting outside on location is something I strive to do so I can eventually paint while backpacking. In these first two attempts, I take notes to learn from. It’s very different outdoors!
Day 1 Notes:
Easel: cheap Walmart portable easel that works great!! This is a link to a similar easel, but mine is $20. I guess it’s not available online. The wind was really blowing (15-20mph). Use the Velcro strap to anchor it down! Works great. Also, shift around the canvas panel while tightening it down so the wind doesn’t loosen it and blow it on the ground. It’s not fun picking grass out of your paint.
Bag: I use a disc golf bag to stow my paints, stay-wet pallet, water jar, acrylics and a few brushes. This is similar to the bag I use. It does a good job of keeping stuff organized and the strap helps when needing an anchor for the easel. Also, a travel sized spray bottle fits nicely in the water bottle spot.
Stay Wet Pallet: This is a great video on making a stay-wet pallet similar to what I use. It works great!!
Fold-up Camping chair: I like to paint standing up so I can step back from the painting a lot, but the easel is kinda short. Plus, after an hour or two it is nice to have the option to sit!
Preparation: I gessoed two 8×10″ canvas panels the night before and added some retarder fluid to water in the spray bottle.
Setting Up: It’s stinkin’ bright out in the sun! Set up so that your canvas is shaded. Take a pic of your view from your painting spot for accurate reference (if needed). Sitting down, keep the stay wet pallet in you lap. Water wash-can on you right side (if you’re right handed) for easy access. Paint bag at your feet anchoring the easel.
Starting: MAKE A VIEWFINDER! Can’t tell you how helpful this is! There is so much scenery and this “flattens” the scene to see a good composition. Make initial quick sketch, spray the canvas down, and lay in the big colors quickly (sky grass). Leave details out (background trees, foreground details). It’s your “underpaint”.
Highlight to painting: Work from background to foreground (sky, background trees, foreground grass/tree, fence posts). Squint a lot to see values relative to each other. The point now is to get the true colors down. The camera doesn’t always get a good representation of these. DO NOT SPRAY THE CANVAS AFTER THE UNDERPAINTING IS DONE! I tried and streaked my painting dissolving with the water spots. Wet the brush to apply a thin coat if needed. Leave the small details for back home. Wind and quick drying paint makes it hard to do outdoors.
Things to do next time: SUNBURN. Ouch. Full brim hat, sunscreen, and if possible sit in a shaded spot. I look like a lobster.
Day 2 Notes:
Much better today! I used the same routine as before, found shade and a full brim hat. I had limited time. I did an underpaint, sky, background trees, grass, foreground tree, foreground limb and field bluebonnets (about 80% done). Added details like cows detailed flowers at home.
Reading Paul Strisik’s book really helped! I recommend it for anyone as a “must read”.
Now get outside and just do it. There’s no better way to learn!
Why am I painting this?: The DPW challege was to paint an apple with as few colors as needed and still give a 3-D illusion. (I highly recommend doing these challenges along with Richard Robinson’s challenges!) In doing this I hoped to learn from other artist also completing the challenge and maybe sell it for a little spending money. I never expected an answer to my initial question!
Another artist commented on my painting:
“As a recipient of many apples over the years (I am a retired teacher) I got a warm fuzzy feeling from this one. One day a Kindergarten Kid did not know why kids would leave apples on my desk, so she “stole” a can of fruit from her mom’s kitchen and left it on my desk. That is the one I remember the most. I am tempted to buy yours as representative to my good life as a teacher.”
I replied, “I’m sending it right away, no charge!”. She responded, “I will frame it nicely and pay the good deed forward.”.
I learned an important lesson through this. Artist don’t make much money, the competition is stifling, and after pouring your heart into a painting the last thing you want to do is give it away! However, this reminded me why I paint. I paint in hopes that someone else may find value in it and be inspired. The value in her comment and especially in stating she would pay it forward renewed my sense of purpose. In gifting, I received a priceless return, an answer.
If you ever find you are losing inspiration to paint, put your heart into a painting for someone else. Then, give it to them without expecting anything in return. I promise, this act will give you a sense of freedom from the inside out.
Update: She sent an email with it framed and said it now hangs in her kitchen.
Why am I painting this? At Daily Paintworks, my recent cardinal painting was bid on and has two followers. I looked at the other bird paintings, and there’s not much or they are really $$$. Also, gotta paint my favorite NC bird! Might give it to Kay since she donate a ton of art supplies! We’ll see how it turns out.
Notes on painting:
Found pics from Flickr “Commons” that can be used for painting without copyright infringement if I do sell it. Go to Flickr Commons (Attribution License) and type in chickadee.
Quick sketch on 8×10″ panel and watered it down around the chickadee.
Background: Painted on the background colors letting it spread like watercolor on a soaked sheet. Used coarse bristle brush to darken in background color.
The Bird: Painted in the blacks and started painting the whites. Thought it’d be cool to have a texture, so gesso’ed the white area in feathered look. (hind site: don’t let rim form on the outside line of bird). Used 1/8″ flat head brush to add in feathers — add darks to make it look round and with undercolors, then feather it in with a progression toward the whites.
The branch: Gesso’d in branch, then added color. For the shadow, watered down black; lights, watered down white. Cool texture!! Will do this a lot from now on!
Turned out pretty good! Hope Kay likes it!
Why am I painting this? This is another daily painting for the auctions, but also a step toward painting what I love, the North Carolina mountain creeks.
Quick Literature Splurge: I’ve been reading “Fill Your Oil Paintings with Color and Light” by Kevin MacPherson and am inspired by his method of painting. He teaches to paint what you see, much as Schmidt does in “Everything I Know About Painting”, but uses an approach of blocking in the darks, then lights… much like Richard Robinson does. It makes it much easier to see the whole picture earlier and help with color harmony. MacPherson’s book in now #2 as my go-to guide and I’d recommend it to anyone!
Notes for this painting: I started with a sketch using several different photos online as a sort of mash-up of all the things I liked in each. Since this is mostly out of my imagination, there is no photo reference to paint strickly from MacPherson’s method, but I followed it as much as possible. I started with the background blocking in dark (most to the right) then the light (the fog on the left). As the third step I blocked in the “easy color” which was the green of the trees. In going back and forth, merging the fog to the forest, it background went quickly. I kept it mostly a subdued color leaving the foreground to have the most contrast. The rock started out gray, but changed it to a light tan. Much better contrast against a cool color background.
The waterfall: I tended to make it all white, but found only the foam and top needed it. Everything else, limit to grey and whatever the color is behind it (dark rocks).
Foreground water: It’s hard to put the reds and tans down. Seems unnatural at first, but its right in the pictures. I tried to add rock jutting out to associate the underwater look of rocks. By doing this, I think it helped the warm colors of other underwater rocks make sense. Update: another artist from thecompleteartist recommended NOT having the foreground rocks. Hmm. It’s debatable, but a good tip.
Ripples: get watered down white and make streaks. Also, use greens as reflections from trees.
Fun painting!! This is worth scaling up to a 16 x 20″ and adding some more detail. As much as I love these creeks, there will be a lot more to come!
Why am I painting this? I signed up for dailypaintworks.com as a self challenge to paint more efficiently and hope for sales.
I bought some 8×10 canvas panels ($60 for 75 panels! including shipping) and will be trying to either plein air paint, set up a still life or choose a random photo from a past outdoors adventure each day for 75 days. I’ve noticed when I paint, the first 1-2 hours is rapid, but then I start getting too detailed and my day is gone. A friend at thecompleteartist also sells here and said she’s noticed rapid improvement since she’s started.
This painting of a cardinal is ok, but not great. I like the bird itself, but feel it lacks color in the background and I should have positioned the bird slightly to the right more. Compensating with a random berry vine helped a bit, but not much. Oh well, they won’t all be good. I’ve started a DailyPaintWorks blog. This should help me brush up on figuring out relevant material a buyer would want to know (very little, and no technical stuff).
I’m headed out to my uncles ranch to work on a vineyard and will do some plein air painting of the ponds. Should be a great learning experience!
Update: VERY IMPORTANT LESSON: I took another picture after varnishing. The neutral background color dried and dulled, but when varnished, the wet color came back and really helped! Here’s the difference below:
Why am I painting this? As a continued effort (Part 3) to learn how to relax and paint more “loosely”. The effort will result in not only my further enjoyment in what I’m painting, but to the viewer as well.
Here, I took a challenge to paint with larger brushes in an effort to broaden my strokes and do away with edges further. So, I took a single 1 inch, square brush, a palate knife and an 8 x 10″ canvas panel and had some fun. I set up a simple still life and had some fun making a message of it with the orange wrapping an “arm” around the apple (the differences are the spice of life). I blocked in the main objects colors first and decided the range of values that seemed right for each (including the background). Then simply applied paint in large brush strokes as in previous attempts.
The apple: here’s a great video to show a process of laying down paint first and then working through to the finish. It’s more detailed, but has great info!
What resulted from this big brush challenge is that the brush size doesn’t matter (at least for me) as much as the ability to see the goal. I’m still looking for the finished style as I know it. Somehow, I just learned to use every edge and angle of a 1″ brush to get the same result! Ha. Oh well.
In going back through Alla Prima: Everything I Know about Painting, I can see some different techniques to try. There will be a Part 4!! In Part 4, I’m going to create a messy background and possibly foreground with undefined objects with the main focus being on the subject. See his floral still life paintings for example. Possibly in a plein air landscape? Who knows. Just got a portable easel, so time to test it out!!
Update (4/24/12): Hmm, I guess there’s not a Part 4. I blame on the new portable easel. I’ve been spending so much time painting outdoors, I’ve forgotten about this series. I’ll include things I’ve tried to help loosen up in the next posts (after 4/27/12). I have learned that the point isn’t so much loosening up, but getting the initial concept of a painting before I start. More on that later. I recommend buying Paul Strisik’s book Capturing Light in Oils. He explains it in a way I’ll never be able to that seems to make clarity in this muddy subject. Seriously, it’s worth every penny.