Weeks 3 and 4 were all about Analogous, value-based still-life painting. We also discussed other compositional options such as the Fibonacci sequence and deciding whether the subject requires a low, mid, or high-key composition.
Here was my analogous painting. Almost all of the colors of the garlic fall in the yellow to light grey range. only the shadows on the back of the garlic fall into a different basic hue. There is an unexpected simplicity and neatness to using analogous colors. I found it easier to turn form using fewer colors much as I did using the Zorn Palette for my portraits in the previous class.
As always, the caveat is, it’s done for now. I’m happy with it, in fact, I’m so happy with it I want it in MY ROOM. I seem to have this belief that I can’t really paint people well, and then I’m surprised when I do. Hell, I’m surprised when they are recognizable! *Shakes my head…* Sometimes the inside of my head is no place to be.
Have I been comparing my work to other artists’? Yes. Sigh.
Does my art continue to improve? Yes!
Do people enjoy my work? Yes!
Do I still love what I do? Yes!
Then I’m on the right track!
One of my goals for this blog is to point out that becoming an artist, frankly becoming anything, isn’t a straight line. I’ve seen so many blogs where everything is sweetness and light, and everything moves along swimmingly according to the “Master Plan.” This certainly hasn’t been my experience, and it is how we handle these challenges that make us who we are.
Most of my paintings feel like ongoing problem-solving sessions. The last thing I do each day is to create a punch list of what I want to accomplish the next time I sit down to work on it. Creating this list gives me a good starting point. This continues to happen until I near the end of the process and THAT is when I usually start to feel the energy of what a painting can become. My teacher, Rose Adare, hits this point before she even puts a mark on the canvas. (That’s why SHE’s the teacher!) I’ve only managed that a few times so far, and each time resulted in a spectacular piece.
It is important to become aware of what your process is. Everyone has rituals that they go through as they work on something. Become aware of your self-talk and recognize what you are saying to yourself. Find a way to check criticism, self-doubt, and judgment at the door. All that negativity does is make the process take longer to accomplish something that was going to happen anyway. This painting took at least twice as long as it should have because of all the negative self-talk I was dealing with. In some ways, it is a reverse Dorian Gray. All the angst, frustration and judgement went into this painting and came out as a sense of peace. It was worth the journey!
This task threw me for days. I doubted myself. I doubted that I could do it. I wouldn’t even start for the fear. Isn’t that silly? Now I think it is, but then, well, I guess I just wasn’t thinking. I was feeling and I let it get the better of me for a while.
We had to choose an image to work from in class and to do a self-portrait looking in a mirror. Here’s what I came up with:
I’ll tell you right now, glasses are a bear. I’ll remember that for the future! I don’t know who this gentleman is, I just loved the picture.
It took me a while to find a pose of myself that I was comfortable with. I’ll admit it, I’m vain.
The first step is the drawing, and then stepping away to come back and find any errors that have to be corrected before the drawing is “fixed” to the canvas. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is to spray the drawing with a fixative such as Krylon Workable Fixatif. I prefer the next method. Rose showed us that you can also fix a drawing by painting over it with thinned paint and wiping some of it off. This leaves your painting tinted with an undertone, which can be very helpful if it is one of the skin tone colors. From there, you can wipe-out highlights (as long as you do it before the paint dries) and that gives you the start of your painting. Here’s an example of that on my self-portrait.
Here is the start of my other painting. Drawing is in place and I’m starting with color. I wasn’t happy with where this was going, so I went in a different direction, putting in a basic background first. That allowed me to better judge my colors. Then I started putting in some of the darks and the whole thing began to make better sense.
My next post will be about the Zorn palette, which is all I’m using to do these portraits. This is a combination of Titanium White, Ivory Black, Yellow Ocre, and Cadmium Red.
Many weeks later… I am so sorry it has been so long. Frankly, my painting class is kicking my butt. I have so much to learn in such a short time and I keep getting in my own way. I have trouble finishing my homework in the time allotted.
Weeks 4 – 6 were spent working on a still life in class and another one at home using only Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue tinted with either Titanium White or Ivory Black. I’m apologizing in advance for my paintings because they aren’t finished. This way you will at least get to see what I have been working on. In time I may finish them. I find, going through this process, that if I have managed to learn what I think I was supposed to get out of that particular exercise, that I’m okay with not finishing it.
These assignments built upon the skills we learned in the drawing class: sight-sizing skills, general drawing skills, and lost and found edges. The primary focus was to help us to develop a better understanding of warm and cool tones; when to use warm or cool shadows and warm or cool highlights. This skill is paramount to developing realistic art.
Warm and cool highlights and shadows are, to advanced color theory, as counting to ten is to imaginary numbers. I’m finally learning the stuff that I knew was holding me back. I’ve learned plenty of other wonderful things about drawing and painting that are important, but this, this I knew I didn’t know.
The other pieces that are making a huge difference for me:
Access to a teacher to answer questions quickly. When I get stuck it is nice to have someone to go to that can help me figure out what I’m doing wrong. With a glance, Rose knows what isn’t working and gives me a list of things to tweak in 5 or 6 seconds. The even better part of this is that if I can’t figure out how to fix it, she will show me how, and why it isn’t working. This is the important piece I can’t always figure out for myself.
Input from other students. We all see things in different ways. When we team up and check each other’s work it allows us to practice the problem-solving skills above. When you see that something isn’t quite right, how can you check to see what it is? We have many different ways of doing that now and it is easier to practice these methods if it isn’t our work we are checking.
The quality of the work in class. I am a strangely competitive animal. There are people in my class that graduated from art school and they are very good. (Those words need to be underlined, bold, and italic.) Having them in class makes me want to work harder at my own work. I need to do better or tackle something more complicated. I’m also watching how other people handle paint. Some use a lot of paint, and others use very little. Some are tight painters (like me most of the time) and some are very loose. There are times when I wish I could spend the entire class watching others paint. I would learn much from that alone!
Other topics we are covering in these classes include such things as mediums, painting surfaces, different types of brushes and bristles, thumbnail sketches and poster studies.
Finally, the painting class portion of the Kipaipai Atelier has begun! I’ve waited months for this and I’m so excited. During the first class, I was bouncing up and down in my chair. Overachiever that I am, about a month ago, I started painting color charts, I read the first three chapters, and I also did some value scales.
For those of you who don’t know, I live in the Big Island of Hawaii in the middle of a large body of water called the Pacific Ocean. I despaired at finding quality in-person art instruction until I found Rose. I’m mostly self-taught with a few workshops thrown in here and there. Having this opportunity is an amazing thing, and I plan to get as much out of it as I possibly can! I also believe that talking about it here will help cement it into my brain and perhaps get you guys to ask question as well!
For our first class, Rose went over a value poster study. This is a basic tool wherein you choose a simple composition and break it down into 4 values. Ivory Black, Titanium White, a light grey and a darker grey. This isn’t something to agonize and spend hours doing. This is meant to be quick, and to make you look and choose, and to see the larger shapes. In the book, Lessons in Classical Painting by Juliette Aristides, Juliette suggests cutting the four values out of cardboard and putting them together. Rose had us paint our value study instead (since this is a painting class).
Now, I could take hours on this, and I could add many more values to this composition, however, I was only allowed to use 4, and in a limited amount of time. This exercise forced me to do many things: – See the shapes of the values – See the paths as they move through the composition – Understand how to consolidate values into larger masses – By limiting choices, the brain is forced to look for solutions, and that means looking at things more carefully. – By limiting the amount of time to work on this, it forced us to make decisions and just do it.
As part of our homework, we needed to create 7 and 9 step value scales using Titanium White and Ivory Black. Probably because of previous practice, I found the 9-step scale easier to do. Will I ever use a 9-step grey-scale? I don’t know. What I will use is the ability I’m developing to create tints of colors, because painting this scale shows me how saturated with pigment each paint is. That information will prove invaluable as I move forward and start working with color in this class.
I’m so close. I’m so close I’ve actually signed the paintings. I still can’t let them go. There was something about the third painting that just wasn’t quite right yet, and I didn’t know what it was.
This month, my focus, in general, has been on asking the right questions. It’s easy to ask something silly like, “Why do I always do this?” to which your brain will answer, “because you’re a schmuck!” It takes thought to ask the right questions, and the right questions are the ones that propel you forward in whatever you are doing. The movie I Robot was all about asking the right questions. Here was my dilemma. I have this set of paintings. They look awesome. However, the large one just isn’t up to the level of the other two. I looked at them on my phone. I turned them upside down. I went outside and looked at them through the window. I turned the easel around and didn’t look at them at all for days. I’ve been stewing in my own juices wondering what I’m missing. Yes, I’m stubborn. I wanted to figure it out for myself! Since my theme this month is about asking the right questions, the answer was, obviously, that I was asking the wrong ones!
How can I look at this differently? Since I’m focusing mostly on a drawing class right now, I decided to take my photograph and convert it to black and white to see what that showed me. The subtlety of shading is far more pronounced in a black and white picture because the distraction of color has been removed. Look what I found:
See how the smaller two paintings jump off the canvas? The third one in comparison looks flat. It is still gorgeous, it just isn’t there yet. This is what was missing, the delicate shading that brings the other two to life. Soon… I’m almost there!
I’m sorry for the delay in posting. I have been focusing on finally getting the website up and running.
Currently, I am working on a triptych of seahorses. Two paintings I have done at the same time, but three is a new thing for me. This is only the first layer, and my goal is to have each of these paintings stand on their own or as a part of the set. I’m “deep in the uglies” as I like to call it, and I can see glimmers of where this will go when I’m done. The theory is, by working on all three paintings at the same time, I can keep the style the same throughout. If I completed one painting at a time, it is likely that my style or choice of painting methods would change, and end up not working as well together.
I have been working on these at my weekly “paint at the farm” events on Tuesdays. Names for the paintings haven’t come to me yet. They will as the personality develops.
There is a lot of talk lately about using “neutral” palettes to mix paint, that somehow it helps you get your colors closer to what you want them to be. Most of us start with a white palette to mix our paints on. I tried something different. Since I was looking for specific colors to make my fish become part of the background of the painting, I printed out a copy of the picture I was using for the images and put it behind my glass palette. By the way, I always use a piece of glass for my palette, that way I can just scrape it clean with a razor blade.
If you look at the white palette, that blue color is an attempt at what would be “white” under water and a longer way away. When you look at the same color on top of the photograph, it is almost a perfect match for “white”! For the record, white, is almost never white. In fact, all colors are relative to the colors they are beside.
Finally, here’s a picture of some of the fish I finally painted: As crazy as it seems, they may still be too bright. I’ll have to wait until I add more to make that determination.