Thursday, February 11, 2016

Breaking the Color Addiction

If you have ever wondered why you’re packing a dozen or more tubes of colors each time you go out plein air painting, consider just bringing these four tubes of color.

Yup, I like Gamblin paints but your brand will work just fine.

I used to have a hard time leaving any of my colors at home, it didn’t take long to discover that that insecurity was a total waste of my time and paint. Eventually it became clear that all I needed was a tube of cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red medium, phthalo blue and titanium white. 

It wasn’t easy to leave all my other colors behind but after all, color precision is more a studio painting thing. Out in the field I don’t want to waste a lot of time setting up my palette or crowding my palette with a lot of different colors. A strong red, yellow, blue and white is all I need.

Here's a bunch of color possibilities that I mixed up using different combinations of cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red medium, phthalo blue and titanium white. Really nice grays, umbers, siennas, viridian though olive greens, warm and cool blues and violet.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Leave Your Fussy in the Studio

In the field, with limited painting time, I deconstruct all prominent shapes into three value-colors. A tree shape for instance will have a background (dark interior color), middle ground (general local color) and foreground (sun catching highlight color). These three value-colors are individually mixed on my palette and not gradated by adding either white or black. 

The values of these colors might be very close to each other (low contrast) in overcast, cloudy, foggy, sundown lighting or far apart (high contrast) in bright sunlight. The color of each value is based on temperature (warm or cool). Tree shapes in the background will be cooler because there’s more atmosphere between you and it as apposed to a tree right in front of you. With any one tree the sunny side will be warmer than the shady side.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why paint that? 

I’ve always stood by (and behind) the expression "a painting should speak for itself". I trust that every painting that I have ever made has a "voice", but to tell the truth I never gave any importance to defining or explaining why I was painting what I was painting. I just painted what ever excited or challenged me. I just plowed ahead. How about you?

I don't think of plein air painting as a lesser art and if I'm out painting a scene, unless I decide otherwise, I want the painting to be accomplished and important. The trouble is, in the field, I tend to forget that all great art is not just about the surface accomplishment. Great art has a point of view, a narrative commingled with surface artistry. It is the combination of accomplished painting and narrative that grabs the viewers hearts and minds. The way to a complete painting is a simple one, before “I just plow ahead”, I take a few minutes to breathe in the scene and then follow the two steps below.

 I'm not scolding myself, it's a fine painting but I have no idea
what’s it saying. It’s titled “Farmstead”.
Step One: After years of painting I’ve come to learn that the first and most important ingredient to a successful painting is to verbalize what it is about, what are you seeing that makes it important to paint. I must discipline myself to identify what it is about the scene before me that grabbed my attention or tripped a switch within me at a deeper personal level. For instance, imagine a scene with a spectacular spot of sunlight falling on a small patch of forest floor seen through the dark silhouettes of foreground trees. Like the “I spy” game we used to play on long car rides, you might use identifying words like “glowing”, “high contrast”, "otherworldly", "mystical”“spiritual”.

Step Two: Write these words on a piece of paper and tape the paper to your easel just above your canvas as a reminder that’s always in sight. This reminder will keep you from wandering from the aspiration to achieve this paintings purpose for being. Refer to it often as it is easy to loose your way and be seduced into painting noncontributing elements. Make your painting decisions (composition, color, value, edges, brush handling, etc.) with these key words in mind.

Various things contribute to a paintings technical success or failure but imagine the satisfaction of accomplishing a successful painting that also speaks in your voice about your vision of the world.

Maybe this is a little too easy but this painting's key words were companionship, loyalty,
kinship. It’s titled “Buddies”. It sold as soon as the gallery hung it.