Wednesday, March 19, 2008
More stuff from the workshop last week
"Jane and Elizabeth painting the three stacks and fields."
Everyone in the group was really into a good rhythm by Thursday. To make the most of our time, I began setting up with them to paint, instead of doing a demo while everyone watched and then painted. They still got to watch my process, and listen to me talk, but we got more done. Every fifteen or twenty minutes I would make the rounds and check out everyone's progress.
We painted in Atotonilco in the morning and had lunch there. By the afternoon it was getting pretty windy and hot, so we decided to move on to a greener spot. That is one benefit to working with a small group. We were very mobile.
We headed to a place that I really love to paint. I don't like to bring large painting groups there, but since there were just four of us it was just right.
We had a steady head wind here, but the view made up for it. You can see that we were all pretty close together, so I could paint and talk at the same time. I usually do that anyway, but this time I had someone to listen :)
"The four easels grouped close together."
All of the colors and values in a painting are relative to the other colors around them. One of the main things that I teach in my workshops, is the pre mixing of colors on the palette first, before any painting is done. Mixing colors like this has many advantages.
First I decide on my composition and lightly lay in a few lines of vine charcoal on my canvas. As I mix my colors, I have time to think about my design. If I could have made a better choice, there is still time to adjust when I begin to lay down the paint.
I usually pre mix five to seven shadow family colors and five to seven light family colors, or more, depending on the scene. I'll chose the darkest shadow color/value and the lightest light. Also the lightest shadow color. No light color should be darker than this. I'll mix colors to represent the main masses. Sometimes I will break those down into subtle color changes of the same value, or I may wait and do that later in the painting stage. I go back and forth between my mixed piles, adjusting and comparing. What does one color look like COMPARED to the others?
It is almost like having a little painting on the palette. I get to see how the colors that I chose relate to each other.
Once I have the majority of color choices mixed and adjusted for hue, value and chroma (or saturation) I can begin to paint rapidly. There is only a limited amount of time when painting the changing light, so with a lot of my mixing and left side of the brain stuff out of the way, I am free to dive in with the right side of my brain and just paint.
I will discuss pre mixing some more in upcoming posts.
I do not have just one method for how I start the painting part once I have my color piles. Sometimes I use a toned canvas. Other times I prefer the white color of the oil primed linen. Sometimes I block in big value masses first then break those up into smaller bits. Other times I'll paint the lines of a more complex scene with a mid value gray or even sienna type color and then go from there. Once in a while I'll start from my center of interest and work my way out. I think an artist should have many tricks in their bag to chose from. It is much more exciting to go with your emotions of the scene and vary how you approach the painting rather than just being a slave to a set formula.
Below is my painting from Thursday afternoon.
"Three Stacks, Afternoon", 6" x 8" oil on linen, 2008
We went back to the same location on Friday morning. Three of us decided to paint the same scene again, this time with morning light from the left. I like painting in series like this, with different light effects, so I was glad that they were up for it. I zoomed in my composition a bit on the three stacks of corn stalks, and eliminated the sky and the plowed field in the foreground.
below is one of my paintings from Friday morning.
"Three Stacks, Morning", 6" x 8" oil on linen, 2008
The farmers don't like you going out in their fields when they have crops in or have just plowed, so we chose a broad view. I think that it was easier to simplify and see the big masses and aerial perspective better from here anyway. We were elevated just a bit above the field. I have always loved how Van Gogh would chose a slightly elevated view of fields to catch the patterns like this.
I pushed everyone to keep working fast, and they were good sports about it. I had them work for about an hour and a half on the first piece Friday, and then we did a "sprint" of about 45 minutes, or less, for the last painting of the class.
After a late lunch, we put all of the paintings from the week up in my gallery and talked about them. A lot of the pieces had been quickly tucked away as we kept moving on to new paintings, so it was nice to be able to see them all together and share thoughts and ideas.
"Scott hard at work."