Sunday, December 9, 2007

"Hunter Gatherer of Light and Color" Part 2: The Light

When I am out painting on location one thing I try to capture is accurate color. It is really LIGHT that I am trying to catch, since an object's local color will look different as the light changes. It is the LIGHT that I want to use to convey my feelings about the particular scene that I decide to paint.
For part two of my "Hunter Gatherer" series of posts on plein air painting I am going to show two little plein airs that I worked on yesterday. I have been spending a lot of time in my studio or at the gallery and have not been able to get out and paint as much as I would like. I finally was able to make time to go painting yesterday morning. I decided to post these as is, before I did any re working or whatever is going to happen to them. I don't always come away with something to frame from my days painting on location. The experience of being out, looking, observing, absorbing is what I get out of it even if the only the only trophy I bring home is a wiped down canvas.

Work in Progress #1, 8" x 10"

Photo of scene #1

Let me say that I was not real happy with the way number one was coming out. I was a little rusty. That light was changing fast and I decided to stop working on this one and move on. I would rather stop at this point than try and "chase" the light and muddy everything up. The tree was going to be my focal point, but I totally blew it and did not get the tree blocked in correctly. I also was trying to add too many little bits and pieces of stuff and did not spend enough time working up a good composition.
What I did come away with were some nice colors and an image burned in my mind from having looked at this scene for about an hour studying it. When I look at the painting and the photo of the scene, I realize that I at least got my values accurate. The photo will help me get the drawing of the tree down. One thing that is hard to get from a photo are the subtle color shifts like in the hillside on the left side of the painting. The colors from my plein air sketch are more helpful to me than the colors in the photo.

Work in Progress #2, 8" x 10"

The second painting that I worked on is a little more finished. I took the time to block this one in a little better with a bigger brush before breaking down those big shapes into smaller brush strokes. Again, the color is kind of bleached by looking toward the strong Mexican sun, but it was the subtle shifts in value and accurate color that I was after. I really like painting this tree and how the mountains rise up behind it. The little trees in the foreground gave me a darker value to play off against the bigger tree. They are real important in helping with the sense of depth.
I am going to try and work with these today I will post later about what happens.

You might be able to gather from my posts that I really love being out in the Mexican countryside. There is usually action of some sort around. This is the time of year that the fields are being cleared. Corn stalks were being gathered yesterday where we were painting and it seemed like a constant flow of burros, horses and pick ups full of cornstalks.
Here are two photos of a friend, Marie, painting the same scene as #1, as loads of cornstalks go by. There really are burros under those first two loads.


Christine Mercer-Vernon said...

i really enjoyed this post. it was brave of you to post a painting you weren't happy with and even admit to painting ventures that yield nothing but a wiped canvas. it's reassuring to know that we all don't have to turn out masterpieces with every painting. whew!!

Ambera said...

Wow Frank, wow! I just love seeing your interpretation of the scene next to the photo, it's a treat to be able to look at a subject through your eyes for a moment. Beautiful blues in the background, I'd love to see a landscape like that someday in person..

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

Hi, Frank! Great work! By the way, thanks for having my blog as a link on your blog...I've returned the favour.

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Christine, I was not sure about posting something that I was not completely happy with. Thought I would give it a try. I get a lot of wiped canvases or paintings that are not so great. They are all part of the learning process. The trick is to cull out the weak ones and just frame up the winners.

Frank Gardner said...

Hi Ambera, I thought that putting the photo with the painting might be interesting. The color seems a little dead in the photo as usual. That is why getting those little color notes down on location is so important.
I'll post my progress on these paintings soon. Ive been busy with other stuff.

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks for stopping by Michael and for taking the time to leave a comment.
You have some great stuff on your blog too. I like getting a taste of winter in the last few paintings that you posted.
Thanks for adding a link to my blog.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Frank...Your work is a real treat for the eyes. Love the understated beauty and color!!!
And a great article in the American Artist winter Workshop issue. Congrats on that! I suppose you're still painting down there in short sleeves. (evil look)

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Marc, yup! short sleeves and sun block.
I'm still waiting for my copy of that magazine. I've seen the PDF though.

Mike said...

Hey Frank . . .can you see the green on me? That would be the shade of the intense envy! ;-) Great post. My hat is off to you for being a stand up guy and putting the not so hot stuff on as well as the good. Personally, I think it makes for more interest and humanity. Wishin I could be down there with you guys!

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Mike. I admire the artists that are putting up the ones they are not so happy with along with the winners. I'll continue on that when I get a chance to post what happened after this, back in the studio.
I wish you were here too. I could use a hand with the grout on my tile work in the bathroom:->
Really, anytime your wings can get you down here you are welcome.