Category Archives: charcoal

magnolia study and plan

IMG_2455

It’s called a Todd Gresham Magnolia. This is my last study, time to start painting.IMG_2456

This is the whole plan taped to the wall. The magnolia pastels on the navy blue paper are life sized from last year. The pastel buds on the green paper are from yesterday and a few days ago. The big tree in charcoal on light blue paper is the background tree, a Southern magnolia. And the branch drawn in charcoal on tan paper is the branch of the Todd Gresham magnolia which is the main subject of the painting.

I can’t say for sure if it’s possible for art to be spontaneous or from the subconscious or accidental, all I know is that if I’m going to try to paint  something I like to have a plan worked out down to the details.

Now I feel like I’ve done the preliminary part. If I need more flowers I can turn these on their sides or upside down. But this might be enough sketches. It’s crazy how fast the flowers change. They move in every breeze and by the hour they open up more.  If I tried to start a flower one day and finish it the next with another coat of paint I’d never be able to find the same flower. This is why I couldn’t avoid doing the sketches. They’ll need two glazes on two different days.

I can work on this painting at home but I’ll probably take my canvas over to the garden and make corrections at some point. And I’ll have to mix my flower colors in Plein air because I didn’t have the right pastel colors. Even if you have a couple hundred pastels you still don’t have the exact color you want.

My computer was acting weird for a day or so. Flashing horizontal line were freaking me out, then it seemed to go away, but if I close my laptop they come back. If I let it open they’re not there. If I have to take this thing over to Best Buy and can’t look at WordPress, don’t worry. But maybe it’ll be ok now.

Southern Magnolia / sketch

IMG_2446

This is what I’m planning for the background in my next painting.  This background will be mostly dark with spots of light showing through the leaves and some light on the ground. It has big dark green leaves that are shiny in the sun. Most of the leaves are on the other side of the tree so I’ll paint those sketchy and then make the leaves on this side more defined and shaped with more leaves showing on this side than I sketched here.

Kids like to go under this tree because it could be a neat fort with more magnolias around it. They can hide in the shade and peek out.

This Southern Magnolia in today’s sketch won’t bloom till summer but the other variety of magnolia that I drew the branch of  a few days ago will bloom soon. The buds are showing some red today.

I bought a 24 x 36 canvas for it. After I paint this for the  background I’ll paint the early blooming magnolia branch and flowers right on top of it. I think the red and white flowers will look good on top of the darker tree.

The weather forecast is cloudy tomorrow then 3 days of rain. After I sand and gesso the canvas a couple times, I’ll tint it gray and that might dry enough for me to start on the painting at home if it rains.

Magnolia Branch w Buds / sketch

IMG_2445

One year I planned to do a painting of an early blooming Magnolia and cold weather killed the buds. The tree didn’t bloom at all. Last year in March I got a bunch of life size studies of the flowers. This year, if it works out, I’d like to either do a pastel or an oil painting. I’m not sure which. These flowers might not bloom for a few weeks but I don’t have a lot of  time to make decisions.

First decision- pastel or paint

If I do a pastel I should have my flowers planned ahead of time so I can do the background separately. If I do an oil painting I can start by  painting the background and paint the flowers on top in thicker paint and it will cover nicely. If I do a pastel I need to figure out exactly how big and where to put the flowers first because I won’t be able to cover or lift the background  pastel colors out enough for the flowers to be bright if drawn on top of the background.

If I do a pastel I can use a big sheet of the sanded paper and take less art supplies out with me after I decide on a few pastels. If I paint it I need to prime a canvas.

How many flowers will fit on a big piece of pastel paper? Should I crop this sketch or enlarge it and do them life size? Will I be able to use the sketches I got last year?

So many problems for your Plein air artist to figure out! I’ll have to prop this up where I can see it and try to decide this weekend. The stronger the plan, the stronger the finished piece.

Keeping my fingers crossed for mild weather because this could still get postponed until 2021 if it gets real cold again.

 

Spanish moss

IMG_2443

How’s this working as an abstract?

From far away it looks soft. Long ago I heard or read, I forget which, that one of the original British invaders of VA. saw this and thought it might make good stuffing for a mattress. That guy got a lot of bug bites. After that, no one tried to use it for mattress stuffing and they all headed upstream.

I used the magic of art and drew the invisible bugs. What are the bugs and how many are in this sketch?

A – 0

B – 1 to 10

C – 10 to 100

D – 100 to 1000

sketch for swamp painting

IMG_2402

This is my previous sketch of a cypress knee transferred onto an 18 x 24 piece of charcoal paper with more knees and trees sketched in around it. It’s rough. I’m not sure you can make it out. The darker vertical lines are trees. The faint sketchy vertical lines are Spanish moss and the squiggles and shaded areas closer to the top are different types of foliage. I want some sky in the painting but it will be patchy.

I bought a 30 x 30 canvas for it. It’s easier for me to draw larger than smaller. There is room on a 30 x 30 for me to show more swamp water on the bottom, which is dark. The water isn’t actually black. You can see through it and peat is forming on the bottom because the water doesn’t have much oxygen in it so the fallen leaves decay into peat. I’ll also have room on the canvas to extend the view on the sides showing more swamp.

The foliage was bright orange when I was there a couple days ago. I don’t know how long that color will hang in there. We’re getting some rain and wind this weekend, a nor’easter. The storm is coming from the south but the wind wrapping around it is the nor’easter.  That’s ok. I need to sand and gesso my canvas a couple times before I tint it gray then wait a day or two for the tint to dry before I redraw this on it and finish  drawing more trees on either side of what I have here. So I don’t mind hanging around at home if it rains.

This is one of those paintings that could take a long time to finish because of the weather. Like a month or more. After I redraw it on the tinted canvas I want to do a thin underpainting. Then the plan is to paint on top of my underpainting when it’s dry like Matisse did by taping my paintbrushes onto yard sticks so I can stand way back from the canvas to work on it.  That’s a fun way to paint but the paint goes on thick so if I need to build up layers or make corrections I’ll have to wait longer for the paint to dry before I go over it again. When I paint thin glazes I only have to wait overnight for it to be dry enough for the next coat of paint.

If I paint the orange leaves then they fall down, it doesn’t matter. If they fall down before I get to paint them that doesn’t matter either. The swamp is most beautiful in the winter in my opinion.

 

cypress knee / good news in the art world

IMG_2400

I’m on the Plein air email list put out by Eric Rhodes and I’m getting the info for plein air camps and contests, figure drawing seminars and practice etc. It’s all related to the Plein Air magazine founded by Eric Rhodes. This guy is a genius. I know the email gets sent to hundreds of people, but it seems like he’s talking to me.  Once I got an email headed “Chris, your paintings are good enough.” It was to enter the Plein air mag contest.

I don’t feel like entering. I entered a bunch of times over the years. I saw the winners in the magazine and knew I didn’t stand a chance because all the paintings were fuzzy and mine are sharp.

The first time the plein air week happened in Richmond I entered but didn’t get accepted. I was doing figure drawings back then from the sad stone angels in Hollywood Cemetery. I didn’t know why I didn’t get in. I could only guess.

Those are just a few of the hundreds of reasons why I gave up on spending money on the art world. I go alone to draw in plein air any time. My apathy gives me a feeling of freedom from the art world which I think is corrupt. This is all beside the point.

The money I spent was worth it for plein air camp at the Ghost Ranch. So I’m glad I’m getting the emails because I might go to another event like that. No teachers to follow, no contest, no drama.

Today I was happy to read the email from Streamline. It was addressed to plein air event planners. It talked about how the plein air movement has grown and needs to adapt. The seminar they’re organizing is to plan better  plein air events in the future. Eric said we shouldn’t sacrifice quality for speed. I was happy to read that because I’ve been complaining for years how plein air painters rush rush rush and I don’t want to paint like they do.  He also said that’s one reason why some good artists don’t go to the events.  Did he mean me?

I hope this is a sign of a change in the art world for the better. I could never make it happen. Eric Rhodes could do it.

I wonder if Eric or someone on his staff read my blog. I told my daughter I’m an influencer now. That’s funny because I don’t want anything to do with the real art world. Sarah said that’s the best kind of influencer, the apathetic kind. hahaha She would know, she’s the social media guru.

Yeah, I’m famous. I’ll be dead before the art world figures it out.

The sketch is my plan for a swamp painting. It’s real nice out today and cool. The fall colors look good over there. I might start the painting now instead of waiting for the freeze.  This is my favorite cypress knee from when I was in the swamp last year. I need to transfer this to a larger paper and draw the background trees with Spanish moss on both sides of this knee. I need a big canvas. This sketch will help me figure out what size canvas to buy.

That’s my composition method, find something beautiful, draw it, draw what’s around it.

 

a plan for a watercolor / charcoal

IMG_2396

I didn’t finish this sketch because it started to rain. That’s one of the problems  of your plein air painter. There was a 10% chance of rain. I don’t know if you can make this out, but it’s a path through wildflowers with a few trees. All the little dots are bright yellow and orange flowers. There will be hundreds of them in the painting.

I need to do roughs like this before starting my painting so I can work out a good composition first. This helps me to decide things like, should I use a horizontal or vertical format for my painting. How many trees can I fit into the picture, how much of the sky and background trees will be seen, what part of the painting to start on first, if I need to eliminate trees, and so on.

If I want to get a finished looking painting I need to get a good plan for how to do the background, middle ground and foreground. When you don’t do a finished background it’s a less finished and more sketchy looking painting. If you figure out in advance things like where to make different textures or focal points there’s a better chance the painting will come out like you want it to. It’s a good idea to have less complicated areas in the painting too so the viewers eye has a place to rest, and to work on shadows so they’re interesting to the viewer.

This is the old school process that I learned long ago. Take the time, follow the steps and it will work out much better. It’s not a waste of time to figure out a good plan first.

Now I have to stretch a piece of watercolor paper and draw it again. Then I can start painting the bright flowers on the white paper and block them out with masking fluid so I can paint green foliage right over top of them and when I take the masking fluid off later the yellows and oranges will still be bright spots.

It’s warm here but it will cool down soon. We might not have any frost for a few more weeks though, so I have time to try another watercolor before I get into my big plan to paint the swamp this winter. I was happy to see the wildflowers in full bloom. I’ve wanted to do a painting of them for a couple years but missed the  chance  because I was into painting another scene at the time they were blooming.

cypress knees / charcoal and chalk

IMG_2395

When I was a young girl I fell in love with a beautiful swamp. I wished I could capture it and take it home. I took photos but they didn’t do it justice. Eventually I went through my boxes of photos and threw away the ones that didn’t have people in them. Over the years, I visited the swamp when I had a vacation at Virginia Beach.

When I started drawing in Plein air I thought about the swamp but it’s kind of a haul from Richmond, so I drew at other beautiful places. I never planned to retire to the beach until my daughter moved to Norfolk and told me she’s settling down. I’ve been here two years now and I often go to First Landing State Park to walk on the trails. I sketched there a few times and once tried to do a painting of the swamp but it didn’t work. I need a big canvas then I’m sure I can get it.

The swamp looks best in the dead of winter. Those tiny branches get a bright red glow in the winter sun. After a good frost the water looks clearer. It’s more reflective then. The black water will be a challenge to paint. I’m starting  to work out my plan now.  I’d like to get a big canvas and tape my brushes to a yard stick and stand back to paint it, like Matisse, because that’s fun, so I should probably do that at home. People would think I was really nuts if I took a big canvas out there and taped my brushes to a yardstick, when I am actually quite sane, hahahahaha. Not that I care what people think…..

dead trees in marsh / sketch

IMG_2391

Nature is so beautiful when it’s stark and bleak, even a little spooky. Two of the trees have sloppy nests, probably egrets because I saw a couple today standing out in the sedge.

I need a bigger piece of paper so I can fit the marsh grass on the picture, but I had to get a few of the dead trees sketched first.

What else is spooky at First Landing State Park? Spanish moss. ooOOooOO And the cypress swamp! oooOOOooo I definitely want to paint both of those too.

I walked a long way on the trail from two different entry places and decided to go off it a little and sit on sand to sketch. I thought no one could see me, then a little beagle came up to me and we said hello. Then he went back to the path, so I guess his human was up there.

Taos Art Museum Fechin House

IMG_2354

This is the front of Fechin house. Nicolai Fechin was an artist and Russian. They have Russian themed things in the gift shop out back.IMG_2353

This is the back of the museum. It’s a privately owned house but they don’t live there. There’s also a studio in back and I peeked in. Some artists were taking a class.

They change their exhibits to include other Taos artists but Nicolai Fechin’s works are always on display.IMG_2352

This is Fechin’s “Indian Profile”. It’s larger than life, charcoal on paper. He did mainly portraits.IMG_2351

This is Nicolai Fechin’s self portrait. charcoal on paperIMG_2350

This is “Eva in Peasant Blouse” painted in 1933, oil on canvas.IMG_2349

This is the by other artist represented this month, Marjorie Eaton. “The Boy” charcoal on paper.

Marjorie Eaton / 1901 – 1986. She was born in California. Her dad was a doctor and her mom died when she was a baby, but her dad remarried and she loved her step mom. Marjorie’s step mom took her to Europe shopping for clothes.IMG_2348

Eaton came to Taos and was so inspired by the natives she became good friends with her models, and had an Indian boyfriend. I don’t know if they got married.

This is “Man in Cloak”, oil on paper mounted on board.IMG_2347

She painted this “Nude” at the San Francisco Art school in 1924. Marjorie was recognized for her talent and had an offer to study with Picasso, but the war happened and she didn’t get to go to Europe then.

She went to Mexico and loved it there. She became good friends with Diego Rivera and Freda Kahlo, among other famous artists of the time.

Darn it, my phone isn’t taking a charge. I’m heading up to the Ghost Ranch today where there might not be a signal anyway. If I can’t get it to charge this week out in the middle of nowhere, I’ll stop at a Verizon store before I head home.