I tried to paint like Matisse again by taping my brushes onto yardsticks and standing way back from the paper to paint. It’s fun! I had some problems with this painting, though. Not the yardsticks, the pink.
It’s impossible to mix this color. I tried every combination of the colors I had and put the painting aside because it was dull. That’s the one drawback about oil paint. When you mix colors you lose chroma (brightness). Eventually I went to the art supply store and bought a tube of “amethyst” by Michael Harding for $24. An expensive tube of paint, but I’ll need it in the spring when I try to paint some redbud trees.
You can avoid losing as much chroma as you might if you only mix your colors on the palette with a palette knife instead of mixing colors on the canvas with a brush. You also need a brush for each color. And you can avoid losing as much chroma if you build up layers of transparent glazes and let the viewer’s eye do the mixing. But the modern art way of avoiding loss of chroma is to not mix the colors at all. Just use the paint straight out of the tube!
When I put the painting on hold for a few days and went back to it, the petals and leaves were different so I had to kind of just wing it on top of my underpainting. This close up shows some fun leaf squiggles, smears and lines and blobs.
For the art viewer who likes to look at brush strokes, you might be able to see my layers, first the thin layer of underpainting and on top of that the thicker paint of the final layer.
I realized how I’m making the veins in the paint. It’s something I do without thinking, and big round brushes are ideal for this. You load up the brush with paint then go at it from the side of the brush, rolling the brush as you draw it across the paper or canvas. I hope you know what I mean. I should get someone to video tape me doing the brush roll thing, maybe you already do that if you paint. When I realized I was rolling the yardstick I thought I’m getting the hang of this.
This is the unfinished painting on the easel with the flower. I went larger than life. Larger is easier especially when you have your brushes taped to yardsticks.
I’m trying again to paint like Matisse by taping my brushes onto yard sticks and standing back from the painting. When I start to paint like this it’s always awkward for a few minutes because it’s hard to control the brush from a yard away, then it gets a little easier and it’s fun. I can’t tell if it’s improving my skill or not. I’ll have to try it a few more times then look back some time in 2021 and compare my paintings, see which ones to keep and how they look compared to painting at a normal distance.
This is a focal point, green dashes next to red lines on the dark background where some of the black paper is showing through.
I went over the whole paper twice. The poinsettia I painted last week was only one layer of paint and finished in one day. This time I painted the flower, and the gray blue background. When I stopped and looked at it I thought it wasn’t bright enough. The alizarin crimson is a transparent color and one coat didn’t cover the black paper enough. You can see the layers of reds in this photo. I waited for it to dry one day before going over it again.
Here’s a little hairy red smear that doesn’t need to be fixed on top of a red smear over green. oops,
If you don’t mix your paint colors on the paper by deliberately blending with your brush, you can get some overlap of complimentary colors with wet paint smearing together and you don’t instantly get a muddy color. Just leave well enough alone. I hope that makes sense. It might give the viewer’s eye something to focus on if they like to look into the brush strokes.
This is another focal point, bright next to dark, red next to green, small next to large strokes.
This is my unfinished painting on my table with the flower, my sewing machine behind it.
I’m blocking the sliding glass doors to my balcony with the table but this is a North light so the shadows don’t change all day. It’s not a direct light. The balcony of the apartment above mine is blocking the light then there’s trees on the other side of a fence also blocking the light. It looks like plenty of light in this photo but I felt like I was painting in the dark. I could hardly see what I was doing until I had the background started, especially on the black paper.
The reds in the photo aren’t the same as real life, but you get the idea.
I was having some fun painting like Matisse by taping my brushes onto yard sticks and standing back from the painting. You have to give up some control over the brush because it goes where you don’t want it to go but that’s ok. It gives the painting a loose modern look. Fast, loose, unfinished, spontaneous, that look is what the modern art world prizes the most. A finished painting is looked at as being “labored over” which is ungood. I’m not really feeling pressure to paint modern. I’ll go back to doing finished paintings. I got so modern painting this yesterday, I didn’t even sketch it first, just started slapping paint on paper.
This is a close up of the flower’s center features, I’m not sure what you call the little parts, and a stem.
I painted it on the back of a figure drawing that was on black paper. I’m enjoying painting on paper and I like to use both sides. You can see the black paper showing through here. Then I wanted to tone down the black a little so I went into the background with gray trying not to mess up my edges and smears of the reds. In traditional painting you paint the background first but in modern art you can do it last if you want to.
I might give this another try on another piece of paper. Look, Ma, I’m a fauve!
This is the last time I’ll use my sketches of the butterfly ginger for the palette knife painting. The next thing I’d like to try it on is the spooky battery at Ft. Monroe which I started sketching a couple years ago and put on hold on account of the weird vibes I picked up at the fort. I want to try again to finish a painting of the battery which might or might not be haunted.
Since the palette knife makes it comes out all wavy I think it might give that big imposing scary piece of architecture a more moody look. It will be all different shades of gray, some warm grays and some cool grays.
I want to try making different textures with the palette knife. For the background on this painting I used the short flat edge of the odd shaped palette knife to scrape two shades of greenish gray in a thin layer with some peaks of the dark gray tint of the canvas showing through.
First I squirted a blob of Viridian green on my palette. It’s dark. I added terpenoid a few drops at a time until the paint was runny. I thought my big blob of paint would be enough to paint these dark green areas but I misjudged the amount of paint I needed and had to use more.
When I mixed my lighter greens I used big blobs of paint and still didn’t have enough mixed up. When mixing colors it’s better to have too much paint mixed that to not have enough and I usually mix the right amount for what I want to paint with only a small bit left over but with the palette knife it’s harder to estimate.
The last color I used was white and I put a huge blob of it on my palette then added so much more paint that I thought it looked like I’d be wasting paint but it was exactly the right amount to finish the flowers.
I did the whole thing with palette knives and split it up over two different days letting the gray green background and the light gray of the flowers dry overnight. The paint was still wet the next day but only slightly dried which helped my brighter greens and white from mixing in as much. So I did layers but I don’t know if that’s how other artists do a palette knife painting.
It was fun and I’ll do another one.
The good thing about a palette knife painting is that you don’t have to clean brushes. The bad thing is that this will take months to dry. I can put it in my outside closet where it will be out of danger.
The dark green paint was soupy and it ran off my palette knife nicely. I thinned it with terpenoid.
The white paint was like soft icing.
The palette knife is harder to control than a paint brush. You have to be careful how you scrape up the paint off the palette so it’s on the knife in a good position to make a blob where you want the blob. Paint goes where you don’t want it to go. Most of the time I just let it there but a couple times I scraped up a big blob that fell in a bad place.
Doesn’t palette knife painting look like a lot of fun? Instead of watercolor, I think I’ll paint these flowers with my palette knife and not use a brush at all. I need to buy a palette knife set so I have a variety of shapes to work with.
I’m not sure if artists that use the palette knife to paint prime their canvases or not. It might make it a little easier to scrape the paint across the canvas if the canvas is sanded and gessoed and sanded again. That makes it smooth. Then the canvas needs a coat of background color.
I can glom the paint on real thick and try to get it to go where I want it to go without a paintbrush. It will be a challenge making shapes and lines and textures and still making a flower out of it.
I’ll go back to the garden to mix some green colors then I can paint at home.
Drawing flowers is fun and easy. I’d have done two except it was too hot. Maybe I can get out earlier tomorrow and do another sketch or try to do a watercolor study.
This is a tall bushy plant and the flowers don’t last long before they start to wilt. It has some unopened buds. I saw a butterfly go to this flower when I was drawing it but he moved on before I could sketch him. Maybe next time.
When I was in art school they told us to not make a balanced composition. They said the mind seeks balance and when it finds balance it immediately moves on to the next thing. If you give the art viewer unbalance it keeps their attention longer because they want to fix it. So, I guess this still life would get a better grade than the one I did when I was a young chick in school because it’s less balanced. It’s top heavy for one thing, with the big flowers above the lighter peaches and even lighter starfish.
I consider this pastel to be bright and bold but I realize a lot of people would think this is tame compared to the garish modern art they’re used to looking at. I’m talking about overly bright colors with no place for your eyes to rest. The kind of art that makes you want to put on your sunglasses. Once I heard a juror / art teacher say she doesn’t like gray. I thought no wonder she doesn’t hang my paintings. They all have some gray. I need gray to make shadows. shadows add depth and you need shadows to show light, but those things aren’t important to “contemporary” jurors.
Once I had an artist friend that told me she hates green. It makes her feel sick. I said, no nature lover, huh? And she said no she’s not a nature lover. I wondered if she was talking about my paintings which have a lot of green. I’ll just continue to use the gray and green that I like.
I think this pastel shows solar energy. When I think of paintings that are glaringly bright with colors straight out of the tube unmixed, it reminds me of someone yelling at you. Like, screamers are weak if they have to yell, and there’s no need to fight back because you can’t reason with someone who’s having a fit. Or, that artist using neon paint could be a primitive and doesn’t know how to mix colors and how to use gray. In which case, it’s not my responsibility to try to make them follow the path I was taught. But if an educated art teacher / juror rejects paintings because they have gray in them that’s discrimination.
This shows a close up of a peach, its reflection and the starfish and its reflection. It’s a complicated section for your eye because the starfish on the edge of the table points into the reflection. Then you have a double peach because it’s attached to its reflection. The starfish is on the edge of the table to give the composition more for the viewer to worry about and keep their attention longer.
One thing that made the reflections difficult was that at first I had the red and white checked vinyl under the still life but when I drew it I made the checks larger and blue. I couldn’t exactly visualize how to draw the table cloth reflections but I knew it would have a curve. So I did the checker design in pastel on paper and put it under the flower pot. I made a little cheat sheet. Then I could draw it and it was easier to work that part out.
I moved my still life to the window. It’s a North light which is the best for a drawing studio because the shadows don’t change much all day. My still life is blocking the sliding glass door to the balcony. It’s not actually a drawing studio but a dining room. No problem. I live alone.
I had to buy more sunflowers because the first ones wilted. When I went back to the farm stand on Sandbridge Rd. they were all out of sunflowers. I like the big ones with the darker yellow but I bought some of the smaller ones in the lighter yellow at a grocery store. Then yesterday I checked the farm store and they still didn’t have any so I ventured down to another farm store at Pungo. ( I love that name, Pungo. If I ever get another cat I might name it Pungo.) They had the big sunflowers at Pungo, Flip Flop Farmer stand. So one problem solved and in time because a hurricane is heading straight at us! The Sandbridge Rd. floods so I wanted enough sunflowers before the storm gets here. Then even if the electricity goes out I can still work on this.
Another thing I wanted to buy for the still life is a bigger starfish. I went to the oceanfront and got one this morning from a souvenir store. It will be easier to identify as a star when I draw it. A lot of people were going to the beach and walking on Atlantic Ave. It looks like most don’t wear masks outside but a lot do and I did when walking on Atlantic Ave. because of all the people.
I’m excited that I finally got my pastel started and I think it’s off to a good start. I’ll have to do the flowers and the peaches first because they won’t last.
I’m going to draw the starfish going off the edge of the table because I like the old master still life paintings when things are falling off the table. You often see plates, grapes, fabric etc. that looks like it might fall. That makes the art viewer want to go into the painting and push those things back from the edge. It’s a trick to get the viewer involved with the painting.
I drew my table from the corner because it’s a less stable composition than if you were looking directly at the table. With the starfish going off the edge and the angle of the table I think my still life will be unsettled feeling, like the dangerous times we’re living in.