It was a little scary to paint the flowers with my brushes taped to yard sticks. I couldn’t decide, should I put a coat of Maroger medium on it first in case the brushes bobbing around on the end of yard sticks made a really bad blip? Because with the medium on the dry painting first I could easily wipe off a mistake. Then I thought Matisse probably didn’t use Maroger medium and if I want to try to paint like him I should skip it.
After I got going it wasn’t as bad as I thought but my brushes did go all off in places.
I never saw a painting by Matisse that I didn’t like. If I could copy his style that would be a real accomplishment to me. But I can’t just copy one of his paintings because mine would look like a bad imitation. I have to wing it a little because this isn’t something they taught at the academy. And also, every artist is different, so you’re supposed to do your own thing. I did try to find his style. I’ll keep working on it. Too bad he’s dead. I can’t shoot him an email and ask.
This close up shows a brush stroke gone wild in the red on the flower and in the blue that went over the stem.
Oops, the blue cut right through that stem. Should I fix that? I’d like to fix it but something tells me not to.
I don’t know. I guess this is the best I can do for modern art at this point in time. I made it as bright as I could. I’m pretty sure Matisse mixed his colors instead of using them straight out of the tube.
I meant to tint my canvas paper gray but it came out black. That will be ok. It might make my begonia look like a drama queen.
I think I’ll do the background blue because the petals are orange so that will be the complimentary color for some contrast. It might make the petals show up brighter. I’ll wait a day or so and put the orange on top of the white and gray. The white and gray in the petals is the underpainting. I need to underpaint the orange with white because the orange won’t show up on the black background because it’s a more transparent color.
For this painting I’m stealing from 2 great artists, Matisse and Picasso. At YAA they told us, “Only steal the good stuff.”
From Matisse I’m stealing the idea of taping my brushes to yard sticks and standing way back from the painting. It’s fun but slightly out of control, which doesn’t make it easier. And from Picasso I’m stealing cubism. I wanted to fill up the paper with a lot of flowers and I have this little plant, so I drew it from all different sides and at first I had it up on boxes for added height, then I lowered it to table level. So that gives me different angles too.
I’m going so modern I didn’t sketch it with charcoal first and didn’t plan the arrangement. I just started painting flowers and filled in the whole paper. Painting them a little larger than life makes it easier.
So, I still have to do the background at least once, maybe twice, put the orange on the flowers and decide if I want to go over the leaves again. I’ll see how they look on the blue.
Doesn’t matter how long this takes, it’s too hot and humid for me outside in plein air. And we have rain coming in.
I’d like to draw in plein air but the weather has been so hot and humid if I don’t get moving at the crack of dawn it’s too late. Then yesterday we had a big storm (Elsa) and I heard there was a tornado in Sandbridge. I need to turn on the news and see for sure but I think the Sandbridge Rd. was flooded today. Tomorrow looks like the best day to get out early and sketch.
I think I can keep this plant alive on my balcony. It doesn’t get full sunlight since it’s facing North. I’ll try to paint the begonia next. We could have another 8 weeks of heat and humidity with some nice days once in a while. This weather is not good for your plein air artist. Got to go to plan B. for begonia.
Sometimes I neglect everything else in life and paint for days. Other times I do things that need to be done and neglect painting. This is one joy in my amateur status. It’s not a job.
When a subject takes up most of the space on a painting the negative spaces become an important design element. The art viewer’s eye needs to find a place to rest so it doesn’t get tired and will look longer.
Making an interesting background keeps the art viewer’s attention on the painting with more contrast and texture but it’s not as bright so it recedes.
The veins in the paint let my imagination think the painting is part of nature. It’s an illusion I like to make.
I didn’t see a plaque in the garden with the name of this variety of azaleas. Maybe I overlooked it. If it was up to me to name it I’d call it Candy Cane.
I’m waiting for my paint to dry on the azalea painting before I can finish it with the last color, pink. If I put the pink on before the other paint is dry, it might lift some white or gray and that would make the pink less bright. A couple weeks ago I bought a tube of fast drying white at Jerry’s Artarama because I knew Titanium white dries slowly. When I opened the tube it was dry in the tube! And I didn’t save the receipt. bummer.
While I wait for the paint to dry on the azaleas I decided to sketch the rhododendrons which are starting to bloom. This is Inktense pencils.
There’s a real pretty path through the rhododendrons. It’s covered with moss and has a bench and spotty sunlight. I’d like to do a painting of the path but that might be a project for next year because it could be complicated and I need to figure out a good plan for it and do sketches first.
After I did the underpainting and waited for that to dry I went over this a couple more times, background, leaves, stems, and flowers. The gray is the shadows on the azaleas. At first I had a warm gray for shadows but after looking at it for a couple days I decided to make the shadows slightly darker and cool, so I put a cool gray glaze over the warm gray. It looks like neutral gray in this photo. I’m not sure if you can see the layers of paint but you can see some veins in the paint which I like making. It gives the painting more variety of brush strokes and direction in the petals.
This azalea is past blooming but I have my sketches to go by and I’m pretty sure I can finish it at home. I think it will work out with the pink looking as bright as possible. I did some color roughs. I might do another one. I’ll continue with glazing pinks next. Then it will be finished.
I wasn’t going to show it at this stage because it’s almost done, but I thought if I just post a close up of this one section it won’t spoil the surprise.
First I had to paint the flowers with white because the pinks won’t show up bright enough on the dark tinted paper since they’re semi transparent colors. Also, I couldn’t see the flowers well enough until I painted them to tell if they look like a good arrangement.
The background texture is from my modified fan brush. I wanted to make a look of pine needles on the ground
The scary part is the pinks. I mixed my colors in plein air sitting next to the azaleas and I think I have the closest pink to what it actually is, but it’s not as bright on my palette as it is in reality. Flower petals allow a little light to go through. They’re not 100% opaque because of the cell structure, if you know what I mean. The sun on the pink petals makes a brighter pink than you can buy in a tube of paint.
I need to do a color rough and see if the pink will be brighter if I use glazes of the two pinks that I have straight out of the tube.
First I need to go over this again and decide where to have shadows and where to have spotty sunlight. Then wait for that to dry before painting the pinks. I’m excited I got this far with the painting and might be able to finish it next week. It can dry this weekend. I’m going to PA.
Last week I didn’t see these flowers on my walk. Today they’re all over the path making it smell so good! I need to mark the date so next year I can be ready when they bloom. I’d like to use them in a still life with some other local objects, maybe seashells or something. I have a fish shaped dish that could be in a still life and a little vase for the flowers.
I can’t do it this year because I’m into a difficult painting right now, the azaleas. I don’t know if I can make the azaleas painting work out as planned but it will take some time to tell. I need to make more progress on it.
It’s not unusual for me to save an inspiration for a year or more before I get into the project. You know me, slow living. haha. Like my daughter says, “live fast die young, live slow die later.”
As I’m sketching the flowers, I pick up information that a photo won’t give you. It’s not always easy to see the petals as separate shapes. I’m sure a camera would blend them together. I might be the only one interested in drawing petals separately but it could help me decide which direction to drag my brush on the painting, where the edges are if I want to keep edges. I’ll probably simplify the painting but I need detailed drawings.
Another thing a photo won’t make you aware of is that the buds and flowers come in groups of three. The stems are in threes too. The stems don’t go straight vertical but have some curve. Some of the petals have smooth edges and some have zig zag edges.
Now I realize that other plein air artists don’t care about separate petals. They’d go to the garden and start right in with slapping down some paint and finish the painting in a day or maybe less. I need the sketching time to figure out a plan.
The more flowers I sketch the easier it gets. I might need more flower sketches but maybe these are enough.
The two big azalea bushes I was standing between are in a kind of U shape where I can step off the path and stand between the bushes to sketch. These are on the shady side. I looked at the sunny side of the bushes and the sun was too bright on my white paper. It was blinding! I use the white paper last because it’s not great for sketching in plein air. Also when looking at the side in the direct sun all the flowers were lit equally bright. When I sketched the shady side it was easier on the eyes. I didn’t feel like going back to the car for my sunglasses.
As I was standing there for around an hour and a half to fill each of these papers with flowers, some spotty light fell on a few flowers at a time and it was much nicer to see than the bright glare of direct light. I decided to do my painting with spotty light. I’ll have to fake it on the sunlight if I paint this at home, but that means I can put as much sunlight in as I want to, because if I go back to the garden to paint the flowers will be different and I don’t know exactly what time the sun fell on any flower to catch it at it’s best.
So, yeah, and hour and a half on each sketch paper. That means I have around six hours in it so far and haven’t started painting yet. That’s one reason I can’t get in with a plein air group. Also, I don’t want to pay to join a group, I mean $35 to get your name on an email list? But they don’t like this approach to painting. They don’t want to go back day after day and do a bunch of sketches. But it’s a whole different process and if I ever sell a painting I’ll ask a lot more for it than their fast one day paintings would go for. They want their art openings to be “cohesive” which means the artists must conform. If all the paintings for sale are asking $300 and someone enters a painting and they want $1000 for it, the juror would reject it because they don’t want an artist to think their painting is worth so much more that any of the others.
I traced my flowers from the sketch papers and cut them out to arrange them on the paper I tinted for this painting. This step will help me decide if I need to draw more flowers or if this is enough. I want to have some flowers in the background too. If I can come up with a good arrangement then I’ll try to decide how much sunlight to put into the painting and where. I decided I want the spotty light to make the composition more than the flower shapes. If I can make a good composition with the flowers and light, I hope the viewer’s eye will move around the whole painting.
This will be a busy week at the botanical garden because of the holiday and the weather is improving. Norfolk was on the edge of a freeze warning so I wondered if it would affect the azaleas which are starting to bloom but they look fine today.
I’m undecided how to paint them but I’ll get more sketches and paint at home. I have a good spot to sketch off the main path. I just don’t want to hang around if it gets crowded so I’m going when they open in the morning.
These are close to life size on my 11 x 14 paper which is the size I can stand and hold in one hand to sketch without using my easel.
I took my numbered color swatches that correspond with my Inkense pencils to make color notes. That’s my little color notes on the sketch. I might use my Inktense pencils for this or maybe oils with my brushes on a yardstick, which is fun.
The variegated ones are my favorites. oops, I smeared my charcoal. That’s ok, I need a lot more sketches but I can start planning my painting by starting to arrange them on a larger paper.
In wildlife news:
Crows, A crow was harassing me at the botanical garden when I painted the redbud last week, caw caw cawing over my head for a long time. Finally I thought he wants to steal something shiny from me and I covered my paintbrushes and everything else with any shine and he went away.
Canada geese. I pulled into a shopping center to get lunch and saw a goose sleeping in the parking lot. I wondered if he was sick, hoped he didn’t get hit by a car. Then I got my Kentucky fried chicken and parked to eat it. I saw the other goose sitting on a nest under a tree on one of the cement islands with mulch in the parking lot. 4 crows were constantly harassing the goose on the nest. The goose didn’t seem concerned about the cars but that would be bad with the crows harassing the geese all day. And they will have to walk a long way when the eggs hatch because there’s no pond anywhere near there. The babies will have to cross busy streets if the crows don’t manage to steal the eggs first. what a bad spot for a nest! I noticed some human had left a plastic bowl near the nest, probably with food or water.
Ospreys. I was happy to see the nesting pair back on top of the light pole out back. It’s over a little league field. The teams are back to playing their regular schedule. Sometimes it gets loud out there but it’s mostly quiet.
The background fade from pink to blue is a silkscreen blend. The flowers are oil paint done with my paint brushes taped to yard sticks and painted while standing back from the paper.
Blends aren’t easy to do. It takes skill to make a smooth even blend between two colors. I didn’t do the silkscreen. I worked in the art dept. of a silkscreen shop long ago and saved some flawed blends from the overrun. I only have one blend paper left. They made good backgrounds for a lot of different art projects over the years.
The owner of the shop had us do a huge art project every year that he could give away to the customers at Christmas. We had to reproduce a painting by one of his favorite artists. That was in the days before printing technology was as advanced as it is today. The silkscreens process couldn’t reproduce a watercolor exactly but we tried anyway.
I’m not sure if taping my paint brushes to yard sticks ala Matisse is helping me become a better artist or not but it is fun so I want to keep trying. It makes my brush strokes a little rough which is ok for this project.
This is the unfinished painting on my easel with my $5 flower pot. It was nice to go to the garden supply store and buy the little daffodils. I picked the one that looked like it had the most buds and sure enough, more and more buds are opening.
You can see my palette on the table with 3 greens mixed and thinned with turpenoid. Working the paint is an important step if you want to try the yardstick painting technique. Sometimes artists just like to switch up how they’re painting to keep it more interesting. It’s how to improve your art over the long run, try new things, learn from artists you like by trying to paint like them, and it keeps an artist from getting stuck in a rut doing the same thing all the time. It’s a challenge.
If the paint wasn’t thin it wouldn’t flow off the brush as easily as I like it to and painting with the yard stick brush extenders might be more difficult. I add turp slowly and keep mixing with the palette knife until it’s smooth and even. Then I need to go over it twice because the paint is more transparent. I don’t know if it shows up in this photo, but one coat of paint didn’t cover the silkscreen ink well enough. I had to do the second coat of paint to make my flowers as bright as I could get them and make the leaves show up better.