Category Archives: oil painting

Mums / a pointillism experiment / oil paint

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Pointillism is a scientific style of painting. I never saw a class offered on it but I wanted to try. I read a few articles and they don’t give much information so I had to make my best guess. I’ll give you my questions and if I got it wrong please tell me.

The first thing I could get from my research was that Seurat used the paint straight out of the tube without mixing colors on the pallet. Did he thin the paint with turp or not? I guessed not. Then I saw my dots forming peaks. Did Seurat have peaks on his dots? How large are the dots supposed to be? Can the dots overlap? Can the paint mix  on the canvas when the dots overlap?

One article said Seurat had 11 colors and white. It didn’t say what the colors were. I bought a tube of veridian green  for this painting. I never buy tubes of green because I have a few yellows and a few blues so I can mix the green I need. But to try to stay true to the no mixing colors on the pallet rule, I bought the green. Then I broke the no mixing  rule when I added white to cobalt blue and then I added white to the green. I didn’t use gray because I know modern artists don’t like gray and Seurat probably never used it.IMG_2124

One of the articles said there should be an underpainting. I usually tint my canvas before I do my underpainting, but this time I did my underpainting on a white canvas.

It’s important to keep color theory in mind in pointillism. I took a class long ago in color theory and remember some things like using complimentary colors and using tints of equal value to create the visual mix of gray or the visual mixing of colors that vibrate, and how colors look different on top of other colors.

Is this experiment a success or a failure? I don’t know, but this is my first attempt at pointillism and I’ll try again some time in the future.

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Bay Scape / oil

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Should I call this finished or should I paint a ship coming in? I have the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in the painting. Should I add some pelicans on pilings? Maybe some happy little pelicans flying away in the sky?  Or a guy wind surfing?

I tried three times on the sky till I finally got something I can live with. The first time I tried to make a blend of lighter blue on the horizon to slightly darker blue over head without using glazes. I tried to make my blend with thick paint, blending the values wet instead of letting it dry and going over it a few times with glazes to get my blend. That didn’t work. I think blends are difficult.

Then I tried to do the sky with dots like Pointillism. That didn’t work either. I want to try Pointillism but I’m not sure about the proper technique. I’ll try Pointillism on an easier subject some time soon.

So then I tried to do clouds with some blue sky showing through and that looks better.  I used my Maroget medium and glazes on the sky. I like my clouds to look light and fluffy without hard edges. Now, how about that water? I don’t know, I might try again. I’m open to suggestions on it.

I took my painting supplies out to the beach at First Landing State Park a few times when it wasn’t too hot and not too crowded and mixed my colors there, but mainly painted it at home from sketches. Sand got on my painting but I got most of it off when the paint dried.

Diana Fauve / oil

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It seems a little ironic that my first subject to try fauvism is Diana because she’s the goddess of the hunt and fauve means wild animal.

Matisse said you should use color to express emotion and I thought he!!, I’m not emotional. Then I remembered the plaque at the museum said Diana represents the feminine ideals of independence and chastity so I thought about those things when I was working on it and picked colors I like to work with.IMG_2078

Yesterday when I got home from sketching at the museum I knew my sketch wasn’t right. I wanted to correct it but not go back to the museum so I taped my sketch to the wall and taped a piece of charcoal to a yardstick so I could stand back and do it again. The first try I taped a sharpie to the yardstick and that sketch looked real bad. Almost human. So I tried charcoal and got this sketch which looked better than the sketch from the museum. You can see places where my charcoal on a stick went somewhere on it’s own.

I tried two more but this one was the best so I used it for my painting. I’ll do the charcoal on a stick practice again. I’m pretty sure Matisse did it thousands of times. It’s good to stand back from what you’re working on and you can’t really focus on any certain little thing too well. It seems like you have to draw a bunch of lines and pick the one you want. IMG_2081.jpg

Here’s a few fauve portraits for you. The one on the left is Matisse, Madame Matisse. Then portrait of Matisse by Andre Derain. Then portrait of Derain by Maurice Vlaminck. On the right is portrait of Vlaminck bu Andre Derain.

It looks like your sketch doesn’t have to be 100% accurate. That’s a nice thing about fauvism. I don’t know if mine fits in with this fauvism thing but it was kind of fun and easy to do. I’ll probably do another one from a marble bust.

An interesting story about Matisse is that he cofounded an art school with some other artists but he didn’t want to be paid because he didn’t want it to be an obligation. He went on Sat. and did the critiques. He must have been a harsh critic because another teacher said it took him all week to build up the confidence of the students and on Sat. Matisse would destroy it.

On the first day of school the students were so excited to do fauvism they hung all their bright fauve paintings in the room and when Matisse came in he was mad and told them to take all that garbage down. Then he made them sketch busts! The students were not happy.

Crabapple Tree / oil

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Why did I paint this? Why does any artist do their own type of art?  The answer is this. The mind seeks balance.

Imagine all the different types of art. there’s the visual, music, literature, dance and all the crafts are an art too. Imagine all the artists of the world. every nationality has artists. They come in all personality types with all different types of backgrounds and beliefs. There’s no two alike. You might never find another like yourself. All these things shape how an artist reacts to their own life through their art so that each artist will give you a different interpretation of a subject, if left to their own judgement. If an artist is trying to learn from a teacher they will paint like the teacher, but as they go on and work on their own, their own personality will be reflected in their art.

If an artist works at a regular job to pay bills they don’t have as much time to devote to art as I do since I’m retired. Younger people have more stress than I do. They have more responsibilities and obligations. When I was working full time I didn’t do much art beyond pottery classes and things like that because I couldn’t keep up with the job, exercising, raising my daughter, cooking for my husband, housework, etc. I was too tired for art. Also I was depressed for years. Now I’m ok and I tell young artists who are depressed, Hang in there, stay alive, it gets better when you get older.

But, if an artist is pulled in a hundred directions. That artist would want to simplify their art. This is one of the reasons that a lot of modern art is simplistic, the artist needs to balance the chaos and frustrations of the fast paced world with their art. In my case, my life is so boring it would drive you INSANE in less than a week, I bet. But I’m ok because I get into these complicated studies of trees or whatever my next subject is. Plus, now that I feel better mentally, I think I might be immune to any more mental illness.  I’m not going to tell you how bad it was.

Even though I’m trying to copy the colors and values of nature and drawing from life and painting in plein air, my own strange life experiences show up in my paintings. I can see it in there. I read other artists saying they aren’t trying to copy nature, they’re giving their own interpretation of it. I’m trying to copy nature. I can’t imagine something more beautiful. But my painting doesn’t look like nature, exactly. There’s too much of my personality in there. What do you see about me in my painting? Do you see I have patience, persistence, attention to detail? Too much time on my hands? Can you see I’m capturing more than the camera can? I’m balancing the boredom and loneliness of a life with no meaning or purpose with art. And I feel better than I did in years! Isn’t that weird? I chalk it up to painting in plein air. It gets me outside in the fresh air and that’s good for your health, mental health too.IMG_2028

This is a photo of the crabapple tree. The painting took a long time to do and I worked on it at home a lot. I mixed my paint colors in plein air and checked my palette against what I see in real life then went home to do the more time consuming part of the painting. I don’t use a photo for reference, so that’s one reason my tree isn’t like the photo.

 

one hellofa crabapple tree / work in progress

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One day a couple weeks ago I was walking in the garden carrying my 12 x 16 sketchbook when I came across this beautiful tree in the last stage of blooming. A few pink flowers were still hanging on and I wished I could paint real fast so I could capture it like that with some flowers and new leaves coming out. It’s a big crabapple tree and famous because it’s in a book of VA’s 100 most beautiful trees.

I knew I couldn’t sketch it on my 12 x 16 paper because it’s easier for me to draw large if I’m drawing a large subject. That’s one reason why I know my drawing needs improvement. Why can’t I draw small? I can usually draw a figure with a 1.5″ head. A one inch head is too small for me most of the time, but I try to sketch small  figures sometimes.

I decided to use a piece of paper out of my 18 x 24 sketchbook and give it a try. 12 x 16 is the largest size sketchbook I can hold in one hand to draw and don’t need my easel. When I tried to sketch the tree on the big paper it seemed like it kept getting bigger and bigger as I was sketching. ( a sign that my drawing is out of control ) I wasn’t going to show this sketch because the tree looks crowded on this big piece of paper but I wanted to paint it and I thought if I had a larger canvas I might be able to do it. I bought a 30 x 40 canvas.IMG_2025

I did a detailed underpainting of the tree and it looked ok on the 30 x 40 canvas. It’s not squished to fit.  It was a little easier to sketch the second time. There’s another five feet of tree off to the right which I couldn’t get, though. The branches come back down to the ground and form a thick bush next to the tree. Now I’m over half way finished but it might still take another week at this rate. The background trees, sky and grass are finished but the tree and leaves are still mostly in the underpainting stage. The new leaves have a red orange tint and are shiny. It’s too soon for me to tell if my painting will work out. It could be an epic failure, or it might be ok when it’s finished. I missed the time to paint the tree with flowers but I think it’s beautiful without flowers. If the painting is ok I’ll post it when I’m finished. If it’s not ok, I’ll try again next year.

Norfolk Port Authority / oil / feat oysters

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Does this look convincing to you? I can’t tell. I’ve looked at it too long, and I had a devil of a time trying to figure out how to paint this.  I was never there when it looked like this. I winged it on the sky, by observing bright sunsets from my balcony and mixing colors. I went over my sky again and again until I thought it was ok. Then I had no idea how to paint the water. I can’t even remember how many layers of paint I totally wiped off because later I thought,” meh. that’s not good.” I sometimes waited for my paint to dry and started over. In all, I figure this took me about 2 months to paint, so considering how much paint and time is in it, if it doesn’t look good, it’s an epic failure. (no halfass failures for me)  But if it worked out, I finally did 2 things I’ve wanted to do for years, a panoramic view and a bright winter sky.

This painting is going to the window of Jerry’s Artarama when it dries. I love Jerry’s for giving the free space to me and other artists, and not taking a commission if there’s a sale. Thanks for supporting artists, Jerry.IMG_1976

When I mixed my colors I sat on this bulkhead at the Hermitage, where you can see this beautiful view of the Port Authority. All along it are tons of oysters. My daughter, Sarah told me the Chesapeake Bay Foundation gives baby oysters to people who live next to the water. They come on a clump in a mesh bag. You drop it in the water and they grow up. They are natures little water filters. Sarah doubted they would be good to eat, but she told me the water is much less polluted than it was 20 years ago, so maybe. But, I’ll buy my oysters at the store, because they look real sharp. If I wanted to climb down there and get some, it wouldn’t be easy, and probably verboten anyway.

Pleasure House Point in Dec. / oil

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The story of the insane SHRIEKING bird.

One day I was over there painting. I was all alone on the path. It was peaceful until this loud screeching shriek came from right behind me. I stopped and looked around but couldn’t see the bird.

Another day, I heard it far away. I also saw the likely culprit walk into the sedge a couple times. The second time I heard the bird, people walked down the path with binoculars and I thought they were probably bird watchers, so I asked them if they heard that loud screeching bird, and they did hear it. They said it was a sandpiper, and showed me a photo on a phone. I said, yes that’s it. Mystery solved.images

I also heard a loud chattering bird noise and now I wonder if sandpipers make that sound too.

A problem happened because of the cold weather.

Finally the sun came out after days and days of cloudy rainy weather and I was anxious to work on my painting, even if it was freezing. I bundled up and went out. As soon as I opened the lid on my palette, the glass broke! It was 32. Fortunately, I always put gray duct tape on the back of my palette glass, so little pieces of broken glass didn’t fall out. Breakage does happen sometimes with glass, but the main reason I put duct tape on the bottom of my glass is because it’s easier to see colors and values on gray than it is on a white palette. And some of the broken pieces were big enough to mix paint on, so I made some progress on the painting that day despite the broken palette. Weird, huh? I guess it was the sudden cold on the glass that caused it to break.

Well, that’s two nature stories for you.

Mirror Lake with Water Lilies / oil

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When I think I’m finished, I see something that needs touching up. Good thing I didn’t clean my brushes. hahahahahha

The Water Lilies are fading fast. They’re showing brown on the edges. I kind of like the brown, but I should try to paint them when they’re blooming next year. I’m not sure what month that is.

I hope this shows up ok on the computer, because I think I can see some depth showing as I look at it here in real life.. I built up a lot of layers of glazes. It took me 2 weeks of working on it almost every day for 2 or 3 hours at a time. It rained twice and I didn’t go out to work on it those days. Yesterday was kind of chilly, but I wore layers, so it wasn’t too bad.

I’m priming a canvas for another scene at Norfolk Botanical Gardens.  I think I have time to do one more painting before the leaves are down, since we haven’t had a frost yet. It’s another beautiful scene over water.

A Good View at Agecroft Hall / oil

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It’s the most zen place in town.  I’m not a follower of an Eastern religion, but it’s easy to pick up the vibe. That’s one of the benefits of painting in plein air. I have a reason to hang around under a tree like Buddha! hahahahahah

I started on this painting a month or so ago and finished it last week. The trees changed faster than I could paint them. I could keep going and going making corrections but decided not to because I’m starting on the next painting  now.

The banana trees were taken out of the garden before I finished painting them, but I had enough of a start that I could finish them at home. I liked them in the composition. They wouldn’t have lived through the frost. Now they’re in a greenhouse.img_1813

This is what the scene looked like to my camera when I got started. I drew it before I took the photo. The photo looks a lot different than what I drew, so I’m not sure if my perspective is right or if the camera’s perspective is better. I decided my painting doesn’t need the  hedge and close up fence that show in the photo. It might be too much darkness on the bottom of the canvas for a good composition.

The James River isn’t showing in the photo, but if you step 15 feet to the right you can see  it and I wanted to show it in my painting. I hoped after the frost I’d be able to see more of the river when leaves came down, so I mixed my colors for the river and painted it in, knowing I was going to cover it with trees and have small peaks of water showing. I used my artistic license there. If I copied the photo the river wouldn’t be in this painting.

That’s Willow Oaks Country Club golf course on Southside.img_1814

This is my underpainting in gray.

You can see where I stood my easel under a Magnolia tree and sat on the ground on an old beach towel to mix my colors. Cones were falling off the tree all around me but didn’t hit me or my painting. I kept my hat on just in case I got hit because those cones might hurt my head. It’s not as scary sitting under a Magnolia as it is being under a Walnut tree. I avoid the Walnuts trees! hahahahah  Trees dropping cones are a part of the life of your plein air artist. Is that a zen thing?

 

 

A Spray of Goldenrod by Charles Courtney Curran

At the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk VA.
At the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk VA.

It’s a great show of American Impressionists titled “The Artist’s Garden”. I drove to Norfolk yesterday to see it. The show ends in the beginning of Sept.

It’s exciting to see old Impressionism. There’s a lot of variations in the different artist’s styles. These artists had academic training. You can see it in the beautifully drawn female figures. An artist doesn’t get this kind of results by tracing a photo. This took years of figure drawing practice.

I wanted to see if the old Impressionists used glazes, and yes, I see layers of glazes in a lot of the paintings. Modern Impressionists don’t use glazes. This painting shows a lot of variation in the way the paint was applied. Some is glazes and some parts are painted thick.

The old Impressionists didn’t have a formula. I doubt this was finished in one day. They had inspiration. They were daring and groundbreaking. Modern Impressionists are in a big hurry to finish paintings because they think it makes them look “prolific”. They have a good level of successful paintings that are marketable because they have a formula, which they might call “streamlining” a painting, or “simplifying” or something like that. That’s why all modern Impressionists work looks the same. Modern Impressionists are on some kind of art treadmill. I want to paint like this guy, Curran.