Tag Archives: magnolias

magnolia study and plan

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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.

Magnolia buds opening / pastel studies

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The weather can change suddenly and dramatically around here this time of year. I have to adapt my Plein air painting plans to be prepared for anything. Last week we had some nice days, then rain, then torrential rain, then gale force wind on Fri. When it stopped raining I wanted to make some progress on my plan for the Magnolia painting but I couldn’t take my canvas out there, (it’s like trying to wrestle a sail in the wind) so I put my palette and paints and palette knife in my rolling Ikea cart and went to the garden to mix some colors for the underpainting for my background Southern Magnolia tree. The cart was no problem in the wind.

I was glad to get out and mix colors but didn’t start painting yet. I saw the buds are opening and thought, “Yikes! This could happen early this year!” What if the tree blooms and I haven’t finished the background?! The wind knocked down a lot of pink petals and unopened buds. You never know in Feb. We could get more freezing weather, or it could be like spring. The flowers could last weeks or only one week. Now I see more buds starting, so if the weather is good the tree could be in bloom for a whole month.

Either way, I decided to do some flower sketches to be on the safe side. I have a bunch of sketches from last year. Maybe tomorrow I can do a few more sketches of buds opening. Then if they’re gone before I get my background finished I can use my sketches to paint the flowers at home instead of in plein air.IMG_2453

This is how I arranged my palette. The colors at the top of the photo are for the southern Magnolia tree, trunk, branches and leaves. The colors on the left are for the other side of the tree, dark greenish black for leaves in the shade and lighter tan and light green for the spaces where you can see all the way through to the distant background. The light warm brown and dark brown lower in the photo are for the mulch under the tree, dark in the shadows and light where the sun shines. I put little pieces of plastic wrap over the paint to keep it workable in case it’s a few days till I get around to starting the painting.  Oil paint can stay good for weeks with plastic over it. Mixing my colors in advance is a necessary step in this process.

I like this large palette. It was meant for water soluble medium but I replaced the sponge that came in it with a piece of glass. I put duct tape on the back of the glass because it’s easier to see the colors and values I’m mixing on gray than it is to see colors on white background.  It has plenty of room for me to mix a lot of colors, then when I get them arranged around the sides I still have enough space in the center to thin the paint. This big palette fits nicely in my Ikea cart.

When I was in New Mexico at art camp the organizer talked about limiting the amount of supplies, colors of paint, etc. that he takes out to paint. I don’t take all my tubes of paint, but I can take much more out there because I’m not carrying it on my back like a regular plein air pochade box. The palette, brushes, easel, turpentine, paper towels, water bottle, etc, all fit in my Ikea cart.  I can go farther from my car with more gear and not get as tired. Plus, another thing I like about my get up is, my easel has spikes on the legs and the pochade boxes don’t have spikes which makes them more likely to blow down in the wind.  Pochade boxes have small palettes but most Plein air painters don’t mix up their colors in advance. They squirt out blobs of color and dip their brush in, mixing colors with their brushes instead of a palette knife. Mixing colors with a brush is a no no if you want to avoid muddy colors. Yeah, I don’t care if I’m not stylish with a pochade box. My Ikea cart and paint clothes make me look like a homeless woman.  hahaha I don’t think anyone else cares either.

 

Magnolia Branch w Buds / sketch

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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.

 

Magnolias getting floppy / pastel and chalk

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These flowers are huge. I’m sketching them life size on 9 x 12″ paper and they’re running off the edges. When I do a painting of this next year I’ll have to paint them smaller but drawing large is easier than painting small. These are for practice.

Vine charcoal doesn’t work well on this dark paper so I have to skip that step and block in the general shapes with pastel and chalk. The more flowers I draw the easier it’s getting but these sketches still took around two hours each.  For my painting I need about three times the number of magnolia studies I have. Then I can eliminate the ones I don’t like. The tree has some buds so I might be able to get a couple more sketches in before they all turn brown and fall off. I’ll have to go back next year and do more. IMG_2232

Spring has sprung around here.

Magnolias wide open / pastel and chalk

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Last time I saw this tree all the flowers turned yellow overnight. It still had a lot of buds. Now all the second buds are open and it looks like the cold didn’t damage them. The tree is more beautiful than before. I hope I can get more sketches before they wilt. But it’s pretty even when they get yellow.IMG_2227

My next apartment is on the other side of town from the botanical garden so I want to get flowers sketched until I move. Then I’ll be hanging around at the ocean front more. I’ll still go to the garden but not as often.

 

Magnolias in the rain / happy accident

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When I got to the tree today I was surprised to see that a lot of the flowers are turning brown before they open but it’s a nice yellow ochre. I think the one on the left is a bud I sketched a couple days ago. I was glad I brought a yellow ochre pastel along.

Before I left home I checked the weather and there was a 5% chance of rain with the chance going way up in a few hours so I thought I could get a little sketching in. Guess what 5% I was under.

It started as a few drops and I continued to sketch. Then it was a pretty good shower and I took shelter under a tent for a few minutes hoping it would stop raining. It messed up my sketch and I thought about giving up for today. Then it eased up some so I finished the sketch.

I couldn’t blend or do any erasing on that flower on the left. The rain made my pastels run and smear. I thought WOW! This rain is giving my sketch that fast loose happy accident look so prized in the art world these days! Maybe I should draw in the rain more often! Crazy though it seems.

Magnolias till they drop

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My goal this month, besides moving, is to sketch as many magnolias as I can. Next year I’ll do a painting but the more flower sketches I get in advance, the better.

It was cold out there yesterday and even colder today, so I might get back to the tree this afternoon, but I’m not sure if I will.IMG_2220

This is one reason why my paintings aren’t marketable, they take a long time in the planning stage. People seem to want art to be spontaneous and fast. They don’t want to pay for the time it takes for me to finish a painting but if I could ever sell a painting I expect it to pay the rent. I’d rather throw my  old paintings away when I move or give them to my friends than sell them cheap.

Yesterday I worked on this sketch for about an hour and a half and got this far. First I blocked in the general size and shape of the flowers with the side of a small piece of charcoal then erased the excess and drew some lines. Then I erased the lines that were in the wrong place and redrew my lines. Then I erased again when I started in with pastels. Now you may say,” Chris, Why don’t you learn to draw faster?”  I’d say, “If I liked to rush I wouldn’t have moved to Virginia in the first place, I’d have gone to New York. Also, why rush if you have the time and you enjoy what you do?”

Sometimes I think I can give in to peer pressure and paint fast, but why should I? I like my  nonprofessional, “amateur” status and can’t conform to art society rules for very long, when I do try.

Between these sketches and the ones I do next year for the painting I’m planning, I could have 20 hours or more in the sketching phase. My painting won’t come out like I want it to if I skip this step.