Tag Archives: oil paint

Theory / Art is in the eye of the viewer.

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Is this art or not art? I can’t make the call. I’m letting the viewer decide and I’d like my blog to be a no b.s. zone. That means anyone can speak freely without worrying about hurting my feelings or getting into an argument with me. I won’t censor anyone either.IMG_2448

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It’s untitled because I don’t want to influence your decision. If I titled it “nonrepresentational” the viewer would look at it as a pure design. I could give it a title that would make the viewer think of some social or political issue. Then I’d be putting some meaning into your mind and it would be abstract.

What if I had some subject in the back of my mind when I did this but I don’t tell you what that idea was? You could take it to mean something of importance to you. Then you should title it and we can call it abstract.

I could give it a funny or catchy title to make people like it but I won’t do that because when I was in art school they told us it’s a sign of a weak painting if the title makes a difference. The painting should speak for itself. If the painting doesn’t speak for itself it’s weak.

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If anyone wants to critique it, I don’t care. My total lack of caring makes this kind of post modern. But really, blast it straight to h–l if you want to, or maybe you like it. To me it’s just another step out of thousands. I have no emotional attachment to it.IMG_2450

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Did you ever hear an art viewer say, “That’s not art, my 8 year old could do it.” Then the artist or art expert says, “Yes but your 8 year old didn’t do this.”

Doesn’t that sound like a lame argument? What a weak defense of a painting.

 

Swamp / oil / finished?

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Some thoughts about how to capture moving light:

When I got there around 8AM, the trees in the background had that nice broken light but the cypress knees in the foreground were in the shade. I had to start with the background and by the time I worked my way across the painting marking in light and shadow areas it all changed and the knees had good light, so I could continue defining light and shadows in that area. The light wasn’t good on any area very long and I work slowly so this isn’t reality but kind of idealistic.

I hear so many Plein air painters talk about capturing a moment and I can’t do it. Instead, I like to think I’m stopping time. It’s not really magic but an illusion. It seems like if I had to capture a moment I’d have to paint fast. The way that works for me is to slow waaaay down. Keep going back to the same place at the same time of day and the light will be the same. You can have 50 hours of 9AM to 10AM over the course of weeks, or, in my case months. Imagine that! If I’m there for 50 hours off and on, I’ve collected 50 hours of me not moving much or working fast, but standing in that beautiful spot. It’s mine boggling. It’s like breaking the laws of time and art and getting away with it.

I say I’m breaking the laws of art because it’s obvious I spent the time on this painting and the overlords in the art world don’t like to see a painting “labored” over. They think art should be fast and fun not hard to do and time consuming. They don’t understand a labor of love. They don’t understand that it’s good for your self esteem to work hard on something and finish it.

Also, I’m using my small brushes. oh no. IMG_2432

This cypress knee is the star of the show. the other parts are back up singers and musicians. Darn, this photo looks a little blurry. IMG_2433

This clump is working as a secondary focal point. It’s good to have something happening in the shadows because the viewer’s eye likes to rest in a shadow then go back around to the brighter contrasts in the light.

There’s another great view in the swamp I’d like to try to paint. The cypress knees are half green because they’re covered with lichens.

unfinished swamp painting / debriefing w details

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I got a start on painting the reflections. Now I feel better about it because that was a real hang up. I’d put some dark green in the reflections today, but it’s still smeary from yesterday, so, maybe later or tomorrow. That’s one reason I think amateur status is better for me than professional. There’s no reason for me to rush through something difficult. I imagine if I was a real pro and art paid the bills I’d hate it pretty quick, like a real job. hahaha I can’t take the pressure.IMG_2419

The sun was streaming into my apt when I took this photo. It’s showing the colors better. You can see some detail in the Spanish moss. I like to blob in some paint and scribble through it with my palette knife to make textures. The green needles on the left will get another glaze because that’s part of the foreground and still unfinished.IMG_2422

I like this section at the top left of the painting because it shows aerial perspective from far away and from close up it shows layers of glazes working. It’s a secondary focal point because orange and blue are complimentary colors. There’s a tint of orange in the leaves and that’s enough contrast with the blue to pull the viewers eye into that area to rest.IMG_2424

It’s fun when branches make windows and you can see the background between them. This is a way to give the painting more depth. The trees and branches are giving the painting rhythm. It could be a modern jazz rhythm because I can’t dance to it. (metaphorically speaking)

After I finally made some progress on the reflections I can visualize how to finish this painting  but it still needs a lot of work on the reflections and cypress knees in the foreground.

I feel like this painting reveals a lot about me if anyone can analyze it. It might look like realism to you but it’s not much like reality. I’ll see if I can get a photo of the swamp for you to compare to my painting when I finish it.

I think it’s not realism or impressionism. I sure didn’t capture a moment. I’m capturing a whole season. At no point in time did the swamp ever look like this. I’m trying to think what style or “ism” my painting fits into. would you call it contemporary classicism? abstract expressionism? I don’t want to sign my paintings any more. Anyone that knows my paintings will know this is mine.

swamp painting update

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This painting is testing me. I’m kinda scared but I will finish it.

Since I last posted an update on it, I’ve worked on it another 6 hours or so, and I don’t know if you can see the progress. I finished the background which I warmed up a little with a glaze of warm gray brown in the shadows on the ground and a lighter warm gray brown in the far away trees next to the sky. I added more light green to the tree tops in the middle ground, and went over the middle ground trees twice. That makes 3 times I painted the middle ground trees and background, once in the underpainting and twice with light and dark glazes. The middle ground isn’t finished. I haven’t painted the Spanish moss.

The weather is holding up my progress. One day it was cloudy when I got up and I almost wrote off the day but the sun came out later and I took my paints to the swamp and mixed some colors to indicate sunlight and shadows on the water. It was too late in the day to take my canvas over there because the light is best early in the morning. By noon the shadows are all washed out by light. When I got home I faked in some light and shadows on the water because it’s not easy to see them, so no one will ever know if they’re not right.

Yesterday it was sunny and cold in the morning. I said, YEAH! I’ll have it all to myself! A few people walked behind me and only said good morning, so I made some good progress on my trees then suddenly it was cloudy so I packed up and came home and worked on my trees at home for and hour or so. I mixed my colors at the swamp and had my previous layers of paint to go by, so I’m sure what I did at home will be ok. Sometimes I try to work on a painting at home then when I get back out I have to correct everything I did at home.

We’re getting a lot of cloudy and rainy weather. I might be able to work on the Spanish moss on Sunday. Then more rain until Wed. or Thurs.

The scary part is the water. I’ll have to paint reflections, maybe a lot of reflections. It could take a long time, I don’t know. I’m not sure how to paint the water but first I need to do the Spanish moss because it will also be reflected in the water.

One good thing about painting in this style is that every mistake can be corrected. If I can’t paint the water convincingly the first time I can paint over it. I should get a start on the cypress knees in the foreground before starting on the reflections because they will also be reflected. I’ll have to trace my trees and flip them upside down to get the reflections in the right place. Sometimes the reflections are like a mirror, a blurry mirror.

The last steps after the water will be to go over the cypress knees a second time and paint a lot of sticks. Last year in the winter I saw a beautiful red glow on the skinny sticks but I didn’t see it so far this winter. Maybe the atmospheric conditions have to be right, because I’m pretty sure it was the dead of winter and in the morning I saw the red glow. If it doesn’t come back I might fake it.

The slow pace of progress on this is ok for me. I have patience.

I have the painting propped up in the living room and I often glance over at it.  I can see what I need to work on next. If only the sun would come out for a few days, I’d be so happy. Meanwhile, I might try to do a watercolor at home. I have a little poinsettia that would make a good subject.

swamp painting progress report

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Half finished

It’s real nice painting outside when it’s in the 40s F. (cool for my Celsius reading friends) Not too many people walk across the overlook distracting me. My attention span seems to last around 2 hours. When I can see I’ve made some progress I start to feel the cold. I’m wearing layers, but standing still, except to sit on a cold bench sometimes for a break.

I went there twice this week and stayed 2 hours each time and got the background under control and started on the trees on the right. Tomorrow they’re calling for cloudy weather. That’s ok, I’d like to wait a day or so for this paint to dry before I go over it again. Giving a layer of paint time to dry helps eliminate the problem of “muddy colors” because you can put a warmer glaze over a cooler one,  cooler to warmer, lighter or darker, any direction you want it to go without mixing the paint on the canvas. Instead the viewers eye mixes the colors and sees a brighter gray, green, brown, orange, whatever.  That’s one trick to avoid muddy colors.

Another trick to remember is not to mix the colors with your paintbrush. Mix the colors with a palette knife on the palette. Keeping the colors clean, even if they’re gray. For this you need a brush for each color. Mixing colors with a brush on the canvas causes muddy colors, though I think artists worry too much about mud. (mud is part of nature)  Those two things make a difference to the eye of a trained art viewer.

We might get some rain next week. Hopefully, I can get back out there on Sat. or Sun. to work on this. If we get a few days of rain I’ll have to put this aside and find another project to amuse myself.

 

Chinese Paperbush / oil

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Do you ever get the feeling a painting is speaking to you? Because I think this painting has something to say, but I can’t interpret it. It’s talking too fast.

First it’s saying something about music, then it’s something about my life. Then it’s telling me something about blooming in the winter, refreshing cool air.  Something else about an altered state of consciousness that an artist gets into when they’re painting. It’s easier than you think it will be. What else?

What does it look like to you, dear reader? Is it only a representation of a pretty bush or does it have a message that you can see?

I went back to the garden 3 times since my last post to work on this in Plein air. I don’t know if you can see all the changes I made on it.

Chinese Paperbush / unfinished

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The bush will bloom soon. I saw it last year at the VA. Tech Arboretum right across the parking lot from my apartment, but I had another painting started at the time, so I planned to paint it this winter. The arboretum is convenient  now, but I’m planning on moving again. I’m excited to try capturing this pretty bush while I have the opportunity.

There’s not many people walking in the arboretum. I  took my yard sticks along and taped my paint brushes to the sticks so I could stand back and paint ala Matisse. If anyone saw me do that they might think I was crazy. It actually made it a little easier to paint that way than it was to sketch it with charcoal from a normal  distance . I felt secluded from view between trees, too.

I need to go back tomorrow if it’s sunny and work on the bush again. The light didn’t last long but it was brightly lit for an hour.

To do the background, I went to the arboretum with my paints, pallet and pallet knife and mixed the colors in Plein air then came home and painted it from memory, with my paint brushes taped to yard sticks. I really am starting to enjoy the extended brushes.

It only took a couple days for my background  to dry. This is the traditional way of painting except for the extended brushes and thick paint in the background. I used my Maroger medium today, covering the whole canvas with plain medium and painting my branches into the medium, which is called, “painting in the couch”. The medium “couches” the paint. The old masters used some variation of Maroger medium and they also painted in the couch. It makes the canvas slick, so the paint flows nicely.

If you like the smell of oil paint you will love the smell of Maroger medium. If the idea of inhaling toxic fumes scares you, then Maroger medium is not for you. It has lead when properly made but there are different recipes. The lead in the medium won’t hurt you unless you eat it. Cooking up a batch of Maroger medium indoors could poison you. I love the stuff. It’s great for painting in plein air. When I paint at home I run my can fan, which is an industrial strength air scrubber. If my hands get sticky I just stop and wash my hands. I remember hearing stories about a guy who got lead poisoning in PA. cooking Maroger medium but mainly people at the Adamstown hat factory. That’s where the saying, “mad as a hatter” came from, lead poisoning. I feel saner than ever before in my life, so, it won’t make you sick if you use it safely.

Windswept Trees / oil

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It’s raining here today so I enjoyed staying home and finishing this painting. I did the sketch weeks ago in plein air and painted at home ala Matisse, with my paint brushes taped to yard sticks, so I was standing back from the canvas and trying to control my brushes, which don’t always go where I want them to from a yard away.

I’m not going 100% modern on this painting since I used my Maroger medium and black to make the dark green grey of the trees. But I am going more modern by using my big brushes taped to yardsticks.

At art school, long ago, they told us to use black. The old masters used it, so it works ok if you use black like they did. And more modern artists, even Manet and others of his era used black successfully.  To make a black that isn’t dead they told us to mix equal parts Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue. The Ultramarine Blue is your darkest cool color and the Burnt Umber is your darkest warm color so you get a neutral black. If you need a warm or cool gray you can mix any other color into this black. We also were taught to use gray in glazes and if you layer warm  colors over cool colors, or cool over warm, after waiting for the first glaze to dry, you don’t get muddy colors but the viewers eye mixes the colors.

Sometimes you can’t just throw away the lessons of the old masters. I like to use the best ideas from the old and the new. Painting like Matisse, with the brush taped to a yardstick is fun and freeing. I’ll get out to draw and paint  in plein air again real soon, but I got distracted by bad weather and other fun art projects to do indoors. So, I was glad to finally finish this painting after waiting weeks for the background to dry.

Japanese Maple / oil

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Don’t you just love to see fall leaves backlit? With the sun shining through the leaves the tree looks like it’s plugged in and turned on!

I wish I was a better photographer because this is brighter in person than my picture makes it look.

I was standing on the shady side of the tree and I could see the branches but on the other sunny side of the tree all you see is a skirt of leaves.

This is another try at painting like Matisse in my quest to understand more styles of art than the traditional, which is what I was indoctrinated into at art school. I taped my paint brushes onto yardsticks and stood back to paint it. It’s fun and this time I felt like I had more control over my brushes than before. I’m still mixing different styles together in this painting. I did some glazing, which Matisse probably didn’t do. And I used gray even though most modern artists don’t like to use it. Matisse wanted his paintings to reflect some kind of emotion, but I’m not feeling very emotional these days.  If I was to represent any emotion it would have to be my love of this tree.IMG_2138

This photo shows my canvas hanging on the wall over a piece of packing material and a piece of checkered vinyl to protect the wall from my paint when my paint brush taped to the stick goes off. You can see my sketches taped up too. I did my sketches and mixed up my colors in plein air on the path by the tree, but the canvas was too large for that narrow path so I painted it at home ala Matisse.IMG_2135

This was the first step, the background. I didn’t do an underpainting, which is the traditional way. This background took over a week to dry because when you paint with the brushes taped to a stick the paint goes on thicker. After I looked at this while it was drying, I decided to kill the brightness a little so the background wouldn’t compete with the tree. I wanted it to fade back a little, so when it was dry I put a thin glaze of white over the yellow and green. I think  glazing with oil paint is verboten in modern art styles.  Once a juror that rejected a painting I entered said, “Don’t mix different styles together.” I needed to do a glaze here. So much for dumb art rules.