Tag Archives: plein air

pastel studies of butterfly ginger

I changed my mind.

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 have 5 studies of these flowers now. That should be enough.

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.

Butterfly Ginger

I’m trying to get used to the new editor. This is my second try with this post.

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.

second dancer

Man this new block editor is driving me nuts. Blocks show up on top of my text and I don’t know how to make them go away. If anything shows up on the post, I don’t care.

This is my second dancer. I’ll transfer this and the first one to a larger paper later. I might draw the dancers from the other side or I might draw a flower that’s blooming and I liked it last year. The finished dancer painting won’t happen for a while. I haven’t made a definite plan yet, like which medium to use. And there’s another drawing I started a couple years ago at Fort Monroe that I’d really like to finish if I can get through that tunnel traffic. If I run into a traffic jam I give up. I’ll go somewhere else. The dancers would be best completed in the winter so my easel isn’t blocking the path. I can hold this size sketchbook in my one hand and draw with the other but a large piece of paper would need my drawing board and easel.

That’s only one decision out of hundreds. I’m also thinking of the background. My models are on a pedestal so they’re no where near the ground. If I draw them on the garden path will it look like they’re floating? I guess it will if I don’t connect the figures to their shadows. It seems to me like their breasts defy gravity pointing to the sky like that. I didn’t make the sculptures. I just draw them as I see them. hahaha They could be nymphs. I guess nymphs could float off the ground. I might go with the antigravity idea.

figure drawing, a start

Crap, I got switched to the block editor.

 
ok, I'll try to use it.

Twice I was heading over to Fort Monroe to work on a drawing that I started a couple years ago when the strange atmosphere of the place freaked me out and I gave up on the drawing. It's an old fort and was under Union control in the Civil War. The battery I was drawing is freakin spooky. Yesterday and today I wanted to go there but it's on the north side of the Hampton Roads Tunnel and there was a big traffic jam both times. It wasn't rush hour. I didn't want to sit in the jam so I went to Norfolk Botanical Garden and walked a little since it's close to where I abandoned the highway traffic mess. I'll try for Fort Monroe after Labor Day some time in Sept. Hopefully the traffic jam will be gone by then. I don't know why there's so often a jam up there on 64W but it's enough to keep me on Southside.

I remembered Norfolk Botanical has a great sculpture of these two beautiful girls dancing so I started a sketch. My luck in the garden wasn't much better than the highway. As you can see, I didn't get very far with the sketch. I saw a mosquito on my arm. At first I was in the shade then 10 minutes later the sun was beating down on me. I almost went back to the car for my bug spray then I thought, oh well, I'll try to get over there earlier tomorrow and remember to use the bug spray. These are the problems of your plein air artist. It doesn't always go as you hoped with the weather and the bugs.

Well, if you're interested in this drawing technique here's the start. First I decided to draw the head 1.5" because that's about the smallest I can draw it, so I marked 1.5" sections down the paper. This way of measuring the figure using the head as a unit of measure keeps the figure in proportion as you're working on it. The ideal figure has 7 heads. The foot holding the weight is below the chin. The nipples are at the second head, except not this figure because I'm looking up at her so they're above the second head. The pubic mound is at the 3.5 mark on the figure as indicated on my sketch by the v. I put it approximately where it needs to be in line at the back of the head. To get that placing I held my pencil straight up and down and lined it up with the head. I hope you can visualize what I'm saying. To measure the proportions of the figure you have to hold your pencil out at an arms length. Rest your arm on the sketchbook. Rest the sketchbook against your body. If you take an easel out to draw, rest your arm on the easel. Close one eye and put your thumb on the pencil at the bottom of the chin. Then lower the pencil and check the proportions. Live models vary from the ideal. Don't feel self conscious about standing there holding a pencil out at arms length and closing one eye. It's the best way to start a figure drawing. I often was in open studio figure drawing groups and most artists don't use this technique to draw the figure. But if you want to be accurate it helps. Then start blobbing in the general shape with charcoal. Get all the figure roughed in before starting to refine it with line work. 

I didn't get the first steps finished today because of the mosquitoes. So far I'm not itchy. 

Baby, these are some beautiful girls dancing. And the poetry on the base is uplifting. This is what it says.

There are
so many gods
so many creeds
so many paths
that wind and wind
when
just the act of being kind
is all this sad world needs.

Arther Morris 1862 - 1920

panoramic dune paintings with close ups

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left

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center

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right

Finally finished! time to celebrate!

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This is a close up of the small piece of ocean you can see from there. I always see a texture on the ocean. This could be white caps or sparkles. I’ll let the viewer decide if it looks like either one of those. Maybe from far away. Also, you can see the texture of the grass I made with the Inktense pencils.

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This is the leaf texture I made with masking fluid to save the lighter leaf colors and use a dark green to darken the shadows. The grass texture in the shade was made with my modified fan brush and masking fluid.

I enjoy making textures. Masking fluid is a great product for that.

Some things I can use from my old school training are how to make a feeling of light by working on my shadows. If you use the full range of values from black to white and put the darkest shadows in under some lighter contrasting shapes, leaves, the viewer gets the feeling of sunlight, and depth. Could you walk in there and get out of the sun? Maybe, but you’ll need bug spray.

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This shows a sand slide. The smoother sand is the part that slid down and the top inch or two of the rougher sand is the part of the dune where it broke. I hope you can see what I mean.

I like the way that the dunes mimic the ocean with their wavy shapes and their rising and falling with peaks and breakers, if you can imagine it.

dune painting and wildlife report from VA Beach

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When I was driving down the Sandbridge Rd. this morning a deer crossed the road in front of my car. I saw it from far away, a doe, as it walked across the ditch. It didn’t jump, just walked. Then as I was driving down the Back Bay rd. a big sand crab crossed the road.

A couple days ago I had to come to a stop on that road for a big turtle.

One day last week I was walking down the gravel road to my overlook and I saw something brown in the grass next to the road, not moving, and I wondered what it was. It was a big rabbit and not your ordinary wild rabbit but one with real pretty tortoise shell  colored  fur. As I got closer it didn’t move but kept on eating the grass. I walked by it only 3′ away and it didn’t run.

There is a bumper crop of dragon flies down there and one flew right into my neck! You can see hundreds of them buzzing all around this scene.

It was hot when I got there at 7:30 but there was a nice breeze which made it more tolerable. Now it’s hot as hell out there.

I’m almost finished with my dune painting triptych. This is the center section, finished.

dune paintings debriefing

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This morning I worked on the top part of the dunes adding some Inktense pencil to draw some grass. I also put a second glaze on the sand in the light areas and the shadows. The foliage on the bottom of the paper needs more work. The sky and sea are finished.

I can’t tell if I messed it up or not. I can’t fix it so I have to continue. An old dude (birdwatcher)  is watching my progress almost every day. He asked me if I sell my paintings and I said no. The first few times I saw him he didn’t talk much then once he talked a lot. If I don’t tell him I’m not sure if it’s working he’ll think it’s great. Anyway, I don’t really fear failure and if it is a failure let it be epic. That’s my attitude.

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This is the left panel of the triptych with one layer of glazes. To make my shady sand color I painted a thin glaze of gray with burnt umber. Then today I used a blue gray glaze  on top of the first layer. And I went over the light sandy color again today before scribbling in the dark green Inktense pencil lines. I think the two glazes in the shadows of the dune looks like a good gray now. The viewer’s  eye can see both  the blue and the brown glazes mixing together. The viewer might not actually notice the two glazes but it makes more interesting shadows.

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This is the center section of the triptych with one layer of glazes.

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This is the right section of my panorama with one layer of glazes.

The funny thing about painting a triptych is that even though I want the paintings to be hung in order and close together so it looks like a panorama, there’s no guarantee it will get hung that way, so just in case some idiot curator can’t hang it right, each piece should be strong enough on it’s own.

Now, you may say, “Chris, why are you so hard on curators?”

I’ll give you  a couple examples.

Years ago, I drew my skull of a bull with pastel, the skull facing left, center and right to be a triptych. The 3 pastels were strong, colorful, bold and kind of moody. I entered a national contest in Boulder CO. and all 3 were accepted! I was looking forward to it because I thought my pastels would dominate the show. I got plane tickets and made reservations for my Mom to go with me to Boulder for the opening. We got there a day early and I rented a car and wanted to find my way to the venue in the day so I wouldn’t get lost at night. I went in to get a sneak peek at the show and only one of my pastels was hanging. I might add that it was a big job packing all 3 in one big box and shipping them out there. I asked the person in charge of hanging the show where the other two of the triptych were since 3 pieces got accepted and were so large it would be hard to miss 2 of them all in the same box. The lady said they had migrant workers unpacking the boxes and they must have missed the other two. I had labeled it extra large, 3 pastels on the box. They had to send someone up to their storage unit in Fort Collins to bring my other two pastels down to Boulder and then they weren’t hung together as a triptych but spread around the show. I guessed they weren’t expecting me to show up from Virginia. This is why if you enter a show in another state you have to go, or your painting might not get hung at all.

 

One time in Richmond I entered a triptych in a show with a Richmond city theme. I did oils on smaller canvases of the skyline and the river. I guess they didn’t have enough entries for the show because they spread my 3 paintings out over a 12′ wall, so the effect of a panorama was lost. For a triptych the paintings should be hung with only a couple inches between them.

ok, enough of my complaining. This triptych might never get entered so, no more of that aggravation.

 

plan for dune paintings panorama

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I don’t know if you can see it well enough in this photo. As I was working on these separate pieces of sketch paper I was putting the others in my bag loosely and the charcoal and chalk was rubbing off inside the bag. No big deal, these are only sketches that I’ll never frame. They got messed up with sweaty fingerprints too. This is 4 pieces of sketch paper each 11″ x 14″ with a 4″ piece of a gray paper added to either side because I need 64″ across for my panorama but I ran out of the tan paper.

The watercolor papers are 15″ x 22.5″ so if I deduct a few inches from 3 x 22.5″ because I’ll staple them to boards, then when it’s all finished I’ll have to trim off the staple holes, I’m figuring roughly 64″. I’ll transfer this to the watercolor paper tomorrow and I might have to redraw at the beach a little before I start painting, but the hardest part of the planning stage is under control now.

I made some notes of colors I think I’ll need. And I want to do a couple practices for that little triangle of ocean showing between the dunes on the left.  The ocean looks gray and it has sparkles. It’s far away but still sparkly.

The chance of rain goes up over the next few days. I’m hoping for a blue sky with light clouds. That will be the first step in the painting. If the weather cooperates, it might not take long to paint my 3 pieces of the triptych, or it could take weeks.

the path to the beach

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That’s the ocean in the background.

I bought two big sheets of watercolor paper for my dunes now that I have a few sketches I can use. I’m planning a triptych. I want to show more sky in the watercolors than is showing in my sketches and it would be great if I could make the three paintings of the triptych  look connected. The watercolor paper is larger than my sketchbook so I’ll be able to extend my sketches on both sides a little.

I’ll have to haul my watercolors supplies down a path but not real far, I/4 mile or so, I guess. I can use my beach cart. I’m not sure if I can take all three pieces out with the paper stretched on boards, or if it would be better to work on one at the beach and the other two at home. The three watercolors will be a big job for me. I’m not sure how to paint that little bit of ocean and I’ll have to decide how to do the sky.

The bugs were after me this morning. Now I’ll have to start taking bug spray along too.

This plan seems like a lot of work but I think it will be worth it. Just hanging around there is worth the drive.