Tag Archives: process

magnolia painting / debriefing w details

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This gray branch is an underpainting for the magnolia with the bright pink and white petals, on top of the Southern magnolia background. I’ll underpaint the flowers in gray next. There’s no avoiding this step because the pink for the flowers is alizarin crimson which is a transparent red and I need the flowers to be opaque on top of the background. One coat of paint won’t do it. First I have to paint it in gray then the red will show up brighter.

To paint these branches I had to put a coat of Maroger medium over the dry canvas first, then paint the gray on top of the medium. That’s what they call “painting in the couch”. The medium couches the paint. I almost skipped the medium but then was glad I used it because I had to redraw my branches with paint a few times to make them graceful. With the Maroger medium on there I could easily wipe off the lines that didn’t go right. It’s easy to make corrections with Maroger medium. You don’t destroy the layers of paint underneath the medium when you wipe some of it off because those layers are dry.  And the medium dries enough over night that you can paint on top of it the next day. Plus, it smells great! (Not everyone likes the smell, it’s kind of strong for indoors, but I have a good air filter running and it’s ok for me.)IMG_2492

This little section could be a secondary focal point because the leaves and branches make a window for the viewer’s eye to go into the more heavily textured paint which is the mulch under the tree with sunlight and shadow.  The eye will compare that texture to the smoother leaves and the brush strokes of the tree. This area shows contrast from black to white which helps make it a focal point. A couple red buds will be coming in on the little branches, so the eye will also have the contrast of red and green in this spot.

The weather hasn’t been good to paint outside. I’m doing this at home, but that’s ok, I did my sketches and mixed my colors in Plein air so I think it will work.

Magnolia painting update

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This shot looks a little fuzzy. It’s hard to photograph because my Maroger medium makes it shiny, so I took this shot in the dark of my dining room without a flash. The shutter was open a long time. The other photos had a glare. This painting could be a challenge to get a good photo even for a pro photographer.

The background is finished but not the Southern magnolia in the middle ground. I worked on it at home a couple days since the weather wasn’t good to paint outside, but wasn’t happy with the green leaves. I knew I had to go back to the tree and do leaf studies. Today it’s nice out so I got some leaf practice in and mixed up a few leaf colors. I think I can improve on it before I put the bright pink flowers on top of this.IMG_2478

Today’s leaf studies, oil paint on watercolor paper.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is good then 3 days of rain. This might be enough leaf studies so that I can paint at home again, but I could go over to the garden tomorrow and do a few more leaves and mix up my pink flower colors to save for next week.

The cold took a toll on the flowers. They’re turning an orange brown and drooping. A few buds still look ok. The orange brown petals are pretty too. I’m undecided if I should paint some of the fading blooms or make all  my flowers fresh and pink.

My tree needs a lot more leaves before I paint the branch with the pink flowers. And I need to make my leaves better defined, more like this study.

I think my pink flowers will show up real bright on top of this dark background but I might have to go over them 3 times, the first time as a gray underpainting on top of this then 2 coats of pink and white.

underpainting for magnolias / story

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My life has been weird so far. I see a lot of strange things, people tell me strange things, weird stuff happens around me that leaves me thinking w.t.h. just happened. Normally I don’t talk about it because I don’t want to worry others, but this is too much. I’ll tell you what happened yesterday.

I was home working on my painting and taking a break to heat up some food in the microwave when I heard a LOUD bang! I looked around but had no idea where it came from. I was blaming the guy upstairs when I heard a knock at my door. It was a guy who looked scared so I opened the door. He asked me if I’m ok. I said yes I’m ok, what happened? He said he was cleaning his gun and it went off! (the idiot) I asked him where the shot went and he said about 5 feet behind me. I looked but didn’t see a bullet hole. He said it must have gone into a beam. The guy wanted to come in and talk to me. I said no. Then he offered me $500. He was afraid I’d call the cops. I don’t want to call the cops on my noisy neighbors, I think they’re soldiers and soldiers get a pass from me on the noise. The guy was very worried and kept apologizing over and over. He offered me the $500 three times. Normally I wouldn’t accept money but yesterday I said ok, I’ll take the money. It would probably be a $500 fine if I reported it and he would get in big trouble if he is in the navy, but I didn’t ask. So then he went back to his apt and got the $500 and brought it back up to me. He kept saying if there’s anything I need, to knock on his door any time.

Now this is only one story. Imagine if I told you hundreds of weird things like that. You’d think god was f—–g with me. I don’t know what to think. I’m not saying some supernatural power has any interest in me, but I certainly see a lot of coincidences and random flukes of the universe.

One funny thing about it was that when I was drinking my tea yesterday morning I was thinking about how there’s no need to worry about getting cancer from smoking. I’m smoking whenever I want to because there’s a million ways to die and I’m not afraid. I was giving myself a big pat on the back for being so fearless. Then my neighbor was probably worried I’d freak out.  I never freak out. I’m so calm it’s ridiculous. I should be a zen master.

This weird stuff that happens to me, I can’t keep it out of my paintings. There’s a dark and dangerous part of life that I stare straight at. I don’t try to put it in my paintings, but I can see it in there. I think the viewer can see it too but not identify it. It gives an interest to the shadows in my paintings. It’s not too scary for the viewer because they don’t know my weird life stories.

This is only a start on the painting. I’ve been packing to move in the end of March. I’d stay, but they’re making everyone move out one block at a time for renovations. Then the rent will go way up. I like the apt and no one is really bugging me, but the guy upstairs is noisy. It’s just not worth it to pay $200 more a month for the new appliances they’re putting in.

Hopefully the weather will cooperate and I can get back out to paint in plein air and finish this before I move. Or maybe I can paint it at home. I’ve made good progress on packing and still have plenty of time.

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.

 

Southern Magnolia / sketch

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This is what I’m planning for the background in my next painting.  This background will be mostly dark with spots of light showing through the leaves and some light on the ground. It has big dark green leaves that are shiny in the sun. Most of the leaves are on the other side of the tree so I’ll paint those sketchy and then make the leaves on this side more defined and shaped with more leaves showing on this side than I sketched here.

Kids like to go under this tree because it could be a neat fort with more magnolias around it. They can hide in the shade and peek out.

This Southern Magnolia in today’s sketch won’t bloom till summer but the other variety of magnolia that I drew the branch of  a few days ago will bloom soon. The buds are showing some red today.

I bought a 24 x 36 canvas for it. After I paint this for the  background I’ll paint the early blooming magnolia branch and flowers right on top of it. I think the red and white flowers will look good on top of the darker tree.

The weather forecast is cloudy tomorrow then 3 days of rain. After I sand and gesso the canvas a couple times, I’ll tint it gray and that might dry enough for me to start on the painting at home if it rains.

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.

unfinished from 2019 swamp update

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I swear I will finish this. I have excuses for the delay. Holidays, weather, lethargy, etc. Plus, this is the hard part and I tend to slow down even more when faced with it.

I painted some Spanish moss then put the painting aside for a week or more. I went to the swamp to walk and observe the reflections but didn’t take the canvas. I’ll have to paint the reflections at home so I can make them look like a dim mirror of the trees. There’s no need to take all my gear out there. It took me weeks to think this through.

I decided to make the reflections exactly mirror the trees because the water is flat, no movement. They should have fuzzy edges and not be as bright as the trees. The reflections should be the trees upside down and in the right places directly under the trees.  I tried to flip them using tracing paper and charcoal. The charcoal didn’t show up so I tried chalk and that worked. Now I can visualize the reflections on the canvas! It took hours.

The next big step that’s slowing me down is mixing the colors again. That could take hours. Then, painting the reflections will be slow because I want to go over the edges with my fan brush and slightly blend them.

After I get the reflections painted I’ll do another coat of glazes on the foreground and make it brighter.  I can go back to the swamp to finish the painting. Painting at home is boring compared to painting in Plein air. There’s too many distractions here too.

Now I’m really going to finish this. For sure. I promise.

 

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.