First I had to paint the flowers with white because the pinks won’t show up bright enough on the dark tinted paper since they’re semi transparent colors. Also, I couldn’t see the flowers well enough until I painted them to tell if they look like a good arrangement.
The background texture is from my modified fan brush. I wanted to make a look of pine needles on the ground
The scary part is the pinks. I mixed my colors in plein air sitting next to the azaleas and I think I have the closest pink to what it actually is, but it’s not as bright on my palette as it is in reality. Flower petals allow a little light to go through. They’re not 100% opaque because of the cell structure, if you know what I mean. The sun on the pink petals makes a brighter pink than you can buy in a tube of paint.
I need to do a color rough and see if the pink will be brighter if I use glazes of the two pinks that I have straight out of the tube.
First I need to go over this again and decide where to have shadows and where to have spotty sunlight. Then wait for that to dry before painting the pinks. I’m excited I got this far with the painting and might be able to finish it next week. It can dry this weekend. I’m going to PA.
As I’m sketching the flowers, I pick up information that a photo won’t give you. It’s not always easy to see the petals as separate shapes. I’m sure a camera would blend them together. I might be the only one interested in drawing petals separately but it could help me decide which direction to drag my brush on the painting, where the edges are if I want to keep edges. I’ll probably simplify the painting but I need detailed drawings.
Another thing a photo won’t make you aware of is that the buds and flowers come in groups of three. The stems are in threes too. The stems don’t go straight vertical but have some curve. Some of the petals have smooth edges and some have zig zag edges.
Now I realize that other plein air artists don’t care about separate petals. They’d go to the garden and start right in with slapping down some paint and finish the painting in a day or maybe less. I need the sketching time to figure out a plan.
The more flowers I sketch the easier it gets. I might need more flower sketches but maybe these are enough.
The two big azalea bushes I was standing between are in a kind of U shape where I can step off the path and stand between the bushes to sketch. These are on the shady side. I looked at the sunny side of the bushes and the sun was too bright on my white paper. It was blinding! I use the white paper last because it’s not great for sketching in plein air. Also when looking at the side in the direct sun all the flowers were lit equally bright. When I sketched the shady side it was easier on the eyes. I didn’t feel like going back to the car for my sunglasses.
As I was standing there for around an hour and a half to fill each of these papers with flowers, some spotty light fell on a few flowers at a time and it was much nicer to see than the bright glare of direct light. I decided to do my painting with spotty light. I’ll have to fake it on the sunlight if I paint this at home, but that means I can put as much sunlight in as I want to, because if I go back to the garden to paint the flowers will be different and I don’t know exactly what time the sun fell on any flower to catch it at it’s best.
So, yeah, and hour and a half on each sketch paper. That means I have around six hours in it so far and haven’t started painting yet. That’s one reason I can’t get in with a plein air group. Also, I don’t want to pay to join a group, I mean $35 to get your name on an email list? But they don’t like this approach to painting. They don’t want to go back day after day and do a bunch of sketches. But it’s a whole different process and if I ever sell a painting I’ll ask a lot more for it than their fast one day paintings would go for. They want their art openings to be “cohesive” which means the artists must conform. If all the paintings for sale are asking $300 and someone enters a painting and they want $1000 for it, the juror would reject it because they don’t want an artist to think their painting is worth so much more that any of the others.
I traced my flowers from the sketch papers and cut them out to arrange them on the paper I tinted for this painting. This step will help me decide if I need to draw more flowers or if this is enough. I want to have some flowers in the background too. If I can come up with a good arrangement then I’ll try to decide how much sunlight to put into the painting and where. I decided I want the spotty light to make the composition more than the flower shapes. If I can make a good composition with the flowers and light, I hope the viewer’s eye will move around the whole painting.
The colors don’t show up in the photo exactly as they are but you get the idea.
The flowers are thick paint and I used my modified fan brush again to add texture. You can see the difference between my background glazes which are thin and the flowers which are thick. That’s the traditional way of painting. If you use both thin and thick paint it helps give the illusion of depth and the viewer’s eye has something to compare. The viewer might not realize it but the painting might keep their attention longer with that contrast of paint thickness and texture.
You can see the thick paint of the dead leaves on the ground, the thin paint of my background glazes and the thick paint of the flowers compared to the solid lines of the branches.
There was a glare on the painting because of my shiny medium so I had to take the photo from the side instead of head on.
I’m not sure if I’ll go over the tree again or not. It might look like a lot of time consuming line work but its not that difficult and every time you go over a line it gets easier. Painting tiny lines always starts out a little awkward but by the time I’m done it goes fast. The secret is to thin the paint until its runny and have a coat of Maroger medium on the dry painting so you’re painting the lines on top of the slick medium. The background was dry and the medium is clear. If you paint a line where you don’t want one or if your line goes crooked you can easily wipe it off without destroying the background because of that layer of medium.
This close up shows the background vegetation, bushes, trees, whatever. I kind of faked that part. And it shows dead leaves on the ground. The ground is colors I mixed up in plein air and blobbed on at home and then scraped through with my palette knife to mess it up and give it a dead leaf texture. I mixed the colors for the background in plein air too and painted two or three gray greens and some sky spots then blended the edges with my modified fan brush. When the first glaze was dry I mixed up the lighter tint of burnt umber and faked in the bushes at home with my fan brush.
So far, the painting is monochromatic with three different textures.
You can see a few peeks of blue sky but the redbud is a short tree so when you see them from the road you don’t see sky through the branches. A redbud will blend in with the underbrush which hasn’t leafed out yet but it’s getting that more pink or red tint that shows up just before the buds become noticeable. I made my tree stand off the background with the contrast of lighter and darker burnt umber lines. I knew I’d need a background that was close to a middle value from light to dark for the more contrasty sticks to show up. This isn’t realism. They blend in with the underbrush in real life.
This is my modified fan brush. I cut the zig zag edge. Now I can paint five or more lines at once. It holds a lot of paint so when it’s loaded with nice thin paint and I’m painting in the couch, ( on top of the medium ) so I can do a background like this relatively fast. People that don’t know about the modified fan brush will think it took forever to paint all those lines and the hairy texture.
I got this far just in time because I think the redbud will be in full bloom this week. I’m excited because it’s almost finished. The purple flowers are next. I’ll need to underpaint the flowers with white first because the violet and amethyst paint is transparent and it won’t show up very bright on top of this background unless it’s on top of a layer of white.
We had some not good for plein air weather and I wanted to start the background for my painting at home but was undecided how to start. Every day I made up a new plan. Then I changed my mind again before I started. I wanted to wing it on the background because the real life background for this tree is too complicated and not a good composition from this side of the tree.
In my case it’s better to put a painting on hold until I have some kind of plan. Some artists would slap in a solid background or something fast and easy because the painting is all about the redbud anyway. They don’t like to overthink a painting. What’s the alternative to overthinking? Mindlessness? It seems like overthinking might give my painting a better chance of success. My mind runs constantly. I can’t stop it so I’m not fighting it. If I wanted to stop overthinking I might need to take some drugs for that.
I don’t like what I have here but I think I can save it. I didn’t paint the tree yet. I painted the background colors up next to my charcoal lines on gray blue pastel paper.
It’s going to rain today but I went over to the botanical garden to have a look at the tree and didn’t take my art supplies. I know I need to lighten up the background bushes and I’m dying to kill that orange mulch color. I was glad to see I still have time before it’s in full bloom. A lot of pretty trees are blooming around here. I don’t like to rush a painting, overthinking and all, but nature waits for no one. I want to paint the background first. That will help the tree seem to come forward in the painting. Looks like tomorrow will be good to paint in plein air. I should be able to finish this when it blooms right on time.
It doesn’t really look exactly like this. Even though I’m trying to paint nature as closely as I can, this is still my interpretation of the scene. If you got 100 artists who are called realists or naturalists or whatever to paint here, you would get 100 different versions. If I paint the same scene in a few years it won’t look the same.
The colors in this photo aren’t as warm as they are in real life.
If you saw the previous posts, did you notice there were no trunks on the trees across the creek? What if I wanted to simplify? Just make general shapes and not do detail? Those tree trunks wouldn’t be missed but I like them there because they are a design element of short gray vertical lines that remind me of a ladder on its side.
I don’t see nature as simple so I don’t like to leave it at the underpainting stage of general shapes.
The greenish yellow bush on the right is there to break up the line of the edge of the path. As I looked at my painting last night, I decided to kill that sharp edge a little.
This scribble is a stick bush. I did that with my palette knife. It’s another design element to make the viewer’s eye go to the path since the stick bushes follow the edge of the path.
First I used my modified fan brush to go over the whole sedge field again and unify it a little. The dark shadows were too dark. The field is more even than I had originally painted it. Today’s glaze was a correction and now I think its better.
I used the edge of my palette knife to scrape in these stems for the sea oats. The vertical sharp lines here and the softer vertical lines of the tree trunks across the creek are similar design elements, one in the foreground and one in the background. It’s already there. I didn’t have to do any composition, which isn’t my strong suit, all I had to do was copy the beauty.
We have had some great weather for over a week and I hope it lasts. Today I needed suntan lotion. Soon I’ll have to bring the bug spray.
At YAA they told us we have to do a finished background, middle ground and foreground in order to do a real finished painting. This is so the viewer’s eye can find a place of interest to rest by looking into the background.
YAA wasn’t a university but more like a trade school but very intense. They wanted us to learn the ways of the old masters. It’s good to give the illusion of depth in a landscape. That happens by using the tricks to create aerial perspective. You can use the same colors you have mixed for the foreground, just add some gray to make the background color.
I know some modern artists don’t like to use gray because they fear muddy colors. You can avoid muddy colors by mixing the colors on the palette with a palette knife instead of mixing the colors on the painting with a brush. Do I fear muddy colors? Hell no! Muddy colors aren’t bad if you use them right! That said, I often spend 45 minutes or so mixing my colors and adding a few drops of terpenoid in and mixing that until it’s smooth and even. It’s a slower process than modern art where you squirt the color out of the tube and dive right in with a paintbrush.
Don’t use any gray in the foreground colors. That will help separate the background trees from the foreground trees.
I used my modified fan brushes to add the texture to the background trees and dry brushed some branches into the sky. It’s a different texture than the one I made yesterday in the sedge with my palette knife. The heavier palette knife texture is in the foreground and the lighter fan brush texture is in the background.
Once I drove Rt. 66 from Springfield MO. to Santa Monica CA. I was in OK. and I saw these dead looking shrubberies by the side of the road, which had no traffic. I thought they fell off a truck and wondered why they didn’t pick them up since they were on the road. Then I saw so many of them I thought, these have to be tumbleweeds.
This is my plan for the next painting, the second time I sketched it, this time larger. The chalk is sand and the chalk dots are sea oats.
That’s how you start a painting in the traditional process, do a detailed drawing on the paper or canvas. When I was sketching a few people walked across the path at the top of the meadow to the right of center and I decided to try to paint a figure in to give it scale. I had already sketched in some sea oats that rise up over the path from this view. I decided to erase them when I paint and put my person walking in that spot on the path. This step is the time to plan and change plans. If I started in a rush to slap down some paint without doing the sketch then the painting wouldn’t work out as I hoped. Where would I put my person in?
That’s the only roots I have, the traditional ways of painting that I learned long ago. Some times I tumble along in the breeze trying to paint like a modern artist. This time I’m going to use paint brushes and take my time on it, not skipping any steps.
The background fade from pink to blue is a silkscreen blend. The flowers are oil paint done with my paint brushes taped to yard sticks and painted while standing back from the paper.
Blends aren’t easy to do. It takes skill to make a smooth even blend between two colors. I didn’t do the silkscreen. I worked in the art dept. of a silkscreen shop long ago and saved some flawed blends from the overrun. I only have one blend paper left. They made good backgrounds for a lot of different art projects over the years.
The owner of the shop had us do a huge art project every year that he could give away to the customers at Christmas. We had to reproduce a painting by one of his favorite artists. That was in the days before printing technology was as advanced as it is today. The silkscreens process couldn’t reproduce a watercolor exactly but we tried anyway.
I’m not sure if taping my paint brushes to yard sticks ala Matisse is helping me become a better artist or not but it is fun so I want to keep trying. It makes my brush strokes a little rough which is ok for this project.
This is the unfinished painting on my easel with my $5 flower pot. It was nice to go to the garden supply store and buy the little daffodils. I picked the one that looked like it had the most buds and sure enough, more and more buds are opening.
You can see my palette on the table with 3 greens mixed and thinned with turpenoid. Working the paint is an important step if you want to try the yardstick painting technique. Sometimes artists just like to switch up how they’re painting to keep it more interesting. It’s how to improve your art over the long run, try new things, learn from artists you like by trying to paint like them, and it keeps an artist from getting stuck in a rut doing the same thing all the time. It’s a challenge.
If the paint wasn’t thin it wouldn’t flow off the brush as easily as I like it to and painting with the yard stick brush extenders might be more difficult. I add turp slowly and keep mixing with the palette knife until it’s smooth and even. Then I need to go over it twice because the paint is more transparent. I don’t know if it shows up in this photo, but one coat of paint didn’t cover the silkscreen ink well enough. I had to do the second coat of paint to make my flowers as bright as I could get them and make the leaves show up better.
This was a fun project. I looked at the lichens close up and then refocused onto my black paper which was a yard away to paint. I had my brushes taped to yardsticks like my favorite artist, Matisse did. It’s a challenge to keep the brush under control from that distance and I think I’m getting better at that.
If you tape your brushes to yardsticks you have to give up some control though. Smears happen, or blips that you might not see ordinarily when painting. That’s part of it so if you give the yardstick paintbrush extenders a try don’t worry about making blobs, smears or blips where you don’t want them. It’s kind of liberating. That’s why it’s fun.
Lichens have some tiny holes in the center of cone shapes. They also have a leafy texture and a more flat texture.
I didn’t sketch them first with charcoal, I just tried to observe then it was almost like doing calligraphy from far away. It’s not easy to find your place in a clump of lichens focusing close up then looking away to paint. A couple times I got lost and faked it a little. I said to myself, “wherethehell am I?” But that’s a normal feeling for me. hahahahah not scary.
I made the bark texture with my modified fan brush. I tried to keep it neat but the paint that went in the wrong place and the different textures give the art viewer’s eye something to focus on.
The colors aren’t green enough in my photos. I tried taking the pix outside in natural light and the greens looked too gray. These shots are from indoor light and the greens are too warm. But you get the idea.
We’re in a winter weather cycle around here. Either it’s cloudy rainy or snowy or else it’s cold and windy if the sun does come out. The good days for painting in plein air are few and far between.