Tag Archives: process

returning to my roots with this project

haha I don’t have any roots. I’m a tumbleweed.

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.

daffodils on silk screen blend

for my blogging friends who have had enough winter weather already.

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.

lichens supersized / oils

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.

for the art viewer that likes to look at brush strokes

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.

Cyclamen / oils

I tried to paint like Matisse again by taping my brushes onto yardsticks and standing way back from the paper to paint. It’s fun! I had some problems with this painting, though. Not the yardsticks, the pink.

It’s impossible to mix this color. I tried every combination of the colors I had and put the painting aside because it was dull. That’s the one drawback about oil paint. When you mix colors you lose chroma (brightness). Eventually I went to the art supply store and bought a tube of “amethyst” by Michael Harding for $24. An expensive tube of paint, but I’ll need it in the spring when I try to paint some redbud trees.

You can avoid losing as much chroma as you might if you only mix your colors on the palette with a palette knife instead of mixing colors on the canvas with a brush. You also need a brush for each color. And you can avoid losing as much chroma if you build up layers of transparent glazes and let the viewer’s eye do the mixing. But the modern art way of avoiding loss of chroma is to not mix the colors at all. Just use the paint straight out of the tube!

When I put the painting on hold for a few days and went back to it, the petals and leaves were different so I had to kind of just wing it on top of my underpainting. This close up shows some fun leaf squiggles, smears and lines and blobs.

For the art viewer who likes to look at brush strokes, you might be able to see my layers, first the thin layer of underpainting and on top of that the thicker paint of the final layer.

I realized how I’m making the veins in the paint. It’s something I do without thinking, and big round brushes are ideal for this. You load up the brush with paint then go at it from the side of the brush, rolling the brush as you draw it across the paper or canvas. I hope you know what I mean. I should get someone to video tape me doing the brush roll thing, maybe you already do that if you paint. When I realized I was rolling the yardstick I thought I’m getting the hang of this.

This is the unfinished painting on the easel with the flower. I went larger than life. Larger is easier especially when you have your brushes taped to yardsticks.

Poinsettia on blue w close ups

I’m trying again to paint like Matisse by taping my brushes onto yard sticks and standing back from the painting. When I start to paint like this it’s always awkward for a few minutes because it’s hard to control the brush from a yard away, then it gets a little easier and it’s fun. I can’t tell if it’s improving my skill or not. I’ll have to try it a few more times then look back some time in 2021 and compare my paintings, see which ones to keep and how they look compared to painting at a normal distance.

This is a focal point, green dashes next to red lines on the dark background where some of the black paper is showing through.

I went over the whole paper twice. The poinsettia I painted last week was only one layer of paint and finished in one day. This time I painted the flower, and the gray blue background. When I stopped and looked at it I thought it wasn’t bright enough. The alizarin crimson is a transparent color and one coat didn’t cover the black paper enough. You can see the layers of reds in this photo. I waited for it to dry one day before going over it again.

Here’s a little hairy red smear that doesn’t need to be fixed on top of a red smear over green. oops,

If you don’t mix your paint colors on the paper by deliberately blending with your brush, you can get some overlap of complimentary colors with wet paint smearing together and you don’t instantly get a muddy color. Just leave well enough alone. I hope that makes sense. It might give the viewer’s eye something to focus on if they like to look into the brush strokes.

This is another focal point, bright next to dark, red next to green, small next to large strokes.

This is my unfinished painting on my table with the flower, my sewing machine behind it.

I’m blocking the sliding glass doors to my balcony with the table but this is a North light so the shadows don’t change all day. It’s not a direct light. The balcony of the apartment above mine is blocking the light then there’s trees on the other side of a fence also blocking the light. It looks like plenty of light in this photo but I felt like I was painting in the dark. I could hardly see what I was doing until I had the background started, especially on the black paper.

Sea Oats / palette knife practice w. close ups

I tried to make mental notes of the colors I needed when I sketched this in plein air then painted it at home. The color looks good in the photo for the sea oats but the background isn’t showing up green enough and there’s a lighter area showing on the right because of a glare.

For the background I wanted to give a color and texture of pine needles. For the sea oats I wanted to make a fuzzy texture .

This photo shows some of the paint texture.

It seemed like the painting went fast on this project. I worked on it for around 5 hours, which isn’t really that fast, just fast for me, because I often have 30 or 40 hours in a painting. So I like the palette knife for that. It’s not easier than painting with a brush, just different. This was a simple experiment.

The palette knife makes the project faster because I painted right on top of my sketch. Usually I redraw my sketch and then redraw it again on the canvas. This way I saved a lot of time because I didn’t prime a canvas which is a multi step process with sanding the canvas, painting gesso on it and sanding it again then tinting the canvas. That part needs to be spread out over two days or more. This way I could jump right into painting.

It’s nice not to have to clean the brushes. That is a job.

Paper is working out to be more conservative than canvases, So the palette knife is practical on a lot of different levels.

I am using more paint than I use normally. That’s one drawback to the palette knife.

The palette knife is fun, though, so I’ll do more.

Battery De Russy w. close ups

At first it was kind of scary, then it was fun.

I knew my lines would get all crooked painting with the palette knife. I tried to keep them as straight as I could but when you try to paint on top of lumpy paint from the previous palette knife glaze, you just have to stop worrying about straightness at some point.

It probably doesn’t matter if my perspective is off either. I don’t know if this is some kind of abstract or any kind of realism or what it is if it fits in some style of painting. The palette knife gives it a whole different look than I’d have got with brushes. To me it’s a wavy feel.

I don’t know if this shot is giving you all the grays in the dark. I used warm and cool grays on top of warm grays on top of cool grays. Some of the lower layers show through and the viewer’s naked eye can mix the tints and shades of gray to see a gray that’s alive and moving, not a dead gray.

I considered not painting the railings but then I decided the battery needed them. I knew they would be rough going on top of all those lumpy layers but I kind of got them in. I’m glad I gave it a shot.

This is the grass and path. It was fun glomming the paint on real thick with my palette knife. I mixed the colors of paint on my palette and only mixed them a little on the canvas with the knife and added some texture.

This shows you how out of control my lines got and some texture in the background, that might or might not be a ghost.

November sky

Darn it, this photo is too dark. I had the camera set on auto.

This is a close up of the sky for my painting of the battery De Russy. I was putting it off because I couldn’t decide how to paint the sky then we had a whole week of cloudy rainy weather and I had fun goofing around doing experimental palette knife paintings. One thing I decided was that I didn’t want hard edges on my clouds. I wanted to try to paint the thin wispy clouds we often have around here, maybe get some haze into the sky.

My coat of blue paint was dry. I decided to wing it at home with no good sky to copy because it’s raining again. Tomorrow the sun will come out but it will be windy so I still can’t paint at the battery because it’s too hard to control a large canvas in the wind. It’s like wrestling with a sail.

First I put a coat of Maroget medium on top of the blue then I used my palette knife to scrape a real runny thin glaze of white all over the sky leaving a couple holes where the blue shows through. Then I tried lifting off some excess paint so I could make the clouds thinner but the paper towels I used to blot up the paint left a dotty pattern in the sky, so I used the paper towels to rough up the dot pattern a little.

I thought about adding more white or maybe some light gray. I don’t know, maybe I should leave well enough alone.

Battery De Russy progress report w photos from Ft. Monroe

This is the first coat of paint on top of my underpainting. The underpainting of the battery was a wash of cool grays that I painted with a brush. This layer is warm grays that I painted with a palette knife. I need to go over the whole thing again and make adjustments. I’m excited to see my progress so far. The next step is to go over the sky again. I’d like to make some clouds.

This is what the battery looks like to my camera. Yesterday when I left home the sun was coming out but by the time I got to the fort it was foggy. I worked on my painting a little while anyway and took this photo so you can compare my perspective drawn with my naked eye to the camera’s perspective.

This lighthouse is at Ft. Monroe. It was built in 1802. It’s still operational and automated since 1970 something. They called it Old Point Comfort.

This is the moat around the fort. There are some pretty views of it and I might try to do a painting of it eventually.

This is the way into the fort. I can get my car through with just inches to spare.

underpainting for battery de russy

II might still make corrections on this perspective.

When I went back to the battery yesterday I meant to take a ruler and correct my lines but I forgot it, so I just thought, hell, I’ll try to paint it from what I got transferred. So much for perfectionism. I strive for it but will never achieve it and I don’t worry about it too much. This will come out looking more like my interpretation of the battery than any photo realism.

The underpainting is in the complimentary colors of the ones I’ll paint on top of this. The battery is a warm gray because it’s concrete and weathered, so I painted it with cool grays first. The sky is a light tint of burnt umber because that’s a warm color. Now when I paint blue on top of this the blue will look brighter. The ground is a slightly darker tint of burnt umber because that’s what I saw under the grass. Sand.

If you want to paint with grays you need a good black to start. An equal amount of burnt umber and ultramarine blue make the best black. You’re mixing the darkest warm color paint with the darkest cool color and your black isn’t a dead black. Then you can mix white in for grays and make neutral grays or you can add any other color you want to and your grays will have some life. If you layer the grays warm then cool or cool to warm you’re also layering tints of complimentary colors which makes the grays look kind of pearly. The art viewer might not realize why the colors are pearly they just won’t get tired of looking at it as soon as they would if you only used flat grays. It makes the grays vibrate visually on a very subtle level that film can’t capture and computers can’t show you either.

Next step. I can do the sky at home. I’ll go back to mix colors for the grass next week. If I get my grays and greens mixed in plein air and start putting the colors in with my palette knife in plein air I’ll be able to see if it’s working out and might be able to work on it at home next week.