Tag Archives: unfinished

still life in progress, close ups

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This peach is one of the many focal points in my new still life.

I’ve been sitting far back from my easel and it looks like the still life has more energy than I do. I’m saying to myself, “Whoa, Nellie!” This thing could power the neighborhood!  Fortunately our electricity stayed on during the recent storms, and we keep getting more storms every day that aren’t as bad as the hurricane, but scarier because of more lightening hitting the ground out back, where the hurricane was a big wind but I’ve heard the wind howl much worse in the past, so I slept ok.

This photo shows the work I did on the background. First I filled in with a teal pastel then blended the teal color into the paper with my kneeded eraser. It’s sanded pastel paper so it can take a lot of layers of pastel but you have to blend down the first layer so you can build up on top of that. Then I tried some other colors on top of the teal on a scrap paper and I liked the tint of red violet with the teal. At first, I put a light layer of the red violet on it and then decided to make the layer heavier so I went over the background again. The red violet on top of the teal vibrates visually because they are close to the same value on the gray scale but different colors. I didn’t want a flat background because this whole thing is so strong the background needs to be strong too.

I’ve gone all over the whole paper 3 or 4 times, every square inch of it, to get the look I want.

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This flower. As I was rearranging my flowers every day to draw them this one had a few petals that got bent and I drew them bent. I considered trying to straighten them out but decided that I liked the way the yellow petals cut into the dark center of the flower, so I left the petals bent. Then later I was looking at it from far away and I thought, this flower is trying to communicate. What is it saying? I don’t want to tell you because maybe to you the flower isn’t communicating at all. Or maybe the flower is saying something totally different to you than it is to me. And it’s kind of personal and it might sound silly. And I don’t know if it came from my subconscious or if the message is for me or for the viewer.

Now I have to do the hardest part of the still life which is the reflections on the flower pot. I’ve been putting it off. I’m almost finished. Some days I work on it for an hour or so and some days I work on it off and on all day with frequent breaks because it makes my hand tired. And some days I just can’t concentrate on it at all.

ok. You want me to tell you what the flower is saying, don’t you. It’s signing, “I love you.” And I don’t know if it says that to people who actually communicate in American Sign Language. Where is the love coming from and who is it meant for? I have no answer to that. This still life has taken on a life of its own.

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.

 

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.

swamp painting in the swamp

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A lady walking on the trail behind me stopped to take this photo and emailed it to me. I think it’s better than my photos. My painting kind of blends in with the scene.

I’m so excited! It was nice out this morning and I made some good progress on it! I’m almost done! Just another week or so, after all this time! I think it was in Nov. I started drawing for the painting. And for so many years I wanted to capture the scene.

sketches and plans for my unfinished painting of the Chinese Paperbush

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Did I draw too many flowers? Or not enough? Do I even know what I’m doing? Those are the questions I’ve been asking myself as I stand outside in the arboretum sketching flowers for my painting of the Chinese Paperbush on 40*F days.

I’m dressed for the weather so 40* is ok for me to be out a couple hours on a sunny day, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to use these sketches. When I paint the flowers on my canvas they’ll be smaller. Am I wasting a lot of time in the rather nippy fresh air?

Half the time I think I can paint the flowers at home instead of taking my oil paints, easel, canvas etc over there. Then the other half of the time I think I have to take all my stuff and at least get started on it in plein air and maybe I can finish it at home, because I think painting the flowers might be time consuming.

It’s not that I’m really stuck with this difficult painting, I’m still working on it, but I’m not exactly sure how to proceed and I don’t want to mess it up since I already have a lot of time in it. When I was in art school so long ago, they told us if you don’t have a good plan worked out for your painting, do more sketches. I’m going back to my training on this one.IMG_2186

I worked on the branches at home for a few hours but I still want to go over them again after I get the flowers on the bush. The branches should be a warmer color. It’s almost a glow. I hope I can get that orange winter sunlit effect. I’ll do a glaze.

I want to go over the ground again too, maybe with a palette knife, and define the shadows more.

So, for art viewers who are interested in the process, here’s where I have to make some decisions. Some paintings don’t require as much planning.

background for painting of lotuses / stealing ideas from Matisse

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The paint is thick so I’ll have to wait till later this week to paint the flowers. I’m not sure what Matisse’s oil painting technique was. He liked to put his paintbrush on the end of a long pole and stand way back from his canvas so I’m practicing that. It’s hard to control the brush. I think the practice is supposed to make the artist “loosen up”.

The other times I tried to paint with my brush on a yardstick I didn’t use medium. I painted on a dry tinted canvas and I’m not used to the brush having so much drag on the canvas. That, plus the brush on a stick made it a strange experience. I guessed Matisse probably didn’t paint in the couch like I was taught to do, so I didn’t use my Maroget medium. Painting in the couch is when you paint a thin layer of medium on the dry canvas and paint your colors on top of the medium. It makes a slick surface for your brush and it’s easy to use glazes or paint with thick texture. This time I decided to use my Maroget medium and paint in the couch to make it a little easier to control my brush on a stick. To use medium or not to use medium, that is the question.

I doubt if I’ll be able to stay true to any one style. There’s so many that I like and I only steal the good ideas. Plus, I don’t have all the info on Matisse’s technique. It doesn’t matter. Rules don’t apply to me.IMG_2090

These are my sketches for the lotus painting. The eight smaller papers are my pastel sketches from the Japanese garden at Norfolk botanical where I hung around on eight different days for a couple hours. The three larger papers are my enlargements of my leaf sketches done by taping a sharpie on a yardstick like Matisse. You can see my scribbles where the sharpie went off on it’s own.

Then I cut out the leaf shapes and arranged them on my canvas different ways to decide the composition. That’s something Matisse enjoyed doing. He cut shapes out of colored paper and arranged them. The arranging part is where I got hung up for a while.

I have to sketch my flowers again on tracing paper and figure out how many I can fit on the painting. I don’t want to crowd them because they’re not crowded in nature. Maybe only three on my 18 x 24 canvas. I did a lot of sketches I won’t use and will never frame but that’s ok. It isn’t about the finished piece, it’s about the process. The questions answered, the new experience, the practice. Know what I mean?