Monday, August 18, 2014

New Work; Talkin' Paint; Drawing Class

Sentinel
10" x 10" acrylic on MDF board

Cascade 2
12" x 12" acrylic on MDF board

This weekend was a "discovery" weekend of sorts. I worked on the above two paintings and learned some new things. Here they are:

I learned (once again!) about keeping an open mind while painting. I mean an open mind in every sense of that expression: open to the possibilities, open to reworking a failed passage or piece, and open to using the hues that will get the job done. I also mean open to looking at your landscape (or subject matter) in any number of ways. For the second piece shown above and which was completed earlier in the month, I was stuck on the idea of a yellow sky and spindly trees. My insistence on that scheme and denial of what I saw result wise caused me to begin to dislike the finished piece. Rather than relegate it to The Closet of Shame however I decided to see what I could do to make it better. I mostly see the Lake Alpine landscape in the early morning. The sky really is blue, the trees are that green and the rocks that brilliant. I like that so why not paint it in the way that I see it in my mind's eye? So, I did just that. I deepened the colors of the trees and figured out a better way to knock back the intensity of the trees in the background. I am much happier now and very glad to have the piece on my wall.

The other two things I learned are about using colors and keeping an open mind. Too often a color is rejected outright because it doesn't fit in a "perscribed" palette or it isn't appealing on its own. Dioxazine purple falls into these two categories for me. I don't use it outright but generally as an accent color for shadows. It's pretty intense though. It is good as a "mitigating" color. To me, mitigating colors are the secondary colors-orange, green, and purple. They help to boost or tone down the primaries, among other things. I used purple to boost some of the green in the first piece and to change the character of raw umber which can be flat and cold when mixed with white.

I also learned just how versatile quinacridone/nickel azo gold is as both a mixer and "mitigator" color. It's both cool and warm if that makes sense. It mixes beautifully with white and can be added to my convenience green (sap green) to really warm it up without making it obnoxious. It can boost the cool yellow that I use too, making it appear warmer as well. Best of all though is what it does with raw umber. Add a little quin. gold to the raw umber and it is transformed! It perfectly describes some of the dirt that I see around my landscape. I use it now along with ultramarine blue to boost my sap green and to give it variety.

Last week was productive for me-several sketches and some completed paintings that I like a lot. This week will be short. I am taking a drawing class taught by Peggi Kroll Roberts on Thursday and Friday. This is a big deal. Peggi is an outstanding painter. I have several of her DVDs and appreciate what she advocates: mileage, mileage, mileage! So, wish me luck!

Hope everyone has a good start to the week. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sketches and Sizing






The above sketches are all from some of my recent visits to Lake Alpine. My scanner sucks but I think the idea comes through with the pics anyway.

The first sketch is a complicated scene but for me, I was attracted to those two front trees. The light in the shadows on those white trees seems to be a beautiful bluish violet, almost moving to a warmer phthalo blue color. My scan shows as more purple but my sketch and idea is more blue.  The second sketch shows a view of the shoreline. It's one of my favorites. That area has a lot of rocks and fallen trees. The last sketch is from a hike that I did with my SIL. It goes from Bear Valley ski resort to the edge of Lake Alpine. The water tower is at the top of a ridge ( a series of two hills) that we hiked up. I planned out a drawing for an acrylic version of the idea and completed a watercolor version of the idea earlier this week. I posted those results on the blog a few days ago.

I recently started soaking my wc paper and stretching it onto a board. The soaking and drying/stretching is supposed to prevent buckling of the paper when heavier washes are applied. I have had pretty good luck with no buckling but I learned something today about sizing. The sizing on the paper is what helps to prevent the paint from sinking very deeply into the fibers of the paper. When you soak the paper for a long period of time, much of the sizing (which is gelatin based) is removed. The gelatin helps the paint to "sit" on the paper as it dries.  My thought here is that with pre soaked and dried paper, the colors sink into the paper just as if the paper was wet, causing the colors to be a little more diluted than what you might at first think. One of the main reason I started in with the watercolors is that they can be quite brilliant-very saturated. I have been missing this lately and I may now have a partial explanation for why. (You still must take into account paint load, water load and pigment properties.) Knowing how your materials will perform separately and in combination with each other and the reasons behind this is pretty important to the outcome of your piece.

OK, hope everyone has had a good week. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby


Thursday, August 14, 2014

New Work: Across The Lake

Across The Lake
9" x 12" Acrylic on 140lb WC paper-matted/unframed
available: libbyfife@ymail.com
The above is the finished acrylic version of the wc painting I did earlier this week. I blogged about it here in this post. While I like definite forms, I also feel like I have been just sort of filling in the blanks as I paint. I tend to paint section by section which is fine but then I end up believing that I can't easily rework a section of the piece if necessary. So, for this one, I tried to abandon that idea and simply paint in several places at one time or to paint and repaint areas as I painted other areas. I also tried to use my brush more expressively, gripping it farther up on the handle and standing back to apply many of the strokes. I also used a larger brush for the whole piece which caused me to also hold the brush differently and to accept different marks. The whole time I asked myself about the next move-what could I do next that was still a very large move and not a detail? How could I keep things simple? Too often I get stuck on details rather than very large shapes or ideas. Working macro to micro is important to me lately. I also enjoyed painting those bushes and then carving out the negative space where the water is located and where the water and the leaves intersect. It helped me to shape and reshape the bushes. Lastly, there are all sorts of rocks at the lake: red ones, gray ones, black and brown ones too. The rocks on the ground for this scene were darker than the ground but just barely. I decided to make them grayish instead for contrast. I also changed the lighting. I tend to like light from the side rather than back lit or top lit scenes. I tried to be more expressive with that too and not stick to a rule based plan. I can envision the day when I simply have a loose drawing and a solid idea and can apply the paint and think as I go.

All in all I am happy with the piece. The best part is how I felt painting it-competent for a change. Wadda ya know about that? The second best part is that it is painted on paper and I like that a lot. I feel great about using the paper and then using it again. (Mind you, I don't feel great about cutting down trees or using products produced with materials that harm our environment or animals-it's a sliding scale of acceptability though and right now I am settling for the recycled aspect of things.)

OK, tomorrow is our wedding anniversary. I'll be off tomorrow but back in the studio on Saturday. Looking forward to time with my husband:) Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New Work: Osborne Ridge



A couple of weeks ago, my SIL and I went hiking at Bear Valley. There is a trail that originates at BV and winds over to the campgrounds at Lake Alpine. There is a portion of it that you can access called Osborne Trail. It's up a series of hills and near the top there is a water tower. I think the tower is no longer in use but there it sits anyway. I guess I have a thing for abandoned or old structures. Not sure who else would be attracted to this water tower but me! In any case I took some photos for reference. Back at home, I made a sketch of my idea. The above piece is close. Greens are difficult for my camera-the taller trees are a little more blue and the front bushes are a little more yellow than what is shown in the picture. 

For any painters reading, I used a 1.25" and a .50" wash and flat brush, respectively. I am so interested in what marks that each brush can make depending on how I hold it, how much paint is on the brush, angle etc. There are lots of variables.  I tried very hard to lay down a mark and leave it. I also tried hard to let the paint do what it wanted to do. Not filling in every little shape with color is difficult for me since this is generally how I work with acrylics. I want very much to work a little differently, to lay down colors and shapes and then to carve out details. It's a very different way of thinking. 

This is my second piece this week based on one of my sketches. It's much better for me to be connected to the work through sketching first. Much better:)

Hope everyone is having a good Tuesday. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby

Monday, August 11, 2014

Question: Authenticity in Art Making/New Work

Little Trail
9" x 12" Watercolor on Arches 140 lb wc paper
I finished the above piece today. There is a lot that I like about it. My goal was to recreate the feeling of the sketch that I did several days ago. On one level, I enjoy all of the marks and motion that wc can provide. Having the brush in your hand and consciously moving it around to make your own "writing" on the paper is really great. My initial sketch however was much looser, more about general shapes and colors. I like that too. Because I am a "tight" painter it's hard for me to begin to accept that looser work from me can be OK. It's best I think to recognize that there is a continuum of acceptability for each person. My efforts above were actually fairly controlled in that I was aware of the amount of paint I was using and how I was applying it. I read recently that carefree does not mean careless. Overall, I want the painting to reflect my experience with what I was seeing whether that is through color or visual clarity or the kind of light I experienced. It's why my initial sketches and color notes are so important. And to that extent, the above piece does that for me. 

And just to piggy back off of that last thought, I have gotten away from some things in the last several months. I haven't realized how much I have missed them. One of them is going out into the field to sketch, take color notes, and to record my impressions. One of my favorite things to do on vacation is to take photos and sketch from my camera while I am there. I also like to sit and sketch "live" from whatever I am seeing. Rich has told me many times that my sketches and cartoons are my best work. I have never thought so but now I am wondering.

Anyone want to way in on this discussion? It's a question of how authentic your work feels to you and what kind of working situation brings about that feeling. Let me know-as always I am interested.

Libby

Saturday, August 9, 2014

New Work, New Surface, New Fungi!

Symbiotic
9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper

2. My view for my lunchtime snack!

3. shelf or bracket fungus
Yesterday I drove to Lake Alpine for a little hike and some sketching. I'll show the sketches later on next week but for now take a look at the view of the lake from where I sat on the shoreline (pic 2). The Lakeside Trail that I hiked on runs around roughly half of the lake (my estimate). The lake is always in view which makes it easy for me to navigate when I get lost. And I get lost frequently! On my way back I scrambled down the hillside a short distance and sat along the shoreline to eat my sandwich. It was rather peaceful as I sat there and ate. I also did some sketching with pen and watercolor. Good stuff. 

I made it back to my car and along the way I came across these fungi (pic 3). They are called shelf fungi and they develop on dead trees. They help the tree to decompose and gather moisture from them (I think). This fungus can also develop on live trees and be destructive. So, good news and bad news I guess. 

The first pic though is a new piece. I have now done this subject 4 times. This last time is notable though because of the materials used. I took an old wc painting (of this subject) and soaked it in water. I then stretched the paper onto my board and stapled it down. The paper dries and contracts creating a flat surface on which to paint. I then added two coats of gesso and used my roller brush for texture. A little sanding and I was good to go. My drawing, which was done in black pen underneath, showed through very nicely and helped to guide me. The paint flowed very nicely along the paper and I got a super texture to boot. I am in love I think with this substrate. The boards I use are great but are cumbersome to store and to transport. (They are heavy too and hurt my toes when I drop one!) Watercolor paper is very handy. I can gesso over an old painting and reuse the paper. The finished pieces can be stored flat and are lightweight. It's win-win time. The best part though is that I thought this idea/process up myself. I know other artists must do this but getting the texture I like onto a piece of paper was very experimental for me. I am glad it worked.

OK, hope everyone is having a good weekend so far. I am just sketching today and will be starting in on a practice piece tomorrow. Very excited about the subject matter also.

Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New Work: Rhythm/ Color Questions!

Rhythm
12" x 12" Acrylic on MDF Board
This piece was finished on Sunday. I made some corrections after I thought I was done. The results are closer to what I want so good thing I sort of sat on things for a bit and then worked to make them right. It doesn't pay to not think while you are painting. For this piece I tried to continuously ask myself questions before I added colors. Why do...? How about a temperature shift rather than a value shift? How about a value shift rather than just another similarly toned color that doesn't relate? What part needs to stand out? Do these two objects stand out from each other or do they need to read as one object? Being a little more present was helpful and I noticed that when I wasn't, I made bad moves. 

I also added some colors back to my palette-most notably anthraquinone blue. It's a very purplish blue, more so than ultramarine. It mixed well with yellow ochre of all things to create a dullish green color for the distant pine trees.  I also added a little phthalo blue to my ultramarine to brighten it up. Phthalo blue isn't my go to blue at all-I hardly use it actually. However, I used it this morning with a sketch, combining it with raw umber. It was exactly the green color that I was after. (I added some quin gold too). It pays to know the base color of your paints: blue, yellow, or red. It also helps to know if your tube of paint is a mixture of pigments or a single pigment. When combining various colors, you can predict the outcome so much better. 

This brings me to my question of the week. Are there any colors that you have difficulty using or integrating into your palette? I started using a convenience green again and find it to be very versatile. I use other colors that I consider to be mitigators or enhancers for that green: cad orange, several reds, and a purple. I rarely use phthalo blue but now am reconsidering that in light of its combo with raw umber. I rarely use the earth pigments but now find that they can be enhanced with stronger pigments in yellow, blue, and red. And I use phthalo green only on occasion, as a mitigator for other colors. Really. Let me know what your color quirks are. I am interested!

Thanks for reading and commenting. Hope everyone's week is off to a good start.
Libby