Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chianti Hills

Well, I’m finally abroad painting the Italian countryside. The Tuscan landscape is quite beautiful this time of year with nice warm weather and interesting skies but it’s very green. The workshop I will be teaching starts soon, but I’ve been working on a commissioned vineyard scene this past week. Looking forward to painting some town scenes after five solid days of vine rows. Plus, I’ve had to fill all my down-time with double espressos, prosciutto and Sangiovese, so its been a tough week.

Here is one of the views I found with these amazing flowering bushes that are a nice break from all the verde. Another feature I love are these tall Italian Cypress trees that are conveniently everywhere to break the horizontal horticulture. They’re a great simple shape, but still have subtle color shifts that keep them interesting. In this composition, I was trying to keep your eye bouncing from the yellow flowers on the left to the big cypress to the villa in the distance. I popped in more Cypress as needed to break lines and hold you in. Nothing like an game of visual pinball as your eye caroms back and forth on all the juxtaposed diagonals. Ahh the 70’s! Ciao.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Structural Concepts

Here is another painting from Sonoma Plein Air. “Morning at Ernie’s” was my submission for the main gala event. I’m always inspired by the works of Scott Prior and William Wray, and this place was right out of their playbook.

Ernie’s Tin Bar is an auto repair shop slash bar joint, in which I’m assuming you can get your car fixed and drink your way though it – an interesting concept. The best thing about this place is its character, a lean-to structure with mish-mash construction and lots of junk that begs to be painted. The toughest part of this scene was setting up. I’m across the street, wedged between the highway guard rail and a ten foot hedge, standing on an uneven slope, with barely enough room for me and my easel, and just four feet from a busy car and truck route. (Disclaimer: please don’t attempt this at home, plein air artists are trained professionals).

I felt this was the best angle for the composition. The framing of the white sign against the mass of trees in the background was extremely important. As was the large area of darks that make up the left side of the painting. This allows my white areas to pop and hold the focal interest. My overall success though, hinged on edge-work. I kept my straight lines extremely varied. It might look like it’s just a painterly way of working, but it was well thought out. By forcing the white sign pole to be imperfect, gave it the character I was looking for. Ditto for the roof eaves, guard rail and scrap metal storage rack. I painted all of the foliage as unelaborated simple masses so not to detract from the building. The silhouette of the oval sign holds your eye from all the angles sliding to the right. I adjusted the far fence and tops of the distant trees to counter-balance those angles as well. 

Or it just could be my hands were shaking so much from the trucks screaming by at 60 mph! Enjoy.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Go with the Flow

I just returned from the Sonoma Plein Air painting competition. It was a great experience with challenging weather, good crowds and a very talented group of artists. My friend and fellow painter Robert Sandidge won the Artist Choice award with a well-deserved entry. Thanks also goes out to founding artist Keith Wicks for his hard work in making the show such a success and honor to be a part of.

The week started out with rain, but you can always find an interesting subject if you look for it, as is what happened with “Puddle Patterns” above. I am never opposed to altering my original idea if the opportunity presents itself  and what started out as a simple road scene was completely revised after noticing the amazing sky reflections in the water.

Upon pulling over and trying to figure out the composition for several minutes, I walked around to see if there were other good views. Once I saw the puddles, everything changed. My idea of the road leading you up to the tree was revised to be the puddles. I used the dirt and grass to widen my entry into the painting. Then made the puddles smaller in size as they went back into space. As I was painting the reflections and enjoying them more, I decided they would become the main focus. The original focus of the tree was now secondary, so I kept it simple and everything else soft. I also juxtaposed the sky clouds to the angle of the mountain so your eye zig-zags down from the top. The hard edge where the road meets the dirt was varied so as not to detract from other important areas.

Taking my time to stop and smell the roses turned out to be a good thing after all! Enjoy.