Monday, June 29, 2009

Quick Draw

I apologize for the delay in posts. Been busy after my return from Italy getting things ready for the Festival of Arts in Laguna this summer, Telluride Plein Air, commission finalization, etc. (It’s good to be busy ... I think!)

This past week was the local Paint San Clemente competition and above was my winning painting from the Quick Draw that started off the week. Since they extended the duration of the quick draw to 3 hours this year, I used the extra time to get down to their local pier and set up. And the threat of rain kept the normally crowded beach parking manageable.

When faced with such a complex subject as an old wooden pier, the most important thing is simplicity. First, I try to set up at an angle where all the pier pylons appear as a mass instead of from the side where they look equally spaced. This eliminates the temptation to paint them all the same size and distance apart which is not very dynamic. Then I massed in a general pylon color for the middle to distant underside of the pier gradually moving forward in space and intensifying my colors. I pulled down dark suggestions of where I wanted the closer pylons, rather than trying to draw exactly what was there. The idea is to get a good “feeling” of the pier rather than attempting to paint in every piece of wood. After the whole pier was massed in loosely, I moved to the water and sky. I painted in a rough aqua color for the water leaving the white wash areas for later in the painting. The sky was painted next as it appears with no revisions. Now that the canvas was filled, the trick to making it look believable without being overworked is a slow building process of nuances, varying the temperature and not the value in the large masses of the water and pier underside. The only real details in the pier are the just the small edge highlights. I finished with the whitewash of the waves making sure I carried them through the pylons and keeping the shadows more purple. Lastly, I added the side support planks that nicely move your eye down the length of the pier. With some light poles and suggestions of people along the top, the painting was finished.

These old structures can be challenging, but they make a great subject if you succeed. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Seeing Red

Friday, we happened across an amazing field of poppies that put the prior one to shame. It was as if the ground opened up and oozed lava over the entire area. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to capture this onto canvas -- a nice treat for our last day of painting.

I normally don’t sit when I paint, but in this scene the best view was when you crouched down and immersed yourself in the crimson pool. I wanted to show the layers of depth, not just in the field, but also in the distant hills. With so many flowers, I felt my best approach would be to invent a pleasing pattern inspired by the red. I started this painting by completing all of the far trees, hills and cypress first. Then I proceeded top to bottom with the poppies, choosing a grayish red for the back and intensifying as I moved forward in space. I varied the colors from red to orange to purple to give it a nice variety. Then, as that became more of a foundational color, I used bits of white and yellow to move your eye around, fading it as it recedes. To show the far village in the distance, I re-introduced a reddish tint to give a hint of warmth in the upper part of the painting.

Note: Using your drying box as a stool is not advisable if you enjoy circulation in your legs. Ciao.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Entry ... Italian Style

Here is an Italian-style entry gate that seem to be very popular in this region. Some are quite ordinary, but others such as this one above, seem ancient and are truly beautiful. They have interesting stone-work and feature decorative plaques, wrought iron rings and other adornments. As far as I could tell, they serve no purpose other than to mark the driveway to a sprawling property or maybe just to one-up the neighbor.

Since the entire gate is the main focus, I kept the other elements at a minimum. There were some complex trees, and an entire horse stable in the background which I eliminated. It was difficult to see the light direction on the form because of the stone color, so I forced the issue by painting a simple blocked in shadow on the front side and then a lighter color for the “sunny” side. It was only after these two colors were massed in, did I get involved with the subtle color shifts and textures. The iron rings were added last, but kept very close in value, so you’ll only see them on closer inspection. Good drawing was key to pulling this one off, plus a variety of edges.

Below is our group at another incredible dinner. Smiles everyone! Ciao.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Market Day

It was market day yesterday, as we traveled into Siena for our painting excursion. I always find it a challenge to try and capture a busy, constantly changing scene such as this. But, I figure if you can pull these off it’s all downhill from here! So, as we plodded through the bustling market, I found an area off to the side with this great view of a meat and cheese vendor. 

The hardest part of a moving scene is deciding what moment in time do you capture? There are tons of people merging in, out, and making purchases, with the busy vendors trying to accommodate their requests. I find it best to watch the action for a while before deciding. As you observe, I look for the nuances that make up the action: People pointing to what they want, resting a hand on the counter with their money, leg and arm positions, clothing, accessories such as purses or bags, etc. Once I’ve determined what I’ll include, I sketch it in quickly with pencil on my canvas. Then I start the painting by keeping all of the elements loose and sketchy while working around each of the figures. After the whole scene is blocked in, then I move to the people. Each person is a combination of many as they come and go. As I see someone move or stand in a way of my original idea, I paint it in, one body part at a time. There is lots of invention here, and I find that you just have to keep manipulating until it looks believable. They just don’t hold still in plein air!

I also thought I’d share this little sketch of the poppy fields that are in full bloom this time of year. This was a 30 minute painting, 6 x 10 in size at the end of a full day. The colors were amazing and I just tried to get the essence of the scene before the van arrived to pick us up. Eddie Felson -- fast and loose!

Here we are ... poppy painters impatiently waiting to go to the gelateria! Ciao.