Monday, November 29, 2010

Growing with the Flow

During my participation in the Laguna Beach Invitational last month, I decided to attempt something I haven’t tried before in a painting competition. I thought I’d repeat the exact same scene to see if my outcome could be improved. Originally, I never had this intention but when I reviewed the smaller version the day after it was completed, I saw the opportunity to attempt a larger work that was still fresh on my mind. Plus with a recent marine layer that had moved in over the beach, I knew I could count on this inland location at Black Star Canyon to be sunny. Both of these paintings were painted en plein air during the competition. The larger scene “Big Red” is 18x24 in size and painted two days after the smaller 8x10 work, titled “Little Red” (inset).

Normally, I don’t do a painting this large outside. Not because I’m unable, but I’ve been trying to spend more time working out my compositions and slowing down in my painting process. For these reasons, the light changes too much over the course of the painting, so I’ve been focusing on smaller scenes I know I can finish in two or three hours. The nice thing about having completed the 8x10 is that the design and composition were already worked out. The larger painting is simply bigger brushes and giving attention the areas I wished to improve on in the smaller work.

Before I began the big painting, these were the items I thought to improve: The warmer rock face on right side needed to be more prominent. The “floor” of the canyon seemed to be lost and I thought it was hard to see that flat expanse that exists between the foreground bushes and the base of the rock formation. And lastly, the distant trees and bushes needed better definition and clarity. Once these issues were addressed, the rest of the painting painted itself. Since I knew the shadows would be lost quickly and this larger work would take more time, I painted all of those first, leaving the lit areas as blank canvas to complete at the end. Whereas the smaller version was painted in my usual manner – simply one section at a time. This was the only difference in my approach.

With both paintings completed, one of the neat comparisons was to see how I viewed the same scene a few days apart. I did not bring the smaller painting with me when I did the 18x24. When comparing the two, you can see how differently I painted the shapes and where I altered sections. Some of these changes are natural adjustments that go on spontaneously as I try to make the composition work on the fly. Another difference was that the day was sunnier when I painted the smaller scene and how that affects the color in the rocks. Also noticing how much “colder” the distant foliage is on rock face. I think this attributed to the fact that “Big Red” was started a little earlier in the afternoon than the smaller one. Or it simply that tells me how different the light can be on any given day. Enjoy!