Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Grisaille and Initial Color Block In

Grisaille 'Girl Sleeping' - top
Initial Color Block In 'Girl Sleeping' - bottom
Finished Painting
Tis' the season to start making resolutions. Mine is to focus upon a painting strategy that will define my style.

Thus, a figure work in progress, being shared from start to finish. The success, or failure of this piece will most likely define a strategy. Figures? Florals? Classical? Modern?

My work has always been eclectic, not focused on a single style or subject but rather this-and-that as the inspiration struck me. Was Van Gogh like that? The one constant has always been my love of figures, skin, fabric and ornamentation.

What I've discovered is that in my daily life I'm very concrete, sequential and task oriented, yet in my painting life I jump and skip from one thing to another. This is not effective in producing a body of work that defines my style.

So here is a figure work, rather small, somewhat detailed, and I confess, not entirely my own composition. I'll reveal its origins later. Enough said. In the classical Old Master's style of Rembrandt using earth tones and a modern medium unheard of in his time. She intrigues me, not only because she's mysterious, but because my ability to pull off a successful painting is an unknown quantity! We shall see!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Fond Brun under the Yellow Rhody

Rhody, Yellow - oil
in progress at the easel
The last time I used a fond brun underpainting was almost four years ago. I continue to be amazed by Vincent Van Gogh's seemingly effort brushstrokes using thick paint in which the underpainting shows through. The Vincent Van Gogh Painting Projects website describes his underpainting as a 'fond brun' violet, consisting of white, carmine and traces of light-yellow.

Four years ago I concocted a similar tint using acrylic gesso tinted with alizarin crimson and cadmium yellow acrylics. This time; however, my painting process took a different turn. I've been painting laboriously layered small florals for a gala art auction in December. Sometimes I just don't want to work on a painting for weeks at a time. Most of the artwork I admire is direct painted, by artists who employ luscious, painterly brushstrokes as part of the painting. Vincent did this. I can stand for hours in front of one of his paintings, just examining the brush strokes.

So I decided to give direct painting another chance. I tinted the canvas with a mixture of Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow Deep and Titanium White, thinned down with Liquin. I applied it thinly and smoothed with a blending brush, then let it dry overnight. The next day I started painting, and finished on one day. Ah bliss, no time to get tired of the painting!

I feel this direct painted floral is as good, or better than paintings in which I used a layered technique. I was able to capture freshness, which is what I want to capture in a floral. I also completed it faster, which suits my need for instant gratification (at least when painting!). And I didn't have to worry about my paint mixtures drying, since I used them up in one day.

So you tell me, can a direct painted floral capture the depth, essence and luminous quality of a flower?
Painted directly: Yellow Rhody
Painted in many layeres: Trillium, Rhody Glow, or Peony

I shall keep the brush happy in my hand!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Buff Titanium

Titanium Hue coated canvas and board

My next painting, Wedding Dress, will be done on this canvas primed with a coat of Titanium Hue.

To backtrack, I coated it first with five coats of Utrecht Professional Grade Gesso, which I love because I can get away with five coats, while other brands take 10, then one coat of watered down Utrecht Unbleached Titanium Hue acrylic paint.

I'm the artist who likes to get right up close to museum paintings (if museum security lets me!) to see if I can see any canvas weave, texture or initial priming showing through the painting. I've seen the canvas showing through in many Impressionist and Van Gogh paintings. It never seems to be white, alway some kind of buff, tan, brownish color. Either the artist primed the canvas with a tan or pinkish brown sienna color, or initially it was white, but over time discolored to a brown tone.

Wedding Dress has beautiful sunshine shining on some creamy Rhododendron petals. I need to be able to tell how white my whites need to be. Putting white paint on a white canvas can be confusing until you put other colors next to it. With a tan background I'll be able to judge the correctness of my whites more accurately. Plus, I like the idea of painting on a canvas the same color as the Impressionists may have used!

You can see my sophisticated setup for priming canvases above; essentially an old sheet on the floor to protect my studio rug. And in the chair beyond is the ubiquitious studio cat who watches over everything I do (mainly so she can either walk on it, or drop hairs on it later!)

Thank you for the opportunity to share my painting techniques with you!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Varnishing Some Paintings

I opened up windows downstairs this lovely spring weekend in order to do some varnishing. In the foreground is my triptych: Poppyscape, which has just been purchased. Behind it are several plein airs I'm entering into the Columbian Artists Juried Spring Show this month. Everything is laid out on the wrinkled sheet I use to protect furniture and the floor.

I've tried every type of artist varnish out there, including semi-gloss and matte versions, and have concluded that I prefer gloss. Why? It makes the painting look wet, as if I just finished it. If you've ever stood in front of a Van Gogh (and I have) you know that his paintings look like he just finished them. Example: I stood in front of a Van Gogh at SAM a couple of years ago, restraining myself from touching it (the museum guards would have put me in handcuffs), because it looked like he had just painted it, right down to a brush hair embedded in one glossy, broken brush stroke. It brought tears to my eyes and I cannot describe how I felt other than it was like Mr. Van Gogh was standing right next to me with his paintbrush in motion.

The varnish that gives me the best result in Winsor & Newton Artists' Gloss Varnish. It dries overnight leaving a glossy finish that can be removed later if needed. When my paintings finally hang, they look as if they were wet, which is exactly what I want!