Thursday, April 28, 2011

Another batch of paintings

I've been having so much fun working in the garden that I don't get to my computer as frequently as I used to. So here's a batch of paintings done in the last week or two. Some are OK, some are not, but here they are, warts and all. Painting seems to go like that - sometimes you love the results, other times it seems like you spend a lot of time transforming expensive art materials into worthless trash. The life of an artist...

This painting was done on a 10x10cm (4"x 4") piece of gessoed matboard. I like the way the gessoed ground gives texture to the foreground.

Quite different from my usual style, this one, but I like it in many ways. It was fun to do, and the surface is certainly livelier than usual. This seems to be what I'm working through right now - how to make the surface have delicate color transitions but still be lively and visually interesting. This was done almost entirely with a palette knife, using paint scraped off the palette as I was cleaning it. (I hate wasting things - especially those expensive art materials!) This painting is done on a 30x30cm stretched canvas.

This painting needs something to make it more visually interesting. I was intrigued by the tree on the right, and the painting ended up becoming about the tree instead of about color and paint, which is more what I'm interested in. The colors here need some tweaking - although they are more varied in actuality than they look on the screen. Maybe you'll get to see the new improved version someday soon. I think it needs more differences between warm and cool areas; right now the warm areas aren't very warm and the cool areas aren't very warm. But it's a challenge to make warm areas still be light enough to give that delicate spring look, rather than looking like midsummer. I use a lot of white paint. I just ordered three more huge tubes.

20x20cm stretched canvas (8x8 ")

I've reworked this painting several times since I first created it, a week or so before this photo was taken. It will probably receive more reworking - of it's lucky. The colors are a bit different from what shows on the screen, warmer for one thing. If I try to change them, the warmer colors look even less like the actual painting. I keep thinking I should try scanning these small paintings - but of course that would mean waiting until they are good and dry.

15x15cm stretched canvas (6" x 6")

I had decided, before i started this painting, that what I wanted to try including in these paintings was the houses at the end of the fields across the street. Not obviously, but as almost hidden items in the shadows. I got obsessed with the trees and the foreground, and although this painting works in some ways, it will need some retouching. Once I figure out what to do with it. This is larger than a lot of the paitnings I've been doing, 30x30cm (12"x12")

Back to a small format canvas. It's a low energy day - I spent a lot of time in the garden yesterday, struggling with the extremely heavy clay soil here. I sure miss that light, sandy New England soil. Here, whan I mwet the soil enough to be able to rake it (the only way I can do anything at all with it) my boots become huge, heavy footballs of clay within very few steps. Anyway, I am dragging this morning, so I chose to work on a small canvas (10x10cm) that I had prepped with a muted violet ground some days ago - again not wanting to waste those expensive art materials. ;-) As I sat down, I became interested in a very small square of the scene in front of me, just a spot where there are two lines of tall grass separating one field from another, with some trees at the edge of the far field. In reality, there are more trees behind those, and no sky visible, but I decided to add sky, to give a lighter area as a foil for the trees and to keep the top of the painting from being too heavy looking.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Catching Up - 4 paintings in the last few days

April 11. A foggy morning, just after sunrise. The French words for the various types of fog and mist and haze are what we've named the 'br' words - brume, bruillard, bruine. I don't know which is which, really. But I love the look of it, with everything disappearing in the distance. This 'br' was gone in about half an hour. It seemed to call for soft-edges, thin paint, colours close in value.

This painting was actually done a few days ago. The thing that attracted me about the scene was the shadow of the tree, and its change in size in the tall grass - which is hay, actually. Now that I look at it again, I think the tree trunk has to be made narrower.

The trees suddenly have leaves, no longer those little teeny spring leaves but full sized ones. Everything is green! I had fun painting this one, working into the thickly gessoed ground, that I think gives a lively look to this little painting. This is a small painting - 12x12 cm (4x4 in).

Hay! It's amazing to me to see the first cutting of hay being done in April. Back in Massachusetts it wouldn't be ready until June and possibly later - and lucky if you get a second cutting. But yesterday - actually last night - the field across the street was cut, making a lovely pattern that just begged to be painted. I obliged. This was a fun one to paint as well. Although I worked on a very smooth canvas, I ended up with lots of paint slathered onto it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Some touchups and a new painting

This painting was done a few days ago, when there was a fine haze over the landscape. The scene seemed to call for a soft approach, and I decided to use a linen canvas, since I like the color of the unbleached linen showing through. It soon got covered up, however, since I kept changing my mind about what colors looked best. I again touched up this painting this morning, adding the blue at the far edge of the foreground field.

I also added some blue highlights to the painting in the previous post - for better or worse. Here's the new version:

This new painting was done on a heavily gessoed canvas. I like having a textured surface to work into; I think it gives extra liveliness to the colors and brushstrokes. I'm not sure I like how it looks in this painting, though. I think the swirl in the gesso is too large, making it seem too regular.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring Morning

Often, as I'm on my way to start painting, I find myself thinking that I won't find anything to paint. And I'm wrong every time. Today, it was a single tree, to the left of yesterday's poplars, that caught the morning sun and looked like a jewel on the horizon. I changed the scene a bit - there are actually dark trees behind this tree, but I preferred the image of it against the sky. This painting was done on top of a previous painting, the one done on Feb 21. That was just looking like it was never going to get any better, so it's been reincarnated. I do love painting over old work. All those old subjects, They become just spots of color, and suggest things I might never have thought of otherwise.

The color in this photo is not quite the color of the painting. The sky is lighter at the horizon, and not quite so light at the top, and that dark area to the right of the tree just isn't there in the painting. Arrgghhh... Some day I have to find a better place to photo paintings...


This morning, the poplar trees across the street are suddenly yellow. They make a lovely contrast with the background trees. This was a fun one to paint.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How Blurry Can You Get?

Today I got the idea to see just how little detail I could get away with in a painting. This isn't a successful painting - I think that if there is very little representational definition, there has to be something else to carry the painting along. It has to be about brush strokes, or color or texture o or something. I do have to say though, that the actual painting looks better than the photo. Cameras with automatic focus have a very hard time figuring out what to do with flat surfaces to start with, and when it's a blurry flat surface maybe it only adds to their confusion. I actually did this painting yesterday, but made changes to it today. Yeah - made it even more indistinct. But I also changed two very important lines. The green triangle to the left wasn't there; it use to be just a downward-curved line, as was the small yellow patch above it. Together they made the painting look like it was a sagging hammock! Such small effects can make such an impact on whether or not a painting works.

My other painting task for today was to rework this painting from a couple of days ago. I started reworking it yesterday but after I finished painting for the day and had another look at the supposedly-finished version, I realized that those two white objects in the foreground fought with everything else in the painting, for at least two reasons. First of all, their placement drew the eye away from everything else in the painting, and the painting isn't about these objects, it's about the light behind the tree. Another reason they didn't work was that because of their scale in the painting, they couldn't be made to look like anything recognizable unless the brushwork was very different from the brushwork in the rest of the painting. Large objects in the painting - especially in a small painting (this one is 8x10 inches) - are more easily represented with loose brushwork. But this doesn't work for small objects. The rest of the painting doesn't depend on detail to carry itself along; it depends on color and texture. This works because the objects are so readily recognizable that they only have to be suggested. But the bus stop shelter and the edge of the bridge need to be more clearly defined if they are going to be recognizable at all. And there lies the problem: if they are clearly defined enough to show what they are, then they are in a completely different style than the rest of the painting. If I leave them undefined, or make them less defined, to match the rest of the painting, they look like intrusive blotches of color. So, they got the chop.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Two Paintings Today

A rainy day today, with mist and fog - bruine and brouillard, as they call it here, not to mention 'brume'. The 'br' words mean it's wet out there. In this painting I tried to capture the haziness of everything, with just the white blossoms on the nearby tree having any definition at all. The houses in the background, at the trees line, were barely visible, looking soft-edged and mysterious. I love days like this. For painting, anyway. Painting from indoors,. that is!

This is a tiny painting, 10cm x 10cm (4"x 4"). I started it after finishing the previous one, and I like it a lot more. These horizon-line paintings are my obsession, my love, because they are more about color and texture than about the subject.