Thursday, April 29, 2010

Less Can be More

This week, the New England painter, Nita Leger Casey, posted a painting challenge on "The Nahsua Artists Breakfast Club" blog.
The challenge was to paint her landscape photo using just 2 colours plus black and white.  The colours were Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna.

I can't resist a challenge, so I gave it a try.

Everyone knows that you can mix every colour from the 3 primary colours: red, blue and yellow, but who knew that black could be the "blue"?  When mixed with yellow ochre, it gives soft, muted greens; with burnt sienna, it makes a smoky purple (which I didn't make use of, now that I look at it); and with white, it mimics a muted blue.

None of the colours are dramatic show-stoppers, but they do create a pleasing, earthy range of colours that's perfect for landscapes.

This palette reminded me of Anders Zorn, the famous Swedish painter of the late 1800's and early 1900's.  A brilliant figurative painter, he was known for using an extremely limited palette and, somehow, making it look like a bountiful assortment of colours.  Zorn's colours consisted of: Vermillion (Cad Red Light makes a substitute), Yellow Ochre, Ivory Black, and White.  Occasionally, he'd add Ultramarine Blue or a Cad. Yellow.

The advantage to using so few colours is that you have to think less about which colours are the best for a specific subject and, instead, focus on paint consistency and brushstroke.  As well, there's no denying it makes harmonious paintings, because of the repetition of subtle variations of so few colours.
I think I'll try this again, but next time I'll try to maintain more transparency.  This piece has some thinly-applied, transparent darks in the shadow forms, but I'd like to see it done with a lighter touch everywhere - less white overall.

If you want to see more limited palette suggestions, check out this post in David Rourke's blog "All the Strange Hours".  Maybe you'll want to challenge yourself and give one a try.

Happy painting!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Fishing Groupie

Magical Morning
20 x 20
I'm really hooked on fly fishing: not doing it, just painting it.  Luckily for me, the Bow River is a world-class, trout river.  I don't think that there's been a week that I haven't seen a fisherman or several standing in the current, trying to outwit a fish.  
I make sure to carry my camera on my walks so that I can capture the action.  
This image is, again, a composite of two references.  The pose of the fisherman was taken from a photo with really flat lighting and the lighting came from a reference with no action.  Put them together and I'm happy.  
I liked trying to create depth through the use of the line and the small splash in the foreground.  This and the graduated width of the ripples, helped to create the illusion of a fore, middle and background.  
But I think what pleased me the most was getting the mood right.  The man in the photos was quiet and focused as he fished, completely lost in the moment.  Some of that focus is there on the canvas.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Be a Joiner

30 x 30"
For artists who want to begin exhibiting and selling their works, one of the best suggestions that I have is that they should join a reputable society. 
I belong to: the Federation of Canadian Artists - a national, non-profit organization with over 2000 members and a great reputation; the Alberta Society of Artists - also a non-profit organization which is incredibly active in this province; and the Leighton Art Centre - a non-profit centre which has a gallery and provides art education, events, and workshops.  Each of these groups has a gallery and plenty of opportunities to show work in the different, themed exhibitions that they hold throughout the year.
Beyond the chance to exhibit, associations like this are a great way to increase your exposure.  The FCA and ASA have websites with individual artists' bios and works featured on them.  These sites have brought several commissions my way since someone searching for an artist in Alberta or Canada will invariably come up with one of these organizations. 
And the credibility of belonging to a juried groups is very reassuring to a potential buyer.  In a world of degrees and credentials, these groups show that you are a serious professional who has achieved peer recognition. 
This month I'll have work in a couple of member's shows in Calgary: the "8th Annual Juried Members' Show" at the Leighton Art Centre and the "New Members New Work" show of the Alberta Society of Artists in Lougheed House.  The painting above is my entry for the ASA show.  If you're in Calgary, I hope you'll check them out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mix and Match

Rarely is a reference photo good enough to paint without making some changes, big or small.
Sometimes I just move a tree, other times I do much more.

The painting above is the result of the combining of two photos: picture A had a great pose and Picture B had wonderful light and a beautiful setting.  The hard part was to change the light on the figure in A in order to fit him into his new surroundings.  Luckily, he was wearing the same shirt in both photos, so I could see what setting B did to the colours and extrapolate onto the fabric folds from A. 
Confused yet?  I sure was.
In all, this was a challenge, but also a pleasure.  I've wanted to do something with both of these images for a couple of years, but didn't feel competent enough to pull it off.  This painting shows me that my skills have grown.  That's always a nice feeling.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Trying Something New

Sometimes I get commissioned to paint something that I'd never have imagined myself painting.  I've come to realize that this is a good thing.  I can too easily get stuck in a rut painting the same subjects over and over.  Like any painter, I've got some default subjects: things that I paint when I can't think of a new thing to paint.  They're good to have but I they can fill time that should be spent in exploring new ideas. 
This past winter I was asked to paint a competitive skier racing down a hill.  Not a subject that I've tackled before but one that holds a lot of promise; there's movement and colour and - most important to me - light.  Luckily the reference photo that I was given was very well done.  All that was required was changing the landscape to make the composition better.   I especially enjoyed sculpting the snow with thick paint to get a sense of the terrain and playing with the juxtaposition of hot reds and cool blues. 
My client was pleased with the result and so was I.  It was refreshing to try something completely new and get out of the well-worn rut.