Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thinking - But not Overthinking a Painting

 Country Roses
16 x 12

My roses are loving the cold summer that we're having: no scorching sun to burn their petals and dry their roots.  I'm glad someone is enjoying it.
This painting was a challenge because the roses are such a pale, delicate pink.  I had to choose a grayed shadow colour which tied in with the pale, cool background but didn't vanish into it.  Some of the background green is in the flowers, but, after a lot of experimentation, I went with a warm, blue-gray for the body of the roses.  That, and the background green reflect down into the glass vase and create a cool, curved form within the warmth of the ground colour.
Glass is fun to paint as long as you paint just what you see: shapes, values and colours.  As soon as you let your mind note that you are painting glass (and that's been called difficult by many painters) the task becomes nerve wracking.  I did my best to subdue that labeling part of my brain and just rely on my eyes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Different Takes on the Same Subject


Daisies and Bells 16 x 20

Daisies and Bells 2  20 x 20 

Starting in September, I'll be teaching a course in painting from life at the Calgary School of Art. 
It's becoming very clear to me that photos are a weak reference for paintings and that I need to work from life as often as possible. 
Last week Sharon Williams and I painted a still life of some flowers from my garden.  The flower arrangement is holding up surprisingly well, so I've painted it again, using a different colour for the background. 
The first time the background was the strong, warm red of my studio wall which, when the light hit it, leaned orange.  Because of the hot colour scheme and the lively company, this painting is full of bold, thick paint and drama.
The second time I put the vase against a creamy white fabric.  The incandescent light turned the background a pale, creamy cool.  That, and the fact that I was alone in the studio, changed the mood of the painting from vibrant and vigorous to muted and more subtle.  I found it more natural to avoid big impasto marks and to work more delicately overall.  There is a lot of transparency left in this painting, and a greater degree of translucence than in the first one. 
I'm not sure that I would have even bothered painting these pieces if I'd only had the photo to work from. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Speed Painting

This week I taught a workshop in Kelowna, BC on figure painting from life.  The people who attended were all experienced painters, and members of the Federation of Canadian Artists, Central Okanagan Chapter. Their questions were keen and knowledgeable, and their skills sharp, which made the day a real pleasure for me.

When I teach a painting from life workshop, I have the students produce 4 works in one day.  It makes for some very tired painters!
There are 3 small paintings of 20 to 30 minutes and a longer, and larger piece done in about 2 hours.

The reason for such a prolific day is that I want students to have a chance to make several starts in the technique that I'm teaching in order to solidify it for themselves.  Practise is the best teacher.  But I also don't want them to have a chance to overwork and fiddle with a painting.  In such an accelerated day, there is no opportunity for fiddling, and the result is that everyone produces at least one focused, clear painting. 

I feel like I'm torturing the painters sometimes when they groan out loud at the announcement that their time is up, but I soldier on to the end each time because that's invariably the time when someone remarks that it was a good thing to be under such a strict schedule.  It forced them to concentrate on the essentials of the model's pose and not sweat the small details. 

Maybe I'll set the timer for myself in the studio tomorrow, and avoid fiddling for a change!