Monday, August 16, 2010

Working out Problems in Small Paintings

Pony tail
9 x 12

I'm having fun painting these small figurative pieces right now.  They help me work out problems and experiment without committing to a large canvas.  They're also a great way to keep working during this most distracted, and busy season.

The model for this painting was sitting under warm halogen lighting which created powerful shadows on his body.  The accepted rule is: "warm light, cool shadows or cool light, warm shadows.  In practise, however, this is never wholly the case.  I find that there is always some warm and some cool in the shadow, and everywhere else on the skin for that matter.  

The young man's back was predominately warm but, as his torso turned from the plane of the back to the side, there was a distinct coolness.  I painted it very green because I prefer a powerful statement to a small one any day.  There was also a strong warmth on the side of the body where the model's arm reflected its warmth onto the torso.  Then, around to the front, I put in the fun little highlight on the belly which described both the wrinkly nature of his slouched abdomen and the hot, bright light.  It's tough to tell in reproduction, but there is a lot of yellow in those highlights.  On the palette, it looked far too yellow, but it worked fine on the painting amongst all of those other exaggerated colour statements. 

I left the background very rough with a great deal of transparent underpainting visible.  When I paint, I'm always trying to figure out when a painting can stand on its own.  That's the moment when, ideally, I'll stop working on it.  Sometimes I actually manage to do so.  Often, I ignore that moment and continue painting until the canvas has dense paint everywhere, and I've lost a sense of freshness and spontaneity.  This time I stopped in time.  The chair is implied, and the jeans are cursory, but this helps to keep the focus where I want it: on the torso.  

I think that I learned a lot from this piece. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Altering an Oil Painting

Dappled Light 
9 x 12

Cows.  Not my usual subject by any means. 
Sharon and I drove around in the lush, green countryside recently and found a small herd sheltering from the afternoon sun under a stand of trees.  Before they decided to move back to grazing, we set up on the road nearby and started to paint them. 
Inevitably, I suppose, they did move - a lot.  Cows moved in and out of my view, but, because they all have similar colouring and shape, I could refer to another cow to finish painting anyone who had risen and moved on. 
Originally this piece had an extra cow in the lower left corner.  I thought it would be a good, diagonal lead in to the composition.  It wasn't. 
Luckily, I hadn't used much impasto paint on that one, so I just shaved off some of the thicker dry paint with a palette knife and painted grass, tree trunks, and the legs of the cow on the left in the newly vacated spot. 
I just love the flexibility that oils give to make major changes like these.  I couldn't have done that when I painted in watercolour!