Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gold Leaf in a Painting

Portrait in Green and Gold
16 x 12
Maybe because Vienna has proclaimed this to be the year of Gustav Klimt I've become interested in gold in paintings.  I bought some genuine gold leaf a few weeks ago and have been waiting impatiently for an opportunity to use it.  This painting seemed right because of its overall gold tone, and also because of the patterning on the robe.

I painted the majority of the piece and then rubbed away as much paint as possible from the front of the robe.  After it had dried, I painted on the adhesive in those bare spots and waited the 3 hours that it takes for the glue to become tacky.  Then came the really tricky part.

Gold leaf is as fine as spider webs: flimsy and ethereal.  It floats and crinkles in the tiniest air current and will stick to absolutely everything.  Using the special little gilder's brush that I'd purchased, I tried to pick up the 2 square inch piece of leaf.  It rumpled and twisted under the soft bristles and left precious bits of itself like dandruff on my table.  But I managed to slap it gracelessly down on the adhesive and gently brush it out to cover the pattern.  It filled in the pattern nicely, and it filled in everything in between as well.  There was a solid square of gold stuck to the woman's robe and I had a moment's panic.

Luckily, with the help of a stiff brush, I was able to scrub off the excess gold.  In the end, it created a desirable effect.  The gold's edge is rough and broken, not crisp like Klimt would have preferred.  I  brushed a diluted mixture of Galkyd over the gold and, after it dried, painted around and over the gold  to integrate it into the painting.

I'm looking forward to using more gold in future paintings when another appropriate piece comes along.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Painting from a photo but thinking about life

Boldly to the Sea
16 x 12
I've been a bad blogger lately.  Spring gardening duties have filled my weekends and my days are full of paint.  I can't complain.

One of the things I've been doing is working from photos, something that I find difficult to do well.  A photo of a person bears no resemblance to the reality of a 3D person, but if I want to capture the energy of a body in motion, I have to rely on the flat image.

The small painting above was done from a picture of my son heading into the California surf on a recent vacation.  I tried to keep all of the lessons that I've learned during life painting in my head as I rendered the figure: capture the gesture first and confidently, paint a mass, not an outline, use value and colour temperature to model form, and don't get hung up on details - even though a photo has plenty of them.

I'm pleased with the torso in this piece.  There is warm light on the top plane of the shoulders and a cool, receding plane down the vertical of his back.  In the indentation of the lumbar area, I had a chance to place some warmer, reflected light.  Overall, it works to create a believable series of ins and outs to the back; something that wasn't visible in the photo.

Though I'm a firm believer that life painting is the best way to learn about rendering form, these successes are encouraging.  They show me that having studied long and hard from life, it's possible to return to photos and make something plausible and interesting of them.  They can become a source for paintings on those days when I can't go out to paint, I don't have a model scheduled to sit, and I don't feel like painting a still life.

Still, I'm pleased that I'll have a model coming in tomorrow!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Springtime Plein Air

Early Spring
12 x 9
Spring has started and it's an exciting time to go outside and use the pochade box.

I spent a day in my favourite local park last week and was lucky enough to get this view at the first set up.  I loved the subtle backlighting and the suggestion of fresh new green that was peeking out on the trees.  During the course of the warm day, the trees leafed out noticeably and I got a sunburn.  The season really are changing!

This painting was done on double oil primed linen - a surface that hasn't always been lucky for me in the studio.  The marks often seemed characterless.  But, out in the park with a time constraint and lots of distractions, I couldn't fuss with it like I can indoors and that turned out to be a good thing.  I was nearly done the piece before I realized that I hadn't been fighting the surface at all.  The marks have personality and the treatment stayed fresh.  I'm glad that I didn't give up on the linen too soon.