Sunday, October 28, 2012

The End of the Season

Autumn Still Life
24 x 20
This still life catches the edge of fall: wilted, seed-filled sunflower heads from the garden, and the last of my trees' apples, picked off the ground before the dog could make a snack of them.   The blue and white bowl was a gift from my mom.  Setting up objects that are meaningful to me makes it much easier to paint them with feeling.

After a couple of days, the water in the large, glass vase turned a gorgeous amber from the flowers' stems; a  perfect effect to link the yellows throughout the set up.

This was a nice change from all of the photo references that I've been working from lately and it really freshened my eyes, reminding me that real life has so many more colours than photos reproduce.  The main effect that I wanted to capture was the sense of light on all of the greyed colours.  Layering warm and cool colours within the greys set up a vibration and made them glow.  While the effect is colourful, there is very little pure colour in the piece; surrounding even low chroma with grey makes it seem amazingly vivid.

The weather has changed dramatically here, and I'll soon be out in the car with my pochade box trying to capture the colours of snow.

Stay warm and happy painting!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Complexity of Skin

Over the Shoulder
14 x 11
I heard someone say that skin was iridescent, and he was absolutely right.  The more you look at it, trying to find the right colour to mix, the more colour you see.  It's a muted version of hummingbird feathers.

That's why the Impressionists sometimes painted skin in small, many-coloured marks laid side-by-side, or layered brokenly, wet over dry.  They were trying to capture that complexity of local colour as well as the modifying effect of light on that colour.

Painters in the tradition of Rembrandt tackled the problem with glazes and scumbles, building rich, glowing surfaces without pure, bright colours.  Like glazes in watercolour, the more thin layers of oil that you apply, the richer the result becomes.

This painting attempts to capture the complex colours of skin in an alla prima painting and with large, swift marks.  While I love the Impressionist tradition, I have more of an interest in large, flowing brushwork so I'm always trying to honour the light, the complex local colour, and the bold marks when I paint.  On bad days, I achieve one or two of these goals; on good days, I manage all three.

This piece does, I think, achieve all three goals.  There's a strong sense of the bounce of colour and light and I worked hard to keep it loose and painterly but accurate.  I'm pleased with the muted colour harmony, something that I've been working on a lot lately as I've gotten a bit tired of high chroma.

Like every painting, there are things that I'd change, but that's for the next one.

Happy painting!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Music of Lines

Ginger Jar and Three Peaches
12 x 24
Lines are great!  I love using them to emphasize elements in a still life.  In this painting, the lines came naturally because the jar has a dark design on it; something that I could carry out into the rest of the painting.  They are a playful way to define the peaches and the ribbons that hang off the table, as well as an indicator of rhythm and brush speed.  Does that make sense?

Every brush stroke has a speed and I prefer the dashing, racing ones.  By adding some quick, calligraphic line work after the forms are established, other speedy marks are accentuated and the whole piece, though it's a static subject, gains movement and a quick tempo and fluidity.

Painting is like music and I like my tunes lively.

Happy painting!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Why I Painted this Painiting

Heading Out
30 x 40
I'm reading "True to life: twenty-five years of conversations with David Hockney" by Lawrence Weschler.  
Hockney's intellect is what comes across most in the book.  The man thinks deeply about what he creates and why, and, refreshingly, he can articulate it in plain language. It's made me realize how fascinating it can be to read about artist's intentions.  So this post is about my intentions in "Heading Out".  It's a chance to go beyond the "how" of paint application and tackle the "why" of painting.

Talking about his swimming pool series, Hockney mentions that there is a thin skin on the surface of water which is where distortion takes place; if you go below that skin, there is no distortion.  Though I painted this before I read the book, I realized that "Heading Out" is about that thin, magical skin.  Above the water, it's a boy; below the skin, it's a loosely-grouped assortment of shapes and cool colour.  

Along with the distortion of the boy's leg underwater, what interested me when I planned this piece was the way the surface of water was both transparent and reflective, depending on where it was in relation to the viewer (and my camera).  In the distance, the water reflects blue sky while nearer to the boy's feet, the viewer is looking down into the depths of the lake, not skimming across the surface. The mingling of warm lake bottom and cool sky creates the illusion of depth - an illusion that is most apparent when you see the painting in life, not on the flattening computer screen.   There's horizontal depth, too, in the foreshortened perspective of the pose.  My husband said that he felt like he was wearing 3-D glasses because of the way the boy's foot protrudes toward the viewer - a comment I enjoyed.

Writing this has been a fun exercise and made me realize that my artist's statement could use some updating.  My intentions have grown beyond what they were when I wrote the statement a couple of years ago.  I'll add it to my list of things to do - another day.

Happy painting and thinking about paint!