Thursday, May 30, 2013

Painting Metal

Pearl Onions and Peonies
24 x 12
Painting metal, like painting skin, seems to intimidate students but it's actually pretty easy and I think it's a lot of fun. I enjoyed the challenge of rendering the reflections and distortions across the surface of this brass pot because it was an exercise in simplification and colour modification.

The painting was about simplification because there were many more marks in the reflection than I put into the painting.  The most important thing to keep sight of was that I was trying to create a believable form, and the more reflections in the metal, the more the form broke apart and became hard to read as solid.  So I sacrificed some of the interesting little reflections in order that the pot felt like a single, rounded object.  By editing for the fewest, big shapes that I could, this became easy.  I could depict the surface as, essentially, a dark top and light bottom part with the reflection of the little square dish and a couple of the pearl onions in the middle.  Although I could see my easel and a lot of other details reflected in the brass, I left them out and just put in these few major shapes.

The colour modification was interesting because I had to render the reflections that I saw in the pot with the correct influence of warm, yellow brass.  So the green dish became warmer in reflection and the white table cloth looked almost peach coloured.

None of this was guess work; the set up was right in front of me and I just had to look.  The tricky part was, as always, understanding what I was seeing and translating that in simple terms to the canvas.

The peonies gave me no end of trouble, but that's another blog post.

Happy painting!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Summer Colour

Minnows There
24 x 12
Summer's here - or at least it's stopped snowing - and I'm looking back at some of the photos that I took at the beach last year.

This pose wouldn't usually strike my fancy because it's just one long vertical, devoid of interesting negative spaces, but the slight curve to the body and the answering reflection below the boy intrigued me, as did the challenge of painting the gauze of the net.

I pushed the colour of the boy's skin in the shadows, making it a very intense red-orange and that set the tone for the rest of the painting, allowing me to mix lots of vibrant colour in the water.

It's an optimistic painting: a return to the outdoors and the warmth of the sun after a really long winter.
Am I tempting fate?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pigment Brands

White Linen\
10 x 8
This is a limited palette painting - sort of.  I used the Zorn palette of yellow ochre, cad red light, ivory black and titanium white, but I added transparent red oxide without which I find it hard to start a painting.  It's the colour that I use to draw the initial composition and, with the addition of ultramarine blue, the initial shadow colour.

I've been experimenting with burnt sienna in the hopes that it would give me more robust coverage, but that proved a false road.   Transparent paints tend to be more powerful tinters than opaque or semi opaque pigments, and I found I was using a lot of burnt sienna in an attempt to replicate the strength of trans. red oxide.  It it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I use a variety of brands even within this limited palette because there's a surprising amount of colour variation even in something as simple as yellow ochre.   So my limited palette contains 3 different brands: M. Graham, Winsor Newton, and Lefranc and Bourgeois.

M. Graham has great, reasonably-priced paint.  I love the buttery consistency and powerful tinting strength and it has, in my opinion, one of the prettiest yellow ochres.  Yellow ochre often tends toward a dull brown, but I love the warm yellow of Graham's version.  I use their cad red light and transparent red oxide as well, not because I've made a careful study of this pigment in other brands, but because it's hard to beat their price and I've got no complaints with the colour or tinting strength.

My ivory black is Winsor Newton.  It makes a gorgeous, muted blue when mixed with white and makes lovely greens with ochre and smoky purples with the cad red light.

Lefranc and Bourgeois brand is a new addition to my palette.  I've been increasingly aware of the huge difference that white makes and have tried a lot of different kinds in the past few months: Winsor Newton titanium white, flake white hue, and transparent white; Gamblin titanium and flake white replacement; and Graham titanium.  I've sworn off of the beautiful semi-transparent zinc white because of it's brittleness when dry; I'd be too worried that it would crack with the natural expansion and contraction of the linen support.

The challenge with white is that it's necessary for building body and creating impasto, but it easily corrupts colour.  I was on the verge of buying a lead white which would give me a warm, semi-transparent white, but read about the wonders of L and B. titanium and so decided to give it a try.  It really is good: creamy but not melting and not as cold as many titaniums.  So while I can't buy it in my city, the wonders of online shopping allows me to use this as my new white.   I still grab for the flake white replacement from Gamblin for its snotty consistency ( their description) when I want instant texture, but I'm sure that I could boost the textural possibilities of the Land B by soaking up some of its oil on cardboard before use.

Reading this, I see that I've become a real paint snob, but there are worse vices in the world.  Call it discerning and it even becomes a virtue.

Happy painting!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dealing with Warm and Cool Colour

Dancer in Green
14 x 11
I'm taking a break from still life in the studio for a while and mining some old photos for paintings.  If I go too long without painting a person, I get antsy and don't feel like I'm doing my best work.

This comes from a model painting session in which I achieved absolutely nothing, nada, bupkis (I was a bit frustrated; can you tell?) but got some great photos when our model walked through a series of graceful dance moves at the end of the session.

The challenge here was to create rich and varied dark skin colours and to capture the effect of light on them.
While most of the illumination was from north-facing windows and a couple of skylights, I'd added a warm, halogen flood light to create shadows.  The resulting warm/cool effect was beautiful, but tricky.

The solution was to use alizarin as my main red in the cool side and add a lot of cad red light and cad yellow deep into the flood-lit side.  As well, because the model's skin is already a warm colour, I couldn't achieve much drama from adding warm, orange or yellow-based highlights on the right side, so I went with a greeny-yellow, making use of the effects of complimentary colour to boost the illusion of strong light.  But, if you squint, you'll see that the highlight on the right shoulder is no lighter in value than the pinks and purples on the left side of her neck.  It's amazing how adding a lot of yellow tricks the eye into believing that an area is much lighter than it actually is.  If I'd used a lot of white to highlight her skin, it wouldn't have made sense.  The model's skin is dark, and the highlights have to be fairly dark as well.

I'm always amazed by the amount of problem solving that goes on in even a small painting.  I think that all that brain work keeps artists young.

Happy painting!