Friday, December 12, 2014

Economy of colour and bountiful colour

Young Model
14 x 11
This painting was all about colour and colour temperature.  I wanted to see just how far I could push the warm lights and cool shadows before the skin seemed unbelievable and bizarre.

Maybe I've got a high tolerance for odd, but I still haven't hit the limit.  There's pure green in her cheek, and blue in her arm, but I still have an overall belief in the skin as caucasian and not alien.

In her difficult but fascinating book "Vision and Art: the biology of seeing", Margaret Livingstone pointed out that putting colour at the edges of objects can convince viewers' brains that the entire objects are that colour.  She used a red roof in a Cezanne painting to show this.  Though the roof was mostly ochres and neutrals, the red perimeter of the roof shape influenced the entire interior space and made it look like the whole roof was red.   Cezanne used this a lot, and here's an example:

In "Young Model", the warm orange colours in the top surface of her arm function in the same way. Though there are a lot of cool, unnatural colours in the arms, those small, orange marks can override them and give the impression of a peach-coloured arm.  It's an amazing phenomenon and it gives an opportunity to explore a great deal of colour without losing the sense of an area.

Happy painting!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Arches oil paper

Chinese bowl and berries
8 x 10
I've been playing around with Arches oil paper lately and am really enjoying the surface.
Like watercolour paper, there's a wonderful bright whiteness to it which glows through the paint and adds vibrance to the colours.

Another nice quality of the paper is the feeling of irregularity in its surface texture.  Unlike the monotony of machine-woven canvas, there's a nostalgic, random look to the surface that integrates beautifully with the brushstrokes.  It's also easy to build a rich, painterly surface on it; the layers adhere well and it's easy to get to impasto paint quickly from a scruffy start.  I think that will make it really useful for plein air studies and figure sketches.

I'm still not sure how I'll mount this stuff, though.  I experimented by adhering a sheet to a panel in the heat press, using BEVA film as the adhesive.  This is my method for mounting linen to panel, but it didn't work for the Arches paper.  The application of heat changed the working quality of the paper, making it more absorbent and flattening the texture.  Probably, it would ruin its archival quality, but I'm just guessing about that.

Next I'll try cold mounting the paper with glue, and, if that still flattens the texture too much, I think I'll just tack it with acid-free tape to a panel and pop it into a frame.  It lies very flat, so I don't see a problem with that method unless it's hung in a humid bathroom.  Then, all bets are off.

Happy painting!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The beauty of speed

The Bride Wore Cowboy Boots
10 x 8
We've had a lovely model in my class for the past few weeks and she surprised us by arriving in her wedding dress.  It was a great choice because it added grace and interest to each of her poses as well as forcing students to deal with a large expanse of white. For a touch of hill-billy chic, she accessorized with cowboy boots.

This painting was one of the 20 minute warm ups that we do at the start of each model class.  It really helps my students loosen up and approach the subsequent long pose with greater focus.  In 20 minutes, you can only think of big shapes, major values, and large gestures; the rest is impossible and, as we repeatedly discover, unnecessary.  We are always delighted by the fresh vigour of these painted sketches when we put them against the wall for a critique and just to admire.

There were a lot of elegant, refined paintings that came out of these weeks with our model, but my heart is still with the dazzling sketches that preceded them.