Saturday, January 30, 2016

Small paintings for big learning

Red Flowers
10 x 8

Tea Roses
11 x 14
I try to intersperse larger, more ambitious paintings with small work that can fly off the brush in one sitting and teach me something in the process.

I find it helps to work a series of these small pieces as I learn something from each one that I can explore more thoroughly in the next one.  In the long run, everything will help me to do a better job of the big paintings.  And while I don't do colour studies for large works (I find that kills the spontaneity of my approach and keeps me tethered to choices made on the test piece) I do use these stand alone paintings to test colour choices.

Both of these florals were set up to explore difficult colours more thoroughly: red and white.  I find each of these challenging in their own way.  Red in strong light has to be lighter, but, if you add white, it turns pink.  Lightening with yellow makes it orange.  In either case, the essential "redness" is lost.  So in "Red Flowers" I focused on both warm and cool red pigments, using cad red light in the lights and alizarin in the shadows, as well as using complements in the shadows.  Adding some green into the dark side of the flowers meant that it enhanced the sensation of redness in the lights.  Our eyes create complementary interactions naturally, pushing colours into opposition with their neighbours as we look at them.  So, while I used both some white and some yellow to create the light side of the flower, the generous use of surrounding green helped keep the flower red.  

"Tea Roses" was an exploration of white.  It's tricky, too, because the shadows can contain a myriad of colours, but they have to stay high key in order to make sense on such a light value object.  The light areas also have to have good colour to avoid the chilly, dead effect of using tube white.  But, as soon as colour is added to tube white, it darkens the mixture.  This little floral was much slower and more challenging than it looks, involving lots of scraping and repainting, as I juggled the lights and shadows of the flowers, trying to nail that moment when the shadows felt airy and luminous, and the lights were colourful and interesting.  I'll use these hard won lessons in future whites.

There are more florals in the works in my studio.  I must be thinking of spring!

Happy painting!

Friday, January 15, 2016

New Workshop White Rock, BC

I'll be teaching a figure workshop in White Rock, BC this spring.  Hosted by the Federation of Canadian Artists, this will be a chance to deepen and broaden your painting practise, no matter what genre you work in.  
For the many American painters who have contacted me about teaching, this is a great opportunity: the Canadian dollar is ridiculously weak which is good for you!

Below is an outline of what we'll be doing.  Please contact me if you have any questions, and, if you're interested in pricing and registration, contact the Federation of Canadian Artists.
I hope you'll join me!

Alla Prima and Beyond: a 5 day figure workshop

March 14 - 18 White Rock BC

Take your painting to the next level with this intensive 5 day figurative workshop.  Working with a clothed model, we will begin with single figure compositions.,  You'll discover how to capture a figure believably and expressively without preliminary drawing or grids, and how to integrate the figure into its background.  

You'll learn to find patterns and rhythms in the the figure set up and use them to add richness and design to your work. 

Over the course of the workshop, you will also develop a larger, multi-figure composition created from individual poses added to a single canvas over 3 days.  In turning several individual figures into a coherent composition, you'll tackle both technical and compositional issues.  You'll learn how to layer wet over dry paint while maintaining the integrity of your paint film, as well as how to create a unified, dynamic composition by selectively enhancing or subordinating elements within the picture plane. 

Throughout, the emphasis will be on painterly brushwork and making creative colour choices.  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Work it

Male Model
10 x 8

Original (sorry about the poor white balance)
The model at this week's figure drop in had a character-filled face that invited portraiture, and I regret not tackling a larger painting.  I used some tiny brushes where I'd much rather have used big, expressive ones, but I'm still pleased with how this eventually turned out.

Increasingly, I've realized that it's too much to ask that a painting is finished after just one session.  It may seem done, but usually that just means that I've run out of ideas or become too tired to make any more decisions. That's when I have to stop and put some time and distance between myself and the work before I ruin it with thoughtless marks.

When I looked at the painting the next day, I was both tentatively pleased and deeply bored.  It had some good light and dynamic paint, but the dark, undeveloped background felt old fashioned and uninspiring.  So, since there was nothing to lose - I didn't love it - I scraped back the hair and background, mixed up a couple of high chroma colours, and tested them behind the head.

After a couple of false attempts with less extravagant colours, I finally dove in and accepted that warm yellow was the best choice.  It brought out a nice piece of greyed yellow in the brow area, and found an echo in the reflected light in the chin.  And as soon as I applied it, it lifted both the painting and my boredom.  I added some blue on a whim, and that pleased me, too.

Every painting gets a lot of chances in my studio.  I work at them until they please me, or until I've killed them.  Either way, I learn something, take some chances, and try to avoid boring myself and viewers.

Happy painting!