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Showing posts from June, 2015

Mining a vein

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These 2 paintings were an exploration of a back lit figure done from some photos that I took of my son.  He's over 6' tall and not at all feminine, but I changed his gender for these paintings while keeping the lighting and the grace of his gesture.  In the source photo below, you can see the similarities and also where the paintings diverge.  I was particularly excited by the cool, high key shadows in the white quilt and the expanse of light falling across its top plane.


Always fascinating is the amount of both warm and cool colour that makes up a shadow. Depending on reflected wall colour, local flesh colour, and the temperature of the light outside, there are multiple different hues that can be layered into a shadow.  These colours energize the shadow and make it descriptive of both the figure and its surroundings.  It's important, though, to keep the shadow application flat; any texture in the paint will make that area catch light and jump out of its recessive place. …

The problem with dark passages

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It's easy to build the lights in a painting: thick, luscious, white-laden paint; and it's somewhat easy to develop mid tones: warm and cool, colour changes without big value changes; but it's very hard to figure out what to do with shadows.  It's the darks that stymie me in a lot of my paintings.

Many painters start with an earth toned underpainting in which they knock in all of the shadows and darks in a monochromatic grisaille (the current favourite is transparent red oxide, though traditionally I believe it was umber).  Then, as they build the painting, they leave the TRO to show through, often creating the shadows in the finished piece.  I used to do a lot of that.

But I've been using progressively thicker paint over the past year and those thin passages don't integrate as they used to; they look raw and unfinished in my eyes and I'm forced to deal with them.

Sargent said once that you should paint the shadows with as much paint as the lights, you jus…

Rejuvenate and refresh

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I spent 3 days last weekend at River Rock Studio not far from Calgary.  It was just 4 painters and, for one of the days, our model, Brenda, and it was amazing.

Unlike all the people who work with others, artists often spend days on end without talking to another person, let alone a peer.  We can become uncertain, mannered, and squirrelly; not good for the creation of art.  So working and talking with professional artists for 3 days was a balm and a rejuvenation.  There was wine, good food and shop talk.  We applauded exciting passages and colour mixtures and commiserated with wipe offs.  But, since we've all had plenty of those, they weren't a big deal; just part of the process.

And that was the thing that this retreat most reminded me of: the fact that making art is about process, not product.  Wonderful if something works and you can pop it in a frame, but also wonderful if you've taken some risks with the paint, but it didn't turn into a keeper.  That's beside…

Cold wax medium

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Every oil medium gives a different look to brushwork and, of course, to the final painting.  I've been exploring those unique qualities quite a bit lately.

While my old stand by medium is 50/50 oil and OMS, I have taken frequent forays into the world of alkyds in the form of Liquin, Neo Megilp and Galkyd.  This painting, however, used a modern version of an ancient medium: wax.

I used Dorland's cold wax medium throughout the painting as my reading suggested that it should not just be used in one part of the piece.  As well, I painted on a rigid support to avoid cracking from the thicker, harder paint body.  This is on linen mounted on birch.

While the original wax medium in old master's paintings would have been beeswax, Dorland's is,  a mixture of beeswax, several other waxes, and resin.  It's quick dry, thanks to the resin, but, unlike most resin products, it doesn't smell.  As always, it's probably adding some to my indoor pollution, but I didn't …