Saturday, January 26, 2013

Monument Valley IV

1.91 Monument Valley IV. This was an extremely quick painting. I wanted to focus on emphasizing the distance as the buttes receded on the horizon. As usual, I did this by adding increasing amounts of grey to the colors that I mixed for highlights and shadows. In this instance, I think that the difference between each level in the painting was too much and that the buttes appear to be of different colors rather than farther away. The ground is all the same shade because it was supposed to be a hill in the foreground. Perhaps this is not obvious and that is what makes the colors in the distance seem so false.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Monitor and Merrimack

1.89 Monitor and Merrimack. After finishing the painting of Antelope Canyon on a huge canvas, I decided to do one more on a tiny 12x16 canvas. I used the same wet on wet style here that I used previously, but tried to learn how to control it a little better and create the contrast the I want to convey in my paintings. 

I'm trying to be less careful with my paintings; to work quickly and see what results rather than carefully planning each step, practicing each stroke with my brush hovering over the canvas. I've treated every painting as an important work; thinking about how it fits in with my previous work and how it will look when I post it on this blog. I decided a long time ago that I would post any painting that I finished even if I hated it because I felt that it might be helpful to other aspiring painters who happened upon this blog to see the up and down process that one goes through in creating art. The problem is that I always play it safe when working on a painting; I don't want to create something so horrible that I'll be ashamed to see it on my website. Going forward I'm going to try to ignore my instinct to cling to the familiar, safe choices and paint exactly as I feel.

Antelope Canyon

1.88 Antelope Canyon. I'm usually very stingy with my paint. I always wait for a previous layer of paint to dry before I apply the next layer so that I can use the least amount of paint to render the color difference. One consequence of this approach is that I rarely finish a painting in one day, let alone one sitting. I've often wondered if this has an effect on my style of painting and whether or not finishing a painting in one continuous sitting would result in a different type of work.

I've wanted to paint antelope canyon since I visited it years ago, but I never have because of perceived limitations in my style of painting. First, the shadows on the smooth, curving canyon wall slowly blend into the light which is the antithesis of the stark shadows that I usually like to paint. Second, a painting of antelope canyon would require so many layers of paint and waiting for said paint to dry that I never thought I'd have the patience. 

Today I decided that I'd paint all the layers at once, while the paint was wet. Starting from the most distant layer I laid on thick sheets of paint, adding more and more to overwhelm the colors from the layers below as I went from highlight to shadow. One of the major challenges that I discovered with this style of painting was attempting to disguise my brushstrokes. With colors from underneath blending with the paint on my brush as I dragged it across the canvas, it was impossible to hide the beginning and end of each stroke. I had to make each stroke begin and end at the edge of the canvas or else blend the colors from the layers below. This was difficult for me as I like to create sharp contrast between the elements of a scene in my paintings.

The benefit of this style of painting is the frequent encounters with the unexpected. Colors that were buried deep below would appear seredipitously to create interesting effects that I had not planned. I tried to train myself to look for these elements as they came into existence because it was all too easy to wipe them away with the next stroke of the brush and never even notice.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Smith Fork Canyon

1.87 Smith Fork Canyon. I'm trying to plan a cross country trip to live in the Utah desert for 6 months. In order to carry enough supplies for 6 months of painting in my jeep I'll have to live without my 1" deep canvases. I bought this gessoboard to try out as an alternative, and got some interesting results. The smooth surface and lack of absorbency allowed me to smear on multiple layers of color and to determine the blend of these colors by varying the pressure on my brush as I scrubbed it up and down the board. I even got out the palette knife that I haven't used in years to tidy up the little blotches that are so visible when a brush is lifted from such a smooth, saturated surface at the end of a stroke. 
I didn't set out to create a painting so different in style than what I usually create; the style was driven by the properties of the surface.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Paul Bunyan Arch II

1.86 Paul Bunyan Arch II. The first painting that I did of this arch is one of my favorites. The noon lighting and sharp edged shapes lend themselves to the kind of depiction I was striving for. It was one of the first times where I was consciously trying to treat the shadows as an arrangement of shapes and altering my depiction to create shapes that I thought were pleasing.
I wanted to revisit this arch to try a different approach. The original painting used a lot of blending to hint at what was foreground and background and to depict the glow of reflected light on the underside of the arch. Here, I'm trying to create that same depth using only blocks of solid color. Looking back at the original, I think I've fallen short in this regard. However, I think that the colors in this version are more pleasant. The challenge is to approach as nearly as possible the understanding of the scene that one would receive from standing in front of the actual arch. I think that depth is crucial to this and I will have to continue to work to find a way to depict depth in this style.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bowtie Arch II

1.85 Bowtie Arch II. This is actually a painting of a painting. It is a crop of the first painting I did of Bowtie Arch back in 2010. I repeated the method of successive sketches that I used for my last painting. This time I also included the relative tone of each section in my sketching. 

Spiderweb Arch III

1.84 Spiderweb Arch III. Lately I've been experimenting with more in depth planning of the composition of my paintings. I used to rant and rave in art class when my teacher asked me to draw a series of thumbnail sketches of the planned work before starting. I always changed things around as I worked and felt that the thumbnail sketches would ruin the possibility of my work surprising me. Until recently I've always compiled a bunch of photographs from different angles at different times of day of each subject and merged them into a composition in my head as I worked. This resulted in a lot of paintings where I discovered a connection between the shapes half way through, and a painting the hadn't felt promising would become one of my favorites. More often I would discover that what had seemed so interesting in my head appeared flat and contrived on the canvas. 

After a run of frustrating unfinished paintings I recently started making sketches of what I thought a painting was going to look like to screen for ideas that were absolutely not going to work. I'd then discard the sketches and start the painting. I was still processing the realistic photo image into simpler shapes in my head as I went. 

For this painting, I made a sketch of the scene, trying to reproduce only the elements that I wanted for my painting. Then I made a sketch of the sketch; followed by another sketch and another. After four generations of sketches I felt that I had wiped away all of the unnecessary details and had begun to focus on the arch as a jigsaw puzzle of flowing shapes rather than a sandstone wall with a hole worn through. 

I discarded the original picture this time and used only the sketch to complete the painting. I struggled with the lack of a guide for color choice. I repainted the scene 3 times trying to get the differences in the shades of the shadow right. If even one of the shades was off, I would repaint them all because I needed the layering to be in the right order to avoid having to use a small brush to make lazy looking strokes in the corners of shapes. 

I have a few issues with this painting. The effort that I put into getting each piece just right in shape and color doesn't show and the bottom portion of the painting looks especially lazy. I think that the colors are a little warm, especially the highlights, and they don't quite suggest moonlight like they're supposed to.