Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"Bridge at Arroyo Hondo"

"Bridge at Arroyo Hondo" - Oil - 12" x 16" - SOLD

"Popular with outdoorsmen and artists, Arroyo Hondo is wonderfully picturesque. As the light changes during the day, there are countless subjects for the outdoor artist."." --- SFG


Work in progress...

This painting of will be of Arroyo Hondo showing the water in the foreground and the bridge I crossed to get there. The background slope will be to to right and the orange bluff in shadow falls to the left.

My drawing is simple, defining the upright and horizontal planes and the angles of the primary edges.

As my second painting of the day, I'm taking a broader, faster approach to it. I won't be so deliberate, letting my subconscious work more than I did in the morning painting, "Morning Magic." Awareness is important as you learn to work. For me, there is a distinction between paintings that work best because I've been more deliberate and careful, as you saw in the painting described in the previous post, and the ones that I let my subconscious take over. They are usually the second or third alla prima painting of the day and often it is the best one. The subconsious is most capable of juggling all the elements necessary in painting. Call it muscle memory, if you could call the brain a muscle.

When you premix colors, as I did earlier today, it sometimes feels like using pastels, because you simply dip right into the correct color with a fresh or freshly wiped brush. All of the colors are better related to each other...especially if you use a bit of the previously mixed pile to start the next one.

By the time I get to this point, I'm to the stage of adjusting the painting, often by simplifying. I changed the direction of the brushstrokes following the contours of the background hill.

"Morning Magic"

"Morning Magic" - Oil - 8" x 10" - SOLD

"Color in shadow can be surprising and delightful. Here, at Arroyo Hondo near Taos, New Mexico, I enjoyed the shadow color as much as the light." --- SFG
Work in progress...

This morning's painting will be a small 8" x 10" of cliffs at Arroyo Hondo, near Toas, New Mexico. My reference photo offers a lot of possibilities.

I have pre-mixed my colors to get some of those wonderfully vibrant warm and cool colors in the shadows of the rock. I will start with the #12 brush shown (even on an 8" x 10" ).

I've drawn in my composition and at this point I've become pretty excited about this subject. It will be a lot of fun distributing those colors I've mixed across the work, putting them in the right place. I fairly well defined the shapes in the bluff, even though I'll be painting beyond the shapes, generalizing and redrawing throughout the work.

I started with the darks in the shadows of the bluff and the foreground shapes. Every shape you put down is a process of drawing. I consider the drawing stage, since I'm going to cover up all those lines, to be training the artist's memory. Because I will be painting beyond the edges of the shapes, I will be concentrating on where those shapes join, how soft the edges are and how detail will fit in at the end.

I've cooled the slope on the left a good deal to make it recede, but kept it darker than the foreground surface. The warmth of the foreground color sets the areas further apart, as well. I'm still using that #12 brush.

Now, I've added the curlean sky typical of the area and started the mid-tones in light of the bluff that catch the grazing light of morning. I've still left enough value range to add those spectacular areas that glow. The blue notes in the foreground are to remind me that some of the sky's color is naturally present in the ground color. From the thickness of the paint, you can tell that I'm applying it directly and paying attention to paint quality.

Finally, I've switched to a #8 brush. I've returned to each area, especially the shadow area to work the warms and cools of its surface. I've adjusted the intensity of the slope on the left and added some green of the vegitation there. Softening the top edge, helps it roll back rather than looking cut and pasted to the sky. I added the cloud, carefully assessing its value in relation to the other lights in the painting.
When working on the lit areas of the bluff, I painted more temperature changes in the midtones. After I had these value relationships established, I used the darker darks in the shadows to define the contours of the fractured stone. Note that they are still warm in color because the light bounces around within those areas and the redder wave lengths survive. If I had used a cooler color, the temperature key would be off and the whole area deadened. For some of the finer lines, I picked up a #4 brush. By making choices of which darker areas and lines to draw, I'm creating rhythm, design and interest.

I'm nearly there. I've better described the foreground rocks and added interest to the ground plane.

Be the Tiger Woods of Painting!

Be the Tiger Woods of Painting !

Hearing the news accounts of last weekend’s action at the US Open golf tournament, I began to speculate on the remarkable abilities of golfer Tiger Woods. I related these thoughts to an article on memory that I read recently in Smithsonian magazine. In it, the authorities stated that your “how to” memory is stored in a different location in the brain from short- or long-term memory. All of my conclusions were purely my own and may not hold up to informed scrutiny, but I’m not one to immediately disqualify an opinion just because it’s made by a non-expert.

Woods’ familiar story relates how he began swinging a golf club as a very young child, just when I’m told that neural pathways are connecting. If something interferes with the properly timed connect-up of those pathways, like psychological trauma or illness, the opportunity is lost forever. The unfortunate individual may have to search out another way of accomplishing the skill or task for which he was meant to use that synapse or, perhaps, will never master it. Probably, he will be unaware of “something missing” other than a vague consciousness that X is more difficult for him than Y.

Conversely, it stands to reason, in my mind at least, that if the child, by luck or destiny, is motivated to practice a skill at precisely the time when his body is developing the miraculous, shining cobweb that links his body and his mind, extraordinary things can happen.

Applying these thoughts to the subject of art and making art, what would happen if a child were drawing – from direct observation, of course – when this miracle took place? Would he become a draftsman equal to Nicholi Fechin? If he were playing with color, would he equal Sergei Bongart? Are destinies such as these set that early in one’s life? If the moment is missed, is the opportunity lost forever?

Hopefully not. Accounts of stunning recoveries of brain-injured patients abound and credit is given to retraining the brain to use a detour. Though not always as easy or graceful as the original method, the magnificent human brain is able to accommodate in incredible ways. From motor skills to cognitive operations, patients who are determined enough and receive informed assistance will improve and some will reach performance levels with imperceptible signs of impairment.

How does this apply to being an artist? Unless your parents were extraordinarily perceptive and caught the first faint sign of Picasso-like qualities in their little darling, they did not strap a vine charcoal to your chubby little hand and let you loose on the nursery walls. Instead, you may have dreamed of that 64-color crayon box, but just couldn’t get it across to your parents that it was essential for developing the sensitivities necessary for your desired vocation. I suspect, and all I read confirms it, that Tiger Woods and his family were the exceptions, and that’s what has made him so exceptional.

But if we were like most, we were occupied with pulling girls pigtails or telling on our siblings rather than spending precious hours with pencil and paper, connecting those all-important synapses as required at the precise and singular moment. Most of us fall into the mildly brain-deficient category, and there is blessed comfort in the thought that we, like the patients I described, can make up for lost time by our own dedication and effort and with the direction from those more skilled.

Keep the faith!

Friday, June 06, 2008

"Simple Eloquence"

"Simple Eloquence" - Oil - 11" x 14" - SOLD
"Snow scenes are a joy to paint. The clean, crisp air and brilliant light always make a dramatic
statement...simple eloquence. " --- SFG

Work in progress:

I drew in my subject in a darker color this time just to provide more contrast in the painting. Also, it might photograph better.

At this stage, I'm playing with shapes... the shapes of the trees, the lay of the land, and the
snowdrifts, and the color of the shadows. I know I will not have the usual
relationship of values in a landscape. With snow, it usually takes over. It will
reflect so much light that the sky will not be the lightest element, as it
usually is. Also, I'm feeling my way, trying to make that background recede and
keeping the foreground in its proper place.

Here I've covered the canvas and established the big relationships of color as big shapes.
I like the big field of snow as the middle ground since it's painted well and I
will build on that and use it to serve as the center of interest and lead to the
mountains in the back.

Well there it is. Keeping it simple really worked for this painting. The
variations in the color of the snow, a little calligraphy, and careful
changes in the values kept it all together. It fell in place nicely.

Simple eloquence.