Pumpkin Field

Pumpkin Field, 20" x 20", UART 320

Pumpkin Field, 20″ x 20″, UART 320

Source photo

Source photo

Smaller initial painting done as color study, 12 x 12, UART 320

Smaller initial painting done as color study, 12 x 12, UART 320

On Monday, I did a large demo–a 20 x 20. I had my framer mount UART 320 onto gator foam. I used to paint directly on gator foam and still have sheets of it from a case I bought many years ago. So now I’ve decided to use it for mounting paper.

This painting was important to me, given its size.  After looking at the source photo several times, I suddenly realized its potential.  I took the photo with my friend Sarah Brown in Tiverton, RI. She suggested we ignore the “no trespassing” sign and just drive in, park and take pictures, which we did.  Shortly thereafter, I woman road down the road and into the field and chased us out!  But not before I got this photo.  The others are all looking away from the sun and are much less interesting. I loved the light streaming through the trees and the way it hit the reeds and the tops of the pumpkins.

My initial thinking on this painting was that I wanted this to be a combination of blue greens and red oranges, and it actually turned out that way!  If you look at the photo, it’s all pretty much brown, including the ground.  But I thought there was real potential with the trees for multiple colors with the warm blues prevailing.  I also decided that this would be a good painting for a watercolor underpainting. None of the darks are as dark as they might be, given the profusion of light in the picture and the shapes are all pretty nebulous as well.  I used yellow in the sky. Then a combination of ultramarine blue, mars violet, and turquoise for the trees and grasses. I used warmer colors in the foreground.

I was worried about this painting and decided that doing a 12 x 12 study would be a good idea and I was glad that I did it. The first thing I blew was the sky!  I went too dark, then too light, and brushed it off, completely losing the yellow underpainting. When I did the big one, I knew exactly what I would use and I was able to leave a lot of yellow glowing through.

For the trees, my initial thinking was that I could do the trees solely in watercolor and then add some color to the top, and finally the streaming light.  However, I ended up using very light layers of Giraults, mixing different blues, greens, and warm reddish browns.

Compositionally, I made one change that I thought was important. In the photo, you can see that some of the grasses are taller and they are directly below the tallest part of the tree. I decided that they would be better on the right side. I used the bright green leaves to lead the eye into the picture to the grasses, then up to the bright orange at the top. I think this makes a better flow.

You’ll notice that the pumpkins are not all that visible, due to the warm color of the earth around them.  I loved the fact that they were primarily in shadow and I used a combination of cool green and dark red orange, first Girault and then Blue Earth, to give them form and depth. I used a peach Schmincke to begin with for the light on the top, then wen to my lightest Ludwig orange, which really made them stand out.

One of my students noted that in the 12 x 12, the color of the earth was lighter, creating a path into the picture, and asked if I wanted to do that. But we decided that the green leaves were enough.

I added a number of warm greens into the background trees on left and right, in the reeds, and in the grasses in front of the reeds. I think that this helps balance the color. I used a blue green for the darks under the leaves, to bring the color into the foreground.  I made final adjustments to the sky holes and shape of the trees after the class, but really enjoyed engaging my students in the creation of the painting. One person looked at the photo and wondered what the heck I was going to do with it!  And I did pass it by the first time I looked at it.  But working from photos is all about seeing potential.  I like working this way because it gives me time to think about the painting and where I’ll go with the color, what kind of surface and underpainting will work best, and how I might change the composition.  I wouldn’t always do the kind of detailed “color study” that I did, but because the  surface cost me money, I decided it was worth it.  Every painting is a new adventure and a change to explore!

Morning Light on the Bog

Morning Light on the Bog, 14" x 12", UART 320

Morning Light on the Bog, 14″ x 12″, UART 320

Underpainting, hard pastel and alcohot

Underpainting, hard pastel and alcohot

On Tuesday, I taught a group of three experienced oil painters who are interested in learning more about pastel.  In the first class, we used direct application of pastel on the brown Pastel Premiere. This class was about hard pastel underpaintings on UART.  I chose a photo that was primarily in greens and oranges. It was mid October and the colors were starting to change but there was still a lot of green.  I like the shapes in this composition and the way the raised areas of the cranberry bog lead the eye to the two small buildings that are in light and shadow.  The light hitting the tall grasses and strafing the foreground was particularly beautiful.

My initial thinking on the painting was to limit it with greens and oranges, a favorite color combination. But I thought it needed a little more punch, so I decided to add blue violets as well. I used a primarily warm underpainting with the dark violet in the foreground and in some of the shadows.

For the buildings, I began with a light aqua, then added very light orange on top and used a mid-value blue violet for the shadows. While I used Giraults for much of the background trees and the light and shadow on the bogs, the foreground was done with the turquoise and orange Blue Earth pastels.  Their range of values for cool greens is really nice and made it a real joy to lay in the foreground.

Cranberry bogs are a great subject for paintings and I’ve done a number of them.  In the winter, they are red and quite spectacular. But I really loved the colors of this autumn bog.  This was the first time I had seen this bog as it is in back woods, well off the road, but I grew up down the street for a bog that looked pretty much like this one!

 

Three Boats, Crescent Beach

Three Boats, Crescent Beach, 16" x 12", UART 320

Three Boats, Crescent Beach, 16″ x 12″, UART 320

Watercolor underpainting

Watercolor underpainting

stage 2

stage 2

This past week I had three classes and did three demos, two with watercolor underpaintings and one with hard pastel.  I’m going to begin the first of three blogs with the most recent one, which was done with watercolor.  All of the paintings are from my October trip to New England, so the subject matter is very familiar to me.  The purpose of the watercolor underpaintings was to show my classes a different approach to underpaintings and both worked fairly well.

This demo was for my small Wednesday class and I solicited a lot of feedback from my students on this one. My original thought was not to finish it all at the bottom, as you can see in the two small images. But my students didn’t like it, so I kept going!  I think that the resulting painting is overworked, but who knows!

When I took the photo, I liked the path, the triangle of water, and the fact that there were three boats and in different locations.  The boat in the foreground was dark green on the left, with light red on the top and then a lot of white on the right side. None of us liked it and I ended up with the reds and greens that you see in the final painting.  I had to keep toning down the top to keep it from being too bright and distracting. Probably still is!

The background areas were easy in this painting. The trees were just starting to turn red and the marsh grasses were turning gold. I liked putting in patterns of color around the two distant boats, and I added a small piece of beach to the right of the boat in the middle, that everyone thought was a great addition.  Then I got into the reeds in the foreground. I didn’t fill them all in and asked the group what they thought.  No one was particularly pleased with it, so I kept going. I added turquoise watercolor in the blank areas, then filled this up with oranges and greens, and finished with a few pieces of violet to indicate the shadowed areas.

Boats are challenging–particularly upside down boats, which tend to have the appearance of beached whales!

 

Around the Corner (Capitol Hill)

Around the Corner (Capitol Hill), 24" x 20", UART 320

Around the Corner (Capitol Hill), 24″ x 20″, UART 320

Underpainting, first stage

Underpainting, first stage

Underpainting, stage 2

Underpainting, stage 2

Painting in first color scheme (unfinished)

Painting in first color scheme (unfinished)

This past weekend was Open Studios Weekend at Artists and Makers so I needed a painting to work on.  I decided to do another alley picture, from the recent photo shoot. This is the same alley I painted in Back Alley Blues, but it was closer to the street and I found the shadow to be quite dramatic.

I spent Friday night working on the drawing and then adding it to the board. When I arrived on Saturday, I didn’t like it, and erased it all!  There was too much alley.  I finally got the drawing right, then proceeded to the underpainting.

The primary compositional challenges were the sizes of the two walls, and the height of the alley.  There was also a solid row of trash cans in the photo, which was REALLY boring!  In my drawing, I placed them more strategically — and I make them look like old fashioned trash cans as well.

Colorwise, the walls were dark red brick and the trees and bushes were all green. I just assumed that this was going to be a red and green painting, without giving a lot of thought to it (big mistake!!!).  Normally, I would use dark green under dark red for an underpainting, but for some reason, I went to violet and, as you can see, the whole underpainting ended up being kind of violet and yellow!  Not exactly what one wants under a red/green painting. Personally, I find this to be one of the least inspiring and ugliest of underpaintings that I’ve done!!!

I proceeded to add the reds and the greens.  However, I had real problems with the sky color, the color of the buildings in the middle, and the color of the shadow on the left.  I used a warm grayed reddish brown for the base coat of the alley, which worked with the reds.  But, I was not enthralled with this painting.  What you see in the third small image is the painting as I left it on Saturday.

I woke up at 3:00 in the morning (which, due to the end of day lights savings time, was actually 2:00!). I knew that I was very unhappy with the painting so I started thinking about it. I just knew that I wanted to use violets and yellows in it–thus, the underpainting, I guess.  So I started thinking through the various pieces of the painting. It took almost 2 sleepless hours to realize that it is now fall and I could change the green trees and bush to yellow oranges! And then I’d have a blue violet/yellow orange complement that might work rather nicely.

I got back to the studio at 9:00 AM and brushed off the sky and the green tree and shrub, as well as the color in the alley.  I left the dark red. The value was right and I just added violets on over it.  I then used light blue violets for the sky and the middle buildings and I was suddenly much happier with my painting!  As I proceeded, I added some blue greens and red oranges (particularly in the walls).  I used yellow ochre and aqua in the alley and a warm brown and blue green in the shadow.  So I ended up with a double complement: blue violet/yellow orange and blue green/red orange.  One of the big advantages to this scheme was that I could make the trash cans blue violet!!!  This wouldn’t have worked as well with the reds.

When I first filmed the painting, the building at left was too dark and did not relate well to its shadow. I used a deep blue green to lighten it, using a diagonal stroke to help lead the eye into the alley. I worked to lose the edge between the tree and the building, and I think it works much better.

The shadow of the tree at bottom was a struggle, and I’m still not completely satisfied with it.  I wanted it to be more of a suggestion.

But, on the whole, I am happy now with this picture.

12 x 12’s of the West

In anticipation of our upcoming Open Studios Weekend at Artists and Makers–Nov. 4-5–I decided to do a series of 12 x 12’s of pictures from our Western trip in July.  Last week I did three demos for three different classes on 12 x 12’s, one of which will be washed

Through the Fields, 12 x 12, gray pastelbord

Through the Fields, 12 x 12, gray pastelbord

off!  The other two are OK, but not in this post.  In the past two days I’ve done three more that I’m sharing with you.  First, I want to mention that when we were in Bozeman and Waterton Lakes taking the walks from which these paintings come, I kept thinking about doing larger, more abstracted pieces, with less detail.  So I tried to keep that in mind while I was doing these.  I began with the textured painting “Warm Fields”, done on a resurfaced pastelbord. I toned Art Spectrum liquid primer with a very dark brown liquid acrylic (too much fell in!). This gives the painting an overall dark appearance compared to the other two. For this painting, I used a lot of my American ArtWorks pastels.  One of my students has the red “Try me” set, which I’ve been ogling for some time, but knowing that I own the complete set, meant that I no doubt had all of those colors!  So I brought them to the studio and had great fun pairing warm and cool reds, browns and oranges. I loved working on the surface and probably over did it with the little orange flowers, but I couldn’t help myself!  The combination of pastelbord and the liquid primer makes a very hard surface, so it requires soft pastels.   One of my fellow artists saw the painting and said she loved everything but the texture in the sky. I told her that: 1) I didn’t have a choice with this, and 2) it wouldn’t look right if there was texture everywhere else but not in the sky.  I’ve learned that from experience.

The second painting I did was “Through the Fields”.  This and “Warm Fields” are both from the Painted Hills area on the south side of Bozeman. I’ve tried to do several paintings from this area and haven’t liked any of them. I think the problem was the blue and green landscape. For this one, I used a gray pastelbord, so direct application of pastel.  But I worked from a black and white photo (which I also did for “Warm Fields”). The surface was completely different from the first, much smoother. I began the sky with the same soft pinks and oranges I had used before, but hated it!  So I brushed it off, making the surface even smoother.  I then applied a light violet with aqua on over it. The violet makes it look like rain is imminent!  I then added a light suggestion of cloud. This was all done with soft Great Americans and they hardly made a dent!!!  For this painting, I used a combination of violets, oranges, greens, and aquas. I did a lot of layering, beginning the fields with violet, than adding the oranges on top.  The combination of warm and cool grays down the colors, making them more subdued.  I used some darker, brighter oranges and turquoises in the foreground to perk it up.  Compositionally, I really liked this scene because of the triangle of  dark trees nestled near the hills and the shape of the path leading into the distance.

My last painting was done on mounted UART and it felt really nice after the hard board. For this one, I used the color photo.  I was really happy that I had changed the picture to a square as it meant less of the foreground and I like the resulting composition, which leads the eye into the area of trees, flat fields, and distant mountains. I did an underpainting for this one, using a bright yellowish green for the sky, and a lot of the Caran d’ache brownish “almond” colors for the fields and mountains, which produced a lovely warm color, particularly for the distant mountain on the left.  I was careful with the value of the mountains, beginning with the lightest and working forward. I liked the fact that the mountain at right is darker than the one at left and I really liked the subtle pieces of lighter color (rocks) in the left mountain.  I used Ludwigs and Great Americans and a few Giraults for this.  Even though I was working on a softer, more grabby surface, I continued using soft pastels and liked the feel. But when I got into the more detailed path with grasses, I used some of the Giraults to have better control.  The large patch of green on the left was a challenge, but I broke it up with ochre grasses, pieces of dark blue shadow, and finally a few orange flowers just to the left of the path that look like California poppies.  The flowers that were there were violet and yellow, and wouldn’t have worked in this painting.

These paintings were all really fun to do. I enjoyed pushing myself to use the completely warm palette, then trying other color palettes. I have four 20 x 20 boards of UART 320 that my framer prepared for me and I’m trying to decide what to use them for.  Perhaps one of these, or perhaps another from the West.  We’ll see!

Into the Mountains, 12 x 12, mounted UART 400

Into the Mountains, 12 x 12, mounted UART 400

Warm Fields, 12 x 12, resurfaced pastelbord

Warm Fields, 12 x 12, resurfaced pastelbord

Back Alley Blues

Back Alley Shadows, 24" x 20", UART 320

Back Alley Shadows, 24″ x 20″, UART 320

Underpainting, stage 1

Underpainting, stage 1

Underpainting, with alcohol

Underpainting, with alcohol

Version as finished on Friday

Version as finished on Friday

I’ve just spent several days working on a new alley painting from Capitol Hill.  It’s from a recent photo shoot, so no fall foliage yet, but a lovely day with good shadows. I found this painting to be challenging in a number of ways, but primarily in the color balance.  I’m showing the underpainting in two stages, and what I thought was the final version, and the version as adjusted today.

I was drawn to the composition due to the shadow surrounding the tuft of grasses, and the green bush catching the light in the middle. I also liked the way the alley goes way back and the light pieces of sky.

I began by using some warm color on the building at left for several reasons. In another photo of it, there is warm pink light reflecting on it, and I thought it might balance the red wall at right.  I put greens on over it  to tone it down, but it stands out as being quite different  from the other buildings (I think).  I was fortunate that I did the painting during a Desmond O’Hagan workshop (which was going on elsewhere) and I could ask my friend Joyce Lister for a critique.  She suggested making the left building cooler and my shadows weren’t light enough at the time.

My initial concern with the painting was with the red wall on the far right.  So today, I asked the other person whose opinion I highly value, my “student” Muriel Ebitz.  She said that her eye went to the left building and stopped there because it was so different from the buildings behind it.  She didn’t have a problem with the red.  Today after class, I added various blues and greens to the wall, with some orange light on the far right side, as well as warm green from the bush.  I also added more light on the trash can lids, and added some deep reds into the browns on the right near the bush.  I think that the resulting picture hangs together better and the wall enables the eye to travel into the distance rather than stopping it.

A big thanks to Joyce and Muriel!  It’s always great to get opinions for other artists we respect.  What do you think???

 

Light Under the Bridge, Georgetown

Light Under the Bridge, Georgetown, 20" x 16", UART 320

Light Under the Bridge, Georgetown, 20″ x 16″, UART 320

Underpainting, first stage

Underpainting, first stage

Underpainting with alcohol

Underpainting with alcohol

On Wednesday, I spent the day in the studio painting another scene from the Georgetown Canal sans water.  But this one actually had a little water and the light was gleaming off of it. So it was fun to paint.  I liked the view of the stone bridge with the lovely grasses in light and shadow and the one building complex at upper right, which I tried to minimize.  I wanted to get a really rich, dark underpainting, so I chose UART and used hard pastel and alcohol.  I used the bright yellow green for the sky and windows, a mixture of darks in the dark areas, and oranges and browns under the grasses.

I used a combination of blue green, brown, and grayed violet Giraults for the bridge, using the sides, and just layering them on. I was really happy with the way it came out, with the feeling of the stones without specific articulation.  I loved doing the various greens and I particularly tried hard to keep the values close on the right side, while keeping interest in it.

Doing the water was the most fun!  I decided the brown underpainting wasn’t dark enough (after doing all the green around it) and I laid on my hard pastel and very carefully added alcohol.  Then I began with two Giraults–aqua, then yellow and laid in the pond scum (!).  I finished with a soft lighter yellow, added it with more force near the middle of the picture.

When I first filmed it, the dark blue that I had used under the bridge and in various other darks was way too striking. So today I added dark green and brown into it, which made it look a lot more natural.

The last thing I did was to take some of the light yellow and add it to the sky to give a sense of a light cloud.  I felt that that finished the picture nicely!

Meeker Sunrise

Meeker Sunrise, 20" x 16", mounted UART 320

Meeker Sunrise, 20″ x 16″, mounted UART 320

Hard pastel and alcohol underpainting

Hard pastel and alcohol underpainting

Reference photo

Reference photo

Today I worked on a commissioned painting that I offered to our church auction. It’s taken several years for the purchaser to get back to me, then we decided that I’d use my own photo.  This is Mt. Meeker in Colorado. I was staying in Allenspark, giving a small pastel workshop and I took this photo early one morning.  The photos that the purchaser had were even less interesting than mine!  So I was happy that she agreed to let me use this one.

Compositionally, I knew that I had to make a lot of changes. To begin with, I knew right away that it would be a vertical rather than horizontal.  I also did a lot of tree pruning! I chose to keep in the large evergreen on the left, but shortened or removed some of the aspens.  And, perhaps most importantly, I moved the main cloud to the right side, and added a smaller one by the mountain.  I also added a distant mountain on the left, with a hint of light on it, which I thought made it more interesting.

Since this is UART, I was able to do an underpainting with hard pastel and alcohol, which was a very big help!  You can see how dark the bottom is: a combination of dark blue, violet, and dark cool green.  I used a Caran d’ache almond color for the sky to add some underlying brightness.  I used a warm under cool/cool under warm approach to the mountain, using a reddish brown under the violet, and light violet under the orange.

For the sky, I began with Ludwig aqua, the a very pale Ludwig violet, then a softer very light green that added some yellow to it. I also used the lightest of the Blue Earth violets on the sky.  I LOVED doing the clouds!  So much fun. Have to get back to sky pictures!

The mountain was easy. But then I had to put the dark tree in over the heavily painted sky.  I used soft pastels, trying to keep the branches fine as possible. A the bottom I used my trusty Ludwig eggplant to brush in color, then added various greens around it. The tree trunks with light on them helped break up the foreground.

All of this took 2.5 hours!  I was really quite pleased with it.  Fortunately, I had a clear idea in my head as to what I would do with it.  I hope the buyer likes it!

A New Canal Painting

Canal (no title yet!), 20 x 16, pastel premiere

Canal (no title yet!), 20 x 16, pastel premiere

Watercolor underpainting

Watercolor underpainting

Monday was Labor Day and I took advantage of the holiday to drive to Georgetown first thing in the morning. It’s much easier to drive there and park on holidays. It was a lovely sunny day and I was looking forward to getting summer pictures of the canal.  But when I got there, I saw a lot of greenery but no water!  I remembered reading something about them draining the canal ….  Oh well!  I decided to do my walk anyway and found that it was quite interesting. There were some areas with a little water and the light was shining on it.  I took a number of pictures and today spent a rainy day in the studio painting.

I chose a 16 x 20 mounted white Pastel Premiere board and it was just right for the painting.  I used watercolor, as advised by the maker.  I found that the board was resisting the watercolor quite a bit and had to use a lot of water with it.  But it finally took and was god enough to give me the basic shapes.

I chose this photo because of the dark and light patterns and the rather zig-zag shape of dark.  I also loved the light on the stone wall and the warm colors of the greens in the “canal”.  I made one important change to the composition, lowering the lamp so that it is against the dark wall and not against the window, where it was in the photo.

For the painting, I used mainly Ludwigs and Giraults.  I stuck to the colors I saw, pretty much and didn’t try to impose a limited palette on it. But it’s pretty much reds and greens, and I added dark reds into the bridge, shadowed building and the wall below.  I wasn’t sure whether I was going to add the fire escape in front of the left window, but it stood out too much, so I added it and some cast shadows and thought it made an interesting touch.

Yesterday I painted another western scene, an 18 x 24, that was just OK. Nothing much of interest to it. So I’m going to wash it off.  I was happy to do a painting with a lot more detail and interest.

And if any of you have an idea for a good title, let me know!

Thursday: I came up with the title Light Play, Georgetown. Very happy with that. Decided to leave the mention of the canal out since it now looks more like a ditch!

Evening Light, Waterton Lakes (3-pt demo)

Evening Light, Waterton Lakes, 20" x 16", pastelbord

Evening Light, Waterton Lakes, 20″ x 16″, pastelbord

Watercolor underpainting

Watercolor underpainting

Day 1 painting and repainted underpainting

Day 1 painting and repainted underpainting

Day 2 painting-water, tree, bushes

Day 2 painting-water, tree, bushes

Last week I gave my regular three-day “Beat the Heat” workshop in Rockville. Rather than doing a demo in the first morning, as I always have, I decided to do the demo in three parts, finishing on the third day.  I chose an image from my trip that had everything–sky with clouds, mountains with late afternoon light, water and reflections, tree against sky, bushes, and a field of flowers! What a gold mine for teaching landscape painting!!!

I took all of the in-process shots with my cell phone and they are very small images–sorry, will have to learn to change them!

Waterton Lakes is just north of Glacier National Park and is in Alberta, CA. It is an amazingly beautiful place!  There are so many flowers (and bears!) and wonderful places to walk (with bears!).  We ran into a mother grizzly on the first morning (not so good), then a smallish black bear the next day who went for a swim in the lake (much better!)

This image was taken after dinner on the road that leads into the park. Quite beautiful!

Day 1: Underpainting, sky and mountains.  I used watercolor for the underpainting, which faded of course. I later added more violet to the dark bushes.  But it produced a gorgeous gold color under the lake. I painted the sky and clouds with Ludwigs and used Giraults for the mountain and distant grasses. In my photo the distant trees were very dark and I made them lighter.  Late in the day, I decided to add more watercolor to the un-painted portions of the surface and you can see the difference!  The dark violet really made the golden water glow!

Day 2: Water, tree, and bushes. I hated to cover up the water!  I very lightly applied a blue green Ludwig, letting some of the gold show through, then added some peachy color for the reflection. Then I worked on the tree, using greens and violets. In the photo, this whole area is very dark.  I purposely lightened it a little, as I know what late day photography does, and I wanted it to have more interest as well.  I began the bushes with very dark green and violet, then added slightly lighter greens on over, leaving the dark in the underneath parts.  It was enough to provide a good contrast with the water.

Day 3: Field of flowers.  I began by adding darker swaths of greens and some browns in the field, to build up the grasses. Added some blades of grass with the sides of Giraults. I began with the orange seed heads of the grasses in the back of the field and liked the way they looked over the dark green. Then I added the flowers: white daises, yellow flowers at right, and some purple ones I made up.  Finally, I added stalks of grass over the flowers to push them into the field.

Today, I took a final look at it and made a few more changes. I softened the shadows in the distant mountain (too blue) by adding some light red violet and I felt much happier with it.