Amish Farm Revisited

Amish Farm Revisited, 20 x 24, Pastel Premiere Italian clay

Amish Farm Revisited, 20 x 24, Pastel Premiere Italian clay

I used to pride myself at being a seasonal painter. But lately, I’ve been painting whatever I wanted to in my studio and this is the latest painting–more snow!  It’s from a photo I shot from the car in Dec. 2013 on the way to Mass.  Some of you might remember seeing my earlier painting (I actually did two).  I was in an abstract mood at the time and I exaggerated the hill and worked from black and white, putting in lots of colors that weren’t there.  I also did both paintings on Reeves, so they had a much more textured broken color look to them.  Recently, I was going through photos and came across it in color and B&W and I decided that I really loved the original (real) version of the scene and that I should paint that.

I would have done an underpainting but I didn’t have any mounted light paper in 20 x 24, so I used a sheet of Pastel Premiere Italian clay. I liked the idea of working directly over the drawing.  The challenge for me was the coloring.  At the time, I remember that the sky was infused with yellow light. It was probably 10-10:30 in the morning on a winter’s day and the light was quite amazing.  I loved the fact that the sky was darker than the snow, but that the snow had lots of corn popping up in it.  So composition wasn’t an issue, but color was. I cut a small piece of the same paper and did some studies for the sky. I started with Ludwigs and immediately put them down–too soft!  I didn’t want the sky to look cakey. I went to Girault instead (of course!).  I worked with several blues, blue greens, and a wonderful grayed yellow green that brought the sense of yellow into the sky that I remembered. It’s not exact, of course, but I like the effect of it. I decided to make it pretty much the same all over, but did lighten the bottom a little on the right.

One of the color aspects that I really liked in the photo were the dark green building on the lower left and the solid blue silo on the right, both in about the same value and solidness of color.  After completing everything, I added some of the blue to the dark green, and some of the green to the dark parts of sheds going up the hill. It helped tie them together, and added more dimension to the shadows. I used Giraults exclusively for the buildings. But when I got to the snow, I instinctively went for the Ludwigs. I began with a blue violet, then two blue greens on top. They seemed perfect for the snow, which has more mass than the sky. I used hard pastels for the corn and the tree branches against the sky.

I wasn’t sure about this picture when I began it, because I really DO love working over underpaintings. But now I’m quite happy with it. And even though I worked from the photo, it’s still not all that realistic!  I mean, who has ever seen a sky this color!!!  But I really like it.

Playing in the Studio

Mug with Clementines (by me)  12 x 12 Multi-media pastel board

Mug with Clementines (by me) 12 x 12 Multi-media pastel board

Still life by Sarah Miquelle, 12 x 12

Still life by Sarah Brown, 12 x 12

It’s been rather cold, wet and miserable for the past few days and my artist friend  Sarah (Brown) Miquelle is here from Massachuetts. After several days of museums, we decided that a day of playing in the studio would be just the thing!  We went to the local art store and bought some colored inks, which I had decided to try for toning boards. (I promised my class that I would try out something new). I bought 5 bottles of Liquitex and Daler-Rowney inks, some of which are irredescent.  I brought some small boards and 12 x 12 Multi-media pastel board–the very thin, rather textured boards.  I first tried using straight ink, but it was too thick and I decided I’d better use water. That worked better, particularly with a hair dryer. But I needed two coats and even then it dried very lightly.  I wasn’t overwhelmed with the possibilities, I have to say!!!

However, we both did a 12 x 12 painting from some pottery and fruit.  I began mine with a drawing using a Girault. I didn’t really set up a composition, we just had the bowl, mug and fruit sitting there!  My initial composition included two large lemons and several of the clementines.  As I worked on the painting, both Sarah and I agreed that the mug was too small. So I enlarged it.  Then I got rid of the lemons and replaced them with clementines. I liked it much better. Sarah was better at leaving her painting loose with more of the ink tone showing.  I started using irridescent pastels–Schminckes, Senneliers, and Great Americans–all soft!  It was nice because they covered up the texture of the board and it was quite sensual, actually!   I may have overdone it, but I really had fun using them.  I’ve only left a little of the undertoning showing in the upper part of the painting.  There were no real shadows (too much light in the studio), so I basically had to make them up.

It was really fun working with surfaces and pastels that have been hanging around my studio for years and a new medium of colored ink.  I wouldn’t suggest that you rush out and buy the ink, however.  Watered down liquid acrylic or gouache are just as good, if not better.

I have one sad piece of news to report. Robert Mogul wrote to tell me that he is no longer producing the True Grit Pastel Panels which I have been using. I’ve really enjoyed using these–mounted UART on Gatorfoam.  I have a lot of gatorfoam still, so I may have my framer produce some boards for me.  But I’m sorry to hear that Robert couldn’t make a go of it.

Sarah applying ink to a board

Sarah applying ink to a board

My initial drawing on toned board

My initial drawing on toned board

Blue Green Alley

Blue Green Alley, 16" x 12", UART 320

Blue Green Alley, 16″ x 12″, UART 320

Color Study on Canson

Color Study on Canson

Underpainting

Underpainting

Today I finished a painting I started several weeks ago. It’s a small alley picture (16 x 12 as opposed to 24 x 20).  I had the board and a picture from Feb. 2015 that I liked so decided to do another alley.  It was not easy working with so much detail so small!  I liked the composition and didn’t bother to do a comp. study (I am getting lazy).  I wanted the sunlit building on left middle to be the center of interest, with the window above it.  For that reason, I did not make the building to the left of it as light or white as it appeared in the photo.  But the colors were an issue. Much of the original photo (buildings in left foreground and fence on right) were all gray, brown, white–boring!  So I did a color study.  I wasn’t real happy with it.

When I went to do the underpainting, I picked up blues, blue greens and violets, and bronze Caran d’ache hard pastels and I really had a good time doing the underpainting. Loved it! I decided that the color palette would be oranges (buildings) with blue green and blue violet (a split complement).  I brought my box of Terry Ludwig “vibrants” to the studio for the brick buildings and ended up using a lot of his blues for the sky and road.  What turned out to be particularly useful were the grays in the box of “cerulean” Blue Earth pastels. They were odd greens that worked really nicely in the road where it was covered in ice.

But I’m not sure that my plan for the color really worked out. It’s really more red, green and blue violet. Ah well!  I’m happy with it.

The road, of course, was the real challenge.  I used a variety of violets, blues, blue greens, and odd browns.  I loved the puddle and the sunlit part in foreground that showed red brick covered with blue water.

It was nice to get back to the alleys. I’ll be visiting Capitol Hill in May and will take some summer pictures.

 

Shore Houses in Winter

Shore Houses in Winter, 16" x 20", resurfaced Pastelbord

Shore Houses in Winter, 16″ x 20″, resurfaced Pastelbord

Initial sketch on toned board

Initial sketch on toned board

Today I decided to paint something completely different from the fog picture. I had a black and white photo from Mattapoisett that I had taken some years ago (haven’t seen snow there in a number of years!). I knew that a resurfaced pastelbord would be perfect for it as there were many bushes, reeds and trees, as well as a snow-covered road. So I resurfaced my last 16 x 20 board with two coats of relatively dark-toned liquid primer and brought it to the studio this morning.  I didn’t do any sketches or preliminary studies, but I had looked at the photo a lot. The only change i made was to move the houses a bit to the left to minimize the trees at left and give more room for the road. I began with a charcoal and light hard pastel sketch and remembered to take a picture just as I was starting to add the pastel! You can see from the first layer of pastel, how rough the board was.

I began this painting similarly to the way I did the field painting behind my mother’s house. I used Ludwigs and Unisons and brushed in color to lay out the major areas.  For the houses, I used a light green where the yellow would eventually go. The road was the hard part!  I began with blue violets and a blue-tinted white .  Once done, I went back to the sky.  I think I may have overworked it.  I basically got rid of all of the texture so it looks quite different from the rest, but I still rather liked it. I decided to add low clouds on the right to give it more interest, and I added some light red violet as the last thing.

The road was a lot of work and I kept taking breaks. I used a dark blue violet Ludwig in the snow beneath the darkest part of the reeds and I really liked the sense of shadow that it provided.  I used it as well on the road, but then added blue green and other blues and violets over it to tone it down and bring down some of the sky color into the road.  I did not overdo the road like I did the sky, leaving it quite rough in places. The surface really worked for me in trying to create the tire tracks in the snow at bottom.

The bushes and houses were quite simple, in comparison to the road.  Using warm ochres at the right of the grasses, and warm red browns to indicate light on the left, varied nicely with the dark violet and red that I added in the middle. I added the wires at the end using a pastel pencil.

It was fun to do something with structure after the fog of the past two days!  I love both and am happy that I have the opportunity to paint varies scenes.

 

Red Emerging, #2

Red Emerging, #2, 24" x 18", mounted 320 UART

Red Emerging, #2, 24″ x 18″, mounted 320 UART

Watercolor underpainting

Watercolor underpainting

Over the past three days I’ve been in the studio, while Jeanne Rossier Smith has been teaching a workshop of 18 members of the Maryland Pastel Society in the classroom that I normally teach in. It’s fun to be there at the same time and I want them to feel welcome at Artists and Makers.  So I’ve had a lot of time to paint.  Last fall I did a painting that I loved doing–Red Emerging.  I put it on Facebook and sold it almost immediately!  With that, I decided that I wanted to do it again larger so that I could spend more time on it and have the painting as well. I had purchased an 18 x 24 True Grit panel with this in mind so I was all set.

But when I looked at the size of the panel last week, it seemed awfully big!  So I gave thought to turning it horizontally and adding other things.  But when I went to do the painting, I realized that I wanted to keep it pretty much the way it was.  I printed out a picture of sumac that I thought I might add on the left.

As with the first painting, I began with a totally abstract watercolor underpainting. I used a warm orange for the sky and tried to get the darks as rich as possible. For the bottom, I used a violet and then a deep warm brown on top of it.  The underpainting worked well for me, providing color to work over, without worrying about the composition at this point.

The composition was a major concern with this painting.  I had to keep it from being half and half. I tried putting the sumac in at the base of the birch tree, but I really didn’t like it!  So I got rid of it and late in the game, lightly added the hint of a red tree just to the right of the birch in the background.

I had more foreground in this painting than in the first one, so I decided to do more with rocks. I had added some to the first but decided to add more and make them more prominent. I got rid of one and kept the others as visitors to the studio said that they liked them.  Another compositional change was to raise the foreground on the left to push it back further and keep it from being too straight.

I had a great time with the background on the left side. I used various greens to indicate trees, going light as it went up and then put a light violet in. The violet really pushed it back. And in the area of leaves in the birch, I added a pale majenta into the green to further gray it.  For the tree on the right, I used a lot of Blue Earth quinacrodone red–a cool red with a lot of grays that were just perfect.  I also used my box of turquoise and their grays for the leaves.  These pastels are so handy in a painting like this where the values and chroma are so important.

Jeanne was focusing her workshop on color–value, chroma and temperature.  I realized that that was what this painting was all about!

March Morning

March Morning, 16 x 20, resurfaced Pastelbord

March Morning, 16 x 20, resurfaced Pastelbord

Initial layers of pastel

Initial layers of pastel

My second painting was also from an old photo and on a resurfaced Pastelbord with the same gold-tone liquid primer. It’s a photo of my mother’s back yard, taken in March before the grass turned green.  The early morning sun comes through the trees and hits the brambles and sides of the trees in the back of the yard and I’ve taken any number of photos of this over the years. (The house was sold in 2014, so this has some sentimental value.)  Like the heron painting, I had tried drawing the trees to determine the composition and had had problems with it. This time, I just loosely drew the trees onto the board with charcoal.  I decided to make one important change by bringing the tree on the left that curves off the left to the foreground, in order the break up the line.

I did not want to lose the gold surface, so for this one, I began by defining the trees with three values of Girault grayed violet, then added a light turquoise in the sky and other colors to define the bushes and grassy area.  Note that what was in the photo was a lawn, much like what you see in the “initial layers of pastel”.  It was really boring!

I began to get excited about this piece when I picked up a relatively soft blue violet and started adding it to the trees. This really perked them up. One tree was noticeable warmer and I used red violets and browns on it. I worked on the large trunks, correcting from my original sketchy beginning. Then I finished off the sky behind them with more turquoise and a light Ludwig orange over that on the right side.  Then I added in the small branches, keeping them very loose.

I had fun doing the background bushes and brambles and the more distant trees within them that were catching the light.  The background trees and field also were fun to do.  Because the light was coming from the upper right, they were light but cool in tone.  So I got all that done and then was faced with the lawn!

Having used blue violet, I realized that yellow orange was what was needed and that a field would be far superior to dull green grass!  So i rather quickly added it.  I added some darks in, then went over them, trying to give a pattern. There was also a hint of a path showing and I decided to emphasize that by adding the more yellow tones, that could have resulted from light coming through the opening.

This was a fun painting to do of something I’ve always wanted to paint but couldn’t figure out how to do successfully.  I find that this kind of problem solving is really fun and it helps me (and those who sometimes work with me and make suggestions) on our toes!

Keeping Watch

Keeping Watch, 14" x 11", resurfaced Pastelbord

Keeping Watch, 14″ x 11″, resurfaced Pastelbord

Initial stage

Initial stage

After first applications of pastel

After first applications of pastel

These past weeks I’ve been “playing” — using resurfaced Pastelbords and old photos. I came across a photo I had taken of a heron sitting on rocks at Wide Water, near Great Falls on the C&O Canal. The photo was in black and white and it was a horizontal photo that showed a lot of foliage on the right side. I had spent time drawing it some years ago but thought it was going to be too complex. Upon finding the photo, I realized that I could do it as a vertical and leave out a whole lot of boring greenery.  What I loved was the way the light was coming in and strafing the background rocks and that the bird and foreground rocks were light against dark. I  also loved the fact that the photo was B&W and I never went to look for the original. I know that there would have been a whole lot more green!

I had a board with gold-toned liquid primer on it from a batch I made up this winter.  I drew the bird and rocks onto the board, then added watercolor around it to further tone the board, leaving a lot of the gold showing in the light places.  I wanted to keep the detail in the center and let the top and bottom go off into less description. So I was careful laying in the color, beginning in the upper left with the rocks and the green bush. I used Ludwig pastels to lay in the color in the background rocks, using a combination of dark “eggplant”, a lighter red violet, and several oranges.  I added small details of light  and tried very hard not to overdo it.

For the rocks that the bird is on, I used a combination of pastels, but began with muted Giraults.  The greens were all done with my Blue earth green set and the bird was also done with soft Blue Earth blues.  I couldn’t use anything harder as it wouldn’t make enough of an impact on the hard, textured board. I used the dark to go around the bird’s head and refine the beak, etc.

This was painting that I absolutely LOVED doing!  It felt really good to lightly layer in the pastel and I tried really had not to overdo it. I was also concerned about the light on the right overpowering the area where the bird is standing. I added orange on the left side of the rounded rock and added aqua to the rocks at right to try to keep them in check. I also brought greenery from the right on over the rock on which he was standing, a change from the photo that makes a bit different. There was a large gap there that didn’t look realistic. You can see it in the initial stage.

I’m really happy with the way this painting came out and hope to do more like this!

The Sentinel, Chincoteague

The Sentinel, Chincoteague, 24" x 18", Rives with liquid primer

The Sentinel, Chincoteague, 24″ x 18″, Rives with liquid primer

Cropped color photo reference

Cropped color photo reference

Over the last two days I was in the studio from 10:00-4:00 for our twice yearly open studios weekend. I decided to do yet another Chincoteague picture (probably the last!). For this one, I decided that I wanted to work on a prepared surface and I toned and brushed Colourfix liquid primer on Rives printmaking paper. I liked the way the surface allowed me to use soft pastels to create various textures.  As you can see, the color photo has very little color, so I printed it out in black and white and worked with a green/blue/orange color palette.  When I lightened the photo, I could see that there were orange grasses on the left and some orange in the grasses at right.

As is typical, the sky and water were completely whited out in the photo. I decided to add more blue green to the sky, then added a light cool green and Ludwig very light orange.  When doing the water, I added more blue greens into it to reflect the sky I had created, rather than what was in the photo.

The tree was a major challenge. It’s the most prominent feature of the picture and it was odd. I think that it had a vine on it that created a solid mass.  At first I drew the tree too large, then got it to a more reasonable size, and I was quite pleased with the way that it turned out–better than the photo, I think.

I particularly liked the path to the left of the tree and the distant trees in haze. I use Ludwig blues and Blue Earth grayed greens.  I actually used a lot of Blue Earth in this picture–most of the greens are from the green and turquoise sets. (I find that the “turquoise” is really just a cool green, which is very useful.)

The 24 by 18 shape is different from the wider reference photo and I much prefer it.  Compositionally, what I really liked was the “S” shape of the darks beginning in the foreground and moving up to the tree.

I very much enjoyed doing this painting.  And thanks Renata for the title!!!

Chincoteague #2

Chincoteague #2, 16 x 20, UART 320 mounted board

Chincoteague #2, 16 x 20, UART 320 mounted board

Charcoal lay-in with added graphite

Charcoal lay-in with added graphite

DSCN6410This is the second demo of the week, done in my studio.  It is a more detailed and quiet painting than the first and it took longer to complete.  The photo for this one was really boring!  I knew I was going to have to do something to make it more interesting. I decided initially on two things. One was to use a lot of reds and warm colors both in the underpainting and in the painting itself. The second was to add a red-winged blackbird in the reeds at lower left.

Having learned from Monday’s demo, I decided that this would be an all-hard pastel underpainting and I was quite pleased with the lovely colors!  I made an important change to the composition, by creating the triangle of water at the bottom left to help lead the eye into the picture. Otherwise, the composition is fairly close to the photo.  For the sky, I used a variety of aquas and cooler blues, then added a light green Unison and a pale red violet which warmed up the left side very nicely. For the background trees I used a combination of a deep red majenta and greens, starting fairly dark and working adding lighter greens, light cool reds, and oranges over top. I used grayed Unisons and Giraults for the background grasses and we all really liked the one piece of lighter grass that stands out near the middle of the picture in the background. Working down to the lower left grasses, I added the blackbird, but he didn’t last long!  Everyone agreed that he had to go. One person suggested putting him in the reeds above the right side, where he would have stood out more. But we decided against that as well.

For the foreground reeds, I lay in violet, reds, and oranges, then some green and used the sides of Giraults to work in the grasses, working from darker to lighter.  The last thing was to add the orange grass heads.  Following the class, I made more alterations to the background trees and changed the shape of the sand spit and water below.

I’m not sure that the photo is picking up the variety of colors in the trees and grasses. It was hard not going to the violets, but I had decided to work with a red and green palette, as much as possible and I liked the warmth that it produced.

So now, I’m going to look for perhaps yet another one from Chincoteague to work on for the upcoming Open Studios weekend at Artists and Makers. If you are in the vicinity, I hope you’ll come! March 4-5, 10-4, 12276 Wilkins Ave., studio 320.

Chincoteague #1

Chincoteague, #1, 16 x 20, UART 320 mounted board

Chincoteague, #1, 16 x 20, UART 320 mounted board

Charcoal lay-in brushed with water

Charcoal lay-in brushed with water

Underpainting with watercolor and hard pastel

Underpainting with watercolor and hard pastel

Color studies

Color studies

I did two demos this week and will be sharing them in two posts. I have no titles for these paintings yet!  So I’m calling them Chincoteague #1 and #2. If any of you have inspiration, let me know.  This one is the one I did in my Monday class. I’m sharing the initial lay-in, color studies, and the underpainting, along with the finished painting. The class focused on the decision-making process and I had a hand out with the types of decisions one makes. One of my statements was to be sure to allow the painting to speak to you during the painting process–this one did!  Several times!!!

I began with a graphite drawing and two color studies. I decided to stick with the colors that were in the photo (color study above). Then I used charcoal to draw in the basic shapes. I used water and a brush to soften and set the charcoal and while doing this, I had the idea of making this into more of a vignette and leaving the bottom left corner unfinished.  In the class, I used watercolor for the sky and for the reeds and grasses at bottom. I used hard pastel and alcohol for the trees and water. It was kind of a mish-mash! Not the most impressive underpainting I’ve ever done!!!  I proceeded in painting the background trees, and the water and grasses a upper right. Then I tried to loosely put pastel in on the bottom. Pretty quickly it became obvious to all of us that this was not going to be a vignette! So I proceeded to paint in the lower left corner and the painting had much more unity.  After bringing it to my critique group on Tues., I adjusted a sky hole and the trees at right, but left the rest as it was.

Compositionally, this is pretty close to the photo with one exception. I decided to add white egrets in the water and rising into the air against the dark background trees.  This provides for a center of interest and the bright piece of yellow green field also draws the eye to that location. My original plan had been to eliminate the green tree where the egrets are. But when I did the lay-in, I realized that I needed something there. So I drew in a rather small bush. But as the painting progressed, it turned into a tree (just as it was in the photo).  I also made a change in the color of the water. In the photo there were dark pieces that reflected the green trees above. I decided to just add violet to the water in place of the green, which helped tie the water to the red violets in the trees. I also added a more aqua color to the water in the foreground. I did the water and then added the orange grasses on over, which worked pretty well.  The painting was completed in about 2 hours and I think it has the look of a painting that could have been done on sight.  I’m happy with it now, but will welcome comments.