Thursday, December 31, 2009

Value Study

Self Portrait #3, 8 x 6

Here's the value study. Being able to focus just on lights and darks and putting them where they belong made a big difference. It was completed within the ninety-minute time frame, and the likeness is easily the most accurate of the three, though the brush strokes feel loose and free.

This process was really helpful for me. The best thing is, the series is done and I don't have to stare at myself for hours, anymore!

Another Self-Portrait Exercise

Self Portrait #2, 8 x 6

Here's another stab at the exercise I did for my last post. Considerably less than perfect, these two portrait studies have brought home to me a couple things. One, resist the urge to go to a smaller brush — even in most detail areas, like the eyes— than you would use for the rest of the painting. Two, getting an accurate value study in a portrait is more than enough to keep me occupied for ninety minutes. In fact, today's exercise actually took a little over two hours. The extra time was spent trying to fix problems I created with that little #2 brush(!).

So, because these last two studies both have areas where the values and/or placement are off, my next "ninety-minute" exercise will be done in one color only.

PLEASE, GOD, let ninety minutes be long enough!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Self Portrait

Self Portrait, 8 x 6

Hello, again. Wow, posting two days in a row! I have to say I'm glad Christmas is over, so I can get back to painting. Today's exercise was lots of fun for me. I had finished the architectural subject from yesterday's post and was noticing how clean and squared off everything looks. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but I seem to tend toward the precise, especially when working on architectural subjects, in the studio.

So, today I decided to get a mirror and do a timed study of my very own (aging!) face. It was fun not worrying about flesh tones, much less photographic precision. I didn't even "draw" an underpainting, instead starting in with the main skin color and building "planes of color," which is something Cezanne was known for. I really want to start doing this at least a couple times a week, as I think I benefit greatly from letting down my guard, so to speak. If you have an opinion on this, either way, I'd love to hear it.

Happy painting.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Back Entrance, Revisited

Back Entrance, Revisited, 12 x 16
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Happy Holidays, everyone. I hope you are enjoying your families and friends, and are looking forward to much painting in 2010. Today's post is my first in three weeks, thanks to shopping, overeating, and all the other critical holiday activities. The image above may look familiar, as it is an enlarged attempt from one of my very first posts back at the beginning of June. I worked primarily on improving the brushstrokes and enhancing the values and colors of the background. I enjoyed this subject when we painted it en plein air last spring, and was glad to go back this week and explore it anew.

Best wishes in the new year!

Back Entrance, 8 x 10
plein air study

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Gatekeepers

The Gatekeepers, 6 x 8
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The temperature was in the thirties this morning at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. Since I already chickened out of the previous two paintouts due to cold weather, I decided I had better show up this time, lest I take on the rep of being a thin-blooded milktoast.

Unfortunately, I was, indeed, enough of a milktoast not to confirm by yesterday whether I would show up this time. This fear of committing on record was due to a sub-freezing forecast for early this morning.

As it turned out, even this less severe strain of artistic cowardice came back to haunt me. I did make good on my internal promise to come out to paint today, but of course, I was the only one to show up.

Here I was thinking I would finally get to see some painting friends I hadn't seen in three weeks due to my past milktoastness, only to be disappointed. Alone in my exposure to the early morning elements, I called the president and priestess of Plein Air Austin, Laurel Daniel, to learn that the paintout had been canceled, altogether. It turned out no one else replied to the email invitation, either, and because of the apparent lack of interest, the cancellation.

If I only had the guts yesterday to commit to painting this morning, I would not have had to paint alone. Laurel, at the very least, would have been more than happy to come out and paint, as long as she knew anyone else wanted to. In the meantime, however, she had already started in working on a commission and was too involved to come out on such late notice.

So — I learned a very important lesson this morning. When painting en plein air, it's okay to be a milktoast, as long as you admit your milktoast status up front. If you think you might NOT be a milktoast, but aren't quite sure, just be firm in your commitment. And do so at least one day in advance. Moving on.

In the landscape above, the various plant life on either side of the trail struck me as almost human sentinels, with the power to allow or deny access to anyone venturing down the path.

Hmm, plants with distinct personalities. I must have been more than cold this morning. I must have been really, really lonely.