Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Glass Challenge

Still Life with Bottle, oils on canvas panel, 11" x 14."

I love a challenge, and glass is probably one of the most challenging materials to paint, so I asked our teacher, Lee Boynton, if he could set up a still life with a glass bottle in it. I had not expected such a dark backdrop for our challenge, but that is part of the fun in Lee's class.

Though the bottle reads as glass (it was filled with olive oil), I fear my composition is a bit pedestrian. In retrospect, I could have made it more exciting with different cropping or perhaps a vertical format. Of course, having a good angle also helps, and because I got there a bit late, the better positions in the class were already taken. Sometimes an unexpected perspective is what makes the composition more exciting.

I'm finding that I prefer an angle that presents more shadow than light to play with--it gives more drama to a composition. I didn't nail the colors either. The bowl was actually more of a coral color than this burnt orange, and the apples could have been better modeled. I'll have to try harder next week.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Painting the Truth

Orange Bowl with Green Apples, oils on canvas panel, 12" x 9." Contact the artist for price

Today in class we talked about truth in painting: what we are after as painters is to find and paint the true color of objects. If we could simply put down the true color of all the objects in exactly the right place throughout the painting surface, their shapes will be conveyed to the viewer and the illusion made perfect (and we'd be geniuses!).

Since the objects in nature and our still life studies rarely have easy colors, today was a day to stay away from formulas. I struggled to try to find subtler, truer shades. In the shadows, where reflected light is most obvious, I think I managed to find some truth here and there, but the faded terracotta color of the backdrop still defeated me. I was able to see how much lighter in value it was compared to the shadow side of the pitcher, but still have a ways to go towards finding its true color.

Last weekend I recycled some of my old paintings by sanding the panels and gessoing them over. Looking at the work from last year, I was happy to see how much more color I am able to put into my paintings today than a year ago. One learns the language of color little by little, experimenting every time one paints.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Color Corrections

Terracotta Bowl Still Life, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12," first version

Terracotta Bowl Still Life, second version

The New Year's winter session started this week and I am back in class to sharpen my vision of color and form. Henry Hensche said, "Every change in form is a change in color," and that is one of the most difficult things for a painter to represent accurately.

There was another activity scheduled in the classroom afterward, so our class was a bit shorter than usual yesterday. None of us students were able to develop our paintings much beyond the basic light and shadow stage.

I thought my purple cloth background was way too pink and the third apple in shadow a bit too dark, but I had no time to correct these things in class. After I got home I decided to try to adjust these, relying on memory (a dangerous thing to attempt, I know). I think the purple background is much closer to the true color in the second version; although the apple's value is closer to true, the color became a bit muddy.

In any case, the comparison between the two versions is interesting, particularly if you take into account the fact none of the other objects in the painting were changed. Yet they appear somewhat different because the two versions of the same painting were photographed in very different light--today it's heavily overcast, whereas yesterday was bright and sunny.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Stag Party

Gotcha! You thought this post was going to be about something else, didn't you? These three stags wandered into my backyard this afternoon when inspiration was singularly lacking.

In all my years observing backyard wildlife I've never seen three stags roaming together before. In fact, it's rare to see even one feeding with a group of does (groups of up to ten does browse through here frequently).

The young stag on the right had one antler broken off close to the base, and the other points were broken off at the tips. Herb told me he had seen a stag with a missing antler lying down in our yard one afternoon this fall during the mating season. The stag remained in that position for almost an hour and was in obvious distress. I believe it might have been this individual recovering from losing a battle. I'm glad to find he managed to survive to fight another year.

After the stags left, a small group of does came from the other direction. The poor creatures are so hungry I've had to fence off my rhododendrons to protect them from their depredations.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Orchids in Bloom

Orchids in Bloom, oils on canvas panel, 10" x 8," $90 unframed.

With our temperatures in the twenties and a wind chill factor making it feel more like single-digits, it was not a day to paint outdoors. I wanted to paint from life, so I brought one of my orchids up to the studio, along with a fern for greenery.

My sister Bea gave me this variety of Phalaenopsis a few years back and it has bloomed faithfully every year, usually twice a year. I like the unusual greenish-pink colors of the blossoms and their intricate shapes, with the deep rusty- magenta lip where a pollinating insect would land, but they are challenging to paint. I chose a very light backdrop for this painting, but wonder if the val-hues of the orchids have enough contrast with the background to stand out. Perhaps the orchid's colors would have more punch if I'd used a dark background instead?

I'll have to try another version of this later on. This particular spike of flowers opened the week before Christmas and will probably last a few months, giving me plenty of time to work with them again. I wonder if any of my other orchids will bloom before spring.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Kohlrabi with Peppers

Kohlrabi with Peppers, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12." $100 unframed.

Here's something colorful for the first post of the New Year--this is the still life done in my friends' studio this past Monday when it was so windy. I didn't know what kohlrabi, this strange-looking relative of the homely cabbage, was, but its deep purple color is stunning next to the peppers. The arrangement of the leaves is unusual too. It was fun to set up the veggies on a plate with an old glass bottle and a Provencal-print napkin for a backdrop, and a challenge to paint it.

Happy New Year to all my loyal readers. May 2010 bring you greater prosperity and new adventures in painting!