Friday, December 16, 2011

Tools: The Simplest Pochade

I have a full-time job, so I need to maximize my painting time however possible. To this end I have many “kits” of tools that I use to get painting time in. The smallest and simplest of these that still preserves most of the feeling of oil painting is my marker kit (above). It consists of 6 Tombow markers, a white Prismacolor pencil, a knife for sharpening the pencil, a blend marker, pencil bag, and small pad of paper.

The Tombow markers have a range of 5 grays and a black. With these grays I can block in 7 levels of value (from the white of the paper and pencil to very pale gray to flat black) in a landscape drawing. The markers have long tapering tips like a brush that let you adjust the angle and get nice variations in stroke width like a real brush loaded with paint. I use the white pencil to pull out highlights at the end.

I work small and fast. I use this kit to quickly do a tiny value study painting on my lunch hour or some other occasion when I have 20 minutes to spare. The painting above is reduced by 10% from the original (it's only 4 inches across). I need to steal time to paint whenever I can and this simplest of pochade kits works very well for me. Look for descriptions of my other painting kits in the future.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Studio Tip: Don’t Pass on the Glass

Like many artists, I have messed around (and I do mean messed) with different kinds of palettes for my oil colors. I've been through the pads of waxed paper (you’d think the muses order beginners to use these), the plastic ones, and classic wooden ones. I have to tell you that once you go to glass you are guaranteed to pass (or something like that). For studio use a great big piece of thick glass can't be beat. Clean up is easy even if you leave paint on it for a week — just attack it with a razor blade scraper (like house painters use on windows). I use a 24" X 36" piece of 1/4 inch plate glass. I attach it to my table top with mirror mounts (see photo) and wood screws. I slip a piece of gray paper under it (as close to a 50% gray as I can find) and that gives me a good middle value to compare my color mixing to. Thick plate glass can be expensive, but if you start looking along your street on trash day you will be surprised at all the big slabs of glass that people throw out —it can’t be recycled in my town and many others. Don’t be embarrassed, just pull over and grab it! Re-using is one of the 3 Rs of being green — reuse!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Morning Palette

I have to adjust my morning palette — I seem to be a little heavy on the blue end. Some more cadmiums may be in order. Sure, that’s a lot of shirts, but you know how your paint drawer can fill up without you even noticing.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Looking Back to Go Forward

I've learned a lot about what makes a good painting in the 14 years I have been working in oils. That's not to say that I always pull it off, but I tend to stumble less often, or catch myself sooner. An interesting exercise I do is look back at my work of years ago and think about how I might have produced a better result. I painted this canvas in a rush, plein air, over 2 days in November of 1998.

I enjoyed making this image and being outside on 2 beautiful Fall days. It's one of my most prized paintings in my personal collection. There are some things that could have made it a better image, however. Since I am also a graphic designer I can "work" on this painting (photo) in Photoshop on my computer and explore what I could have done better. 1) I have always felt that the top left area, in the shadows of the church should have been cooler and a little lighter to add to the feeling of depth. 2) The tree in the middle may or may not have had many limbs all the same thickness, but this would be unusual in nature. Most trees have varied limb sizes, and making one dominate the bunch would make a better design. 3) The olive-colored cedar at top right is just grazing the naked tree trunk in front of it. It would look better if it stopped short or extended beyond the gray trunk on the naked tree. 4) The three gravestones in the foreground are the center of interest. They also establish the first and most important illusion of depth in the painting. Even though the smallest one of the three *was* in front, it is contradicting the things-get-smaller-as-they-recede rule. This fights against the illusion I was trying to create. The painting would be better if I disregarded the actual scene and adjusted the stones to help me with depth.