Monday, June 25, 2012

No. 3 in the Limited Palette Challenge

Are people who do not paint aware of what goes through an artist's mind before and during a painting session?  I wonder if when I am dead and gone if people will look at the 5 paintings I have executed in this challenge and wonder what on earth I was up to. These 5 pieces will be part of the greater sized Wind Canyon Series, but have their own identity, as the colors used are not the intuitive choices I normally make.  It’s getting hard to stick with just these three colors and black and white to do a painting. The greenery here in New Mexico is not that docile shade of green you can make with blue, yellow and black…….it needs some earth tones in it. And alizarin crimson is NOT an earth color. I have never seen a green in nature that did not have a bit of  real clear red in its makeup, and these greens are decidedly cooler.

For those of you who are not artists, these colors are probably not easy to identify, so I am including swatches I took from the Gamblin paint site, because theirs is the paint I have used for this challenge.

Alizarin Crimson
Cad Yellow Lt
Ivory Black

Looking at these colors, it is not hard to see the limitations of this challenge. That is especially true for artists schooled in really traditional colors, who use some if not many earth tones.

But I have vowed to complete the series and here is number 3 in the 5 painting challenge. Only two more to go.  This is also Étude #5 in my Wind Canyon series. Fried Egg Trail is what I call this piece. And like the others before it, it is oil on prepared wood board.

Fried Egg Trail - Étude #5
11x14 Oil on Board -  Available   
Gosh, the light was gorgeous as it broke over the far hill so very early this morning. It just hit the yucca and lit them up like candles. The breaking sun skipped along the tops of the fried eggs and made the flowers literally glow, all down through Wind Canyon Drive. Richard Robinsons' rich, deep, voice resonated in my mind, and I could fairly hear him say "And God said "PAINT THIS"".
The profusion of purple flowers have gone, but the white ones remain, pretty but poisonous. Even the cattle leave them alone, so they grow everywhere. I wonder if there is something with the white thing going on here. Datura are poisonous too, and they are pristine in their whiteness and found in abundance on the side of the road as well. 
I was tempted to just sit and drink my coffee and absorb the beauty. That early hour has a magic to it no matter where you are – it’s the time when the world is still and barely stirring, slowly shaking off the cobwebs of night and sleep. But I am determined to finish this challenge, so I needed to paint. I have never done a challenge before, and this is fun  -   sometimes. Other times it is frustrating as all get out.
I think this palette is too ‘precious’ for the terrain here. Maybe I just need to finish the challenge, do what I can with them, and reserve final judgement. 

Doing a series near your home, is a great way to connect to the land and to feel with your eyes, the place in which you live. I cannot recommend it enough. I am really glad to have started this Wind Canyon series. It is making me appreciate the subtle changes in the land as seasons ebb and flow, and has made me more responsive to new places to paint. 

I had a quail for company this morning. He got within 10 feet of me, so I slowly reached for my camera. I wanted a picture of him, with his pretty plumage and cranberry color about his head and throat area. This was the closest I had ever been to one. But my movement spooked him, and off he flew in a flurry of wings and air. He scolded me loudly for having had the audacity of parking so close to his home. These birds may be little, but they are opinionated. I'll try and avoid his nest for number 4 of the challenge. But I will have my camera at the ready, regardless.

Art quote:

After being observed painting a one color glaze over a finished painting and being questioned about it.
“you go back to your art school and tell them that I would smear mud on my canvas if it got me what I want.”          (George Inness)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What on Earth is That Noise?

OK, an alarm clock is not what you would call friendly, normally that is. But I have been sleeping in lately and consequently missing the delicious morning light. Add to that the time of year is where the days are the longest, and morning is coming rather early. I am missing out on my favorite time to paint. So I resolved to use my alarm and got up before the sun. It was an unholy noise this morning. I stumbled in to make coffee, washed, threw clothes on, stashed painting stuff in the car and I was off. Boy was I off. I forgot my tripod to which I attach my painting box. I didn’t realize it until I was at the bottom of the hill, after having scared off bunnies, deer and quail, parked, set the brake and jumped out. I hate this over 60 memory of mine. Does CoQ10 really help?
Back up the hill, into the studio, grab the tripod and race back down. Those deer had to think I was off my rocker. They really did look at me funny. The light was getting all pervasive and the sun was climbing quickly, so I didn’t waste any time setting up. It was going to be really hot, so I washed on the darks more like a watercolor and splashed in the hills after taking a really long hard look at what I wanted as a composition. Sorting the assemblage of shrubs and bushes was my main challenge, along with the execution of the whole painting using Ken Auster’s limited palette. (White, black, cad yellow light, alizarin crimson and ultramarine blue.) This piece is number 2 of the 5 painting challenge, and number 4 of my Wind Canyon series. Keeping in line with my  self-imposed challenges, I was also trying to keep the key of the painting light. To not use too many darks. I kept telling myself to settle on the composition and let it fly. I do sunburn easily and I hate blisters. So I was working against time.
Fried Eggs In The Morning - Étude #4
11x14 Oil - Available
So because I was working quickly, every neighbor I know came by, waving and stopping to visit. It’s a friendly kinda place, Wind Canyon is. But I did finish the painting. I had wanted to get the prickly poppies painted. They are known familiarly as ‘Cowboy Fried Eggs”, white with intense yolk colored centers. You can see them at the bottom left of the painting. What about the title “Fried Eggs in the Morning”???

p.s. I had to edit the Étude #. Apparently your memory isn't the only thing to go to the dogs as you age. You loose the ability to count too.

Monday, June 11, 2012

It's the Location!

More than almost any other pursuit I have ever taken part in, plein air is about the location, location, location.
It’s true that an artist can find inspiration almost anywhere if one only takes the time to look. Think of Van Gogh’s Potato Eaters, certainly an ungainly subject, but treated oh so magnificently.
But I can remember one morning when I loaded my car, picked up a painting buddy and hi-tailed it 60+ miles to go to Batiquitos Lagoon, up the coast from San Diego. It was quite a hike, and the hour was early. The weather was ‘iffy’ for California, with fog covering the valleys. A bit on the cold side for my soft sensibilities. Thank gawd for Starbucks.
It was really eating at me that I wanted to paint the Lagoon. It’s a lovely spot, rustic and secluded along a heavily congested part of the coast. It was spot where I wanted to catch the early morning light on the water as it came up in the East, over the mountains. So I got my friend up, stoked up on coffee and told her that yes it would be worth it. I tell you this so that you can appreciate the lengths that an artist will go to in order to paint in a particular spot. All this on the only morning that I could have slept in.

I got what I considered to be a good painting that morning. In fact, someone else thought so too, because it sold at its first showing. But the morning is one I will never forget. The light was magical as the fog lifted. And yes I did get to paint the lagoon. It’s that bitty piece in the upper right of the canvas.  I still want to paint that lagoon. It’s not about the finished product but about the journey and the location.