Sunday, July 29, 2012

Put Up Or Shut Up

You are probably sick of hearing that plein air is a bridge to making studio pieces without any studio pieces to judge by.  So I though I'd best put up or shut up.
So for something different, I am putting in my painting "Islands in the Stream" of Rio Chama, in the Abiquiu area of New Mexico. Its a place that has haunted artists since the days of Georgia O'Keefe and the indigenous artists that came before her.
And I am  not using a limited palette. If I wanted to use a color, I grabbed it and squirted it onto the palette. No limits here! The trick now would be to get and keep an overall color harmony in the painting while having the complete set of pigments in my studio at my disposal. 
The second challenge here was size. I have been painting mostly field pieces for the last 4 years. They have been of necessity relatively small, usually 11 x 14, with some 8 x 10s thrown in for spice. This painting is completely painted in the studio from references. 
Islands In The Stream - Oil on Canvas
16 x 20 - Available
Interestingly, I found that I was often hunting down a pigment I thought I'd want as much as mixing it myself. Maybe there is a logic to this limited palette thing in the field. And maybe there is a logic to finding and using a personal palette for my own works. The trouble is that there are so many, and looking at pigments is like looking at a rainbow. What child never wanted to touch a rainbow? (Equate artist with child here) And you can actually touch paint with your brush, unlike rainbows. There is that visceral satisfaction of loading a brush with ultramarine blue and sloshing it onto the canvas. I think I need another lifetime to be able to test them all out thoroughly.
Sloshing - that is another thing. I used an eggbert for the first time, when roughing in the layout on the canvas. No, it is not a new breakfast food. An eggbert is a filbert brush with extra long bristles. According to Quang Ho, who uses his much like a conductor waving it about and having things magically appear, it can get you into a whole lot of trouble, really fast. But watching him paint with his, looked like really messy fun.
I loved it. It has become my rough in procedure of choice in one outing. I have yet to try it when doing a portrait. It may not be controlled enough for that discipline. But for landscapes, it was aces. Able to cover large areas quickly with limited expenditure of effort. And what I have not struggled to put down, I am more apt to erase to achieve a better composition. With rag in hand, fearless in losing a 'precious' layout, composition rules!

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