Thursday, March 28, 2013

Experiments Lead To New Treasures

Sometimes you need to stretch, stop, think and regroup. I did a pastel piece two weeks ago and hated the results. It had some nice areas, but also had a major compositional flaw. Would you believe it sold? I was ready to cut it up into smaller pieces and make two not-objectionable pieces out of it, but somebody saw it and wanted it. So now it has been shipped and hopefully she will be happy.
I am happy for the lesson it taught me.
Why am I writing about this? Well it was the subject of my last missive on “I want an undo button on my easel” post. I am rebuilding on the good parts of that piece. I have repositioned the elements, and still as it progresses, I am still moving things about. I also am using a support that allows more blending and less skin sacrificing, being far less abrasive. 
I am much happier. It is coming along much better.
WIP (Work In Progress)
Tulips and Peonies
Pastel 15x18

The colors are more reflective of my own preferences. You see the earlier piece was an experiment in many ways. Experiments are good. The make you learn as you go. I learned that I really, really like PastelMat paper.  Wallis not so much.  PastelMat allows much rework and erasing with a chamois. It doesn’t get back to white, but it does release the top layers quite well and affords much layering of the pigment. The sharp lines stay sharp and detail remains. Yup, this paper is a definite home run for me. I have not tried underpainting with it yet. And if it accepts that well, I may well have found a new support, as La Carte is so humidity reactive. Believe me, It would take a lot to tear me away from my La Carte.

So yes I sacrificed a piece, (it still sold, imagine!) but I found a new support. Experiments do lead to learning a lot and growing. No artist worth his/her salt ever got to where they are without it.

Favorite quote of the day;
Life may not be the party that we hoped for…
But while we’re here, we should dance.
-~Author Unknown

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I Want a ‘Undo’ Button On My Easel

Did you ever want an Undo button or a Do-Over button on your palette or easel? Just like the Cntrl-Z button combo on my PC? There used to be an undelete function when PCs were line command machines. Man I miss those days.
I started a new pastel piece in the studio with flowers and vase and teacup and Cobalt blue vase. I tried a new paper I do not normally use. I tried a new lighting  key and value backdrop for the background. I tried flowers I have never painted before – peonies.  OK, I know what you are thinking – what’s with all the changes? I was trying to get out of what I perceived to be a rutt in my approach to setups and works based on them. I was trying to see how successful or unsuccessful I could be by changing some of the variables.  I wanted something new to be excited about painting.
Section of Peonies and Tulips
Pastel on Wallis Paper
I found out. Some things worked OK. My drawing was sound, but I was so distracted by all the other variable changes, that I made a bonehead composition faux pas. (For non French speakers faux pas = idiot move.) I did something I have never done before. I placed three items across the page equidistant from each other. They couldn’t have been more equally spaced if I had measured them out. Now all I can see is the goof when I look at this piece. No other thing seems to be redeeming enough to make up for this; not the brightness of the colors, nor the immediacy of the strokes. It’s like the escaped nervous giggle at a funeral. Nobody ever forgets it, especially the originator.

So what to do? I wanted to rip it up and end its life. I didn’t. I began to think about its value as a lesson to myself. Whenever I see this piece I will be reminded to keep my eyes on the prize. To stay true to the initial concept. (You see I had moved the teacup, and that was after hours of doing a lovely setup.)

The second lesson was to limit the change of variables in a new piece. If you change a few things at a time, there would seem to be a bigger chance of success with the painting.

The pity is that some parts of this piece are acceptable. Shoot.

I want an undo button on my easel.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What Color Is Water?

If you don’t like the weather just hang around a bit. That pretty much sums up the climate of New Mexico. I love this place. Don’t get me wrong, the weather variety does present real challenges. I thought California was changeable. Ha!
Three days ago a new painting buddy and I left the Mimbres Valley and headed to Lake Roberts. I expected snow and maybe ice on the lake. Un-huh. It was warm, it was sunny, it was gorgeous. So we set up on either side of the boat ramp and started to paint, exclaiming on our good luck weather-wise, and enjoying the pine tree rimmed lake.
Part way through and after the wind blast.
As we got into it, I walked away for a second to take a little longer distance view of what I was working on, when suddenly a rogue gust of wind blew through our area around the boat ramp.  Of course everything fell over. Face down. When did a pb&j sandwich ever fall down bread side down? I don’t mind a little texture in the lower parts, but dirt colored skies are not too appealing, and I had left LA far behind in California. Luckily the painting was drying in record time and I could brush a lot of errant bits off the surface without moving the paint around.
I had set up next to two local fishermen, one of them being well into his eighties. It was entertaining to hear the exchange between the father and son. Amusement is where you find it, I guess.
Because the skies were changing so rapidly the color of the water kept changing. When we got there the lake was pea soup green, later it got to a turquoise color with gold reflections from the surrounding bull rushes, and just before we left it had turned a cool blue. The temps were headed downward despite the blooming pussy willows.
Lake Roberts with a undecided lake color
Oil 11x14
So what color did I paint the water? Pea soup green made it look muddy, and turquoise just jumped off the canvas and socked you in the eye.  So I floated a transparent Indian yellow over the turquoise to find a color that was not so out of place.  There is not much green around the lake except for the evergreen trees. Even the native bushes are still washed out and either a goldish color or a grayish one. My water is an amalgamation of all the colors I saw. They were all there. You just had to look. I bet that water turned orange with the sunset.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Painting En Plein Neige

Painting En Plein Neige
For you not so Frenchy folks, that is painting in snow!!
Two days ago a painting buddy and I went to Lake Roberts in Southwestern New Mexico to paint. It was sunny, it was warm, and it was beautiful. We had a blast and I am still putting finishing touches on the lake that kept changing color with the sunlight. I am thinking seriously about naming it Chameleon Lake. That was two days ago.

This morning as I popped out of bed (7a.m.) and threw back the curtains I spied the most beautiful sun light kisses on our neighbor’s territorial style adobe house, with a dark purple backdrop of an approaching storm. Stunning! 

The storm was in the mountains. Surely I had time to throw clothes on and get out there and paint. Everything was in the car, so all I had to do was back it out of the garage and open the hatch door.  Oh I have to learn to time these things better! I had just started when the light left. I looked up and I was becoming enveloped by a cloud, I thought. No it was merely snow. Well I had used the car as a windbreak, so I was a bit sheltered. Surely I had time to finish a little study.  Nope.
Painting on Our Property in a Darned Snowstorm!
I threw in the towel about the time I had to move the piles of snow about the palette in order to get to the paint. My white was more the consistency of stiffening mortar. Oil and snow do not mix. I could have dealt with the cold and the wind. But those gorgeous big, fluffy, flying flakes were accumulating! It was beautiful. We do need the moisture. But it was also aggravating. My paintbox and canvas is drying on the kitchen table. I hesitate to try to sop up the water with a paper towel, as I will sop up my paint as well.
I think I need to get up earlier.