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Updated 12/15/09

The Daily Paintings and Postcard-Sized Sketches in Oils and Acrylics

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August 2009

1 I emphasize the value structure and impact a painting needs to have to really be worthy for a second, closer look. Although not set in stone, as many artists make a body of work that doesn't have this feature, I believe that for "most" artists, a strong value structure will carry the day.

At this point I'm painting big shapes of a particular value to hold together the structure of the coming details. You saw the source material yesterday, so you know at least in your mind, what is coming. But at this stage, look at the beautiful brushwork on the right side, and the subtle complementary colors of orange and blue in that lower right section of dark! Wow. No matter how detailed the dog becomes, that area will be a secondary area of interest. No dog eyelashes yet! Details come later, after the value structure is in place. All of this so far has been done with the cool box colors.

This is fun, painting with the juicy Classic Artist Oils. I still love acrylics, both Open and traditional, yet it is such fun to do a thick, juicy oil to mix it up.
2 As I continue to paint in the large shapes of the upside down sleeping terrier, I am very aware of the values of each of those big shapes. Notice the difference between the left front paw (in light) and the same white rear paw (in shadow). Values matter!

One subscriber asked, "How can you be sure to get accuracy without a drawing in place?" Good question! As I paint, I am judging the relationships among the various shapes. I learned from Richard Schmid while he painted a portrait from a live model in Scottsdale, that he is always doing comparisons from a known measurement. Sometimes he says it is the space between the eyes, or the diameter of one of the lenses of the wearer's glasses. For me, in this painting, I am measuring the height and length of the dog, and imaginary horizontal and vertical lines across the composition. For example, I'll imagine a line going across the tip of the leftmost paw, and then see where it intersects the other paws in the source material. I'll place the paws (as I did with the hind feet in relation to that left paw) either above or below that horizontal. This is a basic drawing skill, and one that can be learned with a good class in drawing.

For me, accuracy isn't so much about duplicating the source material, as it is about getting the "feel" of the animal and what it is doing. If it is only accuracy, then a photograph with today's modern digital tools would be "good enough". I'm an artist first.
3 Now that the canvas is covered with all the inherent values and inherent colors of the composition, the FUN begins! This is where the one inch brush is set aside, and the 1/3 or 1/2 inch filbert comes out and starts to dance.

By turning the edge of the brush and changing the shape of the line, I can make a mark that is either thick or thin, depending upon the need. That's how the darks on the muzzle of the dog went in.

I'm literally dancing around the canvas (and please, no video cameras!) while this is being done. I fill the brush with the color I need and then put it in all the places it needs to go. For example, the tan color (done with yellow ochre in the shadows and burnt sienna/cad orange in the lights) is placed in several areas if I've mixed up a batch of that useful hue.
4 "Toes Up" Original oil on linen, 9 x 12 $475
There he is, all comfy and totally zonked out. Even the whiskers are in (enlarge it to eight inches to see), and the hierarchy of edges is in place. I didn't detail out the links on the collar, and I kept those values lower. Unlike the details around the mouth and eye, because that's where I want the muzzle to be more important. The pure circle-shape of the collar ring could have been a huge eye-catcher, so again lowering the value helped there. Squint your eyes and see how it melts into the background!

Now look at that rightmost hind foot and how it "reads right" as a gray blue mid value. Even though you saw it earlier and saw the contrast between it and the front paws--can you see why having both back feet lower in value keeps you in the painting? Values are SO important in design. Knowing where to put them to create the composition is a very left-brain thing (although after a couple thousand paintings it can become right-brain intuitive).
17 This is a 16 x 12 acrylic of the coast to the west of them, done to convey the fog breaking up and the sun coming through. It still needs a bit of tweaking for details, but I'm pleased with the composition. If it seems similar to an earlier moonlight painting, you're right! The Color System allows you to change the time of day on source material to match what YOU want. I'm pleased with it at this stage.
18 The bells on the tower are from towns all throughout Italy and offer thanks and a reminder to us to be kind to others when we can. I couldn't paint that memorial (not yet), so I did this small 8 x6 sketch of the road to the space where the bells sculpture stands. There's one of those August-blooming Pink Ladies on the left side....

Acrylic, done plein air beside my camper in Bodega Bay. And I'm reminded to be kinder to folks I meet...
11 "Guardian" is finished now, and I'm quite pleased with the final image. Why I didn't make the wings black and tan as well? I thought about it (knowing that if this were a real creature, they most likely would be), and then decided that with the amount of bounce light coming and going on the dog and child, the white wings would enhance that, which I really wanted. So white they stayed, even tho' I deepened the shadow sides with the "sky trio" (you Color Boot Camp graduates know which ones!)

Paintings get to me sometimes, and "Guardian" does that. I have a hard time explaining it. In a feeble attempt, I'll say that, to me, it embodies the response of being loved, cared for and safely watched over. I may continue with this concept and express it visually in different ways in upcoming works.

Tomorrow the image goes off to the Art Show at the Dog Show (opens a new window), and who knows whether the judge will accept it? Will he/she have the need for the safety this painting conveys? Some people might think it is too sci-fi. Not me. Now, if it doesn't get accepted, I do not take it personally, nor think less of the work. Sometimes paintings don't fit with the wholeness of a show, or they've already juried in enough of that type. I'm at a point in my career where I paint for me, and if that doesn't please a judge, that's their loss. My work now touches enough people that one or two judges can't dent my belief in what I do.

So why enter juried shows? I find that when there is a gathering of specific people interested in a specific type of art, it is in my best interest to be a part of that. ASaDS is a show where the gathering of dog people validates my entry fee, the shipping and time involved. (This painting sold during the show!)
12 The second painting for the Art Show at the Dog Show comes to you with this 9 x 12 board on which I have painted some semi-transparent acrylic layers. The scene is a dock on a river, and there will be a girl and a dog fishing from it. In doing this painting, I want to have the scenery be a strong supporting player, so I've put the focal points up and away from the mid-point of the canvas (they aren't even sketched in at this point).
I'm using traditional acrylics for fast drying time and quickness of application. These quasi-translucent layers are painted over that burnt orange under painting, and are always with the cool box colors. We're off and running with another one!

13 This 9 x 12 acrylic is further along than I planned, but I got so captivated by the water and light, I just couldn't stop to take a photo earlier. The girl is even being blocked in, and the wire fox terrier even has 3-D form. Dang!

This will be called "Incoming" with the humor in whether the girl will be reeling in something or the dog will be going into the water after it--or both!

Interesting to note that I don't even sketch in the figure with pencil before painting directly on the background layers. I just pick a middle value hue that's close to what I need and put a "cutout" shape to localize the object. Then I paint over that to create the illusion of three-dimensional form. The dog went in as a white silhouette first, then warmed and cooled depending upon light sides or shadow sides.

I love acrylics for the ability to create layers--this is SO effective on water. I love oils, too, but hands down acrylics have it for creating the illusion of depth and transparency. I keep adding layers to the sky as well, continuing to go lighter with each application.
14 Here's the finished painting, dog and girl in bright sunshine on the water, holding a pole and reeling in the red bobber. Compare this finished painting with yesterday's, and you'll see how I developed the three-dimensional forms with the additions of distinct layers on top of the underpainting. This is especially viewable in the distant trees.

On the design, look at the line that the distant water's edge creates. It is just above the girl's knees, showing that we are looking UP at her--and she is drawn with that in mind--her shoulders are in perspective with the nearer one higher than the opposite one. The dog is below the horizon line, and so we're looking DOWN on him. You can see this in action by laying a straight edge along the dock edge and also through her shoulders--the lines will intersect at the water line on the right side!

I really like the painting, because that kid could be me at about age nine, however the dog would have been a dachshund instead of the wire hair terrier. (And my hair never looked that good!) In using the Color System on human skin, I flip the boxes, and paint the shadows warm and the lights cool--thus she seems to glow with life because of the reversed contrasts of temperature. Come to one of my Color Boot Camps to see this in action! My goodness I have four in 2009, one's already filled.
15 This is the lesson painting for the 12 x 16 acrylic that is entered in the Art Show at the Dog Show. For the next three days, I'll be depicting a Welsh Springer Spaniel. Yet again I'm focusing on the landscape being a strong supporter of the dog in action, flushing a pheasant.

A rough sketch starts me out in acrylics, done over the burnt orange underpainting, choosing a warm because of the predominance of the Cool Box Colors as the painting progresses. I do a cover-the-canvas every time to get rid of the white. I see so many paintings with those itty bitty white spots showing through--very distracting to a trained eye. By getting rid of the white, I have a surface that unifies if/when any of that warm peeks through.

The dynamics of the design are already apparent if you see those vertical strokes supporting the action in the center--just like the curtains on a stage. I'll be using a modified familiar background from another, earlier painting to make this get off my brushes faster. I will be looking for that "aha" moment when you recognize it--and when I paint to deadlines, I don't try to break new ground (except for "Guardian"). One thing about this, I have painted so much, that the repertroire of materials available is vast. If you haven't painted much, every painting is a discovery and challenge. I remember those days!
16 Can you see the misty morning light? Yes, I'm using the same colors and general design of the earlier "Misty Morning Horses" painting to get this one done quickly for the Art Show at the Dog Show deadline. It's always faster when I don't have to solve complex problems anew. If you look over the total body of an artist's work, you'll see many versions of similar subjects. We build on prior levels.

I'm covering the canvas with the cools--over 85% and because of the warm underpainting, the color excitement is already in place. When I use that phrase "color excitement" I remember one Walter Foster book (#63) by Merlin Enabnit. Even though the paperback is long out of print, I was always amazed at how he could get the "Color Excitement" (his term) for the juxtaposition of various pigments. It was fun to see all the ads he did for the foundation garment and soap industry (1940s) when I googled his name. One can still find his Foster Books on ebay.

You know I prefer to have a good background in before painting the focal points. And that's what's happening with this one. Tomorrow, more layers of color in this acrylic, and the pheasant. Then the painting will go to the dog(s)!
17 I'm still working in the cool box as I paint the pheasant. One way I can convey action in a flat, two-dimensional surface is to lose the edges of anything that is moving--such as the wings of the bird. He doesn't look "stuck on" when we lose edges, but rather blends in well to the rest of the canvas. Why do we feel we need to outline every edge of whatever it is we paint? To do so means we're relying too heavily on source material--generally photographs--and the action captured without the illusion of movement creates a static, flat image. So I spend a lot of time deciding which edges need to be lost to create that feeling of life and movement in my subjects.

I still have a ton of work to do on the background, but the initial values are in place now. And of course you can see the position of the dog, now, too.

The value plan for this one is called a "keyhole" because of the circular pattern with the lights in a generally round shape near the middle of the canvas. As far as which one of the six value plans, it's destined to be a small light, large dark in midtones.
18 The Welsh Springer Spaniel is now in the painting, and I've spent the balance of my "brush time" with the trees and background. I've made those areas more visually interesting by texturizing the areas with similar hues and values.

This image doesn't show the lighter values on the tree trunks, and for that I'm disappointed. There's a lot going on in those darks, and to omit them does a disservice to the work. This 12 x 16 acrylic is called "Flush"