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Updated 3/29/12

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

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January 2010

1 The 12 x 9 acrylic of the Saddle River is finished now, and the changes from the non-detailed image from December are really noticeable. The calligraphic lines and patches of slightly different value are the added ingredients to take this painting to this stage. I added the shrubbery branches and leaves on the lower left as the last element of the design, which brings the painting into balance.

In looking at the painting I find that the brushwork (textural marks) and complementary color change are the strongest design elements holding this one together. I find it good to be able to analyze my work using design principles--and if the work is good, several will be easily noted. Do you know your design elements and principles?

Now off into a new year, full of possibilities and opportunities! Happy New Year to all of you!
8 I did a demonstration of oil painting for the Canyon Lake Art Association last night, and painted this 16 x 20 oil for their pleasure. I am doing this painting for the Art Show at the Dog Show, and it is a yellow Labrador getting that spring into the water on a retrieve. The source material is from collector Dick's son, who raises these great dogs. And the body of water is Lake Elsinore, near where I lived for many years.

I've prepped the canvas with a base color of what looks like a cool yellow, but is Australian Red Gold--a burnt orange. The lights in the room weren't conducive for good color, which will play out in the other images coming. Sigh. I had one of the members stop me every ten minutes as I painted it, so there will be some nice progression.

If you look at the design of this drawing, you'll see that the splashy water and the dog's head occupy the Golden Mean of this surface. Intentional. The source material wasn't like this, and I've also moved the horizon line down into the canvas to create more distance for the viewer to enjoy. It's good to be back in oils!

My roots go way back with the CLAA, being a life member, so it was fun to visit with them again. Tomorrow you'll see what it looks like (and how I think, in the text) after ten minutes of painting.
9 I'm changing the source material from a late morning time to a backlit sunset, so the challenges to work the Color System are at hand. Looking at an image that can only guide the anatomy and then mentally rearranging the lighting and colors while talking to a group in a live demonstration has to be either very courageous, or totally nuts.

So I start with what is for me caution, only laying in the areas that are not going to be profoundly altered nor need major revisions later. Hey, play it safe! These are all cool box mixes, most notably the yellow ochre/burnt umbers in the dog and distant trees, with the counter point to these "oranges" being the blue and blue violet water reflections of the evening sky.
10 Blinga-bling! Twenty minutes into the demonstration at the Canyon Lake Art Association, and more of the canvas is covered--this time with the grays and sky areas made with the three Big Ones--Alizarin, Yellow Ochre and Ultramarine Blue (with white) to create these harmonious grays.

If you put your hand over the left side, and just show the right side, you can see that even at this early stage, the colors are beautifully harmonious--all coming from the Color System's Cool Box!

12 I skipped through a couple of ten minutes sessions to get you to this point because I want you to see the bigger picture of what happened. The Warm Box is open now, and I'm putting in the cadmiums that are in the sky on the left, and also in the water reflections.

The splash under the dog is WAY too green, and the blue is too strong--got carried away there, and didn't even see it until much later. That's the down side of painting for a demonstration, talking, and changing the time of day on source material! I'll pull it through and modify it later, but wanted you to see it now. That's because no matter what, everyone makes mistakes as they work through the process of painting. It's knowing where those mistakes are, and how to correct them, that may separate the less experienced painters from the pros. I can also see that the values aren't dramatic enough to convey the backlit evening time, so there is another major "fix" that will have to occur before I can call it done.
14 Ten more minutes and I'm making a bad problem worse. If I were in the studio, I would have taken a break, had a cuppa coffy and taken one huge step backward to see what was going on and what was going wrong with this painting.

The "essense" is there, but the values and colors are off in many places. I'm thinkin' (wrong) the dog's shadow side needs to be lighter because after all, it's a yellow lab and yellow is light, right? Not always, and making that shadow side as light as I have loses the "pizazz". The buzz and zap of color excitement is eluding me and I'm at a loss as to how to pull it back and fix it as I'm painting it. I'm talking and entertaining the group, so my focus isn't on the deep introspection of a quiet plein air location or standing in front of my easel in the studio, in company only with myself. Hey, it happens....

I had a doubt about sharing this painting at this "uglies" stage with y'all, but realize that perhaps the benefits outweigh the chaos in that someone can learn that artists "of a certain level" still can make major mistakes.

Tomorrow it will get better. (Didn't Annie say that?) Ha!
19 MANY changes from the last posting of this "turkey", and now I no longer call it that... HA! Taking a long, hard look at what came back home with me from the demonstration, I could see easily that I'd lost both the value relationships and the color punch of backlit evening light. So I put myself to and spent a good amount of time working on those aspects of this oil.

It is now to a stage where I'm comfortable signing it, however, I still need to work on the dog's head. It doesn't read "Labrador" to me yet.

What I really do like about this piece is the colorful water int he foreground and the spash. Everything but red is in there and it is so joyful, like the dog, who is painted in muted hues of those same yellows and purples.

So don't give up on the ones that are giving you problems. They can be pulled through to become good paintings. Asking for some advice can provide an independent source of input as well. AS long as the core structure is in place, and the values are moving forward, most paintings can be brought to a finished state without too much work. I hope you enjoyed this one. I'll publish on my other web sites it when I finish the head details.
21 Even while working on the oil of the backlit Labrador, I also had the easel occupied with this acrylic, destined for jurying for the Art Show at the Dog Show. It is a 12 x 16 board, and the source material was a dog walker spotted outside of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

You can see my source material printed and set to the left of the canvas. The lighting is overcast, so of course the first layin and the majority of colors will come from the "Cool Box" (Color System).

I was utterly fascinated by the seemingly indifference of the dog walker and the rambunctious Lab pup on the left side just SO wanting to get away and "do something". The white standard poodles, the Golden Retriever, the Catahoula Leopard Dog--yes, there is one in there--and the Newfoundland. My goodness, which category can it be submitted for jurying?

Ah well, I hope you'll enjoy how it unfolds. I'll finish up the oil this week as well and post the finished canvas for you.
22 I'm doing what I always do--cover the canvas with the abstract structure by massing in the largest shapes and values. And of course, completely out of the "Cool Box" from the Color System. Not much concern with anatomy at this phase, nor with faces or calligraphic lines. I've found that the big masses draw in the viewer, and then they'll spend a pleasurable amount of time wandering through the variances and nuances of the lines and subtle value and hue changes, once entranced by the big structure. That's no mystery--the great illustrators of the last century made a point of doing this, too. Look into the work of Howard Pyle--and his students N. C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Violet Oakley, and Elisabeth Shippen Green, among others--to see how powerful the establishment of the big masses is to the overall impact of a painting.
25 Working in acrylics gives the user a lot of latitude in application techniques, and I've used a few at this stage. Although still covering the canvas, I'm layering the snow piles behind the walker with heavier applications of pigment, giving some texture to the end result. In the gray pavement, I'm using more transparent layers, allowing the subtle values to work in harmony. I have also begun to put in more and more details on the major "heartbeats" in the painting, but still only roughly.

You see, for me, getting the "gist" of the movement and "feel" of the action taking place is more about the generalized lines of the design at this point. I am not interested AT ALL in the details, although some do manifest at this time, such as the light and shadow, blue and white on the girl's jacket. Always mindful of the focal point, her coloration on the jacket and the subtle repetition of the blues in the blue-violet of the sidewalk unify the painting, even at this early stage! That's counterpointed by the yellows in the distant taxis and in the retriever.
29 I signed it, but it isn't finished yet. However it really has that "feel" I was seeking when I picked up the brushes. Do you see the strong triangular design, with the black lab on the left anchoring that corner? An overlay of this image would show the many diagonals that work to repeat and support the structure of this work.

I really like it at this point, but it truly is not finished. I had pressure on me to use this image for entering the Art Show at the Dog Show, and it was summarily rejected. I entered it more because of what I KNOW it will become, rather than as a finished piece. But judges are arbitrary, subjective and totally in control of the shape of an art show, so I don't take that rejection personally. Sometimes that's just where the chips fall.