Friday, September 30, 2011

I tried one of the new Dynamic blog formats this morning for about 15 minutes. Perhaps some of you saw it. I immediately missed my favorite blog links and my categories, so it was back to the old format for me.

Anyway, here is the Lake Tahoe painting that I reworked yesterday. I don't think the colors photographed accurately. I'll have to work on that, but I like the painting a little better now.

And here is one I really like. I took the photo that I used for inspiration while we were driving down the highway early one morning. The fog was creeping over the hills and the sun was making the spring grass glow. Loved the atmospheric feeling.
In other news, our critique at school was very interesting for me because I'd never experienced one and I realize now that I've got to learn a new language to properly contribute anything of value. Every field has its lingo, right? Now I'm off to study the rule of vertical placement, atmospheric perspective, cast shadow, and implied horizon line.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Finished Landscapes from School

We finished our landscape paintings at school today. That's my first one above. I think I spent about 7 hours on it over 4 sessions. Overall I'm pleased with it, but I still see lots of room for improvement. Thursday we do our critiques where we stand up in front of the class and talk about our paintings and how well we accomplished the goals of the assignment. That should be interesting.

Because I finished my first painting quickly, I did a second one too. Some things are better in this painting, but some areas could use more work. Although I've got 4 hours in this painting, it's only 18"x24" where the first one is 36"x24" so this one looks almost finished with less time.

Here is my easel setup. It's basically an old camera tripod that a fellow traveler gave me when we were in China. (Apparently he had too may souvenirs and needed space in his luggage.) LOM made a little table that hooks onto the front two legs and a bar that threads onto the camera mount. The bar has sliding clamps to hold paintings up to 36" tall. I hang my carryall from the tripod with an "S" hook to help weight it down in case of wind. When I break it down everything (including paints, brushes, paper towels, and a water jug) fits into that blue bag except the canvas. Thank you LOM for making such a nice easel. It has worked flawlessly every time.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Do What You Love

Back in May I posted about the Holstee Manifesto and how I was having trouble with even the first idea: This is your life. Do what you love and do it often. I did in fact post a copy of the manifesto by my desk, and after looking at it for months, I have made a positive first step; I am taking a painting class at the local Junior College!

I've always enjoyed painting. First it was watercolors in High School, then for many years it was Sign Painters One Shot and screen printing ink, then faux painting and craft paints when I had small children. But NOW I want to try plein air painting. I did paint a landscape in oils about 10 years ago, but then we started remodeling the house and that was the end of that. I painted it from a photo in a book about England, and I was pleased with it at the time, but now I can see all kinds of problems with it.


Since I had never taken a painting class at college, I had to start with Beginning Painting. I felt a bit like a Kindergartner the first few classes because he had us working on large pieces of white paper just mixing paints and shading basic shapes, but he has pushed us along fairly quickly and last week we started plein air landscapes.

I walked over to the campus one day to scope out various locations and I took a few photos. Then I came home and painted the landscape you see below. I like some things about it; like the dramatic lighting on the tree trunks, but I still see areas that could use some help. This was a nice location but so far from our classroom that I chose not to use it for my assignment.


Then we started on our landscapes at school and it was a whole different ballgame! Painting en plein air is so much more difficult. First of all the light keeps changing and if you're not extremely careful, you'll be chasing the shadows the whole time. Secondly, you must contend with the sun in your eyes, or on your skin, bugs, passersby, equipment problems, and landscape maintenance issues. One student, upon returning to her spot after painting for two previous sessions, found an entire tree gone! What a learning experience.


Then one evening I tried another small landscape from a photo. This is along the Li River which we visited in 2008. Although it was misty, the colors weren't as flat as I've depicted them here. As you can see I'm still struggling with colors.


So I've developed a routine: work on the plein air landscape at school during the day, and paint a small landscape from a photo in the evening. Above is Lake Tahoe from a photo I took a few years ago. I see ALL kinds of problems with this painting, but I learn something from every painting I do. And I can always slop Gesso over the bad ones and repaint them.


Here is the landscape from school after two sessions. I've since done one more session and it's almost done. I'll try to share that next week, but in the meantime, check out this plein air painting I did this morning. Talk about hectic! It was very early and the sun was coming through the first clouds we've seen in ages creating that wonderful rosy glow. I thought I had everything all set up and I started painting the sky frantically to capture the colors before they changed. Whew, I got it, but then I needed to clean my brush to start the shadows and Dang! no water. But I had a cup of tea, so guess what I used to clean my brush. Yep, I used my tea and continued to race along capturing the bluish shadows and grey leaves of the oak tree. Just as I was finishing up, the sun peeked through a hole in the trees, so I dabbed that in there too and called it quits. Although plein air is much more challenging, it is also much more satisfying. You really do get a sense of atmosphere that just can't been rendered from a photograph.