Friday, July 21, 2017

Not Every Swing is a Hit


When I don't have luck in landscape, I can still turn to portrait practice and feel like my time isn't a total loss.  Every head done is one baby step forward (though some seem like a slip back).  The above painting is done from a photo of Ian McKellen, the British actor (Lord of the Rings, X Men, etc.) who has a very expressive face and eyes.  I didn't spend any time on the clothing here, since I was just pushing for a resemblance.  Sometimes I begin with a sketch on the board, sometimes I just begin painting the large value shapes; sometimes I measure for accurate placement of major features and sometimes I just wing it.  But I am finding that no matter which approach I use, it takes about the same amount of time to arrive at the destination.  When I wing it, I will occassionally check back to measure and see how close I came to the reference, and it surprises me how very accurate my guesses have become.  I guess the number of heads behind me has done something after all!  


This one is less successful, and I probably spent less time on it because it didn't seem to have great promise once it was blocked in.  There might be something there if I continue with it, add some glazing, change some temperature here and there.  But it still counts as a head, a baby step, and every hour spent at the easel is time on the road to a destination unknown.  This morning was our weekly plein air get together, and Randall mentioned that he just didn't feel it happening for him today.  If someone as accomplished as he is can feel that, I can feel excused when it happens to me.  Sometimes the magic isn't working.  Sometimes the subject doesn't speak to you in a way you want to translate.  Even great natural beauty doesn't necessarily make for a good painting motif.  But when, for whatever reason, I catch a feeling in what I see, get excited to get to the easel and discover if I can get it out of me, if my idea works in paint, if my mind and my hands can work together for a change and share something my heart is experiencing, then it doesn't get any better than that.  That is worth the countless times when it just doesn't seem to be happening and the result is blah.  Every blank canvas holds the promise that this time might be a good one.  And I'm talking about a good that is relative; good compared to what I have done, or good compared to the disappointments.  I find that it requires a certain degree of optimism to step up to the easel, something not easy for a life-long pessimist.  Maybe that's what Art brings: Hope to the hopeless.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Elk Rock


Elk Rock plein air

Above is the result of today's outing with our plein air group at the Bishop's Close at Elk Rock in Dunthorpe.  I feel that I am edging closer to getting a finished painting out of these outdoor sessions.  It always seems to fall short, and this is no exception, but though this photo doesn't show it, I did manage to capture a bit of the lighting effect that declared glorious summer.  The temperature was perfect, the company of four additonal painters made the day enjoyable no matter the results, and we may return to this spot next week to work at getting closer to our individual goals.


Top of Oswego Creek, Algae Effect 12x16

This above piece is a study I have been working on this week, concurrently with a larger canvas of the same subject.  I thought that I might forge through each step on the smaller piece and then switch to the larger one while I still remembered what I was doing, but in the end it seemed not to be a very effective approach.  I might have done better to just complete the smaller one first.  The foreground is unresolved and the gunk floating on the water needs lots more work, everything needs more, but I am switching my focus to the larger canvas now.


Another portrait sketch.  I don't know why I like them so rough around the edges, so unrefined, but I guess my intent is to get to a likeness quickly and worry about making nice paintings later.  As soon as I feel I have captured the personality, I stop.  I understand this can't be the end game, but for now it seems to be a satisfying exercise.  This may be the downside of the self-taught: an instructor might nip this in the bud and smack my hands with a ruler.  



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Photography for Blogging


Across the Canal 16x20 oil on board

Above is a photograph of a recent painting, previously posted.  This new photo was taken with my iPhone outdoors in full sun after the painting had fully dried.  Below is the photo previously shown, which was taken indoors while the paint was still wet, under incandescent light, with the same iPhone.  There is a world of difference.  In reality, the painting is neither of these, but something in between.  It has some of the saturation of the one above, but also some of the subtlety of the one below, especially in the background and in the water.


This presents me with a bit of a dilemna: do I invest all the time to discover a better way to photograph work to post here, or do I continue on as I have been, which is to take easy snapshots and slap them up, move along to the next project?  How much time should I take to put together a post when the purpose of my posting is just to encourage me to keep painting and learning?  I hate to do a disservice to anyone with the inclination to check in on my progress, but then, don't you get a decent idea from whatever photo I post?  And this doesn't even take into account not being able to use my DSLR because Apple no longer provides a driver for it on the latest upgrade.  Some of you who have followed this blog for a while will realize I will probably just take the easiest route at this point.  Though it's nice to have full sun for a change, so maybe some photos outside.  In the end, for me, it is more about just getting out and painting.

A couple more portrait sketches: