Sunday, June 29, 2014

Evolution of an Image- San Francisco Alley, my first painting sold!

I sold this painting back in May.   It's a little baby step, but it felt good! I'm producing this stuff because it gives me pleasure to paint, but I'd like for it to "get out there" more, into the hands of others, and if I can earn something doing that, all the better.  That would only allow me to paint more.
That would be a dream.

Of course, this painting has gone through a number of iterations. 

I'd just finished painting up in Chinatown and was on my way down to Union Square when I saw this.  I couldn't stop myself from pulling up a seat and painting this on the spot.  The shaft of light slipping down the wall was wonderful.  This first one was plein air, 1/8 sheet--

Over the rest of April, I painted the scene a number of times.  First, my interest in the architecture, the windows and what not, dominated, but I thought it too dry.  It expressed more control, but it had lost that spark! And I somehow forgot to leave the windows there, behind the fire escape.  Yikes!

I did some experiments with a soft, runny method combined with very dry strokes for the windows.  I liked those-

In the end, when I did it again, I got this, which is the piece I sold--

Monday, June 23, 2014

Learning to Get Beyond the Literal- Plein Air of San Francisco Skyline

I went out to the Berkeley Marina and did some plein air painting in early June.  Sadly, it was really windy!!!

I'd not painted this sort of super-distant scene before, and had some difficulty with the composition-- we were right on the walk next to the bay, and there was basically no foreground to pull you into the picture, which I didn't care for.  I pulled back a bit, just to include one of the trees as a framing device.  I guess I should have backed up and included the pier or walking path, etc. in the painting, to draw the eye in.

In the end, the scene was also rather muted color-wise.  It was one of those situations where I can see the value of the taking what you see and "transmuting it" into something that really calls to you.  I'd like to see greater value contrast, and richer chroma somewhere.  It's not really the way things were, but having ended up with this image (not terrible, but not something I really care to repeat), I can see the value in using what I see as only the beginning.  In the end, the only thing that's left from that morning's outing is this painting.  The painting needs to work on it's own, as it's own composition.

Something to learn!

Friday, June 20, 2014

My Plein Air Equipment Upgrade- Review of the Cloverleaf Palette

I bought a new palette as I prepared for our trip to Europe.  I wanted something that folded up small, but allowed more mixing wells than my current palette.  The Cloverleaf Paintbox came very well reviewed, so I went with it.  I got from the Ken Bromley website.  It has much in common with the Craig Young-style plein air palette, but it costs 70$ instead of 500$, is made of plastic, and is, sadly, far less sexy when you take it out of the package. 

The good news is that it provides a very functional, light-weight, very sturdy, actual quite well machined palette.  It's about 4.5" x 4.5" x 1" folded up.  Then it folds out with four interlocking "wings", with approximately a 1' x 1' footprint in total.  Like this. 

It even has a nice little spot for your thumb to go (a complaint I had with the previous plein air palette I'd been using).  The 8 mixing wells are deep enough to really open up a color, the two deep mixing wells are really quite large, and I like the little flat space to very gently mix to colors.  The paint wells are deep too, which I liked.

Of course, I couldn't be satisfied with something as simple as that.  So I took the hinges off (not too hard), bought some black Fusion spray paint (designed to be applied to plastic), and went to town!!

Its totally superficial, but the final two-toned product (a matte black, with some white highlights) was much more up my alley. A few paintings later and ahhhh, everything is nice and messy.  Much better!  :D

Monday, June 16, 2014

Evolution of an Image- Chinatown Alley

I first painted this scene in Alvaro's class.  I tried it twice in one day, and was dissatisfied both times.  Still, the second was better and gave me hope.

After Alvaro's workshop was over, and I was exploring painting in 1/8 sheets, I did it two more times.  My goal was to start really being able to capture light, better control over my values, and to have figures that looked, well... human, at the very least!  ;)

I finally decided I wanted a more vertical format, since it was an alley and all.  I painted this scene one last time.  This was done a week after class.  Much better, all in all!  It's quite narrow, only 5" or so.  1/8 sheet, turned the other way.

I was actually relatively satisfied with this, but when I went back to the city a week after the class, I gravitated to them same spot.  I sat in the shade, closer to my subject, deeper into the alley a bit, and got this.  To me, this is the true "China Town"-- tight, urban spaces, intimate and lived in. I found the laundry hanging out so freeing-- very relaxed, no pretensions.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Evolution of an Image- San Pablo Bay

Benicia has a number of these tiny, hidden little beaches that look out over San Pablo Bay.  I work for a lot of clients around here, and have slowly discovered them over the years.  I went out early one bmorning, and painted for a few hours, as the tide slowly went out.  I loved the scene, took a few pics, and had a fun time painting, but was generally dissatisfied with my plein air images.

I was getting lost in the details, working too hard to replicate.  I needed to synthesize, think in shapes, reduce the image to the core of what I wanted to express.  I thought about all the advice I'd been getting- What was the focal point of the image?  What was the reason I was painting this?  I was painting mood and light. I thought about that, and decided the focus was a) the light streaking across the sand, and b) the silhouette of that rock against the sharp light of the bay.  Then everything else should help us aim towards that.

So I took out the pylons for now-- I may try them again later.  I think they were competing too much with that stone.  I reduced the sloping cliff side of tangled ivy to a silhouette, and I opened up the composition to the right, to allow a sweeping curve for that slivery of light to fall across.  I made the background hills paler and softer.  I might try it again later with the pylons, instead of the stone, or with a stronger contrast for the streak of light.  For now though, what I got was this--

Friday, June 6, 2014

Watercolors- Birds for a class assignment

One of the last assignments we did for the watercolor class was these birds.  In truth, the birds sort of bored me, but I really enjoyed painting the backgrounds.  LOL.  I lot of wet into wet and dry brushwork in those areas.  Glad I got the change to experiment.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Watercolors- exploring Anders Zorn's bridge

This is my copy of a Zorn painting.  I discovered Anders Zorn a few months ago, a Swedish painter from the turn of the century.  I particularly loved this image he did of a bridge over a creek.  It's clear from viewing several samples of it, that different web-versions have very different color biases.  Still, I liked his "green" version, which seemed so raw and vibrant, with some really bold value contrasts, and decided to learn from the image as an artist by repainting it.

The original, hanging next to where I did three versions of my own--

Version #1-
Not bad, but too blue and "cool" IMO.  I liked the values though- I felt like the darks were dark enough, though I wanted more "sparkle" for the light.  The greens were too muted as well.  I did this before my Alvaro class, towards the end of March.

Version #2-
Done after the Alvaro class, in late-April.  Better, IMO, compositionally.  I went too yellow though, on the greens.

Version #3-
Done mid-May.  Even better, IMO.  The greens finally start to have some "zing" to them, and a feel a sense of distance in the background.  Darks are dark enough, but I also feel like I finally left enough white to get that sharp scattering of light off the water, which always appealed to me in the original.  I'd like more texture on the bridge, and a big more light in the foreground on the water.  Still, I like where they're going!  :)  May try it again later at some point.  It's fun to paint.