Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Rush of Plein Air

Plein Air is a fancy French term for painting in the open air. It's a current hotbed for artists, with many "paint outs" sponsored by big and small organizations, There are national level conferences in Las Vegas, and even a slick magazine called Plein Air with some great art in the inaugural issue.
A painting done plein air is a great challenge for the painter, The light changes very fast, the weather can be bad or near impossible, For me wind blows sand and that sticks in the paint, but in spite of all the hard conditions, nothing is so exciting to try, many of the paintings fail, even for the best oof artists. Most of mine go into a folder for reference to color and light. Some come out with a special flavor of the place that no camera or memory can hold like this small 6x8 oil of Portuguese Point with the wind and time coming in.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Becharmed by the Sea

Sometimes out with the sea a small thing keeps you spell bound, like the wash of a rocky point, At Portuguese Beach right at the South end are a group of rocks. As the tide comes in waves rush from several angles at once over the rocks, and make beautiful curves and flow lines. I know this was really a bit beyond me but got obsessed and decided to try it anyway, its only paint;-). I did lots of little drawings and several small studies then worked it out in an underpainting using a staining technique of very thin paint in local color and values, that I wiped off again until only the stain was there. Now I'm fully engulfed, really over my head, and hoping to come to some sort of finish that is satisfying, but I've a long way to go, At least the rocks are working, These Sonoma coast rocks are not really very paintable as is, great dark lumps of things and in the low light I love no details can be seen unless you are standing right on top of them. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, we'll see how it goes. The main color here is Prussian Green, not a color I use often, but very transparent, mixed with Greenish Umber, it makes colors just right for the waters here. Next to the work in progress, called a WIP is a plein air sketch I'm using to help, I also have about 10 photos of this place all with different waves. This one is made up from lots of them

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Big Wave Study

This was a massive challenge, I wanted the big wave to star, with all the wind and force, and the foreground to have a highly agitated feel of rolling movement that expressed the day I saw this. I wanted to do all of it with brushwork suggesting the details without getting out a rigger brush and putting it all in. This is part of Aspevig's idea of "knowledge gaps" that the artist suggests enough, but leaves gaps for the viewer to fill in from their own experiences. When a viewer does this the  discovery produces endorphins in the brain that leads to great pleasure and a very enjoyable viewing experience. 

It was hard to have the big wave star and not lose that to too much foreground competition. I scraped off the foreground 4 times and once got out a rag and took it back to canvas. I'm starting to learn that I can't do it all on one painting and to be happy if some part is there and to know the next ones I'll get more. 

I also created a lavender sky here gradating in warm-cool and in value r-l. I needed a lower value sky to get the blowing spray to show. There is a gentle S movement of light, (Rem naples yellow light, to carry the eye front to back) I used 2 whites a warm one and a cool one, something that is now part of my palette, with so much white in a seascape it helps to create more variety in the pale tones.

In the detail you can see how I'm using brushwork alone to make the suggested details. This work is  6x12, and if I eventually go bigger I can put in more with the space, working up some layers of glazing to enhance the depth.
the detail is nice by itself, its a good feeling when I get something into the painting that was felt the day I saw it.