Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Let it snow!

Across from Meeks Bay, Lake Tahoe 6x8 O/P

I was up in Tahoe for a friends birthday the other weekend, and got in a few oil sketches while I was supposed to be snowboarding : ) Mixed success, but I found that the paintings done at the very last moments of sunlight, when I really had to move fast turned out better than the ones where I had more time to work on them (pride keeps me from posting the REALLY rotten one). Reminds me of when I first started painting with Ian during lunch breaks at work. There was a crazy rush in trying to get a painting done in 45minutes! Other than a few random blobs of white at the tops of peaks, I’ve never really painted any snow scenes. I found it pretty fun and not as intimidating as I had built it up in my head to be, but then maybe that's just ignorance being bliss. The Meeks Bay scene was done in about 25 minutes partly because I only had 25 minutes of light, but also because a big blank field of snow is really easy to block in!. I looked for my big shapes and broke down them down into their local color and the rest was just edges.

Before Eagle Lake on the Eagle Falls trail. Lake Tahoe. 5x8 O/P

This Eagle Lake pic didn't turn out quite the way I imagined it. It was a beautiful, but somewhat icy hike back into Desolation Wilderness. I took it for granted and dawdled and gawked at the scenery as the light slipped away and shadows changed, which led to the inevitable and dreaded "chasing of the light". Took more than a couple of hours to slave away on this, if you can believe it. But it WAS a beautiful HIKE.

Overlooking Vikingsholm on Emerald Bay 5x8 O/P

I did however have way more fun painting Emerald Bay. After a morning of falling on my ass snowboarding, I had had enough and made a hasty drive to this gorgeous lookout with just enough daylight to warrant a quick setup. The adrenaline was pumping, and not just because I was precariously perched on an icy slope. The light was moving fast and I really wanted to capture the mood of this spot. This was one of the quickies, maybe an hour or so.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Top Dog

Our dog Kirkby on a foggy day at Lost Rocks 8x8 o/p
done from one of my photos.

Ok, it's a "studio" painting not a Plein Air painting, but I couldn't resist playing more with the limited palette (plus it was a great X-mas present for my girlfriend). I don't really have a painting studio set up, I've never had the room, which is why 99.9% of my paintings are done outside. So it was a great learning experience for me in the limitations of indoor lighting. Even though I set up my easel near a window in our sun-filled extra room, I still had to paint alot of this in artificial light. I had a "daylight" photo bulb in one photo lamp, a "GE Reveal" lightbulb that's touoted to have an "extended spectrum" or something like that in another photo lamp and I also had a high powered halogen work light. I thought that the mix of these would give me a balanced lightsource, but even with all those lights I could really tell that I was missing a swath of colors, and that seeing all the subtleties were gone. A bit like driving at night with sunglasses. You can stay on the road, but you know there's a whole lot of stuff you're not seeing. If anyone has a good indoor lighting set they'd like to share, I'm all ears. I took a few progress pics of this one too.

Here's where a preliminary drawing paid off for me. This was my original drawing, but after I had it transferred to my panel, there was just something about the placement that bothered me. I realized I had drawn him in too close to the top edge, which especially after it's framed would more than likely chop off the top of his head. Also, I noticed that his head was a little too centered. So I took out a fresh panel and transferred the drawing at a smaller size and moved him a little off-center. Subtle changes, and a pain in the butt, but better to have caught it in pencil than paint!

Blocked in with very thin washes

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hot Tub

Chip's boat the Hot Tub 6x8 o/p

Next from my cold dreary X-Mas painting sessions is this little experiment in using a limited palette. I've been kind of low from a string of rotten attempts, that I've been in a "can't get any worse so I may as well try something new" phase. Case in point was my approach to painting this little piece (and another I'll post later). I started with a carefully drawn pencil sketch, partly because it's harder to fake perspective and proportions in architecture and cars and boats, but also the drawing helped me resolve compositional and detail issues. Next I did a more thorough tonal block-in, which I found really helped me work out my values on this pretty low key scene. Also the gray lighting conditions really lent itself to playing with a limited palette, something I've been meaning to get back to for a while. And lastly, I used a smaller brush to finish up the detail work! All stuff I rarely do and I also had the consistent overcast conditions to thank for letting me relax and take my time and think, rather than throw down paint in a frenzy against changing light. Richard Schmidt in "Alla Prima" says that this is why he likes to paint in these conditions.

Chip said he hadn't formally named the boat, but if he had, he would have called her "Hot Tub". He put a hot rod Cobra V-8 engine in it hence "hot" and the tub part, well... Here's some progress shots that I thought to take AFTER I had covered up the initial drawing *sigh*

Initial block-in.

In progress..

Check with the boss and call it a day!

Monday, January 5, 2009

New paintings from the old year

Looking out over Cox Creek 8x10 O/P

Well I dragged my paints all the way home to Virginia, so I was damned if I wasn't going to put them to use! The first few were pretty rusty, and this is the only one I could stomach to post so far. I've got a couple of sisters (you can say that when you have six of 'em) who live on Kent Island in Maryland just north of Annapolis on the Chesapeake Bay. Painting out there this time of year is tricky for me for a few reasons. Overcast light, fast moving clouds, and very subtle colors (see: gray). Finding a dynamic composition in such flatness is also tough for a guy who loves to paint in the Sierra and the Berkeley Hills. It was damn cold, and I was (am) out of practice. The sky was pretty dramatic though, and I need lots and lots of practice with my skies (Turner was famous for his numerous cloud studies and look where it got him!) so I thought I'd focus on that. More to come!