Monday, February 15, 2010

Big Snowy Range

I've taken a break from Mr. Laurence's works to do a large painting of the Big Snowy Range in Wyoming. Having never painted imposing granitic mountains before, this has been a challenge. The composition is easy. It is the painting technique that has been, shall I say, experimental.

I generally paint top to bottom and dark to light. Here I have painted in fits and starts. First I tried to paint the cliff faces with a broad brush and later added small details. Later after studying some Albert Bierstadt paintings I overwhelmed the painting with detail. Then, I scraped it all off and went straight for the palette knife.

The palette knife is ideal for this kind of large work. It can be used to lay-in the ridges and shadows and all the various joint sets (cracks). A great deal of imagination is helpful. After that I went back to the brush. Here is what I have done so far.

My Cook Inlet Seascape

This morning I am taking a break from the kids to update my blogs. There is a foot of snow on the ground with more to come this afternoon and tomorrow. If this is global warming I would hate to think what global cooling looks like.

Well, back to the Cook Inlet painting today. The 'painting' is completed and it is hanging in the local coffee shop. Sometimes I will hang a painting for a while and just think about it and see what response it gets. Often I find that it needs some revision.

The painting is posted here. If you click on it you should see a larger image. To me the painting is overwhelmingly green so I might add some color contrast before I send it on its merry way.

The frame is painted black with red primer showing through in places. I like it.

The objective now is to decide if I have followed Sydney Laurence's simple rules. There are a foreground, middle ground and distant background. Laurence used birds to better define the middle field of the painting and I may add that element.

Many of Mr. Laurence's paintings have a point of interest in the off-center foreground. Here the breaking wave acts as that point of interest.

When I look at this painting I can hear the shwush of the water in the foreground as it falls back into the inlet and I can hear the breaking wave. So I guess the painting is a success. Cook Inlet Seascape 2010.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sydney Laurence Project: Cook Inlet seascape

I have chosen a seascape of Cook Inlet as another beginning project . This painting should be available on the net and I have posted it here. In this painting Laurence paints a storm in the inlet. I have never seen large surf in the inlet but I have seen really big tidal action. Anyway, it makes an interesting painting.

I find the painting pleasant but lacking some detail. Notice that Laurence's painting has a large area of clouds in the upper right. I find this to be way too much negative space so I intend to paint this area differently.

The palette is fairly simple. Prussian blue,  french ultramarine blue, cadmium red, sap green, naples yellow, burnt umber, white will just about do it. I could use just the primary colors and get the same outcome.

I have posted a photographic image of the same location. I will use this photograph alone with the painting to make my interpretation.

I sure can't paint in the same style or quality as old Sydney but I know I can produce an interesting painting. Maybe someone in Alaska will want it.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy new year to all my fellow artists and friends

I have been really busy with the family over the holidays. I haven't been able to paint. My new year's resolution is to spend more time listening to my family and friends, and to paint and write, and read more. My daughter says that I should put more exercise on my list too. I'll see about that.

A nice little painting for a friend of mine of the Grand Tetons in the early morning sits ready for me to complete. I'll get started on that tomorrow.

Happy new year to all my friends and family.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Sydney Laurence Project: "Misty Morn"

I finished my first interpretation of Sydney Laurence's "Misty Morn." It is 20 x 30 canvas.

After drawing a very rough outline in charcoal I began to paint. I generally start top to bottom and dark colors to light colors. So I laid in the sky and portions of the mountains. When working with snow covered mountains it is best to start with the light areas and add color. So I left a large portion of the mountains unpainted. Later I added the white and contaminated it with color a little at a time.

I added the clouds after the painting had sat for a while. The clouds focus the eye on Mt. McKinley.

Notice the three distinctive zones of the painting. McKinley is in the background. The middle zone includes a stream and mountains. The foreground is apparent but in the interpretation lacks interest.

Now I will try to save the painting by adding some color contrast to the foreground. Perhaps I will add an element to the foreground to provide interest, as Laurence himself did.

The blue mountain in the middleground  appears to me to be too dark and distracting so I will have to tackle that too.

Otherwise I like the painting. It has been a worthwhile exercise. More later...

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Sydney Laurence Project: Materials

There are many opinions concerning canvas types, panel types, preparation, etc. I paint on canvas. Panels are fine for the beginner, but only the best quality panels do not warp.

Most of the time I buy my own pre-primed canvases framed on 5/8 inch thick frames. I prefer Fredrix canvases but almost any brand will do for our purposes. Sometimes I frame my own odd size canvas. Either I purchase Fradrix wooden stretchers or I make my own.

Gallery framed canvases have become popular. These usually are 1.5 inches thick. They can be difficult and expensive to finish frame. If you don't live in a major metropolitan area you may have to use two frames for a gallery framed canvas - one as a foundation for the other in order to get the thickness you need.

Oil Paints
Oil paints are of different qualities. High quality paints contain more pigment than low quality paints. You can 'feel' the difference in the quality of paints. A good tube of paint is heavier than a lesser grade of paint. I avoid 'student' grade paints.

There are many different brands of paint and I use several. I know a 102 year old painter that uses Grumbacher oils exclusively. Most of my friends use Winsor & Newton oils. I prefer Gamblin oils. Get what you can get. I use for many supplies.

I have a big box full of oil colors but you don't need that many. Most of the time I use a handful of colors and I suggest that you start there. A set of primary colors and a big tube of white will do for beginners. You don't need black.

Color mixing is not hard to learn. I suggest that you experiment as you go along.

With brushes you get what you pay for. Some artists are absolutely religious about brushes. Cheep brushes fall apart as you use them. Keep care of your brushes.

Buy good oil solvents to clean your brushes and use them safely. Some solvents can spontaneously combust when left on cloth and paper products. When I finish cleaning my brushes I place all disposable cleaning materials in a sealed container. A glass jar will do fine.

Special Note on Linseed Oil
If you use linseed oil in any painting process you will need to discard contaminated materials in a sealed container with water in it. I have had linseed saturated cloths burst into flames in my hand!

Never leave materials contaminated with linseed oil unattended. Spontaneous combustion is a big problem for linseed oil saturated materials. 

Clean Up 
Most of the time you can clean up with soap and water. If you have trouble cleaning your hands use some vegetable oil mixed with dish washing soap. That works every time. Paint and oils on your clothes can sometimes be removed with a gel-like cleaning product called Gojo. It is normally used to remove grease from hands.

The Sydney Laurence project: Getting started

Sydney Laurence (1865-1940) is a good subject for beginning landscape painters. His work is a combination of realism and impressionism. Often the main subjects of his paintings are presented in a realistic style and the secondary subjects are of impressionist style.

The subjects of his paintings are spectacular. He is best known for his paintings of Mt. McKinley. That sort of subject is great for the beginning painter because one can easily use his/her imagination in depicting the subject.

In addition many of his paintings are formulaic. There is a distinct foreground, middle ground and distant area in his paintings. Each area has an obvious subject. This sometimes can be confusing but it works.

Many images of his work are readily available on the Internet. They make excellent subjects for a student's interpretation.

For my first project I have chosen "Misty Morn" (c. 1919) as a subject. It is a 19 x 14 southern view of Mt. McKinley. The image presented here is a Photoshopped version of the original painting. It has been simplified for our purposes. The tonal values have been compressed and the foreground has been manipulated so that the study will truly be an original painting.

Notice that the painting has the three distinct zones common in Laurence's paintings. Each zone has an area of interest. In the original painting the artist had a lean-to structure and a man tending a fire in the foreground. They have been removed because that may be too complicated for a beginning painter.

More to come...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Sydney Laurence project: Learn to paint

This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time. The Sydney Laurence project is an interpretation of Sydney Laurence's paintings of Alaska and the northwest. I've decided to interpret his works, not copy them, as a way to improve my landscape painting. Along the way I will discuss the process, post pictures of the progress and show video instruction. Learn to paint with me. Anyone can paint.

Sydney Laurence (1865 to 1940) was the first classically trained artist in Alaska. His grand style is often described as similar to Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran. It differs from those painters in that the subject matter truly is grand and not wildly exaggerated.

I have chosen Sydney Laurence because as a geologist I spent years in the Alaskan bush. Alaska is bigger than life and I paint it that way.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Paul Gauguin exhibit

I went to the Paul Gauguin exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The exhibit was limited but well worth seeing. Several of Gauguin's contemporaries were also displayed. It is interesting to me that Van Gogh cut off part of his ear after a big argument with Gauguin about the perfect impressionist style. He cut his ear off over a disagreement about the type of brush strokes one should use!

It was puzzling to see impressionist art displayed in frames form pre-impressionist periods. Funny how we worry about some details and forget the others.

If you are able to see the exhibit it is worth your time.

Monday, November 2, 2009

This 4' x 2.5' oil painting of Mt. McKinley has been a work in progress for almost a year. The massive foreground has been a problem - a balance between the desire to meet reality with composition. In the end I think composition will defeat reality and the forest will grow in the foreground!