Thursday, September 30, 2010

Beach View

Beach View, L. Daniel, 9 x 12

Well, I am still basking in the afterglow of the 2010 Weekend with the Masters! We had four days of non-stop workshops, demos, panel discussions and all around joie de vivre! It was a fabulous time with so much to take in. Of course the highlight was being able to paint under some plein air teachers I greatly admire: Frank Serrano, Camille Pryzewodek and Daniel Pinkham.

In Frank Serrano's class we focused in on atmosphere. He is from the California coast and is exceptionally good at catching the subtle tonal shifts caused by fog and salty air. Frank had us start with the sky first - really getting color and value right. Then we keyed the rest of the values off the sky as we worked our way down into the painting. This is just the opposite to what I normally do! The idea here is that since the light in the sky affects everything else, it's important to get that correct first. I definitely found it very helpful. This was my morning painting from that day; a view looking down at the Dana Point Beach.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Distant Shore Value Study

Distant Shore, L. Daniel, 8 x 10

This morning, I am heading off to California with my good friend Julie Davis to attend the Weekend with the Masters painting workshops! I went last year and learned so much; and this year's line-up promises to be the same. I have all-day sessions with Camille Przewodek, Daniel Pinkham and Frank Serrano - all painting masters in their own right. I tremble with excitement!! :)

In preparation for the workshops, I have been doing these value studies. It's been such good discipline (hard at times) and practice at distinguishing relative lights and darks. One of my readers asked a great question, would I suggest taking a photograph of my subject and changing it to grayscale in order to "see" the values? My answer was no...

The beauty of doing these exercises is that the more you do, the more your eye will learn to see subtle value shifts in real time. Using a photograph will rob you of some very important sensitivity training and the resulting muscle memory. I am not saying never use photographs for anything (never say never), but don't use them as a shortcut. They are no replacement for direct painting from direct experience; and they may slow down your progress in the long run.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dock with Umbrella Value Study

Dock with Umbrella, L. Daniel, 8 x 10

My friend Cindy has a great lake house that her grandfather bought many years ago. Several generations have enjoyed the property, each adding new memories. I have been lucky to paint here many times, but painting it in black and white was a new experience. I really loved the brilliance of the sunlit umbrella and it's reflection in the water. (The big, fat #10 brush sure does keep me from getting fussy!)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tree Reflections Value Study

Tree Reflections Value Study, L. Daniel, 8 x 10

I actually did this value study from a full color plein air piece that didn't work out. (No, I have not posted it and don't plan to!) Interestingly, I really fought with that failed piece but could just not pull it out. My problem was color. I love color... of course, we all love color. We respond to it emotionally, and because of that emotion we let it play tricks on us. We chase it's many iterations and forget the original context. Going back to the values allowed me to remember the simple relationships between the planes in the landscape I originally saw. It was all there in my memory once I set the color aside.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sunflowers In Water - Color

Sunflowers In Water, L. Daniel, 16 x 12

I painted these examples for my still life class which met again today, where we continue to focus on water, glass and light. (I am sure you recognize the sunflowers from yesterday's value study - those flowers were just so paintable!!)

All my set-ups for class included glass vessels again, but this time each had something in the water. Though it seems a simple addition, it did complicate things! :) We started with the small "mosaic" study first; observing spots of color throughout the subject (and resisting the urge to connect and refine). The idea behind this warm-up is to identify shapes and placement and to loosen up before tackling a larger canvas.

Sunflower in Water Mosaic Study, L. Daniel, 6 x 4

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sunflowers In Water Value Study

Sunflowers in Water Value Study, L. Daniel, 10 x 8

Observation for today: white in the background is darker and more muted than yellow in the foreground with a spotlight on it. It's mind-bending because the brain "knows" that yellow is darker than white, but the eye sees something different (if you let it.) Color is deceiving.

Over-riding what the brain "knows" is a huge challenge: it requires seeing shapes (not nameable things) and simple bits of dark and light (instead of color). Then it requires a little nerve and a lot of trust to put the bits down where you see them. What is amazing though, is that if you constantly compare each value against the others and adjust them accordingly, the shapes begin to look like something.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Brass Urn Value Study

Brass Urn Value Study, L. Daniel, 10 x 8

Still focusing on values here. One tip? Squint way down on your subject to observe the relative values throughout. And do it often (otherwise, your eyes will adjust to the light source and flatten everything.)

I had one reader ask if I do anything special to my canvas for these studies. No, quite the opposite. These are just cut-up, white canvas sheets; actually from a canvas pad. I tape them on all four sides to a board, so that I can paint over the edge without getting paint all over everything. (And then when removed, the tape leaves a nice clean margin for handling.) Using the sheets - loose, unattached - keeps the work from becoming too precious. Just studies... just learning... this is what I am after.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tea and Lemons Value Study

Tea and Lemon Value Study, L. Daniel, 10 x 8

In a couple of weeks I am going to the Weekend with the Masters workshops in CA. The 4-day event is put on by Amreican Artist Magazine. In preparation, I am devoting myself to value studies. One of my instructors, Daniel Pinkham, suggested that the best way to become a colorist is to study value (the relative levels of darks and lights within a subject). I know this is one of the greatest challenges for most painters, so no complaints on this assignment from me. I actually love doing these! Below you see my palette at the end of a value study. Yep, just black and white and one #10 brush (that is pretty big for an 8 x 10, keeps me from getting too caught up in details.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Water Glass

Water Glass, L. Daniel, 12 x 12

My still life class entitled, "Water, Glass & Light" started at the Austin Museum of Art School yesterday. You guessed it, the whole focus is on painting transparent objects and it is going to be fun! (As the teacher, I guess I may be biased, but there you have it.) While this may sound obvious, the fact that glass and water are CLEAR is the most important thing to remember. One is really just painting what is seen THROUGH the glass and water. We painted very simple still lifes with just colored fabrics and glass. It's a great way to get the concept of "seeing through".

Warm-up Exercise:
Before painting a full sized canvas, we did little studies like the following to warm-up. We are using a block-in method that starts with simple shapes and color notes, almost like a mosaic. This warm-up is a mini-version of that block-in method and it allows the painter to identify and locate color and shapes spatially without getting too caught up in detail. Getting it "right" is always a stumbling block for artists, so this is very freeing.

Water Glass Mosaic Study - 4 x 4
Explanation/directions (for those who want to try this at home):
Observe the important spots of color as they occur throughout the painting (really necessary with glass with all the reflecting and refracting) and put them down. No preliminary drawing - just use the color to block in shapes and negative shapes. Pay attention to how the colors are altered when seen through glass and water. Lay in color next to color but don't connect the spots - keep it loose. Resist the urge to "finish" it. It's a good reference for a larger painting.

This is a great exercise, and I think it helped my students as they approached their larger pieces with the same process. Of course, for the large one, they did get to follow the urge to finish. Great work guys!! :)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Country Pavilion

Country Pavilion, L. Daniel, 9 x 12

This wonderful pavilion is in the countryside south of Austin and was the location of our paintout this week. It is beautiful with rolling grass lands, a creek, and huge trees; the structure has a wonderful, well-loved patina.

AND, this is where my daughter will be getting married next June, so it's especially significant to me!! She will actually walk under this arbor and through the pavilion on her way to the ceremony which will be held at the creek side. It's going to be a beautiful, happy time.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Water Lily Patch

Water Lily Patch, L. Daniel, 12 x 12
This painting is from another recent Plein Air Austin outing. We painted at Zilker Gardens, a beautiful botanical garden right here in our own backyard. This variety of water lilies always stops me in my tracks. The leaves reach up to the light, just like the lotus blossoms. They have such a dynamic quality!!!