Friday, April 27, 2018

Roses in Hermann Park "Study" - the design for my first huge commission piece

Roses in Hermann Park (Study for large commission)
8 inches x 16 inches, oil on panel, L. Daniel © 2018

And just for fun, you can compare the small study above,
 to the large finished piece below...

Roses In Hermann Park (Finished Commission)
5 feet x 10 feet, oil on canvas, L. Daniel © 2018

Yesterday, one of my blog readers asked, "Did you do small to-scale paintings for the client first?" Such a great question!

The answer is yes. I painted an accurately scaled, proportionally correct, mini version; and got approval on it before starting the commission. There were also many conversations. The plan was to come up with a Houston scene that would be calm and inviting, but also distinctive of the city. So I visited. I drove around. I took pictures. I painted on location. I got suggestions and made suggestions. When we finally settled on the IDEA, I gathered my resources and fleshed it out.

You can see the 8" x 16" study in the first image of this blog. That is about 50 times smaller than the final piece, but it got the idea across. Since the client already knew my work and style, the study mostly represented what subject matter would be included. My main concern was design, composition and color. 

I stuck pretty close to my original design, and the feeling of it, when I did the big piece. Once approved, that is just the smart thing to do! Throughout the entire painting process, I kept that study nearby. And... I checked and rechecked it constantly!

My next post will include some "up-close" process shots with some of the details INSIDE the painting. Please check back!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Adjusting My Painting World for a Giant Commission - the story of three 10-foot paintings!

Roses in Hermann Park, 56 x 120, oil, L. Daniel © 2018
Commission for Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas
First of three 10-foot paintings to hang in new North Tower

Dear Blog-Friends, This is a story I wrote for Outdoor Painter last week. It's longer than most of my posts, but I share it in it's entirety because you to know what I have been up to since January. More to come on the process and, of course, on subsequent pieces! And thank you for your ongoing support!

The Project
Every now and then, an opportunity comes along that both excites and terrifies. I am in the middle of one of those right now… a commission project for three 10-foot paintings. When finished, these pieces will all hang together in the lobby of Houston Methodist Hospital's new North Tower expansion. It's an honor to be chosen, AND it also comes with high expectations. It’s a challenge that is taking me out of my comfort zone and growing me in new directions. That can be fun and scary!

Prepping my giant blank canvas with two extra coats of gesso.

The Logistics
At first, even the logistics of painting so large seemed insurmountable. A ten-foot canvas is not available at the local art store, is too wide to be supported by my easel, and won’t even fit in my personal studio. Knowing I would need some help, I began to research and ask around. In the end, Davis Gallery (my Austin gallerist and local frame-shop) is custom-building the canvases and delivering them to my front door. Easel guru, David Sorg, suggested two matching easels placed side by side to manage that size, and my double-Sorg arrangement works like a charm. Finally, my sweet husband helped me convert our living room/dining room into a giant studio space for the duration of the project (he also gets ongoing credit for being my greatest encourager)!

My dark neutral block-in on the double-Sorg easel set up.

The Execution
Once set up, I had to figure out how to execute on such a large scale. I typically paint in the Alla Prima method, often en plein air, and I love the freshness of working wet into wet. Even though sheer size would inhibit that process some, my instincts told me to stick with what I know. So I stocked up on paint, got larger brushes, and just got going. Everything took much more time than expected, but I stayed true to my process. I blocked-in the composition with a dark neutral, and began working dark to light. I stood back a lot, focused on large shapes, and slowly covered the canvas. I learned to be much more patient with developing a good foundation, and to overcome the drying time issues. Yes, I adapted, but my basic process served me well.

The easels move up and down in tandem so I didn’t have to stoop to paint the bottom. However, I did need a step stool for painting the top. 

The Finish Line
The first painting of the commission is now delivered and a being framed for installation, and I feel a great sense of accomplishment!! But I am not done… I have two more 10 foot canvases to go. By the time I am finished with all three, I will have been at it over nine months - January to September. (And the quoting process started 9 months before that!) When the paintings are all installed in that new hospital lobby, I will make my pilgrimage to Houston. That's when I’ll feel truly done, when I visit my big, 10-foot paintings altogether, “in situ"! 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Hill Country Fence Line - Demo Process Shots

Hill Country Fence Line, 8 x 10, oil, L. Daniel
Workshop Demo - SOLD

What happens when it rains at a plein air workshop? Well, we take shelter inside and work from photographs. It often works out to be a valuable time to cover some concepts in more depth.

On the third day of my workshop in Wimberley we had torrential rain... I mean, this was serious Texas thunder and lightening, and a literal downpour! It was pretty dramatic and cozy to be inside, but we worried just a bit when the creek started to rise. Our sweet inn keepers moved our cars to higher ground, "just to be on the safe side". Thankfully, all was well in the end, and we just kept painting through it all. :)

Below are process shot of my demo from that day:

 Compose/Block-in large Shapes and Values

Mass-in Upright Planes – Shadow Family

 Mass-in Upright Planes – Light Family

 Mass in Ground Plane and Sky Plane

Break up Masses and Add Highlights

Some Final Notes to my intrepid Students:
Remember to work dark to light, and thin to thick (dryer, not runny).
Values get cooler/lighter and contrast weakens as elements recede in the distance.
Save small details (like the fence) and brightest highlights until the very end. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Cypress Creek Reflections - Workshop Demo on Selection Process

Cypress Creek Reflections, 8x10, oil, L. Daniel © 2018
Workshop Demo - SOLD

On day two of my workshop, we painted the Cypress Creek next to Creekhaven Inn where we stayed. How great was it that we could walk out the door and down the hill to set up? The lessons that day were many... water, reflections, and mixing greens... but a big one had to do with the Selection Process

The scene was full of trunks and limbs and all kinds of tangled branches... what to choose? It's so important to have an "idea", and we can't have it all. (That never works!)

What caught my eye was that sunlit patch of grass next to the big cypress trunk (which widened nicely as the morning progressed), so I zoomed way in. My goal was to portray the feeling of the creek as simply as possible. 

Take what you need and leave the rest. 
Editing is EVERYTHING! 

More from the banks of Cypress Creek...

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Texas Landscape - Workshop Value Study Demo

Texas Landscape, 6 x 8, oil, L. Daniel © 2018
Value Study Demo for Wimberley Artist Workshops

Last week, I had the privilege of teaching a group of fabulous painters in Wimberley, Texas. This was a four-day workshop with the Wimberley Artists Workshops, and it was an all-inclusive, total immersion set up. It's a such great way to go... beautiful accommodations at the Creekhaven Inn, with  all meals taken care of... we were completely free to just paint and learn!

We started out the first day with a value study in the morning, and then painted the same thing in color after lunch. It was a great exercise, until the winds picked up in the afternoon... all but two of our easels blew over, and it was a bit of a battle. But no one gave up!! And that is the risk of plein air, right? You never know what is going happen! 

The value study was designed to help students learn about atmospheric perspective... to see how values diffuse in the distance, and to learn to incorporate that change to give depth to their paintings. We started out mixing a range of grays... 

5 mixed values plus white and black
(We mixed a rich black with ultramarine and burnt sienna.)

First came a sketch of the scene.
I looked for layers going into the distance.

Next came the grays... 

 Working dark to light...
The sky (where the lightest lights are) comes last.

In the finished value study...
Notice how each plane lightens and softens as it gets farther away.
The foreground has darkest darks and greatest contrast.
In the distance, values come together and contrast goes away.

Below are pictures of my students, hard at work! 
Many thanks to all, especially to Judy and Jocelyn for sharing your photos!