Thursday, April 30, 2020

Bending Sea Grasses - Fix It Friday #9

Bending Sea Grasses, 40 x 30, oil on canvas, L. Daniel © 2020

This large piece is making its way to the Anderson Fine Art Gallery, in St. Simons Island, GA, as soon as the fixed parts dry. While it sat curing after the first go round, I started having my doubts. Why did I stop? Why did I think it was done? Well... you know what happened next... back to the easel it went!

Here are the before and after shots, with thoughts about the changes...



Problem 1 - The painting was cut in half visually, with all the action in the bottom half.
Fix 1 - Added height to the mass of clouds, extending them up past the horizontal midline.
Fix 2 - Added light reference into the top half with cloud highlights, connecting ground and sky planes.

Problem 2 - Same volume in the grasses and cumulous cloud mass is repetitive and monotonous.
Fix 1 - Added volume to the clouds to differentiate them from the grasses in shape.

Problem 3 - The "spit" of land on the horizon line was too dominant and contributed to the "cutting in half" issue. 
Fix 1 - Muted down the spit of land in color and in highlights... Made it "blend" better with the environment. 

It's hard to completely change a painting this size. I'm not going to lie, I was scared. What if I was wrong? Why not leave well enough alone? But I knew I had to do it. I've heard it said that if we are not always on the verge of ruining everything, we are being too cautious. 

How the change began... a few dark blobs... so scary...

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Bluebonnet Trail - Fix It Friday #8

Bluebonnet Trail, 6 x 8, oil on canvas, L. Daniel © 2020

Can it really be Friday again? Are you like me, becoming more and more confused about what day and month it is? Yikes! The corona-calendar is beginning to blurrrrrr... Today's fix it takes place in the blooming fields of Texas in the spring time. Let's go there! :)



Problem 1 - Composition! The focal point is poorly placed on the edge of the canvas. All the lines lead to that focal point and the eye keeps on going, right out of the canvas.
Fix 1 - Moved tree focal point away from the edge of the painting.
Fix 2 - Redirected trail... better use of perspective to let the eye "amble in" and around in the painting.

Problem 2 - Background and foreground fought for attention.
Fix 1 - Established a better defined focal point with new trees in middle ground.
Fix 2 - Muted color and softened contrast of distant tree line to push it back.
Fix 3 - Softened contrast of bluebonnets to let the eye move past them. 

One composition rule says that when two design elements touch, the best practice is to either overlap them or pull them apart. Otherwise, this tangent creates visual tension. In this case, the two design elements were the tree mass focal point and the edge of the canvas (yes, the four edges of the canvas must always be considered in the overall composition.) Moving the focal point immediately released that tension. The rest of the changes were just gravy. 

This is ANOTHER reminder to give myself permission to move things around. Copying a scene tree for tree, and plant for plant does not always make the most pleasing composition. Rearranging the elements allowed this painting to flow in a much more natural, easy way.

Click Here to see Fix it Friday #2 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Out Beyond the Shore - Fix it Friday #7

Out Beyond the Shore, Oil on Canvas, 30 x 30, L. Daniel © 2020

Today's "fix it" subject is a large piece that I first painted in 2009... 11 years ago!! At the time, I liked it well enough, but as it never sold, it began the art storage shuffle. It went from one closet to another, under a bed, back to a closet, etc. (You artist friends know what I am talking about! And hey, 11 years goes fast!!) Eventually it ended up in the "to be gessoed over" stack in my garage. After all, I thought, it's a large canvas and I can use it again. Ever the frugal one, am I. 

Well, at the last minute, I decided to try and resurrect it. Here are the results. You can still "find" the original in there, but it became a new painting and... it's going in my upcoming show!

BEFORE (painted 11 years ago in 2009)

AFTER (edited in 2020)

Problem 1 - Color palette was too intense.
Fix 1 - Covered up almost ALL of that intense orange.
Fix 2 - Saved intense orange for pop at sun (focal point) and foreground reflections.

Problem 2 - Painting lacked depth (especially in sky).
Fix 1 - Muted down the color at the horizon to push that into the distance.
Fix 2 - Added a cloud pattern to establish space with overlapping layers and values. 
Fix 3 - Made sun smaller and lower to make it look farther away. 

Problem 3 - Brushwork was amateurish.
Fix 1 - Replaced overlarge mark-making with passages of painterly strokes. 
Fix 2 - Replaced too-broad single strokes with accurately sized highlights.

Problem 4 - Rocks looked flat, like cutouts.
Fix 1 - Reworked masses for a more defining profile.
Fix 2 - Added highlights reflected from the sun to give volume. 

Biggest takeaway??? Color loses its power when used everywhere in a painting. Reducing the overall orange-ness and bringing in lots of neutrals, made the remaining color much more effective. Those pops of orange now direct the eye right to the focal point of this piece, which is always the goal. It's all about restraint... knowing when to hold back!

And now I digress, but... isn't this true of many things? We tend toward overdoing. If we like it, well, more, more, more! I'm reminded of something a dear friend shared at a particularly over-committed time of my life, "you can choke on good food too, you know." She was right. 

Click Here to see Fix it Friday #2 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Fix It Friday #6 - Palm Tree Promenade

Palm Tree Promenade, 8 x 8, oil on panel, L. Daniel © 2020

This little plein air piece was so fun to paint, and I was happy with it. Then... on closer look... I started seeing little nits. Hmmmm, why do we always have to take that closer look? This one fell into the "while I'm at it" category. I didn't change much, but I do like it so much better!


Problem 1 - The sky plane was not separating out from the other planes enough.
Fix 1 - Added more layers of clouds to get added light into the sky.
Fix 2 - Lightened the sky at lowest point on horizon.
(Fix 1 and 2 - Lighter sky pushes it farther back from the mountain.)

Problem 2 - Palm trees on right were clumpy and too evenly spaced.
Fix 1 - Added a bit of sky top edge to break up the foliage clumps.
Fix 2 - Broke up the Per•fect•ly E•ven spaces where the palm trunks enter the foliage, by changing the direction of just the middle tree trunk.

Sometimes little nuances can make all the difference. A small value shift in one area allows the whole piece to make more sense. Likewise, making sure that spaces are more random and irregular removes visual monotony. As I have said before, I hope that taking the time to observe and analyze these "issues" will help me avoid repeating the same errors over and over. 

Click Here to see Fix it Friday #2 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Breaking Through - with Process Shots!

Breaking Through, 30 x 30, Oil on canvas, L. Daniel © 2020

One of my goals for this quarantine is to work on larger paintings for an upcoming solo show that is scheduled at the Davis Gallery this fall. That show may be pushed out due to rescheduling of all the canceled shows before mine... HOWEVER, I need goals. Especially now. (I'm sure you know what I mean. We are all in the same situation.) 

SO, I am going to proceed as if everything is still "on". This may be an obvious sign of my personal denial - but it's a coping skill, and I am going to use it. Somehow it helps me stay productive. ;)

I did remember to take some process shots on this one, so here you go... enjoy!

I started my block in on a toned canvas (Indian yellow painted on and vigorously wiped off), hoping to achieve some "glow". The sketch was done with a mix of ultramarine and burnt sienna (my favorite combination for under drawing).

Using a variety of grays, I blocked in the large shapes of my backlit clouds. My goal was to establish a sense of depth from the beginning. 

Once the shapes were arranged in a hierarchical order, I began to bring in some color to both the sky and the clouds. While the variety of grays helped me establish depth in the block in, they were too warm and fought with the warm sun popping through. 

The final piece - the adjusted color gave me the drama I was looking for. I happy to see how the cooler clouds gave a wonderful contrast to the warm sun as it "breaks through". 


they are downloadable and great for sequestering artists!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Fix It Friday #5 - Spring Wildflowers

Spring Wildflowers, 6 x 8, Oil on panel, L. Daniel © 2020

It's spring in central Texas, and the wildflowers abound! Sadly, we are all staying inside and are not getting to see much of the glorious display. Today, I am showing a small painting that started out in the field, and got changed (A LOT) in the studio several years later. 

Meanwhile, I hope you are all managing in this crisis. It's hard. I'm trying to stay focused with my studio work, but...finding a new rhythm is challenging! Wishing you great clarity and productivity in these days... 



Problem 1 - Small shrub overpowers the wildflowers.
Fix 1 - Removed Shrub.
Fix 2 - Made flowers more dominant (and changed them).

Problem 2 - Muted sky feels dull.
Fix 1 - Dragged a pop of color into sky to liven it up. 

When I painted the original, it seemed important to include the shrub to fill out the scene. Later, I could see that it dominated, but wasn't very interesting. Then I removed it, well... turns out, the flowers were not quite "enough" to carry the scene either (I guess that was why I included the shrub in the first place.) I realized that I needed the focal element to become more important and to pop above the horizon line. That is when the flowers just evolved into a whole new variety! 

Sometimes the fix needs a fix! ;)

Click Here to see Fix it Friday #2