Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lesson Two!

I continue with my DVD still life painting course through artist Daniel Edmondson.  I'm very pleased with what I am learning.  In the beginning I was a bit 'embarrassed' to be taking a 'correspondence course' in painting.  Now I'm not sure why that was.  I'm learning a lot!  Color and brush work are probably the two primary areas of new information.  Dan has provided some beautiful photographs to work from and his narrative on the DVDs as he paints along is really quite wonderful. He not only has a lot of information to impart, but he has a friendly, open manner as he paints along.  I'm really having fun.

Lesson #2 Oil on 9" x 12" canvas panel
 This is Lesson Two.

To this point in the course, I've picked up several new approaches and techniques from Dan.  First, the painting surface is different.  I'll talk a little about that in this post. I did not make up fiberboard panels as Dan demonstrates, but in order to get a smooth surface, I used some good quality canvas panels I already had and added two coats of Golden acrylic gesso, sanding between each.  This not only gives a smoother surface, but it also creates a much less absorbent panel.  The result is that paint lays on the gesso rather than soaking in.  If you've ever painted on oil primed canvas, you'll have already experienced this effect.  For those of us who paint almost exclusively on "store - bought" canvas, as Dan somewhat derisively calls it, it is a very different painting surface and requires some adjustments.

You can see my struggles with this very clearly it the brush ridges I inadvertently created  if you look closely at the upper left edge of the pear.  I wanted to make a minor correction to the pear shape toward the end of the painting session.  Normally, I would have simply painted over the background color, but with the extremely smooth non-absorbent surface, the existing paint pushes around. It is more difficult to 'cover' while the bottom layer is wet.  I came back after this photo was taken and gently smoothed the area with extremely light brush strokes.  I think the advantage of this surface it two fold.  First, you truly can "push the paint around" once you've gained some understanding of the surface.  Second, the paint and the paint medium stays on the surface and seems to almost glow.  I'm noticing almost no flat spots where color has sunken in.  That could be because the painting hasn't begun to dry, but I suspect that it is also because the pigment and binder are all still combined and laying on top of the canvas, rather than having been sucked unevenly into it.  We'll see.

UPDATE:  Incredibly Dan sent a video critique of my painting.  (He asks that you send him a picture of your work, which I did.)  His comments:  The highlight on the pear is too centered and should have been slightly to the left.  He's right of course.  He gave me a rule for determining where the highlights should be on any round object.  I'll file that one away and never make that mistake again. 
He also cautioned me about using black in the shadow, particularly of orange or orange-gold objects as it becomes "inky".  He suggested that I allow the painting to completely dry, then use some Transparent red oxide and see how that looks.  Finally, Dan said this was possibly the best pear he's ever received for this particular lesson.  How about that?  Thanks Dan, for the wonderful lesson, the great tips and the compliment. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Online Painting Lessons?!

I've been disappointed with my paintings lately.  I feel like I am stuck repeating the same mistakes over and over....sometimes, I'm sure, not even realizing it.   As a 'self-taught" artist, I still struggle with basic technical issues.  It's a bit like trying to play a piano with missing keys.  I'm trying to commit to a more concentrated study effort using my own library and the internet where possible.   And I'd like to take more workshops from accomplished artists who are willing to share their own knowledge and personal artistic journeys.  And of course, there will always be a need for continuing "brush mileage" as my artist friend (and workshop teacher) Howard Rees says, but practice can either reinforce bad habits or build and strengthen new and correct ones.

Recently I found a website by Dan Edmondson featuring his online painting course.  I was actually looking for information about how to keep paintings from coming out 'dirty'.  Dan had a nice little video on youtube about that subject and that led to his website.  I have some doubts about online 'correspondence' course art lessons, but I liked Dan's very practical advice.  Although much if it is geared for beginners, I found a number of practical ideas for better painting habits and ... hopefully...results.

This isn't an endorsement of Dan's video course, but only a record of my artistic journey.  When I've gotten through all 10 lessons, I will give you my opinion, however.  Meanwhile, I did lesson #1 today.

Lesson #1  9 x 12 Oil on canvas panel

The setup and the step by step process is provided by Dan, so I claim no credit for the painting.  I felt I learned several things today, however.  The primary lesson is that this painting contains almost NO medium.  There is some walnut oil used in the background, and a bit here and there in specific parts, but for the most part, this is paint straight from the tube.  A giant change for me!  Doing the painting without medium meant a whole new technique with brushes.  It suddenly became about brush 'pressure' and brush stroke.  It took some concentration and experimentation, but I think I began to get it as the painting went along.  Dan provided the tips, but learning them was not particularly easy.  One other thing that I did differently...I never took the lid off my container of OMS!  Normally, I rinse my brush after every passage in OMS...and I use it as a medium as well, reducing everything to a soup..a muddy soup.  This was sure different.  Without OMS to clean my brushes (but not really cleaning them) I just wiped them between strokes and colors.  A new technique that will take some practice, but it seemed to work.

It was fun following Dan Edmondson's lesson #1...and a learning experience too.  I look forward to lesson #2.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Sunny Sunday in Mokelumne Hill

Once again, with artist friends Ruth Andre and Howard Rees, I ventured into the Mother Lode Country for some plein air painting.  This time, unlike the last, it was a gorgeous summer day.  We were in the Gold Rush town of Mokelumne Hill, a quaint little town surrounded by rolling hills covered with oaks...and just the first sprinkling of pines.  We first set up just outside of town for some landscape painting, and then after lunch we relocated to paint a barn that Howard had discovered and was chopping at the bit to paint.  All of us had our struggles during the day....possibly due in part to the long lay off over the winter....but all agreed afterward that it was a great day to be outside painting. 

This was the morning painting.  I took a lot of liberties with the actual scene.  I think it makes a pleasant composition.  Peaceful and inviting. 

A Farm Near Mokelumne Hill   Oil on 12" x 16" Canvas Panel. 


Mokelumne Hill Barn  Oil on 9" x 12" Canvas Panel

And in the afternoon we painted this old barn.  I had problems with this one.  In fact, this is the second attempt at the barn.  The light was overhead and behind the barn which was nestled under a canopy of trees.  As a result, the barn was in fairly dark shadow with strong light in the foreground.   At first I used a black primed canvas, but that was hopelessly dark and I was already having problems overcoming the dark shadows.  I switched to a canvas primed with raw umber which was better, but I still had problems.  In the end, I settled for this little sketch.  I may play with it a bit in the studio.