Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Squinting at Sunflowers

This simple still life was painted in a 2 1/2 hour session at a recent workshop.  The goal was to establish the basic shapes of the subject with minimal brushwork and detail, using value and edges instead.  The subject matter did not have a lot of color other than the yellow and muted green of the sunflowers.  Squinting was the order of the day. 

Squinting - now there's an interesting painter's tool.  After years and years or reading and hearing about squinting, I'm finally beginning to get it.  In the still life below, squinting helped me see the three basic shapes in the subject: the can, the group of foreground flowers that swoop up and to the left and the arc of background flowers.  Not only were the shapes apparent by squinting, but I could see quickly where they belonged...foreground, middle ground or background.  And I was able to paint them that way.  During a recent plein air session, which took place after I painted this still life, I deliberately and consistently squinted at the subject.  The result was one of my more successful plein air sketches. 

Squinting simplifies the subject, and shows you what's important...what  detail is important and what isn't.  In plein air situations in particular, squinting allows you to see light and dark patterns quickly.  And when you can see shapes and light and dark in simplified form, you can see the bones of your subject and the 'plan' for your painting.  And when you see that, you can see ways to alter or arrange them if needed to suit your composition.  For instance, the grouping of the flowers in this still life was not actually what you see in the painting.  The arrangement in the painting is the result of conscious decisions on what to leave out and what to add or just plain make up in order to build a design.  You are freed from the subject in front of you   

I can't wait for the next opportunity to "squint"! 

Sunflowers  Oil on canvas panel  16 x 12

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Another Summer Morning in Locke

The first Saturday of each month is a standing Sacramento Plein Air Painters gathering in Locke, California.  I don't always make it, but as anyone who reads my blog knows, Locke is one of my favorite places to paint around Sacramento.

I joined Martha Esch, a Locke shop owner, resident and facilitator of the Plein Air Painters Meetup site, along with several other painters for a gorgeous summer morning in Locke.  I've painted both of these buildings before, but this is the first time I've put both into the same scene.  I tried to keep things simple...going for the major shapes and resisting the temptation to paint every detail.  That can be a fatal error in Locke, where there is so much going on that it can be overwhelming.  I tried hard to remember to squint all the time, looking for the lights and darks and sticking with that.

This is a small 9 x 12 oil on a RayMar panel.
Locke 9.7.2013   Oil on canvas panel.  9" x 12"

Martha Esch snapped this picture.  I can truthfully say I never knew this was going on.  I think I need to step away from the easel once in a while.  My workshop instructors...Suchitra Bhosle, in particular...are always telling me that, but for a different reason.

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art