Wednesday, February 25, 2015

In The Shed

In The Shed, a 12x16 oil on panel I finished yesterday.
String, who doesn't love it? How many purposes does it serve, and how long does a spool of it last? Every household develops a collection of various weights needed for different projects, and they sit together nobly waiting on a shelf in a shed or a garage to be called to duty.  Mending, wrapping, fixing. It occurred to me while painting this that you might be able to judge the stability of a family by their string, twine and rope collection. A wide variety represents not only many years together, but an active effort to care for, maintain and improve things.  I inherited a few spools of my father's collection that now nestle in with the collection we had developed, all destined, I'm sure, for some shelf in our children's future homes.
I started by covering my panel with a thin coat of Burnt Sienna and then doing a line drawing using my brush. Once I felt that I had the objects properly placed I differentiated the tones by lifting out the light areas, and stroking in a little more Burnt Sienna in the darkest areas. This helps me see the value pattern and will give me  a structure of values to abide by as I develop the color.
This is part way through my first day of working with color. The first step is to get  the average of  each color, abiding by the light and dark pattern I established in my tonal sketch.

Here I have completed getting the basic colors down and I begin refining. I  look at how the light hits each object and develop it's light and shadow, and the overall relationships of color and value.
Then comes hours and hours of detail. I begin to introduce the tiny paterns created by the way the string is wound on the spool or ball, darken the back wall and the shadows cast on it by the uprights in the shed,  and continue to become more accurate with the local color of the objects.
 I stand back and look look the overall. The final step is to make last minute adjustments ( I realized that after all the hours of looking at this, the tall white spool was too narrow at the top, and leaning in a Tower of Pisa kind of way)  I tone down the blue of the basin, thicken and darken the knotted rope on the right, and eventually find myself making such small adjustments that I realize that I'm done.

Monday, February 16, 2015

In The Barn

 I found these well worn, stacked galvanized buckets on the floor of a big barn. The doors were thrown open and the late afternoon light bounced off the concrete floor and illuminated these old work horses as if they were devotional objects. The notion of all the loads they'd carried, the powerful hands that had clutched their handles and the velvety soft muzzles that had carefully found every oat within them made me smile. I think I might have heard the angels sing.

Here are the first two steps I took in making the painting. I covered the panel with a layer of Burnt Sienna and then did a line drawing with my brush to place the objects. I then wiped the paint off the panel where I wanted to place light tones, and brushed in more Burnt Sienna in the areas I wanted dark. This helps me to place the objects and make sure it is a composition that I think is interesting.

After this initial decision making I got so caught up in the painting that I NEVER ONCE remembered to pick up the camera in the many days that followed. Suffice it to say that it was an epic battle between light and dark, warm and cool, hard edges and soft and painting time and sleeping time. I can only hope that all the right forces won out.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Trio of paintings all about pattern

This trio of 11x14 oils on panel are all patterns that I found in plant material. I worked on them in unison and they are an interesting little tribe.

Close Quarters is a close up on a plant that I found on the fringe of a parking lot. It's soft leaves crowded together in a beautiful tangle that I couldn't resist.

Palm Herringbone is the beautiful wreckage of past seasons. The muscular base of old fronds ring the trunk in a dapper herringbone.

Blue Agave 1 gets lost in the giant arms of an agave I saw at my beloved Lotusland (see former posts for more praises of Madam Ganna Walska's extraordinary creation).

Now can I paint something simpler? Perhaps not monochromatic? Fewer thorns, hairs and twists and turns? Please?

Monday, February 2, 2015


As promised, I've been dilegently working. No, that makes it sound too unpleasant... I've been spending long and happy days at my easel. I'm letting the house, garden and the bulk of my social life go (not without some regret) in the interest of creating a chunk (that's a technical term) of work.

This 11x14 is one of a series that I will share with you piece by piece that I came in very close on, creating an abstraction as well as a specific vision. I love that zone between realism and pure design. What a beautiful place to be!