Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Value of Chroma

I looked at my palette the other day and saw a few piles of various greys scraped from the previous day.  From my recent trip to Niagara on the Lake in ominous grey weather - breaking, I decided to paint using just these greys and a new deposit of titanium white.

Red, Blue, and Yellow Grey

None of these piles was mixed thoroughly and that gives me even more choice.  Each of these piles is cut way down in chroma - not bright like a cadmium red for example.  I chose a board with a cool toned surface and began to paint - darks, then lights and mid tones.

These paintings are dark in line with the the concept.  But it is interesting to see mostly low chroma against a little bit of higher chroma.  But that higher chroma is still far from high.  That is how it is ket back in space.

Fort Niagara Looming, 8x10, Oil on Board

Shark Launch, 11x14, Oil on Canvas on Board

First boat on the water even in all that grey.  So, waste not!  Paint on.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tech Insight on White

I read the blog Painting Stuff to Look Like Stuff.  Kate stone ran an interesting piece on whites.  As for me I use Rembrandt Titanium White, and a variety of Lead Whites by the likes of Blue Ridge.  I also had RGH blend me some Lead White with Safflower Oil.  SLOOOOW drying but beauty.

When you look below you will see why I have had to change my storage method for my lead white panels.  Keep 'em sunny side up.



Pearly Whites

Being one of those people who gets a bug up their ass and pursues a random project to the eighty percent mark before suddenly dropping it to pursue something else, spring cleaning is an especially interesting time of year for me.  It's when I uncover a half-finished, gender-neutral baby blanket made out of hypoallergenic wool; a perfectly organized tupperware box full of every size and shape of envelope that I could possibly ever need, unopened and forgotten; and fourteen separate notebooks and moleskines with the first ten pages filled out with really fascinating objectives: the properties and chemical structure of drying oils (riveting!), quotations about money (wow!), flowers and vegetables I want to plant (I even bore myself).  I also found... my old colour swatches!  Back from when I bought tubes of paint like they were five cent candies and then meticulously tabulated them in my precious, precious binder.

I'm going to throw it all out because I'm so over being a nerd and I've since blossomed into a sophisticated and carefree artiste who doesn't even read the pigment label anymore.  But before I do, take a look at these whites:

This advanced yellowing of something that should be white reminds me of something, but I can't quite put my dental plaque on it.
The key is as follows, listing brand, colour name, pigment, and binder:

A. Williamsburg, Titanium White, PW 6, linseed oil

B. Winsor & Newton, Titanium White, PW 6 and PW 4, safflower oil

C. Lefranc & Bourgeois, Titanium White, PW 6, soybean oil

D. Old Holland, Titanium White, PW 6, binder unknown because that's how Old Holland rolls

E. Winsor & Newton, Cremnitz White, PW 1, safflower oil

F. Gamblin, Flake White Replacement, PW 6 and PW 4, alkali refined linseed oil

G. Old Holland, Cremnitz White, PW 1, unknown

H. Rembrandt-Talens, Titanium White, unknown, unknown

All of these whites were tucked away in this binder in a box for the past several years, so the yellowing is quite exaggerated.  If these paints had been used in a painting and left on a wall where there was some light, it wouldn't be this bad.  But still.  It's worth thanking your lucky stars you didn't paint your masterpiece with Old Holland Cremnitz White.  I mean, you didn't, did you?

Word to the wise, if you're looking for a titanium white to use, look for something that says PW 6 only (no PW 4--that's zinc) and preferably a safflower or a soybean oil.  Good luck.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Some Processes from Adapting to new Conditions

At this stage I seem to be capable of a 2 hour studio session 4 times a week.  In order to deal with this I have taken to a few changes in my typical process.  Interestingly this seems to have clarified my concept building.

  • Limit to one and one half hours painting - the study is done at that time.  This fixes a light condition.  So, as I get stronger I plan to do a series of studies en plein air.  For studio painting I prefer to work from the plen air studies and will try a series of short sessions for each work.
  • Using a short palette.  Three primaries plus white plus a warm or a cool as needed for that session.  In the studio I often add a couple of colours to fill out the colour mask.
  • Using greys mixed from the previous painting session.  These are unique and save me painting time.
  • Painting on a dry coloured ground.  A time saver that I expect will lead to wet coloured ground as in the past and working from white primed canvas.
  • Use of a round brush.  Variety to the feel.  I tend to use this early as I scrub in the composition.  I tend to mass instead of draw, but I use a variety of starts.
  • Scraping and tonking to remove paint, then to paint over again.  A different look and feel.
  • Use my wife's round hair curling brush as I come out of the shower.  Because I can.
  • Painting contre jour.  I have tended to do this in the past but now it seems more logical as I paint a short series with the light moving.
  • Painting small in the plein air environment.  Time saver.

 Living on the Seine, 12x16, Oil on Canvas on Board


I am experiencing trouble finding reference material since I am not yet going outside.  Believe it or not, I can't deal with the cold I once loved.  So I have sketched in pencil from the car and tried photo reference from trips I have taken.  Here I am short on remembering the real situation and the concept that moved me to snap the photo.  Photos are so limited.  

We will see how this evolves.  In the mean time enjoy!

Honfleur Inner Harbour, 12x16, Oil on Canvas on Board

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What, So What, Now What

I have been pushing paint now for 4 weeks after my down time.  On advice from my teacher I kept expectations low starting with some mixing exercises.  Good thing.  My ability to get what I wanted done was pretty poor.  However, I set up each exercise to learn something and get some hours in on the easel.  I started at 45 minutes and am now at 2 hours a session.  As I progressed I turned to painting on scraped back images, then to painting life from my studio window, and now I have been using photo reference.  Desperate to get outside for real studies, I think I'll keep the painting sessions to an hour and a half max.  As I get stronger maybe multiple sessions in a day recording the light condition each time.  I used to paint 6 - 7 days a week.  Now maybe 4 with reading and study most every day for at least a few minutes.

So these are my observations to date.

Concept - I have been pretty good at developing these and getting a vision before painting. This really helps with the limited painting time.  I use multiple small drawings with notes to solidify the vision.

Seeing - lost most of this to begin with.  Painting from life has helped recover some ability.  I am going to begin life drawing next week to help with this before going outside.  If you can't see you tend to slip into painting what you think.

Execution - While having a decent concept, I had trouble mixing and making decisions when I started back.  See it but can't do it!  This has improved with time on the easel.  My signature is still pretty wiggly so I have trouble laying in intricate patches of paint.  Paint on, and this should improve.

Feeling the paint - This is returning as I paint more.  I am a tactile person so this is important to me.  As David Leffel says "you don't pint with a brush, you paint with paint".

Drawing - Use it or lose it.  I draw as part of my concept development so this is helping as will the life drawing.

Composition, shapes - I'm aware of these and drawing is helping here.

Values - Pretty bad to start with especially using colour but using a value scale is helping recover this skill.

Colour - Recovering this sensitivity as I go.  I have a good understanding of the theory and this helps.  As I improve seeing I continue to refine colour as part of my concept.

Paint Quality - With poor dexterity in the beginning this was a problem.  Just painting and paying more attention to it is helping.

Edges -  If you can't see...  So paint on.


I am planning to paint more in the studio.  I'll do studio paintings from colour studies done on location wherever I can.  After twenty years of painting standing I have to face the reality that I'm going to have to sit considerably more.  So I'm looking for a substantial easel that will augment this.  I'm now set for light weight travel equipment.  Love the GoodOmen Travel Mate box.

Enter the Studio


Gloucester Trawler from Reference


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Comeback 10, Bo Diddley and the Cool Palette

Bo Diddley is crazy, Bo Diddley is sick, Bo Diddley is a lunatic thumps in the studio.  Helps to hone the concept this morning.  Hard as it is to believe, I'm going to use photo reference today.  The image is from a trip to Maine painting along the coast in 2011.  At least I was there painting, but the colours in this image I forget since I didn't paint it.  Can't wait to be able to get outside to collect reference studies from life.  Anyway I decided to use  the cool 4 clour palette.  So I removed the Cad Orange Fonce and replaced it with Viridian (KAMA) and I decided to use Cremnitz White ground in Safflower that I had RGH make for me.  This is beautiful, slow drying, somewhat transparent white - so you use a lot.  I can mix blues (from a cobalt to turquoise) and violets using the Viridian.  They will be somewhat grey.  I get a range of cold greys using Viridian and Alizarin.

Semi Neutrals and Greys Along the Bottom

The subject was dominant blue/violet and yellow.  So the palette should work.  My concept included putting strokes in place and leaving them to let the viewer know that this is a painting.  I spent an hour after setting up the palette and the board etc.

The Start

I changed my start back more to massing in.  Instead of drawing with the brush I use a big brush and put in the shapes in the right general value.  With practice and using a thumbnail to establish the composition and the value shapes this saves a lot of time and lets you paint instead of painting inside the lines.  You can see here where I wiped the thick paint off some background shapes.  This is contre jour so values are critical.  I am continuing to paint dry brush.  I paint wet into wet using relatively thick paint then going thicker where the concept dictates.

Kennybunk, 8x10, Oil on Canvas on Board

Interesting what can be done with 4 colours and some greys from the last painting session. I find the greys quite useful since they are already mixed (unique greys).  So I am trying to keep mixing up warm and cool greys from each painting session.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Comeback 9, More from Concept On

I decided to paint the same scene at different times of day.  Keeping the painting time to an hour assures an almost consistent light condition.  It also fits my current state.

These were all done from the same thumbnail sketch, using the same palette (the warm version with Alizarin, Cad Yellow Light, Ultramarine plus Cad Orange Fonce).  Again I added a round bristle brush in addition to the usual bristle flats.  To repeat the process, I used a pre coloured ground at mid value.  A combination of Ultramaring Blue and Orange Fonce.  These act as the mid tones if you establish the darks, then the lights.  The image comes in quickly.

Adding Coloured Ground - Old Greys in Foreground

For these I have been letting the ground dry.  I usually establish the coloured ground on the spot letting the scene dictate the colour of the ground, then paint wet into wet.

Establishing the Darks

Establishing the Lights

The mid tones are already there in the coloured ground.  So bring them to life....  Watch the values in each shape.

Koop from Studio - Late Day, 8x10, Oil on Board

Similarly the Mid Day study was done.

Koop from Studio - Noon, 8x10, Oil on Board

And for your reference the early morning version.  The first in the series.

Koop from Studio - Early Light, 8x10, Oil on Board

You can also see from this exercise how much you can glean from a series.  My concept changed to capture the light conditions.  You can also see how much the light changes.  So, if you are painting from life you have to limit your time or you mix light conditions.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Comeback 8, From Concept to Painting

Painting over scraped back paintings made me so impatient yesterday that I decided to go for a complete process (small) painting.  So I put together my super lightweight painting gear.  The painting was to be a simulated plein air out my studio window.  I can't take the cold yet even though I want to get to the interesting patterns.

My Subject, Sketchbook Ready

The Light Weight Gear

In my condition I need a lightweight arrangement.  So here it is as it has evolved over the past two weeks.  Light weight TravelMate Pochade Box (from GoodOmen - less than 2 pounds), 8x10 panels with coloured ground (Ultramarine Blue plus Red Oxide - one warm grey, one cool grey), 5 tubes paint (Titanium White by Michael Harding, Permanent Alizarin by Gamblin, Permanent Orange by KAMA, Cad Yellow Light by Rembrandt, Ultramarine Blue by Blue Ridge).  The Ultramarine Blue and Permanent Orange are near complements, so good greys easy to get.  Brushes and Palette Knife, Turps cups, Mineral Spirits, Sketch Book and Pencil, Paper Towels.  This is what I would travel with.  Paint off my lap.  On a local plein air day I would also carry a box of paints, brush cleaner pot, tripod, and a variety of panels.

So first a thumbnail.  Not required on my previous paint overs.  Almost forgot about it.  I do my composition work, value study, and colour notation on this.  Note the eye line.

Thumbnail Sketch

Then to choose a panel.

With Value Scale

I thought I would use the warm semi neutral panel.  You can see that it is quite dark compared to the white.  Using this value scale and squinting I can tell that the panel is about value 5.  During painting the mid value already on the panel will act as the mid tones as I establish the darks, then the lights.  This will save me time.  I will only spend a maximum of an hour and a half from setup to clean up.  By then the light will change too much.

Darks First

Even at this stage the coloured ground is acting as the mid tones.  Oh!  And I had to establish the eye line in order to get the perspective.  Here the eye line is between the peaks of the two roof lines.  The bottom roof will display some perspective lines and colour masses.

First Pass Colours

At this stage I began sweating profusely.  In my current condition the energy required by the brain was very evident.  Had to sit it out for a short break.  I can see drawing errors.  Didn't have to concern myself with that when overpainting scraped back paintings.  My hand sure is not steady these days.  Practice, practice.

Time Up

Leave it now.  Time to clean up.  Total time an hour twenty minutes.  Gotta have a nap.   I could go back into this and make modifications.  Better still another study with the new light condition.  Camera does a poor job of the colours.  Oh well.

Compare this shot to the one above.

Better but no cigar.  Koop from Studio 1, 10 to 11:30 am