Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Plein Air Adventures - Melville's Hills

Cloudy days present consistent light, but not direct light, so everything is lit equally from all over.  Not necessarily ideal, but I want to do it learn what to expect.  I set up off of Holmes Road, overlooking a field and the mountains that inspired Herman Melville to pen Moby Dick (seriously)  it wasn't supposed to rain this day, so I figured I had 4+ hours to get this done.

This is what I spent most of the time doing.  sketching the composition in Cobalt Violet.  I do this so I don't have to worry about my "drawing" while I'm painting.  I do this first and then add color later so that I'm not suddenly moving mountains out of the way half way through the painting.  It also gives everything a nice warm tone (and looks great in shadow areas)  I really pushed my content together horizontally to fit my panel (16x20)  As you can see from the photos above, there were quite a few things I left out of the painting (trailers and random debris), and a few things I added (notably the foreground)
I snapped this just as it started to rain.  Oil paints don't really care if it is raining - oil and water don't mix.  but I got wet.  and a wooden easel doesn't like to get rained on. note to self * keep rain gear in the car.  I was able to work for about two hours on location before the sky opened up.  heavy rains.

brought it home and worked on it for a couple hours the next day because it didn't stop raining for 3 days.  all in all, I think this one came out pretty good.  I'm painting thicker and more confidently.  my mixing has gotten better too

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Plein Air - Magnolias

Following the State Forrest adventure, I headed into Williamstown after seeing a picture a friend took of a Magnolia tree by a small brook.  It looked so lush.  After finding out the secret location, I packed up the car and headed out shortly before 1pm.  

Armed with deet (because this was in high grass) I set up underneath a very high in the sky sun and got to work.  Note to self *start paying attention to the sun more in relation to where you set up because it moved from behind my easel to shining directly on it.  I was blinded by the light within an hour.  Everything got washed out and looked light blue.  I'm not ready to get an umbrella - no way - not yet. A nice woman from a local paper snapped some pics of me working.   

I had to leave after two hours because of blindness.  when I got home and propped the picture up, I was not pleased.  I hadn't realized how off my colors were in the bright sun. I tried to tweak it that night, but got nowhere.  very frustrated with it.  hardest thing I've tried to paint in a while.  seriously.

Two days later I was back, slightly earlier in the day, and determined to get it right.  

I didn't spend enough time working out the drawing/composition initially, so I had to re-do quite a bit of what I had done previously.  Plus my color choices were piss-poor.  but I stood there and got as much in as I could before snapping a couple pics and bringing it home to the studio for finishing.

Even at home, I spent a lot of time trying to get this to look right (or at least better). 

Very strong sun on half of my body for 2+ hours left me a nice shade of red, but eventually turned to tan.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Plein Air Adventures - Looking West

Equipped with my new table saw to make panels, new colors and rigged easel, I have been trekking around the Berkshires looking for places to paint.  (well, looking for interesting elements to put into paintings at least)  I'm not trying to copy what I see - instead I'm taking it all in, choosing the parts that I want to include, then arranging it into a composition.

This trip was to the lookout at the Pittsfield State Forrest - looking west into New York state - the little lights in the top left are Chatham (I think)  This was a two part painting.  The first trip out was extremely windy and all I could get was a quick sketch on the canvas. This picture is only 15x15 so it was like a sail.

With one hand on my sturdy easel, and the other holding a brush, I sketched out my composition using Cobalt Violet (thanks Stape) before eventually being blown over.  I snapped a couple pics before I left because the light was gorgeous.
Never-the-less, the light changed so fast and dramatically (as sunsets will do) that I only had about half an hour to get the sketch done.  end of day 1.

Two days later I went back.  I had written down the time that I was there, so I planned to get there an hour and a half earlier to get set up and cracking.  It was cold.  A few people came by now and again, and they only lasted about 5-10 minutes before getting back in their cars.  It took me a bit to get the canvas covered, but once it was, I was able to really start shaping/describing with color what I was perceiving.  I was in the zone.  I worked solid until about just before the sun dipped below the horizon. all in all, I was there for just over two hours.

The trick is to pick your "time of day" and stick with it - even as the light changes.

I also snapped this picture in the middle of working to show that shadows are indeed cool (in sunlight)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Table Saw

I bought a table saw finally!  Buying stretcher bars gets expensive, plus I want to start painting on panels when I go outside.

Now I am in production mode creating panels for my Plein Air painting trips.

I bought a $120 Ryobi- it does the job.  I bought a 4'x8' sheet of 1/8" masonite and cut twelve 16"x20 panels plus a few odd sizes.  I oil primed all of them (3 coats with a roller).  I then cut 2 of the panels in half to make a few 10"x 16"

This saved me a bunch of time by preparing them all at once.  I can also build my own stretcher frames too!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How to Rig a French Easel for Working Outside

Last year I bought a French Easel for $50 bucks - the same one with a "brand" name costs three times as much.  It does what it needs to do and I have taken it out in the field about a dozen times.  The first few outings were disastrous because the legs would collapse in the middle of me working. The last straw was when it collapsed right after I set up and the fall broke my turpentine jar.  Needless to say, I was forced to go home early. 

The problem is that most of the appendages and bars have a little bolt you hand tighten to keep it in place, but it never stays tight enough and they slip.  So I drilled holes in the legs and slid a nail through so they cannot collapse. The holes are a hair larger than the nails, so the fit is easy, and they go in and out smoothly.   The nails are 2" so they hang out the other side.  I keep a bunch inside the easel, and in my bag when I go out, so I don't worry if I loose one or misplace one.
 I did this on each leg - just above the extension of the slide out leg. This way the easel is "locked" in its most open position.

This works perfectly. 

It is very stable -

This picture is of my first day out painting this season.  Woods Pond in Lenox.