Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Bruce's Barn in Blue

After being quite disappointed in yesterday's work on the Pienza painting, I decided I needed a break from it.  My folders of photos that could be paintings are stuffed with possibilities, but this morning I had one in particular in mind.  It's a photo that would call for very loose work - lots of water and interesting colors.

Down the road from us is an old farm whose owner is elderly.  When we moved here, he had more land under cultivation and would even sell his own honey at a little stand near the barn. Later on, he became a bus driver for our school district.  After retiring from that, he started to slow down and even sold a big chunk of land. One could see the writing on the wall.

No one lives on the land anymore, but the farm buildings still stand and there is no sign of a new owner - yet.  So, although I have taken a lot of photos over the years, I still take as many as possible before a housing development takes over this farm.

Here's one of those photos which I altered quite a bit. 

As you can see the colors have been turned into their color complement (dull green grass = red-brown), and there isn't a lot of detail - plain buildings, indistinct trees, and cloudy, muted sky.  This is a photo that calls for a lot of washes and a very loose hand. You'll see that I gave the buildings a bit more definition (and the perspective isn't quite right yet), but the trees are loose.  The sky, ground, and even the road were simply done by "painting" the surface with a wet brush and then dipping the brush into paint then touching it to the surface and allowing the color to spread as it will within that damp area.  That's what creates that loose feel.

So far I am pleased with the way this is going, but it is definitely a first draft!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

View from Pienza

Today I spent the entire day (well, almost all of it) working on a view from Pienza, a hill town in Tuscany.  Not too long ago I had looked up images from Pienza and discovered that the photo I had taken was an "iconic" view.  For about two minutes I debated about painting from my photo; no one really wants to paint something that is, "Oh, you painted that? Ho-hum."  But since I really like the scene, I decided to paint it even if it has been overdone.

First of all, here are two differently treated photos of the view:

The photo on the left is the view with no enhancements as taken in the early evening from the wall surrounding Pienza. The second photo is slightly cropped, and the color has been enhanced.  As you might expect, I chose to use the second photo for a painting.

Now, it should have been easy even though I always expect to run into some issues.  Below are three of the four or five attempts I have painted so far.

The one on the left is my first attempt; it was a study, and I didn't expect anything more than that from it.  When I paint a study, my hope is that I will discover the problems.  Those could be in the composition (should something be left, out or changed in some other way to improve the composition?), in the drawing (is the perspective correctly indicated? do flowers look like flowers?), in the colors (should I adhere to what I see in the photo?), and other problems that I lump under, "How in heck do I do that???"

The attempt in the middle is the second try.  I liked much of it, but hated the sky, and by painting the mid-range trees, I had made painting the foreground trees difficult if not impossible.

The version on the right is the latest version.  It started out all right, but I tried out a different landscape in the farthest back mountains.  I hadn't liked the second version where those two hills meet smack in the middle of the painting so I added a third.  In the original photo, those hills are barely visible so for the next attempt, I'm going to check the on-line photos by others to see where those mountains really are. The middle distance continues to look like a painting by Grant Wood which isn't a bad thing except I am not he.  But maybe I want to be a little like him . . . .?  I changed the perspective of the fields on the right-hand side thinking I would like it - I should have known better.  It makes my head hurt. And the trees?  Lollipops drawn by a five-year-old.

Blast.  Sigh.  But . . .

Tomorrow is another day and another painting!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Another Drawing

In yesterday's blog I included a poor photo of a very early drawing of mine - poor because of the distracting reflections on the glass.  One of these days I'll ask a friend of our who is good-enough-to-be-a-professional photographer how to avoid problems like that. But maybe I should wait until I find out how to avoid the issue you'll see in today's photograph!

Also in yesterday's blog was my embarassed recounting of finding myself in class with no paint - what an idiot!  However, there was something I could do - draw using one of the photographs I had with me.

But first, a little background.  Our first post-retirement trip was to China where I started taking photographs especially for reference material.  The second trip was an exploration of the Four Corners in the Southwest. Those photos inspired three oils of that very special landscape.

Yesterday as I looked through the photos I had with me, I found one I knew had to be a contender.  It was one I'd toyed with but just didn't know if it was too, well, just too much like one you'd see in a travel magazine.  But I love it anyway.

The photo isn't available for me to post here, but I can tell you that it is a study in perspective which is why it was a good candidate for drawing.  The subject is a trading post in Monument Valley with towering cliffs in the background and a wagon in the foreground. Note the line of the roof and the lower edge of the wagon - perspective fun.

The shadowing - especially on the left side - is caused by erasures made with a kneaded eraser.  It took time to get it almost right, but as I discovered while drawing, it was time well spent.  It needs to be finished (the right side of the trading post ends within the porch - past the doorway line).  The wagon's back wheel isn't right, and the barrel is far more burly. 

But here's the real problem for me.  I don't see it as a watercolor.  Do you?  Would it work?  I see, no, I feel it as an oil painting.  But either way it will be a painting.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Continuous Line Drawing

Painting day, and off  I went to begin work on what I hoped would lead to a finished painting of the view from Pienza.  But, foolish me, I was a bit late and so was rushing as I left.  That, as most of us know, is the sure set up for a problem.  

And it was.  We did a bit of "Show and Tell" first.  When it was my turn, I showed my framed continuous line drawing from 1965-ish when I was an art student at Syracuse U..  It is something very different, but I have always had a real fondness for this piece.  A "continuous line" means one begins to draw but does not lift the crayon, marker, pencil, or whatever from the paper.  It takes a bit of forethought to figure out how to get from one side of the subject to the other (usually one side of the paper to the other), and it may require several attempts before one is successful. I still do them from time to time.

Back when this drawing was done, I was a commuting student living at home so I chose the living room of our family's flat as the subject of this drawing.  Right now I can't remember for which class this was as assignment, but I suspect it was a basic drawing class. There is no sign of a grade on the paper nor had I signed it, so possibly it was simply an exercise that became part of a portfolio that was graded at the end of a quarter.  That doesn't explain the lack of a signature though - so maybe it was just something I did for my own practice and/or fun.

Anyway, this is it, framed, over my desk - complete with reflections.

After we talked about the various items we wanted to share, we each got our materials out.  Sharon was working with one of my friends so I started to get ready to paint.  That's when I discovered I had left my paints at home.  ALL my paints.  

Fortunately, before I began to tear my hair out, I remembered I had something else to work on.  I'll write about that in another entry.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

View from Above

Last week at painting, I worked on the drawing of Venice which was put away when I got home.  I didn't do that because I was tired of the idea but because there were so many other things that needed doing at home and also because I needed to do some research before continuing.  That research didn't happen - the "other things" I mentioned included a three day quilt retreat.  
All of which is to explain why I started something new - again - today.  This is only a preliminary sketch.  By that I mean that I have no expectation of being able to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear or more to the point, take this sketch and turn it into a finished painting.   Instead, it's an information gathering exercise.  Which paints can I combine to make the many greens distinct from each other?  Indeed, which colors look better or best - say green or blue?  Can I improve the composition by adding this or taking that out?  What techniques can I use to enhance my basic drawing, my manipulation of water?  You get the idea.

Anyway, here is Rough Draft #1.

This is a view from one of the walled hill towns in Tuscany; we were standing at the wall looking out at the countryside.  I discovered later that it is considered "an iconic view" which I well understand.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Spooky Tree and Finshed Painting

We had such fun greeting our little Halloween trick or treaters - and some that were that little!  Although to be honest there weren't as many as we used to have and no high schoolers.  Is that a sign that the neighborhood is aging?  Or could it be a sign that the malls are drawing more adults with their youngsters?  Or simply that the neighborhood is in transition and the kidlets aren't old enough to be out yet?

Even so, we had a great time.  The children are such fun, and David had his own way of enjoying it.  Here is his Halloween tree:

Thie next photo was taken later when it was darker and is a close up of the neat decoration he found; the "light" is in a skull!

Today was also painting day.  During the week, I worked on the second Bayou painting and realized that it just wasn't working. So I decided to return to the first.  Today I took it into to class for Sharon's verdict. She took one look at it , and said -

"It works, and it's DONE!"

My response?  "Hallelujah!"

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Lots of Work, No Photos

In the last two weeks (of not particularly nice weather), a lot of work was done around the yard. D worked very hard outside - some was the usual mowing, but a lot was raking leaves, taking care of bonsai specimens that live outside during the moderate weather, and even trying to corral the acorns.  Those acorns are huge!  They are so large that we can't park in our driveway because the acorns can mar the car.  I wonder what the insurance company would say that if we told them dents were caused by those pesky nuts!

Acorns aside, D spent a bit of time helping me with the gardening chores which, at this time of year, take a lot of time.  But first, before he came home from the trip that included being inducted into the Middle School Hall of Fame, I did take out all the garden annuals in the front yard berm.  They were looking sad and not at all pretty.  The removal of dying annuals didn't take too long, and it improved the appearance of  the front of the house.  However, carrying pail after pail full of those droopy, dying annuals off to our dumping spot adds both weight and time to the job.

The next day of gardening instead of finishing the front I started with the biggest job - the backyard garden. That garden, if its dogleg were straightened out, would stretch almost all the way across the back.  By the time I was within sight of the end, I was moving very slowly and was very tired.  That's when D, my hero, came to my rescue and helped me finish up.  Even so, it took a full day of work. 

The third day,  I realized that I hadn't finished the job in the front yard. The perennials in the berm needed to be cut back - a job that would take more time.  Clipping is hard on the hands and also requires more care than yanking plants out to say nothing of the carting away part of the job.  There were also some summer blooming bulbs - Peruvian daffodils that hadn't bloomed - that I wanted to lift and hold over to next year Maybe they will like next year's weather better.  While they didn't bloom, they certainly multiplied!

Once finished with that, I decided to stop for the day, and toddled off to have lunch.  As I ate, I glanced out at the daylily garden and had to be clipped down.  It's a longish stretch of garden that is suffering from the white pines that shade much the bed's length so as I clipped - again! - I pondered where I could move the daylilies.  The continuous clipping left me with a very sore hand but all garden areas clean and neat for winter.

As for the daylilies?  Still haven't figured out where to move them.  Maybe next year.