Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Waterfalls", Painting moving water.

 "Camden Falls", 12x16 oil on linen 
 These are recent  paintings of waterfalls from my 2013 summer trip to Maine.  I find painting water……especially moving water interesting, fun and difficult.  It is a tricky subject, and one of the more difficult to paint.  Of course, I can only speak for myself.  The difficulty is in capturing the feeling of movement, or eminent movement.  It is in a way similar to painting other subjects that have the capability of movement, like eyes or mouths in a portrait, or head study.  Everything else on the face is relatively stationary and doesn’t move.  If the eyes and mouth are painted in a rigid or hard manner…..with a hard line through, or around them, it eliminates the feeling that they might move at any moment…..something that is commonly seen in students work.  There should be an appropriate softness in the eyes and lips.  It’s the same thing with water.  Often, one sees paintings of moving, or splashing water painted with every little droplet depicted  as frozen in mid air…..looking more like the photo that it was painted from than it should.  Reference photos of water subjects should be used for interpreting, and not copying verbatim… my opinion.

 "Cascading Falls", 18x24 oil on linen

"Acadia Falls", 16x12 oil on linen

Anyway, that is what I consider when painting water subjects.  I'm not always successfully, but it is always my intent from the beginning to make it seem as animated as possible.  It always comes back to observation skills and the ability to interpret what one sees.  This is ultimately more important than knowing the subject…..of course, that is always helpful, but if knowledge alone is used……there is the possibility of it becoming a formula, or every thing looking the same.  Paint what you see, not what you know…..I heard or read something to that effect once.  I think it’s valid, but I might prefer interpret what you see……be it from life or from photo reference.   Again, these are my personal thoughts and opinion on this subject and may not reflect any universal ideas about this.  Until next time, thanks for listening to my ramblings.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Painting Vistas"

"Work in progress", 18x24 oil on linen

I had a recent conversation about landscape painting, and the topic of Vistas came up.  I have never really chosen to paint vistas.  I seem to be more attracted to the intimate in nature.  The more heroic panoramic type of scenes somehow always got overlooked by me. …I don’t know why that is.  Maybe it is the lack of confidence that I could pull off something that beautiful in a painting.  This summer I was exposed to some of the most magnificent vistas in Maine.  The mountain tops in Acadia national park are breathtaking to say the least.  I have so much reference from that trip.   I decided to give them a try.  This is my first official Vista painting.  I don’t want it to fall into the pretty, postcard of Acadia Park genre….hopefully!  I will do a couple more after this one is finished, and who knows…..if I don’t hate them, they may develop into another subject that I can enjoy painting. 

"Starting with a definite plan, but sometimes just letting go!"

"Untitled", 18x24 oil on linen

It has been my experience that having a plan of some sort when starting a painting produces more consistent results.  Over the years, I have learned that intention is an integral part of success….or at least elevates the potential for a painting to be successful.  This is not to say that one should not just let it fly and experiment occasionally.  I think this can produce discoveries that might not otherwise be revealed by practicing only the tried and proven.  The scenario that seems to work best for me is to start with an idea, or plan of what a work might be in the end, and during the process remain open to the possibilities along the way.  That keeps the door open for changes and hopefully an occasional improvement on the original idea.  There are of course never guarantees of success when starting….only hopeful optimism. I don’t necessarily agree that the end justifies the means, because I enjoy the process so much….I would not embrace a method that was not fun for me personally just because it was expedient.  This pertains mostly to studio painting where one has time to ponder and play around with things.  This is the thing I like about studio painting. 
The more immediate interpretations that I capture on location in field studies, or from life are somewhat different….for me personally.  Aside from the obvious benefit of practicing painting from life, in these situations I never have time to do much except race to try and capture something that is fleeting….like the changing light, or an expression on the model’s face, things that constantly change, etc.  I can only speak for myself…of course!

Step 1.

Step 2.

Step 3.

"Off the Beaten Path" 12x16 oil on linen

It is sometimes fun and interesting to start with a rather undefined end game, and just see what happens.  The painting “Off the Beaten Path”, 12x16 oil on linen is sort of an example of that.  I started this with a vague road map of shapes that left me openings to change easily by not being married to a more resolved drawing, or specifically defined shapes that can sometimes become to precious to change.  On the other hand, “Memories of Summer” 18x24 oil on linen, as one can see in the easel photo with the monitor….I did not depart from the original idea except to open up some of the inky shadows in the reference caused by the camera, and add a few seagulls.  The information in a digital shot is great, but the experience of painting from life allows me to correct the deficiency in a photo. 

"Memories of Summer", 18x24 oil on linen, on the easel
I guess this goes to the discussion about how to start a painting in different ways, and how that keeps one from relying on formulas in one’s approach to painting.  I find that some students seem to want formulas, or quick solutions, rather than be willing to make some of the discoveries themselves by putting in the time experimenting on their own.  This is getting into another topic….for another post.  Until next time, thanks again for listening to my ramblings.