Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 25th. "San Miguel Morning" completed

"San Miguel Morning" 9x12 in. oil on panel
$450. U.S.

I'm going to place the finished ones along with maybe some explanation in the initial blog with the "starts"and photos, so they can be compared more or less alongside with the first posting. So check the previous entry if you're interested. You'll also notice that I've posted a price on this one. I'm going to put prices on the finished ones from now on (unless they're first class duds) so they can be purchased outside of the gallery. With tourism in a bit of a slump we're not getting the numbers through the gallery that we used to. I'll post prices on the other recent ones too.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Morning June 25th. plein air

June 25th 9x12 in.plein air from this morning at the Jardin in centro San Miguel de Allende

 We picked a great location this morning. Everyone was fairly close together but all facing different directions and all with very nice compositions and good results after several hours work.Donna tells me I've got to start placing my people earlier in the process. She's right of course. - teachers are so annoying.
I think this will be fun to work on tomorrow morning. The photo looks quite different. Part of that is because there is a wider gamut of contrast between the lights and darks in a digital photo. Even a print of a photo will generally have more contrast than an oil painting. You have to be careful when using a photo image for reference that this phenomena doesn't lead one astray. Squinting at the two pictures you will see that the bright cream wall of the Allende building across the way is brighter than that same part in the sketch. I could have made this slightly lighter by using more white but the yellow saturation would decrease and even if it didn't it could never attain the brightness of the actual, anyway. Of course, even a digital photo can't reproduce the true, actual gamut of reality. All an artist can do is closely imitate the sequence of values (contrast) in an attempt to get  all the elements into their proper positions relative to each other. In a high contrast picture like this one it demands getting your darks quite dark and your lights almost "washed out".

If all the above sounds like gobbledigook, try lifting these two pics and place them side by side. Squinting at the two at once might be very instructive.

"San Miguel Morning" 9x12 in. oil on panel
This is the completed painting. I've decided to post the finished ones on the same page as the "starts" - makes more sense I think. I'm pretty happy with the result of this one. The fact that I didn't totally lose the spirit of the original is always gratifying. You can see that contrast thing I was talking about - it's still apparent when you compare the finished product to the photo below. In the photo the cream wall is a lot lighter than the blue part of the sky, the blue sky is a lot lighter that the lit leaves of the tree.............. and so it goes. If your desire is to really handle light well, you have to begin to understand the phenomenon like a good photographer. I tend to harp on this stuff, first because it's exciting and second because, after all this blog is ALOTaboutLIGHT - Right?
Any comments or criticisms are always welcome.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rio Laja Valley completo

"Rio Laja Valley" 14x18 ins. oil on panel
$850. U.S.

We've got to get out to the country and do some more hard core landscapes! 

I'm O.K.with this was fun but there's always room for improvement - lots of room.
As always, your well-considered comments are appreciated.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Rio Laja Plein Air unfinished

14x18 ins. oil on panel

and the photo below

The photo tends to make this place look a little flat. It's really quite an inspiring location. You're up on this limestone bluff overlooking the river valley. We were hoping the clouds would roll our way later in the afternoon and sure nuf they did. Their shadows creeping across the terrain were so nice and added a lot of depth. It's an unusual location - the river valley has a lot of limestone but the highlands are all extinct volcanoes. I started this a couple of weeks ago just after the corn was planted in the fields below. We've since been doused with some rain, so it's going to look completely different in short order. We'll have to go back and squeeze out more green  this time - any takers? On second thought to get there you have to ford the Laja. It was bone dry last time ............... better take a ride up there and check first.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Obra Terminada & Calle Corregidora

"Back street, Guanajuato"  14x18 ins. oil on panel
$850. U.S.

I'm still a little uncertain about "The Rug". I only included it in the beginning because I didn't like the way the eye was just going to fly up that callejon - instinct told me it needed a little transition element there. In the original photo taken before I started the picture, the shadow fell partially across the upper right part of the grate (let's stop calling it a rug - really!) and I think it would have worked better because it would have been sort of partially obscured - camouflaged if you will. At any rate, I just had to try it - nothing ventured / nothing gained. I think the figure worked pretty well - though she looks a bit like she might of flown in from Oaxaca. In my opinion the overall composition is, in the end, pretty interesting. There is a lot of movement to be sure, but still - you can't help but return to that hike up the hill. I was happy with the color, the light, the sense of place and the loose handling ....................
Now, please tell me what You think. If you like you can be scathing with your criticism. I tend to follow my own impulses, with little or no regard for convention. I need your feedback!

the original photo

 "Calle Corregidora"  12x9 ins. oil on panel
$450. U.S.

The photo of this one came out a lot cooler than the actual picture. It's been cloudy lately and I take these things under natural light. Again, the addition  of the figures helped. I suppose I could have left most of the other fiddling out ......... just gotta muck with 'em ................

Monday, June 18, 2012

Out of Sequence already...........

I went out with the plein air group and painted this one this morning. It's unfinished and it will be next in line after I finish the Guanajuato one manana. It was too nice a morning not to go out.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

.........Hove Too in the Tempest

I had to quit working on this yesterday afternoon when it got too dark to paint. I paint by natural light and the cloud bands from Hurricane Carlotta started moving in yesterday about noon. It's very dark again today so I guess I'll have to let the storm pass before I can continue on this one. This photo was taken under very grey skylight, so the color is a bit off by the way.

I decided the painting looked like it wanted some palette knife work. Old walls and such can really look texturally satisfying when done with the knife. I intend to add a figure and make a few other changes yet. The composition of this picture is a bit unusual - even dangerous you might say. There is always the risk of dividing interest in a composition with the result that you don't really have a center of interest - picture elements just rattle around everywhere competing for attention. On the other hand, I have no patience for too restrictive formula's. If you were to follow too closely some of the recipes found in a lot of howtoo books you would end up doing  near identical, derivative schlock over and over. Lots of overly proud "artists" do this. In my opinion, you should take "golden rules" with a chaser of scepticism. Leave straight edges and calipers to the draftsmen - you should learn to intuitively "feel" when a proposed composition has reached the zenith of it's potential for expression and that "feel" is only going to come with experience. Study the formula's and understand their intended strategies but remain flexible.  I myself (probably like you) am only in the student phase of learning these things but I've been at it long enough and had enough of failure and success to have gotten to know many of the "traps" on an intimate basis. All said and done, it's a lot more interesting and instructive to "sail the uncharted seas". 
We'll get under way again when this tempest passes and I'll post the final result probably on Monday.

Friday, June 15, 2012

............I've been thinking..............

Yes, for the last 48 hours I've been pondering things. In at least one direction hopeless, depressing things that are, at any rate, quite beyond my control. So, I'll leave those things and the people associated with them to their fate and concentrate on trying to increase the candlepower in our little corner of the universe. This miraculous, natural world still deserves to be viewed with appreciation and as long as I breathe I don't intend to let careless conformists suck that capacity out of me.

Well now. I've also been pondering my relationship to painting. That relationship has gone through a lot of changes over my lifetime. At first I only painted when the spirit moved me and I was thereby moved to produce about 3 pictures a year. Then came art school where I learned that it would be utterly impossible to make a living as a landscape painter, despite one's apparent potential (thanks for the extra dung guy's - as if there wasn't enough floating through the back alleys of our culture). The only alternative offered was advertising but though my friend Rick Taylor and I were thoroughly  fascinated and highly amused by the subject, it wasn't the sort of pile that would hold any personal attraction as a career. Propaganda, you see.
So there were a lot of lean years but eventually I followed my own course and as sales increased we got used to the concept of financial incentive as a factor in the production of art. Then of course the whole bleating flock had the rug pulled from under them and sales have again declined.
 My problem is this: I love painting on location - "en plein aire"- if you prefer French. And that's how I begin most of what I do. But I'm increasingly having trouble getting inspired to finish what I start, in the studio. It's got to be a lack of incentive. It's not 20% the fun in the studio that it is on location and I suspect you need some kind of positive expression of appreciation for the work you're doing to keep you interested. Sales were always an expression of appreciation, which were in turn definitely appreciated. Don't get me wrong - things still sell  (we're certainly not facing starvation) - just not at a rate to make you feel that the thing you're toiling over in the studio has a very positive chance of  coughing up much in the way of remuneration.

O.K. - the above may or may not be understandable to the reader but I  have a plan that may or may not supply a remedy for my  situation. Donna (my wife who is an indisputably top notch teacher of painting) is trying to get me to take a more active role in teaching myself. Given the present climate, it makes sense. The trouble is there is a lot of skill involved in being an effective teacher. I have almost no experience compared to her. When it comes time to critique some students work I only feel comfortable in giving encouragement. But students are not paying for only encouragement. Even so it takes a lot of sensitivity and tact to honestly give meaningful assistance when it comes to painting. I need practice. 

My Plan:
* One; I will immediately post any plein air work I may have started, in it's finished or unfinished state.I'll also post a photo of the location taken that very day. I'll try to give some analysis of where I might have gone right or wrong and speculate where I might go with it in the studio. Having stuck my neck out, I will then go to work in the studio and see if I can bring out the best in the piece, posting the result as soon as I figure it's done. It should be like doing a demo - hangin' way out there, with lots of incentive to make it to the finish line. Almost like the Daily Painter thing. In fact, that too might be an option. But whatever, ................. feel free to critique the beegeezes out of me - I need to get used to it.
* Two; I am going to encourage mid-level to advanced painters to not only critically analyse what I'm doing but to email any plein air work they've done that  they would like critiqued. I will do my best to deliver constructively helpful criticism. If I get overwhelmed with responses (doubt it) and it becomes an impossible burden I'll have to modify my approach but for the moment I think it might be interesting and useful.

First Up
This is as the 14"x18" painting stood after 2.5 hours work on a street in Guanajuato last Saturday morning. I haven't touched it since (as I say, I've been doing a lot of thinking - not much painting this week). 
Below this is a photo of the subject taken at the beginning of the painting session. It wasn't quite wide angled enough but there's enough there to serve as partial reference material. I'll work on the painting this morning and post the result in the afternoon. Somebody said at the time "you got that shadow color on the street just right" - well I can see how I fiddled with it later and ended up getting it "just wrong". Hey! - the light had changed by then, right? Well, ....yes it had, of course but that's no excuse. It was also pointed out that my sewer grate looks like a carpet ................ people are so mean. Actually, I think the color was coming out pretty good but the worst of it was we all got started a little late and I jumped right into the painting without any preliminary drawing. That can be fatal. In this case it only critically wounded the beast - we'll see if I can pump some life back into it over the course of the day. 
I'll post the before and after's later with the photo below the two. Isn't this fun?
Time to put out the paints and brew up a strong cup -hasta luego.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

November 26th. to December 1st. Plein Air Workshop at Rincon de Guayabitos

Click on the Photo to get all the details.

 The beach is clean, safe and full of colorful subject matter. Fantastic restaurants for seafood - the place has real unspoiled Mexican charm. Only a 1 hour drive north of Puerto Vallarta but with a very different ambiance. We'll do some exploring of other smaller coastal locations too -  hope you can join us for this November get-away.

Donna painting boats and boogs at Rincon de Guayabitos.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

New Stuff

"Valley of the Rio Laja"  47x 56 ins. oil on canvas
This was a commission for David Martin I just completed last week.
I'm not all that used to doing BIG BIG pictures but in the end I enjoyed it and plan to do some more around that size. The "Plein Air Monday" group will be going back up tomorrow afternoon to the location depicted in the painting. I hope we get some good afternoon clouds - it's a really dramatic spot. You're on this elevated limestone mesita with a long view way up the valley and there are lots of scrubby mesquits around to furnish a little shade. I'm hoping there won't be much water in the river as we have to cross it but it should still be pretty dry. However, we'll have to keep an eye on the weather - we start getting afternoon thunderstorms about this time of year and a miscalculation over a big one could strand the car on the wrong bank for quite some time.

"Iglesia San Jose"  9x12 in. on panel
 This was from the plein air groups outing 2 weeks ago. It was amazingly quiet - the street was torn up in front so no traffic was getting through. It could have been several hours spent painting in the far off countryside - just nearly silent painters and bird song.
 "Below el Chorro" 9x12 in.
.......and this was from 3 weeks back. I was really happy with this one as it was all completed during the one session ...... I'm pleasantly surprised that the work is moving along quicker these days. AND ... better yet! - it keeps becoming more enjoyable as the years flit away. I don't know whether it shows at all but the plein airs are usually done in a veritable parroxism of pleasure. There is nothing better than painting on location. You are forced to be keenly observant, inventive and economical in your approach. It is true that during the learning stages there can be very little in life more frustrating but for the obstinately patient there is a big reward of satisfaction lurking near the end of the tunnel. 

"The old Clock Tower - El Chorro" 9x12 in.
......... and having made those comments above ......... here is the one from last Monday that I fussed over for nearly the whole next day in the studio. I like it but the effect was pretty much there after the original 3 hours on location and a lot fresher looking too.