Monday, July 23, 2012

Painting on location is a Challenge!

the start

the finish

"Down Piedras Chinas"  9x12 ins.oil on panel 

Painting on location is indeed a Challenge!
We went up to Piedras Chinas again early this sunny morning. It was beautiful but it was cold standing in the shade and with the wind wafting up the calle. That was to be expected,  high in the mountains, even in the midst of summer and I can handle that. Maybe my blood has thinned over the time I've lived here but as I say "it's all part of the job" - when you're really excited and working hard you generate a certain amount of internal heat. People can be a problem .............. and bugs too. Often you roast in the sun in order to exploit that particular angle you just couldn't pass up.
But sometimes they can surprise you and what happened this fine morn was a bit exceptional. I had set up in the middle of the sidewalk in front of a very quiet residence - no sign of life. When I say the "middle" of the sidewalk it is to be understood that I was occupying the whole of the sidewalk as they're about  20 inches wide at this point on P. Chinas. The front walls of the houses begin at the edge of the sidewalk. I hadn't taken any great notice of  the overhanging balcony above. You can't envision every possible eventuality when you go "en plein air" - I hadn't packed an umbrella either ...... it was a fine sunny day. Well, I was pretty inspired by the scene, drawing accurately, working fast - just a cookin' along -  at the point where a little infusion of detail would maybe, with a little luck bring this adventure to a happy conclusion. I was a bit cold so I crossed the road to soak up some sunshine. It doesn't hurt to take a short break at this point, anyway. It allows you a fresh, critical look at what you've done before you do any final damage. We all congregated for a few minutes and whilst our bones warmed we noticed a gringa moving about in the upstairs portion of the casa in question. Suddenly she open the shutters and started liberally watering her thirsty balcony plantas. It didn't take long for that water to seep through the pots and caer to the calle below. In a word, it was a total wash out. The worst of the cascade fell right where I had been standing at the easel. All I could do was gather up my stuff before it got too soggy and move up to where the others were- safe on high ground. 
So, I cussed and shuffled around, generally making a nuisance of myself for quite a time. I finally settled down enough to do a little sketching of an all new subject but the spell definitely had been broken. I started a  painting of this new subject but everyone else was finishing up while I was only about a quarter into it, so we all packed up and headed back down town. 
However, I will work the "start" above to a finish and we'll see where it goes ................

Photo reference
It's kind of dark but should be of some help. Minutes after the photo was taken the site was rendered no-go.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Plein Air

the start

We only had 3 people show up for "Plein Air Monday" this morning. I think because of all the rain lately everybody assumed it would be a washout and slept in. Some folks, I know had better excuses than that. Anyway, we missed you and the sun came through now and then. Although it was a bit chilly we had a good time. We set out to paint the very old little church on Piedras Chinas (near the bottom at Garza). Donna and Yvonne found a good angle and did a couple of good watercolors but I couldn't seem to be happy with the church, so I found myself a windy little spot in the deep shade at one extreme corner of the churchyard looking down onto calle Garza where it meets P. Chinas. I ended up doing a wider angle of it than I at first thought, so I don't have reference material for the foreground vegetation - I may go back up in the morning to finish it "in situ". I will post the result ...............

"Morning Light"  9x12 ins. oil on panel
$450. U.S.
I don't know how many "morning lights" I must have painted by now. ........... Lots!
However, that title seemed to fit better than all other contenders so, - there you are.
It was a great challenge that I hope I have pulled off not too shabbily. It was especially tricky retaining  (maybe even enhancing) the feeling of looking down over that bank. I left out the V.W. in the yard below - it would have become a competing, extra and unnecessary center of interest - even though the empty yard might be a little lonesome without it.

the ref photo

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


the subject

I forgot to take a ref photo on the morning the painting was begun, so I took this one this morning. Never forget to take a reference photo before you begin. So I have this very dull photo to work from. Naturally, it was sunny the day the painting was begun. Not the end of the world as we know it however. It may even be a plus - we'll see how it goes. It's pretty obvious that we don't try to slavishly copy the subject at any rate.
An artist re-arranges, re-designs, composes, drawing heavily from the right side of their brain .......... 
..........often butchering beyond any hope of recovery what could have been a nice little picture ...........

the "start"

It's pretty dull in the studio for painting today - I've been waiting for the light to strengthen a bit but it doesn't look promising. Anyway, let us begin .....................

the "finish"
"Rooftops"  9x12 in. oil on panel
$450. U.S.

Well now,

The first tool I grabbed was the palette knife and I stuck with it almost all the way through. It was very engaging, almost fun, working it over but you know it wasn't nearly as much fun as in the beginning when it was just a "start".  Did I butcher it beyond hope of recovery? - no, I don't think so. I like the result but I do a lot of second guessing that I shouldn't. I just can't seem to help nudging the color a bit here and there, just to see what it might have looked like that way -  I'm usually surprised  to find later that the original, spontaneous decisions were better. Is this a case of "curiosity killed the cat" only in this case it's paintings?
Sobre todo was an entertaining challenge and those funky rooftops came off not too bad.
...................time to move on ..................

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Resurfacing .....................

the subject

my "interpretation"

mmmmmmmmm ....................... I think this scene has tremendous potential but I don't think I'll do a lot more on this "sketch" than what I did on location yesterday morning. (it remains to be seen  if I can hold myself to that) If I can find the time, I'd like to do a more controlled studio version of this. It would be nice if I could do this without sucking all the spontaneity out of it ............ but I can see more potential with the composition. I think what I did yesterday was passable but maybe I should have spent a little bit more time with viewfinder and sketch pad, Yes? - oft times, like this time, I just jump right in and feel guilty later.
 Hate that.

I've been pretty busy lately. There are a couple more "starts" I'll have to get back to from last week and I'll post them after I deal with this one. I've also been working on a large studio painting of the dreaded Parroquia and environs. It's almost complete and was more than a bit of a handful. You'll see............
At the same time our supply of custom design plein air kits dwindled to nada, so I've been crafting away on the side. We're not all snoozin in the shade of a cactus down here..........

 "Esquina de las Animas" 12x9 ins.
oil on panel     $450. U.S.

True to form I fussed with it all afternoon but I still like it. I think it lost a little here and gained a little there.
I'll post another of last weeks "starts" in the morning. Pleasant dreams .................