Saturday, March 31, 2012

some day...

     Some days were not meant to be filled with accomplishments, however, under pressure and time constraints, amazing things can happen. I had a day filled with meetings and classes, with small time slots in between, and as I was sitting there trying desperately to make headway on the big commission I was working on in the 45 minutes available, I had to make a change: scrub out the location of the apple tree stump and move it because I had changed the proportions from the original drawing and needed to re-center the stump. So, the normal way I do this is to wet the area and painstakingly "scrub" off the color with the tip of a firm brush. I had bought this "scrubber" brush from Cheap Joes decided to give it a try - it's a very short, hard-bristle brush - it worked amazingly well: in just a few strokes, the color was gone right back to the white of the paper, leaving it easily reparable to be painted over with the blue of the water. I couldn't believe how quickly and completely it removed the color from the paper, and I just sat there a minute and had this inspiration come to me. How about an image that starts with dark, and you use the scrubber to lift areas of paint - like a reverse watercolor - the way a mezzotint print is crafted: starting with a dark tone and lightening areas. 
A quick trial of lifting paint off Yupo -
just to see if it worked. 
     So I imagined a dark gray winter scene with the white snow on the branches lifted off, kind of in a foggy misty kind of way. So I grabbed a small watercolor block and mixed up a mess of payne's gray and ultramarine blue, and laid down this deep color wash, leaving the lower edge white for snow. Then I set it aside (it would have to dry for me to attempt the lifting of color) and got back to work on the foreground grass texture on my commission. 
My second attempt - utilizing the unique qualities of Yupo
to add clouds and background tree texture.
     When it dried and I tried it, it didn't actually work as sweetly as I had imagined; it was too much work to get the effect I wanted on Arches paper. But then I tried the same thing with Yupo paper - and it worked perfectly! It's more of a graphic statement/sketch of a winter scene than my normal painstaking level of detail, but it is still works and the result is fresh... and it's FUN.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

the struggle, part II

There is No Easy Way Out.
Hard Work Is The Only Formula.     I sound like my dad.
     I am struggling with this new set of paintings. In my mind's eye the finished pieces will be fresh and instantaneous but I am finding that achieving this effect is anything but quick. I sit hunched over these tiny heads captured in full sunlight - trying to balance the lights and darks, limiting myself to minimal "layers" (glazes) so that the colors can stay translucent. In attempting to have the highlights appear to glow it's necessary to push the darks down in value, but then they tend to get "heavy."
     This set of images came to me while I was zooming in on a painting of mine to check the resolution in my photo editing program. Unexpectedly there appeared on my screen just the corner of a head and an iota of blue background and some sweepy strokes of wispy hair entangled in the sunlight. It was perfect. My work had suddenly been simplified for me. This was all I was trying to render, the beauty of life in the sun: beings connected to their surroundings. However, in my effort to render a full figure, this main point had become a sideline thought, "oh... and look at the hair!" Suddenly I could focus in on just the head and the play of light on hair and angled face, pare the image down so that there isn't a fully realized setting or a complete figure to render; find a way to be quicker, fresher, and maybe even produce more art... But the bringing of something new into the world is anything but easy. And if it's to be ART, then quicker is never an option.
     I've done this one image three times - and I think I'm going to have to do it again.
First try - I'm happy with the hair but once the
face was obviously overworked, I continued to
experiment with layering color for different effects.
Second attempt - this time I limited myself to
just two colors: Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna.
I've used this combo before to great effect, but
it still got overworked.

Third try - I brought the full palette back and
managed to keep it from the brink, but I'm still
not completely satisfied with the result.  
     When the third drawing was complete I planned to be VERY brave - with the first wash being an intense value, and then just keeping the second wash the warm skin tones - and only slightly tweaking the final details - three layers would be the best - but no matter how I try, it seems to move into five, then tweaks, and I sit there for HOURS going forward and back between warm and cool in the darks, mix more ultramarine in... nope, too blue... more alizarin, nope... more Naples - searching for the right balance of shadow depth and glowing skin. I squint to judge the value range, then look away and focus on the ceiling to let my eyes re-balance their internal color processing. I lean back to stretch, warm-up my cold fingers near the light-bulbs in my swingarm lights, have a sip of tea, then hunch some more - it's a constant push-me-pull-you between freshness and depth of value - more pigment in the mix... more water... test... squint... more pigment. 
     I've overworked this image again... Maybe I won't be able to achieve the freshness AND the value range with watercolor...