Thursday, November 29, 2012

Transitioning to Winter Ops

Smithfield Orchard, O/C, 12x16
Fall is one of my favorite seasons since , in the early part of the season, there are numerous comfortable and luminous days that beckon the plein-air painter.  The painting on the left was an effort to capture the feel of the orchard in early-to-mid September.  I had originally painted a large tractor with an apple gatherer attached, but the painting then defeated my intention; it became the portrait of the tractor.  So now you see the rock grouping which has its place in the rocky New England soil.  The rocks become merely several of the denizens of the space with as much right to be there as the apple trees themselves
    One of the challenges associated with this painting was the fickle nature of the light.  It started out a cloudy day, but with frequent interruptions of sunshine.  One of my teachers (Ted Jacobs) had warned me to take two canvases out to paint a single scene.  The first canvas upon which you begin your painting can be set aside for the second if the light changes significantly.  If you persist with the same canvas, you risk making the contrasts too feeble -- or (and this is what I had attempted) you can use memory to freeze the scene mentally and proceed to paint.  

An Old Dutch Port, Oil on Linen, 11x14
And as the days become more frequently uncongenial to those of us who are spoiled by modern comforts, there is opportunity to exercise
studio skills.  The painting on the left is an example of this.  I used an old (circa 1930) photo reference and some memories of my painting harbor scenes to pull this one off from the comfort of my studio seat.  The painting was done in two sessions of probably two hours each.  During the first session I pretended that I was out at the scene and began in typical plein-air fashion (blocking-in, etc.).  The second session at the easel began with a certain amount of "oiling out",using a small amount of retouch varnish.  This brought up the colors that were beginning to sink in and enabled me to treat only those sections which I felt needed correction/emphasis/de-emphasis.  While I was pleased with the result of these studio efforts, it does not compare with the joy experienced in the experience -- of being there to register in the mind and soul the subtle hue saturations, contrasts, and surprises of nature.  Incidentally, this painting now hangs at Galeria United (200 Main Street, Pawtucket, Rhode Island) which has a Grand Opening on December 12 at 5 PM. (Who can forget the date, 12/12/12?)

Jessica, O/C, 14x18
   Also, I have been more active in portraiture as the days darken early .  At left is the most recent portrait I painted at Kate Huntington's Studio.  Again this represents an effort completed in under three hours and so finish is, as usual, lacking.  It is always inspiring to paint a model like Jessica whose hair cascaded in curls and twists, picking up highlights and darker accents as well.  In addition, she wore an interesting fur hat which offered a variety in texture. I simplified the background considerably, biasing its colors to agree with the hues and tonality of the model's flesh tones.
  Of course, when there is no live model available for a portrait , then I resort to still life which can still exercise those seven principles that C.W. Mundy talks about: drawing , value, color, edges, design, composition, and paint handling! 

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