Monday, November 30, 2009

Back to Basics

Because of my surgery in Oct. I feel like I missed Arizona Fall. Tomorrow is Dec. 1st which makes me panic a bit. The hard part is I am slowly back into painting. It was as if I were afraid that I couldn't do it anymore. I have never gone this long away from my easel. SO when a friend of mine asked me today to explain "starts" I realized how perfect her request is. This last week I have been doing "starts" but not giving them the correct thoughtfullness. Starts, are not completed paintings, but decisions in paint on the composition, and values and temperature of the scene before you, They can be completed but for the time being leave them as they are. The most important step in a successful painting is right up front- what are you chosing out of the scene before you to paint, what is your composition going to be? Will this be a dramatic layout or a serene quiet scene. The correct composition choice can make the difference between a boring so so painting and one that holds the eye. Starts are only the lay in of a painting- usually working small is more convient but not important. You will be laying in the lines and layout of the painting in color. Use the values that come the closest to the scene. It's not a bad idea to push the darks a bit. It is hard to go into a painting and try to darken it up and many plein air aritists come home with too much white and not enough strong darks. Get down your darkest darks, and then your lightest lights (sky? water?) When you step back away from your painting does it appear strong? Does it work as an abstract because that is what a start looks like. Just simple puzzle like shapes of darks, shadows, light sky and lighter sides of objects. Use a true to the natural colors as you can, and not thick paint. Use a touch of your medium to lay this in. You will find that you go through a thought process something like this:
Emotional decision of what part of a scene to paint,
Intellectual decision of how to lay it out with the strongest composition
Emotional enjoyment of mixing the correct colors and where would the highlights go?
Intellectual - to be critical of your composition, colors, does it work? if not scrape it.
All of your paintings start this way but it takes longer as you fill in more and more detail up till you have as much as you feel the viewer needs. I have been doing starts all this week, to get my head thinking in the right way- Scene, then composition, then color notes layed out. I can always go back to these starts and finish them up and also learn from them. I often find that my starts were much more interesting, they were stronger than my studio work because of the deepest darks gave them strength- something that I often lack in studio work. Collect up some cheap canvas boards or mark off 5"x7" rectangles on large sheets of canvas paper and have them ready to go. My normal routine for painting outdoors includes a small start worked up first, then I can be critical of it- does it work, is the composition strong? This really helps me make the right call when I put my brush onto the canvas for a completed painting. These little abstracts should make a be difference in how you make artistic decisions in the beginning of any painting.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Arizona Plein Air Painters- 3rd Place

At the Arizona Plein Air Painters "Painters View " show this piece took 3rd Place. This was painted in Tubac last winter. I had made a trip down there to drop off some paintings and was determined to paint while there. It was so cold- I was able to finish up just as the started to sleet on me. My car temp. said 28 degrees, to you guys who live in cold country that's nothing but to a desert girl that is just plain COLD. Phil Starke was the judge so it really menas a lot to me to have his OK. Check out his work and his newsletter that is very helpful to artists at He is one artist who happily gives to other artists rather than try to keep his "secrets of painting" to himself like so many others do. This is an oil, "Arizona Winter Wonderland" .