My go-to base color for whites is titanium white. For the brightest whites I add cadmium yellow deep, just a smidgen. Before I start with that color, I also mix some blue-whites (ultramarine blue and a little raw umber) and some warm whites (yellow ochre, raw umber). Seeing the range of "whites" on my palette helps me develop subtle consistent shadows.
For the black I used ultramarine blue and burnt umber. Adding the "black" is really giving the piece the punch I wanted.
After finishing the black, I painted the red. You'll notice that the "red" is a different color middle-top than at the sides and bottom. The upper middle red is cadmium red and cadmium orange. For the darker red I substituted burnt sienna for the cadmium orange.
This is the slowest part of the painting. So many squares and angles. They form the foundation and I am using subtle shading to help create depth. The paint mixtures are various blends of titanium white, yellow ochre, and burnt umber with some burnt sienna in the mixture in the lower right. You might notice that everything is not perfectly straight. I wanted an organic, hand-made feeling to the background.
It has been over a week since I last posted but I have been busy working on this next piece. The composition was tricky and drawing it on my gessoed board was time intensive.
Rather than going into detail about what it will be, I'll let it unfold for you. I will tell you the painting is large, 33" X 44". The dimensions may seem unconventional but adding even an inch changed the whole feel of the piece.
Earlier I painted the foreground grasses and even earlier on the piece I did the background. The last step is to marry the two with some grasses in between the foreground and background. To the left of the left leopard you can see I've started to add a mid-section of grasses.
There is no fast way to paint fur like this. However, I do have a brush which I think is the perfect choice. I don't want to paint every hair. Not only would it drive me crazy, but it doesn't look like fur. Fur is small clumps of individual hairs.
My go-to brush is a small flat angle sable brush. It forms a tight chiseled surface when loaded with paint. For each clump I start with the point and drag the brush across the board in the direction of the fur. Here, the lighter fur will overlap the spots. Of course there will be areas where I want single hairs to overlap but the majority of the fur is painted with this one brush.
Click on the image to see more detail.
My darks can dry overnight while my "whites" and lighter colors can take up to a week depending on the ambient humidity. So even though I have all the spots in, most of them will be repainted as I blend them into the surrounding fur.
You might well ask, "Why bother to paint them twice?" Having the spots painted with warm and cool blacks (some more brown) gives me a frame of reference for the sunlit and shadow areas, helps me to see the cats' muscle structure, and gives me an overall feeling for the painting.
With the leopards' spots now dry after the turpentine wash, I can start on them. My black base is ultramarine blue, cadmium red, and burnt umber. For areas that will be in sunshine, I am giving the spots a warmer tone.
After completing a small piece, time to switch it up with a large complicated one.
In Kenya I had the great fortune to witness a pair of mating leopards interacting. He was the amorous one always trying to get her attention.
Rather than use the Venetian Red gesso which has served me well for a couple of years, I thought this painting would benefit from a Yellow Ochre gesso. Below is my beginning.
After drawing my leopards, I used a turpentine wash of raw sienna and burnt sienna to define the spots. Playing upon complementary colors, some of the background will have hints of a blue/purple mixture (ultramarine blue, rose madder, burnt umber, and a smidgen of violet.)
Since returning in September from my 7th (or 8th) trip to remote northern Manitoba, I have wanted to paint the polar bears I saw. Some prior painting commitments came first, but now I am ready.
For a change of pace, the composition of this piece incorporates simplicity. It is all about the bear and the unique northern light. I am using a Jack Richeson toned gesso hardboard (toned in umber) for my substrate. This light gesso ground will help bring a softness to the painting.
This title came to me after thinking about the tall surrounding trees. In some ways they remind me of the massive stone columns of Stonehenge. Those stones were arranged between 3000 A.D. and 2000 A.D. and mark the passing of the seasons (and there has been speculation on many other reasons for their purpose.) For the summer and winter solstices, tourists flock to this ancient sight to watch the sunrise aligned perfectly between the columns.
Winter Solstice 2016
Stonehenge, England, December 21st, 10:44 am GST
U.S. East Coast, December 21st, 5:44 am EST
and for me: U.S. West Coast, December 21st, 2:44 am PST
For the foreground snow I had a plan. This landscape scene is from my backyard right after last December's snow storm. With wonderful reference in hand, I worked on the right side shadow snow first, then added its highlights. So far, so good.
For the left hand snow, my reference photos had this really cool pattern and I painted it with some modifications.
Hmm. It didn't work at all. That might be the way the snow was, but it was totally wrong for the painting. Also, the sunlit snow in the center needed some changes.
Here is where some creativity and knowledge can make a difference in a painting. I have already changed some details, positions, and colors in the trees. While the trees are main characters in the painting, if the snow did not "read" well, the painting would not be as successful.
Time to take a step back. First I position my chair 10 feet away and sit and look at the painting. After painting for many years I have an inkling of what can work in a painting. Searching my memories of walks in my woods in deep snow, I try and feel its depth, the cold, the sparkles on the snow's surface.
Numerous times I'll close my eyes, then look at the painting, then close my eyes.
This time it was about 10 minutes later and I was ready to grab the brushes and go for it (without looking at my reference photos.)
Now the fun part, the highlights. Rather than holding a magnifying glass, I have a mounted swing arm magnifier lamp. (Rarely do I use the light as it bounces off my wet oil paint.) Resting my hand on the hand rest and occasionally looking through the glass, I start on the highlights. The color is a mixture of titanium white and cadmium yellow deep, Rembrandt brand oil paint.
While working on the highlights I also added more pieces of sky visible through the tree.
I use a disposable palette and always keep the previously mixed colors from the painting visible on the palette while the painting is in progress. Having the sky color still on my palette made it easy to remix some fresh paint to match it.
When I first painted the darks they were too dark and too cool. Adding more sap green and then mixing sap green and naples yellow I've brushed in some lighter passages especially at the top where more sunlight is streaming through the tree.
The snow on this tree is lighter than the trees on the right and left edges which will further help the tree maintain center stage. Once again I decided to paint the snow first. For most trees I would paint the trunk, then branches, then foliage. Here the structure is more dictated by the snow.
It has taken me a while to figure out how to approach this left side. Creating a 3-dimensional look on a two-dimensional surface doesn't happen by accident (at least not for me.)
After trying just the darks first, then painting lighter passages, I had a wonderful section of gobbly-gook. It didn't look like much of anything. Pausing, I started to tackle the area again - this time slowing building up the darks, mid-tones, and lights at the same time. I am now pleased with the direction this left side is heading.
The tree on the right is more in the foreground than the last tree (see previous post.) Therefore, I made the darks darker and greener. The added warmth of the green helps move the tree forward separating it from the background.
I find it is easy to get lost in such a complicated landscape. At times, painting the trees seems overwhelming.
Taking a different approach than my usual dark to light method, for this tree I decided to work on the mid-tones first and establish the snow-laden boughs. Now the structure is more evident.
In this next step, I added the darks which have a hint of green but are still on the cool side. This keeps them in the background and won't draw the eye from the more foreground trees.
There are times when I have to look no further than my own backyard for inspiration.
Late last December we had a wonderful snow storm. Our property became a winter wonderland and one morning the light was breathtaking. Though some treetops broke from the heavy weight of the snow, it was easy to forget that when surrounded by such beauty.
The painting is based on the view from my kitchen deck.
Just returned from a great trip to remote northern Manitoba along Hudson Bay. One morning I saw six adult polar bears before 8 am!
In addition to the bears, the migrating birds gave me plenty of exciting reference.
There are a few paintings I want to complete before starting on tundra paintings but I already have several ideas from the trip.
My thanks to Mike and Jeannie Reimer at Seal River Heritage Lodge (www.churchillwild.com) and a very special thank you to Doug and Helen Webber at Dymond Lake Lodge.
Happy Autumnal Equinox, September 22nd, 10:21 am, Eastern Daylight Time
Now that the secret postcards have been revealed at the Birds in Art Opening weekend, I can show you the two I donated to the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum.
(for back story, see my post on August 13th)
Also known as the Royal Guineafowl, the Vulturine Guineafowl is the largest species of guinea fowl currently in existence. And they are impressive. From their red eyes to their striped feathers to their cobalt blue breast, they certainly stand out from the warm tans and brown of the Kenyan landscape.
My favorite part of this piece was adding the highlights. All the shadowed parts of the horse were painted first so the piece didn't come alive for me until I added the bright whites (titanium white and cadmium yellow deep.)
Usually when I begin an animal, I start with the eyes and then finish the head before moving on to the body. With the shadow already painted and it being a lighter horse, I wanted to establish the dark legs first.
For this next piece, I wanted to paint a horse. But, I wanted a modern feel to the painting. My neighbor has more than a dozen horses and one really caught my eye several years ago.
What if the painting focused on the horse and gave a sense of its movement?
How would I do that?
My first thought was to have an elongated format. Then it came to me that if I had the horse in three positions, I might get a feeling of the horse moving, like consecutive frames of a moving picture.
How can I create the dividing line between the different frames? Rather than experimenting on my gessoed board, I played around in Paint Shop Pro to see how several effects and widths would look. I finally decided to paint a border which would incorporate colors of the background at an angle to give an updated look.
For many years, Christmas has been the time when I could paint with my nieces. This past Christmas we were not all in Spokane so we could not paint together in the studio.
But, my 16-year niece from Texas made a week-long trip here from July 26th - August 3rd. While we didn't paint all the time, she had enough time to complete a painting.
This is an oil painting which she really did on her own. She chose the subject from my reference, decided on the size, drew it, then painted it. Occasionally she would ask me for color advice, but that was it. She then chose the frame.
In the meantime, I was working on my own painting. (next blog post.)
The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum's major event, Birds in Art, is coming up in September. My piece Fontana del Pantheon was selected for this prestigious show and I am thrilled to have my work invited for the 11th time in 16 years.
One of the fun events the Museum created for the Opening weekend is the Postcard program. Artists are invited to create works of art which are 4 inches by 6 inches. Leaving no signature on the front, each donated piece is offered for only $50. The buyer has a mere 60 seconds to look at the works and select a piece from the group. (The line of purchasers starts 20 feet back from the selection wall so a buyer does not have a chance to preview the art before his 60 seconds begins.) Once the buyer's choice is made, the artist is revealed. Only one work can be selected at a time and if the buyer wishes to purchase a second piece, he must go to the back of the line so everyone has a chance to participate. The Museum uses the Postcard Program funds to purchase art from the show for their permanent collection.
I have just completed two original oil paintings for the Postcard program this year, but they are a secret! Below is a distorted image of one of my pieces.
I'll post the unaltered painting after September 10th.