Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Hippeastrum for Bradley

This post is dedicated to Bradley Will of Learn to who was crazy enough to set up the 30 day blog challenge, and so incredibly generous with his time and energy to follow it through!

Hippeastrum Lily and Otto (or Hippeastrum for Bradley) - oil on linen - 12 x 16in

Final, I think. Taking photos of painting progress is a double edge sword. On the one hand, quite useful, but on the other it also shows where one should have stopped painting...usually a few stages before... difficult to go backwards.

Refining most always means taking out the rough edges... and sometimes that means the painting may lose some of its spontaneity. C'est la vie1

I've changed the 'darker grey' family tone of the left wall to a lighter mid tone, which means I may have added a fifth set of tonal values, whereas in the beginning I was aiming for four sets of tonal values. In so doing, it has reduced a little of the painting's original 'punch'.

The tonal value of the Otto Dix postcard has been darkened to join with the 'darker grey' group. 

I think now is definitely the time to stop the 'finishing it' process and let it sit for a while to settle.

On the whole, I am quite please with the results. The rather odd straight intersecting lines throughout the painting seem to work in firmly placing the motif or object solidly within the frame.

I like the way the taller leaf, the shadow of the glass and the postcard overlapping the edge of the painting also serve to help with the structure as well as unite all areas of the work.

In the meantime, the lily being painted has died off, but the two small buds behind have flowered. Interestingly enough, the red accents which were so vivid on the main flower, has almost disappeared on the 2 younger buds. I suspect that is what happens when cut the flower before the flower was able to develop or take the necessary nutrition from the ground to paint that magnificent red.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hipeastrum project - second stage


Considered by many to be just as important, if not more important than colours. Sounds odd doesn't it? I guess it depends whether you are a colourist or a tonalist.

However I tend to agree, and not because I consider myself more a tonalist. I heard an artist hero of mine say once: if you can get the tones right, you can use the most surprising or unlikely colour, and it can still look right... it does not necessarily work the other way.

The Fauvist and the Expressionist I think proved that in a lot of their paintings.

So how to see tones in your subject? One good way is to translate your colour subject into a black and white version. How do you do that? You squint, until all you see are areas of very dark, very light and a few tones in between.

To make your painting punchy and dramatic, its a good idea to divide your composition into no more than 5 different tonal values, ie 1 - the equivalent of white, 2 - black, 3 - a lighter tone of grey, 4 - a darker tone of grey and finally 5 - a midtone. Four different tonal values is more dramatic and strong, 3 is even more so, and 2 - well even stronger still, just about a 'tonal dropout'.

For a 4 tone value work, its helpful to do a quick sketch of the simplified shapes in your composition and decide which area will equal black, which will equal white, and then divide the rest of you composition shapes into 2 differing greys.

In the second stage of my painting, I attempt to identify: 

- my darkest darks in the bottom of the glass, the top of the shorter leaf and the small area of the stem just under the flower

- my lightest lights, which is my equivalent of white, is the lit surface of the card that the glass sits on, the highlights on the petal and the highlight area on the top left of the glass and the lower right side of the glass where the light shines through.

- my dark grey tone area I choose the rest of the stem and the dark part of the leaves as well as the darker part of the left wall and the red accents on the petals

- my light or mid tone greys are the right side of the wall, the triangular shape of the table, the foregroung and the rest of the shapes within the glass.

I don't always succeed, but being aware of what decisions I am striving for, certainly helps me in my direction and each brush stroke is an intent as opposed to a hesitation or a series of 'try it and see if it works'

Because I am hopeless at imagining or making things up, and I find it difficult to paint what I don't see, I need to set up fairly accurately and use coloured paper positioned in the background... then I don't have to second guess. Perhaps one day... However once the blocking in of the colours and tones are in, then one can decide to tweak and modulate to the desired effect.

Within that family of 4 or 5 tones which I have decided on and more or less established at the early blocking stage, I can now play around with various cool and warm version of those areas.

I love this stage of the painting, almost there and still strong and fresh...

Monday, December 14, 2015

AARGH! Day - or 'Does anyone want a spare Mum?'

'PAIN' 12 x 12in - French acrylic on canvas - by Zulu (Heather Towns)

This painting is a small work of 12 x 12in that I own, painted by a friend of mine ZULU (Heather Towns) and titled PAIN.

Up to now, I never understood WHY that particular title? - as I was attracted by the playfulness and her typical joyful colours.

Well now I totally understand that title! This painting is absolutely what my brain went through on Sunday after the following episode with my mother:

My mother lives between Vanuatu (my birthplace) and Australia. She's a lively 84, needing to come to Australia to rest and go for all her medical checkups.  Last Sunday, I pick her up in the morning at the airport, we spend most of the day at Paddy's market, Chinatown (her favourite haunt), then at 4pm, we decide she's getting tired, I get her to sit on one of the rock sculpture seats, on the busy footpath in front of Paddy's, with trolley full of fruit and vegies, whilst I go pick the car up.

My mum in her element

Really busy day around Chinatown, car is parked far away, by the time I drive past for fast pick up where she is sitting, its 4:30 - no MUM! I park the car in No Parking zone, and for 45 min I search, I ask people if a little old lady was taken ill, and get totally stressed, imagining the worst... ah... knowing her, I think: she's pretty impatient, and she's probably taken the bus and train home (a trip which usually take 30min)... no she can't, she's only got her purse, her handbag and luggage are in the car... but maybe...

I ring Mark her neighbour below her appartment who has the keys and ask him to check if mum is there... no mum. Now I really panic,  I go to the market Security centre give details, then I go to the police station and ask what to do... they check the city hospitals' database... no mum... well that has to be good. By now its 5:45, the police tell me to go back to search once more, then if no mum by 6 -  pick up my illegally parked car which has probably a few parking tickets by now, come back to the station and they will issue a formal 'missing person' notification.

6pm, now I'm imagining kidnapping, mugging, morgue... but I try to keep cool, and before troubling the police a second time I ring Mark once again to check my mum's apartment... whilst I'm on the phone, he goes to the door and says "oh, she's just coming up the stairs, being helped by the next building neighbour, Philip, with the trolley full of vegetables... I guess you'll want to talk to her..."

At this stage, the mixture of total angst, extraordinary relief, followed by extreme anger and a wishing to murder, my mind explodes into those colours and shapes of that painting of Zulu's called Pain... and yes, I now totally get it!

Well, I guess it is a happy ending, especially since no parking fines!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Hipeastrum project - first stages


I really envy those artists who take about 10 to 15 mins to do a still life set up. Alas, it is not the case with me. When I used to do 'Tuesday painting' with another painting buddy, Sally (who unfortunately for me moved back to England) would be well into her painting, while I was still moving fruits or vases around 3 hours later!

However, during a wonderful workshop month with Civita JSS last year, some of my best still lifes were of simple setups put together by one of the wonderful teachers, Jody Joseph, in a few minutes.

I asked her why her set ups for me always worked... what is the secret. As far as I understood - its not so much the objects and how they are placed, but how they relates to the 4 edges and what interesting negative spaces they create.

For example, if there is a large space between the object and the top edge, she would put a piece of card against the wall, to create a connection between the object and the top edge - this connection can be as simple as an imagined shadow, or a shift in colour.

So for this project, I decide to focus on that aspect of the composition. The Hipeastrum and its leaves, in its smokey blue glass is a pleasing enough object.

Connection to the edges:

The simple placement of the object on a white cardboard at an angle to the edge of the table, covered with brown paper, results in a strong horizontal line as well as a diagonal one, which in turn creates the connection of the object to the two sides of the canvas. The leaf and the cast shadow going out beyond the edge further strengthens that side connection.

The placement of the Otto Dix postcard makes a connection towards the bottom edge, as verticle line of the corner of the room makes the connection to the top edge.

So now we have an object solidly connected to the edges, thereby also creating interesting negative forms. Time for the drawing.

Again, following one of my Civita JSS workshop tutors teaching, I use straight lines for the drawing, focusing on a strong structure.

For this project, I observe and try and be as accurate as possible in painting the colours that I see, not what I 'think' I see. One way to do this is to put a palette of the mixed colour against the colour area of your subject to see if your mix matches.

I also pay attention how the neighbouring colours look and  as I lay them next to each other.

An interesting way to paint is to carefully observe each neighbouring shape and its colour, rather than observing a leaf, or a petal or a transparent vase. By concentrating on the juxtaposed or interlocked shapes, you reduce your subject to its simplest forms. In effect, a painting or an image is not a replica of the subject. It is a 2 dimentional rendition of a series of abstract forms, which the eyes then translate as a replica or an imitation of the original. I know... it kind of does your head in.

It is also useful to identify and paint your darkest darks and your lightest lights which can then be used as a reference point when you paint the tones in between.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Hippeastrum Lily and Otto Dix

Another Wednesday Project...

Since Philip (my husband) started to raise honey bees, his interest in growing flowers on our property has been a great for my painting subjects. I really love painting still lifes, the subject doesn't move... except that flowers do!

This lovely Hippeastrum was picked outside the kitchen, and was taken on a trip to Kerrie's studio. I love flowers that are sculptural and have a defined structure.

Some of Kerrie's old postcards were on the table and my favourite Otto Dix work ended up providing a nice balance to my simple set up.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Zorn Again!

Zorn (Anders Zorn) Palette
A few people have asked a clarification of this lovely looking colour chart, so at the risk of being repetitive, here are some pics. But as one friend pointed out, the proof of the pudding is in the painting it...

I cut a mat in Yupo Paper to be able to see all the colours swatches separated

Mat showing guidelines of the colour mixes

On the mat, are the instructions of how to mix the samples using the very limited palette of Yellow, Red and Black.

To top row shows the colour mixes in between the 2 Pure colours, to get various degrees of colour hues. For example the mixes of Yellow Ochre and Cadmium Red will give you various degree of oranges. The Cad Red and Black result in a purplish burgundy, and Cool Black (you can use Paynes Grey) plus Yellow Ochre will result in beautiful earthy greens.

The columns under each colour hue is achieved by adding various degrees of white to achieve 4 lighter tones. Its a good idea to do the Black first, and then use that column as a guide to get similar tonal values for all the other colour hues. Lots of squinting helps!

The lower 5 rows are a mirror image of the top 5 rows, but with a smidgen of the 3rd colour to change the temperature

The zorn palette mix showing colours next to each other
  Its really quite incredible how the colours seem different here to the pic with the mat, separating each square with a white border.  Colours can visually change quite dratiscally depending on which other colours you paint them next to. The brilliant Bauhaus artist Josef Albers spent a lifetime researching and teaching the magic and science of colour.

Monday, December 7, 2015

WIP - Thank God its Wednesday - Painting day (who's counting?)

This 30 day challenge is really interesting:

Why? Because I'm succeeding in blogging each day? Nope!

Because I'm still blogging in spite of being 11 days behind? Yep!

These days, I have learnt to be kind to myself, not to be critical of my small failings and just start again and again... Can't recall the countless times I've started an every day walking schedule, or a week long detox diet, only to just start over again and again without feeling guilty.

This posting is a WIP post (work in progress), as opposed to a TIP post where the information could be useful to other student of painting.

Wednesdays come around like lightning, the day I go to my painting buddy's studio. Today I finally tackle a potted plant which I've been eyeing for a long time... but hesitated... all those leaves!

Work in progress - 'Kerrie's potted plant' oil on linen - 12 x 16in
 The challenge here is not to get too engrossed in the details, keeping areas in the foliage simple. Easier said than done. Other challenge is to decide where to push the colours, as in reality, the colours are very subtle and monochromatic. This first stage will do, it has enough information for me to continue playing with it at a later date in my own studio.