I will be the first to admit that this Thursday’s post is a bust. I have been trying for 45 minutes to upload images from a remote location in the Oregon high desert. Seems like the heat is smothering cyberspace as well the ground here. So bear with me, perhaps next week’s post will be more successful. In the mean time I am headed to kayak down the Deschutes River. Should be cooler!
Archive for July, 2009
The Crossing, 24 x 18”
© 2009 Marianne Post
My attraction to water has me still working in a series. The Crossing is from a field sketch and reference photos of Deer Creek Trail in the Gold Lakes region of the Sierra Nevada. Early this spring I attempted to hike to Deer Lake and came across numerous “crossings” like this. After a while the going got a bit too treacherous and I had to abandon the idea of reaching my destination. Disappointed at first, I realized that I now had the time to linger and record my impressions in a sketchbook. This came with the added bonus of enjoying the scene and the experience once again in the studio.
Since last Thursday I have been participating in an incredible pastel plein air workshop as mentioned in my previous blog, Less is More. So you would think that this Thursday’s sketchbook post would be filled with pages of sketches. Truth be told, my pages are filled with notan studies of all the places we have stopped to paint. But instead of showing you those (my internet connected is so-o-o slow) I have just as many pages filled with notes on theory and technique.
This week I thought I would share my sketchbook as a notebook and have selected a few “gems” that I think are worth considering:
- Take a picture of your painting every 20-30 minutes–a great way to review your process.
- Plein air painting does not mean a start to finish painting for all artists. It is about the opportunity to see with sensitivity.
- The plein air experience should result in a good “start”. Strive for a field sketch.
- Cool greens should be handled with a more neutral bias.
- Violet is composed of a warm and a cool and threads or weaves the landscape together
- The foundation of any painting is value.
- The key to most failed paintings is poor composition and incorrect value structure.
- The tools of the artist: shapes, values, edges and color relationships.
- When faced with a painting location that at first seems to lack inspiration look for strong contrasts, then direction rhythms and textures.
- Always ask, “What can I leave out?”
- Look for movement, angles within the composition. Create counter movement.
- Create asymmetrical movement, even if it doesn’t exist in the scene.
- All landscapes have a warm bias. Even overcast days have warm light.
- Set the shadow shapes early on.
- Turn your painting into a different light to really see colors and values.
- Ask yourself, “What is the one color that threads throughout the painting?”
- In a vertical landscape, emphasize aerial perspective.
Any one of these is fodder for a future blog. Hope you stay tuned!
For the past three days I have been immersed in what I would call the ultimate pastel plein air workshop. Ironically I have picked up only one stick of pastel in the last the 72 hours. Go figure. But the goal I set for myself before I set foot on the plane with my Heilman box of pastels carefully in hand and not in baggage, was to learn to use less pastel. This workshop is organized by LaConner Art Workshops in Mt. Vernon, Washington and Richard McKinley is the instructor. McKinley’s approach to pastel begins with an underpainting. It may be in pastel, pastel diluted with water or solvent, watercolor, or even oil paint.
This approach produces the “setup” upon which the pastel painting is developed. What is interesting about these “starts” is that while pastel is an opaque medium, a thin, transparent, slippery motif is first applied in the setup stage. Then much like in an oil painters approach, one builds thin to thick, dark to light, dull to bright with pastel.
But while we have lots of technique to wrap our minds around, McKinley also shares a boat load of theory, such as simultaneous contrast, aerial perspective, and developing the area of interest. While are heads are all spinning and our minds are like sponges dripping with art talk, we are entertained with a sense of humor and respect for each individuals own artistic voice.
So far I have about six “starts”, with more plein air locations scheduled for the next three days. After that we head, into the studio for the last two days of the workshop to resolve these underpaintings into more finished pieces.
Last Monday I was ready for a get away after a hectic weekend of hosting a 2 day yard sale. So I packed up my sketchbook and planned a drive on the back roads to see what caught my eye. Before heading out I decided to run an errand in town, As I was walking across Main Street I notice a couple taking pictures. They appeared to be from out of town and charmed by the quaintness the downtown has to offer.
Vicariously, I joined them by sitting down on a street bench and sketching the scene in front of me. The sun was blistering hot, about 100 degrees and my watercolors were drying almost instantly. I managed to get a few quick things down before calling it quits. To immediately escape the heat, I went into the building I was sketching. I have to admit, that I have lived here over 30 years and never set foot into was is now the town historical society and genealogy center.
I quickly learned that the building is on the site of the original jail, an old wooden structure that was “mysteriously” destroyed in 1906. Its replacement was built in 1907, and housed not only the Jail, but the Fire Department along with the Town Meeting Hall. The second story was occupied by the justice of the peace, city clerk and used by city trustees for chamber sessions.
Topping off the two story structure is a Moorish tower and bell. The later was used to call fire alerts, but today gracefully rings every 15 minutes, and chimes on the hour. The building was retired from its original service in 1977 and now is a picturesque reminder of a time long ago.
As it turns out, I never make it outside the city limits. I had become a visitor in my own town, enjoying a pleasant get away right here at home.
Water Escape, 18 x 24″, pastel
© 2009 Marianne Post
Lately I have become fascinated with the play of water upon rocks. It strikes me as peculiar that water has such a powerful force over these solid masses. Water Escape is second in a series of waterscapes. Done in soft pastel, I painted this from a scene along Salmon Creek in the Gold Lakes Basin area of the Sierra Nevada. What seems like an ever running stream, Salmon Creek demonstrates how powerful water can be. Its force coupled with the its roar is exhilarating!
My sketchbooks are filled with hundreds of small black and white schematics. They might look to someone like Rorschach ink blot tests. But they are there for a reason.
Upon entering a gallery I immediately take a broad sweep of art to get a feel of what I am about to encounter. And no matter whether the art is representational, expressionistic, or abstract there is always something that catches my eye immediately. Why is that? Maybe it is a subject that doesn’t even resonant with me, yet I am captivated by it.
It usually is the underlying value structure of the painting that my eye is attracted to. When we are born our sight perception develops in an interesting way. We first recognize light and dark, we then see shapes, and lastly we see color. Artists can use this same progression to develop a successful work of art.
Try making compositional studies using two, three or four values to explore different arrangements of your subject matter. I find it more efficient to do a few value mass thumbnails first to explore the overall painting structure before going into too much elaborate composition planning. I think you will find that exciting shapes make the most interesting paintings. If you are faced with depicting reality or choosing interesting shapes, always choose the shape.
Last week I blogged about spending some time in the Monterey area. One day I signed up for a walking tour of the town of Carmel. There were eight of us from all parts of the U.S. who obviously were interested in the back alleys and inside stories of this charming village.
Our guide, Gale Wrausmann, met us in the interior courtyard of the Pine Inn and led us on a two hour excursion along the streets and back in time as she told the history of the town. She knows her stuff, too. Her photography led her on a journey to become intimately acquainted with the town she has called home since 1995. Early on in its development, Carmel attracted artists of all genres. Writers, screen stars, painters, musicians and poets had studios with north light windows or views of the bay. Undoubtedly the fairytale-like architecture of the homes and storefronts built by Hugh Comstock in the 20’s add to the charm. And homes and businesses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Juila Morgan and Charles Greene are everywhere.
Carmel oozes with art of all kinds. Every street in the downtown area has multiple galleries. The Ed Weston Gallery is the oldest photography studio and gallery in California. Featuring not only his work but also that of Ansel Adams. The Richard MacDonald Gallery showcases the sculpture by the artist of the same name. Your spirits soar in tandem with his magnificent work.
But a special treat was a visit to Carmel’s Casanova Restaurant. It is here you can find the table at which Vincent Van Gogh enjoyed his meals at the Auberge Ravoux. You can make a reservation for up to eight to dine at this table, enjoy fabulous food, and imagine starry nights!
This past weekend I had the opportunity to explore Monterey, Pacific Grove and the village of Carmel. An added bonus was the escape from triple digit temperatures here in the valley to the balmy 70º breezes of the Pacific Coast. Instead of setting up my easel outdoors like I had origianlly planned, I took my sketchbook and camera and spent Friday visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It had been years, probably over 20 that I had been there last. What an experience. Admission tickets are sold as two day passes. And you really do need two days to see it all. If you have kids in tow, it could take you a week. The whole facility is kid friendly with hundreds of hands-on experiences for visitors of all ages.
The ever popular sea otter exhibit was entertaining as well as educational. Did you know that otters have a million hairs per square inch of skin? Their dense fur protects them from the cold sea temperature. As I understand it, it would take 100 human heads (with hair) to equal the fur density of an otter!
Currently there is a special exhibit, The Secret Life of Seahorses. There are over 15 different species in the most beautiful tanks you could imagine. A most fascinating and perplexing fact is that the male seahorse is the one who becomes pregnant and bears the offspring. The exhibit highlights their fragile habitat and conservation stations are set up to teach aquarium visitors how to help protect their environment. The strange creature pictured here looks like a floating clump of sea algae. It is a Leafy Sea Dragon, one of the many unusual species of seahorses currently on display.