Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Snow Shadows"

Enjoying a quiet week between the holidays before heading back to school in the new year.  We haven't seen more than a token flake or two, happily, on Christmas Day, but it's coming.

I'm working on something larger in the studio; but thought I'd post the view out the front window from a winter past. There is so much warmth in the snowy landscape.  I'll hold that good thought when snow is a reality here this year. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Cool" vs "Cold"

Temperature is a challenging concept for some students to grasp.  Initially, or instinctively, warm is red or yellow or orange and cool is blue or green or purple. When you are painting the shadow side of a lemon, or the distant yellow hillside; this simplistic interpretation of warm and cool handcuffs you.  The rest of the time, a lack of understanding of cool vs. cold limits your results and leaves your painting with a lack of sophistication and subtlety as the planes shift.

Take a look at this landscape by Edgar Payne.  I saw it recently on FB posted by Brian Neher in his series of photos "Painters of the Past".  The painting took my breath away.  It is the epitome of "Cool vs. Cold".  The landscape recedes beautifully; yet the range in temperature is very narrow.  The entire painting could be considered warm; with a wonderful variety of "cooled warms".  He cooled the distant hillside showing the atmospheric perspective; and the yellow on the near trees where they are in light and touched by sky is cooler than the yellow inside the same trees.  Wow!  The overall result is a shimmering, hot long view.  Look at the detail  above from the painting.  In the larger painting it reads as the cool distance, but without the closer warms; this is a lovely, warm landscape in its own right.   There are no "cold" cools; just cool warms.  By the way, I love this type of puzzle.

One of the problems I pose my  hard-working students is to paint a still-life composed of all yellow, or all red, or all blue elements. (See the yellow example to the right.) The exercise forces each student into exploring the cools and warms within one color family.  False notes; or unsophisticated notes jump out. We  have a conversation about the color wheel.  When you begin with yellow - cool is everywhere you go.  Sort of freeing, don't you think?


Saturday, December 03, 2011

Cropping or "Breaking the Barrier"

 Yesterday's class was about cropping as part of your design.  Cropping your subject can bring energy, dynamism, excitement to the painting.  I advise my students, "Don't crop because something doesn't fit!".  Use cropping, as you apply yourself to all other aspects of your painting, with intentionality; with deliberation.  It's a matter of granularity.  The design needs to be as considered and deliberate as does each stroke of the brush.  

  Back to cropping. Many new painters are reluctant to cross over the edge of the painting surface.  That's natural; there is a boundary there.  It can be intimidating.  I use yesterday's exercise to crush that reluctance, by having the class fly across the edges with power and intention.  We discuss rookie ways of approaching the edge of a painting.  There's the tried and true squashed bottles,  flowers hunching down below the top edge, or bending and bowing to the sides of a painting, the disproportionate rooftops and miniscule chimneys.  It can become a bit like Marcel Marceau trapped in the invisible box of his own design.  Most of us have been there at one time or another.

Next, there are the "edge kissers".  Not deterred by the approaching border, these painters move fearlessly in that direction; then stop abruptly as the object touches the edge.  The subject matter may still be clinging to the picture space, but the viewer's eye finds this alluring tangent irresistible and follows it faithfully to the edge and BEYOND, (pardon the Buzz Lightyear reference),  leaving the painting with alacrity!

  Yesterday's exercise was to design a painting which boldly crosses at least 1/3 of a horizontal edge, and  1/3 of a vertical edge.  No bending, no squashing, no kissing.  Several students use view finders to examine the subject.  Some of those view finders had large openings, 4" x 5" for example, that didn't allow the artist to extend their arm far enough to really see the subject cropped.  Make sure your viewfinder has a small opening, and make sure the opening is adjustable.  Bring it close to your eye to see more; extend to see less.  If you are unaccustomed to cropping your subject, you need to see LESS than you are used to.

  The class drew thumbnail sketches; then I advised them to look at the sketches through the viewfinder.  We had a few "Ah, Hah!" moments, and the result was some great design; and everyone breaking the surface tension that the edges can create.  The result is that you bring the viewer into the middle of the painting.  It's fascinating to see the shapes in the middle of a garden; or porch, or bouquet of flowers, or to bring your viewer into the middle of a still life.  Dynamism.  Burst across the edges of your painting surface.  Break free; with intention. 

Next post:  Negative space.