Archive for the ‘color’ Category

Winter Park

I guess I should just go ahead and post a little each day about the most recent paint out. It was a good week of work, I did probably 7 paintings. 2 fairly large ones at 20×20 (like the painting above) and the rest were 12×16 ‘s and 9×12’s. There was a really good turn out at the event Saturday night, in fact it was sold out, maybe 300 people were there.  It seems as if this event has really turned into a thing. The food was great and the wine was free and the weather was about as perfect as you could ask for. The remaining works are still up at the Polasek Museum in Winter Park for the next two weeks, in case anyone is in the area. It’s worth a look. This painting was done in the Antiques on the Avenue shop on Park Ave, it’s a crazy place. The owner is sort of like a hoarder with really good taste, there is literally no place to stand in this store, just narrow goat paths through top notch you-name-it antiques, you  have to keep your arms down at your side as you walk through and if you are wearing a big coat, forget it, you will break something. I have a thing for making busy work and this little shop of hoarders is the place to do it. The owner is super nice and is always happy to have me paint there.

As I said, I have a thing for making chaos make sense, taking mounds of stuff and getting a kind of flow through all the various nicknacks. I didn’t think this one would sell at the event and it didn’t but these do eventually sell and they are a challenge. I’m always at my best when I’m challenged, whether it’s standing in 40 mile an hour winds or freezing rain or tackling the entire contents of a store, it focuses my energy more. Don Sondag and I talked about making it more like a sport (which reminds me of a story I gotta tell you) where you have to run for 10 miles, or in my case, 10 blocks, and do a quick painting and then run for another 10 blocks or whatever and so on.  I’ll put up more as the week goes by but next up is story time.


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Broken color

Don’t want to overwhelm with new posts, but I have some catching up to do. I’ll save the rest for later in the week. But I wanted to bring up this thing about broken color. It’s not new, at all, it started with the impressionist movement (think Seurat, s’il vous plait), at least really got some legs and has been going strong as a way of getting color to work ever since. It’s a relatively simple notion, a colors power depends on the color it’s next to.  It’s a way to get color to vibrate, to come to life. Lots of reproduction methods use this principle, off-set printing, your TV set, stone lithography, ummm the rhythm method. I did this little sunset 9×12 this week at the Winter Park paint out. Probably could have sold it more than once or twice. And that might be because it is a simple painting with color doing all the work. The trick is to juxtapose compliments, split-compliments and even analogous colors (sorry for the color theory speak, but, hey, it’s color theory) to create an overall color field. The notes have to be near each other in value and saturation in order to get the subtle shimmering of light particles.

This image is a little larger than I usually put up, so when you click on it you can see what I mean. It helped to paint this on a broad weave linen so that the color underneath can still show through and the chunks of paint come off the brush better. I like me some broad weave linen or is that linen weaving broads… they are fun to paint.

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What to do

when you are bored, have lots of time on your hands or avoiding work. My good friend Linda Blondheim, the materfamilias of the Florida plein air movement, has started an art supplies for the needy movement and asked for donations. I have a ton of extra and slightly used supplies and have been wanting to downsize anyway so I thought, rather than actually getting work done, I would go through my brushes and paints and cull out the ones I don’t need or use and the extra tubes of cadmium pumpkin medium or Thalo Azo Quinacidrone Magenta that I bought in a moment of desperation and donate to the cause.

Now I know I have a lot of brushes lying around but until I took them out of all of the vases and jars and hidden places and piled them up, I didn’t realize how many. It was a lesson in brush care and money out the door that I suppose was good to get. I don’t care for my brushes as much as I should so they get a little frayed and bent and crusty. When the flats and the brights lose their corners they are no good to me any more… unless they are big and cost $17, then I find use for them. I had so many scratch and dents in a pile that every artist who walked by my space said…”holy crap, that’s a lot of brushes”. this sampling to the right is about a 10th of my holdings. I tossed the lost causes, soaked the maybes in turpenoid natural (wonderful paint solvent, terrible paint medium) and salvaged all that I could. Got a box full for her.

Now then, it’s time to go through my paints. I’m a bit of a paint tube hoarder so I went through my drawers and culled the decent tubes for the cause but found I had a ton of mostly used tubes of white, yellow, red, blue, etc. What to do, what to do… as it turns out I also had a few open tubes laying around that I was saving for just this moment.  A chance to squeeze out every last drop of paint from the nearly spent tubes and mix them into custom florida landscape colors.

In truth, I did not invent the idea of mixing custom colors. I got it from Scott Christensen who extolled the virtues of using grays as a quick way to get to a color when painting. He got it from Edgar Payne. It took a long time to get what he was saying and it was this. If you work in a primary palette and you are painting outdoors, you have a limited time to arrive at a color and with the primary palette it takes a while to get the right balance of yellow, red and blue to properly neutralize a color note. SO, what if you have tubes of color that are median versions of the colors you find in nature: the soft purple blue of a tree trunk in shadow, the pale warm gray of  florida sand or a general grass green that is neither bright nor dark. These colors, plus an array of warm and cool grays can be squeezed out and pushed to get to where you need to go a lot faster than the old fashioned way.

And really what is more fun than mixing big piles of color? Only two or three things come to mind.  Pictured here is a blob of titanium white from about 4 tubes, some ultramarine blue, cad red medium and a squidge of yellow to neutralize the temperature. A little mixing with a large palette knife and VIOLA! the color of distant mountains or shadows on concrete, whatever. Now what? Time to grab an open tube and by open I mean open in the back, like a hospital smock, and with a small palette knife shovel it into the back. It’s like a visit to the proctologist.  Tap a few times to move it on down the line and once the tube is 80% full, cinch off the end and roll it up.

The fun part was thinking of what colors I can use, here in florida it’s mostly greens so I mixed a bunch. The bright greens that I can never get too because my dirty palette is throwing my color off and dingifying my bright notes, cool colors that I never use but need to in order to balance out the warms.

I ended up creating 8 or 9 tubes of color that I can’t wait to try out. It was a really productive way to waste time. Just like reading a good blog. And I ended up with born again brushes and a box load of stuff to give to Linda.


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new adjustment layer

I’m not really a computer savvy guy but I learn a thing here and there, mostly stuff that is relevant to what I do and not much else. I’ve never played a video game but I have fiddled with photoshop a little. One little problem I’ve encountered is (and it doesn’t happen often) what do I do with a washed out image if I want to paint from it. In this case I have an old slide, ca. 1950’s, that’s a little washed out. Maybe many of you don’t have photoshop CS2 or whatever so this may not apply but I’ve figured out a little thingygizmo that really helps to enhance a weak image. Normally you would go to levels to boost the midtones or darks and that’s a good start but if you go to Layer>new adjustment layer> you have a choice of levels, color balance, curves, etc and click on one, you get a little box. At the bottom is a a button that says normal, click on that and choose multiply. What that does is transparently layer a copy of the image on itself. You can mess with the values or the color balance of each layer and really get a full and more inspiring image.

At left is the original image at the top, next is just adjusting the levels and that the bottom is the new adjustment thingy. It’s subtle but makes a big difference as far as getting information into the washed out areas. I thought it was kinda cool.


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Go big or whatever

Inspired by the paintings of William Wendt, I decided to go a little bigger outside and tackle the painting with more of a broad brush approach than my usual medium brush approach. This is a 30 x 30 on a cradled wood panel (box) gessoed a couple of times and lightly sanded. It was a two tripper, about 7 hours of total work, maybe 8. And may I say that here in Florida it’s steamy hot even at 8 in the morning?  Developing a painting on this scale is tough, if things go south they fail on a much bigger scale which means more time is wasted than in a smaller effort, so a little more thought has to go into the approach. I didn’t do any preliminary sketches but used my handy cropping tools (fingers) to arrive at the main idea of this piece, which was the sweeping curve of the shore going up to the main event of the lighted bushes and the rhythm of the upright trees. The mapping in of the main shapes was the key to establishing the compositional patterns, it’s a bit like taking an old fashioned camera and throwing it out of focus, slowly dialing in to a sharper view. With this approach sometimes things end up in the wrong place creating a improper rhythms that require wiping out and reworking. Moving in a thoughtful way, using light washes first to feel out the balance of the main shapes works best for me.

I painted with 3 friends from the studio; Don, Tim, and Lynn. We all stayed in a group so that we could move back and forth within our circle of wagons to see who was doing what and maybe borrow from one another. Lynn and I talked about color theory a bit and I had suggested that she try just working in the primaries instead of using all the tube colors to mix the multitudes of green that we are faced with. She asked why and I said, well, whatever color you mix is going to have some variation of the three components in it (and white as needed)… want gray? it’s a little blue, red and yellow and white. Want green it’s a lot of yellow, some blue and a little red, maybe some white. Want to make brown? and who doesn’t? It’s a lot of yellow, a lot of red and a little blue. But usually one color dominates.  She said, you mean like two against one? And I said, yeah, like two against one. It was a good way to look at it.

(I just reposted the image after comparing it to the original, there was a bit more contrast and depth in the foreground.)


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We talk about color using terms like temperature or hue  and saturation or intensity and unless you know what these terms mean you aren’t going to know  what they look like in the real world. I found this image on the internet that I’ve been saving for something. I didn’t take the picture but I did lift it off of some site. What I like about it is how subtle the values and colors are. The longer you look at it the more you start to see the image emerge.

To show the differences in the colors I’ve isolated a few notes and dropped them in a chart; light up top, darker down below, more chroma (saturation/intensity) to left, less to the right, warmer on the left and cooler on the right. So you can now put a square face to a name. And to show how little difference in one or two of the three components it takes to separate from its neighbor. When I’m trying to figure out a color I ask myself “lighter darker/warmer cooler/brighter duller” that and a bit of squinting down to see what the difference is between one area and another helps a bunch.


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color and value

I thought I had posted this thing before but maybe it was in some past bloglife experience because I couldn’t find it on this site. At least it will be new to some of you. I use this little example of how value and color are inextricably interlinked by taking a color painting and converting it to gray scale so we can see how it is that color operates to move the eye, to further the hierarchy of the elements and support the composition.

The main thing about value here is maintaining clear separation of light-side and shadow-side, if you keep that, then you keep the form of the object. light and shadow are the foundation of form. But it’s color that does all the work. If you look at the b&w version you’ll see how close the values are throughout. When you glance back over to the color you see how color pulls your eye around the painting. It gives some things more weight in a way that value can’t.

We all know that value is the grayscale equivalent of color, the two other components of color are hue and chroma. First we figure out whether a color is light or dark then we move on to the next characteristic of color. Hue.  I refer to Hugh Jackman as Hugh Jorgan.. but that’s another story. Hue is the warm or cool of the color note; it’s blue not red, but what kind of blue is it? a warm blue (purple) or a cool blue like Cyan. Next up is the chroma or intensity. Is it an intense color like lemon yellow or is it less so like yellow ochre. I know you guys know this stuff but it helps to think of the characteristics of color when you are looking back and forth from the color version to the black and white version.

Moral of the story; value of light and shadow= form, color does all the work. Value is the boy (black and white) color is the girl (emotion). Getting them to work succesfully together is hard.


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