Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Whatever It Takes
Like you, I get asked questions every day; "Paper or plastic?"... "Do you want fries with that?"... "May I see your license and registration please?" Sometimes I get asked, "How did you paint that?" To which I answer, "Well Mom, it's complicated..."
I don't know about you, but I always enjoy reading about how other painters go about their business in making pictures. So, on the possibility that you might be interested in how this painting, North Side came about (a slim possibility, I admit), here's what I prefer to do to come up with a painting.
First, I got inspired. Now, I've seen this view every day for a couple of years, because I live here. This vantage point is from behind my studio, looking up the slope past my garage to the side porch of my house. It may not be a particularly thrilling view, but I was more intrigued by the inter-play of color temperatures than from the architectural elements. But that's what usually grabs me- not the thing, but how it's lit up.
In this case I used a masonite panel, which is my preferred painting support because I can be more detailed with it than I can be with canvas. I have used up countless precious internet space complaining about photographs, and this is why I didn't want to use one; not that the colors would be messed up (because they will be), but because the perspective would be skewed. So I took extra care in making sure I put everything in its proper perspective and spacial arrangement. Then, I used a photo to finish the underdrawing. Why? Because then I could finish the drawing in the studio using the photo for details, while disregarding its false perspective. And yeah, I counted each and every clapboard on my garage...
Then came some layers of underpainting.
I usually build up my pictures with glazes. I like the richness and depth that they impart on a piece, as opposed to direct painting. For instance, I glazed warm tones over the shadow areas of the garage, which has a cool light, and cool colors over the grass which are the result of warm sunlight. This was done with Liquin Fine Detail medium, which dries quickly. I wanted to glaze and block in as much as I could so that all I had to worry about when I went back outside was color. This shows the picture about half-way through that process.
So, when I was happy with all that, back outside I went.
I spent two days outside working on the final color application, I don't know- maybe ten hours total. I thought the time around 10:30 and noon gave me the best color and light, so I worked on the areas that were directly involved in sun during those times, and the other sections before and after then. I think it's an important point that I didn't chase the light. My design was already thought out, the shadows were going to be as I already placed them; I used direct observation for color, not detail. And doing all that prep work meant I didn't have to worry about drawing because I'd already done that. (I'm not saying that the painting process was just coloring between the lines, but that I didn't think about where to put the window, or what size to make the porch, because that was already determined). Okay, not the most spontaneous way of approaching a picture, I'll grant you, but it's worked for me.
So there you have it, a smorgasbord of studio, plein air, Rube Goldberg method of painting. I think of it as the "whatever it takes" technique. If you have a more convoluted method, don't make me ask, I'd love to know!