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Going Green

May 6, 2015 by admin

I do not write advice or tips very often on painting, and probably for good reason.

I’m just a beginner!

Though not the sole reason, that is a good one. The other is I don’t really like advice, probably something I picked up along the way, but growing up I always knew that I knew more than my parents or any of the establishment, so what could they tell me? It was not till later years I found that maybe I should have been paying attention instead of playing around.

Now you tell me!

But I’ve been asked a number of times in the recent months to write something about the “greens” of my paintings, so here I am. This way I think, or I hope, that at least those people will read this and be satiated by my banter.

My mother’s favorite color was green, so I have to like it. I’ve always said my favorite color was blue, but I’m not sure anymore. If there was only one color I could keep for the rest of my life and it had to be one that’s actually on the color wheel I might pick maybe a blue that was leaning a bit towards green, though a blue that has a tinge of violet in it is pretty nice too.

But GREEN? I don’t even have it on my pallet!

Krugg Park 007Many of you know already that I use a limited pallet of 4 colors and white. 2 warm colors, and 2 cools. Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarine Crimson & Ultramarine Blue.

First it was Phil Starke in the spring of 2011 that threw out most of my paints and left me with 7 to use, then in the fall of that same year when I began mentoring under Rick Howell, he whittled that pallet down to what I am using now. No greens, no earth tones, just the 2 reds, a yellow and a blue.

Now get out and paint!

I live in an area where most times of the year when you go outside to paint you are going to see green. Green grass, green trees, green water. It’s pretty much the dominant color.

So why no green on the pallet? Seems like it would sure make things so much easier and quicker just to go ahead and throw a Viridian, or a Sap green on the pallet.  Maybe it would, but right now I seem to be doing okay without, and just in case, I actually have a tube of Viridian in my backpack and have for years. It’s for that time I might need some color I can’t get, or that extra punch that I’m not capturing with my typical 4 paints, but so far I’ve not pulled it out. I mean I love all those wonderful tubes of green that they have made up for every scene you could think of, but I’m still liking the greens I get from my primary colors.

It’s not just mixing the greens the way you like, but you really need to see them first. Phil taught me how Shoc & Awe demo startto look and separate the greens, and push them one way or another. Different times of the year the same trees are a different green, along with different times of the day. Cool greens, warm greens they are what the forests are made up of, but just because you know it’s green, you don’t have to paint it that way.

It’s like everything else you see, and everything else you paint, comparing one tree to the next, one color to the next. Is the tree bluer, or does the tree have more yellow in it?

I love painting outdoors and if you go out in the spring and summer around my neck of the woods there is going to be a lot of green, and you want to keep it interesting, so push those greens one way or another seemed to make a lot of sense to me.

If you’ve read any of Carlson’s landscape painting books you know you have to learn the tree, and where it’s from and what holds it up. It’s not just leaves on branches, but knowing and understanding how they grow, and what makes them twist, and the unbelievable amount of weight that each limb holds up. Just seeing your subject is not enough, it’s the understanding that grounds it into believability. It’s like trees with larger leaves are going to reflect more light, trees with smaller leaves will generally be darker, the earlier the season the warmer the foliage. There is a lot involved, and I do find it helps to understand, but I don’t quite go into the politics of trees as Mr. Carlson sometimes does 😉

One could spend an entire life just painting trees, and I’ve seen master artists doing just that, and still  they study and learn. I don’t know if I have painted a tree that I am completely happy with. I don’t know if I ever will, though I will continue to try.

When I mix up colors to paint, I don’t make giant piles of color, I mix a bit up and then start pushing one direction or the other. Lighter/darker, warmer/cooler. These are the things I continue to say to myself throughout my painting.

I have no formula for my greens, each time I approach a subject, there is no preconceived notion. I start afresh. I let the light dictate what I do, and what I mix up.

Each time is a learning experience, and know there is something wrong if it’s not. I can paint something a thousand times and still feel the beginner. There are not more shades of one color than another, it’s just that the human eye can pick out more shades of green because of where it is on the light spectrum.

I know, boring so I won’t go there.

Just get out and paint, really look at what you are seeing, and see how the light and surrounding objects affect that subject… and then push it one way or another to best suit your needs.

Sometimes it works, and then other times…  scrape it!

Prairie Fire

Prairie Fire

Give me 4 for the Road

January 30, 2014 by admin

I really don’t talk about my art much here, or how or why I create it. Not sure why, I just don’t know enough about it to be out trying to act like an authority on something.

I try not to give advice, I find it better to speak of experience, and folks can take what they want from that.

So let’s talk art for a little bit, and specifically colors. I love them! Since my very first little paint set I just loved squeezing out the paints onto a pallet and mixing those things together. I have no idea how many paints that cheap little paint set had in it, but I know it had to have at least twice as many colors as I use now. I thought then that the more paints you had the better you would be, or at least the potential to be better increased.

Many people feel the same way, and some for good reason. They probably know what to do with that magic color they just found at the local hobby store. Me, not so fortunate. I bring home the most awesome tube of color that I could find, and like I was talking about the other day, you could tell in my next painting exactly which store I went to to buy that “perfect” color.

Growing up I painted some, but what I did the most was drawing. Pen, pencil. It’s what was around. I did not have a lot of

RGS circa 1977

RGS circa 1977

disposable income, so drawing on anything I could find was the way I honed my skills. A paint by number kit for Christmas at some point was fun, and loved the results, but it was only a temporary detour from my love for the line.

It was my drawing skills and eye for detail that landed me a job at Hallmark in the 70’s, training to become the Master Engraver that I am today. I loved it, and it paid well. Taking 2D art and creating something 3 dimensional, giving it form, and depth, creating that illusion of reality with edges and shape.

Though it was the draftsman skills that paid the bills, I found painting a wonderful release from reality, a place where one could go for a time to escape the chaos of the world around. Taking a large white canvas and throwing color on it, step back and feel what develops. Finding shapes, colors, textures all mixing to bring my imagination alive.

At first I stayed away from painting what I saw, but rather painted what I wanted to see in a world of crazy fantasy inspired by the times. I don’t know if the times changed or it was me, but the imagination took a sabbatical and I began creating from reality. (which at times can be just as odd)

In this mixed up world of art where breaking the rules is the norm, and following them is like the worst thing in the world one could do, there was this rule that I always stuck to since the beginning of time…

“Do NOT to use paint straight from the tube!” Okay, Okay already.

I took this rule and etched it deep into my psyche and still to this day I get this feeling that if  I put straight paint on my canvas someone is going to come up to me and put “cheater” on my forehead. And the number of paints on my pallet was limited only to how many I could find. That and  the size of my pallet…

till 2011

In 2011 I met a man that would change my pallet, my art, and my life. A quiet man, who spoke with his art and his actions. He took that crazy art store of colors, literally shipped it to a needy artist in Africa, all save 4 simple colors. 2 cool colors, and 2 warm colors, and said “go little grasshopper!” And I went.

My pallet

My pallet

“Why?” Is it easier with 4 colors, what are the advantages, and how about the drawbacks?

At the time I thought Rick was crazy telling me that I was going to be painting with only Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, and Ultramarine Blue. Sure I had heard the stories about “you can make every color using just the 3 primary colors”, but I thought that was like an Urban Legend or something… not reality.  But I was about to find out. That or have the most gawd awful paintings the world has ever seen. (and there are some bad ones… not mentioning names)

I began my seemingly impossible task of creating art with my new pallet.

It was/is a challenge, but I must say after a while you begin not to miss the fact that you have no tubes of green paint on your pallet. I had to go so far as not even to put one in my back pack so I wouldn’t be tempted at first. I love some of those greens that they have out there, and when painting in the area I’ve grown up in, the summers cannot be recreated without every single shade of green being used!

What I began to see immediately in my art was something that I didn’t pay attention to before, (being self taught in this world

Rick on the Conejos

Rick on the Conejos

of color), and that was a harmony in my work. When they first spoke of seeing this in my paintings I had to step back and compare. And the more I became familiar with these colors, learning how to mix properly, making some of those colors that we find in our world, the more I began enjoying them, and the challenge of creating the art that I do with my limited pallet. It is very rewarding, and freeing at the same time for me. I don’t have to look to hard to see if I have all my paints before I leave on an outing. I just count them on one hand. Simple, even for me!

I use the same pallet for winter as I do for summer spring and fall (or is it autumn?) In each color I use a little bit all 3 of my primary colors. Whether the red I use is alizarin, or cad red depends on the temp I am trying to achieve at the time. But I always put a red, blue and yellow in all of my mixes. It’s that harmony I am still trying to achieve in my work, along with knocking down the tone a bit.

So is this another one of those “rules” that I have to live by, do or die type thing? No way! I really have no qualms about using a yellow ochre or a viridian sometime. I know they are very useful colors, and I’m sure my art would benefit by throwing in an extra tube of something or two, and I’m sure I will. Rick told me when he went to paint overseas he added another blue to his pallet. I wish I could remember which one, but if and when I travel across the water I’ll know.

In the meantime my goal is to become well versed at what I do. I have a long ways to go, and a short time to get there. No idea how short.

I love my 4 color pallet, it’s simple, easy to pack up, and I can still make a total mess of things with these 4 as I did with 44.

This would have been Rick’s “Golden Year” Born in ’57 and 57 years old.

Thanks Rick

LaSauses Turnaround

LaSauses Turnaround

 

Finding Shortcuts

June 13, 2013 by admin

I love shortcuts, if I can find a way to somewhere that is quicker than the regular route, I usually take it. In this world  of convenience shortcut to successstores and the microwave, time is everything. I think mankind has been trying to find shortcuts to thing since the beginning of time. Now this I am assuming, I’ve only been around for about 55 of those years.

Maybe it’s my coming into the AARP age that has made me look a little bit harder at these decisions to do the fastest route. I mean on this road of life, there is no turning back, but maybe I can extend the ride just a little bit longer, or make it a bit more worthwhile.

I had read a blog by an artist I admire about their purchasing a “candy store” of colors, with the thinking these are the ultimate colors for their newest painting. What this did to their work was create a dissonance to it that was nothing like what was originally intended. I found this same thing true in my art without even knowing it. If someone would have told me that my painting lacked a harmony of color, I know I would have thought “harmony?” It’s not trying to sing something.

Well it was not till I eliminated this modern convenience of color did my art become a little more soothing on the eye. No more shortcuts on my pallet, I put 4 colors on my pallet and figure it out from there. I know that for me, less is better, though it may not be true for others. I am finding that it has really helped me.

I knew nothing of “color theory” when I first took my paints beyond the studio door just barely 3 years ago. Cools, warms, chroma, hue, tertiary, analogous… it was really someone speaking a whole new language to me. I really just put paint on the pallet, and painted, with no real thought. Sometimes I came up with a “pretty” painting, but always something lacking. Not what I so admired in other artists work. Now everytime I go out I approach everything a bit differently. Not rushing in, but still being quick, because this is “plein air” you know, and that rain cloud is coming your way. I now enjoy trying to evoke a mood or capture an atmosphere of some sorts through my limited pallet. Sometimes it works, more often not, you would think I would learn from some of these mistakes, but it takes longer for some of the “unteachable”.

Sure it’s frustrating at times, struggling to get the right color, but when you finally get what you are looking for, what a sense of accomplishment! Did you mix up enough of it? It’s been many a time that I didn’t and found myself in need of more

limited pallet

limited pallet

and wondering how in the world I got it in the 1st place. There are some who say, “if you did it once, you can do it again”…”yeah, right”,  in theory!

It’s all a process, and I’m sitting here learning it everyday. I believe my work has benefited from taking away those shortcuts, plus it’s much easier to make sure you have all your colors packed when you only have to count to 4… I can handle that.

When speaking with someone in a favorite gallery last week, he mentioned how my paintings have improved and grown more sophisticated over the short time he had known me. I believe it is due to my working very very hard to improve, the hard work of my mentor to bring me to a higher level, and the taking away of those shortcuts to painting. I know that there are other ways to get from point A to point B, and I know I will take them at times. But it’s like learning anything, learn to do it the right way, before you take the shorter route.

It works for me, but then I’m “old school”

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