Saturday, August 18, 2007

What I discovered at Easton

Patricia and I went down to Easton at the end of July for the Quick Draw Competition. We drove down in the morning to get oriented and scout out a venue to paint. Painting was like running a marathon. A horn went off when painting started at 2 pm and it was brushes down when the horn sounded at 4 pm. Then we put our wet paintings into frames and set up our easels and paintings for the show. Patricia acquitted herself quite well—yours truly made a mess—nice colors, everyone said, but a dreadful painting (they were kind enough not to say that last bit.) But we had a dandy time and met lots of people, including Donni. We also saw some terrific paintings and some not so terrific.

After that, I realized that I do not have a grip on value, and so have been doing black and white still lifes since then. I have been doing the exercises in Charles Sovek’s book Oil Painting: Develop Your Natural Ability. I have been working on Canson Canva-Paper, which I find I really like and has the advantage of being relatively cheap and easy to store. I was feeling a little constricted by the 9x12, so moved up to 12x16. Sovek’s direction is to mass shapes rather than draw lines. That is, start with a blob of paint in the middle area of where you are putting the shape on the canvas and then push the paint out to find the edges. So that is what I did for these two.

I find that working in black and white and mixing the fine gradations of grey really fine tunes the eye’s perception of value. I went for a hike in the park a few days ago (I hadn’t been out for a few weeks because of the heat and schedule) and was amazed at how clearly the values of everything I looked at stood out. So, I will be doing a lot more value studies. So far I have been painting objects that actually are white, black, or grey. The next step is to paint objects that are colored and accurately represent their values in a grey scale. I find working in black and white on canvas paper liberating, because I am not worried about making "a painting" and the materials are relatively inexpensive. So I am discovering many things about paint application, such as the direction of the brushstroke affects how light or dark that stroke appears due to the direction of the light falling on it, different ways of achieving a soft edge, and the effects of paint over paint, such as dry brush dark over light or vice versa and mixing color on the canvas. Without the distraction of color, errors are apparent, so critiquing and problem-solving are easier. Here I did a line drawing first. I am working on one more that I started with a line drawing, and then it is back to massing.