Thursday, March 28, 2013

Changing My Values

"When you begin to act on your creativity, what you find inside may be more valuable than what you produce for the external world."
                                                                                                                            - Eileen Clegg

Still life set up. Gorgeous rich colors, right? Forget 'em!

I woke up too early this morning, but my brain was buzzing too much to get back to sleep. I've been taking a short art course in the basics - value, composition, etc.; the areas I feel I am the weakest in. Last night was the culmination of our study in values and we painted from some beautiful still life vignettes the instructor set up. However, we could only paint in one color. The idea was to force us to focus on the lights and darks in the models, not those wonderful, enticing colors. We were also instructed to block in the values and slowly build the shapes up, not to worry about details and carefully rendered form. As a detail junkie, this was a challenge!

I took a painting course back in college. Beginning Painting 101 probably. The course was fairly worthless. I believe the instructor gave us a 15 minute overview of color theory at the beginning of the course and then we spent the whole rest of the semester just painting, with no guidance to speak of. I definitely am learning more in this art class than I did in that entire college course.  

Creating a value scale from phthalo blue

A few weeks ago we created color value scales to practice training our eyes to see the lights and darks in colors, not just in gray which is the more common value scale. It took me over an hour to mix the paints correctly.

My value study of the still life

Here is the painting I ended up with last night. I really did focus on just blocking in the lights and darks so when I got up and stepped back from the easel I was shocked to see that those blobs of paint had formed recognizable objects. This may not be an amazing work of art on the surface but, for me personally, it represents a huge leap forward in fine art development and I'm willing to lose a little sleep for that excited accomplished feeling.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Another Landscape Attempt Part II

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape."
                                                                                                                - Andrew Wyeth

Continuing work on the landscape painting

The work on my latest effort at landscape painting continues. It's hard not to accidentally make each clump of grass and reeds look the same as the last. I get into a kind of rhythm and then realize they are too evenly spaced, or all the same height. At some point I have to jump in and finish the foreground in the bottom left but I will admit to being nervous about it. Those reeds will be very close to the viewer and therefore less forgiving. 

Overall I've surprised myself with this painting. I didn't expect to have so many successful elements in it. I had started the painting as a practice piece but now, if everything goes well, I may end up calling this a keeper.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Another Landscape Attempt

Nothing makes me so happy as to observe nature and to paint what I see.
                                                                                                    - Henri Rousseau

Starting a new landscape painting in acrylic

In between all the birds I love to paint, I continue to dabble with landscape painting. The reason I like the idea of painting landscapes is the same reason I like to paint birds - I see something so beautiful that I feel compelled to paint it. When it comes to landscapes, this has been very frustrating since what I see and what comes out on the canvas are usually two very different things. The only way to overcome this problem is to keep painting and slowly, slowly, I am figuring out how landscape painting works. Someday I hope to be able to combine my two favorite subjects so that the birds in my paintings can be in attractive habitats! 

Monday, March 04, 2013

A Pair of Stilts

"Nature has been mastering itself for some time now, and it is an honor to be able to capture its beauty."
                                                                                                                        - Justin Beckett

Snoozing stilt

The black-necked stilt has a permanent spot on my Top 20 Favorite Birds list. So elegant and delicate-looking, yet aggressively territorial at times. I also find their in-flight habit of letting their legs trail out behind them rather endearing. When we're in the field, I usually hear them before I spot them - their piercing high-pitched repetitive call is unmistakable to me.

There's a nice YouTube video of stilts from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology here, with some wonderful footage of large groups of them feeding and erupting into flight. Enjoy!

Check out those legs!

Sketching a pair of stilts

In our area, reports are starting to come in that the swans are migrating back north again. In the last week or two, we have been seeing large flocks of ducks in flight. I am hopeful that this means that we can get back into some serious birding again soon. It's been a long winter!