Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Have Paints Will Travel - Part I

Everything that is painted directly and on the spot has always a strength, a power, a vivacity of touch which one cannot recover in the studio... three strokes of a brush in front of nature are worth more than two days of work at the easel.
                                                                                                           ~ Eugene Boudin

A hopeful sign of spring

Despite my resolution to get out and paint in the field this winter, I utterly failed to do so. However, I'm happy to say I've had a bit more success with my other goal; build an inexpensive compact pochade box. As the first day of spring approaches (at least according to the calendar) I'm putting the last finishing touches on my DIY pochade box and getting excited to take it out for a test-drive. Here's how I built my portable easel:

I found this wooden box at a second hand store. The inside of the lid can accommodate up to an 8" x 8" canvas panel, which is more than enough room since I typically work on 5" x 7" or 6" x 6" canvas boards in the field. I had looked into using a cigar box for this project, but the hinges and latches on the cigar boxes I found were very lightweight and would have needed to be replaced. This box had heavy duty hardware, which saved me a step.

I found the scrap wood in the shed, left over from some previous tenant's long-forgotten project.

I glued a strip of the scrap wood between the hinges for the top of the box to rest on while it is open.

Because the bottom of the box is made of fairly thin wood, I glued the bigger piece of scrap wood to the box to make something a little more substantial to bolt the tripod mount to.

To protect my tendonitis-prone wrist, my thoughtful husband stepped in at this point to drill through the bottom of the box and the piece of scrap wood and then attach the tripod mount to the box with a bolt. Now the whole box can be attached to a tripod, and my wrist is uninjured and ready to do some painting.

I'm so thrilled to see this looking like the perfect little pochade box for me, but I can't get out and paint yet. I still have all the inside details to complete. In Have Paints, Will Travel - Part II, I'll show you why I had to drink 4 bottles of wine in order to finish this project.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Once More With Feeling

You must aim high, not in what you are going to do at some future date, but in what you are going to make yourself do today. Otherwise, working is just a waste of time.
                                                                                                              ~Edgar Degas

Laughing gulls watching the surf. Or are they waiting for a bus? 5" x 7" oil on canvas board.

I have two little paintings to share with you. I worked on this painting of two laughing gulls last week, but I'm not entirely happy with it. While I am pleased with how I captured the light, the painting's subject matter seems a little static. The gulls look like they're just standing around doing nothing, and that doesn't make for an interesting painting. Every time I look at it, it bugs me. Today I decided I needed to improve upon the theme.

This is MY beach. Go find your own. 7" x 5" oil on canvas board.

I'm much happier with this painting. I feel that the bird's pose is much more engaging than the previous painting. I'm also really pleased with the thicker paint application and more purposeful brush strokes (I've been trying to work on that). I just wish I'd made the bird a wee bit smaller, or had a wee bit more canvas at the bottom to give a little more room between the gull's feet and the end of the canvas. I was so focused on the painting process that I didn't pay attention to the placement of the bird. It's always something, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Fun With Color Charts

"Take time learning new skills and principles... Knowledge acquired quickly, flies out the window. In art the tortoise wins.
                                                                                                         ~ Harley Brown

Color chart using Napthol red as the base

I added a new color to my palette recently: Napthol red. I needed a warm, bright red to go along with my workhorse red, Alizarin crimson. To explore how this new color would interact with the rest of my colors, I painted a color chart for reference. Starting on the left, I used Napthol red mixed with Yellow Ochre and then added white in increasing amounts as the column goes down. I continued to do the same thing across the chart with my other colors: Azo Yellow, Chromium Oxide Green, Phthalo Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Raw Umber, and Burnt Sienna.

This particular type of color chart is based off of the color charts in Richard Schmid's book Alla Prima: Everything I Know About Painting. If you don't have the book, David Gray has a video on YouTube that will take you through the process. I know some people find making color charts boring and tedious, but for me it's like playing.

After I completed the color chart, I saw a lot of colors I was itching to use in a painting. I had a little antique Hall teapot - creamer? hot water? I've read a lot of different identities of this piece - that seemed the perfect subject to try out all these new red colors on. What fun!

Still Life with Hall China - 5" x 7" oil on canvas board

- Argh! I misspelled "naphthol" in this post. My apologies.