Today was the first day of a 5-day Peggi Kroll-Roberts at l’Atelier aux Couleurs in Petaluma. Peggi has a wonderful unique style for painting the figure, so I’ve looked forward to studying with her for some time. She’s also a lot of fun.
Today, we started simple: gray scale paintings. These are done, much like Notan sketches, to both build compositional skills and learn to simplify. This two-scale gray study clearly separates light from dark. This is a great exercise. Normally, I’d do something like this with a black sharpie on white paper, but painting this just gives you that much more experience handling paint. It also let’s you make corrections in drawing as you go.
Throughout the day, we kept adding levels of gray. I was able to get to 4, in this study. While some students went on to color, I actually liked spending time on these a lot. Removing color from the equation, and simply focusing on value and composition is somewhat liberating. I’m happy with the way this turned out. If I can keep to values this accurate in color, I’ll be a happy camper.
I painted all of today’s study on a single large board, which I simply divided up into 6 areas for my studies.
Tomorrow, we get to paint the figure! I believe she said we’d start that in shades of gray first, then graduate to color. Stay tuned.
Concentrated on just one painting today, the last day of North Tahoe Plein Air. While I was looking for a spot, I ran into judge ZeeZee Mott, who was painting on the shore even after just arriving home from Africa the day before! She was in great spirits, and we talked about my relation to Howard Terpning (a distant relation).
It’s been over a year since I’ve participated in a plein air event, and boy, I feel rusty! The day started with checking in and getting my panels stamped. Ran into lots of old friends!
I spent most of the day at DL Bliss State Park, near the Rubicon Trail. This is the deepest, steepest part of the lake, which creates an incredible variety of blues, from violet to green. Since it’s been a while, I started the day with smaller canvas, 8×10. Did two from the same spot, perched on some boulders.
Here’s my first effort
And for my second, I focused on just rocks and water, and finding the slight color variation within the rocks. These early studies, where I focus on just a few things, help set me up for a successful next couple days. These are warm up exercises!
I completed another composition from my Avila Beach reference photos last night in my studio. I’d worked on this on/off for a couple weeks. I wanted to include the sky, so I could work on relating the light from the sky to the ground and shadow planes. I also tried to balance rich color with grays. I think a painting should be balanced in many ways, from values of the big shapes, to color temperature, light and shadow, and color in terms of grays vs full saturation.
I’m preparing for a return to San Luis Obispo September 27 to October 4th to participate in San Luis Obispo Plein Air. Also, I’ll be painting in Lake Tahoe next week, for North Tahoe Plein Air, September 9-13. If you’re in the area, stop by for the show. The public exhibit and sale will be Saturday, September 12, from noon to 7:00 pm and Sunday, September 13, from 11:00 – 4:00. This all takes place at the Village at Northstar the same weekend as the Autumn Food and Wine Festival, but you don’t need tickets for the North Tahoe Plein Air event. It’s my first plein air event in a quite a while, so looking forward to connecting with old friends there.
I enjoy adding figures to the landscape because they help give it scale. Don’t these boulders look huge! Well, they were 🙂 This is a 12×9″ painting, so these figures are tiny, just spots of color, really. Even so, given it’s a figure, I needed to get proportions, posture, all that correct, otherwise it would of detracted from the painting. I’m focusing on the figure again in a few weeks, as I’m to study with Peggy Kroll Roberts at l’Atelier aux Couleurs in Petaluma (a wonderful school, BTW).
I combined brushwork and palette knife in this one, starting the painting with transparent washes, then building up paint once I got the correct values and color temperature.
Here’s a detail of the figures to show you what I mean.
This is from another reference photo taken from the Laderman’s speed boat. When we got close to these guys, they stopped diving. We weren’t close enough to interfere at all, but I don’t think they wanted an audience. Makes sense. Enjoy!
I had a great time in Lake Tahoe last week. I painted a couple plein air, but they need some adjustment in the studio before I consider finished. This is a studio painting of the north/east shore, on the Nevada side. The friends we stay with their have a speed boat, so we were able to visit lots of little coves accessible by water.
This was painted 100% by palette knife. I wished I’d taken interim photos, because I think it would have made a good demo. The painting is basically 4 bands of color, so I started it much like I would a Hensche still life, like this one. That is, large bands of solid color, with white in between. I keep the white there only because I don’t want edges to touch until I’ve worked out the basic color relationships for each block of color. With the four bands of color down, I continued to adjust the color of each band. When I got them right, I brought the edges of the color bands together, then started to model the objects within each band. For example, the rocks started as a medium value rock color. I then added shadow sides of the rocks (first scraping that area a bit to avoid creating muddy color), then mid-tones, light sides, color variation (warm/cool) within each rock and finally darkest darks. The same approach was used for the trees and water. The sky stayed relatively solid, although I did add some flecks of lighter blue/green at the horizon of the sky.
I’m in the North Tahoe Plein Air show next month, and a hotel and restaraunt in the area is interesting in buying some of my Truckee River work, so looks like I’ll be painting Tahoe scenes a few weeks now.
I’m still experimenting with use of the palette knife to apply paint. In this most recent study, I combined brushwork with the knife. Most of the paint was applied with brush, and used the knife for areas I felt were best suited for it, like adding texture in the center of interest, and in some cases using it to apply paint on top of wet areas that would otherwise not take well to a brush (and create mud).
I’m still painting exclusively with a palette knife, learning the technique of managing control of the paint. I’m also getting paintings ready for the pre-exhibition of the San Luis Obispo Plein Air event. This reference photo is a favorite–I can’t wait to paint this spot plein air, it’s at Avila Beach in SLO County. It has many of the subjects I like to paint in a seascape: ice plant, white bluffs, interesting shadow colors (the warm reflected light in the bluff shadow was a blast to paint).
This is keeping me loose, keeping colors clean, and just a physical challenge. Imagine holding a paint brush for the first time, learning how to maneuver it. Same with a knife–although, according to John Ebersberger, my knifes are soft enough. Apparently, his are as soft and flexible as a brush. He said I need to file mine down.
I named this painting “Truckee River”…I think that’s right, although it may be Blackwood Canyon, another favorite spot of mine in Lake Tahoe. I’m really happy with this one, so it could end become a larger studio work, although I’m not sure how large a painting I can do with a knife.
While I’m recovering from surgery this week, I’m slowed down quite a bit by medication Since my surgery Monday, today is the first day I felt I could paint. To keep things simple, I decided to continue using a painting knife (no brushes to clean!). Realizing I have a show in Lake Tahoe coming up, I decided to look through reference photos of mountains/lakes. I came across a photo from The Grand Tetons, an iconic mountain range.
It’s not easy painting icons (try painting the Golden Gate Bridge!), so in this case, rather than show the entire ridge, I choose one section to focus on. Makes it more generic, and so less subject to the issues I have with painting iconic images–it’s like painting a portrait: the likeness must be solid, which leaves a little less room for free interpretation. How do you handle painting iconic images?
The trees in this photo look darker than the original, but you get the idea. Enjoy!