Saturday, August 14, 2010

Painting Outside! at the Farm, Day One plus add-on

Painting Outside! at the farm.

Today’s opus in Blue Yellow Red is the Apple Storage building at the farm where I painted outside this morning with 2 students/companions.  It was a great day to be out.  Not too hot, not too cold, an idyllic late summer morning.  We found a nice shady spot to sit, observe, paint, talk...until the sun rose in the sky and it was almost noon and time to go.

The painting, as shown, is pretty much what I accomplished while teaching and talking.  After I got home, I strengthened the foreground shadow and the orange/green (fading peach trees) in the background and then left it alone.  I was thinking to do a 2nd layer on the sky and the background, but restrained myself.  One of my goals with this painting was to use it as a teaching tool and another was to do as much on the work as I could on the scene and very little after I got it home as it’s a teaching tool for me, too.


The paper I’m using is Arches 140# Hot Press, which is kid-finish smooth, as if pressed with a hot iron,  and not my favorite for watercolor painting.  It’s great for detail work and I use it for calligraphy projects.  Cold Press is my favorite for watercolor, especially for painting outside as it dries a little more slowly and I can work in more and more paint into the toothy texture before it does.  I wet this smooth-finish paper a few times but it still dried fast. 

(I must remember to stock-up on Watercolor paper....)

One of my students was using 350# Rough, which is somewhat coarse textured as compared to cold press, which is somewhat smooth and mildly toothy in comparison.  She reported that the paper seemed to be dry, no matter how she wet it, but her painting was quite nice; watery and loaded with color.  The other student observed for today.

Painting in this spot which was part of my childhood brought back many memories.  The spot where we sat under the pine trees is on the line that separates my mother’s land from the farm land.  When I was quite young, there was electric cattle fence on the boundary line closing-in 15-20 yearling heifers in the field where we sat today.  The youngest son from the farm, me and my younger sister had quite a few contests to see who could hold onto the electric wire the longest.  After we’d all received some pretty good jolts, we quit that game and reserved it for visiting friends or cousins, insisting one of us go first, to show how tough and brave we were.  By then, we’d all gotten smart enough to encircle the wire without actually touching it, in a circle between index finger and thumb, and give the appearance we were grasping it tight.

When I was very young, the farm was primarily a Dairy Farm with 100-150 milking cows and the calves and heifers.  The Apple Storage and Salesroom building was built when I was in my mid-teens,  to accommodate the growing Apple Orchard and Fresh Vegetable business the farmers ran along with the dairy business.  Prior to this, for years, the farmers sold apples and other produce from the ample dirt-floor cellar of their house.  Because of the shape of this ‘new’ building and because it’s so glaring white, it became an icon to me, easily seen from any of the north windows of my mother’s house.  

Painting Outside! this morning was another wonderful experience – in and of itself and from the companionship and interest in/dialogue about painting as well as some aspects of our lives in general shared between the 3 of us.   With this great weather and the scenery, who could ask for more?

I wasn’t going to ask any more from this painting after the class on Saturday except for the areas in the foreground but the more I looked at the painting the more disturbed I was about its final appearance.

One thing that bothered me was the sky.  My question was why did it look so pale and much washier than it did on the scene and what could I do about that in the future?

I watched a dvd yesterday about plein air painting and plein air painters demonstrating technique, talking theory, feelings etc etc and the answer to my question was soon found.  I painted the painting in strong sunshine which made the color I applied in that light seem to be electric, jarring –  but which appeared as wimpy, washy, vapid in light where I’d normally be looking at a painting.

A few of the painters I watched used some sort of sunshade over the paper or canvas; a wooden awning as part of a french easel, white umbrellas against the sun....  

Those two things answered my question and gave me an idea as to what I can do about this problem in the future.

I spent the past hour or so ‘finishing’ the painting begun Aug 15.  I’m much happier with the painting and ready to let it go, start another.

The first thing I did to begin the finishing process was to  wet down the sky.  I dropped in a bit of CY and graded it out a little more than half way up the sky area.  I then added a tiny bit of CR and finished the sky with that glaze.  It’s difficult to assess amounts of paint used – both washes were very thin.  Before I called that glaze complete, I dropped-in a bit more CY to the lowest part of the sky where water had beaded-up.  Before I glazed over it with the sky mix, before it dried lighter, it glowed yellow against the tree line.  I let the sky-area dry completely before I wet it down again and worked in the sky color.

I glazed a mix of CY and CR over the barn, was unhappy with that so mixed a grayed-down version (added UB) which made a very dull, brownish-red.  It was a very thin glaze but it did the trick – to my eye, anyhow.

The conduit crossing the barn in such an interesting pattern is pale UB underlined with pale dull brownish red that was still on the palette from the glaze for the barn.

The background trees are all mixed from a variety of mixes using UB, CR and CY, from Blue-Green to Green-Yellow and the consistency of a lacquer.   

By the time all that was done, the sky was completely dry so I wet it down and then quickly prepared my sky color, which was a medium consistency mix of mostly UB grayed-down with a bit of CY.  I started at the top and graded it down to the tree line, going around the cloud areas loosely and then softening the edges before they dried.  The bluest area of the sky was where I mixed in the strongest amount of UB/CY.  A little tweaking here and there using the variety of colored grays left on my pallette and I’m calling it done.

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