The past two weeks in California visiting my son, his wife and their new son, were wonderful. It was good to get out of my small NYC universe, travel by plane, and finally see my new grandson. I believe in traveling light, so the only art supplies I took were a tiny travel watercolor set, a few brushes, a small (5×7) watercolor sketch pad. Definitely minimal. That’s the good news. The bad (sorta) news is that I had to paint with watercolor, something I haven’t done in years. So the six paintings I produced, well, they’re throwbacks … sorta.
I won’t show the first ones at all, since they really just count as practice. Funny, when I was transitioning from watercolor to acrylic years ago, all I could think was: “This would be so much easier in watercolor.” The last two weeks, all I could think was: “This would be so much easier in acrylic.”
The first one was California skyline seen from a car on a highway on the way back from somewhere. I made a few artistic modifications here and there …
The California hills are very brown and dry looking (my son says they look like that most of the year), so that was the origin of my second painting.
Again some artistic license.
I liked these last two enough that I may try turning them into larger acrylic paintings. Which is what I sorta wanted to do while I was in California.
Now that we can start traveling again, I may have to get used to turning initial watercolor sketches into larger acrylic paintings.
I seem to go in spurts. It’s been almost a month since I last posted but it’s not like I haven’t done anything. Actually, I’ve been busy.
From an artist friend (who also happens to be a cousin), I accepted a 10-day challenge on facebook: post one image a day for 10 days, starting with the oldest and ending with the most recent. You would think that since I didn’t have to paint anything new for the challenge, it would be easy to do. But you would be wrong. Rather than just bragging about my best work, I decided to use the occasion to review my progress over the last 20+ years, and my conclusion: not bad. Starting with my very early watercolors, I gradually learned composition and technique. A little over 5 years ago I moved to acrylic and had to start all over with technique and learning the materials. Two major take-aways: my paintings kept getting better (although not always in a straight line); and no matter how happy I was with a painting, I would later always see some way in which it could be improved. So the 10-day challenge was both encouraging and sobering.
And I’ve done 7 paintings in the last month, most of them small sketches often on canvasboard, some in preparation for larger work later. During the Pandemic, I’ve mostly been painting on gessoed canvas or canvasboard (it’s what I had available), so my paintings have been experiments.
Lately, I’ve been focused on sunsets. They are beautiful and it’s what I see outside my window every night. Living in a high-rise apartment overlooking the Hudson River and the Palisades offers constant inspiration.
Just a few examples …
The process of creating the 10-day challenge has influenced how I look at my work. I’ve always been critical, but now I look for progress in a more specific, intensive way. The next time I paint this subject but larger, what do I have to change and how. Will I paint it on the same kind of surface or will I do something different, like going back to painting on raw canvas? Each painting has it’s own requirements and I’m still learning.
I know, it’s still April … so it’s still Spring. But I’m tired of trying to paint Spring paintings. So this is Spring’s last gasp, at least as far as my paintings go.
Finally, a Spring painting I really like. [You’d be amazed at how many of my paintings I don’t like. They get gessoed over.] These colors really speak to me of Spring.
So far, this is my 4th (and last) Spring painting. So I guess I’m not going to create a Spring series afterall.
The weather has been weird lately, warm then cold, then warm then very cold, then very warm (almost balmy), then … well, you get the picture. I know, it’s Spring.
So it’s definitely time for me to stop my Winter series and try something new. Maybe a Spring series? Well, so far I’ve done three mini 6×6 Spring paintings, but my heart is not in it. I don’t like the first one at all, so I’m going to gesso over it.
Spring 2 is the second of my Spring minis, acrylic with a palette knife on a 6×6 art panel. Not sure what to say about it.
And Spring 3 is the third (duh). Also acryllic with a palette knife on a 6×6 art panel. The yellow does make me think of forsythia, of which there is lots outside, but I’m not sure the rest of the colors are very spring-like. Somehow it’s much harder to paint “Spring.”
I may just have to move on to something else.
Actually, although this is the 13th in my Winter series, there are only 12 paintings. I painted over two of my initial mini 6×6 paintings which I decided I didn’t like enough to keep. One I painted over, got confused with the numbering ( initially calling two different paintings each Winter 9) and then called it Winter 9B (to differentiate it from Winter 9). Are you confused too? It’s enough to know: my Winter series continues.
Even though there is no snow outside my window, my memories of snowy winters from my childhood in Canada continue to inspire me. And painting with a palette knife somehow makes it easier. No need to fuss over the details.
It was below freezing this morning; there is no water and no heat in my apartment building (they’re replacing some pipes). Brrr. It’s cold. So, of course, I’m still painting winter scenes.
An earlier Winter painting had some intractible problems that were too complicated to fix (this is only a 6×6 canvas, afterall). So I painted over it. This is really just winter colors … too abstracted to look like anything specific. But painting with a palette knife is a joy. No pressure to perform, just the fun of seeing what happens when I do … this.
Well, I won’t be able to paint winter landscapes when we’re in the middle of spring and it’s hot outside. So I’m kinda happy that we’ve got more wintry weather coming. Because, for some reason, I’m still in a wintry mood.
So my winter series continues, albeit with slightly larger canvases: 10×10. That’s still pretty small as paintings go, but it’s a good size for me to continue my experiment painting winter (snowy) scenes with a palette knife on gessoed canvases. I’ve now painted 12, if you count the ones I’ve painted over. So far I’ve painted over two, because I didn’t like the way they turned out and I didn’t know how to fix them. If I can fix whatever bothers me, then I simply post the final version under “Experiments.” What you are seeing in this blog is the initial version, before whatever corrections might be needed. Sometimes only a minor fix is needed, but I have to live with them for awhile, before I’m sure.
What I love about winter is how stark everything is, how extreme. And a minimalist composition and using a palette knife make it happen.
For some reason, the snow looks a lot more beigey here than in the actual painting (it is white). Guess I’ll have to take another picture before loading up to “Experiments.” But I like the composition.
Winter 11 has already had a lot of changes. So I think this one is done. But, of course, I could change my mind next week before I put it into “Experiments.”
With Winter 12, I wanted a darker sky with a little of the ground showing through the snow. It’s going to have to grow on me though. Not sure what to do with it, if anything. Again, the snow doesn’t look as white here as it does in the painting. I’m going to have to really rethink the way I photograph these.
To be continued… I’m still in a wintry mood and more winter weather is coming.
The weather has warmed up (positively balmy lately), but I’m still painting Winter. Something about the stark contrasts of winter lends itself to experiments. The composition is an experiment. Applying acrylic with a palette knife on mini (6×6) gessoed canvas is certainly an experiment (for me). And experiments are fun. No impossible to meet expectations, just “let’s see what this will look like.”
And if you don’t like it, you just gesso over it and start again. Waste not want not. Now Winter 3 is Winter 8. The snow is dirtier but it’s definitely still winter.
The weather outside has mellowed a little, but I continue to paint these simplified winter scenes on mini (6×6) canvases with a palette knife. In my head it’s still winter.
Winter 5 is fascinating to me. Seen up close it’s just a mess of pale colors and raised paint ridges. When you pull back a little it becomes an abstracted winter scene. There are bands of clouds in the sky, trees and even a path or two. At the time I painted it, my nose was about a foot from the painting and yet I was painting the scene you can only really “see” from a distance.
In Winter 6, I simplified the colors, modified one of my favorite trees a little and placed the land at an angle. I’m starting to like the way my shaky hands and the palette knife create the texture.
I brought back the yellow oxide for the clouds just over the top of the hill, but now that I re-examine it, Winter 7 doesn’t look like much of anything real. It’s the most abstracted of these mini paintings so far. For years, I struggled to abstract from the model, or from a real scene. Here it just happened.
And last but not least, Winter 8 is a little more representational, but still pretty abstract.
So with all of these Winter minis, I couldn’t create what I was trying to (smooth expanses of snow with muted, vague shapes). The palette knife made that unrealistic. Instead, I’ve created mini abstract paintings with a lot of texture. And I like them — some more than others — but I like them.
But in my head, it’s still winter, so I think I’ll try to recreate these scenes using my preferred acrylic on raw canvas. To be continued…
Well, it’s cold … and bleak … and the colors have disappeared (like New Jersey, normally seen from my window). Winter is here, and my attempts last month to dispell some of the gloom by painting summer colors just didn’t last. So this time I’m just going to wallow in it, paint winter scenes, some from childhood memories, some from photos. I am experimenting with Winter, using a pallette knife (instead of a brush), on mini (6×6) canvases, gessoed (not raw canvas) and with a very limited color pallette (white, blue, brown and varying shades of gray).
It’s been a challenge, but that’s what I needed. I’ve never used a palette knife before and I admit it’s been hard to get the effect I want. These canvases are small, so the compositions are very simple. Since these are all experiments, I haven’t given them names…
Not that it matters, but the hill is based on a childhood park hill I used to ski down, and the tree is based on an old NYT photo. The more I look at it, the more I think it could be a summer beach scene (wishful thinking?) the snow is more beige than white. City snow does tend to get dirty fast, but …
Well, the snow is still beigey, but it is smoother. Maybe the pallette knife was the wrong choice for the look I’m trying to achieve.
This is clearly not a beach scene and it reminds me of the view I had in Patagonia from the top of the chair lift. I did a very different painting on raw canvas right after that trip. That was in the summer, of course, so it’s interesting I used that memory for this winter scene.
This makes me think of a fairy tale. I think I still need to soften the path leading up to the little house in the trees. Not sure where this one came from.
I have four more litttle mini canvases so there will be a sequel to this post. It’s still winter, but the weather is not bothering me so much now.