Posts tagged ‘acrylic landscape’
Have you ever noticed that sunrises and sunsets look alike? Sometimes you only see sunsets (as I do), or sometimes you only see sunrises (as a friend of a friend who lives in Brooklyn does). But when you look at the photos we take, you can’t tell which is which. (Ditto for the paintings I create based on those photos.) It all depends on which way your windows face. Mine face west, his face east. Sunrise = sunset. They look the same.
And here are some examples. If you don’t look at the titles, would you know which was which?
There are more, but I rest my case. Sunrise = Sunset.
This painting has had many iterations. I’ve thought it was finished twice before. It started as a reaction to the devastating forest fires in California and slowly morphed into a view of Mt. Etna, first on the left side of the painting, and then on the right. You could say it’s been a struggle.
First, the California fires …
True, it was mostly about the smoke and the red glow in the sky, but it needed a focus.
Next, Mt. Etna on the left …
That was better, but I still didn’t like the divisions in the sky.
So… finally …
Now, instead of just emphasizing the fiery sky, I beefed up the mountain on the right, pushed it back with the smoke and emphasized the fading light with the title.
It took two months start to final finish. What a struggle!
Back in November, I thought I’d finally finished a fiery painting prompted by the California wildfires and a recent visit to Sicily: Afterglow. There were hours and hours of painting reds, and blues, and Payne’s Gray. And then I finally added many more layers of gray and white to make the mist. I liked it. I thought it worked. It hadn’t turned out as I originally intended, but that’s often the case. I thought it was done. Shows you what I know!
Here’s the original painting.
I took a picture of it and posted it on my website. But every time I looked at it, something was bothering me. I couldn’t figure out what it was. Plus I was really tired of working on it. So I shrugged and put it away. And started working on the next painting: Misty Morning.
Whenever I come back from a vacation trip I always return with hundreds (thousands?) of photographs and lots of ideas for new paintings. My recent trip to Sicily was no exception and the slopes of Mt. Etna were inspirational. Misty Morning was started. I liked the colors in an earlier Mt. Etna painting (Before the Rain) so I decided to repeat them (sorta). The slopes of Mt. Etna were a purplish black with patches of drying yellow oxide grasses showing through. In Misty Morning, the black and yellow oxide were more evenly balanced and hard edged. And therein lay the problem: it didn’t look like something in nature; it looked like a graphic poster, too stylized. I tried softening some of the edges, but I couldn’t seem to make a dent in the overall effect. (Have I mentioned recently that watered down acrylic on raw canvas is very unforgiving?)
The only solution I could think of was to intensify the mist to soften most of the edges. (BTW, I’ve spent many hours studying the mist that often partly obscures the Palisades Cliffs outside my window in the morning.) And, many many layers of watered down titanium white later, it worked.
Now that’s what one of Etna’s slopes looked like on a misty morning. Success!
But that success made me go back and rethink my previous painting, Afterglow. And I suddenly knew what I had to do: make the smoke more prominent, more like the mist in Misty Morning.
Easier said than done, of course. But many layers of thinned titanium white later, the smoke in Afterglow pulls it all together. Whew.
And I had thought it looked finished before. … Actually, I’m not sure it’s finished now. Shows you what I know.
My first week back at the Art Students League and although I returned with a locker’s full of supplies, I still managed to forget a key paint color (or two). Now, back at home getting ready for a two week vacation to Sicily (getting Covid tests, deciding what to pack, packing, throwing out stuff I’d forgotten I had), I was getting twitchy because I wasn’t painting. All my stuff was at the League. Somehow, it’s never where I want it.
Except of course, for the tubes of paint and palette knives I’d left at home. Oh, and among the things I’d forgotten I had were some 4×6 and 5×7 blank cards left over from a long ago printer. Well, waste not want not. I decided to use what I had.
Three little minis later …
By now you’re starting to figure out what tubes of paint I had left at home …
Maybe waste not want not isn’t such a bad idea. And who says everything always has to be where you want it?
There’s good news. Not only did our massive rainfall only last one day, not only did the flooding in our basement only come from ground run-off (not the City sewer system), not only were our elevators out for less than one day… There’s really good news: the Art Students League re-opens next week for Fall classes (Yay!), AND I’m back to painting on raw canvas (for awhile stretched raw canvas was hard to come by).
Of course, nothing is ever perfect, and it turns out that I had forgotten some hard fought lessons about how to paint on raw canvas. Basic lessons like always check the jar is tightly closed before shaking it up to thoroughly blend the paint and water mixture (mistakes are excrutiatingly hard to correct on raw canvas). Basic lessons like keep your canvas horizontal until the paint is completely dry (unless you DO want those drips).
I’d expected to have to remind myself how much water to use, how long to let it dry before adding the paint for wet-in-wet, and what to do when you do make a mistake. Ah well, if this were easy, anyone could do it.
So here are the two paintings…
Painting Peaceful was anything but peaceful. I propped what I thought was the final version on my easel to take a photograph, and then forgot that it was still wet. Hours later I had two dark blue drips that took many, many efforts to fix. And, of course, every time I looked at the latest version, something else had to be adjusted. But the end result does look peaceful and reminds me a lot of my early childhood winters in Canada. Whew!
Whenever I used to get on a plane, I’d try to take pictures of the clouds out the window. A few years ago I did a series of paintings of those clouds. This is the latest one. Unfortunately I ended up with a decent sized drop of Ultramarine Blue right where it didn’t belong. Blotting it up didn’t work, of course. And just painting over it was doomed to fail, though I did try. A thin layer of matte medium and then more paint did the trick, though I’m making it sound far simpler than it was.
But all’s well that end well, and next week I’ll be back at the League painting on raw canvas. That’s the really good news.
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.
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.