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Posts tagged ‘acrylic painting’

Sunrise = Sunset

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?

Sunrise Sunset

Sicilian Sunset

Sara’s Sunset (actually, this was a sunrise)

Palisades Sunset

Winter Sunset II

There are more, but I rest my case. Sunrise = Sunset.

Shows you what I know …

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.

Afterglow 24×30 Acrylic on raw canvas

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.

Misty Morning 24×30 Acrylic on raw canvas

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.

Afterglow 24×30 Acrylic on raw canvas

And I had thought it looked finished before. … Actually, I’m not sure it’s finished now. Shows you what I know.

There’s really good news

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…

Peaceful 16×20 Acrylic on raw canvas

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!

Flying High VI 16×20 Acrylic on raw canvas

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’ve been busy

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 …

Palisades Sunset 6×6 Acrylic on canvasboard

Sunset Tree 5×7 Acrylic on paper

Sara’s Sunset 6×6 Acrylic on canvasboard

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.

Brrr. It’s cold

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.

Winter 9B

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.

It’s 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

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.

Winter 6

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.

Winter 7

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.

Winter 8

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…