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Posts tagged ‘art’

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.

It’s talking to me …

Any artist worth her salt will say the painting “talks” to her. No beginning artist really understands. “Talks?” But it’s true and I have a current example. It’s talking to me …

I have a photo taken in Antigua which I love. I’ve wanted to paint it for years: the shadows on the path, the light shining through the trees … It’s a very complex landscape so I decided to do a sketch to try and avoid some of the pitfalls. Here’s the cropped and greatly simplified sketch.

Without thinking about it too much (my first mistake), I sketched it very lightly on a 18×14 piece of raw canvas taped down to a larger piece of foamcore. Using fluid acrylic only slightly thinned with water, I started to paint the land next to the path and noticed that getting hard edges was going to be difficult. Well, duh. The painting was already starting to “talk” to me.

But I was committed, so I started on the trees with fluid acrylic thinned with a lot more water, since I wanted it to be fairly light to start. I would make it darker with additional layers of paint. By now the painting is fairly “screaming” at me.

What should have been nice smooth edges simply weren’t. Taking a deep breath, I decided to “listen.” I stopped and let it dry.

Background: I paint on raw canvas with thinned fluid acrylic because I like the soft- (in some cases non-) edges, the atmospheric effect. And because I wanted that effect for the leafy part of the trees, I ignored the difficulty I was going to have with the branches and tree trunks, the ground and path, and the shadows.

So this isn’t a made-for-tv story with a happy ending … at least not yet. I confess I kinda like this jagged edges effect and I certainly right now have no idea how I’m going to make this work. I could continue as is with all the edges being jagged, and see how that turns out. Or I can try to “fix” the edges, but that involves matte medium and a lot of work. It’s going to take a lot of thought (what I should have done at the beginning, since I know how unforgiving raw canvas is and how hard it is to correct mistakes).

So I’ll think about it over the weekend and then decide. It certainly would have been better/easier if I’d “listened” to the painting at the beginning.

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.

I’m not a scientist …

Lord knows, I’m not a scientist … anything but. But when I wasn’t sure how to paint the image I had in my mind, I knew it was time for an experiment. I’d been painting with watered down acrylic on raw canvas to achieve a misty, atmospheric effect. I knew that was what I wanted for this image, but for some reason was uncertain of how it was going to work. So I decided to experiment and try it on a smaller piece of raw canvas…

Improbable 11×14 Acrylic

As I’ve done many times, I tore off a sheet of canvas from a canvas pad. One side is gessoed and the other is raw; I simply paint on the back, or raw, side. When I taped it down to the foamcore board, I had to check to make sure I was taping the gessoed side down. And then when I put down the first water wash, it wasn’t acting like raw canvas … but I shrugged it off.

Since the image in my mind was almost monochromatic shades of gray, I decided to mix my own gray from Ultramarine Blue, Naphthol Red and Cad Yellow. Tested on paper, it looked good. I could make it lighter or darker by adding water (or not).

My first few strokes of gray on the wet canvas told me this would be a whole new experiment. Obviously, this wasn’t raw canvas. The paint was simply swimming around too much, like watercolor on Yupo. Clearly the manufacturer had gessoed both side of the canvas. To make matters worse, as I watched, the gray paint started to separate into its component colors. Was that because of the smooth gessoed surface? Was it the water? No clue.

I also had no clue what to do with what I had done so far. So I let it dry. Well, nothing ventured nothing gained, I picked it up the next day and tried to continue the painting. When I painted on top of the initial strokes, the paint didn’t swim around so much … and also didn’t separate so much.

Watercolor on Yupo years ago yielded some wonderful effects; this I wasn’t liking so much. About to write it off as a failed experiment, I had to reconsider when two artists whose opinions I value, said the painting “worked.”

Bottom line: It’s never going to be my favorite painting. And, though it was an experiment, I’m not sure what I learned, other than to avoid putting water-thinned acrylic on gessoed canvas. Oh, and to double check the surface itself. The self-mixed gray? I may try it again, next time on raw canvas, to see what happens.

Waste Not Want Not

This is a “waste not want not” story with a vengeance. Not only am I sporadically trying to use up the gessoed canvases I bought long ago before I became enamored with raw canvas, but I actually grabbed a canvas that an unknown artist at the Art Students League had thrown out (it sat next to the garbage bin for hours). Somehow I just couldn’t let it go to waste.

At home, I gessoed over the other artist’s work (it was pretty bad, so I understood why it had been tossed) and decided to paint something so it wouldn’t go to waste (and also so I wouldn’t have yet another white gessoed canvas with nothing on it to look at).

So the “gift” canvas painting turned into a memory of white water rafting down a fast moving river with a lot of big rocks. Fun. Scary, Exhilarating. I miss that carefree adrenalin rush.

Perilous Acrylic 16×20

I was on a roll, so I decided to tackle another gessoed canvas, one of my own raw canvas paintings I had hated and decided to gesso over so it didn’t get wasted. This time, I was reminiscing about my recent California trip to see my new grandson over Thanksgiving and the summers I spent on Fire Island. (There really is a connection: the balmy California weather made me think of summer on Fire Island, and the weather reports from New York of snowfall added snow to the beach scene.)

First Snow Acrylic 20×20

In both paintings, I use tube acrylic and fluid acrylic with a bristle brush to convey the wind. What started as an experiment at the beginning of the Pandemic is now almost my usual approach to painting, at least when I am home, working on gessoed canvas. It always takes me a little time to shift gears from working with watered down acrylic paint on raw canvas (at the Art Students League) to painting with a bristle brush on gessoed canvas (at home).

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.

Shelly’s Trees

Shelly is a good friend who just happens to like photography and takes some very good pictures. A recent picture, Shelly’s Trees, provided the inspiration for two quick sketches, one on paper and one on canvasboard. Both small.

Sunset Tree 5×8.5 Acrylic on paper

Sunset Tree, shows the three trees silhouetted against the sunset, with the sky showing through and some branches lit by the setting sun. The actual photograph was taken during the day; no sunset.

Shelly’s Tree 6×6 Acrylic on Canvasboard

Another experiment using the same tree(s). I wanted to get away from everything being so horizontal. But I loved the colorful sky showing through the branches.

Sometime in the future, I may try a much bigger version of Shelly’s Tree.

It’s way too long

I don’t know what I was thinking, but sometime last year during the worst of the pandemic, I bought five 10×20 gessoed canvases online. Not only did I not need so many gessoed canvases (I had been painting on raw canvas and preferred that), but 10×20 was way too long. So it’s taken me a year to figure out what to do with what I’d bought.

Actually, it took a friend sending me a picture of a sunset he had taken in Chatham, MA.

Chatham Sunset 10×20 Acrylic

It was a looong photo … and I finally knew what I could do with at least one of those long canvases. There was enough of a diagonal, that I didn’t mind the long straight-across horizon line. I took out a lot of the details in the foreground and enlarged the tree several times. I picked up the sky sunset colors in the middleground, even though it was more blue in the photo.

10×20 is still too long, and I have four left to go.

They’re throwbacks … sorta.

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 …

Sky

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.

Spring’s last gasp

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.

Spring 9×12 Acrylic on canvas board

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.