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Posts tagged ‘atmospheric’

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.

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).

Let the experiments continue

My studio isn’t huge. That’s the bad news: it restricts what I am able to do. It’s also the good news. Because I have minimal storage space, my recently completed paintings are often propped up against the wall, here and there, forcing me to look at them, reminding me of what I’ve done and what I was trying to do. It’s motivation to keep trying. Let the experiments continue.

My two most recently finished paintings, although very different in technique from each other, are very similar in style and technique to experiments recently started.

Blue Ridge is a continuation of my desire to combine the atmospheric effects of acrylic thinned with water on wet raw canvas (wet-on-wet) with some harder edges achieved by putting the thinned acrylic down on dry raw canvas (in which case I have to put the wetting agent directly in the paint … and remember to let the previous layers dry).

Blue Ridge 16×22

Blue Ridge is a wonderful combination of soft and hard edges, both atmospheric and stylized.

It’s all rather complicated and fraught with peril. My initial attempt, Intense, was a total failure in terms of the technique, although I liked the resulting painting. (You can read about it in my Oct. 7, 2020 blog post.) My next experiment, Just Glow, was more of a success with the hard edges, although it doesn’t look like anything I normally should have produced.

My second painting, Aaah, is the result of a totally different experiment: painting with unthinned fluid acrylics on textured canvas (light molding paste added to gessoed canvas).

Aaah 12×12

In my earlier experiments with painting on textured canvas, I created the texture by simply gessoing over previously awful paintings. With Blown, the texture was used to help show the force of the wind. In Aaah, the wind and the clouds are more chaotic, less unidirectional.

I seem to be making some headway. My experiments are a little clearer and I’m remembering what I did and why I did it … and most importantly, what did and didn’t work.

So, let the experiments continue…

Experiments can be tricky…

By definition, experiments are things you don’t normally do as an artist. Lately, I’ve been producing very atmospheric paintings using acrylic on raw canvas (that’s a bit of a simplification, but okay, good enough for now). Doing anything different, experiments can be tricky … very tricky.

And now with Covid 19 causing a shortage of some of my basic supplies (like raw canvas), well, experimenting is becoming more common (but still tricky). Fortunately, I have a home studio equipped with a number of gessoed canvases in varying sizes purchased before I became enamored of working on raw canvas. Unfortunately, I really don’t know what to do with them anymore.

So I remembered a technique used by another artist at the Art Students League: big thick brushes, fluid acrylic paint and gessoed canvas, with the brush strokes clearly visible. For some reason which I still don’t understand, it seemed like a way to continue to produce atmospheric paintings, just differently. Most importantly, it seemed do-able.

Started at the League before everything shut down, my first attempt at that castle on the hill I remembered from living in Germany years ago wasn’t exactly a success. So I gessoed over it and started again. This time, in my home studio, it worked.

Almost Clear 2020 20×20

Of course, that was only my first gessoed canvas. I have a number more. Ever hear of “beginners luck?” Well, Almost Clear is the epitome of beginners luck.

My next attempt was so bad I’m not going to post it. My instructor at the League suggested a different technique for the next attempt. He reminded me that I’d fixed part of a painting last year by using a cloth to rub in a mixture of acrylic medium, water and paint.

While I eventually might gesso over my current disaster/experiment, I’m going to experiment first with using this “new” technique on some smaller canvases.

Having been painfully reminded that experiments can be tricky, I don’t really have a choice but to try something new. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up liking one of these experiments. Afterall, painting on raw canvas was once an experiment too.

It’s Still about Water

Over the years I’ve painted rivers, clouds reflected in the water, water churning next to a ship, rapids … well, it’s still about water for me. Water in all its forms continues to fascinate.

For instance, it’s amazing to me how similar frozen water (glaciers) and falling water (waterfalls) are. Several times last year I tried to paint one and ended up with the other. None of them turned out to be very good and I was very frustrated.

But now, I think I’ve figured out how to paint a waterfall using my acrylic on raw canvas (atmospheric) technique. Dry Season was a test case and it worked well.

Dry Season 14×11 2020

First, I painted the sky (very pale violet), the distant mountains (violet), and the rocks below (varying shades of ultraviolet blue and sepia) using my wet-in-wet acrylic on raw canvas technique. Before it dried I used a paper towel to wipe out the areas where I wanted the water to be. After it dried, I added the trees and foliage at the top of the cliffs. Finally, I started rubbing in the white water with a damp rag, leaving it translucent (to see the rocks underneath) in some places and adding more white to make it opaque in others. Lastly, with a pallette knife or a sponge I added specs of white for accent.

Even though all that water was gushing over the cliffs and falling to the rocks below, it was still the middle of the dry season when I saw Victoria Falls, and it was absolutely overwhelming. During the rainy season I’m told there is no dry land. The fog and mist from the falls keeps everything and everyone wet. I can’t begin to imagine it. Even in the dry season, Victoria Falls lives up to its name: The Smoke That Thunders.

Schizophrenia … or artistic license?

Lately, I’ve been producing three very different kinds of paintings. They don’t look like they are painted by the same person.  I’ve talked before about being a little schizophrenic because I was producing two different kinds of paintings. Well, now it’s three.  So is it schizophrenia … or artistic license?

First are the sorta traditional paintings produced on watercolor paper in Frank O’Cain’s class at the Art Students League.  I’ve been taking classes with Frank for many years and have posted this painting based on the water in Lake Ashi in Japan before. I love the feeling of depth and the fact that without my telling you the source, you might not know what it was about.

Silence of the Deep

          Silence of the Deep           Acrylic on paper           12×16           $850

 

Next are different, more atmospheric paintings on raw canvas produced in Ronnie Landfield’s class at the Art Students League.  I’ve just started taking this class to learn the technique so this is the first one I’ve finished.  But more are in the works. I love the atmospheric effect.

Sunset

          Sunset           8×11           Acrylic on raw canvas           $450

 

And finally, very different acrylic paintings on gessoed canvas in my studio at home, this one a stylized view of Mt. Fuji based on a recent trip to Japan.

Mt. Fuji

          Mt. Fuji           Acrylic on canvas            5×7           $400

My paintings serve as a reminder of where I have been and what I have seen, a visual memoir of my past experiences.  Although painted in three very different styles, they are all part of me.  Doesn’t feel schizophrenic.

So I’m going with artistic license.

Moving beyond focus to atmospheric

Although my last blog post was about the need for focus in creating a painting (and that is clearly still important), I’m moving beyond that into … atmospheric.

I’ve taken one of my Ronda paintings that I wasn’t completely happy with (and didn’t include in my last blog) and I’m applying a new technique (new to me, that is). First, the original painting:

Ronda

Ronda

This painting is about the bridge finally, but it just wasn’t thrilling me.  As I was pondering what to do about it, Frank O’Cain suggested I try flinging paint at it to make it more atmospheric (à la Ching-Bor, whose technique we happened to have been discussing).  Even though Paul Ching-Bor is incredibly successful, his work is largely black and white and I wanted to work in color.  So with all the gay abandon of a total novice, I mixed a lot of the blue, yellow and red already in the painting into a kinda neutral color and starting flinging the paint.

Well, it was starting to look “atmospheric” but I wasn’t sure this was going to work.

Ronda ver.1

Ronda ver.1

Frank said to just keep going that I had to make it a lot darker.  So I did.

Ronda, ver. 2

Ronda, ver. 2

But there is almost no sense of what the painting is.  So I started spraying with plain water and blotting with paper towels to uncover more of the bridge arches.  That didn’t work so well — it just made them lighter.  So I went back and darkened key parts of the painting and then starting flinging again, this time darker.

Ronda, ver. 3

Ronda, ver. 3

Okay, it’s getting better, but it’s certainly not finished. Then again, I’m not sure how I will know when it is finished.  My apologies to Ching-Bor.  To be continued…