Richmond From Legend / underpainting and photos

Camera perspective V the naked eye perspective

Camera perspective V the naked eye perspective

I drew it on paper, standing on the deck at Legend Brewery a few weeks ago in the morning before they opened, and left when the customers started to come in for lunch. It took me a few weeks to get my charcoal sketch, as seen on a post below, then more time to draw it on the canvas with charcoal. I didn’t use a photo, but measured the perspective by holding my charcoal out at an arm’s length and using the Federal Reserve building as a unit of measure. I thought I had the perspective close enough to real, then I ran into a stopping point when I started on the underpainting one morning.

The light is better in the afternoon on the city, but Legend gets crowded some afternoons, and the weather is still iffy a lot of days, which stopped me and was a problem I needed to work out before painting.

This painting is complicated, and after years of drawing from life outside in nature, I don’t enjoy painting from a photo. When you get used to seeing the subject life size, then have to look at a photo, it’s like the photo is so small and the perspective is smushed and the colors are flat. It was just more practical to use photos at this step. I had my camera set on automatic for the shots  printed out here, and taped them together, so I could get the afternoon light in my underpainting. I took these shots from the floodwall, which is a little lower and closer to the river than Legend. The skyline looks like 36 inches to my naked eye and looks like 18 inches to my camera. I did the underpainting at home. I’d rather have been at Legend.

I had to get a different  state of mind to paint using the photos. I hear other artists get stuck with a painting too. I went over to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and drew some Lotus flowers, meanwhile. And I need to draw more Lotuses before I can get a plan worked out for the Lotus painting. The Lotuses are a good distraction from the difficult city painting.

Our teachers at York Academy of Art told us to do a detailed underpainting. It wasn’t easy, but I got it, finally. At this rate, I’ll probably have the painting finished by Aug. for the show I entered at Artworks. Now I have to go to Legend in the afternoon to mix my colors. Building up layers of color on top of my dark underpainting with the lightest and brightest colors the most opaque, I hope to get the illusion of depth in the painting, and make my city POP!!


open studio figure drawing workshop @ J Sargeant Reynolds

I got this far with it in 20 minutes.

I got this far with it in 20 minutes.

When I picked up their flyer, one thing made me like them before I met them. The flyer says, ” Participants are free to work on whatever they like during the sessions, allowing total artistic freedom.”  I said YES! I LIKE THAT SPIRIT!!

I always took charcoal and paper to figure drawing in the past, but sometimes you read where oil paint is forbidden because of the toxic fumes, which makes me laugh, because I like the smell of oil paint and Maroger Medium.  Anyway, charcoal is easier to work with, but if there’s restrictions, I’m not interested in going.

Now that I’m looking at this drawing, I can see places that don’t look right, but it’s just practice. Sometimes you get a sketch you can use later. Sometimes you can’t get the good view of the model or the good lighting. Sometimes the model can’t stand still. This time the model was good and seemed graceful. It wasn’t too hot in there, and not too crowded, so I could move around. I’ll try to keep with this group, but it only meets once a month.

Now, the next step, if you want to get serious about drawing, is to check if you have the anatomy and proportions correct. You need to open up the old human anatomy for the artist book and look at the pictures. Lay a piece of tracing paper over your figure drawing and draw in the bones and muscles on the tracing paper, according to how they look in the anatomy book. Then, label your tracing paper with the names of the bones and muscles, so you can remember them. That was our homework at YAA.  I don’t want to do it, but that’s how we learned. It was difficult and Tom Wise kept us at it every week for 3 years. And yet, no matter how much you practice, there’s always room for improvement. This is my best sketch out of 7 or 8 I did today.

Wild and Free / oil

on the open range

on the open range

This is my first color theory experiment.  The post from last week shows my canvas with the violet tint and violet underpainting of the horses. If the color theory works, and I make my horses palominos, they should visually pop off the canvas, because violet and yellow are complimentary colors. I tried mixing yellow ochre tints and shades to get the right color. Then I wiped it off and tried a glaze of cadmium yellow tints and shades. That didn’t look right either. So I went back to the yellow ochre with brown and gray tints and shades. Mixing colors seemed more complicated than usual on the violet.

That’s one good thing about painting” in the couch”. You paint the medium on the dry canvas and paint the color on top of the medium. The medium “couches” the paint. If I mix a color and think it’s ok, then look at it after working on it, and say, oh no, I can just wipe off the bad color without destroying my dry layer underneath, which wasn’t too far off.

About the violet paint under it all, strange painting experience. It takes for ever to dry. The violet lifts when you put the next glazes on top of it. I like the color showing through in the sky and background.

Another thing about this painting that made it seem weird to me was that I primed the canvas first by putting layers of Gesso and sanding in between. I didn’t prime a canvas since leaving YAA. The canvases you buy have one layer of Gesso and there is tooth from the canvas causing drag on the paintbrush. When you prime the canvas, it’s so smooth. I’m used to the drag from the weave of the canvas. When I painted this, the paint peaked like a soft serve ice cream cone. The Alvi’s Maroger Medium holds that peak. I wanted to flatten it with a dry brush, but it still came out with more texture in the paint.

Results from my experiment:

Mixing yellow was difficult for the violet ground.

Priming the canvas makes the paint come off the brush in a different way.

It takes forever to dry, and seems like the glazes went on thick and heavily textured.

There’s more for me to process with this experiment. I need to try it again with different colors on violet.

Cracker and Barrel / charcoal and chalk

Got it on the 2nd try.

Got it on the 2nd try.

Drawing horses is a challenge for me. I have to use the 1st piece of paper to get them blocked in the right proportions. Then I transfer that to another paper and try to make corrections on the weak places. For me drawing is constantly correcting. I draw a line. I look at it and it’s not in the right place. So I have to draw another line and erase the 1st line. In the 1st stage, I block in areas and look at my areas and think, that’s not right. so I trim down by erasing, Then move it up or down on the paper and fill in and then erase more.

That’s one reason vine charcoal is the best medium to draw with. It kind of floats on top of the paper, if you can imagine it like that. You can push vine charcoal around so easily with a kneeded eraser.  Then on my 2nd try, when I’ve corrected it  to the point where nothing about it bothers me anymore, I go back in and add darker shadows with my charcoal pencil, which is slightly harder charcoal than the vine charcoal. And last, add highlights with white chalk.

If I work on my drawing for a few hours, that’s enough. I lose my concentration and don’t need to finish the drawing in one day. I look at it later and decide what needs to be worked on next to make it better. It’s not unusual for me to take days on my drawing, because the stronger the drawing is, the stronger the painting will be.craker and barrel underpainting

This is my underpainting. Only a beginning.

I tinted the canvas violet. Normally, I tint my canvases dark gray, but since I’m not looking at nature in plein air, because the weather is too cold or too dreary lately, I decided to use violet as an experiment. I’d like to make my horses Palominos, but my model horses are plastic with a bronze patina, so I’m not sure about mixing colors for this. This is a good opportunity to fool around with color theory.  No need to try to match natural colors, because I’m not outside in natural light. So if the violet shows through, lets see how it affects the painting. And if the violet under my other colors does make a difference, it might make my horses pop off more when I go over them a couple times with shades of gold. since yellow and violet are opposites on the color wheel.

I have one layer of glazes on the sky showing here. I’ll go over it again.

This is the 1st canvas I’ve taken the time to prime with Gesso and sand before painting. I saw another artist priming his canvas, and it reminded me, I should be doing that. This classical “style”, if you want to call it Realism, or whatever, (I’m not really up on all the art isms) goes with a slick finished look. When it’s finished you should varnish it if you want to be true to “style”. It seems to me, there’s way too much emphasis placed on “style” by those in the Ivory Tower, but whatthehell, If I’m going to paint in an unpopular” style”, I might as well go the whole 9 yards and prime my canvases.

And WOW! is this slick! hahahahah Our dear departed teacher at York academy of Art, Ted Fitzkee would love it! I  need very little  turp. The paint slides like my car on ice. You should try it! It’s fun! When I get into the glazing with my Alvi’s Maroger Medium, I’ll be like freaking Rembrandt! Stay tuned.

Mare and Filly / charcoal

mare and fillymare and filly crackerbarrel

The weather is ungood for drawing in plein air outside, so I’ve been planning a still life. I’ve always loved horses and looked for nice models. Finally I found these at Cracker Barrel for $40.

It took me a few hours to get this far, which is fast for me!  I’ll work on it more tomorrow. I drew them life size because it’s easier than drawing small. For my still life I’ll scale them down by making a grid.

This is what they told us at York Academy of Art: It’s ok to make a grid to scale up or down a drawing if it’s your own drawing. Taking the time to try to match the proportions of the horse strengthened it in my mind. There is a file in my head for horses. If I took a photo and traced it for my drawing, that file would not grow. The act of drawing it freehand burns it into your mind with volume and proportion in a way that tracing a photo can’t do. The mind is basically lazy, and if it can save time and effort by relying on a photo it will, but then drawing skill doesn’t improve.

Drawing isn’t something you’re born with. If you are born with some dexterity, you can work with your hands on any number of different types of art. Like playing a musical instrument, drawing takes hours of practice.

So, remember, making a grid from your own sketch – OK

Making a grid from a photo – not OK

Bridge With Waterfall / oil

bridge with waterfall

I started working on this painting a few weeks ago. I think I have about 30 hours in it but I didn’t keep track of time. I can concentrate for 2 or 3 hours a day, so I just have to keep going back. It’s a slow process, but it has it’s advantages working like this.

1st and most important is, I have a good excuse to go there every day and hang around in the beauty. It’s good for your health.

The other thing that I like about this way of painting by building up layers of glazes is that I can make corrections easily for different painting problems. If I get home and look at it and think, it’s not good, I have 2 choices.  I can use a little turp on a paper towel and wipe it right off without destroying my layers underneath, because when you paint in the couch with Maroger Medium it dries enough overnight that it is only tacky the next day. The medium makes the paint slide so nicely on the canvas. Painting in the couch is when you 1st paint a layer of medium over your dry glaze from the day before. Then, paint into the layer of plain medium with your color. You can go thick or thin.

The other way to fix a mistake is to wait till it dries a little and paint on top with the color you want. That’s the great thing about oil paint. It’s very forgiving. So why not take advantage of the nature of the medium? This is how they taught us to paint at York Academy of Art. I remember they told us NOT to even try to paint wet in wet, as they called it back then. Now they call it “ala prima”.  So I guess I’ll stick to my academic classical training.

Painting water is always a challenge. I never know exactly how to do it, so I just give it a try and if I don’t like it, I’ll try again and go over it again and again. This time I only painted the water once. First I had to paint the rock wall and then I went back the next day and thinned down white and light gray to paint my skinny lines of water. When you paint in the couch with Maroger Medium, it’s easy to paint detail because the paint flows better than painting on a dry canvas, or painting on top of wet paint. The medium is the exact right texture to paint on. I hope you can see what I’m saying.

Japanese Garden at Maymont / oil

I took this painting to a critique .....

I took this painting to a critique …..

I like that gallery in Mechanicsville, the Windemere. They have a nice place out there. The critique thing, I wasn’t so sure about, but I thought if I want to show my art there I should give it a try. And it was better than I anticipated.

When Shelby and I were young chicks in art school at York Academy of Art, we had to endure some harsh critiques from teachers that didn’t care if they hurt the student’s feelings. Fortunately for that experience, it’s impossible for an art critic to hurt my feelings.  But you learn so much from a real critique, and I think modern art students never hear it from their teachers these days. I still think no one outside of the academy can critique beyond, “I like it.” or “I don’t like it.”  OK. Everyone’s a critic including me.

What I was glad to learn today is that piece of architecture I painted in the foreground is a Japanese Lantern! I always imagined they were duck houses! hahahah I know if I was a duck, I’d move in to it.

Also, I got an idea of how to paint another duck house so it might come out a little better next time. ( I mean lantern )

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