Monday, March 28, 2016

Sticking with it

Two posts back I pondered how a plein air image might benefit from some changes. On location I pretty much took it as was and used my best guess as to how to do it.
 Since then I did some drawings (this one is China marker and sharpie pen on grey Bogus paper).

Then some watercolor sketches...

and a new studio version...

And here's the original...

I tried to get stronger shapes, juicier color, fewer tangents and hopefully fewer inconsequential details. It's still a bit "oil painty" but better...getting closer to a new look.
 I think doing something over a few times in a few ways pays off, so I'm going to try and spend more time in my sketchbooks. It's liberating to just launch at something without expectations. Here are a few I think could become pictures...

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Honestly, I know better...

It was beautiful weather Friday so I went painting in Bentonsport with Gin Lammert, Jessica Kirby and Deb Baughman. Most of us got enchanted with the limestone walls left over from the foundation of the town's millrace, much of which has been cleverly converted to a large walled rose garden.
Too enchanted in my case - I forgot basic stuff even beginners know. These two watercolors have several problems.

1. Overworked - these were better subjects for oil or pastels for starters. If important stuff is a light passage in a dark or medium field, watercolors are not a good choice.
2. Too many strokes -  there was just lots to see and I didn't pick a focus and stick with it. AND I didn't think about simplification. I just kept finding stuff to put in. The artistic equivalent or hoarding or binge eating potato chips.
3. Unconsidered composition - no focus, no lead in, even the orientation of horizontal or vertical wasn't addressed. A thumbnail would have sorted all that out.
4. Worst of all, I was basically ok with them till I got home and looked at them a while. 
Amusingly, I got some clues after Jessica sent out our traditional group photo. 
She commented that she looked like Alfalfa from the Litte Rascals. 
I disagreed, citing lack of cowlick and freckles (we're still debating the freckles) and suggested Sargent's portrait of Rosina Ferrara was closer to the mark.

That reminded me to look at some of his other works using the same model. Here's Rosina next to a stone wall in Capri not too unlike the environs in Bentonsport. 

Being Sargent, he didn't make Preston mistakes. 
1. He has an obvious focus - Rosina - but it could have been something inanimate too. All the major lines or shapes lead to her, or frame her shape. 
2. The background and foreground are gloriously simple BUT NOT dashed off. From even a short distance they look quite resolved. HE SAW THEM IN RELATION TO HIS FOCAL POINT, not one at a time by themselves. Honestly, I know this stuff...
3. If anyone could pull this off in watercolor he could...but he knew light accents on a deep toned field isn't the medium's forte.
4. Diagonals - walls cut your foreground off from your background. It can be done but it requires fancy dancing.
At home I  did a couple 3x5 sketches in my sketchbook - like I SHOULD have done first. 

At least I figured out a horizontal orientation was better but a diagonal leading to a focus - or even just into deep space - would have been better. If you're going to run something right across your picture plane it needs to be a VERY engaging shape.
Oh well...