Friday, July 30, 2010

Beginning of stage 1

The first stage begins the process of tweaking colors toward realistic ones. Here's where I am right now:
The sky is taking form -- but now I wait until it dries a little. Then, I'll lighten the yellow, maybe darken the blue toward the top and try to make the transition from yellow-mauve to blue smoother.

The lake is coming along -- again, a little drying, then a touch of peach color to reflect the sky.

The beach below us and in the distance has its initial laydown -- needs a little darkening.

The dune in front now has dark and light grass underpainting -- next for them is modeling using light and shadow.

The stand of jack pine and scrub has its dark underpainting -- modeling next.

Areas representing sand are next. Everything will depend on this.

Final touches, way into the future, includes the tiny details -- strokes that become blades of grass, tree trunks, splotches of shadow, skims of highlights.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Michigan dune - sketch and underpainting

Mike Rooney, the master I am currently following, sketches in magenta. I've already tried to rebel against this, but it's by far the best sketch color to use on the canvas... warmth flows through all the colors you put on the final surfaces. Guru Mike was right - magenta is the way.

The next step is the first phase: the underpainting. Everything dark is deep purple. Everything in the lightest tones is yellow. Second darkest is blue. Second lightest is orange. Third darkest is green. In this instance, I've gone to grays for the third lightest... the white Michigan sand has a definite gray undertone, and I'm thinking this will help bring that out.
It's a bit hard to see right now, though you can make out the upper sky and the lake. The magenta and yellow will become a light mauve and hint-of-orange late summer sky. Orange and gray in the lower half are sand - we're looking at a dune cut from up on a slight escarpment... you'll see the beach in the distance below... along the right, a little burst of jack pine and scrub, and in the foreground, dune grass.

Full-bore Cape Cod School of Art example

Here's an example of the full-bore Cape Cod School of Art approach, done by the woman who was the last to head up the school and teach the techniques in Provincetown, Lois Griffel. Her book, Painting the Impressionist Landscape, is quite good in its presentation of the laboratory-pure Cape Cod School approach. I have a copy and I've learned a lot from it.

She is a consummate artist. But the exaggeration of color in the 'pure' technique is not for me.

Stepping into a new world

Since I last checked in here, I've begun a transition to a new approach -- for me. A while back, I began to look at the many free art lessons at Jerry's Artarama, a discount art supply in Raliegh, North Carolina. I found myself repeatedly feeling in tune with the lessons by Mike Rooney.

And Mike's work caught my attention. Not to mention his accent. It's almost as though he plays Andy Giffith show tapes at night, just to keep it fresh.

One thing led to another, and I ended up buying one of Mike's DVDs, one presenting Carolina beach houses, since beach houses are among the many things I want to paint. There are some great beach times with my sister and our families that I want to re-live. Bit by bit, things slipped away, and the beach times wound down and finally stopped... but, to quote the bartender in Irma La Douce, that's another story.

Anyway, the method that Mike presents on the DVD is his modification of the Cape Cod School of Art approach. In a nutshell, you exaggerate colors when you start, then cycle through spots in the painting, making colors more and more realistic, until you feel that you've captured the light bits and the effects you want.

The more he worked his way into and across his scene, the more astonished and excited I became. The play of light I was seeing unfold was exactly what I want to capture. I was looking at techniques and methods for achieving what I had - up to now - not been able to articulate or analyze.

Now, most of the students of the Cape Cod School pursue an exaggerated color sense, one that doesn't really appeal to me. To me it seems like a mish-mash of Monet waterlily colors hacked over with colors no eye could possibly discern. No shadow is left without fireworks explosions, no plane of color escapes stabbing brush strokes and violent juxtapositions.

But Mike's adaptation strikes me as the perfect balance between ultra-Impressionistic underpainting that helps make things pop, and realistic, tonal handling of colors that ordinary human beings see.

Find Mike's blog and paintings here. I've even committed to an actual, real live course with Mike in October, in Rhode Island, one that cost money. And, if I can sell enough work, I'll travel down to reunite with my Chapel Hill-based sister in November, and take one or two more actual, real courses at Art in the Carolinas in Raleigh, organized by people at Jerry's Artarama.

I'll be posting more shortly. I plan to present the stages in my own, beginner's take of the Rooney/Cod approach to a scene. The scene you'll follow is one from my adolescence, when my family vacationed at my grandfather's cabin on Lake Michigan in the Upper Peninsula - dunes (complete with dune cut) leading to the water on a late summer's afternoon.