In January I did another portrait of my west coast granddaughter Luna and somehow forgot to post it, so here it is belatedly.
This is quite similar to the previous painting, Mountain Scene, because I know when my daughter sees the other she's going to want it (she better) but she can't have it as it is destined to live its life for the foreseeable future in hallowed halls which shall remain nameless except for the initials JHU.
So she gets this.
I love some of the photos my wife took in California on my son, Silvio's land. I like the dry grass and the golden tones contrasting so readily with the trees steeped in shadow due to the sun's ever presence during the six month dry season.
Once again I find the scene clearly divided into three obvious areas: the sky, the somewhat distant mountain (it is about one to one and a half miles away) and the foreground which I'm now only indicating as grass, though there will eventually be more. The base coats here are composed of combinations of colors and not homogeneously over mixed, but mixed a bit on the painting surface. The mountain is orange and Cerulean Blue and Chrome Oxide Green. Two separate batches were mixed, one leaning toward the warm, and the other with the same colors but heavier toward the green. There is a warm and a cool version of similar colors because distance imparts a certain degree of homogeneity to all colors, i.e., they are neutralized. Foreground was a blending of Burnt Siena, Yellow Ochre, and some miscellaneous greens and violets. This seems to be more complex than a white or black surface from which to start, but I still consider this a base coat. This is ten minutes work in acrylic.
This is at four hours and at the end of the acrylic phase. I've introduced trees on the mountain and tree and vegetation in the foreground and the tree's shadow in the grass. The trees on the mountain were done first in a blue-violet, and then the sunlit areas on those trees in a neutralized green, slightly shifted to the blue for distance. That could be done with a Veridian and orange (or Cadmium Red Light) and Cerulean Blue.
to me and I feel like lashing myself to the mast. We actually have a mast for these crises. Ok, we don't.
This shot of half of a base coat gives it away that I am working on a wood panel. In this case the base coat didn't have to cover everything. The main reason for that is that there will be leaves and branches where the bare area is and beyond into the sky. I don't want to detail anything yet, and the sky needs to show through almost throughout, so it needs to dry. Indian Red and black for the tree trunks; the usual Cerulean Blue and white for sky.
The discipline in executing this painting involved the awareness that one is seeing through the branches to other leaves and branches beyond, and that most of the most distant views are of the sunlit tops. Therefore, working from most distant to closest, the first layers are light and the closer and often more dark branches and leaves are painted over the more distant ones.
Here we are at 5 hours and at the end of the acrylic phase. After this we go to oils because of the nuanced blending abilities it has over acrylics.
My last Redwood. For now.
In the next two illustrations, I'm working from photos recently taken on my son's land. The base coat here is divided into the four basic parts and colors that are evident: the sky, the grass in sunlight, the grass in shadow, and trees in the distance. cerulean Blue and white for sky; burnt and raw siena for the grass in sunlight, the same plus violets for grass in shadow, and black and Veridian for trees.
The completed painting.
Someone asked me just yesterday, after having read some entries here, whether I always started off with a black background. I answered him short of a full explanation (it was late) by saying, "No". Of the last four Redwood paintings, three did, and one started with white. In this entry and the next few, I'm going to show three examples where I didn't start with black and explain why. The first of these examples is that fourth Redwood.
In this case I began with white latex acrylic and defined the tree trunks in black acrylic. It was easier in this way because of the geometry of the tree trunks perspective.
Some of you may know we recently took a trip to visit my son and granddaughter Luna out in no man's land, CA. Without elaborate explanations, this is a study of them playing in the Eel River. Painting 8" x 10".
Since it takes me fifteen to thirty plus hours to complete some paintings, I figured who would be better to choose to lecture on how to get through it quick. Say you have a database that crunches the numbers and now because of having chosen to attempt to give the ultimate visual representation of light filled reality to my spouse because I love her so very much, my average time for a painting has gone up to ... incredible heights. Then it's time for speed painting to bring the average back down to survivable levels.
I'll call this one Redwoods, again another in this theme series,. This one was again begun on an acrylic (near) black background. This is after three hours of acrylic.
Just a little more with oils. The finished piece at left doesn't look substantially different, except for the tree trunks, though I suspect the main reason for that is that the initial acrylic developed quickly early on, probably due to a favorable distribution of light and dark.
If this one doesn't kill me I hear it might make me stronger.
My until recently very beloved wife asked me to paint from a photo she took on our recent trip to Wonderland, CA. Now I know I could have simply said no based on a recent experience, but instead I chose to elucidate to her the multitude of complexities (and lack of compensatory...well, anything positive as far as I could see) inherent in such an endeavor and the multitudinous pitfalls that promise to befall any would be artist foolish enough to undertake what clearly spells out to me to be the most ridiculously stupid undertaking and possibly the final one for such a fool as myself should I accept the mission. I should have known that "no" might have been more succinct. Let me count the ways I did not want to do this and perhaps revisit the fantasy that this marriage will be my last experiment into that territory. Always cheerfully kidding, of course!
Again starting with a near black acrylic latex background, just a few acrylics were laid out; white, black, a cadmium like yellow, a cerulean blue and a chromium oxide green. Here it is at three hours. I already know I'm going to go a lot further with the acrylics than I normally do, or have done recently because I can get the most "motion" going on with the colors and specifically the color contrasts. Because oils take so much longer to dry, constant work will tend to muddy the colors. Eventually I will want to move to oils because of what I'm finding to be an apparently impossible to explain quality that oil paint can impart.
I had no particular plan or target as to how far I'd go with acrylics and it turned out to be eight hours.
It was at a point about seven hours further on but I took no photo (now I regret that) where my wife decides she liked it better seven hours of work earlier. Let me rephrase that. 'S-E-V-E-N'. Is there any way to describe the angst? What exactly is angst? Is it similar to wanting to put one's head through the drywall? Don't even ask me whose cause I don't want to go there in my mind.
Anyway, after much soul searching and after only very, really very briefly checking out the local personal ads, I begin to rework this painting like I've never reworked any other painting. I can't believe how much more time is going into this 11 x 14. I hallucinate calendar pages flying off the wall, counting unrecoverable epochs of my life going by. Days more into it, afraid to show for fear of further rejection, it becomes my secret project I work all day on, but now no one can see. Until it's done. And when will that be?
I know Leonardo took four years to complete La Giaconda (Mona Lisa), and then made off to France with it. Cause he couldn't part with it, but at the same time I hear he designed a few fortifications for the Duke of Milan and did some other stuff during that time, too, whereas I was not similarly distracted, at least not during the last week anyway. Still, if you think about it that's likely why he never married.
"I like the way it's going, honey".
Or worse: "I liked it better two years ago."