My glowing blue oil painting experiment

 

In my mood/concept mapping, I wrote down the words:

mystical
radiant
patina
residue
subtle, profound
fragile, ephemeral

not really sure where this is going but that’s the experience/aesthetic I’m working towards.

It is partially inspired by James McNeill Whistler’s tonalism paintings (there’s a great book by the Clark Art Museum) and I also saw his work in the National Gallery of Art in DC years ago.

I’m playing with all sorts of oil painting goop- gamsol, stand oil, cold wax, linseed oil. I am eyeing this strangely named medium, Neo-Megilp, although I am really trying to resist buying it to satisfy  my curiousity.  Artists of Portland…let’s meet up and try each other’s art supplies for the sake of our wallets!

I started with a dark transparent color, ultramarine. And wow is it glowing In fact, the painting actually really reminds me of a lot of the digital painting work that is coming out of ipads. Not sure if that’s a good thing, but I do like the texture, layering, and softness that is happening. I think I just need to ground the next one in a less artificial feeling color than ultramarine.

Also, this painting looks awesome in direct sunlight, but not as good in inferior lighting. I’m a little worried that all of my oil paintings are going in that direction…

Oh and I painted this on a prestretched oil primed linen panel that was on a major clearance at Blick. Boy could I get spoiled with this material!

 

Garden vignettes

Winter is coming and as Portland gears towards its rainy, gloomy season…I thought I’d inspire myself with these vignettes from my garden.

The trusty grape leaf will hang on usually until around Thanksgiving to early December. It’s cool to see the frost and icicles form on the fading leaves.

grape

Camellias are one of my favorite trees and bloom around February

camelia

 

Later, the garden comes alive with all of the Fruit trees in blossom. It’s so pretty, and deceptively so (all that beauty brings so, so many apples to pick up).

blossom2

I planted this dwarf quince because I loved the delicate pink flowers. But what can I make with quince?

quince

 

Design I Like: Piet Oudulf

I realized that my favorite thing that I saw during my trip to NYC (other than my friends) was the Highline, a public garden built upon an abandoned railroad.

Highline

The fact that the gardens were the most inspiring thing made me realize that I do in fact belong in Portland!

Alison told me that the Highline was designed by garden designer, Piet Oudulf.

gardenista.com

His work is amazing. He uses lots of native plants, perennials, and grasses and he creates these beautiful landscapes that have amazing color in all seasons.

Highline

He uses grasses for color and even the dying seedheads provide textural and color interest in the dead of winter.

http://veronicatsgardens.blogspot.com/
http://www.igpoty.com/ via Pinterest

Highline

Someday I would like to visit the Netherlands and view his private garden. There are so many more beautiful, inspiring garden examples in this pdf I found on the Harvard School of Design course he taught about designing for Mood in the garden:

“Mysticism totally depends on circumstances that are out of your control. Fog, dusk. It makes you feel on your self in a different world.”

“Emotion and mood are vital to the success of a garden…They are qualities, however, that are very difficult to define in hard-and-fast terms. It is always difficult to describe why certain gardens are attractive and not others. It is even more difficult to write prescriptions for creating different moods, for mood is only something that can be planned into a garden to a limited extent.”

Sounds like painting too 😉

 

Spella Coffee (Caffe)

I was looking for a place that was less chain store feeling near Pioneer Courthouse, the part of Portland that has the Apple Store, the Nike Store, the Microsoft Store, and the big Nordstroms.  I was pleasantly surprised to find this tiny coffee shop, Spella. They have the best Google website description: single-origin traditional espresso, macchiato and cappuccino.

It is darling. It is a small shop, inside this big impressive downtown building. It is almost on a tiny home / food cart scale. I didn’t know they made stores with this footprint..but it sounds like a great idea to me. Great food businesses can afford the rent and I get to eat the food!

It feels very European. Delicious pastries and the best coffee. In fact, I think I read that they serve the best coffee in Portland. Wow!

Textile & ceramics in paintings at the Met

Remember the cool green jug I got from OKO Portland and then painted in this still life study?  Cezanne had a green one too and I got to see his paintings up close at the Met in NYC.

While I left mine pretty transparent, Cezanne painted his with glorious thick paint. I also love the patterned wallpaper. It’s a dirty yellow ochre, but somehow still glowing.

Here’s another still life with the green jug:

Here’s an amazing turquoise and deep blue pitcher in a Van Gogh still life. Isn’t that lime green background so yummy! His work is full of textural painterly brushstrokes but the paintings don’t feel unsettled I think because there is the balance of the thin, delicate dark paint strokes.

Look at these luscious textiles in these paintings by Vermeer.

Inspiration From the new Whitney: Willem de Kooning

Willem de Kooning, Woman and Bicycle @ The Whitney

The new Whitney Museum looks like Boston’s ICA and is similarly situated near the water on Manhattan’s west side near the High Line. I was kind of disappointed by the lack of exhibits for the amount that I paid, but their permanent collection was quite good. It rained when I went but they also have a very nice observation deck and cafe on the top floor.

I really liked this information provided by the Whitney curators:

Willem de Kooning never believed that abstraction and representation were mutually exclusive. As he stated: “I’m not interested in ‘abstracting’ or taking things out or reducing painting to design, form, line, and color. I paint this way because I can keep putting more things in it–drama, anger, pain, love, a figure, a horse, my ideas about space. Through your eyes it again becomes an emotion or idea.”

This de Kooning painting was large at 76 1/2 × 49 1/8 in. Some questions that I ask myself are: how do I know when I’m done, and is this piece professional, museum quality. It’s interesting to see the bare linen exposed at the edges with the staples showing and no frame or glass.

A lot of paintings now will have a solid color painted on the edges to provide a more polished look. I usually think of linen as suitable for fine glazing techniques but de Kooning had no problem with applying his oil paint thick in many locations.

Close snapshots of various parts of the painting look like they could be their own abstract painting.

He also used vivid, saturated pastel colors but the painting is balanced by the black and the grey of the raw linen. I wonder how he  treated his linen. It doesn’t look like used any white gesso, which is normally used to protect the supporting material of canvas or linen from the oil paint. I too like the color of raw linen better than  the very white gesso.

 

 

Painting Inspiration at the Met: Henri Matisse

I was lucky enough to go to one of my favorite museums in NYC, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. When I went there as a kid, I remember being in so much awe, thinking ‘I could never do that!’. Now as an adult, I still am amazed, but I have more ideas on how they were able to create the paintings.

Matisse is known for his bright colors, but I really noticed how thinly he applies his oil paint in some cases letting the “white” show through. You can also see the pencil from his drawing.

One critique I have of my own paintings that show brushwork and a lot of texture is that they can feel too busy or unsettled. Matisse finds the balance.

Matisse

It’s colorful and lively but the painting still feels settled. Even with the brushstrokes being very apparent, he does provide space for the eye to rest with the large swatches of the same color.

What’s really interesting about this Matisse painting of lilacs is the background has three values (dark, medium, light) but the entire painting doesn’t feel too chaotic.

Normally a  painting will have a background that is only dark, or brighter than the subject, or a medium value. I think the fact that he used a true black helps to balance the bright lavender and green that he used.

I love this little guy that he randomly adds to the painting. From the way the black bleeds it does look like he used some kind of solvent like turpentine or gamsol.

 

I LOVE the colors of this still life painting of goldfish.

Again he finds a way to balance the bright pastel colors of the apple and the water glass using more muted, neutral shades like the patterning of the wallpaper. Normally, (like if I was painting using these colors) the  burnt sienna/brown/red shade would look like poop but it’s really beautiful in his application and it balances the blues in the painting quite wonderfully. It almost looks like he went quickly with a layer of burnt sienna and then applied a layer of transparent green on top. Together they blend to make more of a darker brown.

Here’s another pretty lady. Again I think the fact that he uses a liberal amount of true black helps balance the pastel pinks and purples.

Exploring Color with botanical watercolors

I have mentioned before on this blog how I am always looking for great shades of grey. I have found one from a mix of transparent maroon and an emerald green.

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In this painting of silhouetted quince leaves I played around mixing the grey on the palette and allowing the colors to mix directly on the paper. What do you think would be a good background color to complement them? The green turns this crazy bright teal color. It’s a little too psychedelic for me, but I really enjoy the shades of grays that are produced when blended with the maroon.

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I tried this same color scheme in my painting of an ornamental plum tree branch, using a background of coral colored paint because coral and grey go well together. Again this is also feeling a little too garish. I think if I can get just the right amount of understated greys , it will look really nicely against a coral colored background.

What was interesting while I was painting this were the muted shades of maroon and green on top of the more tangerine colored background…together they started to make this brown color…too much of it and the painting would look muddy but just enough of it helps offset some of the bright saturated colors used elsewhere. It’s kind of like cooking (not that I can cook) where you seek to have just the right balance of acid…too much and the dish is bitter/sour…too little and the dish is too salty/sweet…with the right amount you achieve a superb balance of flavors. That’s what I’m going for this balance…I haven’t hit it yet but hopefully with the same colors I can get it in my next painting!

 

 

Wednesday night oil sketches

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Here is a oil painting sketch of Moolack beach where I’m trying to capture the wind blowing across the sands while reflecting the sky during low tide. I’m using Arches oil paper which in theory should be awesome. As someone with a full time job outside of art, time for art is always limited. I have been looking and trying  various  supports that will simplify the task of art production (prepping canvases or boards until I win the lottery and can pay for my own studio assistant) and give me more time to paint. Unfortunately the Arches oil paper is as unappealing to me as their watercolor paper. It has the texture of a bounty paper towel and it is WAY too absorbent—it somehow doesn’t let me to remove any paint off the paper which for me is one of the defining characteristics of the oil paint medium—it’s malleability and wiping-off ease. So anyways for this study, I’m not even trying to do much glazing or thin layers. I’m aiming for bold, thick layers which I would never do on a canvas or linen but I almost have to do on this oil paper. I also did an under layer of acrylic. Actually I think this paper should be marketed as acrylic paper because it is thick and it is pretty decent for acrylics. But the paper is way too expensive to use for just that purpose.

So far this painting is too aggressive and chaotic to me. On this paper it’s hard to make the subtle blends that the location really calls for.  This painting just goes to show you how hard it is to paint simply. I’ve been admiring Katherine Bradford‘s oil painting work for a long time. Her work uses the icons and imagery of children’s art….superheroes, boats, and simplified human forms..but the work is decidedly not childish…it’s beautiful and masterfully done. All the haters that look at this type of work and say I could do that…trust me it’s not as easy as it looks.

Katherine Bradford found on hyperallergic.com
Katherine Bradford found on hyperallergic.com
Katherine Bradford found on painters-table.com

I also did another oil painting study of Bandon beach. We went down to the southern Oregon coast earlier this month. I haven’t posted about that trip but stay tuned. It was AWESOME!!!

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It’s at a stage where I like the looseness and softness (and the maroon color glazes) and I debate if I should continue and risk losing what I’ve already done by potentially overworking it. I’ll probably just keep going.

Emily Henderson, writer of the  design blog I read everyday, says that in the early stage of a creative career, it’s quantity over quality that matters. So in that spirit no point in being a perfectionist and being scared to ruin this painting….right now it’s about learning and exploring.

 

 

Lake oil painting study

I’m working on an oil painting landscape of Lake George at sunset. My goal was to use more vivid colors instead of the classic burnt umber understudy as the first layer in the hopes of capturing more glow and reflection. I also wanted to use darker transparent colors that I have not yet used before to ‘bridge’ the midtone, similar to the sweet pea study that I did a couple weeks ago.

There I painted the flower petals a bright lavender first. Then I glazed with a darker transparent color over it to build the mid tone bridge. This process is different than the slow build of dark to light. We’ll see how it turns out for this landscape.

In the first layer I used montserrat orange by Williamsburg mixed with naples yellow.  Even though the trees are going to be this fabulous green orange dusky color, I used this amazing purple called dioxazine purple as the base color, it’s dark, transparent, and fairly balanced between red and blue. It’s like the sap green of purples.

In my second layer I brought out the sap green and a darker green mix made of sap green, burnt umber,  and ultramarine blue.

At this point I was really hesitant to go over with paint for the fear of overworking what I already liked going on. But as I ‘ve been listening to inspirational words over the past year, you can’t be afraid to ruin it and I just need to treat this as a study, not as a masterpiece. If it’s ruined oh well I’ll just paint over it.

Being bold with the darks really helped ground the painting and I’m glad I did that. I also was lent this amazing maroon dark purple shade- not really sure what color it is but I’ll have to find a way to mix that. I love using dark maroons and purples in watercolors too.

For the orangey glow of dusk kissing the leaves I started mixing the transparent red oxide and the brown madder in with my sap green.