Monday, June 4, 2012

Get There 2.5 Mid-Levels

It has been a little while since I have done one of these posts, or any posts for that matter.  I had no intention to step away from the blog, or even take a break.  But coming back into my routine and considering that I just put a final coat of varnish this painting an hour before I began writing this post, I thought it would be best to return to this series of Get There posts.

At this point with these paintings many of the steps are pretty much the same techniques, repeated over and over with different colors.  Fortunately, that makes this post easy for me and requires much less writing.

I pretty much make all of the land details on this painting with a 1/8" filbert, a roughly 01 round, and the smallest round point brush I can find (to be honest I forget the numbering system, maybe it's a 001 size).  Slowly but surely I scribble each layer on inch by inch, leaving sharp dark edges for trees and bushes, and rubbing other edges with my finger to soften the transition from darker to lighter layers.  I will come to realize later in the painting that this particular piece is pretty much all background, with very few legible details.

It's a shame how completely unhelpful this photo is.  There really is no way to get a good reading of this brown I previously used, by looking at this photo.  This isn't even taking into account the fact that each different computer will make this little container of paintl look different from screen to screen. Fortunately I got a whole bunch of these photos lined up.

Wow, again I apologize for this photo but I am working with just a point and shoot because I do not have the time to stage nice pictures or stitch together a nice little video.  Regardless, there is useful information to glean from all of this.  This photo highlights the small subtleties between warm and cool colors that you must juggle between different portions of the land.  At this stage I had to start distinguishing between three main different tones of the land in the painting:

--The cooler gray-brown of the higher elevated mountains.
--The warmer ochre-ish brown of the mid-range mountains.
--The brighter green-brown of the benches and valley

I started these mid-layer steps by mixing a good ochre tone for the mid-range mountains.  My process would normally dictate that I start with the more distant gray mountains but that tone didn't really spread through the rest of the image so it was much safer to start with the ochre.

The color of this photo was saturated some with the camera, which tends to be an inevitable side effect of over compensating while fixing overexposure.

Though this color looked awkward in regards to the palette of the painting it will actually layer into the piece pretty smoothly.  It never ceases to amaze me how much different the color looks on the canvas than on the glass palette.  That's why I usually have a gray palette.

If you are really looking for a high functioning palette to mix color on though, you should use a sheet of glass taped to a board painted in four sections:


Here is a closer shot of the brushes.  The round brushes constantly get chewed up on this canvas.  Three of them were pretty much unusable by the time I finished.  I didn't have a good photo of them, but by the end the bristles would funnel in toward the center then poof out on the tip, making them not only hold little paint but also struggle with accuracy.  The brush on the right leads me to believe that I started with a flat head brush that actually just withered into the shape of a filbert.  Of course, this is a different brush than in the first photo and this one was more likely used to build some hard edges and develop a little more form and structure into the mountains.

The round point brush was good for adding a sense of foliage, though while applying I was constantly trying to prevent the side effect of it looking like choppy water.  There was lots of finger smudging at this point, which inevitably made me start to lose some of the form of the mountains.

You can see the fresher ochre paint in the upper right of the photo.  This layer was executed in multiple sittings and though it is not as common with oils, they still can dry a little cooler than the intended color.

Regardless, a more common problem I started to face at this point was the spacing of the dark spots.  When filling in an area and building positive structures of trees and rocks by painting the negative space around them, it is very easy to accidentally space the negative spots too equally apart from each other.  Much in a similar way as if trying to paint stars in a night sky and making them all equidistant from each other.  Our brains have a natural tendency to try to order our visuals to make the interpretation of what we are looking at easier to comprehend.  It is important to paint meticulous and subtle details with a clear head.

This shot should give a better idea where the painting is so far.  I was a little nervous about the scale of the value jump to this layer, but I usually tend to not push the contrast in my paintings as far as I should.  In this case, this is an improvement for me.

This right side of the mountain was bothering me and began to look too flat.  I spent so much time scribbling in the details of the lighter layer that I didn't pay attention to the form of the mountain, particularly in the center of this photo.  The overly even spacing of the dark spots only added to the problem.

Sorry about the glare in this photo.  I only have one spot I can hang this piece on my wall and the skylight above my studio can make shooting this painting a battle.

You can see the problem on this closeup of the left side of the mountain too.  The warmer fresh paint is clearly applied with less attention paid to the structure.  One of the most common mistakes I make is letting my short attention span get the best of me and trying to speed through the process.  My only saving grace is being able to catch myself when things start going south.

When a painting begins to unintentionally lose form and structure I either recover by laying in large, rectangular, hard edge strokes with a square edge brush or, in this case, lightly draw out the contours of the planes to make sure I follow the detailing correctly.  This painting was too far along to try the first option.

As I worked up the left mountainside the form began to return.  I mentioned earlier that there are three main tones I am was working with.  That was why I hadn't applied much of this layer to the upper center. Though it contained some ochre and brown elements I decided to wait and put down a base consisting of a little more gray.  I applied this tone to the bottom benches (it is a more green area) though because  it made for a good base to begin applying the brighter green tones later.

I was nervous applying this gray layer too.  Much similar to how I felt while applying the ochre mix, the value jump felt relatively drastic and didn't sit too well with the other colors on the painting.  In many cases I would try to just remove it with Turpenoid and try again later but I decided to spin the wheel on this one and see if it provided a more striking tone to work off of for the mountains.  In other words, this was just a another case of me letting my short attention span get the best of me again.

Though the gray seemed odd on the canvas, next to the other sealed colors, I was really starting to see a nice earthy palette form.  This was also a factor that contributed to me sticking with the gray.  Letting it dry and coming back to the painting later was the only way to know for sure.

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