Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Ducks and Geese" (oil on linen, 8" x 12") sold


Reference photo

When I showed my teacher, Diane Tesler, the above picture I took at Solomons Island, MD, she told me to keep it as a photo.  Apparently, it was too cute for her taste.  But she is in Indiana on vacation, and I am free to paint whatever I feel like.  So I painted "Ducks and Geese" today.

How can you resist the charm of this tableau?  Three geese decked in bright yellow rain gear were so jaunty that I and my friends burst out laughing when we spotted it while driving by.  The house owner obviously had a terrific sense of humor.  What made it even funnier was the two real ducks that happened to be there, as if they were checking them out.  I could almost hear one of them saying "if they are real, I am Donald Duck!"

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Summer Sunrise" (oil on linen, 12" x 9") sold


Tuesday was the summer solstice, when the daylight was longest of the year.  Yesterday, the sun rose at 5:44 am.  At 5: 45 am, I came downstairs and looked out of the living room window.  I don't usually get up this early, but boy, I was glad!  The scene above greeted me.  It lasted only for a few minutes, and you are not supposed to stare at the sun.  The painting was done from a photo.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"Pink, Orange, and Midnight Blue" (oil on linen, 12" x 12") sold


This is the last plein air painting of the week.  No, I did not paint it at night.  The title has something to do with the dark purple blue background I chose at a whim.  I went back to Bon Air Memorial Rose Garden in Arlington by myself early Wednesday morning and wandered around for almost half an hour.  I just couldn't make up my mind.  Do I paint a beautiful wooden arbor and challenge myself with drawing?  A single rose?  Red roses?  A rose trellis?  I sat on every chair and bench at the park to try out different views.

Eventually I sat down to paint these pink/orange roses, pretty much out of exhaustion.  Some days are like that--an attack of indecisiveness.  An hour into the painting, I began to regret my choice.  The flowers slowly changed their forms before my eyes as the sun got higher!  Instead of panicking, I decided to relax and just enjoy the beautiful weather.  If the painting didn't turn out well, what did it matter?  Unlike the day before, bees, not a snake, kept me company.  Occasionally, park visitors stopped by to take a picture of me and roses.  I spent three lovely hours in the midst of roses.

When I came home, I printed out the photo of my models and worked on the problem areas right away since the paint was still wet.  I doubt that I will go back to the rose garden soon, but I learned much that day about shadows on roses.  With warm light, such as the sun, the shadows are generally cool; wtih cool light like the light from a north-facing window, shadows are warm; this rule, however, doesn't apply to roses because their petals are translucent.  Do you know what?  Some shadows were cool!  I read art books religiously, but nothing beats practice.  Painting from life in natural light for three consecutive days was a great gift to myself.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Great Falls Roaring" (oil on linen, 14" x 11") sold


Last week when I heard the weather forecast for the first three days of the coming week, I knew what I would be doing.  Plein air painting!  I organized a paintout at Great Falls Park in northern Virginia.  Five of us met in the late morning on Monday, congratulating each other on our good fortune of painting outside on such a glorious day, which is rare here during the summer. 

I painted Great Falls three times last summer with unsatisfactory results.  I learned that rocks could move!  Not literally, of course.  But after a couple of hours of staring the same rocks under the intense sun with hearing deafened by the roaring water, rocks did seem to move.  I ended up overpainting.  This year, I came up with a new battle plan.  I decided to cheat.  How?   By framing a good design on the LCD screen of my trusty Leica, and drawing the big, major shapes on the linen, I saved a lot of time at the outset. 

Then I painted the sky, the distant woods, the foreground rocks, and so on.  I painted in, section by section, finishing brushstrokes, meaning I didn't go back later to refine if I could help it.  For the rocks, I focused on the planes, values (lights/darks), and subtle color changes.  As you can see in the above photo, the rocks don't have a lot of detail at this point, but the major shapes, values, etc. were well established. 

The water, or rather, the pattern created by the water falls was the structure under the design, so it was important to get their shapes right.  Wow, you would not have believed how dark and blue green it was in some places.  By the time I went as far as the stage captured in the photo, I was getting tired and hungry.  The sun had moved and, despite the umbrella, the canvas and palette were in the sun, which is no, no.  I quickly finished the rocks on the left in the middle ground and called it quits.  The painting was finished at home today.

Friday, June 10, 2011

"Rose Arbor" (oil on linen, 12" x 16") sold


Reference photo

No, I didn't paint the picture outside.  In this heat?  No way!  A friend of mine who painted with me at Green Spring Gardens Park on Tuesday ended up in a hospital emergency room.  Please drink plenty of water and stay cool.

I took the reference photo at River Farm in Alexandria, VA exactly a month ago, and started the painting soon after.  But lots of things happened since; it got put aside.  Once the excitement is gone, it's hard to get back to that place.  Since leaving something unfinished goes against my "I am not a quitter" philosophy, however, I managed to complete "Peach Roses." 

As we are getting into the green-green-everywhere-green season, a landscape painter's task is to learn to mix many shades of greens--warm, cool, intense, grayed, dark, pale, etc.  I pushed back the distant pergola and the rest of  the right side of the painting by using lots of grayed violets.  For that reason, the painting is much easier to read than the photo, which tends to flatten space.  Now I am done with the darned thing, I can paint something else.  Yeah!

Monday, June 6, 2011

"Mount Rushmore" (oil on stretched linen, 28" x 32")

click here to buy

"Mount Rushmore" is the most ambitious and largest oil painting I have ever painted.  A celebration piece, actually, on my becoming American citizen last month.  I even learned how to stretch canvas by watching my teacher Diane Tesler, who did the actual work.  With a teacher like that, one can go far indeed.  Thank you, Diane. 

I had done a miniature painting (6 x 8") of the same subject, which simply did not do justice to the grandeur of Mount Rushmore.  The sculptor Gutzon Borglum had an awe-inspiring vision to carve the likenesses of four great presidents into the mountain itself.  I had the photo of the usual view of this American icon, but chose this view for two reasons.  From this vantage point, one can see only George Washington and Abraham Lincoln--my two heros--fully; Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt can be just glimpsed.  And I wanted to be present a different picture not too many people have seen.

I added  a lot of sky, more than a quarter of the painting, which made the huge sculptures look way up and grand.  Although it is a close-up picture, I wanted the viewer to feel the air between her and the subject.  So I kept the values of the subject light (high-keyed) and introduced the blues of the sky into the rocks.  The V-shaped chasm was painted warmer than the rest of the painting as sort of a divider between Lincoln and the other three presidents.  Originally, he looked so deathly ill that I had to give him more life, so to speak.  I am proud of my endeavors and thankful to the great presidents who created and kept together this country.

Friday, June 3, 2011

"Iwo Jima Memorial" (oil on linen, 11" x 14")

A friend of mine wanted to paint Iwo Jima Memorial.  She went there twice just to draw and several more times to paint it in the course of two weeks.  Impressive!  Tuesday last week I was supposed to meet her there, but somehow missed the exit off Arlington Boulevard and ended up in Washington, DC.  Oops.  Yesterday I followed another friend's car not to get lost again.  I don't know what the story says about me: my stubbornness or poor driving skills.

Anyhow I made it this time and was impressed by the memorial.  I have seen it many times driving by, but never actually visited it to pay my respect to the people who died during the terrible battle fought on Iwo Jima in 1945 during World War Two--20,000 Japanese and many American soldiers as well.  The weather could not have been better after the last several steamy summer days of Washington.  Four of us settled in a shade to paint the view undistrupted.

The biggest challenge of painting "Iwo Jima Memorial", of course, was drawing, since it involved the sculpture of five men.  You don't have much margin of error in drawing human anatomy.  The sculture doesn't move, but the shadows do.  When I started the drawing, the memorial was backlit; by the time I started painting it was sidelit.  This worked in my favor, but the shadow/light shapes had to be adjusted accordingly.

I used to have a tendency of getting into a slight panic mode whenever I painted outside.  The pressure of limited time, the sun's movement, clouds moving in and out, and so on made me hurry and do a sloppy drawing to get going with painting.  Now I usually sit down to paint, which is less tiring to my lower back and somehow inducive to a more calm attitude.  If I nail the drawing at the outset, the painting takes less time and becomes less belabored.  Each brushstroke is deliberate and there isn't much blending going on (or, at least, that is the goal).  Richard Schmid is my saint patron; I read his book, Alla Prima, in rapture.  These days I try to channel his spirit whenever I paint.  I cheated, however, with one thing.  The flag was painted at home from a photo.  Am I bad?

The painting was juried into The Art League show in Alexandria, VA in June, 2011.