occasional thoughts when I feel I have something worthwhile to say!
occasional thoughts when I feel I have something worthwhile to say!
"A Quiet Grey Day at Merryfield Farm, Arrowtown." ( 430 x 1140 mm )
Apparently, back in the 1930s and 40s, it was considered desirable to paint on cloudy days when the light was flat and tonal changes were at a minimum.
I dont know about you, but I much prefer painting on sunny days when the light is nice and clear with bright highlights and strong shadows. I find that I am far more excited about painting when there is that glint of the sun on water, the contrast of the lights and darks on the faces of a rocky ridge, brightly lit trunks and branches against the dark bush behind, the full blaze of colour on a sun bathed field of flowers - all 'mouth watering' for me. They bring on the urge to paint!
I therefore found it quite difficult recently, when a friend and I were going painting and the day began to turn grey. Especially as he was coming out for some painting tuition and it was his last day before he was to head home from Queenstown.
So .... as we travelled towards Arrowtown, we decided to head for what I hoped might be a suitable subject.
I've discovered that there are some subjects that for me, tend to be less interesting on a flat day. Panoramic subjects - mountains for example. There are others however, that work perfectly well when the lighting is poor. Coastal paintings get more exciting as the weather gets worse! Derelict old buildings are good to paint almost any time. Especially this particular old building as it has the mountains and dark trees behind to give some tonal contrast and a placid lagoon for a 'feel good' factor in front. ( Most people seem to enjoy calm reflective water! ) So...it's a great subject in almost any weather!
You will have noticed that I've used a stretched format for this painting. I wanted to show the building nestled into its surroundings rather than as a 'portrait' of the building itself. I felt to only show the base of the mountains behind as it allowed me more space for the very expressive lagoon rather than worry about the flat grey sky.
Talking of water, I've had many people ask me how to paint reflections. They avoid it because it's "too hard." I would agree if I was trying to produce a mirror image - but I'm not! I don't wish to for three reasons.
1. It's too trite for me - multitudes of tourists take photos of reflections every day.
2. I don't want to create an image in my painting that competes with my focal point......and
it might look as if I'm trying to rival those photographers!
3. The loosely shaped, soft edged reflections I do are quite easy to achieve, and yet still
say that the water is calm and reflective without trying to be the centre of attention.
( I'm tempted to do a dvd on the subject as so many people seem to have problems
I've realized in the last year or so, that when I paint with people and teach them at the same time,
it naturally takes me longer to complete my painting. However, despite time out to guide them, I'm ending the day feeling more relaxed.... and with a painting that is better designed and more finished than in the past. I suspect that because it's taken all day, it's given me plenty of time to consider what I'm doing, as I talk to them about what they need to be thinking about!
All very nice when it's a great spot like this one!
"Wild water at Baring Head, South Wellington Coast line."
We had been staying with friends in a cottage on the Baring Head coastline for several days. Although the weather had been reasonable with plenty of sunshine, it had been extremely windy and so the idea of painting on the beach was out of the question.
However, on the 4th day, the wind finally dropped and Peter, (my painting companion) and I, carried our equipment down to the beach where there were several groups of rugged rocks that looked like possible subjects.
Of course, the sea was very rough after all the wind, and so although it was now relatively calm, the sea was still a churning mess – exactly as I prefer to paint it. There's'something very special about rough water, the power of the waves, the beautiful colour of the water, and the gleam of white surf. In the right situation with a sandy beach, there is also that beautiful reflection area as the sea recedes between waves.
And then of course, there's the rocks themselves. In low evening light, the colour, and the contrast between the highlights and the shadows is simply mouthwatering!
There's something very stimulating about painting in the outdoors. I painted in the studio for the first 10 years of my painting life. I worked from sketches I did on the spot, as, at the time, I could not afford the cost of photographs! When I look back, I believe it was a better way for me to work as I was not tempted to rely on photographs as 'crutches'. It is so easy I believe, to become ensnared by photographs – to become a copier rather than a creative painter. Don't get me wrong though. I also believe that there are many great painters that work creatively from photographs.
"Creatively" is the keyword! With the advantages of digital cameras now, I also work very occasionally from a photograph. But I certainly prefer to work outdoors nevertheless.
Putting all that aside, that evening on the beach was incredibly stimulating. (I hope the painting demonstrates what I'm writing about).The urgency of the lowering evening light, the tide moving in, and the energy of the scene itself was enough to get the juices going! We worked feverishly and finished just on dusk.
There is a huge sense of satisfaction arriving home with a finished painting in the back of the car. Especially of course, if you feel that it is a good one! Mind you, there's also the depression of a wash off before the painting was even finished. Or worse, you finished it - but it's still no good!
That can happen too often, but the "highs" make it worth it.
I'm very grateful to the painter friend who persuaded me to try going plein air!
Until recently, my impression of some of the blogs I'd read had been a bit negative. People sharing their daily lives (occasionally with interesting bits ) seemed rather self indulgent to me. I could be quite wrong, but that was how I felt.
However, I've now had time to think about it and also been reading Robert Genn's great 'blog thoughts'- (it's well worth googling his website : www.painterskeys.com).
As a result, I've added this page to my website. I had intended doing short teaching videos to put on"You Tube" but, on reflection, decided that having a blog would be easier to keep up with.
Having enjoyed working with art clubs, tertiary summer schools, and small groups over many years, it occurred to me that a blog page, especially if it related to a recent painting, would add interest to my website, and more particularly, painters might find it useful. A good idea! And it might not feel too indulgent!!
So.......this time I want to talk about a painting I did last week on the Dart river bed near Paradise.
This is an amazing place where the Humboldt mountains and Cosmos Peaks tower above a wide riverbed. I felt inspired by the beautiful day and the view so I started with great gusto!
I've always wanted to work in a bold, decisive way where the fluidity of the strokes showed assurance and confidence but I realised half way through the painting that I was labouring -it looked fussy and the tones and colour lacked strength. It looked anything but bold! I have had to tell so many groups that the success of a painting depends on good design, tone, colour, brushwork, etc. Detail and neat edges (careful painting) come further down the list. And here I was producing poor colour, tone, and brushwork.
Almost in despair, I was about to scrape the paint off but stood back to study it for a moment. I remembered Robert Genn's advice - "Talk to the painting and let it talk to you!" Basically, it spoke to me about my lack of courage!
With day light running short and little to lose anyway, I slashed on some much stronger colour and tones in the dark areas and the mid tones under the snowline. The shadowed snow then needed more colour to be 'ín step.' Some blue areas thrown into the sky broke up a rather flat grey. All that took about 10 minutes! Because I was being rough - 'devil may care'- almost at the point of washing off, edges were now much looser, the paint now had areas of 'broken colour' and the tones had much more strength. Overall, the painting was coming to life! It was just a matter of adding snow high lights and the tussock and sand in the foreground and it was finished! The whole repaint had taken perhaps 30 minutes but it had gone from a 'write off' to a favourite!
So much more colour and strength - and even fluidity!
It's strange. Like so many fellow artists I've met, my natural 'default' painting style is much more cautious than I want to be. I need to remember to knock down the walls of the default box and step into the freedom outside. When I do, it feels great!
I hope I've learnt the lesson this time!
Here I am sitting at my computer creating a new website. Not what I intended doing but it's a case of having to - my computer had a hiccup and I've completely lost the ability to edit my old site. So....a new programme to get my head around. Still - it will no doubt improve my computer skills!
I'd rather be out painting although I've not done much just lately. The summer has been too hot and hazy. With the sun high in the sky and very few shadows in the landscape, I've been doing other things.
I've been building a huge steel, netting, and plaster rock on our front boundary as a landmark for example. It will be the base for a sculpture of a native falcon on top. I find that these projects too easily distract me from my real work and I sometimes envy those who have the urge to concentrate just on their painting.
However, the autumn colour is beginning to show and the shadows are stretching so the creative juices will start to flow. A friend and I did go painting last week though. We drove my Hilux high onto the Richardson Range above Glenorchy where we had a great view looking into the Mt. Earnslaw glacier. It's probably my favourite mountain - good height (2819 mtrs), permanent snow, and plenty of angles with interesting foregrounds. And I love that glacier! Tough facing into the sun all day - badly blistered lips! Still....I like the painting so it was worth it. Especially as it sold three days later!
It reminds me of when two friends and I were helicoptered on to Maori Leap (the ridge at the right hand edge of the painting) where we spent the day wading in deep snow and doing our best with the amazing scenery around us. Daunting really as the pressure to produce a good painting was huge! Too huge for me - I had to do quite a bit of touching up later! But what a great day!
I'd love to take a painting group up there one day. They'd have to pay for the chopper though!
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