Tuesday, November 25, 2014

More... on Adapting to Seasonal Change - Part Two

Sneaky November continues... even its gasping moments... to precariously straddle winter and autumn - undecided as to which direction to proceed. For almost a week, we were snow-covered in an ermine winter coat of fresh snow with temperatures hovering in the low minuses. Yesterday, temperatures rose to +6*C and the sun made you feel like spring had arrived. The plein air dude in me... yearned to flee the studio easel. Discipline...Come to my rescue!

Despite these dramatically divergent weather swings... the vicious and predictable "winds of November came a'calling"- the kind of dreaded November 50km++ gale force winds described in Gordon Lightfoot's iconic Canadian ballad,"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." Even today, all Great Lakes and River mariners fear... and respect these phenomena of November. Those who don't lie at extreme risk and peril!

I am in the "commission" mode at present... locked in the studio at my easel... working feverish to complete three of the five commissions on my books required before Christmas. I am at the time of writing in the final stages of completing the second. Commission work is not my favourite venture. That lies simply in the fact that the "Idea" is not solely my construct. However, I must, out of respect and necessity accommodate and blend the tastes of the client(s) with my own. Not always an easy task for me!

However, on the positive side of the ledger, having to take into account such "outside" influences in my working process is broadening. This requirement forces me to approach painting in a significantly different manner. In that respect, commission work causes one to think "outside the box"... and that is good for any artist. Often real tangible growth comes out of adversity and deep challenge to one's own "sacred cows" and traditional values.

The first commission, as described in the previous post demanded that a plein air sketch to finished studio work approach be undertaken. The differences between the two genres in  that exercise are clearly evident when one observes the finished state of both. Clearly... one is created quickly... almost intuitively on location. The sketch readily reveals the spontaneity and bravura of rapid brushwork. It appears fresh and painterly... unpretentious and loose in attention to detail. These are the hallmarks of the plein air genre and they appeal most strongly... usually... to the trained eye and heart of other plein air advocates and highly educated eye of those who share the passion for art on a high plane.

The more finished studio painting incorporates and maintains the strongest elements of the original sketch such as composition and basic colour. But often, the artist will choose to elevate this painting to a higher level by playing with elements of lighting, colour and values to create what might appeal more to those who choose to look at the world more photographically. A more complete and accurate representation of "reality" is what they search for. It reaffirms their own sense of reality and their own personal experiences.

As the artist... I have no real preference for one over the other... except to say that I prefer to paint on location because I find the other elements experienced when outside add further pleasure to my painting for me. I feel that the plein air process with oils accommodates the spontaneous nature of my own personality and the solitude is something that I crave from time to time. Painting/ creation by its very nature... is an individual pursuit. Both are painting challenges... and both form an integral partnership in my painting life.

Here are a few jpegs which might assist you to better understand how I work in this sketch to finished painting method. Enjoy!

The plein air sketch "Last Vestige of Winter, Algonquin Park" oil on panel 12x16 inches

Day one objective was to translate the composition on to the larger 20x24 inch toned  panel. I decided to maintain the surface "feel" by using the panel rather than canvas. The panel offers a smoother surface on which to glaze in initial colour washes. Note the sparse "mapping" as opposed to actual drawing used to establish preliminary guidelines. I then proceed, as I most often do in the field to use a "blocking in" of main masses of colour to achieve a lay in. I try to cover most of the entire painting surface within the first 30 to 60 minutes. However... I stopped at this point because I was uncertain as to how much detail I would include in the foreground. In studio practice... when in doubt... Sleep on it!

Pretty much everything is in place at the conclusion of painting on day number two. I have clearly established stronger lighting effects and have clearly set a more direct course for the finish of the foreground... but not quite. I rested again... pausing to consider values... specific details that would provide further interest and "colour surprise" which I customarily add to trap the eye of the viewer's attention in certain areas. Fewer... "miles to go... before it sleeps".... akin to Frost... as he so beautifully described his own snowy encounter with his Vermont landscape.

Winter's reluctant March... into Spring... in the bucket! Completed with a few "hot spots"... fore-to middle- to back. I feel pleased with the final result. More importantly... so are the clients! They are anxious for deliver... after a period of time to dry the surface. The Winsor and Newton Griffin Alkyd Fast Drying White that I use in my palette is fully compatible with all regular oils. It greatly hastens the drying process and allows reworking quickly.

I sincerely hope that this post helps you to better understand my own painting practices and process. Perhaps, in some small fashion its contents might assist you in supporting your own work and vision.

Good Painting!... To ALL!!!!

Post Script Observances... on my travels this week... here for your enjoyment. Joy... can truly come from the smallest of unexpected blessings. These are a few of those that raised the corners of my mouth for a brief instant... but they lessened the gretness of my own day considerably!

"I" ... am greatly blessed!

Winter... Rockapulco-style... out of our kitchen window. Not a creature is stirring!... Suits me! HA HA!!

"Which way is south from here Mister?"... No GPS  on board this creature!

"Trick-or-treat Deb? What'd ya mean... it's all over till next year?"

Shortly after this picture was taken... I carried off the two big Hallowe'en pumpkins into a quiet wooded area near my daughter's home. I knew that there were several deer "yarding up" in there for the winter. I knew that pumpkins are a huge treat for them... so I took them to the path they use regularly and chopped them into bite-sized pieces with my hatchet. A return trip to the spot yesterday revealed that they had enjoyed my better-late-than never Hallowe'en treat. A fit end for those BIG orange fellows! Twice their worth!

Who said winter is without warmth? You simply have to go just a step or two past mere looking to "see"... and "feel" its beautiful warmth! "Seek... and ye shall find.".... "Who"... said that... when?????


  1. Such a beautiful painting! So glad the deer ate the pumpkin and so good to know that they like it! I will remember that for the future.

  2. Good morning Friend Sherry!... Thank you for dropping by and for your compliment! Much appreciated!

    There is so much to enjoying and sharing painting with others isn't there Sherry? Your smile and joyful spirit... are "pumpkin"... for the rest of us who share your journey. Remember that when you feel down in spirit! YOU... matter!.

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,