Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Starts and Finishes
Over the last couple of months I have gotten several emails asking questions about various aspects of my painting process. Since I don't have a small painting to post today, I thought it might be a good time to write about that... if anyone happens to be interested. First, I should say that my painting process has changed pretty radically over the last year, so what I say here isn't something I've been doing a long while or am even sure is the way I should be doing it. Previously and for many years , I worked in a fairly direct way- not exactly alla prima (except outdoors) but definitely direct. Now, I am painting in a more indirect method which involves using layers of paint - and more passages of transparent paint. So here is a typical lay in using a color made by Vasari called Shale. It is the workhorse dark on my palette- I like it because its transparent and has a warm violet undertone. I used to thin my paint with OMS for this stage, but now I often use an almost dry brush technique to put this first layer down because it will show through in portions of the finished painting. This is also why I like a linen with a little bit of texture so that I can also use that texture to describe elements of the landscape, like here, where the texture of the canvas and the drybrush help describe the field. I also use a rag to wipe out lights and a palette knife to scrape out finer lights.
Here is the next stage of the painting where more transparent layers have been added to the trees and also the field. When you are planning to use layers of glazes you have to be very careful not to get things too dark too quickly. Unlike a more direct method - where you can always adjust the value of a shape with another coat of opaque paint- if you want to keep that area transparent, you have to get it exactly right from the start (which is always a good idea anyway!). In addition, because successive glazes will darken the glazed area, you have to start a bit lighter than you plan to end up. I will also use a scumble occasionally( a thinned translucent layer of paint, usually containing white or some other light opaque mixture) to lighten an area, or to soften edges and create atmosphere. I use Liquin as a medium. I also use it between layers to "oil out" the painting- that is to bring the colors and values back to their original state so another layer can be accurately judged against what has already been laid down. Here, the opaque portions of the painting, the water and sky, haven't been laid in yet but the light value of the canvas "stands in" for that value. Using transparent paint in the darks and opaque paint in the lights is pretty standard procedure, but I like to mix it up sometimes, using mostly transparent paint for the entire piece like here or transparent paint in some of the lights, like here.
Here is the finished painting. The sky and water have been added with opaque paint (Naples yellow and Gamblin Brown Pink + a touch of white) and then glazed over with several transparent layers. More layers have been added to the trees and ground plane, creating what I hope is a rich color harmony. This painting is available at Ernest Fuller Fine Art in Denver, Colorado.