Friday, March 19, 2010

Summer 2009 Nashville Area Plein Air

I'm posting today not out of any conscientious effort to update. I'm doing this simply to stay awake. I pulled an all-nighter to meet an illustration deadline, and I'm finding it really hard to keep going. I knew that posting some paintings and talking about them would wake me up.

Going back to last summer, I practiced painting outdoors several times a week. So far I have posted paintings from my immediate neighborhood. Now I'm posting pieces from other Nashville areas. I hope I can look back on this later with a new understanding of how to paint better plein air works. 

Here is a 5x7 of Percy Priest Lake. This the only painting in this post that I feel somewhat pleased with. I had a slightly easier time with this one because there's so little green in it...I've mentioned before how the endless variety of greens in Tennessee can be overwhelming.

I painted this 5x7 of a hayfield while out painting with Kevin Menck. Wow, that was one sweltering day, even in the shade. Kevin's feel-no-pain enthusiasm helped me keep my spirits up! During this excursion he told me about Plein Air Nashville, which became a regular part of my painting activities ever since.
Here's a 6x8 of Percy Priest Lake, painted the same day as the 5x7. I hate the dull, muddy grass and trees.
Here's a painting I did on Memorial Day at Natchez Trace at sunset. I like the soft feel and the daring of attempting a sunset, but overall this has some serious value issues. I painted this one on a 3x4 inch stretched canvas.

This is the first painting I did with Plein Air Nashville. We painted the Cumberland River from a bridge near the Opry Mills area. Apparently I was having an epic struggle that day, because almost a year later Kevin remembered how I was so covered with paint that he almost didn't recognize me.

This is Nashville's iconic "Batman Building," or to be more mundane, a Bellsouth building. I painted this with Plein Air Nashville from the downtown walking bridge. 

Now for some meandering about my progress as a painter. As I have mentioned before, plein air is the hardest type of painting I have tried. Out in the sunlight, even with my canvas and palette properly shaded, I feel like I can't truly judge what colors I'm seeing in my paint mixes. My color choices seem to be bright and saturated enough when I view them outside, but when I bring them indoors I'm always alarmed by the dreadful dullness. I haven't painted much plein air since last fall, but I have been reading Schmid's Alla Prima and studying/painting with Kevin Menck and Jason Saunders since then. This continuing education makes me aware that there's a lot more going wrong that just getting befuddled by the glaring sunlight. Even if the sun really is throwing off my absolute sense of color, I still should be aware of whether my relative values and temperature are correct. If I could get this balance correct, at least in a relative sense, I think my paintings will look less muddy when I bring them indoors, even if the absolute colors may not be accurate. With time, I can probably learn to compensate for sun-induced confusion by exaggerating color saturation. But until I learn to do that, I need to be more meticulous about nailing the relative values and temperature. The hardest part about plein air is that I will need to achieve that level of accuracy within 30 minutes to an hour. 

Hey, my plan worked! I feel more awake after racking my brain to comment about painting. Now I can get back to my sleep-deprived illustrating.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mini Fruit and Vegetable Studies

It's still spring/summer 2009, and the mini routine continued indoors and outdoors. I was painting every day or almost every day, some weeks. The practice of ritualistically cranking out a painting a day was comforting. I didn't have to think too hard ... no worries about wasting a large amount of paint and canvas ... not a huge time commitment ... just shut up and do it. I knew with each one I would gain a little more experience. This sense of decisiveness and hope pulled me out of a painting slump that had gone on for years.

These two oranges sold at an art show in February, 2010. I was sorry to see them go! At least the buyer seemed really delighted with them. The oranges and the banana are my favorites of this series. They seem bright and cheerful ... and tasty. Those three are all on 5x6 stretched canvas.

Here's a tomato/sweet potato duo. I was especially drawn to the subtle tones in the sweet potato skin. One thing that bothers me is how the tomato is in sharper, brighter focus than the potato.
I had the HARDEST time with the temperature changes in the strawberry flesh. In order to get the values I thought I was seeing, I deepened the shadows with probably way too much French ultramarine. But at the time I felt I had no other choice to get the value dark enough. The brighter red areas also seem too cool. I do like the drawing, at least. 
I like how the fuzz created a soft, cool glow on the darker peach. I'm not sure why this painting turned out more dim than the oranges and banana, which I had painted before the peaches. (These peaches were delicious, by the way!)
I included the crude, chunky painting below because this is the first one I painted when I resolved to start painting minis. The tomatoes are outside on a wooden bench; I painted this batch just around sunset. They came from a produce stand on Lebanon Pike in Hermitage. I highly recommend their tomatoes! The delicious peaches shown above also came from this stand.