Big Red

Heading back to Tucson from Colorado is a trek. Parts of the drive are gorgeous, other parts are a struggle to stay awake…so, entertainment and some imagination are necessary.  I like to stay on the relative backroads.

We gas up in a place called Waterflow in between Farmington and Shiprock, New Mexico. The 7 to 11 there is like a little museum of edibles and etiquette I remember from the way past traveling with the family back and forth across the Southwest.

Being visually inclined I am particularly inspired by “eye candy” literally. I don’t eat the stuff, just like to look at it, although I do love a sip of the Big Red, it tastes like fizzy strawberries and bubble gum…uh, yum.

So, here begins another project! You never know when these projects are going to sneak up on you. This one is taking more than the week to fulfill so I’ll give you the process and some “in progress” pictures and some unrelated stuff too.

Here we go:

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Now there’s something entertaining to look at.

Until the forest fires…5 on this trip.

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Ajck, that’s Jack and Pepe. Total opposites when it comes to the car. Entertainment, none the less.

 

 

Nice City Park in Snowflake, AZ.

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After driving for 10 hours, a plan has hatched for a new Grid Painting.

Now, to accumulate some related momento mori…to make 9 squares.

  1. Pocket Knife
  2. Falcon Feather
  3. Fake Hummel Figurine
  4. Antique Jump rope
  5. Tic-Tacs (inedible except for the orange ones)
  6. Big Red Soda (which I find in northern Arizona near or on a Reservation)
  7. Candle (to relax the eyes, focus and for remembering)
  8. Antique Spurs (kid-sized)
  9. Porcelain Horse (made in china, from Chinatown SF)
  10. Saddle Blanket (backdrop)

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I like the natural light from the window so I will paint the piece in this light, which limits working time to 1-4 in the afternoon on sunny days, which proves to be a bit difficult since we are having such wonderful thunderstorms in the afternoons here in Tucson. This is why it is ideal to have a couple of projects going at the same time which have different parameters, think trash collages or glass cubes etc.

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Halfway through, I assemble the squares to see if a change in scale or composition is needed to create balance. There are always changes so, the sooner, the better.

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Further work and another configuration:

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The grid paintings come about because they don’t take up a lot of space to make. Great practice for figuring out color and light. Small bites, not overwhelming. Easy to fit into a busy schedule. Thought provoking. Fun.

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Or try a short series exploring subject, concept, color harmonies, composition, like this next image. These works have a different impetus. Not meant to be a grid. I show them to you now because I’m working on them at the same time as the big grid but, at night, under controlled  lighting and off of a computer screen. Will give you the rundown later.

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Next week, we’ll see how it went with one or both of these projects…or maybe something completely different.

Practice, practice, practice!

Mountain Light

This light is awesome!  Strong, cool and crisp, you can’t find it in the desert. I travel for the light…not complaining, there is nothing like working from natural light. You have to get it while you can!

On this early summer, mostly-plein-air trip to southern Colorado, I squeeze in a still-life at the art-shack (studio).

Last year we introduced Duckie (and friends):

This year, Duckie makes another appearance.

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” The Fisherman’s Catch”

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Adventures At Altitude

During the second leg of our journey, the sky is the limit.

Sneak peak of our greatest heights (with Chihuahuas for scale):

Melting snowdrifts make the best patterns, so amazing. Todd is cool…

Actually, the more shapes in your composition, the easier it is to get the proportional relationships right (if you are measuring).

Our route takes us from Durango to Pagosa Springs, over Wolf Creek Pass, to Creede, through Wagon Wheel Gap, over Slumgullion Pass to Lake City.

We camp above the Gap. Quick Gorge sketch.

This eerie landscape is created by massive spruce beetle kill. The forest will always be an inspiration to me, no matter.

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I make a transparent tracing of the scene I want to paint. I let the sun shine through it onto the paper and trace over the projection with charcoal pencil. Then, using the traced lines as guides I mix up hues and lay down the paint with a bristle brush.

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Palette: Titanium White, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Scarlet, Magenta, Ultramarine and Cerulean. This palette is cool in the mountains.

Near Lake City is Lake San Cristobal, created by an earthflow eons ago. A little icy still for swimming…

Up from Lake City are two high passes, Cinnamon and Engineer. We take Cinnamon but first camp at Mill Creek Campground, where it is warmer and less windy.

Gorgeous spot, so I paint. (watch out for ticks…eek!)

DSC_1132Oil on Arches.

DSC_1136Palette: Titanium White, Lemon Yellow, Ultramarine, and Magenta.

Mill Creek feeds the campground faucets-good water.

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At the pass, me and Jack take a roll in a meadow, (again, watch out for ticks…eek!)

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…and meet Mr. Surly.

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We leave you here for now.

More Adventures At Altitude to come.

Travel-Trip-Trace

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We are traveling. Pepe is a veteran. Best travel dog ever! (Jack is a mess…)

First stop, Vallecito Lake, near Durango, CO.

Forget painting, let’s go sailing!

This post explores quick ways to get oil paint down outside/on the road/en plein air with minimal materials.

First, a “dry run”, walking the lake paths making tracings on a transparent film for composition and scale/perspective. After a trace,  I make a detailed drawing with line.

While away from the lake, I daydream about it, remembering the colors and qualities of the trees, rocks and water.

Working with the sun is fun! Speed things up with this trick: Project the trace right onto the canvas or paper, then, trace the projection, fix it, and paint over it. This takes the pressure off when measuring proportions or drawing is not your forte or just to get a really general outline, or map, or composition.

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The projection can be distorted, fun!

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Accomplice, Mr. pepe.

A lightweight and space-saving alternative to canvases/canvas boards is paper. Try out different “mixed media” papers. So far Arches Oil Paper is my fave because it doesn’t soak up the color.

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After drawing, when I go to paint, I can simplify, focusing on formcolor temperature and value contrast.

Palette: Cerulean blue, cadmium scarlet, indian yellow, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and titanium white.

Try It!

 

Steps:

  1. Trace
  2. Transfer
  3. Fix the Drawing

4. Limited palette of red, blue, yellow and white:

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5. Wash of tones

6. Apply layers of thicker paint

See you in a week!

 

Jack’s Glass and Trash

Okay, it was a busy week painting (the house).

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Art-wise, we made time for collecting and practicing our design skills. Better than nothing!

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Collecting while fast-walking Jack makes for “multitasking”, although I prefer “collaboration”.  Always more fun with more than one!

 

Finally completed our smashed glass cube. Leftovers to the right, not all glass.

 

Good thing I have more than one cube. I get pretty excited when we find glass that isn’t clear. Pink is rarest, blue second rarest, brown is next, green, then clear.

In addition to the glass, we finalized the Yellow composition.

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There is an abundance of blue in trash. Not so, yellow.

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I am selecting for a dominant hue with complementary accents.

 

Bricks for scale. Compositions are 14×14 inches.

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It will take more time for purple and green, something to look forward to!

Food for thought: Collage is a great way to practice design and composition skills. Organizing magazine clippings, bits of collected papers, scraps of anything into arrangements that feel balanced and expressive is great practice, if not the final concept. Just look around wherever you are; plane, train, downtown, France, etc.

Never let time be an excuse for not playing with the elements (and principles)!

 

Lucky Purple Piglet

Continuing with the discovery of underused colors in the paint-box I find: Manganese-Violet-Reddish, Old Holland Blue, Hansa Yellow Light, and Brilliant Pink.

I know I can’t do all 4 this week so I choose the colors without white added and just one pigment because they tend to mix cleaner: Hansa Yellow and Manganese Violet.

Here is a model of the chemical compound 11-cis-Retinol and/or All-trans-Retinal, a form of Vitamin A, which makes vision possible (complicated). It is a challenge to draw-could be disastrous-but you have to try!

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I really don’t know which color to pick. I want to use purple but am hesitant. So I give it a rest and focus on something else.

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Even though it is Hotter than Hades here in Tucson, we still must walk the dogs. This enables the collection of smashed ground trash, an ongoing project correlated with dog walking.

I am currently going for smashed glass, it is so sparkly in the early morning light…Here see one mornings worth of glass, plus nifty glass photo cube as container.

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…and subsequent exhausted Jack on his floral matt.

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Smashed glass pick up requires some speed so Mr. Pepe stays home while Jack and I explore nether alley-hoods for most-best glass.

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Day two of glass collection-This is going to take longer than expected.

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At least now I know what color to use for the Molecule! Hansa Yellow Light; lemony and bright.

Now, for the little lucky pig.

Here is the drawing board so far. When I look at this, I get inspired to keep going. Making drawings is relaxing for me because color can be so risky…drawing feels safe compared to color. So, draw first to figure out what you are doing or where you are going and the more difficult stuff will fall into place, or do it the other way around-paint first and draw after!

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I am doing these paintings on SourceTek oil primed linen birch boards (drawings on Strathmore 200). 10×10 size is about $10. It is a good way to get used to painting on a really nice surface without a huge expenditure. All surfaces take paint differently and you should practice on what you want to know best.

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The Manganese is very dark. I can barely see the drawing through the tone, so I wipe it off a little, it stains nicely.

My set up under halogen lights. I am working mostly at night on these studies, so I don’t always get the values right, but at least I know that, now…

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Here is everybody so far, they are all 10×10. Interesting how the colors look together.

So, how about we put it all together and see what happens; all the main pigments and all the objects and a bigger canvas?

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See you in a week!

Food for thought. Find collections of things that have some similarity and paint them…it makes a series that you don’t need to think too much about and it can reveal memories tied to the objects…

Hint: You can also create similarity with a patterned fabric or hue or concept, like abstracting things a certain way or zooming in on something…as long as there is a relationship/continuation/building on it through each piece, it’s a series!

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Azo Coral…and Friends

This Summer, I’m thinking of short projects that explore drawing, composition and color.  My color-box holds many tubes (freebies, trades, impulse buys) that I wonder about but haven’t really seen in action. So, exploring these untried hues will be the driver for the following series of compositions.

Our first selections include: Kings Blue Deep, Golden-Green Deep, and Azo Coral.

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I’m captivated by this truck-stop-dime-store elephant and love to draw it. The funky Krewel pattern is a favorite backdrop subject

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Tracing the scene on clear plexi really helps figure out the best placement of the elephant on the square canvas format I’m working with. I use expo dry erase black marker.

Tools: Many sharpened soft charcoal pencils, rubber pencil eraser. I don’t like to stop to sharpen things when working so I prepare many in advance.

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The first drawing is compositional and drawn from looking at the dry erase trace. The second is its development working from the actual still life.

Below you can see I made the drawing the same scale as the canvas panel so I could transfer it directly to the canvas, which you can see to the right. I fix the canvas drawing with a fixative so I can paint a colored wash over it. (toes for scale;-)

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Now, for the big guns!

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I am pre mixing the palette so I don’t need to stop and mix the right hue/value/chroma with each brushstroke. I can just locate the pre mixed pile and plug it in. Believe it or not, this method gives you more choices plus, if seeing is believing, this will help you on your way.

That does it for the first day of painting. I want to finish it now…but much better to wait until tomorrow. Slow and steady wins the race.

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Above see the Azo Coral possibilities, with the hue plus ivory black and titanium white.  Azo coral acts a bit like cadmium scarlet. It could be an alternative, less expensive and less toxic selection.

Now, for Golden-Green Deep. Love this color!

Kings Blue doesn’t really stand up to prolonged mixing, as it is a mixture to begin with. But, gave it a try with this model of the plane Dad flew during the Vietnam War, since it is Memorial Day today. General Electric F-111D.

I tend to get wrapped up in the concept of things and rush them, as in the painting below. The background needs more evaluation in terms of temperature and contrast. I should have given the plane an overnight like the Elephant.

Continuing on, I shall slow down in general.

Okay, this is good for one week of practice. I think 2-3 days on each work is doable. I hope this gives you something to chew on!

We’ll see how many obscure tubes of paint I can dig out of the paint-box.

Paint on!