Friday, April 3, 2009

Talking about Painting, by Pat Darnell


If you are a good draftsman, then always work toward your strengths. Lay it out, and work with perspective and proportion. Here is a Lighthouse scene. I usually put reference page and photo credit on any 8 x 10 studies. "Eagle Bluff Light, Ephraim, Wisconsin: marks the entrance into East Channel into Green Bay. It was built on Lake Michigan in 1868, standing 75 feet above the lake, with originally a third-order Fresnel lens. It is a brick tower still aiding in navigation today" (Crompton, S W. UB of L, 2005).
It doesn't hurt to under paint a scene with complementary color scheme. Using acrylics for this; remember if you are oil painting, you have to put water based colors under the final oil base paints; lean under fat as the saying goes, or fat over lean. This roof for instance is going to be Terra cotta, so I under painted with blue slate color.
The bush is in shadow, so I started with dark coloring moving toward lighter later. This is the best way to to produce details in shadows.
And the foreground wall will be yellow limestone, so I under painted with blue shades, Payne's gray, with more dark blue in the clouds. Again it all moves from dark to light, background to foreground. The subject lighthouse
will hopefully end up detailed and sculptural, framed in rich, subdued colors.
Add color. In this case I am doing a study of the various aspects of lighthouses, and not too concerned with palette. However, as I become familiar with lighthouses as a subject then I would choose a group of harmonic colors right now, and stick with them. Here I am using primary colors, mixing pastels from those, as I add features. It turns out the painting starts to fall apart, as complementary colors are set in juxtaposition. Soon the adding of shadow starts to mess up the perspective, and details begin
to get lost, straight lines become
bowed lines... either optical illusions, or just lazy brushing.
Here is an inverted color negative showing true color complements. This could help in coloring the problem areas of the piece.

How to keep the painting together is to make decisions as the rendering continues. Decisions are based on observable data. For instance, lighthouses are generally not a romantic get-away. Rather, they are situated on crags and wind-swept reefs that were once noted as demons
on nautical maps. So, I am experimenting with colors to try to capture forebodings; a bleak place where existence is difficult; structures that must stand up to sheer brutal punishment by natural weathering winds. Thus, buttressing walls, stone and brick construction, copper storm shutters and scuppers, and heavy roofing.

The most difficult part of doing a study is in trying to balance the mess. Some of the intermediate stages have features that look really good. But as another area of the canvas is worked it somehow cancels the parts that I just finished. Highlights fade, and shadows take over, or become ambiguous...
I see as I go that the underpainted version looks real good. I like the bold red lighthouse tower, and the blue mortar in the house. But alas the total structure is made from local yellow sandstone. So for believable finish everything stone becomes yellow's cousin.

I think before I call this quits and spray it with varnish, I might try to do some "glazes" in red-blue, purple, hues to make some shadow on the house and tone down the yellow. Most of the structure is trimmed in copper, so tarnished copper and green are good for other color trials. If this were a 144 inches by 96 inches, first trial, I would at this point be pulling my eyebrows out. No lie!

Fortunately, it is only 8 x 10 inches and manageable for trial and error. Also, I want to point out after all the groundwork has been laid out as it has been now, I as artist can anticipate some fun with the project in final stages. More on that aspect later...


A study like this is without parallel for learning a subject. If I decide to do another, and larger painting of this, it will take less time, and less mess to accomplish. Most of the time I skip this study stage, leaping rather right in with large brushes, and lots of oil. I end up making brown of my colors, and grey skies... so you decide how to go about your own dabbling in rendering.

5 comments:

Christina said...

This final rendering is stunning.

Well, I did read much of the above, back when you first posted it, Patrick, and I had been having some deep (?) thoughts at the time. Along the lines of the 'wisdom' of laying a base, or foundation, etc., before we dive into...well, most things! But I understand that sense of, hey, I just wanna dive in!! Get right to the good stuff!

Haste usually produces waste, though, right?

Christina said...

And also, the whole process, really, so parallels life, & living...

MooPig_Wisdom said...

Haste is waste, no question. I was surprised to see you on this one since I did post it before. I gave this little painting to my neighbor, greatest neighbors on earth, because she told me once she loves lighthouses. They always give me respect no matter how I look!

If my stuff makes someone feel special, I get a bit self-righteous, you now, prideful and self-indulgent.

Christina said...

Are you sure that's what it is? Maybe, but maye also it's a sense of affirmation that you feel, a validation of worth?

I think as Christians, sometimes we think it's 'wrong' to feel good about ourselves...even for a little bit...so we turn a positive into 'prideful & self-indulgent'?

All the promises of God in Christ are yes & Amen, right? So there is a place for expecting & receiving something positive. We just need to stop short of thinkng more highly of ourselves than we ought...

MooPig_Wisdom said...

Brother Dave and I talk about your insight like we are all next door neighbors and talk to each other at the back yard garden fence daily...

a validation of worth?I speak with fork'ed tongue, like all White Men... yikes! No more.

I erase all my self-defeatist-isms for your one phrase: a validation of worth. Thanks Bubbalin'