Saturday, June 16, 2012

Purple Glaze: A Brief Discussion of Painting on Canvas

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:

d2r2 said...

Say it loud...say it proud. Fun to read about...more fun to look at.

d2r2 said...

Say it loud...say it proud. Fun to read about...more fun to look at.

d2r2 said...

Say it loud...say it proud. Fun to read about...more fun to look at.

d2r2 said...

Sorry Padrino, tried to use my Android in new territory and it took over..meep, meep.

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