Monday, April 25, 2016

Topiary Gardens Timelapse

This was a scene from a brief visit to Lake Waban early last Fall.  I got a quite a few photos out of that visit and hope to return this Spring for more once everything has bloomed.  It's a beautiful area with a walking trail around the lake, beautiful bridges, and a variety of smaller ponds, marshes, and wooded areas that you pass through on the walk.  A very peaceful destination despite the fact that it's usually littered with visitors and Wellesley College students.

I saw this scene as having a lot of potential for a vibrant landscape painting, combining the geometric elements of the topiaries and sublime peacefulness of the nature scene as viewed from across the lake.  I was looking forward to trying to capture the extreme contrast of foreground and background, and of the shadows cast onto the bright green grass.  Here are some of the steps leading up to its completion with some notes along the way:

I usually start out with a quick wash as a ground layer, specifically choosing a warmer tone for this piece as I know I'll want it to show through.

Then I paint a quick line sketch with a more opaque version of the color for the wash, loosely marking down where the larger areas will fit into the composition.

Now I'm filling it all in with fairly opaque layers of saturated color.  I'm making sure to use a direct painting approach because I know I want the end result to be startlingly green and have an almost paint by number feel where there's a little negative space in between the trees.  Laying in multiple thin layers and building up to this would cover the surface more evenly and possibly wipe out the punchy underpainting showing through.

The end result.  This was one of few paintings where I was able to avoid jumping the gun and painting the blue sky while the tops of the trees were still wet, which would usually end up dulling the blue and lowering the contrast.  When it comes to oil painting, patience is your friend.  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Timelapse of Daylight on Shower Wall

This scene came from a collection of photos I had of my old apt. in Newton, MA - specifically photos of the bathroom.  As a matter of fact, out all the photos I've taken of that apt., the bathroom wins most popular.  It was fairly tiny with a small window that created a lot of interesting lighting effects, and there was something about the blankness of an unveiled, fairly empty glowing tiled shower wall and that small bit of brilliant sunlight splashed across it that appealed to my love of minimalism and all white paintings.  Here are some of the steps leading up to its completion with some notes along the way:

I start out by painting a quick warm wash of burnt sienna and ultramarine onto the canvas, and hurriedly start blocking in areas of color and establishing my main palette over the wash.  

I consider this to be a slight misstep in the process as I attempt to add some details and darker values, but by the end of the session I feel like I've slightly overworked it already and have lost the underlying glow and active brushwork that excited me about the first session.   

In general, I try not to get stuck in the deadly habit of taking a baby step forward and then retreating back to what was there before out of fear.  In this case however, I think it's worth it, so without totally wiping away the last session, I try to lighten up the values a bit and restore what I liked about the first stage.  I also add some texture to the curtain folds and some dimension to the shower walls. 

Just a few additions here: heightening the contrast between the shadows and sunlight, adding some gloss to the tile and tub, and handling that delicious sliver of just barely green light to the left of the yellow sunlight.  Also the black band of tile at the top for contrast.  

Lastly, I'm making sure that everything is rendered to the degree I want, contrast is high in areas like the sunlight and curtain but low in the tiled walls, and that there are enough elements included to have a nice balance and create points of interest.  I've said in the past that sometimes the elements that seem easiest to get right end up being the most difficult, and the shower walls play that role here.  The balancing act between making it a believable space without losing the misty, subtle light was a difficult one.